I had the opportunity to revisit a former career of mine last week. I guess when you have reinvented yourself a few times, it’s nice to return to one’s former roots to remember how your journey began.
From 2003 to 2011, I worked at American General Media in Bakersfield, a radio group that now operates six radio stations in Kern County and a host of others across the Central Coast and American Southwest. For three of those years, I hosted a sports talk show on the ESPN radio affiliate. Last week I was asked to come back and fill in for one of the hosts, so I packed my headphones for the valley.
So back I went, into the recently-renovated studio building in Bakersfield. Gone was the old broom closet where I ran the ESPN radio station and hosted my show. Now it’s been replaced with state-of-the-art studios and lots of space. As nice as it was, I sort of missed the “Delta-House” atmosphere the station had under my watch. I seemed to attract the jolliest band of misfits because it was sports talk and they wanted to have fun. Our old studio was crammed into the back of the building like a forgotten stepchild. We loved it that way.
I had been a fill-in host before, but it’s been almost a year since I’ve spoken to the masses on terrestrial radio. Good news is some things never escape you. If you’re blessed with the gift of gab, the ability to remember useless facts and a creative way of putting both of those together, a two-hour radio show is not a problem.
Many of the same people work at that radio group and it always feels like coming home when I get to see them all. Radio is a tough business, and those who are still grinding it out are a testament to truly enjoying their jobs. Although the building was different, the familiar faces made sliding into the host's chair and turning on that microphone like old hat.
I was joined by my former producer Michael Hopper, who served as my co-host last Friday. Hop says I was his radio “guru;” I don’t know about that, I just invested time in people who were willing to give time back to our station. He was one of them.
For two hours we covered a variety of topics, including a debate as to whether the Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship was a sport. It was, and I won the argument. Remember what I said about useless information? For some reason bass fishing came up in our on-air conversation, and we turned it into something. That’s the magic of radio.
I joked about my “retirement” from the sports world and how I now enjoy the freedom of being that fill-in guy from time to time. The best part of those opportunities is the ability to reflect. I honestly don’t know how I got from that small radio studio in Bakersfield to where I am today. That journey, that ride, has taken some turns, but I can thank the foundation I built over those eight years in the radio business for much of my success today. It was my first job and my proving ground.
As I wound down that Friday evening,one of my favorite songwriters, Chris Ledoux, came on my truck stereo with his classic "The Ride" and the chorus was a fitting reminder.
“Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high. Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky.
"And live like you ain't afraid to die. And don't be scared, just enjoy your ride."
Radio was a ride I enjoyed immensely, and I don’t mind when they ask this has-been to crack the mic from time to time. I owe them that much. They were an integral part of my ride. While I, like the song, choose to focus where the trail meets the sky, I’ll look back once in awhile just to remember where I’ve been, and how I’ve managed to make it this far.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.