Saturday, July 12, 2014
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Howard Eskin has 'mixed feelings' that Spike saved Angelo Cataldi

Top: Howard Eskin and Angelo Cataldi choking each other on a 2006 billboard for SportsTalk Radio WIP. Bottom: Spike Eskin, Howard´s son, who saved Cataldi´s life when he was choking on a cheesesteak, shown with fiancee Valerie DiBiaggio.
Top: Howard Eskin and Angelo Cataldi choking each other on a 2006 billboard for SportsTalk Radio WIP. Bottom: Spike Eskin, Howard's son, who saved Cataldi's life when he was choking on a cheesesteak, shown with fiancee Valerie DiBiaggio.

Now Howard Eskin has weighed in.

If a deer and Angelo Cataldi were both struck by a car, “I’d save the deer,” he told Cataldi this morning on SportsRadio 94 WIP.

On Monday, Eskin’s son, Spike, used the Heimlich maneuver to save Cataldi’s life when he was choking on a cheesesteak and couldn’t breathe.

See "Eskin saves Cataldi's life"

That showed Spike had “bad parenting,” Howard said.

If Howard Eskin had been there, he would have advised Spike, Now, let’s take some time and think about this.

“I’ve got some mixed feelings about this whole thing,” Howard said.

The conversation was good-natured and kidding more than vicious, though Eskin, a former WIP host, and Cataldi have long shared a strong mutual dislike.

Ironically, their feuding once inspired a promotional billboard where they were choking each other.

"Our team never chokes," the WIP billboard read.

“Thanks for giving birth to Spike,” Cataldi said to Howard this morning.

“He didn’t give birth!” co-host Al Morganti corrected.

Nearly dying can change a person’s life.

Not Angelo Cataldi’s so much.

No, Cataldi said by phone Tuesday afternoon, his life didn’t flash before his eyes. He didn’t catch a glimpse of heaven or hell – even if he always pictured Satan with Howard Eskin’s face.

No, he wasn’t overcome with regrets, or flooded with impulses to devote his life to church or charity. Nope, not feeling guilty about the carnal carnival of Wing Bowl, still set for Friday morning at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I think I’m stuck being the jackass I’ve always been,” said the longtime host of the morning show on SportsRadio 94 WIP. “My fate is sealed, and I’m going to be an idiot until the day I die.”

He’s not going to stop calling athletes chokers either.

Indeed, he shamelessly used the label on-air this morning for A.J. Burnett, a free agent pitcher the Phillies apparently would like to sign.

The way people are treating Cataldi hasn't changed much either. The attitude isn’t gratitude all around. There’s still abuse. There's little difference in the indifference.

Morganti has been Cataldi’s pal and broadcast partner for two decades, and this morning Angelo asked if his demise would have bothered Al.

“It still would have been Thursday today,” Morganti said.

“Today's Wednesday, Al,” corrected co-host Rhea Hughes.

Hughes said, yes, she would have attempted the Heimlich to save Cataldi.

But forget mouth to mouth.

“I would have killed myself first,” she said.

Cue some background music, with the Beatles singing “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

What, were you expecting moments reminiscent of "A Wonderful Life"?

It’s Philly. It's Phillly talk radio.

Cataldi was also skewered by Joe Conklin, the show’s resident comic, who mockingly reenacted the event with Spike Eskin.

“Help! I'm choking just like McNabb!"

[By the way, WIP spokeswoman Cindy Webster regrets she didn't Instagram or tweet the expelled glob of cheesesteak that looked like "cat barf" when it landed in the hall outside her office.]

In Conklin's version, Cataldi keeps talking, saying he wants to be buried in a Wing Bowl 22 t-shirt “because it’s free,” and how he wants the funeral at Wing Bowl with strippers as pall bearers.

“Will you just take the water?” Spike says.

“Make sure you tell Chip Kelly I love him,” pseudo Cataldi says.

After Spike supposedly makes the save, Conklin-Cataldi starts complaining. "Why did it have to be an Eskin? ... I was with your dad once when he was choking up a furball from that mink coat he was wearing. ... Why are you smoking a cigarette?”

Spike is reduced to profanity.

In real life, though, Spike Eskin, who regularly hosts or cohosts on WIP, expressed no regrets.

“Ha! No, none at all,” he emailed. “I wish I was a little stronger so it wouldn't have taken five or six tries.”

“Seriously, Angelo has been one of the people at 94WIP who has been very supportive and kind toward me. So that means a lot to me,” he said.

“People have been strangely impressed by it or called me a hero,” Spike stated. "Many people have said, ‘I don't know what I would have done.’ Really? If someone was choking, there is some other option other than to remedy that problem? I didn't really ever consider just walking off or anything.”

His fiancee, Valerie DiBiaggio, couldn't help laughing, thinking his life-saving story was all a joke.

“In fairness to her, I make up a lot of stories (nothing bad), so she had every reason to doubt me,” Spike Eskin wrote.

Cataldi’s wife, Gail, had a similar first reaction.

“An Eskin saved you? You were saved by an Eskin?” she said, Angelo related by phone.

One thing has changed: Cataldi’s feeling toward Spike.

”He’s getting married soon, and I’m going to make sure that he gets a great gift,” Cataldi said.

Throughout it all, Cataldi rolled with the punches.

He even told Philly.com no need to block nasty comments on Tuesday’s article, because he’s used to hearing the worst from callers, Conklin and other colleagues.

“The most innocuous stories, they kill you for,” he said. “Put them back up. Nothing would possibly bother me.”

“There is a philosophical end to this,” Cataldi added. “It really could end at any time. The craziest, flukiest thing could happen and it’s over.”

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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