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Talking sports … and more

By Staff | Aug 3, 2018

CJ HADDAD Craig Shemon and Pete Sheppard talking sports in studio on 99.3 ESPN Southwest Florida.

Sports fans across Southwest Florida can get their afternoon drive fix by turning the dial to 99.3 FM, where the voices of Craig Shemon and Pete Sheppard take over the airwaves and catch you up on the day in sports.

Their combination of national and local coverage, along with a pop culture twist, provides an entertaining four hours of talk that keeps listeners tuned in to the show that just celebrated its one-year anniversary this past May.

An ESPN and Beasley Media conglomerate, Shemon and Sheppard are on from 2-6 each afternoon, Monday through Friday, along with producer Chris Beasley. The three together provide a charming, yet stimulating dialogue about topics across the sports spectrum.

“The chemistry, friendship and the hard work and dedication that is shared by me, Pete and Chris – we’re just a group that likes to come to work every day, come together and put on a show. We’re three people who really love their jobs and love what they do,” Shemon said of his colleagues.

“It’s like you’re at a sports bar. That’s how we’re gonna treat you. Like we’re talking over a couple of cocktails at a sports bar. I am what I am. I don’t pull any punches,” Sheppard said.

The entertaining trio each brings his own flavor to the table, as Shemon grew up in Detroit/Indianapolis, Sheppard in New England and Beasley being the young, home-grown Southwest Florida talent.

“You’ve got Craig who’s got that national background, and Pete, coming from Boston and bringing that passion from the northeast. I’ve loved it and learned a lot from these guys,” said Beasley of his partners.

An avid Lions fan – something he gets some flack for here and there on the show, Shemon attended Indiana University and has national radio and play-by-play experience for Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, NFL and the Big 10 Network.

Having frequently vacationed on Sanibel as a kid, Shemon jumped at the chance to work in this market.

Shemon worked with a different partner on 99.3 prior to Sheppard’s arrival in 2017.

Sheppard, a native New Englander, spent his early years in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, eventually graduating from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.

After working his way through radio stations throughout the northeast, Sheppard showed up to WEEI studios in Boston with a suit and resume in hand, was luckily given an audition on the spot-and ultimately hired.

From 1999-2010, he was part of “The Big Show,” a prominent afternoon drive sports talk show in the ultra-competitive Boston sports market.

Sheppard moved down to Bonita Springs in 2017 with his wife, not having the position he has now, or any position at 99.3 ESPN.

Ironically enough, just as he had 22 years before, he walked into the Beasley Media Offices in Estero, hoping for the best.

Beasley introduced him to Shemon and the two worked together on a few shows before Sheppard quickly locked up the full-time gig- “the rest as they say, is history,” Sheppard quipped. “It all ended up working out great, and I love it. We’ve been together for over a year and it’s been awesome.”

The reception from the Southwest Florida community for the two on-air personalities has been a warm one.

“We’ve been out and about and have met so many great people,” Sheppard said. “The response to the show, in such a short period of time, has been through the roof.”

“I’m still humbled by a person that says ‘Hey, I got in my car, and I drove because I wanted to meet you guys because I wanted to put a face to the voice,'” Shemon said. “I’ve been doing radio for 35 years, so has he (Sheppard), that still gets to me. That still means something to me. That personal connection means a lot.”

They believe success has found them due to their dual-threat of knowledgeable sports talk, mixed with casual – and sometimes gut-busting – pop culture topics.

“You can’t sit here and do X’s and O’s for four hours and try to break down everything, it doesn’t work that way,” said Sheppard.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t even listen to that,” exclaimed Shemon, while the two shared a laugh.

From food, to movies and entertainment, to discussions on slang words from around different parts of the country and much more, the pair have truly found their niche together.

“I think the important part of radio is making the audience and the listener feel like they’re part of the show, and I think we do that,” Shemon said. “I think they feel like a fly on the wall in the studio instead of driving behind their car. We spill our lives out there and I think that relates to the same guy that’s driving home on Tamiami Trail or I-75 at the end of the work day. And they say ‘Wow, these guys are just like me, they have the same concerns, they have wives, kids, jobs, the whole thing.’ We put a lot of our personal lives into the show.”

As far as what sports topics they cover – it includes every and anything. Namely, some top notch guests.

“We talk about everything,” Sheppard remarked. “We talk a lot of college football – obviously – we have great line-ups. We talk Tampa Bay, Miami, New England, Detroit. It’s just a whole mishmash of everything. But you’ve got to be entertaining and informative, and that’s what we try to be.”

Despite the success they have found in just a year together, the drive is still there to grow and corner the market.

“My expectations are always to succeed, and kick butt,” professed Shemon. “I pour my heart and soul into this every day. And so does Pete. And that’s a good thing. I’m here to win. I’m here to prove that you can have success in a sports market that doesn’t have any professional or big time college teams in its backyard. In a way, we do a national content show in a local market and try and blend both.”

“I think we put together the strongest line up of experience, talent, entertainment – and the guests we have on – second to none,” said Sheppard. “There’s nobody that comes close, or ever has in this market, nobody.”

Some of those big time guests include NFL reporters Adam Schefter on Mondays and Field Yates on Fridays, as well as many others.

“I’d put our show up against any one in the country. Any time. Any place. Anywhere,” Sheppard said with bravado.

Their ratings have only grown over the year, with the average listener tuning in for almost the full four-hour show, a truly stunning feat when the average listener time in most markets can be just 20 minutes.

The station is also doing some great work in the community and always tries to give back to a local charity – and not necessarily the big names out there.

“We use our reach to help out local charities such as the Southwest Florida Junior Golf Association. So that you’re paying money as a listener, but you know that it’s going to a good place. That’s something we try to do frequently,” said Beasley.

The station recently held a catfishing tournament to benefit Caleb’s Crusades, a local non-profit dedicated to helping families with children suffering from pediatric cancer.

They’ll even show up to Little League parks across the community, pulling up in their ESPN van, which, of course, the kids love.

They enjoy getting involved in the community, and constantly broadcast live from remote locations across Southwest Florida and even hold a poker tournament every third Tuesday of the month in Bonita.

“It’s a lot of fun – we’ve made a lot of new friends and get to meet great listeners. It’s something fun to do in the community,” Sheppard said.

As for what the future holds?

“I hope this is my last stop. I hope I’m here for 15 years and I hope this is it,” told Shepard.

“This isn’t a stepping stone or anything like that. We’ve both been in bigger markets and we’re here for a reason. We’re not leaving,” added Sheppard with a smirk.

The listeners don’t just enjoy the show, the guys do as well.

“I could be having a bad day, but 2 o’clock rolls around and the fun part begins. I hope the listeners feel the same way,” Beasley said.

Be sure to look for their commercial on Sunday Night Football on NBC throughout the season, as well as Shemon filling in frequently on the ESPN Network.

For more information on the show and to see “Game of Shep”, Sheppard’s play on Game of Thrones, visit www.993espn.com. You can follow them on Twitter as well, where they frequently pose poll questions for the audience @993ESPNRadio.

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: haddad_cj