(This is the first in a rolling series of articles on sports media figures getting into trouble with the law. Big trouble. For our sake, hopefully, the series won’t be too long.)
Not since “the punch” from Mike Missanelli has there been a senseless incident in Philadelphia involving a local sports radio host.
This time, it involves a relatively nameless sports radio personality – just don’t tell him that.
Especially if you say, “That’ll be $5.00.”
In the early morning hours of Monday, January 16, 97.5 The Fanatic (WPEN-FM) host Tom Byrne, hailed a taxi. When he reached his destination after a mile or so, he exited the taxi – neglecting to pay the driver.
When the driver demanded Byrne pay the fare, here’s what he came back with: “I’m a celebrity. This is my neighborhood. What are you gonna do about it?”
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: Tom Byrne, starring in: “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of This Cab Fare!”
Let’s just take a closer look at this so-called “celebrity,” shall we? According to the bio posted on the Fanatic web site (while it’s still available – more on that later), Byrne’s sports radio career began when he became the play-by-play announcer of the Scranton Royals – the Division III basketball team from Scranton College. “He also worked in the television studio of Phonebet TV,” reads his bio. Phonebet TV – I know. a channel that’s just as famous as Tom Byrne… made for each other! Phonebet actually aired in the Philadelphia area – but even if you live in Philly, the reason you may not have heard of it, is because it’s been off the air for the last two years. Byrne’s bio also boasts his writing talent “for The Sports Network” – no, not the mighty TSN network out of Canada, but a sports news website based out of Hatboro, PA. (We won’t link them, since they’re competition.)
But you haven’t read anything until you read this gem from his bio page: “Tom’s rise in the broadcasting industry is a testament to how bad he wanted to flourish in sports and to the talent he possesses as a broadcaster.”
Whatever talents Tom Byrne possesses as a broadcaster, he lacks as a negotiator.
Back to 6th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia, where the self-described “celebrity” sports radio host Tom Byrne asked a cabbie – and even though we weren’t there, we will assume he wasn’t asking nicely – what he was “gonna do about” evading a cab fare. According to an arrest report – yep, this can’t have a happy ending, now that I’ve belted out those two magic words – the cabbie proceeded to follow the uber-famous radio host down the street (usually you would need a few security guards in tow if you’re a celebrity) when Byrne knocked the cabbie’s glasses off his face, then allegedly punched the cabbie in the face, and dragged him across the street.
Fame. Ain’t it a bitch.
Police caught up to the megastar sports radio host about a block away from where he was dropped off and started his challenge with the cabdriver. He would spent most of the rest of the day in jail, before being bailed out by his girlfriend (I bet those two are a real power couple) to the tune of $500 – or $100 for each dollar Byrne denied paying the taxi driver. The charges against Tom Byrne, in no particular order: Simple assault (I guess that’s when he knocked the cabbie’s glasses off), aggravated assault (that’s probably the punching and dragging parts), recklessly endangering another person (ditto), and of course, robbery and theft of services.
I believe this is where Tom Byrne hires Mark Geragos to fight the charges.
You would think a $5 cab fare wouldn’t be a problem for a big-time celebrity like Tom Byrne.
Instead, he just bought himself a bigger problem, with the new charges brought against him following that “case of the Mondays”.
Byrne has been hosting the evening shift on weeknights starting at 7 PM (you would think a celebrity would be beneath hosting a time slot normally pre-empted by live sports play-by-play, or perhaps a Scranton Royals game). When he showed up Tuesday for his airshift, the program director decided about a half-hour before 7 PM that Byrne would not be on the air. And it appears that he’s been suspended indefinitely – at the very least, he’s been off the air the entire week of the incident (as recent as Friday night, Sean Brace had been hosting in the timeslot). Though 97.5 The Fanatic GM Matt Nahigian would neither confirm nor deny Byrne was suspended. Nor did he confirm or deny if Byrne was a celebrity.
But given Byrne’s brush with the law, you’d have to wonder if he’ll ever be back on the air at the station.
Six years ago, WIP midday co-host Mike Missanelli punched a producer at a live remote broadcast, and was subsequently fired.
Two years later, he was hired by rival sports station 97.5 The Fanatic for their afternoon drive program, which he continues hosting today.
You figure there’s probably no room for two brawling talk show hosts on their roster. If Byrne is indeed dismissed following this incident, he has to concentrate on vanquishing his personal demons before looking to return to the radio.
Or he can always double down and wait for a reality show producer to give him a call.
Don’t all obnoxious celebrities end up going that route?
Or even celebrities in their own mind, like Tom Byrne?
And Tom, if you’re reading this article: What are you gonna do about it?