How would Michael Kay celebrate if his afternoon drive time show beats Mike Francesa’s in the radio ratings for the winter book?
The ESPN New York radio host admitted in an interview for Richard Deitsch’s “Sports Media Podcast” posted on Thursday that he has thought about it, and has decided not to overdo the celebration but rather to acknowledge that it would reflect only what he considers an overdue recognition of the relative qualities of the shows.
But he also said, “I certainly don’t want to jinx it. We could still lose. It’s close and we’re ahead.”
The final numbers will not be out until mid-April. Kay told Deitsch that his younger partner Peter Rosenberg has advocated a spirited public celebration if the time comes, but Kay is advocating a more cautious approach.
“It’s taken 17 years to get here, so if we celebrate over that, it’s going to make us look ridiculous,” he said. “The only thing that I’ll say, and this is what I truly believe: The numbers have just caught up with reality. Our show has been far better than his, even before he retired [briefly, in 2017]. To me it’s a bit tired and worn and it’s not the same kind of talk show that works now in this country. My only response if somebody calls in and makes a big deal about it is the numbers finally caught up with reality.”
Kay predicted Francesa would not react well if he lost in the ratings, and he previewed what is sure to be a complicated debate when the numbers are in regarding whether or not streaming data should be included. WFAN argues it should.
Earlier in the Deitsch interview, Kay reiterated harsh comments he made regarding Francesa in a recent interview with The Athletic, the site for which Deitsch works. “It’s just the stuff that he says on the air,” Kay said. “He’s so pejorative when he talks about our station and me and using phrases like ‘peashooter.’ I just think it’s so classless. There’s no grace to his winning. I actually had a Q&A with The Athletic’s Hannah Withiam and said, ‘I just don’t get that kind of thinking, because if I’m at the top of the mountain, I’m going to enjoy the view instead of, like, urinating down the side of the mountain at everybody trying to make their way up.
“He just has not handled his success with any kind of grace at all. That’s the thing that bothers me. I don’t have a problem with him. I don’t have a problem with him coming back. Everybody has to live their lives the way they want.
“I have more of a problem with Entercom doing that to the people that they hired to replace him. It’s just his really harsh manner. I don’t like being spoken about like that. I don’t understand it. I treat people with respect and all I ask is that people treat me with respect, and I just don’t get it with him.”
Kay told Deitsch he believes “we have separate audiences. Ours is more young-skewing. We have more fun on our show. He kind of preaches and pontificates and bloviates, and his audience is locked in. They’ve been there a long time, no matter what kind of show he does . . . But there is that crossover group that can put you over the top.”
Kay said he tries not to engage in public back-and-forths with Francesa.
“There doesn’t seem to be any floor to what he would say,” Kay said. “I have a floor of what I would say. I would just go so low. I don’t go bedrock, and I think Mike would.”
When asked by Newsday to comment on Kay’s remarks, Francesa said, “Let me answer this way: I have never gone after anybody first. It was always in response to being attacked. I ignore 90 percent and probably should have ignored it all since I’ve been on top for so long. That is fair criticism, and I wish I would have. Every time I speak it is a headline . . . You would never find any person who really knows me who would think I’m classless in any way. Because of my success, if I say anything, I’m the bad guy. This is a perfect example: You asking me to respond to an attack I wasn’t aware of.
"May I add it has been a very popular practice to pick a fight with me in an attempt to get noticed or ratings.”