Marc Rayfield: Boss of the Blowhards
By 2005, with the Eagles in the Super Bowl and WIP’s Wing Bowl drawing 20,000 people, the station posted record profits, and it was named CBS Radio’s station of the year.
Rayfield’s one big blip at WIP came in 2006, when host Mike Missanelli punched a producer during a broadcast from an Ardmore bar and Rayfield fired him. “I couldn’t condone it,” Rayfield says. “Does everybody get a free punch?” Turns out that the bad behavior Rayfield couldn’t accommodate came back to bite him. Missanelli is now at rival sports station 97.5 The Fanatic, which has surged since it began simulcasting on both AM and FM. He and Rayfield remain antagonistic—they ended up next to each other on a flight from spring training, and the encounter devolved into days of childish text messages between them. Missanelli says, “We were decent friends and probably would be friends now if we weren’t competitors. But I’m sure he would agree that he wasn’t much of a stand-up guy during that [firing] incident.”
The conflicts grind on, of course. If it’s not a flare-up with a superstar host, it’s his agent. Or union negotiations, which WIP shop steward Rob Charry says have turned from toxic to civil. Or keeping advertisers happy. Or a call from the Anti-Defamation League. Or the teams, which apparently believe they play in anti-defamation leagues.
Getting the local franchises to continue to renew their game-broadcast contracts, while WIP hosts label them Nazis or skinflints or chokers, is the dance that never stops. Eagles president Joe Banner, for example, is not a first-time caller to WIP’s executive office. “At various times along the way, the Eagles organization has been like, ‘Never again,’” Rayfield says. Last Halloween, Rayfield and his kids were in Banner’s Main Line neighborhood and decided to ring his doorbell. When Banner’s son answered, Rayfield said, “Tell your father his Nightmare on Elm Street is here.”
RAYFIELD LEARNED TO bear unbearable behavior—and how to get what he needed in prickly situations—at an early age. He was seven when his parents split up, an only child living in a Parkwood Manor rowhouse in far Northeast Philly. His father left his mother for her best friend. Rayfield remembers sitting in his father’s Plymouth Duster,- his dad chain-smoking and explaining: “Mommy and Daddy, it’s not working out.”
“I felt like I cried my entire childhood,” he says. “I was a very angry kid.”
Joan Rayfield was on food stamps for a while. To get her son into a better school district, she moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Narberth, where Marc slept on a sofa bed from ninth grade until his freshman year of college. She was always chasing his father for alimony.
“He rarely provided,” Rayfield says, yet somehow he forgave his father. In his office are snapshots of them together, as adults, at ball games. A “dysfunctional love,” Rayfield calls it. You can understand how he might not get bent out of shape by a tantrum at a radio station.
Rayfield’s father couldn’t hold a job, so Marc worked tenaciously. Through high school he rode his bike to wash dishes at Kip’s Diner in Wynnewood. He mostly put himself through undergrad at Temple (and then Penn, for a master’s degree).