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Lifelong Friendships Fuel The Sports Junkies Success

You can’t possibly talk about Washington, D.C. sports media without mentioning 106.7 The Fan‘s morning drive radio show, The Sports Junkies. Hosted by lifelong friends, John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop and John-Paul Flaim, The Junkies have been gracing the airwaves since 1995, where the four began their broadcasting career as nothing more than a hobby mixing it up with a 30-minute public-access television cable TV show, before moving to radio the following year.

At the time, the show featured a wide variety of sports banter with sarcastic humor which has served as their foundation all these years later. If it weren’t for a Washington Times reporter stumbling upon four wannabe on-air personalities and choosing to write an article on them, The Junkies may never have taken off the way they did.

“They’ve taken every opportunity they’ve ever had and run with it,” said 106.7 The Fan program director Chris Kinard, who has been with the company since his 1998 intern days.

Three years removed from being freshly out of college and youngsters in the business, The Junkies were named Sports Illustrated’s “Next Big Thing on Radio” in 1999. Fast forward to August 10, 2016. CSN Mid-Atlantic (named NBC Sports Washington in October 2017) announced it would present a live simulcast of The Sports Junkies weekdays from 6am to 10am. This marked the first time the radio show could be seen on television.

The partnership has allowed NBC to feature show content across its TV, online, mobile and social media platforms, including daily highlight and recap videos revolving around the show. Additionally, it’s presented throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia on NBC Sports Washington,, and the NBC Sports app.

Kinard maintains the belief that his on-air hosts have adjusted to TV just fine. In fact, the change may not have impacted their approach to the show at all.

“They haven’t changed their ways from radio to TV. They barely remember they’re on TV and it seems to be working. They’re hitting the highest ratings they’ve ever hit in the last year and a half or so,” Kinard shared.

John-Paul Flaim, a native of Bowie, Md. and University of Maryland graduate, considers the change nothing more than a shift back to where it all began for the four radio hosts.

“The format requires shorter takes but it is how we started in 1995 with a cable access tv show in Bowie so it really is a return to our roots. Oh, and I guess you’re supposed to look at the right cameras but I’ve never quite figured that out so I just chat with the hosts of the show and look them in the eye as if we were joking around at a sports bar. That truly has been the theme of the Sports Junkies for more than two decades,” said Flaim.

One aspect that has notably remained the same during this transition is the group’s unique camaraderie.

“Our chemistry and interaction as a unit reminds many of our listeners of their friend groups in high school, college, and beyond. To me, that’s the inherent advantage our show has over every other show on radio…we’ve grown up together, gone to school together, for 40+ years, and that’s something that can’t be faked or replicated,” Auville told me.

It shouldn’t be discounted that the four radio hosts have found a way to be successful year after year in a top-10 market such as the nation’s capital. A market that suffered a major championship drought for over 25 years, until 2018. When the Washington Capitals claimed their first-ever Stanley Cup in June, the D.C. sports “curse” was lifted sending the city into a complete frenzy. For many longtime D.C. sports media professionals, the championship served as a career-defining moment. For Flaim, it was all that and much more.

“It was a moment of elation and satisfaction. We hadn’t seen a major championship since we started the radio show other than the Terps but that wasn’t nearly as big. Oh, and I made sure my wife would go out and get some Stanley Cup gear that night as I watched all the post game interviews. It was an awesome night,” Flaim shared.

Eric Bickel, who attended DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville before earning a psychology degree from Maryland, weighed in on his own euphoria following the victory for D.C.

“My initial reaction was just one of relief. There was probably a little disbelief, too. But it was just amazing. Reminded me of what it used to be like around here in the 80’s with the Redskins,” Bickel said.

Auville, who goes by “Cakes” on the air, attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School (with Flaim) before furthering his education at Towson University where he studied communications. As soon as the Caps were crowned Stanley Cup champions, Auville simply couldn’t sit still.

“I drove to Dick’s in Gaithersburg with my daughter and bought about $400 worth of Stanley Cup Champions gear at midnight with a bunch of other Caps fans,” Auville admitted.

The fourth and final Junkie is the 6’6” former University of Richmond basketball player Jason Bishop, who goes by “Lurch” on the airwaves. Growing up in Lanham, Md., he also attended DeMatha (with Bickel) and played basketball for the legendary Morgan Wootten, who won 1,274 games for the powerhouse program.

When asked about the Stanley Cup, Bishop put it plain and simply as he so often does on the air.

“Tears of joy!”

The Capitals’ historic victory was obviously huge for long-suffering D.C. sports fans, but you certainly shouldn’t discount what it meant for longtime sports media professionals in the District. This is their livelihood. This is what their careers and lives revolve around. This is what gets them up out of bed in the morning. The win meant and still means everything to them. It was pure jubilation for The Junkies.

But what about the magicians who help make this all happen behind the curtain?

Matt Cahill and Matt Myers serve as executive producer and producer, respectively. Cahill, a graduate of Arizona State University, joined the show in 2012 after a stint with the Big O and Dukes Show. Myers, a University of Maryland graduate, was named show producer in 2009 and is as local as it gets for the market growing up in Pasadena, Md.

Their jobs revolve around booking guests (Cal Ripken and Gary Williams are fans of the show), getting their hosts in and out of commercial breaks, communicating ad reads and most of all, facilitating the show behind the scenes. They are your true quarterbacks who hand ‘it’ off to their four running backs.

I’d like to finish this piece by sharing one recent personal exchange that I feel best illustrates The Junkies and their presence in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.

As a 24-year-old freshly out of college and chipping away at student loans, I caddy for extra money at a local country club in Bethesda. During an early August round of golf, I was asked by a member what I do when I’m not caddying.

“I work in NBC Sports Washington’s digital content department right down the road,” I said.

The member stopped in his tracks in the middle of the fairway. “No way. Do you work with The Junkies? Most mornings I just sit in my car listening to the show. They make me late for work,” he told me.

That is the type of impact the show has on its followers. When you provide authentic conversation and chemistry, and a consistent strategy, and combine it with loyal, hungry listeners you’re left with a product that’s been working for over two decades: The Sports Junkies.

Bob Trosset is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BobTrossetNBCS. To reach him by email click here.



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