Ceppaglia graduated from St. Bonaventure in 1997 with a degree in journalism and mass communications. He worked at WBEN Radio for about nine months before moving to Bristol, Conn., in October 1998. The lure was a part-time job at ESPN Radio that paid him $8 per hour.
One day he was filling in for the regular phone-call screener on Kornheiser's ESPN Radio show. Ceppaglia's job was to type the name and hometown of the caller, so that Kornheiser would know who he was speaking with. Ceppaglia did his job just fine, but Kornheiser misread the hometown of one of the callers, and the man on the phone let Kornheiser know he had botched it. Kornheiser said it must be the fault of his call screener, Phil, who he declared was “a show killer.” A nickname was born.
Dan Patrick later took over that time slot on ESPN Radio and he “kind of ran with” the show-killer nickname, Ceppaglia said.
Kornheiser is known to be something of a diva, someone who is sometimes difficult to work with. Ceppaglia said he never found that to be the case.
“He does get that reputation, but Tony is very great to work with,” Ceppaglia said. “He is great with everybody who works on his show, he treats everyone outstanding. I still talk to him a couple of times a year when he comes up to Bristol.”
The nation's largest sports network was a natural destination for Ceppaglia, a Lancaster native who attended St. Mary's High School.
“My four high school years were when the Bills went to their four Super Bowls,” he said. “That was kind of painful,” but he has never wavered in his devotion to the Bills and Sabres.
Ceppaglia, who has also been an associate producer for Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt's radio shows, just got a new position at ESPN Audio, where he is the Commercial Production Coordinator.
“Phil becomes the bridge between the sales group in New York and the programming group in Bristol,” said Tim Thomas, ESPN production director. Ceppaglia's job involves coordinating various elements that go into producing radio ads that air on ESPN Radio and the network's hundreds of affiliates.
After three weeks on his new job, Ceppaglia says the hardest part has been picking up the lingo, the words and phrases used by the marketing, advertising and production people.
“There's no Rosetta Stone for this language,” he said.
Sam Bowie, revisited
Bowie is the subject of the latest film in ESPN's SEC “Storied” series. “Going Big” will premiere at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, on ESPNU.
Bowie was hardly a trivial figure when he starred for the University of Kentucky. The 7-foot-1 center seemed like a can't miss pro prospect until he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg toward the end of his sophomore season. The injury forced him to sit out two full years at Kentucky, before he returned as a fifth-year senior and led the Wildcats to the NCAA's Final Four.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, the former Buffalo Braves coach, was coaching the Trail Blazers when they selected Bowie with the second overall pick in the 1984 draft. Akeem Olajuwon was taken first, by the Houston Rockets.
Ramsay says in the film that Jordan's name was seldom mentioned during the team's draft deliberations. Charles Barkley, who also was in that draft class, said it would have been silly for the Blazers to draft Jordan, since he played the same position as Portland's Clyde Drexler, the future Hall of Famer.
“What we should have done is package Clyde Drexler and the pick to get a center, and then we could have drafted Jordan,” Ramsay says. “But in hindsight, as I look back on it, I probably would have taken Sam again.”
Despite a series of leg fractures and other injuries, Bowie had a decent NBA career, playing for the Nets and Lakers in addition to the Blazers. He now raises horses on a farm in Lexington, Ky., and seems a contented man who is able to laugh at the Jordan comparisons that followed him his entire career.
“I look for talent with the horses,” Bowie said. “I'm trying to find the next Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson or Charles Barkley” of the horse world.
• The Sporting News announced it will become an online-only publication starting in January. The magazine, which started in 1886, will still produce six print “yearbooks” per year, previewing major sports. Sports fans of a certain age, myself included, are mourning another lost link to our childhoods.
• Dick Stockton and John Lynch will call the action on Fox 29 when the Bills take on Seattle in the Rogers Centre today at 4 p.m.