It was just another curveball for Rob Fai.
Spending a couple of days in hospital with kidney stones last week wasn’t anything that he couldn’t handle.
After all, the 49-year-old native of Scarborough, Ontario has faced several curveballs in the past few years.
Firmly established as the play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Canadians, the pandemic and the re-structuring of minor league baseball forced Fai to leave the organization in 2020 after a 13-year-run.
He started working full-time hosting Fai Nation, TSN 1040’s late night show that aired from 10 to midnight on weeknights. But when Bell Media decided to change formats and shut the doors on 1040 in February of 2021, it left Fai wondering what’s next.
Well, Fai has survived…and flourished.
Whether it’s starting up a wrestling promotion, getting a barber’s certificate, or finding himself back on the airwaves as a fill-in host for CKNW and other CORUS properties, Rob Fai is doing just fine.
“After 1040 shut down, I’m thinking how do we keep the momentum going because that late-night slot actually started to get a little bit of traction just as the station blew up, which was really heartbreaking for me because it took me a couple of stints at 1040 to finally find that traction with the late-night show,” explains Fai of his first post-1040 venture.
“So that’s why I was so quick to try and prop up Fai Nation on a YouTube channel. I really wanted to see if I could keep that momentum going at least through the end of the Canucks season and it was great. We had nearly 1,000 viewers and we had some sponsors that came over but it at least gave me a couple of months to at least figure out what the heck I was going to do.”
During this whole time, Fai was going to school.
“What’s actually funny is that I was going to barber school from six o’clock to nine o’clock every night - Monday to Friday -and then I would take my scooter up to the 1040 studios and do the show from 10 to midnight. When the YouTube show ended, I was fully certified so that at least gave me something to kind of hang my hat on,” says Fai, who actually honed his barbering skills on many of his listeners who volunteered through social media.
Fai was looking to continue his radio career but what originally was supposed to be one-time project turned into pretty much a full-time job.
“I just kind of stepped back after doing The Nation and just did a couple of odds and ends things but that’s when I was approached by Chris Perry, who I knew from my days when I was working with the Canadians and he was a writer for The Vancouver Sun. Chris was interested in doing a story on the history of wrestling in the area,” says Fai.
A lifelong wrestling fan, Fai was an easy mark for doing a documentary on wrestling in the Pacific Northwest.
What happened next propelled Fai and Perry into becoming wrestling promoters.
“We could have interviewed all the people we wanted to but we didn’t have access to any of the old footage because it was just so scattered. With no footage, we’re thinking what should we do? So why don’t we just stage a show? We’ll get as much footage as we can and then we’ll go from there. Well the wrestlers said that the show was so well put-together that this could be a monthly thing,” says Fai in explaining the genesis of NEW - NationExtremeWrestling.
With no archival footage, the documentary never aired but Nation Extreme Wrestling is now coming up to its second anniversary and will host its 14th show on Sept. 9 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.
“We’re just now starting to turn a profit to so that we can start to pay off some of the early stuff. But that’s like any business, right? I think we’ve accomplished a lot in two years and we’re in a really good place now,” says Fai, who oversees a roster of 45 wrestlers and referees.
Despite the success of NEW, Fai still had the urge to do radio.
“I kind of cold-called CKNW and told them if they had anything, I’d be interested. They offered me a producer role and I said I’d really like to just keep trying to do something on air. It just started with filling some shifts on the overnights and then I did the evenings and then they just kept pushing me towards the daytime. Now I’m pretty much on six days a week for the next month. And I also have parlayed that into doing work with their morning show in Toronto. So if I’m not on in Vancouver, I’m usually on doing 640 in Toronto. I’ve kind of weaned my way into a pretty regular gig in just piecing things together in different markets,” notes Fai.
The transition from sports to news was made easier by the fact that Fai had worked as a newscaster at NEWS 1130 over a decade ago but it was still a tough transition nonetheless.
“My time at 1130 gave me the foundation to go back in and start to write differently. And news is different -this is real world stuff like who’s the next mayor of the city? How are they going to take down the tents down at Main and Hastings? They’re stories that you have to be really delicate with and be really accurate with your facts but I actually really enjoy doing it. And every day in this city there’s something brand new for you to discuss,” says Fai.
Fai doesn’t see himself getting back into sports as he sees his future in news.
“If they offered me a more permanent (news) role, I wouldn’t even blink. And to be honest with you going back to sports for me at this point, it would be really hard. I’ve been a couple of years removed from the Canucks and everything. The only sport that I still follow with any value is baseball. I miss sports talk radio but I don’t miss the industry. The industry was pretty tough on me. I never really fit in with a sports media crowd in this city. And I’m totally cool with that. But it was just one of those things where it just it was just okay for me to leave and it was the right time,” says Fai.
In baseball, failing to hit the curveball has been the downfall of many promising hitters.
For Fai, curveballs aren’t an issue.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.