Sports Radio News
WFAN’s Dysfunction Could Benefit All Involved
It’s been a bizarre eight months for WFAN, a station who’s weekday lineup remained stagnant for nine years following Chris Russo’s departure on August 14, 2008. Nearly a decade later, The FAN has been on a rollercoaster ride of change, beginning with Craig Carton’s resignation last September and continuing through Mike Francesa’s imminent comeback mirroring that of Jay Leno.
“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days,” said Francesa. “I didn’t decide to go back to WFAN until I was told I better not go back. For those behind it, that was the moment I decided to return.”
As someone who follows the New York sports radio scene rather intently, I struggled to find where “this campaign” began. Could it have been the two-year celebratory farewell? Maybe the ESPN 30 for 30, or the sold out event in his honor, Francesa: A Night to Remember. Was it everyone assuming Mike would play the role of hero and remain with WFAN after Craig Carton’s arrest last September?
For someone who left on his own terms, it’s hard to find where any sort of conspiracy to keep Francesa from returning stems from. The Afternoon Drive treated his departure with class, avoiding a response to criticism even when listeners expected one. The only resemblance of poking the bear in recent weeks came from a reported Chris Carlin text containing salty language after Mike and the Mad Dog joked about FAN’s lineup on an episode of Russo’s MLB Network show High Heat.
Good for Chris Carlin for showing some fight, and not backing down from his mentors because Francesa certainly wouldn’t back down from him or anyone else.
Mike’s return will be highly anticipated by fans, but it’s difficult to foresee him being celebrated by many of his coworkers. Carlin, Maggie and Bart took the high road during Tuesday’s show open in response to swirling reports of Francesa’s comeback, however, there’s no doubt tensions will be running high between CMB and Mike. Does it matter? Pick up a New York newspaper this week and it’s easy to see why WFAN wants him back.
The station may prefer things settle down and everyone come together as a cohesive unit, but more back page publicity won’t hurt their attempt to climb to the number one position in the ratings. The previous morning show regime never shied away from initiating controversy with Francesa and it doesn’t appear as though Boomer has since warmed up to the Sports Pope. Between CMB getting bumped, Francesa’s rocky relationship with Carlin and Boomer, along with Giannotti’s spot on impression of Mike, WFAN’s dynamic should be entertaining.
If Carlin, Maggie and Bart move to the 1-3 timeslot as expected, the trio will get the opportunity to grow with less pressure on their shoulders. But for a three-person show that struggled to find rhythm during four and a half hours, developing their style might be difficult with only two hours to work with. It’ll also be awkward hearing them lead into Francesa, the host who couldn’t move on and cost them their opportunity. Still, listeners should expect a fire to be lit under CMB who have the opportunity to experiment and build their show.
The microscope falls on Francesa. CMB’s ratings should perform better against Stephen A. Smith’s national show on 98.7 FM ESPN New York. The Michael Kay Show is no longer expected to win the afternoon drive ratings battle because after all they have never defeated Mike. That means the pressure is on Francesa to return and immediately deliver results, but that challenge, competitive fire and need to be heard on the New York radio airwaves is a big part of what lured him back to FAN.
There are two clear winners in this story. The first is the radio fan, the consumer, because regardless of your Mike Francesa opinion, you are intrigued by the unfolding of his comeback. Few people had the daily sports presence of Mike Francesa during the last 30 years and his return is fascinating to watch. Seeing Mike and WFAN trend nationally on Twitter speaks volumes for a near hundred-year old form of media, but Tuesday’s radio news had people scrambling to find out more.
The second winner is Andrew Marchand. Leaving the Yankees beat to cover sports media could appear to be a downgrade, but Marchand has been front and center, performing a tremendous job of reporting this story.
The move looks hypocritical and desperate, and it comes across as a panic move for both Francesa and WFAN. It’s clear now that Mike had no post-WFAN plan. There were entities interested in retaining his services, but nothing that provided the same platform or paycheck that WFAN did.
The Fan also shares blame because they lacked the courage to standby a new program in The Afternoon Drive with Carlin, Maggie and Bart, which they assembled and knew would need time to gel. Pulling the plug after just one ratings book is perplexing.
