I grew up listening to WFAN. Since that was (and continues to be) the Mets’ flagship station, my mom had pretty much every radio in the house tuned to it. Mike and the Mad Dog could be heard in my house post-school on any given weekday, with that duo just beginning to rail against their Target of the Day as we got off the bus.
Mike and the Mad Dog basically invented sports talk radio as we know it; i.e., two loud guys screaming at callers and each other for several hours. Growing up in a non-cable household, and thus cut off from ESPN and most televised games (particularly baseball), this was my family’s only pipeline to the world of sports and the discussion thereof in the heady First Bush/Early Clinton years, a time of tumultuous change.
With the advent of the internet, however, it seems like sports radio is an idea whose time has passed. When you can comment on a story on almost any major news site, or even start a sports-related blog of your own, waiting on hold for an hour to possibly talk to some imperious host for 8 seconds has a lot less appeal than it once did.
It has even less appeal when it comes to Mike Francesa. I don’t know if he became unlistenable after his break-up with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, or if he simply suffers from comparison to the modern internet-powered array of alternatives. In either case, I’ve come to find his brand of pomposity and shit-stirring intolerable. It doesn’t help that he is a first-degree troll when it comes to the Mets, an expert at tapping into the Self-Loathing Troglodyte segment of the team’s fanbase. I certainly don’t look at the team through rose-colored glasses, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear its every move sneered at by default, either.
I once listened to Francesa every day, whether I liked what he had to say or not, because, well, that’s what you did, right? These days, I feel no need to tune into something that pushes my buttons so much, especially when there’s so many other places I can go to that fulfill the same function as his show and then some.
On the rare occasions when I have listened in the last few years, the show seems to skew painfully old. I hear a large proportion of callers who are firmly in the Early Bird Special set, asking Francesa questions they could easily have answered via Google. (“Hey Mikey, what time does that Knicks game start tonight?”) More and more, his audience sounds like it’s made up exclusively of people who the Internet Age has left by the wayside. It’s fine and good that this crowd still has a place to commune, but it sounds like something that will age itself out of existence, and soon.
However, this demographic means you get glorious moments such as this one, which I heard in the car on my way to pick up my daughter from school yesterday. In it, Marie from Long Branch takes a hilariously long time to figure out that you can’t listen to a radio show and talk on the phone at the same time. Then, she repeats everything Francesa says for the benefit of her husband Louie before cutting to the chase: she wants in on a promotion the station is doing with McDonalds. Francesa grants her wish and finds out exactly what she likes to get in excruciating detail. Quarter pounder…fries…iced tea….entire geological age passes…
Then Francesa asks about her favorite teams and promises to send her something during the baseball season. At this point, three-plus minutes into the phone call, we discover that Marie thought she was talking to a WFAN underling, not Francesa, the whole time.
Later, we learn a bit about Marie and Louie’s met-cute backstory, and even hear from Louie himself, all of which is actually kind of endearing. (I’m a softy; sue me.) Still, the first three minutes of this call are some of most unintentionally hilarious radio I’ve heard in years. It made me laugh so hard, I literally punched my steering wheel (because laughter makes me angry).
Whatever else you want to say about Francesa, this is something you could not hear anywhere else. Take that however you will.