You wish you could hear the tapes. But the probability of the recordings of college-radio sports talk that aired more than 20 years ago surviving until this day is roughly equal to the chances of hitting the Powerball jackpot.
Who knows what became of them? One host of the weekly program that aired in the late 1980s and early ’90s on Boston College’s student station WZBC suspects the tapes were discarded by some underclassman engineer charged with tidying up the studio.
It’s even a whimsical possibility that they were recorded over, with the music of a band in its grassroots stage en route to becoming icons of a generation.
“I remember getting ready to do a sports update and [the DJ] says to me, ‘Listen to how many times they say ‘grandma take me home’ in this song,’ ” remembers Jon “Boog” Sciambi, the superb voice of ESPN Radio’s “Sunday Night Baseball’’ broadcast who was part of the WZBC crew, referring to a song titled “Silver” from a then-obscure band.
“He was kind of incredulous. About a year later, ‘Nevermind’ comes out, and Nirvana explodes. It was an incredible place like that. Incredible for a lot of reasons.’’
Not the least of which is the amount of talent among the fledgling hosts on that talk show, which ran for an hour each Monday and featured as many as 15 hosts, with three or four sharing 15-minute blocks.
There was Sciambi, a transfer from William & Mary who found his voice there after his hopes of playing baseball ended.
There was Joe Tessitore, now a premier college football broadcaster at ESPN as well as a renowned boxing and horse racing expert, who was so focused in his BC days that he would skip classes in the Carroll School of Management to attend coach Jack Bicknell’s football practices.
There was Bob Wischusen, the radio voice of the New York Jets since 2002 and a college basketball and football announcer for ESPN.
“We’re doing a student-run talk show on WZBC and 11 people are listening and 10 of them are in the same dorm room,’’ said Wischusen, “but I’ve got to tell you, I think it sounded like what a good show on WEEI back then would sound like.
“I was an intern on the Dale Arnold show [not long after WEEI switched formats to all-sports in 1991], and Dale would yell at me because a couple of callers would get on the air, and they would kind of be talked out, because I was yelling at them while I was screening the calls.’”
Another colleague — and roommate at an apartment off Commonwealth Avenue — was Christian Megliola, who took the sports producer route at NECN and Channel 4 before moving to public relations.
And Jon Rish of WEEI’s Red Sox broadcasts was a class or two behind them.
So much about college is about searching for something — a relationship, a career, a way to get what you want out of life. But when each of these young men arrived in Chestnut Hill in the fall of 1989, they already knew their calling. WZBC beckoned for all of them.
“I went in on my third or fourth day on campus and asked some of the classic college radio station people — you know, the girl with purple hair and the guy with 17 rings in his nose — ‘Hey, you have a sports department?’ ” Wischusen recalls. “And they were like, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a bunch of guys who do sports and have a talk show and call games.’
“And I was like, ‘Sign me up.’ ”
Perhaps such a collaboration of talent at a college radio station isn’t that rare; Sean Grande, the radio voice of the Celtics, and Dave Goucher, the radio voice of the Bruins, once worked a game together at Boston University, for instance.
But the way the WZBC talent meshed, whether it was during that hour on Monday night, landing an interview with a standout basketball player who was kicked off the team, or doing play-by-play of any game that would let them set up, was (to hear them tell it) practically manifest destiny. Knowing what they’ve become, it’s easy to believe.
“Sciambi is a walking baseball encyclopedia. He truly is,’’ said Tessitore. “At that stage, Bob was always known as the hockey guy. I was the football guy. And Christian was the basketball guy.
“If you put the four of us in a room from 1989 through 1993, I doubt that there would be any four people you could put in a room and beat us at sports trivia at that point. We had every sport covered.’’
To a man, they praise the others when asked if there was one they were sure would make it.
“I can’t even remember thinking of it this way,’’ Tessitore said. “We were just seeing where life was going to take us.’’
Each of them worked his way to success with long hours and endless miles. While at BC, Tessitore never took a spring break, instead driving during every school vacation to Dallas in a 1976 Oldmobile Cutless Supreme to work for the NBC affiliate there.
Wischusen got started with internships at WEEI and WFAN.
Sciambi, while establishing himself in the Miami market, would go to Marlins games and record play-by-play into a tape recorder. Red Sox radio voice Dave O’Brien, then with the Marlins, was among those who would offer encouragement and critiques.
“We weren’t part of some grand system where you go through this, and get your internship here, and then get your first job here and so on,’’ Tessitore said. “We were this group of guys deeply passionate about sports, having a blast, hanging out, calling games, rolling the dice, doing our show, laughing our [butts] off.’’
“It was classic, just us sitting on beat-up couches, arguing sports,” said Sciambi. “I wish I could hear now all the stuff we argued about. It was legit. I really loved it, man.’’