For Michael Kay and his Wing Nuts, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg, it’s put-up or shut-up time.
With the final countdown on before Mike (Sports Pope) Francesa turns over his WFAN balcony to The Replacements, aka Maggie Gray, Chris Carlin, and Bartholomew E. Scott, it should only be a matter of time before Kay’s ESPN-98.7 crew pulls ahead of FAN in the afternoon drive ratings race, which the pontiff has dominated for nearly three decades, right?
Kay all but crowned he and his boys Kings last week. “Our show is better. It’s more entertaining,” Kay said on the air. “We can beat that (new WFAN) show and we would’ve beaten Mike if he stayed.”
Not so fast, Big Head. While Kay is correct, his show has evolved into a highly entertaining soiree combining hardcore sports, provocative opinions and snarky-jive, no one knows what the new FAN trio will sound like. Not me, you, or even Radio Savant Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo, whose gratuitous Sirius/XM rip of Scott (Was Doggie doing Francesa’s bidding?) was a cheap shot from a guy who was fishing for publicity.
Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo ‘insulted’ Bart Scott replacing Francesa
Hey, not even the FANdroids know what their new team sounds like. They never auditioned together before they were hired. How’s that for blind faith?
Still, based on their individual performances, I believe the new FAN trio can come together to create a wall of sound unique enough to record big-time ratings, maintaining and even surpassing Francesa’s numbers. Here’s the catch: A spin is already out there saying Gray, Carlin and Scott, need time, maybe even months, to get their act together. Baloney. They need to get going quickly. When you enter prime time, and that’s what afternoon drive is, you must produce immediately and should be judged from Day One.
The three mouths must quickly prove they can hold on to Francesa’s large base and not let them defect to 98.7 or another outlet. They must come up super-big in the ratings department from the get-go so there is not a mass defection by advertisers from FAN’s afternoon-drive show. A fast start will also help attract new listeners, who were turned off by Francesa.
Assembling a diverse cast is admirable. It’s the absolute right thing to do. But producing profits, generated by strong ratings and hefty advertising revenue, is what really counts, especially when the radio biz is in the toilet. There will be pressure on the three Gasbags to produce from the opening bell.
Gregg Giannotti to replace Craig Carton as WFAN morning co-host
But there is more pressure on Team Kay. For years, Kay, and others at the station, explained how ESPN’s NYC radio outlet was at a disadvantage. The station came into the market well after FAN and, in afternoon drive, was chasing both a listening habit and radio icon in Francesa. View this as an explanation or an excuse for failing miserably, it really doesn’t matter.
Now, the Kay show has a 15-year head start on Gray, Carlin and Scott. The 98.7 show has developed its own sound from a cast with well-defined roles. So, on Dec. 15, maybe Kay will take out that can of Diet Coke and pour it in the garbage can to symbolize the end of an era and the beginning of ratings domination for his show.
Put-up or shut-up time has arrived.
Why did FAN take so long to find Francesa’s successors?
With Mike Francesa leaving, change (and diversity) good for WFAN
The suits were holding out hope they could land their number one target — Max Kellerman. MeMax, who works with Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim on ESPN’s “First Take,” was set to handle both jobs, according to radio moles, because “First Take” is scheduled to move to ESPN’s new NYC studios.
If Kellerman agreed to take the gig, FAN likely would’ve gone with a two-man team, featuring MeMax and Carlin.
What happened? There were others who turned down the gig. It was all about the moo-la-dee– economics. Some of the candidates were either delusional or totally misread the marketplace, thinking an afternoon-drive mouth on FAN could still command the kind of dough Francesa pulled in ($4 million per) when he signed contract extensions in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Sources said Kellerman was looking for around $3 million per. The three talkies FAN eventually hired make roughly – COMBINED—about one-third of what Kellerman was asking for.
HEAR IT: Don Imus and Sid Rosenberg rip Francesa replacements
The lengthy search was also slowed by suddenly having to replace Craig Carton in morning drive and the prospect of his partner, N.J. Esiason, wanting to move to afternoon drive. The team FAN finally hired was put together rather quickly — at the last minute, so to speak.
Carlin, gigging on Philly’s WIP, had purchased a home in that area a few months ago. Sources said he was told he had little-to-no chance of nailing the FAN gig until a month ago when the situation changed. FAN put Scott on its radar in late July/ early August after breakthrough fill-in roles working with Marc Malusis. Gray came from out of the blue, literally at the 11th hour.
It would serve Gray well to enter talking, come out verbally swinging, when she debuts with the two Yutzes in January.
All too often, we’ve seen women put in similar roles and eventually find themselves playing the role of second fiddle or third wheel when the men start bogarting the microphones. Often the line is the women are doing it “for the good of the show.”
Francesa replaced by Chris Carlin, Bart Scott, Maggie Gray
There is little doubt in what’s left of our mind that Carlin, considering his expertise and experience, will be cast as the anchor of the show, the man planting his tuchis in the Power Chair. Yet we have faith he will be a benevolent despot.
No matter, Gray should come in with her antennae up and never back down.
It would be poetic justice if Aaron Boone becomes the new Yankees manager and Joe Girardi takes his place in ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” booth. Seriously though, with Girardi looking to get into broadcasting, ESPN’s studio, is a good fit. Fox’s pre and postgame shows have become baseball’s version of a comedy club. Playing for yucks isn’t Girardi’s style. ESPN offers more nuts and bolts baseball talk, which Girardi would likely be more comfortable with.
On the new FAN afternoon show, Carlin should have Bobby Ojeda as a regular guest. They could reminisce about their swell times together at SNY… We’re betting the under this week on Ben McAdoo’s “I have to look at the tape” references. His MSG postgame shows have become must-see TV… Really going to miss the cutting commentary of Mike Westhoff (now with the Saints) on SNY’s Jets pre and postgame shows. Especially going to miss him giving host Jonas Schwartz that “what the hell are your football credentials” look… The Giants writers should consider all Janoris Jenkins’ soliloquies as auditions for his own reality show… Before Greg Giannotti joins Esiason on FAN’s morning show he should brush up on his Francesa impressions, they need some work… Friday, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg/Mike Golic bowed out after 18 years of working together on the radio. Let’s just say for them, parting was NOT such sweet sorrow.
Aaron Boone says he’s ready to be Yankees skipper
* * *
DUDE OF THE WEEK: MARQUISE GOODWIN
For providing an unforgettable moment. Has scoring a touchdown for a winless football team in week 10, against the underachieving Giants, ever been more meaningful? Playing just hours after he and his wife Morgan lost their prematurely born son, Goodwin’s joy and pain were on display. After he caught an 83-yard touchdown, Goodwin knelt in the end zone and raised the football to the sky. The scene was both heartbreaking and rewarding. Unforgettable.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: PAC-12
Aaron Boone among candidates for next Yankees manager: report
From forcing its member schools to play football games on Thursday and Friday nights (further compromising the players’ ability to tackle classroom work) to backing a season-opening trip to China (which backfired to say the least) this conference has evolved to a point where its hallmarks are greed, marketing/sponsor activation and global expansion. How exactly does this serve the college students in their charge?
What Ben McAdoo said: “A calm doesn’t suit me, a storm does.”
What Ben McAdoo meant to say: “I’m having a bad hair day. Go (expletive deleted) yourself.”
Send a Letter to the Editor