Billy Schweim has had a lot of jobs in his career, but only one of them hasn’t seemed like work.
That would be his current gig as a sports-talk show host on ESPN 97.3 FM. His Saturday and Sunday radio show—The Locker Room with Billy Schweim—has become popular with South Jersey listeners.
“I love to be able to talk sports since I can’t play anymore because I’m fat and old,” he kidded before laughing heartily in a recent interview. “This is, far and away, the favorite job I’ve ever had.”
Schweim, 58, is a diehard Philadelphia sports fan who happens to have his own radio show that dissects the ups and downs of the local teams.
He is more than a talk-show host, however. He lines up the guests, sells advertising for his shows, and schedules places to host remotes during the Eagles’ season.
Schweim does it all with the boundless energy of someone half his age.
“I love the challenge of going out and getting exciting guests,” he said. “I love making people laugh and entertaining people with sports. I don’t take myself too seriously and think I know everything like a lot of talking heads do.”
His goal, he said, is to bring fans “the lighter side of sports. I’m a big Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, and Phillies fan, and I try to bring that passion to the radio.”
Sometimes he does his shows with his twin brother, Bobby, as his radio co-host. Lately, with Bobby busy with HIS twin sons and his job as a pilot for Amazon, Scotty McKay has been an almost-regular co-host, and former Eagle Ken Dunek, the publisher of JerseyMan and PhilllyMan Magazines frequently joins him on remotes before Eagles games.
“My brother and I used to argue a lot [on the air] and people thought it was funny,” Schweim said. “But his job has kind of taken him away from participating, and his twin boys have a lot of activities on the weekends and he likes to hang out with them.”
The brothers’ back-and-forth dialogue became a big hit with listeners.
“It’s like listening to two brothers going back to their childhood and arguing,” said Pete Thompson, who also does a sports show on ESPN 97.3 FM. “Billy will get passionate about something—say it’s the Astros scandal or one of the Philly sports teams—and Bobby will call him an idiot and they go at it. It becomes very entertaining.”
Schweim’s Saturday show airs after a two-hour program hosted by Thompson that is heavily into high school sports.
Thompson, a long-time TV and radio personality, is enamored by Schweim’s high energy level.
“There are no short answers in Billy Land,” Thompson said. “And his enthusiasm is not fake; that’s what makes him so much fun.”
Schweim and McKay talk mostly about the Philly pro teams and sprinkle in some conversation about the collegiate ranks.
“I try to pride myself on getting athletes from the South Jersey area who have made it,” he said, adding some of his guests have included former local stars who have reached the NFL, including Phil Costa, Isaac Redman, Mike Rozier, Kevin Ross and Dwight Hicks,
The ESPN 97.3 FM studio is located in Northfield and the 50,000-watt station has a 50-mile radius, making it available from Atlantic City to Deptford and reaching Delaware and Toms River.
Schweim, a Collingswood, NJ resident who lives in Ocean City in the summers, didn’t get into the radio business until he was almost 50. He says he wishes he did it sooner, but life took him on a different path.
After graduating from Collingswood High in 1980, Schweim and his twin brother attended Lees-McRae College in North Carolina, where they both played football under assistant Paul Johnson, who later coached at Navy and Georgia Tech. Billy was the quarterback, Bobby was a defensive back.
At 23, Billy took a job with USAir, loading and unloading planes at Philadelphia International Airport.
“It was like I died and went to heaven,” he said. “The money was good, and you worked four flights a day.”
It was a carefree time in Schweim’s life. He was sporting a mullet, playing in an airline hockey league, hanging out with ex-Flyers, and making good money.
“And I traveled for free,” he said, noting a perk for working for USAir. “It was a great time.”
It was the start of a long career with the airline. Looking back, he has a tinge of regret.
“I wish I was a little more motivated and got involved in radio at a younger age,” he said.
From 1985 to 2008 he worked at US Airways. The physical job took a toll on him: five herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and damage to his right elbow that required surgery.
The injuries forced him to leave US Air in 2008.
“I had to reinvent myself,” he said.
Schweim became a teacher’s aide at Bankbridge School in Sewell, NJ. He also went back to college to get his history degree and pursue teaching. While attending Rutgers-Camden, he took a journalism class and enjoyed it. When he was required to take an internship, he called Chuck Betson, a veteran sports-talk host at WOND in Linwood, NJ. Schweim interned at the station and sometimes filled in for Betson.
Schweim, who can chat sports with the best of them, felt like he had found his niche.
“I got the fever for radio,” he said.
When his internship ended, there were no openings, but his wife, Toni, pushed him to stay the course.
“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have ever taken the chance,” he said. “She encouraged me to get my own show. I said, ‘Who’s going to take me?’ ”
He kept taking classes at Rutgers and in 2013, at age 49, he graduated. At around the same time, he pitched a show to WIBG in Ocean City. The Locker Room with Billy Schweim was born.
“I worked hard to get guests through people I knew and through networking,” Schweim said. “I had Dick Vermeil, Aaron McKie, Craig Berube, Phil Martelli, Jeff Francoeur.”
Nearly two years later, in May of 2015, he went to ESPN (97.3 FM).
“They heard my show and liked it and thought I’d be a good fit,” said Schweim, who has two daughters, Alyza Grace and Andrea, and three grandsons.
That became his passion, but it didn’t pay all the bills, so he took a job as a social studies teacher at Pennsauken Tech, a position he held for three years.
Now he’s back to one job: The Locker Room with Billy Schweim can be heard on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. On his Feb. 29 show, his guests included Mike Eruzione, the 1980 U.S. hockey Olympic hero, and Randy Lerch, the former Phillies pitcher who wrote a book, God in the Bullpen, about how God helped his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Do not be misled by Schweim’s “four-hour” work week—that is, the amount of time he’s on the air. Schweim’s week is full. He sells advertising for his shows, books guests, does extensive research and writes scripts for his air time. And more.
“I have to do it all, from soup to nuts,” he said.
It’s not an extravagant business, he said, but he is doing something he loves. Schweim also has a website (www.thelockerroombillyschweim.com), a YouTube channel, and a podcast on Spotify.
“I don’t get rich off of it,” he said, but he wasn’t complaining. “I obviously started late in life. On May 9, I’ll be starting my sixth year, so I must be doing something right.”