By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The art of the verbal jab came early, growing up on the streets of Upper Darby. That was stone-busting terrain, rife with cutters that can dig deep if you don’t watch your step.
It’s where Rob Ellis honed his quick wit, and sharp ability to barb. It’s why WWE, or “World Wide Ellis,” is four-time Great Birds Debate champion and will be looking to be crowned again a fifth-straight time in the 7th Annual Great Birds Debate this Thursday, Feb. 27 at 12-noon at Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philadelphia.
Ellis will be defending his title against the who’s-who lineup of 94WIP personalities, including Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, Howard Eskin, Michael Barkann, Ike Reese, Anthony Gargano, Rhea Hughes, new 94WIP evening host Josh Innes, CBS3 sports director Beasley Reece and PhiladelphiaEagles.com’s Dave Spadaro. Glen Macnow will serve as moderator.
Close to 100,000 voted last year, with Ellis garnering 30.1-percent of the vote, edging out the first two Great Birds Debate winners, Ike Reese (29.9) and Cataldi (28.9).
Listeners again this year will have the chance to decide the winner of 94WIP’s Great Birds Debate by voting online at CBS Philly immediately afterward. The debate can be heard by listening live on 94WIP, or over the Internet at cbsphilly.com and via mobile devices.
Ellis, co-host with Gargano afternoons on 94WIP from 1-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, has only competed in four Great Birds Debates and has won all four, fending off his nemesis, Cataldi—think Ali & Frazier.
“I’m definitely working on some material for Angelo, whenever I get crowned champ, like I always do,” said Ellis, laughing. “I know how he’ll come at me: I have a band of losers that sit their basements that vote for me, like Angelo always says. It’s a typical loser’s lament. I know he’ll call me a loser about 16 times.
“I wouldn’t say I study for the debate, but I do go into it with a game plan and an agenda, almost like a courtroom. I like to lay out what I’m about. I also know when you win this thing a couple of times, you’re the enemy of everybody. I know I’ll have to keep my head on a swivel. Let’s face it, you’re in this with highly intelligent guys. These guys are like sharks. They smell blood, they’ll swallow you up, especially someone like Angelo, if you’re not ready or prepared.”
The bottom line, however, is to have fun and to entertain. You won’t come across a more diverse group who you can sit down next to at a bar and talk Birds.
“I loved debating sports, that’s what I did growing up, and that’s what guys do sitting at a bar, break each other’s stones,” Ellis said. “You had to be good at it growing up where I came from. My dad was really good at it. In my neighborhood, in Upper Darby, you put something out there, someone’s going to break your stones for it.”
Some interesting challenge points this year will be on what Chip Kelly has done, Ellis said, and how the Eagles will draft. Will they draft for need, or draft for talent? Nick Foles will certainly be an arguing point. Is he the real deal after throwing 27 TDs and just 2 interceptions and a 119.2 QB rating this past season?
Ellis, who charts every Eagles game and the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers, when they’re in playoff contention, will come loaded again with stats and an intro he promises will top last year’s, when his walkout featured Bernie Parent.
“The biggest thing I like doing is to put on a show, almost like WWE. We all respect each other. You have to try to have a little fun and be showman-like, you have to go into a persona, like Thunderlip’s in ‘Rocky III,’ it’s all about the show,” Ellis said.
“Everybody will enjoy the intro, let’s put it that way. I know Angelo is gunning for me. He doesn’t care if he wins, he just doesn’t want me to win. On a real note, I’m fine with Angelo. For someone to do what he’s done, for as long as he’s done it, it’s an unbelievable accomplishment. But for one day, he’s the enemy and I know where he’s going. You want my prediction—pain! There will be one for the thumb, that’s a guarantee. Go big, or go home!”
The Great Birds Debate Champions:
2008: Ike Reese
2009: Angelo Cataldi
2010: Rob Ellis
2011: Rob Ellis
2012: Rob Ellis
2013: Rob Ellis