In the Spotlight
Al Eschbach and Jim Traber
Photo by Simon Hurst
They’re the self-described Odd Couple of sports and the epitome of a love-hate relationship – as much with each other as with their listeners every weekday afternoon and game days on WWLS Radio, The Sports Animal.
On the air, sports talk veterans Al Eschbach and Jim Traber routinely deflect sometimes-crazy, always-opinionated callers with the same insults they hurl at each other. “What do you mean you won’t eat any fruit with the word ‘berry’ in the name? That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard,” Eschbach says.
“Don’t start with me, King of Midgets. Don’t start,” Traber retorts.
Off the air, they continue bickering like Archie and Edith for a few minutes before breaking into song. A Maureen McGovern song.
Mercifully, the mic was off.
How long have you been on the air together?
Traber: 17 years.
I’m amazed at these radio partnerships that last longer than a lot of marriages.
Eschbach: We’re more like The Odd Couple – total opposites.
Eschbach: Traber’s Felix. I’m Oscar.
You’ve both got those “land of the pushy people” accents. Where did you guys grow up?
Traber: Columbia, Maryland. Eschbach: Jersey City.
I know about Traber’s OSU football and baseball. What brought you to Oklahoma, Oscar – I mean, Al?
Eschbach: I’d read that OU was one of the Top 10 Party Schools in the U.S.
Nice. What was your second-best subject?
Eschbach: History. I did well in history, but I was a terrible student. Second from the bottom of my class, thanks mostly to Latin.
At least Latin shows up in life at some point.
Eschbach: Oh, and I hated geology so much, I took geology three times. Right before graduation at OU, I found out I’d failed geology – AGAIN – and I wasn’t getting my diploma. But my parents were flying to Oklahoma for graduation! I talked OU into letting me dress for graduation, but I had to take geology again to get my diploma.
So the whole graduation was a sham?
Eschbach: To their dying day, my parents never knew.
How many grade school years did you spend sitting in the hall?
Traber: All of them. I was loud and I liked to talk. I lived across from the school, so usually, the teachers just sent me home.
Eschbach: I was still a good kid in grade school. It wasn’t until Seton Hall Prep that I got suspended for forging the priest’s signature on something.
Let’s see if I got all that. Fake graduation, check. Forgery, check. Crime against a man of the cloth, check.
What character trait(s) would you gladly give up?
Traber: I’m horribly impatient. I can’t stand to wait on anything.
Which trait is one of your best?
Traber: I have a big heart. I like to take care of the people around me.
Eschbach: I’m a nice person.
Except you hang up on people, right after you call them idiots.
Eschbach: OK. I’m nice to normal people.
Any recurring dreams?
Traber: God, yes. There are snakes all over the bedroom floor, and I can’t get out of bed.
Eschbach: Yeah. I dream I didn’t really graduate from college.
How perfectly karmic. Al, Traber tells me you’re great at music trivia.
Traber: He can tell you who sang anything. I can sing all the words, but I can’t tell you who did the song.
“There’s Got to Be a Morning After...”
Eschbach: Maureen McGovern.
Traber: (breaks into song) “…if we can hold on through the night. We have a chance to find the sunshine …” That was from “The Poseidon Adventure,” wasn’t it? Yeah, with ol’ what’s his name? He just died.
Eschbach: Ernest Borgnine.
What can you count on Traber to do?
Eschbach: Get mad.
Traber: People need to understand that I might get worked up, but I don’t take that home.
Ginger or Mary Ann?
Traber: Mary Ann.
We talk about game day rituals in this issue. What kind of OU/Texas ritual do you guys observe every year?
Traber: We drive to the Cotton Bowl and every year we get off at the wrong exit and end up getting lost.
Eschbach: The ritual used to be ‘don’t get arrested the night before,’ but now I just concentrate on not getting killed while Jim’s driving me to the Cotton Bowl and going “psycho city” behind the wheel when he misses that exit.
Traber: The ritual you need is to take that Exit 51 on I-35 and go to the Fried Pies place. My God, those are incredible.
What’s not all it’s cracked up to be?
Eschbach: Nothing is all it’s cracked up to be, but I’ve got no complaints. No one would listen anyway.