He talks straight from the heart through the lips.
He can be entertaining, emotional and controversial.
But above all else, Phil Allen is having fun while simultaneously paving a trail that isn’t easy to imitate.
Allen is a sports talk show host on two stations, WURD (900 AM on Mondays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and The Fanatic (97.5 FM on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 12–4 p.m.). He’s a voice of the fans, and speaks for the fans.
“It’s a passion,” Allen said. “It’s what I was born to do.”
It’s not easy spewing sports rhetoric, trivia and facts. Yet Allen appears comfortable behind the microphone. He tackles the airwaves with jargon and information, akin to the way a duck guides itself effortlessly on a pond.
“I’m the first African American from Philly to host a sports show here who wasn’t an ex-jock or went to school to become a broadcaster,” Allen said. “Check it out. Everyone else had either played a sport or had a degree. I didn’t do either.”
Allen, 50, is doing something unique and special. The father of six was a regular caller on several WIP sports talk shows. The lively banter caught the attention of many listeners.
In 2009, Allen got a chance to get on the air at The Fanatic after speaking with Mike Missanelli, a former Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter who became a broadcaster at WIP and The Fanatic, and Matt Nahigian, the Fanatic’s program director.
“I was fortunate that things worked out well for me,” said Allen, whose wife, Dr. Valerie Dorsey Allen, is the director of the African American Resource Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I don’t try to be like anyone else. I’m not an expert. I don’t try to come off as one. I’m just talking to people about sports, which I am very passionate about.”
And knowledgeable. Allen can throw around quotes and statistics with the best of them. He has not met a good sports debate that he couldn’t participate in, whether it’s on the air or in the barber shop.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Allen is enjoying his ride through an uncharted area.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve met so many different people. There are a lot of people in Philadelphia who like to talk about sports. I enjoy talking with them.”
Allen considers himself fortunate. He knows that many sports talk shows like their African-American broadcasters to be former athletes.
“There are many cities just like Philadelphia where the talk show host is a former pro athlete with a name,” Allen said. “Then, you throw in the fact that I didn’t go to school for this, and it’s truly amazing to be in this position. I’m learning (how to be a good talk show host.) One of the things that I’ve learned is that you can creatively break the rules to get a point across and not go for shock. Shock doesn’t necessarily mean success or give you sustained success.
“I’m proving that there is another way and I’m having a ball doing so.”