Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, a.k.a. Boomer & Gio, will celebrate one year as the morning team on Entercom sports WFAN-AM/FM New York, in January. The two were paired after Esiason spent a decade alongside Craig Carton. Giannotti worked his way from WFAN intern and producer to morning host at sister KDKA-FM Pittsburgh and CBS Sports Radio. They speak with Inside Radio about the allure of sports radio and their unique position in the nation’s No. 1 market.
When/how did you get the "radio bug"?
Boomer: Early on in my NFL career with the Bengals and 700 WLW radio in Cincinnati. Former Bengal Bob Trumpy was hosting an evening sports talk program that I listened to. I thought that must have been a great job. Turned out I was right; it is a great job.
Gio: Driving to and from Mets games growing up. Mike and the Mad Dog and Mets Extra driving in, then the postgame and Steve Somers driving home. I couldn't imagine listening to anything else.
What stations/personalities influenced you in the early days?
Boomer: Bob Trumpy, Don Imus, Mike Breen, Sean Hannity, Mike Francesca, Chris Russo
Gio: WFAN was mainly it for me. I was such a sports fan I couldn't stay away. Outside of WFAN and sports talk I loved [Howard] Stern. There are so many things about the Stern show that attracted me to it as a listener: his personality, the chemistry of the crew, the unpredictable nature of the show. At its best it was virtuosic.
Boomer, you have been the cornerstone at the Fan for the past decade. How have you dealt with all of the recent turmoil?
Boomer: Turmoil isn’t always a bad thing… although my previous partner being arrested would qualify as bad. I believe in my heart that playing the position of QB in my previous profession has given me the qualifications to handle adversity. As a quarterback you learn quickly that there is only so much you can control and never to sweat the turmoil around you. You prepare and prepare so that you are ready both in game and out, to face the difficulties that surround you. I was always taught to stand tall in the eye of the storm.
Gio, what was it like transitioning from network to local radio? What adjustments did you have to make when joining The Fan from CBS Sports Radio?
Gio: I've spent more time in local radio than national so that made the transition easier. In national radio there's more leeway in topic choices because you have a larger pool of things to select from. Local radio is like the cooking show “Chopped.” Here's your basket of ingredients, some normal, some difficult and now it's your job to make the best thing you can. While hosting on CBS Sports Radio I was living in New York, but the network wasn't cleared in New York, so the biggest transition for me came from feeling like no one was listening to the show… to feeling like everyone was listening to the show.
What's the most unique or unusual call you've received on-air?
Gio: Lily from North Versailles while I was working in Pittsburgh. 77-year-old woman who claimed she was in her 30s. She became a regular and would also mail things to the radio station like homemade key chains and black and white photos of her when she was younger. One of a kind.
What’s show prep for you?
Boomer: For me it’s reading, watching and constantly discussing the important stories of the day. Never miss a day even while on vacation. There really aren’t any days off in NY sports so we can’t ever take a break for digesting the sports news of any day.
Gio: I don't think it ends, especially for a morning show. There's the normal watching of games and reading but every observation I have can be show material. You can't be at your best unless you're constantly acquiring material. That might not be the healthiest approach but it's the reality. As far as the morning of, it's about catching up on anything you might have missed while asleep and talking out a few things with Al Dukes and Boomer. Other than that, before the show I like quiet relaxation because I know there will be none of that between 6-10am.
Superstitions? Any must do rituals before going work?
Boomer: None for me.
Gio: I dropped all superstitions a few years ago when I finally realized my dirty Mets rally towel wasn't helping them win.
It seems like sport radio hosts in New York have their every move covered by the local papers. What’s it like living with that level of scrutiny?
Boomer: I’m used to it… it’s the same for a quarterback. One must be able to laugh at themselves and admit a mistake and have strong opinions.
Gio: It's different for sure but I think it's great. My ugly mug was recently on the cover of the New York Post. When I first saw it, it took a minute to sink in and then I realized that if that many people care about what I have to say I was doing something right. WFAN is covered in New York like a local sports team and I knew that going in. When they stop writing about us, it's time to worry.
Has the bro talk of sports radio had to change/adjust to the #MeToo era? Should it?
Boomer: I’ve always been aware of insults. I believe a good-natured ribbing and some politically incorrectness is fine as long as it’s done tactfully and the listeners are aware of that. Men love their sports but as I’ve come to learn over the last 11 years there are some equally passionate and demanding women sports fans.
Gio: You always keep an eye on social issues as a talk show host and the #MeToo movement clearly was an important one. We can be sophomoric for sure but I believe it to be a respectful sophomoric and I haven't heard otherwise. If we were a show that had models in all the time and focused on guy talk that would be more of a challenge for sure.
How do you manage your time between the show, social media, podcasting, appearances and personal life?
Boomer: With the help of an invaluable assistant who coordinates almost all engagements and responsibilities.
Gio: You just do it all the best you can and don't think about it being too much to handle. I'm not as active on social media as I could be, I suppose. That's the one thing that gets lost in the shuffle for me. I got the WFAN job in January and my wife and I had our first child in February It was a whirlwind for sure with lots of stress, but I would always come back to how special both those things were and how I couldn't ask for anything more.
What's your favorite junk food?
Gio: If pizza is junk food then pizza. The answer is always pizza. In an effort to eat healthier I haven't eaten pizza in over two months, so can we stop talking about this, please?
Boomer, is it true you broke Anthony Cumia's arm back when you were in high school?
Boomer: He broke his arm when HE HIT ME! I never laid a hand on him. If I did I would have broke him in two.
What else would you like readers to know?
Boomer: Morning radio in a market like NYC and the tri-state area may just be the most enjoyable and incredibly fun job to have. Being first on and setting the day’s tone is the fuel that gets me up every day.
Gio: The power of radio still exists. The way people listen changes and will continue to change, but what we all do matters, thanks to all the great listeners out there.