An Interview with Bobby Fenton

As many of you long time readers know, we have a pretty good relationship with most of the local radio shows. However without a doubt 1010's Bobby Fenton is our favorite, partly because he was seemingly the first to mention us on air - something that was a really big deal at the time, and is pretty damn good at his job. Fenton changed stations late last year and with that in mind, on the eve of pitchers and camps reporting, I decided to do an interview with Fenton.

R.J.:For those who don't heed my advice; who is Bobby Fenton?

Fenton:I'm just a 27-year-old guy in whose life sports plays a major role, a lot like you or anybody else. I am a native of Tampa and am absolutely thrilled to wake up in this town every morning. I have a job that allows me to surf the internet and watch sports as much as I want to while actually getting to pass it off as working. That's it. If I wasn't doing this I'd probably be wasting some company's time and money on draysbay.com inside some office.

R.J.:Since last off-season yourself and the site have gone through some changes, if you can discuss it; what happened at 1470, and how'd you find your way to 1010?

Fenton:There was no incident in particular that happened at my old place. My style didn't exactly mesh with some of their philosophies over there in general, but there was no stormy exit or anything like that. There tends to be a lot of turnover at that place, and I was let go back in May. I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity at 1010 by Mike Pepper, which I have loved so far.

R.J.:Do you still keep in touch with Scot Brantley?

Fenton:First, I want to say that my exit from the old place had nothing to do with my relationship with Scot, which was always and still is great. While we don't keep in touch on a regular basis these days I have run into Scotty several times, the most recent of which was out at the Super Bowl. Our tables on Radio Row were only a few feet from each other and we actually had a lot of fun out there. He has always been there for me and been very good to me, and I count him as one of my friends.

R.J.:Part of your new deal, so to speak, is having an extended show beyond that of a simple hour long show, what's different about it - outside of just being longer - and how do you prepare to fill 300 minutes a day?

Fenton:When they first told me about doing an all-afternoon show (five hours originally, and now four), I have to be honest and tell you that I was scared. I honestly wasn't sure that I could do it. I had never gone solo for that long before. Like so many other things, though, it's all relative, and it's all mental. After the first week of doing five hours, I got used to it, and now four doesn't seem imposing at all. It's really amazing how your own mental conditioning dictates your confidence. I only feared that which was unfamiliar to me.

R.J.:Another change is no longer are you the co-host of the Scot Brantley Show, but rather the man so to speak of the Bobby Fenton Show, do you find yourself struck by having your own show or is it just a formality?

Fenton:No, it's definitely a big deal at first. There are things that I like about having a partner, and things I like about doing a show solo. Nothing beats the freedom of doing the show the way you want to do it at all times, and not having to worry about anybody but yourself. That goes for anything in life I think. Who wouldn't rather do whatever they wanted? But sometimes it's nice to bounce stuff off of people, and the show's producer Abe Gordon does a great job of contributing that way.

R.J.:Quite a few people who I've talked to describe you as one of the classiest, hardest working, and most dedicated guys out there; as a person who's been involved with radio as a listener since a young age, is it surreal to not only have achieved your goal, but have so many people respect and like you for your talent?

Fenton:I still feel like I have a looooooong way to go, and there are many things I want to be someday that I am not today, but to hear you or anybody even suggest that is extremely flattering. I grew up wanting to catch the winning touchdown for the Bucs in the Super Bowl like any other kid, but I have also always wanted to do this. I used to play in pickup games as a kid with one hand holding up an imaginary microphone to my mouth calling the play-by-play. To actually be doing radio, in my hometown that I love, is a privilege every single day that I get to do it.

R.J.:You were one of the more vocal persons when it came to wanting Tampa Bay on the road uniforms, why is it such a big matter to you?

Fenton:It's a big deal because we natives already have some representation issues in this area. They're hammered into you from birth. This isn't Chicago or New York or Boston, where everyone's on the same team and so hardcore about it. I love this baseball team and always will, and there are many like us, but so many people here are from somewhere else that for a kid who grows up in this area, you become inured to hearing other teams' fans at your home games and things like that. That's why we have to do extra to uphold that local pride. Teams here should be working on making the teams MORE identifiable with local folks, not less. That uniform thing still pisses me off.

Oh, and the other reason it's a big deal is because "Rays" may be the single worst nickname in pro sports. It should've been Stingrays, stayed Devil Rays, or been something else entirely. Don't get me started on the whole "ray of sunshine" angle.

