This unofficial kickoff to football season gives fans a chance to hang out with people they listen to on the radio.
By Joe Mason
Eytan Shander started out as one of us.
Shander, who hosts shows on the Fanatic, is now on the radio at all times. If Mike Missanelli is out, Shander takes over his show during the afternoon. If Anthony Gargano is on vacation, Shander calls the shots on the morning show. He also hosts an extremely popular show on weekends.
Now, he’s the guy running the show on the popular sports talk station, but growing up, Shander was one of the guys in the 700 level at Veterans Stadium cheering on his Eagles.
“I’m from New York, but my uncle was a huge Eagles fan and he would take me to games,” Shander said. “I love the Eagles. My uncle is from South Philly and he is the one who got me to become a fan, and it’s really influenced a lot of what I’m doing.”
Now he’s one of the most trusted and popular voices in Philly sports radio, but Shander certainly worked his way into this position.
After graduating with a philosophy degree from Gettysburg College, he went on to study at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Ever since graduating there in 2004, he’s been working in radio. But it wasn’t always the glamorous life of talking sports with Philly sports fans.
He did whatever it took to get his foot in the door.
“I worked at a small station in Atlantic City and got to learn so much there,” Shander said. “Not all on the air, I was doing everything they needed.
“When I first got in, I was working in the promotions department. I would do a lot of data entry, typing in names of people who would enter contests at remotes. I would go to remotes, going to places like a car dealership and I’d have to set up huge inflatable cats. People would come up and ask for them. It was nuts.”
He also took a job in Princeton at an ESPN Radio affiliate, and then he headed to Nashville, which is where he got his first break in a big market radio station.
Then he came back home to Philly with WIP. He would mostly work as a producer and an update guy, but eventually got an overnight shift.
“I was very lucky because in my career,” Shander said. “I had two legends help me, Angelo Cataldi and Michael Smerconish. Both helped me. They would encourage me and give me advice.
“I’ve had a lot of help. Jason Myrtetus, who hosts the midday show now, but he helped get me on the air and (former WIP program director) Andy Bloom helped me. I’ve been very lucky to have so many great people helping me. You can’t do it alone.”
On Aug. 25, Shander will have some help celebrating some of the greatest days in Philly sports when he and the rest of the hosts from his station attend Fanfest, the day that the Fanatic takes over Xfinity Live for an all-day party celebrating all things Philadelphia.
It’s an unofficial kickoff to football season, and gives fans a chance to hang out with people they listen to on the radio every day.
“It’s a great day, I’ll be hanging at the bar, buying drinks for people,” Shander said. “We’re giving away a trip to London for the Eagles game and Ben Simmons will be there, hanging out for a little bit. There’s bands there, we rent out Xfinity Live and it’s our chance to say thank you to all the people who listen.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned is when you’re in this line of work, you want to be with the people. Some guys will go to a remote, smile and then do their show. I go early. I want to talk to the people. I love talking to people. It’s great to talk to people who agree with you, but I love talking to people who disagree with you. That’s what makes sports talk fun.”
Another thing that makes Shander’s job fun is the Philly sports team.
Right now, Philadelphia riding a hot streak. The Flyers are competitive, the Phillies and Sixers look like they’re starting to head to the top of their sports after long rebuilds and the Eagles are the world champs.
It might never get better.
“I don’t think Philadelphia has ever had what they have now,” Shander said. “With the Sixers, I don’t remember this, even when we had (Allen) Iverson. That was a great time, we knew we had a great player, but this is different. The Phillies, look, (2008) was great, but now we have every team. And the Eagles are coming off the Super Bowl. That’s something we have never experienced. Fan Fest will be celebrating all of that.”
Fan Fest will be one day for the fans to get together and talk sports. But Shander will be doing that for the foreseeable future.
He’s still focused on doing his best at the Fanatic. He’s also now doing a segment on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia and does some work for SB Nation, a national sports website that hosts blogs and podcasts.
He’s come a long way from when he’s started, but he’s still doing his best to pick up tricks of the trade. He wants to continue to do what he loves most — discuss sports and pop culture in the place he loves.
“I want to keep getting better,” Shander said. “I will watch other guys. I won’t do what they do, or use their bits, but I’ll learn another way to talk to someone. You have to keep learning.
“You have to run a show that people like. Sometimes when we’re not talking sports, we’ll talk about TV shows, so you have to stay up and watch TV or Netflix.
“I think I’m a reflection of opportunity and work. I don’t have a family, I’m 39 years old, but I’m able to be flexible because I’m not married, I can do whatever they need. I still need to get better, I’m always trying to learn. I love what I do, and when you love what you do, you want to do it right.”
Especially when you’re doing it for your fellow Eagle fans.