Illustration: Jonathan Carlson

The Calling Game

They're some of the most recognizable names in sports media today. They started out talking BC athletics on WZBC.

When Bob Wischusen ’93 arrived at Boston College in 1989, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I was laser focused,” he said. “I was going to be a sports broadcaster.”

Just two years earlier, the first all-sports radio station in the country, WFAN, had launched in New York, and Wischusen was obsessed. He imagined himself as one of the hosts, and even collected cassette recordings of the station’s best debates. On his second day at BC, he went to WZBC, the student radio station, and asked if anyone was covering athletics. The station, which was better known for alternative music than talk, had only one sports talk show, Sports Tonight. It aired every Monday evening, he was told, and if Wischusen was interested, he could join. He signed up immediately.

Wischusen encouraged Christian Megliola ’93, one of his two randomly assigned roommates, to join him at the station. Over the semester, they met other sports fanatics who wanted to contribute to Sports Tonight. One was a fellow freshman, Joe Tessitore ’93, who was studying marketing at the Carroll School of Management. Tessitore’s football career had been derailed in high school by a broken leg, and he relished the opportunity to be close to the game again. Another member of the show was Jon Sciambi ’92, a sophomore transfer from William & Mary who’d come to BC to play baseball. The group thrived in the freewheeling talk radio format, debating and analyzing the latest in BC athletics and taking listener calls. “There was this real good chemistry between us,” Sciambi said. “We had the same interests, the same passions. On-air, off-air, we were always making each other laugh. Just thinking about it now is making me smile.”

More than thirty years later, Tessitore, Sciambi, and Wischusen have become three of the most successful voices in national sports broadcasting, and Megliola has become the senior vice president of communications for the Boston Celtics. Among their many other accomplishments, Tessitore spent two seasons as the play-by-play commentator for Monday Night Football, Sciambi will call this year’s World Series for ESPN Radio, Wischusen is the radio voice of the New York Jets, and Megliola has excelled in one of the most demanding jobs in sports communications, overseeing the entire public relations wing of an NBA team with a notably rabid fan base. They’ve each attained a coveted position in intensely competitive fields, but back when they were getting their start on WZBC, they were just kids who loved sports and arguing in equal measure.

Those were hysterical years,” Tessitore recalled. “Everyone was really talented at a young age. Bob was ridiculously good at hockey play-by-play. Christian was ridiculously knowledgeable about basketball. And Sciambi could do everything. It was eye-opening. I remember thinking, Man, these guys are just excellent.”

Sports Tonight started to develop what Megliola called an “intimate but enthusiastic following” around BC. “We had regular callers,” he said. “We were learning on the fly, but we took the journalism seriously—no one was having a couple of beers and then getting on air. I think it’s unusual for college kids to have that kind of discipline.”

Wischusen attributed the quality of their show to a certain competitiveness between the friends. They were always trying to one-up each other, whether they were on air or just hanging out at the Mods. “If you didn’t know your stuff, if you didn’t bring that knowledge, you were going to get exposed and made fun of,” Wischusen said. “It was like a master’s degree in sports.”

None of which is to imply that they didn’t know how to have fun. On one occasion, Wischusen, Tessitore, and Sciambi followed the football team to West Virginia to cover a game. “We flew from Boston to Pittsburgh to Morgantown, which was ridiculous because it’s like a seventy-minute drive from Pittsburgh to Morgantown,” Wischusen said. “But none of us knew that. We booked this plane from Pittsburgh that looked like a flying milk carton.” BC won the game, and afterward the three ended up at the hotel bar on a Saturday night. And, as is known to happen with college guys, they stayed out so late that they missed the next morning’s flight home.

Still, for the most part, the guys were all getting increasingly serious about their careers. As graduation neared, a switch flipped for Tessitore. He no longer saw himself in a business or marketing career after college—he wanted to keep talking sports. So did Sciambi, who’d been cut from the baseball team, and Megliola and Wischusen were equally intent on careers in sports journalism.