R.J.:With that in mind, you recently did an interview with Mark Fernandez and when you presented him with a question about the issue he sounded somewhat optimistic about the chances of the namesake returning in 2009, did your opinion of the front office change?

Fenton:Somewhat. I recognize two different front offices, though. There's the Friedman/Hunsicker/scouting department front office for on field stuff, then there's the Silverman/marketing guys front office too. I consider them seperate. I'm willing to wait and see on next year, but they'd better not roll out some stupid third jersey and put "Tampa Bay" on that to appease us. I hate third jerseys in general. It needs to be ON THE ROAD JERSEY PERIOD.

I'll give them this, they have always fulfilled every one of our requests here and are willing to answer the questions. That deserves to be mentioned for their part.

R.J.:What would your wishlist for the Rays entitle?

Fenton:Much like a kid in a dysfunctional family who longs for a normal life, I really wouldn't wish for anything extra special. Just normalcy. I dream of a day when this team has as good a chance as anybody to win the World Series. I dream of a day where it doesn't feel like we're behind the 8-ball 15 minutes into every season...a day when, gasp, our team plays in AN IMPORTANT BASEBALL GAME. Do you realize that has never happened? This franchise has yet to play in a big game - ever.

I would wish for the name to be different, as stated above. And a new ballpark at some point, whether it's this proposed one or not we could argue about all day. Just SOMETHING. The Trop embarrasses all of us.

My main, most realistic wish, is for this franchise to really hit on all cylinders for once. We can be so much better. With no state income tax, the weather, the scenery, all of that, this place should be a DESTINATION, not a punchline. The Bucs went throught the same thing. People talk about a "culture change" starting it off. It's the other way around I think. Winning begets a culture change. You can't just make it up with cliches like "The Ray Way". What does that even mean?

I think these things are all starting to happen, by the way. Carl Crawford's recent comments to ESPN are an example of that.

R.J.:One of the inciting incidents with Elijah Dukes was a radio interview he did, I found the circumstances very questionable, and while I blame Dukes for not knowing better, it's sad to me that the hosts would have such disregard for the kid's situation; is that the sad reality of sports radio nowdays, either get shock or get out?

Fenton:In general, I agree with your premise, but I actually didn't have a huge problem with that particular interview. Dukes should not in a million years have even been talking to ANYBODY, much less calling in to a radio show on his own. But if he's gonna do that, it's hard to imagine any radio show not taking advantage of it. He called them. I don't know if "shock" is the best approach, but that interview got them a lot of attention, and that's always good in radio.

R.J.:Wade Boggs rubs me the wrong way; namely wearing his Yankees' World Series ring to the new unis celebration; I'm considering starting a movement to either unretire his number or retire Fred McGriff's to make it even, you with me?

Fenton:I don't know Wade Boggs personally and have nothing personal against him, but the whole idea of his number being retired for this club is an absolute joke. See, this was the problem with the old ownership, why we were a "McFranchise" for all those years. You can't manufacture tradition and just bring a guy in to get his 3000th hit so you can gerrymander a "franchise legend" out of it. Ridiculous. Why were they in such a hurry to do stuff like that back then? The last, and I mean LAST, thing I think when I see Wade Boggs is "Devil Ray". He was barely even here. I'd like to think one day numbers like Crawford's or Upton's or Shields' or Kazmir's are the ones we'll be retiring. So yes, I'm with you. Unretire #12. It looks foolish on that back wall of the Trop.

R.J.:You've complimented the site on air many times, I'm curious, how did you find out about our little spot on the internet?

Fenton:My man Joe in Oldsmar turned me onto the site. Quote draysbay to a man, and you'll feed him for a week. Give a man the link to draysbay, and you'll feed him for life.

R.J.:You don't use megaphones or gimmicks to make points; I must ask how this is possible nowadays?

Fenton:Well you have to remember, my show doesn't exactly have huge ratings yet, so it still may in fact be impossible. But I think if you're earnest, and your points are at least semi-thought out, and you're willing to listen to other points of view on the matter, then that should be enough. That and making the point clearly really ought to be enough.

R.J.:Do you have a particular athlete or interview that you consider your "best"?

Fenton:Not really. Sometimes the interviews you're happiest with are the ones that you weren't sure belonged on the show to begin with, and then they kind of validated themsleves as they were happening. I interviewed a guy about the Westminster Dog Show the other day and was just happy after it was over that the guy made some points that made it worthwhile. At least, I learned something.

R.J.:I know you're a UF alum, so I don't expect an unbiased answer, but if you had a vote for the Heisman, who gets it?

