From the Editor: Peter Schwartz of ESNY remembers the great Mike Francesa who, this Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, will end his 30-year era at WFAN.
I’ll never forget Sept. 24, 2010, because it was a day that continues to define my career as a sports reporter in the New York area and it’s something that I’m still asked about to this day.
It was my first year as the New York Jets beat reporter for WFAN and I had already experienced some drama during training camp with the Darrelle Revis holdout. But just a few weeks into the season, there was more when wide receiver Braylon Edwards was arrested for DUI.
That week, the Jets decided that Edwards would play but not start the Monday night game against the Dolphins in Miami. The Jets told all beat reporters, including myself, that because it was a pending legal issue there was nothing they could do in terms of benching Edwards for the game.
Therefore, on that fateful day, Thursday Sept. 24, 2010, I was off from work. I was home that day, with my two sons, when my cell phone rang. It was Ray Martel, Mike Francesa’s producer at WFAN, calling me to let me know that Mike wanted me to come on the show and discuss what was going on. I told Ray to give me five or 10 minutes to call the Jets to see if there was any change in what their stance was.
A couple of days earlier, the Jets had arranged for each beat reporter to have a one-on-one phone conversation with then general manager Mike Tannenbaum to explain why the team wasn’t going to bench Edwards. The issue that I had with all of this was not relating to the Jets making this decision, but that I wasn’t allowed to use the audio from the interview with Tannenbaum on any of my reports. I could use the information as background and share what he told me but I couldn’t use the audio on the air.
After I spoke to a Jets official who had told me that nothing had changed, I called WFAN back and I was ready to go on with Mike. This would be the first time that I was on with him that season and to be honest, I was both excited and nervous. I was told when I took the job that I would have a weekly spot Jets spot with Richard Neer on Saturday mornings and a midweek spot with Joe and Evan. My understanding was that Mike would only do a spot with if there was breaking Jets news.
So I joined Mike on the phone that day and as many of you know by now, it was quite an interesting chat. Mike was not happy with the information that the Jets were putting out there because it was not true that they couldn’t bench Edwards. They were obliged to pay him while the legal matter ran it’s course, but there was nothing stopping them from benching him.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Jets played him because they felt it gave them a better chance to win in Miami and that’s exactly what happened.
If you haven’t heard or seen my chat with Mike that day, here it is …
After the interview, I was inundated with texts and phone calls about it. It seemed that everyone in town was listening and they all contacted me to see if I was ok. I did the interview with him outside in front of my house because my older son Bradley was watching television and my younger son Jared, not even four months old yet, was sleeping. When I came back in the house, Bradley, who was watching the interview on YES, came over to me and said “Daddy, why was that man yelling at you?”
I chuckled and said that he wasn’t yelling at me. He was yelling at the Jets. I really felt that way then and nothing has changed my mind since then. Mike was livid at the Jets for putting out bad information and I was just there as the middle man. I never felt, at any point in that interview, that Mike was mad at me and he affirmed that to me a few days later when I saw him in studio. I was filling in on a Sunday morning for John Minko doing updates and Mike and I had a great chat about what had happened and I’ll just keep that chat to myself.
Suffice to say, since then I have had a great relationship with Mike Francesa whose last show on WFAN will be this Friday. I’m not going to get into all of Mike’s accomplishments over the last 30 years because they’ve been chronicled by so many listeners, sports executives, players and media members already.
What I will do is share my feelings on what Mike has meant to me over the years.
The first thing that I’m always asked when I meet someone is what I think of Mike. Obviously, that is because of Mike’s style on the air and this so-called perception about him. Over the years, I’ve either stunned people or made them have an open-mind about the radio icon. That’s because you will never ever hear me say or write a bad thing about the man.
That day, in just a few minutes on the phone, my career hit a new high and I have him to thank for it.
Sure, I handled myself well on the air that day, but it also allowed Mike to appreciate my skills as a reporter and as it turns out, it was the first of many times that Mike had me on to talk about the Jets. A few minutes after that legendary chat, the Jets backtracked on their initial stance and I called back into the show to share the news with Mike.
Mike was very good to me during the three years that I covered the Jets for WFAN and he has not changed in the years that I’ve been at CBS Sports Radio and now WCBS 880. He’s been generous to me with air time, advice, and overall in terms of kind words about the business.
He even went to bat for me to get a really big job at WFAN that had a chance of opening up. I’m not going to get into the details of that, but it’s safe to say it means a lot that Mike has appreciated my work over the years. I was fortunate to cover three Super Bowls for WFAN and Mike always made sure I had a daily appearance with him at radio row. Those Super Bowl weeks were very memorable and Mike was an outstanding reason why.
I’m going to miss him a lot. Regardless of what you think of him, you always listened in to see what he had to say. Whether it was during Mike and the Mad Dog or when he went solo after Chris Russo left, Mike was must listen to radio.
While it’s the end of Mike’s run at WFAN, I think it’s clear that he’ll be doing something when he’s contractually allowed to. I owe a lot of what I’ve accomplished in my career to him and I certainly hope our paths will cross again. Not many people say they got to work with an icon, but I did and I’m damn proud of it.
Thanks, Mike. Thank you for a great 30 years and everything you have done done for WFAN, sports radio and me. Thanks for making me use my noogen and you’ll always be “numbah one!”
It’s absolutely disheartening that you will no longer be “back aftah dis.”