Foster retires from 97.1 FM; return 'was tough'
It may have seemed sudden, with the press release saying, "effective immediately."
But the truth is, Terry Foster has been considering retirement from sports-talk radio for several months, since shortly after returning to the airwaves in January, following an extended absence while he recovered from a stroke.
"I considered it as soon as I came back," Foster told The News in a brief text-message exchange Thursday. "It was tough after what I went through. Tougher than I thought."
And so, in an announcement that caught many by surprise, including several colleagues at 97.1 The Ticket, Foster on Thursday said he is leaving his wildly successful drive-time sports-talk show.
Foster, 58, and Mike Valenti have teamed up since 2004, and long have been the highest-rated sports-talk program in Metro Detroit, drawing local ratings that are among the best in the country.
Valenti will host the show solo until a new co-host is named, the station announced.
When Foster took a leave of absence after suffering an August stroke, followed by multiple medical setbacks, Jeff Riger filled in most of the time.
"That's Terry's chair," an emotional Valenti said on the air Thursday afternoon. "Immediately following him leaving, I don't feel right putting somebody there and I want to keep it that way for a while.
"I want to find out what we are without him.
"We'll figure that out at the appropriate time."
Said 97.1 program director Jimmy Powers, in a statement: "He was a vital part of making ‘Valenti and Foster’ the success it is and his contributions to local radio and to our station will be sorely missed. Everyone at 97.1 is sending good vibes and well wishes for health and happiness to Terry and his family."
In the nomadic world of sports-talk radio, Foster and Valenti had unbelievable staying power — their dynamic winning over the masses, with Valenti the loud-mouth youngster from New York, and Foster the mild-mannered veteran of the Detroit sports-journalism scene.
Jemele Hill, now with ESPN, first suggested the pair to the powers-that-be at 1270, back when The Ticket was on the AM dial. The station wasn't convinced, and those behind the scenes scoffed that the show wouldn't last six months.
"It's been a long six months," Foster wrote in his farewell blog, posted Thursday afternoon at detroit.cbslocal.com.
"We were so different," said Valenti, on the air Thursday, "and that's why it worked."
The Ticket asked Foster to do one final farewell show, but he declined, saying it'd be too emotional. (That's also why he declined, at this time, an extensive interview with The News and other media outlets.)
The show has been tougher and tougher for Foster since he returned in January. He has acknowledged he's not the same person he was before the stroke. He's not as outgoing as he used to be, which has been evident at times on air. Foster doesn't have the same passion for arguing for four hours a day, nor does he have the stamina. In his blog, Foster wrote that after the four-hour show, he would often go home and go right to bed, wiped out.
A married father of two, he finally decided it wasn't how he wanted to live his life. On vacation recently, it became clear to him and his family how much more energized he was on off-days than work days.
"It was troubling to my wife, who was used to 'goofy Terry' bouncing into the house and starting all kinds of trouble," Foster wrote. "She thought radio drained me and believes that retiring will prolong my life and make me happier."
Foster has been in the Detroit sports-media scene since the 1980s, first at the Detroit Free Press, then at The Detroit News, where he covered the Pistons "Bad Boys" championship era and later was a columnist.
Foster retired from The News in Detroit 2015.
A Detroit native and graduate of Central Michigan University, Foster also previously worked at WDFN (1130-AM), and also spent the last year writing for Oakland University's athletics website. He was a presenter at the university's Black-and-Gold Awards at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday, looking svelte (he's lost 45 pounds since getting his diet in order following the stroke), and he hopes to continue his tenure at OU, and continue working, at least to some degree.
"I still have plenty left to give," Foster wrote on his farewell blog. "It is time for me to ride off, but not ride off into the sunset."