Last Christmas Eve, I heard something truly shocking on WIP. Howard Eskin was on the air, which itself was no surprise. Though most top-shelf sports talkers take off for the holidays, Howard is a different breed; give him a mic and he’ll do a live remote from a funeral on New Year’s Eve in a hurricane. On this occasion, he wasn’t fawning over Andy Reid or ripping the Sixers front office a new one. He was co-hosting with his son, Spike, who broke some jaw-dropping news. His old man’s favorite holiday was Christmas, and he loves singing carols.
Let that sink in for a second. The fur-coat-wearing, self-styled “king” of Philadelphia sports media—whose favorite term of endearment for his callers is “moron,” followed closely by “dope”—loves himself some “Silver Bells.”
That’s where the seed was planted for my sports column in this month’s issue of Philadelphia magazine about Spike and his dad, who’s still the most polarizing figure in local broadcasting after 30 years in the biz. I’d never met Spike before our first interview at a dreadful Sixers loss in February, but I’d heard that in addition to juggling sports gigs on the radio and the Internet, he’s also a nice guy. A really nice guy. All the good will seemed more like sympathy than truth, as if folks looked at him as the victim of some genetic tragedy. Growing up is tough enough. Imagine trying to survive childhood with Howard Eskin as your dad?
As it turned out, the rumors were true. Spike’s a good dude—though tell him LeBron is overrated and you’ll see some of his father’s argumentative fury on display. But what I found was more than just a story about Spike trying to forge a career in the same crowded sports-media landscape in which Howard is considered (especially by himself) royalty. It’s a tale of a Philadelphia father and son, and as much as I learned about Spike, watching them interact with each other exposed the paternal side of Howard that few outside the Eskin family have seen before.
Since the story was published, their clan has grown by one—Spike proposed (successfully) to his lovely girlfriend, Valerie. He tells me he’s been getting good feedback on the story. As for Howard, no word on his reaction to the piece yet. But I’m sure he’ll find some reason to call the writer a moron.
Read “Jesus. What If Howard Eskin Was Your Dad?” here.