The announcement from 97.3 FM The Fan came with all the nuance of an unexpected haymaker in the kisser.
Pow. Coach John Kentera, the longtime host of the station’s midday show, was being shown the door.
What the stunning revelation did in the days leading to Christmas was unwrap a window into the two parties.
Let’s start with Kentera. Is there a more personable soul in San Diego County? If so, you could count them on one hand and likely have enough fingers remaining to hitch a ride.
A weekday broadcast journey with Kentera, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was a blast from the past. Kentera, 65, whose local roots date to his North County childhood, seldom skipped a segment without unearthing a nugget from years ago.
Kentera, who was proud that he attended his first Padres game on April 8, 1969, as a 10-year-old, was full of tales that many couldn’t recall or were no longer around to share.
He could spin the time machine with the best of them, proving to others that athletic highlights and amazing games didn’t start with the advent of ESPN. His experiences from the past often put into perspective what was transpiring in the present.
The future, as Kentera knew firsthand from stiff-arming heart issues, was never, ever guaranteed. His creed was to live for today, share your love with those you know and display respect and admiration for those you don’t, even if you disagree with them.
Remember that time he rudely hung up on a bombastic caller? Me, neither.
Kentera, a Solana Beach resident, reminded us that not all spectacular athletic achievements happened in the last week, even with recaps available 24 hours a day on numerous platforms. Still, he embraced current events with the panache of someone years younger.
Was there ever a day in which Kentera, a former Torrey Pines High athlete and coach, didn’t punch the clock with the enthusiasm of an intern?
He had worked in San Diego radio since breathlessly delivering high school football scores for the Mighty 690 in 1987. Yet he remained allergic to cynicism, regardless if he was yapping about the Padres or the preps, the stars or those who were struggling to be average.
Kentera was Will Rogers behind the microphone, never meeting a person he didn’t like. Ditto for the tsunami of calls he took, which often revealed the fan’s heartbeat and not what someone from a corporate think tank speculated people wanted to hear.
What we know is what Sir Isaac Newton preached: for every action, there is an opposite reaction. And yikes, did the chicken feathers fly when Kentera was booted from the coop.
Various media platforms, The Fan’s switchboard and Kentera himself were overwhelmed by an outpouring of support and shock that the station that puffs its chest about being the Padres’ flagship station treated perhaps its most loyal employee like a Johnny-come-lately instead of John Kentera.
To be fair, others applauded Kentera’s removal. They offered that his show had become predictable, dated and didn’t have the modern sizzle to sell the steak.
OK, so at a minimum, the station that claims to know its audience best could pivot from Kentera in a classy, diplomatic and appreciative manner, which a true gentleman like Kentera deserved.
Instead, The Fan’s brass didn’t have the gumption to do the honorable thing. Instead, it didn’t return calls from media members offering it an opportunity to present its rationale and execution of dismissing someone that, if he’s not on the Mount Rushmore of San Diego radio, he’s near the summit.
There was a plan for Kentera to have one last show to say goodbye, a victory lap of sorts, to thank those who were eager to thank him.
However, The Fan switched signals out of fear that their clients would tell it like it was and that they wanted Kentera to stay put. Ultimately, Kentera was not only given the heave-ho, but he was also denied the chance to praise those who regularly praise him.
Most keen businesses, at any level, would be wise enough to capitalize on the event of someone so beloved moving on. The Fan could have done a goodwill tour, sold sponsorships for each day’s show, and/or embraced a number of marketing endeavors to send Kentera off in the appropriate manner and maybe make some bucks on the side.
Instead, Kentera was kicked to the curb. Instead, Kentera was popped in the midsection when he was tying a bow on his Christmas shopping. Instead, Kentera’s fob was quickly disengaged so he couldn’t enter The Fan building, the same one in which he regularly prepared for his four-hour show as if it were lasting four days.
Yes, Kentera talked about the good (and bad) old days. But it was back in those days that he learned the proper way to engage with people and share his and their passion for all things sports.
Maybe that’s why listeners, which included San Francisco Giants manager Bob Melvin and recently fired Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, reached out to Kentera.
“It’s been a tough week for both of us,” Telesco told Kentera.
There are always winners and losers when sides square off.
This contest pitted The Fan vs. Kentera, the fan’s voice. The Fan came out behind on the scoreboard, although it was the fan’s voice that was silenced.
Kentera would never play the pity card after being brushed off. What’s a pity is that The Fan was so clueless in not recognizing the fallout from punting Kentera in such an unseemly manner.
“The outpouring of love, support and compassion from everyone has really been unbelievable,” Kentera said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
Good luck to Kentera’s rumored replacements, Annie Heilbrunn and Craig Elsten, two people I consider friends.
If they and their management team have any smarts, they’ll start their debut show with a longtime listener and first-time caller who will undoubtedly and sincerely wish them well.
Coach John Kentera, you’re on the air, and really, you should have never left.