Fenton:Tim Tebow deserved to win the Heisman. I don't think I'm biased in saying that. I would've said some other guy if someone else was more deserving. But who was? You don't get to have a couple of good games down the stretch and just pick the thing up like McFadden's backers wanted. He disappeared for a stretch midyear. I thought it was a no-brainer this year.

R.J.:From what I understand you have a pet snake, it's necessary to ask how large Misty is, so that's exactly what I'll do; how large is Misty?

Fenton:Misty is a kingsnake of pretty average size. A little over four feet and about the width of a garden hose, maybe a little smaller. She's as docile as they come and loves to be held. She just shed yesterday and looks great.

R.J.:You've actually got your own site (http://www.fentonia.blogspot.com/) and it seems like more and more media personnel are taking the same approach; overall do you think blogs are good for the media, or just present another critic?

Fenton:My site is actually not even really a sports blog or related to my career at all. It's really just something I started doing so that my buddies and I would have a central meeting point on the internet. I haven't updated it in a while but if you visit it you'll see it's more about personal stuff than a "sports blog".

To answer your question, though, I think blogs are great. It's a whole new dimension to media, it's instant, and there's always fresh stuff. As a sports fan, how could you not love it? Due respect to the papers, which we'll always need, but I've gotten to the point with anything Devil Rays related that I don't feel totally versed on it until I've seen what you guys are saying on DRaysBay. I mean it, I'm not just saying that. You guys cover this team up one side and down the other all year long, and the site is a valuable tool for me.

R.J.:Can you take us through the process of a normal day for you before and during the shows?

Fenton:I wake up without an alarm clock, which is the single sweetest part of the whole deal. If an alarm clock wakes you up in the morning, 1) your body obviously wasn't done sleeping, and 2) it's an instant bad start to your day. I usually get up around 8:45. I eat breakfast and read the paper, get a lift in at Lifestyle Family Fitness in Hyde Park, then go to the studio and read a bunch of internet stuff and just frame up a few general things I want to hit on for the show. I don't script out a schedule for the segments or anything like that. I have always preferred to just let things unfold as they may, on the fly. The red light goes on at 2:00 and we try to have as much fun as possible. It's all about having fun, R.J., as you know.

R.J.:Any advice for folks out there interested in getting into the radio business?

Fenton:Honestly, luck plays such a huge role in things that you just have to do as much as you can to be in position to get lucky, if that makes sense. Just find a place to start working. Get on the air as much as you can, no matter the days or hours. For me it started in college in Gainesville. Just get the ball rolling somehow, and make a friend who's already in it. You don't learn this in a classroom. You need reps (I believe this goes for most things in life, not just radio). The best advice to me boils down to just finding somebody, anybody, willing to let you get behind a microphone for any amount of time, and roll from there. There's no roadmap. As a matter of fact, if I got fired from 1010 tomorrow, I'd have no idea how to find another radio job. It's really just all over the place in how you end up in a job.

R.J.:Words for our readers, perhaps the time, station, and reason why you should tune in?

Fenton:My show, The Free Stretch with Bobby Fenton, is on every weekday afternoon from 2-6 PM in the Tampa Bay area on 1010 Sports on your AM dial. If you don't live in this area, you can easily stream the show live online at 1010sportsonline.com.

As for why you should tune in, hmmmm, questions like that are always hard for me to answer. I'll tell you this - tune in if you're looking for sports talk radio that may very well go in any direction at any time on any day. Tune in if you want the local stuff first. Tune in if you want straightforward honesty about whatever I may be talking about, even at the expense of embarrassing myself. Basically, tune in if you want passion from a fan's point of view. I say it all the time. I am NOT a member of the media. I am a FAN - of this baseball team, of the Bucs, Lightning, and Gators. That's all. I don't hide this, and it doesn't mean I'm a homer because you can have favorites and be objective. I don't pretend to be an expert on everything, either.

R.J.:And finally, one of the stipulations of doing this interview was presumably someone from the site would do your show in return, do you really want to unleash one of us babbling about the Rays on your listeners?

Fenton:I want DRaysBay to be a routine part of the Free Stretch, at least during baseball season. In fact, I demand it. Tell me when one of you guys can come on the show, because I have lots to ask you too.

R.J.:We should get you, Patrick, and Sammons a station and booth and have DRB radio 24/7; I hear Patrick does a mean rendition of Tom Petty's Waiting is the Hardest Part.

Fenton:I'm all for pirate radio, and that without question would be pirate radio because no one would sanction it. I'm in.

R.J.:Thanks for your time Bobby; the future of Tampa sports' radio.

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