In a rational, grown-up world, those of us who do not work at WFAN would shrug off this week’s intrasquad squabble as petty office politics and focus on our own annoying bosses and co-workers.
But this is not that world, so there was no ignoring the latest civil war that broke out at the station on Wednesday and Thursday, this time featuring afternoon host Mike Francesa and morning co-host Gregg Giannotti.
On Wednesday, Francesa said the morning program starring Giannotti and Boomer Esiason “stinks” and that Giannotti is “short on ability” and should desist from doing vocal impressions of him.
On Thursday, Giannotti persisted with the impression, made fun of Francesa’s program and called him “insecure and narcissistic and miserable.”
Silly and inconsequential? If you say so. But by Thursday afternoon, the topics of the five most-viewed stories of the week on the Newsday Sports website ranked thusly: 1. WFAN; 2. WFAN; 3. WFAN; 4. WFAN; 5. WFAN.
That included not only the cage match between a guy from Nassau vs. two guys from Suffolk featuring Francesa against Boomer and Gio, but also the fallout from Wednesday’s conviction on three federal charges of Giannotti’s predecessor, Craig Carton.
Carton regularly went after Francesa on the air, generating a previous generation of internecine battles.
All of which is a long introduction to the moral of our story: Over-the-air radio remains a remarkable medium considering it has been 98 years since the debut of commercial broadcasting.
That was so long ago that no one could even call it the best thing since sliced bread, because the invention of the bread slicer was a few years away.
(Yes, I know many people now listen via satellites and digital streams, but most still tune in the old-fashioned way.)
The fact that the ancient technology still has this much of an effect on many of our lives, especially those among us who like hearing people argue about sports all day, is a testament to how personal it is.
Francesa, his colleagues at WFAN, his competitors at ESPN New York and others on our radio dial have been in our cars and homes for decades, and we feel like we know them – for better and/or worse.
And unlike the jobs done by pro athletes, or even television people, many of us believe we could sit in those chairs for hours on end and dissect the Yankees’ pitching rotation, too. (It’s actually harder than you think.)
So here we are. Carton gets convicted, and everyone has an opinion. Francesa lands a right uppercut, Gio counters, and listeners take sides.
Francesa added to the drama on Wednesday when he referenced a recent argument between Giannotti and midday host Chris Carlin on the sidewalk outside WFAN’s studios in Soho.
Carlin was upset about a line in a Giannotti song parody in which he poked fun at the midday ratings.
Francesa recently criticized Carlin’s partner, Maggie Gray, for her comments on Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan.
When Carlin, Gray and Bart Scott went on the air Thursday, Gray said, “We should be calling our show ‘The Happy Hour.’ You won’t find three happier people. Lots of negativity. We’re happy. We’re having a great time. We love it.”
That show follows Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno, the latter of whom this summer was put on leave for two months in the wake of a sexual harassment suit against the station.
Mark Chernoff, whose job involves overseeing these people, always has hated on-air fights among his hosts. The rest of us generally love it, and why not? It’s show biz.
WFAN has had periods of internal turmoil throughout its 31-year history, but it would be difficult to match the past 14 months, with no end in sight.
When Giannotti signed off Thursday, he said, “This place has made a lot of news over the past couple of years, has it not? I am happy for one that this particular program is over with.”
But what will Friday bring?