I’ve always been interested in the ‘sports radio guy.’ Who these people truly are can be forgotten (or never even considered) when no visual recognition can be had. Sports radio can just be a quick way to get the scores, news, and updates before turning on the tunes. Sports radio can just be background noise on the evening ride home. But when Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer is on air, that cannot possibly be the case. The amount of passion, true emotion, and excitement immediately draws you in. If the Bucks are playing bad? Oh, you’re gonna’ hear it. If the Bucks are playing great? The guy speaks in a way that you know his grin is ear to ear. Sparky has done his part in bringing Milwaukee a second sports radio station, WSSP 105.7 The Fan. Needless to say, he’s made his career through hard work and lots of dedication.
The following is an interview I conducted with Sparky:
Reido: Where did you grow up, and what was your relationship with sports?
Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer: I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and knew I wanted to do sports talk when I was about in the eighth grade. At that point, I pretty much dedicated everything in my being to getting to where I am today, whether it being a lecture at church, taking speech classes, reading the newspaper out loud to my grandma after school. Everything from eighth grade on, focused on having a weekday talk show, I’m pretty much living the dream right now.
Reido: Who was your childhood idol?
Sparky: Brett Musburger, I loved Brett Musburger on CBS back in the day with Irv Cross and Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder, the pregame show on CBS before NFL games. Always liked Musburger’s play by play. And sports talk wise, there really wasn’t one. The score out of Chicago, I always wanted Milwaukee to have a station kinda similar to the score. The score is a very emotional opinionated station with a lot of energy. That’s kinda how I wanted the station in Milwaukee to be, cause we didn’t have it when I was growing up. Now, I’m very proud to say that’s how I feel the fan now. A very emotional opinionated sports talk stations, that want’s fan interaction.
Reido: Where’d you go to college?
Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer: I went to gateway technical college in Kenosha, and I did not graduate. I quit my second year, it was just for an associate degree. Bob and Brian went there from the morning show Rock morning show. Tim Allen went there, he does our Brewers postgame show on the fan. A bunch of people that were in Milwaukee radio and Wisconsin radio all went there and graduated, a lot of them did graduate and ended up getting into radio. I pretty much did the same thing, opportunity to get into radio. Actually did radio, right when I started college, I was blessed to have an internship with someone, then I got hired on. That’s kinda when college started, I was trying to work three jobs, plus go to school. It wasn’t working, so I ended up leaving school.
Reido: You’ve gone through a lot of bad Milwaukee Bucks basketball, what does this team mean to you?
Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer: It means quite a bit, not this team specifically, but the fact that they legitimately have the star power of Giannis and another all-star in Jabari Parker going forward, and a legitimate chance to build something, that could maybe result in a championship one day.
They’re different than what we had with the big three of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen, and Sam Cassell. They were all stars, but they weren’t necessarily what Giannis and Jabari has a chance to be. The best player in their conference, the best player in the sport. Giannis appears to have the chance to be just that, if he continues to improve going forward. That big three team only had one deep playoff run, and that was it. I firmly believe that this group here will have several deep playoff runs, going forward. It’ll be a longer sustained success than the big three.
Reido: Has covering the team affected your enjoyment watching them play, or do you still have the same passion?
Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer: I think, doing what I do, it all depends on who you are. It definitely affected how I watch sports and view sports. Before getting into sports talk radio, as a fan you always have the optimism, the glass half full, always figuring out a way for the team to play on. Well this player has this type of year, that player has this type of year, and we could be in the playoffs. You always try to foul yourself into how this team can be good. Doing what I do now, you really can’t do that. You have to be honest with yourself. You owe it to the audience to evaluate this team as you see it, and give your opinion. From that aspect, it’d definitely affects it.
From an emotionally attached aspect, I’m probably more emotionally attached to the Bucks now than I’ve ever been. Doing the Bucks post game show for the last 11 years, you really get attached. And I’m certainly more attached to the Bucks than any other team in sports.
Reido: I was nicknamed sparky as a baby for having such a large head that I had to drag it across the ground as I crawled, producing sparks, how were you nicknamed sparky?
Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer: I was nicknamed from old sports talk, the show host, that I used to work for. I actually worked on a WISN-AM show, a local station in Milwaukee, an afternoon show by Steve “The Homer” True (The World’s Greatest Sports Talk Show). Back in the day, the producers weren’t allowed to talk on the air, so he’d just call everyone Sparky. It wasn’t until I came along, and I was like Sparky number five, I believe, that a producer was allowed to talk on the air at radio station Wi in Milwaukee.
When I got the opportunity to come over and help start this radio station (WSSP) in 2005, even though I absolutely just hated the nickname Sparky when he gave it to me, and I mean I hated it. It’s a dog’s name, why would anybody wanna call anyone Sparky? But with this show, I followed what he did. My first day on the air, I was producing into an update back in January 2005. He was listening to see how I was going to introduce myself for the sports update. I said Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer, and he immediately texted me saying “I thought you hated that name?”
But at that point, my voice had been on the air for so long at WISN I built a little bit of a following and didn’t wanna risk losing that by ditching the Sparky nickname, so I’ve kept it all this time afterwards.
You can find Steve ‘Sparky’ Fifer on WSSP 105.7 The Fan on multiple programs. He co-hosts ‘The Big Show’ weekdays from 2 pm-6 pm. He also hosts Sparky’s Final Inspection (Saturdays noon-2 pm), Milwaukee’s Real Basketball Post Game Show, following Bucks games, and the Usinger’s Baseball Post Game Show, following Brewers games.
Follow him on Twitter: @SparkyRadio Give him a listen.