Boomer Esiason, who had been WFAN’s most visible personality in the post-Mike Francesa era, weighed in first thing Wednesday morning on Francesa’s impending return to the station, saying "it just looks pathetic."
During a nearly half-hour opening on the topic, Esiason and morning co-host Gregg Giannotti said they understood the move from a business perspective but were concerned over the impact on Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, who will have diminished roles.
“Radio can be a real sewer pit, and there’s a lot of backstabbing and knife-throwing and all that other stuff that goes on,” Esiason said. “We try to stay above all that stuff, but unfortunately you can’t, and three people basically have gotten screwed.
“I don’t care how you put it, they have gotten screwed and they have gotten screwed by a guy who said he was never going to be on this radio station who decided to come back because of some conspiracy to keep him off the air. I have no idea what the hell that means.”
Francesa told Newsday on Tuesday he was returning in part because of an alleged effort by unnamed people at the station to keep him from coming back.
Esiason revealed additional details about the Francesa story, saying that he is planning an app that will include clips from the “Mike and the Mad Dog” days, that Francesa might be back on the air by Tuesday and that Entercom executives instructed Carlin, Gray and Scott to take the high road on the air, which they did.
“Yesterday was one of those days I will never forget,” said Giannotti, who started on Jan. 2, the same day as the afternoon team. “Personally, it made me feel a little uneasy the entire day.”
Esiason responded, “Better look over your shoulder.”
Said Giannotti, “Yeah, the next thing you know I’ll be doing 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.”
Esiason ranked Tuesday’s bombshell below the day in September when his co-host, Craig Carton was arrested for securities and wire fraud, but it was up there.
“I’ve been here for now 10 ½ years and I’ve seen a lot of wacky crap go on,” he said. “It’s still not the most unique day that I’ve ever had here, I can tell you that, but it was really kind of a surreal day. It was a dysfunctional day. And that’s what radio stations are . . . Part of it is funny, part of it is dysfunctional.”
Esiason took over Francesa’s old office in January. He said he will not be moving out.
“Everybody’s having fun with it, but there’s human carnage on the side,” he said, “and the side of that is this diversity group that we had here and that we were so proud of -- a woman and an African-American and bringing back a guy who’s been a part of the station for a long time, our friend Chris Carlin, that this was going to be awesome, that this was going to be the greatest thing.
“We all knew they were stepping into big shoes and they would have big shoes to fill and that they would figure it out and somehow someway it would happen, and then all of a sudden, Mike decided to get an agent and the agent went to, I believe, somebody not in this building, somebody down in Philadelphia and started this whole dialogue.”
That was a reference to the agency CAA and to executives at Entercom, a company headquartered near Philadelphia that bought WFAN recently.
Esiason and Giannotti did acknowledge that Francesa’s presence will make the WFAN lineup stronger.
“It’s bizarre, it’s crazy,” Esiason said. “I think from a standpoint of the radio station it’s great. If he wants to come back he comes back. He was the No. 1 guy. He’s a guy who’s been here a long time and whatever he does he does it, and people seem to either like it or hate it but they listen to it, which is important. But the human toll is significant because basically three people here just got reduced roles.”
Said Giannotti, “Every day they walk in here they’re going to feel like, ‘wow, everybody looks at us like a failure’ and that’s just the perception of what it’s going to be, and that’s not fair.”
When Esiason said, “I would think that the first thing he should do is go up to the three of them and apologize,” longtime engineer Eddie Scozzare chimed in with, “And then I will go sprinkle salt where hell froze over.”
Said Esiason, “I will say this: It ain’t going to be comfortable around here. It will not be comfortable . . . They’re going to have to cross paths with a guy that basically is kicking them to the curb . . . It just looks pathetic, though. The whole thing.”