For a long time, an afternoon drive program on WFAN would have been a dream job for Sid Rosenberg – a time up to and including the autumn of 2017.
But he has no complaints about how things turned out, given the alternative.
On Monday, Cumulus Media announced that he and Bernie McGuirk will be morning co-hosts on WABC (770 AM) effective April 2, when they succeed Don Imus, whose last show is March 29.
“Replacing Imus is amazing,” Rosenberg said. “When I was a little boy my dad would take me to Poly Prep in Brooklyn at 8, 9, 10 years old, and my dad would always have Imus on. My father is a huge Imus fan, for like four decades.
“So it is kind of surreal that the guy I was listening to in the car as a little boy, I have worked with the guy all these years, and now I have a chance to replace him.”
Still, Rosenberg fields frequent questions and comments on social media and elsewhere about what some fans consider his rightful place on WFAN, specifically the afternoon slot that Mike Francesa vacated in December.
At the time, Rosenberg was working middays at WABC and Imus’ contract had more than a year left on it. So a move to WFAN likely would have meant more money and more visibility.
But Rosenberg was under contract, too, and WFAN would have had to pay dearly to get him out of it. So his potential candidacy did not get far before WFAN hired Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott in November.
Shortly thereafter, Cumulus filed for bankruptcy and negotiated with Imus to have him leave early, saving millions in salary. In January, Imus announced he would leave in late March.
“If the money was right and a deal could have been made,” Rosenberg said, “I would have gone back to FAN for Mike’s job. Everybody knows that, OK? But that doesn’t change the fact that I love working here [at WABC], because it affords me the freedoms.”
By that, he meant the freedom to discuss matters other than sports. He and McGuirk will not ignore sports-related issues, but politics will be a larger focus.
“Given the opportunity, I’d much rather be talking about Donald Trump and the tariffs or who he may fire next than Juan Lagares’ on-base percentage.” Rosenberg said. “So everything being equal, I’m being honest, for me this is a much more rewarding and fun job than doing just sports on the FAN . . . I’ve grown out of it.”
Rosenberg, 51, admits he does not know for sure whether WFAN would have hired him had he been available, but he believes it is so.
“If I was a free agent, I’d be hosting that show; I’m convinced of that,” he said. “This is no disrespect to Chris Carlin, or the other two folks. But he’s not in his radio career where I am. He’s just not . . . But I wasn’t free. So it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Had Imus’ time slot not opened up so quickly, Rosenberg might have lamented not having the chance to move to WFAN. But now he has no regrets.
“I’m replacing a legend now in Don Imus,” he said, “and Francesa, for all the [expletive] I give him, he’s a legend. He may be Chapter One in the [expletive] book.”
Rosenberg’s history at WFAN is complicated, to say the least, including making offensive comments on the air. He was a midday host in the early 2000s, but in 2005 he was fired first from Imus’ show and later from the station altogether. Before returning to New York at WABC, he did sports talk in south Florida.
But he mostly was a bystander at a pivotal moment in WFAN history. On April 4, 2007, he was a fill-in update man for Imus, reporting results of the previous NCAA women’s basketball final when Imus made sexist and racist comments about Rutgers’ team that soon got him fired.
WFAN hired Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton to replace him, and Imus moved to WABC.
“It was the Wild, Wild West back then,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve all apologized, Imus especially. Imus has apologized up and down. But I’m going to tell you: We said a lot crazier stuff than that, a lot more offensive than that, to be honest with you . . . Imus was let go, and there was a certain amount of resentment after that.
“Did I think I’d be back with Imus and then replacing Imus? Of course, I didn’t. But over the years the two of us have come to respect each other and like each other to the point where now, especially these last couple of months, on the way out, it’s been such a great, great honor to be here and hear Imus telling stories about the ’70s and ’80s . . . It’s been so great, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I really am.”
Rosenberg, who has a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, has a history of addiction, to drugs and to gambling. But he said he has been clean for the past five years.
“I can promise you that the commitment, not just financial, but what we mean to this company, meaning Cumulus, in the bigger scheme of things, I ain’t going to get this job if in fact I’d been struggling personally,” he said.
“All this is proof. We did a whole show on addiction two weeks ago. I just made the case to people that if you work hard enough and get the right help and do the right things that anybody can turn it around.
“Because it wasn’t that long ago that I was doing my show from, like, a broom closet in Pompano Beach and now I’m about to host mornings on WABC. That’s in about three years. It’s pretty amazing.”
Rosenberg said he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but believes liberals are not open to giving Trump credit for his accomplishments. He considers himself middle-of-the-road politically. McGuirk is a strong supporter of Trump.
Among the potential guests for the first week of the new morning show is Trump himself, Rosenberg said.
“All these folks that are so interesting, not only because of their political views, but everything else going on, these are folks you’re never going to have on the FAN,” he said. “It’s great if you can get Mickey Callaway and it’s great if you can get Aaron Boone and maybe Eli [Manning].
“But if I have to talk to [expletive] Joe McEwing one more time, because that’s the one guy Jay [Horwitz, the Mets’ media relations chief] always could get me, I’m going to [expletive] kill myself. I mean, let’s be honest.
“I’m talking to some of the most interesting people in the news around the world every single day . . . Every time Mike and Chris [Russo] got Mike Piazza, we got Joe McEwing.”