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WFAN’s Dysfunction Could Benefit All Involved

Brandon Contes

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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.

Sports Radio News

Doug Gottlieb: Nobody Cares About World Cup Once USA’s Eliminated

“I’m sure people in the soccer world are still talking about the World Cup. But zero people I know in real life are talking about the World Cup today.”

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The United States has been eliminated from the 2022 World Cup, and FOX Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb believes that will return the sport back to its usual place inside the sports media landscape.

“I’m sure people in the soccer world are still talking about the World Cup,” Gottlieb said on his In The Bonus podcast Monday. “But zero people I know in real life are talking about the World Cup today.

“You can tell me how big soccer is in the world — and I’m not gonna dispute it — and you can tell me we’re doing better in the world than we’ve ever done — and I’m not gonna dispute it, it’s fine — but the fact is that as soon as that match was over we went from a couple of hours of soccer guy, or writer guy who’s really a soccer guy at heart, talking about should we change coaches, tactics, players, or whatever, and then it’s over. I don’t know who won and I don’t care.”

Gottlieb later added that soccer has been “the sport of the future” for his entire life, but added that college basketball is going on right now, and it isn’t on the national sports radar, either.

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Sports Radio News

Jon Marks Working Without At Contract at WIP

WIP is currently in the midst of changes to its lineup due to the upcoming departure of legendary morning host Angelo Cataldi.

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94WIP afternoon host Jon Marks has revealed he is working without a contract.

A report from CrossingBroad.com claims Marks mentioned the development on the air two weeks ago, and Marks confirmed the news when the outlet asked him for comment.

He did not, however, wish to say much more about the situation. WIP is currently in the midst of changes to its lineup due to the upcoming departure of legendary morning host Angelo Cataldi.

In late October, the station announced the current midday show of Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie would replace Cataldi in the mornings. Longtime morning co-host Al Morganti will remain with the station but will no longer be heard in mornings once DeCamara and Ritchie take over. Anchor Rhea Hughes will stay in the morning timeslot.

The station has yet to name a new midday show to replace DeCamara and Ritchie. Marks is currently teamed with former NFL linebacker Ike Reese from 2:00-6:00 PM. The two were paired together in 2017.

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Sports Radio News

Boomer Esiason Wonders If Joe Buck Was Criticized Before Energetic Monday Night Football Open

“Maybe he was doing that emphatically because somebody criticized him as flat or something.”

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Boomer Esiason

Monday Night Football got off to an energetic start last night, with the usually reserved Joe Buck showcasing an exuberant attitude while discussing the weather and the fact that the calendar has already flipped to December. WFAN morning host Boomer Esiason wondered if there was an ulterior motive to Buck’s raucous start.

In addition to the energy exuded by the Monday Night Football announcer, Buck nearly howeld in excitement as the network showcased Tom Brady’s usual scream of “Let’s F—ing Go!”, by shouting “Yeah! Let’s go! I can’t say one of those words!”

The excitement was noticed by Boomer & Gio update anchor Jerry Recco who played the audio for the show, with Boomer Esiason wondering if Buck was proving a point to someone.

“Maybe somebody told him he was too downcast the previous broadcast,” Esiason wondered. “Maybe he was doing that emphatically because somebody criticized him as flat or something.”

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