Bart Scott works for a Mickey Mouse organization, proudly so, and felt "validated" when it elevated him from local to national radio.
This was after a complicated departure from WFAN, which tried to re-sign him when his contract expired at the end of 2019 and made another run at him to partner with Craig Carton starting in late 2020.
Instead, Scott stuck with ESPN, which promised him television exposure and then doubled down on his visibility by expanding his radio show with Alan Hahn beyond ESPN New York, from noon to 2 p.m. nationally effective on Jan. 5.
"It came down to: Who do you think is more stable?" Scott said. "You think Mickey Mouse is more stable or Entercom that used to be CBS? And who has multiple platforms? Because the business is always changing."
Scott often calls ESPN "Mickey Mouse" as a nod to its parent company, Disney, for which he has high regard not only because of its reach but also its power.
When asked about perhaps getting out of his ESPN contract to re-join WFAN with Carton, Scott said, "I would have blown the bridge up. You blow a bridge up with Mickey Mouse, there’s no coming back. I still have some bridges."
Scott was laughing as he said that, in keeping with the clever bluntness that made him a quotable figure as a player — including four seasons and two AFC Championship Games as a Jets linebacker — and now as a media member.
There was no explicit agreement with ESPN that he and Hahn would go national someday.
"It was nothing on paper, no contract," Scott said. "It was, ‘Hey, a lot of moving things going on around here; you’re in our future.’ That’s all I wanted. I just wanted to be somebody’s guy. That’s it.
"If you’re somebody’s guy, somebody who makes decisions to say, ‘Hey, man, we got you, we believe in you,’ that’s all I really wanted."
Scott and Hahn, a former Newsday sportswriter, had been together since January 2020. Toward the end on the year, ESPN decided to shake up its national lineup with the departure of Dan Le Batard.
Hahn said he was happy with how the local show was going, especially in light of the sports stoppage early in the COVID-19 pandemic, but he did not anticipate the national promotion.
"Just the fact they were listening in Bristol and liked it enough to want to include us on a national scene, it made me feel like, OK, we’ve got something going here and we’re doing it right," Hahn said.
"I never saw it coming, to be honest with you. It kind of was a bit of a surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise."
Scott believed the duo proved itself during those lean times.
"I think that’s why people saw we could do national stuff," he said. "It wasn’t about New York. It was about whatever story was out there. You’re just trying to find anything to entertain people.
"Hell, we used ‘The Last Dance’ [documentary series] like it was the NCAA Tournament. We rolled ‘The Last Dance’ for four weeks, like it was happening it real time."
The trick for Hahn, a Long Islander, and Scott is to serve a national audience while not alienating New York fans.
Some days that is easy, such as on Tuesday, when the scandal that prompted the firing of Mets GM Jared Porter led the show. Other times, New York topics won’t fly.
"Are we going to do a segment where we’re arguing who should be the Jets’ backup quarterback?" Hahn said. "No, I don’t think we’re going to do that."
But often there are gray areas, such as the Mets’ recent trade for Francisco Lindor. It was a huge New York story and a pretty big one nationally, but one about a sport that is not at the top of the national agenda during football season.
"That was one day I would like to have back," said Hahn, who regrets overcompensating in trying not to overdo a New York topic. "I wish I would have maybe just said, ‘Hey, let’s cancel the [scheduled] guest and dive into this . . . We’re calling an audible, just call out ‘Omaha.’ This is a pretty significant trade in our biggest market.’ "
Scott said there is no shortage of material involving New York teams that is of interest nationally, most recently the Nets’ ongoing soap opera. But baseball is a harder sell outside New York, and hockey is an impossibility.
"You have to keep it in perspective," Scott said, "like, ‘We’ll give you a little bit New York. But remember, it’s not always about you.’ "
Said Hahn, "[New York] is our foundation. We’re always going to have that. That was important to me. New York is the biggest market and right now our biggest audience, so I think I always will have them high on my priority list."
Scott seems pleased with how everything turned out. He said after bouncing from CBS to WFAN to ESPN, he wants to stay in one place for a while. And he now has a multimedia, national platform on which to do it.
"I could have had that [WFAN] time slot for 20 years, but I think it would have capped my ceiling," said Scott, who believes being seen on a variety of shows, especially on television, provides a fairer sense of his personality.
"I think a lot of people think they know who I am because of that 10-second clip from ‘can’t wait,’ but they really don’t know. People think I’m just some angry person who’s always yelling and screaming, but they don’t see the part that my teammates saw — the comedian, the funny guy, the storyteller, the guy that’s self-deprecating."
Now they can watch and hear him coast to coast.
"If you see me you won’t think I’m such an angry person," he said. "I’m like the loud, silly uncle that comes over and makes everybody laugh."
It came down to: Who do you think is more stable?” — Bart Scott