The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New book tells the story of the Sports Junkies’ improbable 25-year run

The Sports Junkies — Jason Bishop, Eric Bickel, J.P. Flaim and John Auville — launched their sports radio careers with a cable access television show in 1995. (Courtesy of J.P. Flaim)
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“Don’t turn that dial, stay tuned for a while, ‘cause we’re about to get funky, we are ‘The Sports Junkies,’” J.P. Flaim rhymed during the premiere of a half-hour sports talk show on Bowie Community Television in August 1995.

Despite that cheesy introduction, Flaim and his fellow Junkies — John “Cakes” Auville, Eric “E.B.” Bickel and Jason “Lurch” Bishop — parlayed their humble beginnings into a career as the hosts of the longest-running sports radio show in Washington. The four childhood friends from Prince George’s County celebrated a quarter-century on the air this year, and Flaim recently released a book chronicling their brotherhood and improbable staying power.

“What are the odds of people who went to preschool together working together?” Flaim, the author of “Still Barking,” said in a telephone interview. “We stumbled into a dream career.”

“We’ll never break up, because we’re beyond a radio show,” Flaim said. “Our friendship existed before the Sports Junkies, and our friendship will exist after. That’s just the way it is.”

In the book, which primarily will appeal to the show’s longtime listeners, Flaim traces the show’s history from cable access television, when Bickel suggested the no-budget program be called “Sports-A-Rama,” to the airwaves of 106.7 the Fan, where the foursome has yapped about life and sports during the coveted morning drive slot since they replaced Howard Stern in 2006.

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It’s an entertaining read, mixing details of contract negotiations with stories of in-studio drama. A “Greatest Moments” section recounts the Junkies’ infamous 2013 interview with the then-mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, and the time a car crashed into the studio while the show was in a commercial break. For donks, there’s also a helpful glossary of Junkies slang, from bazilly to cised to nubby.

In an early chapter, Flaim recalls racing to his local CVS in March 1996 to pick up a copy of the Washington Times, in which sports columnist Dick Heller, who attended a taping of their TV show, described them as intelligent and lively. “Most important,” Heller wrote, “they’re fun.” Shortly after the story ran, the Junkies received a call from the program director at WJFK-FM (106.7), who was interested in auditioning them for a weekly weekend radio show.

The Junkies capitalized on their big break and eventually took over the Greaseman’s weeknight slot on WJFK before moving to WHFS-FM (99.1) and making their morning drive debut in October 2002. After WHFS abruptly switched formats to Spanish-language pop music in 2005, the Junkies returned to WJFK in the midday slot. In January 2006, they moved back to mornings, replacing Stern.

Along the way, the Junkies developed a loyal listenership, particularly among their target audience of men ages 25-54, in part by pushing the boundaries of morning radio. They interviewed porn stars and hosted bikini contests on the air. A 2006 piece in The Washington Post Magazine labeled them “accidental shock jocks” and opined, “The Junkies’ aim isn’t sophistication; it’s ratings.”

In looking back at the past 25 years, Flaim acknowledged there were segments the Junkies aired that would no longer fly on terrestrial radio and now make him cringe as a 51-year-old father of three.

“We started as 27-year-old guys on a radio station that had Howard Stern, Don and Mike, and the Greaseman, so we did try some things,” Flaim said. “… They were all in the spirit of fun.”

Many of the Junkies’ more family-friendly stunts are featured in “Still Barking,” including a 2004 football game against the D.C. Divas, Flaim’s experience training for a sanctioned boxing match and the show’s symbolic burial of Robert Griffin III’s career, which featured a coffin.

Flaim, who was finishing law school at Temple when the Junkies launched their unlikely radio careers, began writing “Still Barking” during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. After ratings tanked over the next few months, he joked that he would have to change the title to “No Longer Barking.” The show’s numbers have since rebounded, and with kids to put through college, Flaim suggested the Junkies aren’t close to signing off for good.

Flaim’s house has doubled as a packing facility over the past few weeks as he hustles to ship orders of his book before Christmas. On Saturday, he hosted a party for more than 50 devoted listeners, fulfilling a promise Bishop made years ago — and then reneged on — as a thank you to fans if the show ever reached No. 1 in the ratings.

“The book is about the radio show and friendship and brotherhood, but none of it would’ve happened but for having an amazing audience,” Flaim said. “We have been very lucky to have people that have followed us and supported us for 25 years. Without them, we’re nothing.”

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