The Fantoo Girls - a weekly sports podcast recorded by two women in a Chestnut Hill home recording studio - would like to send flowers to radio host Howard Eskin. They owe their new careers to him.
"I got so sick and tired of him saying to a woman who'd call, 'What are you going to make for dinner?' " recalls Carol Doroba one-half of the Fantoo Girls. "I'd think, 'You know, dude. I can talk sports with you until the sun goes down.' "
She and talk-partner Robin McConaughy made good on that threat in January, when they launched their first episode, a voice, they say, for the casual fan who might not know what the Sixth Man is or be able to diagram the West Coast offense. Two dozen episodes in, they're finding that that more than two-thirds of their 1,500 or so weekly listeners are men.
That might be due to their informed chat, their sultry voices, saucy puns and the fact that they have been able to bag an astonishing A-list of sports figures to interview, from Oakland Raiders receiver Randy Moss, to Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton to ESPN's Harold Reynolds to Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavisi.
Their half-hour show is currently ranked No. 4 on Podcast Bunker's weekly list of best audio recordings. (Fantoo, one might guess, comes from 'A girl can be a fan, too.')
How they got Moss shows their stuff. This winter they traveled to Orlando for the Supershow, which is a clothing and sports-apparel industry event. (Fantoo Girls began as a clothing line so women sports fans could wear something a little more stylish than a McNabb jersey.)
"We saw Moss so we just approached him and begged to interview him," says Doroba. "His agent said he probably would only give us 30 seconds. About 20 minutes later, we were still in the interview."
"He's a huge fisherman," Doroba says. "He started talking about diving out of a boat to catch a 7-pound bass and winding up tangled in sea grass. His barriers were down." That led to Moss waxing about which former NFL quarterback he would have liked to play with, how Philadelphia should not trade Allen Iverson.
Doroba, 40, was speaking by phone Sunday as her son, about to turn one next week, was napping. She lives in Chestnut Hill, and records the weekly shows in the basement of her home near the Wissahickon. Her husband, a musician and producer, built the studio. She grew up in New York, one of seven sports-crazy children. "On our summer vacations, we'd go to fly fishing camp," she says. At Ithaca College, she studied radio and television. About six years ago the procedure to switch her loyalty from the Giants to the Eagles finally took.
Her Fantoo partner, McConaughy, 37, lives in Princeton, where she plays competitive ice hockey. She played varsity field hockey for Trinity College. They met about a dozen years ago when McConaughy interviewed for a job at Doroba's executive headhunter business in Manayunk. They worked together a decade before launching the clothing and, now, sports-talk enterprise.
Their shows cover all pro sports, and range into related areas, such as reviews of beer, and critiques of various players. They don't like Iron City, but think Ben Roethlisberger is huge. They're NASCAR fans. I told Doroba that I still haven't figured out how to get into the sport.
"You have to just go," she said. "It's a destination event - racing is just one component. It's a total festival atmosphere, bigger in size to the Super Bowl, just more playful. And it's every weekend. It's more intimate, too. The drivers sleep on one side of the infield. Lucky fans with infield passes get to sleep on the other side. Access to the drivers is great. Once your standing next to their cars you can't help hearing the driver introductions and watching them race. You're just hooked. I just want to get my Bud and knock out a few teeth.
"You still have time to get to Dover today if you hurry."