FAB 4. Thank You, Big Dog
There is a chance that some of you reading this SR’s Fab 5 column today first heard about Buccaneer Magazine and BucMag.com, which later became Pewter Report magazine and PewterReport.com, by first listening to me on WDAE 620 AM with afternoon host Steve Duemig on Wednesdays during Bucs football season.
We did a show together for 11 years from 1999-2009 called “The Buccaneer Blitz” from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. and had a lot of fun talking Buccaneers football and even getting into some heated on-air disagreements along the way.
After all, I was on with “The Big Dog,” who had some bite to go along with that loud bark.
Duemig played a huge role in helping to grow our audience of magazine subscribers and online visitors for over a decade, and for that I am absolutely thankful. I shared that with him after we parted ways as an on-air tandem, and again after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor just a few years ago. I liked the fact that he wanted to take some credit for my success, and I was happy to give it to him.
We were friends.
He was there at Champps when my ex-wife and I invited our parents to dinner at 6:00 p.m. right as I got off air at the WDAE radio remote to announce that we were expecting our daughter, Ellie. Duemig, who has a daughter, Jill, shed a happy tear for me at our dinner when we broke the news. Although he was 17 years old than me, we had some things in common, including a special place in heart for our little girls.
You see “The Big Dog” was really a big softie, and he would hate for me to tell you that – like I’m revealing a superhero’s true identity – but it was the truth. He was a good friend and he was fiercely loyal.
I not only remember our on-air conversations, but also the off-air conversations we would have during long commercial breaks in-studio or outside on one of his smoke breaks. Those were the best, as we would speak freely and exchange inside scoop on the Bucs – saying things confidentially that we couldn’t say on-air.
Like friends, we had some spats. He hated the flack he caught from Bucs fans who listened to him and ripped him on the PewterReport.com message boards – absolutely hated it! It put me in a pickle at times because Duemig wanted some of those comments removed, and yet I had to let my readers speak their mind. Some of you guys really tormented him!
Remember when I said “The Big Dog” was really a big softie? Well, he had some of the thinnest skin you could imagine, which went completely counter to his on-air persona as this tough-talking radio broadcaster. Kinda crazy, right?
The reason why Duemig had thin skin is because he was really a caring guy. He was from Philly, but pledged allegiance to the Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays, and suggested – almost demanded – that Northern transplants living in Tampa do the same and surrender their past allegiances and become followers of the hometown teams. He cared about this area a lot.
Remember when I said he was fiercely loyal? Duemig LOVED Tampa Bay sports, and he loved the fact that he was one of the first, as well as being one of the longest and best ambassadors of the Tampa Bay sports community, first with Sports Radio 910 AM WFNS and then with WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.
You didn’t want Duemig as your enemy because of the power of his afternoon drive-time show because there was a time when it seemed just about every sports fan in town listened to “The Big Dog.” When we finally ended the show together in 2009 – I think that was the year – our relationship got kind of frosty and he took to bashing me – and PewterReport.com – on the air one day shortly thereafter. He invited callers to call in and rip me, and my company’s coverage of the Bucs.
Jim Flynn, our previous editor, called me and said that Duemig was on the warpath and I was the target, and that I needed to tune in to listen. I texted Duemig, asking him why he was doing that, and he texted me back, asking if I was listening, wanting to rub it in a little. Hey, Duemig could hold a grudge. This is the Big Dog we’re talking about.
I fired back with a text about two hours later, thanking him for all of the free publicity he gave PewterReport.com on 620 AM that day, and that our web traffic was going through the roof because of it. I would’ve loved to see the look on his face while reading that text, as he probably didn’t expect that response.
But that’s what happens with friends, right? They care, they clash, and they care again.
Years later after we made up, I thanked Duemig for dedicating two or three hours of his show for ripping me, and PewterReport.com. I listened to every misguided word an angry Duemig said that day, along with every idiot caller, who probably never read a single word of anything I had written before. It made me develop some really unbelievably thick skin as a result. Since then, I have come to find that having thick skin in the media business is truly an asset.
That was one of those formative times in my career – listening to two to three non-stop hours worth of criticism over the airwaves in Tampa Bay – that truly made me better. Duemig didn’t set out to do that on that day, but that was the byproduct, and it was one of the best things any friend has ever done for me. Instead of being embarrassed by Duemig’s rampage, it fueled me and helped me take PewterReport.com to new heights.
What I admired about Duemig the most was how he understood “the theater of radio.” He was an old school radio guy, listening to sports games on the radio while growing up as a child. The Big Dog knew how to create appointment listening to get you to tune in after the commercial break or the next day at 3:00 p.m. when he shown began with one of his epic monologues. He had his share of foils – or villains – in former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer, who was his personal whipping boy for years, and then later set his sights on former head coach Jon Gruden, and later former QB Josh Freeman.
When Dilfer was in the midst of a three-interception game at the Big Sombrero on a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., I remember thinking to myself, “Can’t wait to hear Big Dog’s rant about Dilfer in about 24 hours!”
So many Tampa Bay fans tuned in at 3:00 p.m. on Monday afternoons to hear what Duemig thought about the latest Bucs game. It truly was appointment radio in the Tampa Bay area, and he was an absolute Tampa Bay legend.
Thanks to Big Dog, perhaps some of you Bucs fans are here on this site and have become loyal PewterReport.com readers because of him – and for that I am eternally grateful.
And as he would often say, “That’s no bullspit.”
On behalf of PewterReport.com, I would like to send our condolences to the Duemig family, to our friends and partners at WDAE and to all of the Big Dog fans out there.
Rest in peace, Steve.