Yet with all of this chaos ensuing, I found myself locked in at 2pm to hear CMB react, 6am for Boomer and Gio to respond, 10am for Joe and Evan to offer their thoughts, and I eagerly await the first time Mike cracks the mic to start his new show. His return will make many uncomfortable, but it’s that type of chaos that creates creates attention, and now everyone involved will work to turn that instant attention into long-term success.
Reports have Mike returning to the airwaves as early as next Tuesday. Terms of Francesa’s pending contract have not been released, but speculation is that the deal is for a reduced amount and will run thru the end of 2020. Even with a paycut, the radio legend’s new salary will likely be more than the other high-profile jobs he coveted last fall, the Yankee managerial position now held by Aaron Boone.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Sports Radio News
Buck Reising: I ‘Don’t Have Any Kind of Edict’ To Promote MLS
“I’m not going to call you a mouth breather, but I’m saying that you’re displaying the behavior of one if you don’t realize the impact this is about to have on Apple’s bottom line to acquire the biggest international star in sport.”
Lionel Messi is coming to America. The biggest star in sports is leaving Paris St. Germain to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami. Buck Reising thought the story was big enough to devote a few minutes to on Wednesday. One of his listeners disagreed.
A texter calling himself TN Berg wrote, “I don’t understand. I understand they have to push it because of Nashville SC, but nobody even watches it lol. It’s Miami Marlins attendance.”
Reising took exception to the idea that he and his producer, Lucas Panzica are forced to talk about Major League Soccer on 104.5 The Zone because there is a franchise in the market.
“We don’t have any kind of edict to push anything,” he said. “Lucas is the voice of Nashville SC. I am curious to know, as somebody who is not a soccer diehard, but who is interested in the United States acquiring the biggest international sports star going at this point, what that means.”
Messi is on the short list when soccer fans discuss the best player in the history of the sport. He joins a long line of international stars that come to the United States in the final days of their playing career.
Resising added that the MLS luring Lionel Messi to Miami is bigger than just a soccer story. The league made a deal last year with Apple TV+ for national coverage of all of its games. Messi will receive a percentage of all of the money generated from those subscriptions. That makes his signing a business story in Buck Reising’s eyes.
“I understand you may not be considering all the different things,” he said directing his frustration at the texter. “I’m not going to call you a mouth breather, but I’m saying that you’re displaying the behavior of one if you don’t realize the impact this is about to have on Apple’s bottom line to acquire the biggest international star in sport.”
Sports Radio News
Boomer and Gio Caller Explains Saudi Investment Realities vs. Media Narrative
“This might get a lot of notoriety, but it’s a different thing.”
Following Tuesday’s news of the merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, jolting reactions of astonishment and betrayal pervaded the sports and media landscape. The entities are set to operate as one commercial company with a name to be determined in the coming future, marking a seminal moment in the history of golf. The agreement also ended litigation between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, and gave the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) ostensible purview regarding the evolution of the game.
Most players found out on Twitter, and even LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman was informed of the news shortly before its public announcement via a phone call. All of the eccentricities and nuance embedded in this type of situation has led sports fans to wonder whether this is just the metaphorical ‘tip of the iceberg’ for the PIF to expand its sphere of influence in the industry.
“I think it’s going to lead to the other sports doing the same thing,” Dennis, a caller on WFAN’s Boomer & Gio said. “If you have a league or commissioner – MLB; NBA; whatever it is – I think that they may do the same thing. Start their own league; get their own players on the backend or have a big name; give them these big contracts and kind of stir the pot for other leagues to do the same thing.”
The original source of indignation between the PGA and LIV Golf can be traced back to the launch of LIV Golf and its attempt to lure away players from the PGA Tour. The tour was successful in its mission, attracting stars such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, and ultimately resulted in an unexpected, somewhat brash announcement of the agreement.
It has been a topic of discussion across sports media, but one that is perhaps more hyperbolic than it needs to be – at least according to another show caller who works on Wall Street.
This caller, named Mike, said that he visited Saudi Arabia and met with the Public Investment Fund, along with the fact that many businesses already have some presence or involvement with Saudi Arabia.
