The Buffalo Bills get Tuesdays off so the players can rest their bumps and bruises.
Not WGR radio’s Joe Buscaglia.
It’s his busiest day of a 60-hour week. He spends about 10 hours looking at film of every play nine or 10 times to grade each Bills performance from the previous Sunday.
After his one-man viewing party ends and he finishes writing at around 1 a.m., the must-read results are posted on WGR’s website.
“I want to know everything about the team, inside and out,” Buscaglia said. “I want to know tendencies of players and the exact reason a play made it or didn’t.”
He also sees some obscure things. He said that every time tight end Scott Chandler misses a block, he messes with his gloves.
Buscaglia also messes with the prevailing opinion. While cornerback Leodis McKelvin was praised for his play against Carolina, Buscaglia’s film sessions determined that he was beaten often when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn’t have time to throw.
“So often in football media the narrative is the same,” said Buscaglia. “I don’t want to fall into that trap. I want to see for it myself and develop my opinions.”
The attention to detail that the graduate of St. Francis High School (2004) and SUNY Buffalo State (2008) has exhibited has helped Buscaglia forge a multimedia career in about three years.
I can’t recall anyone who has established such a strong local media reputation so quickly. Besides covering the Bills for WGR, the 26-year-old Buscaglia is the radio sideline reporter on Bills games, appears on Time Warner Cable and is on Channel 4 after Bills games in a suit.
“I dress in a suit for every game,” said Buscaglia. “The better you look, the better you perform.”
He has a passion for his job, but not for the Bills.
Buscaglia never was a Bills fans growing up in Hamburg. He was a fan of Green Bay’s Brett Favre, thereby sparing himself the heartbreak of most Western New Yorkers. It also has helped him do his job more objectively.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” said Buscaglia. “I can look at things from a clear view and not worry about biases.”
Some WGR colleagues were giddy after the win over Carolina, and one even predicted a Bills blowout of the New York Jets. Buscaglia toned down the hyperbole. He still wrongly picked the Bills to win, but he thought the game would be close because of the strength of the Jets’ defensive line.
WGR’s faith in Buscaglia has long been validated. He started as an intern, the radio equivalent of being on the practice squad.
After spending two years at Florida State, Buscaglia transferred to Buffalo State because EJ Manuel’s college didn’t have a journalism program and he believed he could get an internship at WGR after contacting program director Andy Roth. At Buffalo State, he took several classes with Tom McCray (radio’s Tom Donahue), and spent as much time as he could in his office to discuss radio.
“He is someone I owe a ton,” said Buscaglia. “He had a tremendous influence on my career.”
Donahue called Buscaglia “a great student who was self-motivated with a lot of drive.”
He interned on the morning show at WGR when he was a college senior, doing ordinary intern assignments. Buscaglia also was self-motivated to write practice sportscasts for Roth and co-host Jeremy White. Roth would also listen to Buscaglia voice his reports.
“Andy was invaluable,” said Buscaglia.
On the last day of his internship, he gave his first on-air performance. Roth told him he was good but sounded nervous and had some work to do. Roth told him, “We don’t want to lose you.”
“He was one of the guys you wanted to hold on to and never let go,” said Roth, who now works in Cleveland. “Joe was not afraid of a lot of work. One thing Joe has learned, nobody can outwork him. Nobody.”
He worked at WGR for minimum wage as a part-time board operator and wrote stories about football for free about the Bills and the NFL draft. He saw it as an opportunity to do something “that people would kill to do. Work at a sports station.”
He also was working as a bank teller full time for a few years before he got his big break when Nick Mendola left WGR in 2010.
He quickly got the Bills beat and almost immediately developed a reputation as a local version of draftniks Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. He studies the draft for months the same way he later would study the film of each Bills game.
He also has gotten some love from Bills fans, a perk that makes it easier to accept he’ll never get rich on a Buffalo radio salary.
A week ago, he was at an Elmwood Avenue pub when someone next to him asked, “Does anyone tell you that you look exactly like Joe Buscaglia?”
“I said, ‘Yeah, that’s me,’ ” he recalled. Then the guy asked to take a picture with him.
“That doesn’t happen anywhere else, maybe Green Bay,” said Buscaglia. “I’m doing great in terms of having a job that doesn’t feel like one.”
And that suits Buscaglia just fine.