by J.B. Hyppolite
How many sports-crazed fans who breathe, sleep and dream about the Eagles, 76ers, Flyers and Phillies, know their statistics inside and out, have passionate opinions about who should be fired, who should be benched, who’s the reason our guys did not win a championship, etc., would (almost) give their right arm to be a sports talk show host on the radio? Forget the American Dream; this is the one-in-a-million chance; this is winning the lottery; right?
Well, sports fans, Mt. Airy resident Phil Allen, aka “Phil from Mt. Airy,” is that one-in-a-million lottery winner, that passionate Philly fan-turned radio sports talk show host. Phil, 50, is currently hosting his own show on the ESPN Affiliate, The Fanatic (97.5 FM / 950 AM). Since achieving that feat, Phil is still pinching himself over his miracle dream-turned-reality job.
“…You try and balance being a talk show guy with being one of the guys around the neighborhood, and it’s still a tough balance to transition from being a caller to the host now, but I am the host now,” said Phil, who also recently hosted the Eagles’ post-game show on 97.5 FM. He’s been on rotating shifts. At “The Fanatic” there are the main hosts, including the likes of Tony Bruno, a sports talk radio legend in Philly, and Mike Missanelli, another veteran and Philadelphia sports talk heavyweight, while others, including Phil, fill in the rest of the hours.
“Sometimes I’m on 12 to 4 Saturdays, but I could be on 8 to 12 Sunday morning, whatever shift they give me,” said Phil, who doesn’t have a regularly scheduled show yet. On 97.5 TheFanatic.com’s on-air segment’s page, there are two spots where you’ll be sure to catch Phil. Along with Nick Kayal, Phil does a sports trivia segment every Sunday, 11:45 a.m., in a segment titled “Google Me.” They also do “Three Things That Annoy You on Sundays” at 9:45 a.m.
“I don’t think people understand what goes in to doing a four-hour radio show. I probably do eight hours of preparation for every four hours I’m on, easily,” said Phil, whose biggest accomplishments since being at The Fanatic have been hosting various Eagles and Phillies playoff post-game shows, which in turn says a lot about the station’s belief in Phil. In 2010 he was part of a three-hour Saturday morning show titled the “Jon Marks Show with Mount Airy Phil.” It ran from 8 to 11 a.m.
“Dude, it’s a blast,” said Phil, who built a following and earned the ear of Philadelphia sports talk radio listeners and vets as a frequent caller to WIP 610 throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Phil got his chance to shine at The Fanatic in 2009 after speaking with Missanelli and later with Matt Nahigian, The Fanatic’s program director. It was then that Phil got his shot at being a “talk show guy,” as he described himself, on the number one sports talk radio station in the city.
Despite being a host, Phil describes himself as a voice of the fans. He seeks to represent the pulse of the average Philadelphia sports fan. He thinks not being an “expert” analyst is an advantage, and takes pride in being an African American host who is also not an ex-football player. Phil doesn’t talk down to his callers, unless they’re non-Philadelphia sports fans who think they know all about Philly teams.
“There’s a fine line between me being the guy who facilitates the conversation and being some wiseguy who just wants to, you know, ‘I’m smarter than you; I look down on you.’ Never, ever that … It’s been two years now, and it’s been a blast.”
With respect to Philadelphia as a sports town, Phil recognizes what Philadelphia brings to the table. When it comes to our sports teams, “we’re all in,” Phil said. When our beloved teams have a tough loss, we feel it like no other. When our teams have a big win, it could literally set a positive tone for thebeginning, middle or rest of any given week. Phil, who has traveled to various cities, provided an example, comparing fans he’s seen at a Jacksonville Jaguars game to fans at an Eagles game.
“…When they lose, they’ll just head off to the next event. It could be a birthday party, dinner at their grandma’s or whatever. We lose, that’s it for our day. The restaurant’s empty, the bars are empty, the train’s silent,” said Phil, who summed it up by adding, “We can’t be fooled.”
Phil was featured in the Philadelphia Eagles documentary, ‘E-A-G-L-E-S: The Movie,’ which followed the Eagles during their 2004-2005 Superbowl season. Unfortunately, that season didn’t end the way we wanted it too. “Dude, I’d give my left arm, my left leg, for a Superbowl championship,” said Phil.
Phil loves his job, but there are times when guests turn an otherwise enjoyable experience into a cringe-worthy 40 minutes.
“I let this one woman come on, and she wouldn’t answer anything straight. It was just a friggin’ disaster. The best radio interviews for guests are generally four to five minutes because, y’know, you’ve got callers waiting. They’ve been on hold, some of them 15-20 minutes already … All the energy was drained out of the show; it was the longest 40 minutes of my life … But you kind of have to have the pulse of the fans and the city and the team(s). You’re like a thermometer and a barometer at the same time. It’s amazing, I’m telling you.”
Phil Allen was born in Philadelphia. He proudly claims to have been around the world “like 68 times.” Despite primarily being a book wholesaler, Phil has had various jobs including selling timeshares in Bali and Austrailia. When he was younger he was in the Navy and wound up in Israel. “By the time I was 18, I was leaning on the Tower of Pisa,” he said.
When Phil returned from the Navy, he attended Community College of Philadelphia followed by Temple University, where he majored in Social Work. Phil’s book-selling service is called Philly Books, Inc. Despite at one point having four retail book stores in the region, Phil continues to independently distribute books.
He is a father of five, married and has three grandchildren. Phil also coaches a baseball team of 9-10-year-olds, the Mt. Airy Cubs His wife, Dr. Valerie Dorsey Allen, is the director of the African American Resource Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Her MSW and her doctorate in social work are both from Penn, where she also teaches human behavior in the social environment and a graduate research class. The Allens live in East Mt. Airy.
Anyone who wants to reach Phil can do so at MtAiryPhil@yahoo.com. Anyone trying to see when he’s on air can check 975TheFanatic.com and its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/975thefanatic.