Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

I consider myself a social person, or at least one who learned to be social, overcoming a shy childhood to pursue a career where I talked to people for a living. You can’t be a good communicator unless you learn how to communicate.

The holidays always remind me to slow down a bit and think about the people I’ve crossed paths with in my journey, and their impact, large or small, on who I am and where I am today.

A friend of mine asked me about my time as a radio talk show host the other day. From 2003 to 2011, I was a host and producer of local talk shows on a pair of Bakersfield stations. I mentioned I often think about all the people I had the pleasure of speaking with. The ones who allowed me to become social through our on-air conversations, some big names too with great stories to share.

I think of my pal the late Bert Sugar, HBO Boxing analyst who was the gold standard in boxing coverage for Ring Magazine and HBO. He came on my sports talk show once to promote a fight for the network. The next thing I knew he was coming on all the time. He never failed to give his same advice: “Corey (he’d say in his East Coast accent that reminded me of my grandparents), there’s a lot of wisdom at the bottom of a scotch glass.”

We talked boxing, and about getting together at a fight in Las Vegas one day. He even called into my final show in 2011 before I moved on to Cal State Bakersfield. It was the last time we spoke, unfortunately, as he passed exactly a year later. I have the last book he wrote with a signed note he scratched from his office stationary. It’s one of only 10 I keep at my home, and one of those is the Bible, so he’s in good company.

Auto racing always provided me memorable conversation. I sat with NASCAR Truck Series legend Ron Hornaday as he smoked a cigarette outside his motorhome in the infield of Las Vegas Motor Speedway and we talked about the art of the restart and why he’s the best there ever was. I conversed in the tower at the old Mesa Marin Raceway with none other than Bill Elliott.

“Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” was in his first season of retirement and was traveling with his replacement, Kasey Kahne, showing him the ropes of NASCAR Cup Racing, which included promotional stops at hometown tracks like Mesa. Bill ate a cheeseburger from the snack bar and talked racing like we were on his front porch in Georgia.

I can’t forget the time the actor Frank Vincent pulled a line from his Billy Bats character in “Goodfellas” and said, “Corey Costelloe, go home and get your shine box.” I didn’t need him to sign the book he sent me; that audio-autograph is still cherished to this day. That moment almost didn’t happen as the recording equipment in the studio wasn’t working and I was in a panic. He told me to calm down and he would call back. I was convinced he wouldn’t, but he supplanted his place in my personal hall of fame when the phone rang 10 minutes later.

I remember Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone sharing a cramped studio with four other unknown fighters as they promoted an MMA Show in Bakersfield in 2009 to help save CSUB wrestling. Today, “Cowboy” is one of the biggest stars in the UFC. I guess I can pull the “I knew him before” card when I see him pull off another victory, but I can truly say back then you could tell he was something special.

The late R. Lee Ermey, beloved “Gunny” and famous “Full Metal Jacket” star, answered my question about kissing Jack Black in “Saving Silverman” by telling me that he was paid well to kiss Jack Black and that for enough money he’d come down to the studio and kiss me. Considering he lived in Quartz Hill until his passing earlier this year, he probably would have made that happen if pushed. Good thing I was broke back then.

I have plenty more stories to tell, and Lord willing some time to tell them. I just figured during the week of Christmas it’s a nice reminder that many gifts aren’t wrapped but disguised as lessons and intellect from those you have crossed paths with throughout the years.

Sometimes it just takes a while to realize that, but it is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.