“The media makes it out to be a big deal, and I sort of look at it and say, ‘Everybody’s there. Everybody is there,’” Mike articulated. “This might get a lot of notoriety, but it’s a different thing.”
Mike divulged how golf was vulnerable to this kind of a transaction because all of its players are independent contractors who sign agreements with different tours to compete. Conversely, athletes in Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are all under contract, and they could only be lured away through free agency or buyouts.
“The total adjustable market of players that could actually [be] picked off at any one time is basically 100% of all players [in golf],” he stated. “It’s much, much easier to pick off a large swath of players when nobody is really under contract.”
“That’s why we thought Kyrie Irving would be the perfect guy to lead the NBA over there because he’s a free agent right now and no one’s going to give him a supermax [contract],” co-host Boomer Esiason opined.
Despite the difficulties associated with the leagues being able to sign players affiliated with teams in contracts, show co-host Gregg Giannotti believes the affluent Saudi Public Investment Fund will try another way to carry out its mission. The entity simply has too many investors and is flush with cash; therefore, it may consider trying to own teams outright.
“I just don’t think that’s going to stop them,” Giannotti said of the composition of players available. “I know exactly what you’re saying, and it’s a great point and it was a very, very good call, but I still think they’re going to try.”
“I don’t see the NHL playing in Riyadh any time soon to try [and] get rid of the players’ escrow plan,” Esiason replied. “As much as Gary Bettman would love to do that and the players would love to do that, I don’t think hockey is the No. 1 thing over there.”
Esiason believes the PIF is more captivated by the allure of traditional events, such as horse racing, boxing and Formula 1 racing among others. He would not be surprised to hear about interest in acquiring a stake in some of them, an outcome that could aggravate geopolitical affairs because of the country’s human rights record.
“The hypocritical nature of what’s going on here, and all the things that had been said over the last year, and then, all of a sudden, after Jimmy Dunne reaches out to the Saudi investment fund… now everything changes,” Esiason said. “Oddly enough, he gets put on the PGA Tour’s board for policy.”
Sports Radio News
Joe DeCamara: I Hate Giving Chris Simms Attention
“Chris Simms got a football scholarship years ago, clearly not an academic scholarship because the guy’s a moron.”
There is no love for Chris Simms on 94 WIP. Wednesday morning, host Joe DeCamara made his feelings on the former Buccaneers quarterback clear.
“Chris Simms got a football scholarship years ago, clearly not an academic scholarship because the guy’s a moron,” he said after seeing that Simms had Jalen Hurts ranked seventh among NFL quarterbacks.
In April, Hurts signed a five-year contract that makes him the highest paid player in the NFL each season. That comes on the heels of him leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in a season in which he was a legitimate MVP candidate.
“I almost hate bringing this up because I feel like it gives Chris Simms attention that I don’t really want to give him,” DeCamara said. He noted that the quarterbacks Simms ranked ahead of Hurts include Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Trevor Lawrence.
DeCamara’s partner, Jon Ritchie, said that this is actually progress for Hurts as far as Chris Simms is concerned. In 2021, Simms did not even rank Jalen Hurts among his top forty quarterbacks. Last year, he ranked Hurts number 25.
According to Ritchie, Putting Jalen Hurts in the top ten this year is Simms admitting that Hurts is valuable without having to say that his previous rankings were absurd.
“There’s still some spite,” Jon Ritchie said. “There’s still some ‘Hey, I can’t disprove myself by allowing for Jalen to be where he belongs,’ which is the top two quarterbacks in this league.”
DeCamara encouraged listeners to call in and talk about how dumb Chris Simms and his list are. Ritchie said that the piece is clearly a troll job. The show is just giving it more life and attention it doesn’t deserve.
“We’re giving it life, but you know what? We’re giving it life so people can just stomp out Chris Simms,” DeCamara responded. “So, whack away! It’s a whack away day.”
This isn’t the first time Simms has caught heat from Philadelphia. Last year, WIP afternoon host Jon Marks said the NBC football analyst “sounds so silly” for remaining committed to doubting Jalen Hurts after the quarterback had clearly proven him wrong.