The CultureMap Interview
Since last October, the question I’ve gotten most in email, Twitter, and supermarket checkout line …“When is Charlie Pallilo coming back to radio?”
The answer is today (August 21). Depending on when you read this, perhaps right now. And from now on. Pallilo will host the midday show, 11 am to 1 pm weekdays, on SB Nation 1560 AM.
It’s about time. Sports talk fans were surprised, many dismayed, last October when KBME 790 AM dismissed afternoon “host-for-life” Pallilo in favor of Josh Innes. To say that Pallilo and Innes have different styles of hosting would be an understatement. Pallilo is known for doing a brainy, no-nonsense sports show dependent on interaction with callers. Innes does a more humorous, wide-ranging show steeped in outrageous banter and controversial opinions.
The twains never met. Pallilo’s fans were furious about his departure and swore off 790’s afternoon show. Meanwhile Innes has developed his own following from scratch, in fact has been promoted to hosting the station’s morning show.
It’s no secret that Pallilo and I are longtime buddies. He’s a stickler for accuracy and facts and is dedicated to his show. I’ve always thought, if I had Pallilo’s work ethic, I’d be publisher of The New York Times instead of scribbling my opinion on Dairy Queen’s latest “Blizzard of the Month” and ghost-writing nonsense for homeless dogs waiting to be adopted.
Last week, I hit Pallilo with all the questions that people have asked me about his return to radio. Bottom line: Charlie’s gonna be Charlie.
CultureMap: Will your new show on 1560 AM be the same as your afternoon show on 790 AM (and before that 610 AM and 740 AM), or will you change things up for your new time slot?
Charlie Pallilo: Other than doing the opening segment in iambic pentameter, fundamentally the show will be the same. Solo hosting and personal taste mean I will always want regular interaction with callers, with guests here and there as topical.
CM: You've been off the air for almost a year. How did you spend that time?
CP: Basically enjoying life over my first break of any notable duration since college. Outside of not doing a show, my overall routine wasn't dramatically different. It's not as though I took a break from ardently following sports. I much enjoyed the Rockets' season and now this Astros' season. I caught up with a number of people, did some traveling, restored my tennis game from inadequate to mediocre. And I am now fluent in Tagalog.
CM: Did you ever consider leaving Houston?
CP: My life and career have been great here. Without a specific desirable job in hand, there are very few places I'd rather live on a year-round basis. So relocation was never a consideration. Now, if WFAN called me about succeeding Mike Francesa...
CM: You've said that baseball is your first sports love. Are you excited to come back in a pennant chase season?
CP: Absolutely. The Astros could win the World Series. Of course, they could also get bounced in the Division Series. Combine that with football about to start, the timing of my getting back on air is not mere coincidence.
CM: How will you adjust to doing a show from 11 am to 1 pm instead of afternoon drive time?
CP: I will feel my way along. The initial challenge will be getting the word around that the show exists. My morning prep will be shorter. For instance, I would typically re-watch a relevant Sunday Texans game Monday morning. There just won't be time for that now.
CM: What did you miss most about being on the air?
CP: The passion that surrounds the best and worst of times. I enjoy rational discussions and arguments.
CM: You have a reputation of doing an intelligent, straightforward sports show. Has that always been your style, did you set out to do that, or did it develop naturally?
CP: We all have egos. Part of mine has always included taking pride in being thought of as smart and witty, and doing a show that is more likely to raise the quality of discourse than to insult or downgrade one's intelligence.
CM: Rate the press box food at Astros, Rockets, and Texans, and what’s your favorite item at each?
CP: The Texans are the only one of the three who don’t charge. I’ll go with the Astros for overall quality. The Rockets have some outstanding desserts in their rotation. I am a man of the sweets. My favorites are frozen yogurt at Astros game, baked beans and cobbler at Texans games, and bread pudding and key lime pie at Rockets games.
CM: Which Houston team will be next to win a championship: Astros, Rockets, Texans, UH, Rice, or Dynamo?
CP: Unless the Warriors and Patriots take their seasons off, the Astros are the clear best hope.
CM: You went to Syracuse University, known for it broadcasting school. Did you always know that you wanted a career in broadcasting?
CP: When I was about 12, I read Marv Albert's autobiography. I knew by then I would not grow to J.J. Watt, James Harden, or Jose Altuve’s stature. At least not Altuve’s talent stature. A career tied to my biggest passion would make work as close to play as I could hope.
CM: You’ve been around long enough to have perspective … how has sports talk radio changed during your career? Better or worse?
CP: Obviously there are more outlets, and more opportunities for people to get a shot at some point. Perhaps reflective of no zoning restrictions, Houston has too many sports radio stations for the market and talent pool. For better and worse the internet has been the biggest difference maker. From research, to everyone having access to a lot more data (and b.s.), to the blogosphere and social media. Attention spans shorter, a lot of dumbing down. More "look at me!" nonsense. But, as with 1,000 cable channels, there is plenty of good stuff amidst the not so good.