At first, things didn’t look too promising. Megliola moved back in with his parents after graduation and got a job making five dollars an hour at Newbury Comics. Wischusen tried fruitlessly to find a job at two radio stations where he’d interned during college. Sciambi wound up covering local news at a tiny radio station in Bradford, Pennsylvania, population nine thousand. And Tessitore was going back and forth between Boston and Dallas, where he’d found a freelance TV opportunity he hoped would turn into something full-time.

Then in June 1993, Wischusen’s former internship supervisor told him about a producer job at WQAM sports radio in Miami. “I went from having no idea this job even existed to packing up a car and moving to Miami about a week later,” Wischusen said. He had his foot in the door—but just barely. He was making $7.10 an hour. “This was 1993, not 1953—that’s how little they were paying me,” he said. But it was a real job at a real sports station. Roughly a month into his time there, the program director approached him. “He walked into the control room and said, ‘Do you know anybody dumb enough to come down here and do what you’re doing for no money, too?’ And I was like, ‘I got just the guy.’”

Wischusen told them about Sciambi. WQAM offered him a position, and he moved down to Miami, where he crashed on Wischusen’s couch. The two college buddies had essentially the same producing job, just different shifts, Wischusen during the day and Sciambi at night. They both remember the best part of those years the same—the free food. “At every sports game, they fed the media,” Wischusen said. “We were a couple of twenty-one, twenty-two-year-olds making seven bucks an hour, who could go to any professional or college sport whenever we wanted and could eat for free. We must have saved thousands in groceries.”

“That was kind of heaven,” said Sciambi, who earned a new and lasting nickname at WQAM—“Boog,” due to his resemblance to MLB great Boog Powell.

While his friends were chowing down in Miami, Megliola—the son of Lenny Megliola, a popular sports columnist for the MetroWest Daily News—managed to escape Newbury Comics and start his career by “just showing up” at NECN, the twenty-four-hour Boston cable news station that had launched a year earlier. He wasn’t making any money, but he managed to parlay the experience into a part-time producing gig at the station, which led him to several full-time jobs afterward, eventually landing at Boston’s FOX25 as the head sports producer.

At that same time, Tessitore had turned his hustling into a real job as a broadcaster for an NBC affiliate in Dallas. Within a few years, he became the main sports anchor at WFSB in Connecticut.

“After those first few years out of school, it started to become clear to me that we really had a special group of guys,” Megliola said. “We all found work in sports journalism, and it isn’t easy to do that. I started to think, Man, it’s going to be interesting to see where we all go.”

Indeed, the crew—a “pretty good draft class,” as Wischusen put it—took off after its somewhat slow start. Wischusen left Miami in 1995, finding work at none other than WFAN, the station that had launched his love for sports talk. In 2005, he joined ESPN, calling hockey and college football and basketball.

Sciambi, meanwhile, stuck it out in Miami, landing a prime spot in 1997 calling Marlins baseball games for WQAM. That led, among many other jobs, to doing play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves and, most recently, the Chicago Cubs. This year, you’ll hear him calling the World Series on ESPN Radio, where he also announces Sunday Night Baseball.

Megliola left sports journalism in 1999 for a career in public relations at Regan Communications, one of Boston’s most influential PR shops. When Regan took on the Celtics as a client, the team’s top brass noticed Megliola’s impressive work, eventually hiring him in 2015 as senior vice president of communications.

While his friends were climbing the ranks around the country, Tessitore joined ESPN in 2002, delivering blow-by-blow boxing commentary. Over the next twenty years, he became one of the network’s most versatile commentators, announcing horse racing, college football, and from 2018 to 2020, Monday Night Football. (His son, John Tessitore, also attended BC, and was a punter for the football team. In 2020, during the ESPN broadcast of a BC–Clemson game, Tessitore’s call of his son’s killer trick play drawing the Tigers offsides proved a heartwarming moment that quickly went viral.) On top of his work for ESPN, Tessitore now plays the straight man to comedian Rob Riggle on Holey Moley, a reality golf competition ABC series.

 “It’s been really cool to see everyone succeed,” Tessitore said. “I don’t know that we all would have become who we became if it wasn’t for us being together at WZBC. Everyone was so sharp, so knowledgeable—such precocious talents that it set the bar so high. We all raised each other’s game.”  

Archer Parquette ’18 is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine.

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