Michael Kay of ESPN New York radio took sharp issue on Wednesday with a caller — and others — who have suggested he pay public tribute to his former competition in afternoon drive time, Mike Francesa, who left WFAN on Dec. 15.
After a caller named “Big Ron” from Babylon suggested Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg would not have their show if not for Francesa helping to popularize sports talk radio, Kay said:
“First of all, we don’t have to pay homage to competition that never really was nice to us. No. 2, sports radio was not invented by Mike and Chris [Russo]. Bill Mazer, John Sterling, Art Rust Jr., there would be sports talk, my friend. Yeah, he had an iconic career and all that, but for those that think that we should genuflect for someone who, by the way, has not retired and will begin working somewhere else on April 1, I mean, it’s ridiculous.
“And also, Mike was never kind to us, never gracious about his success. For us to sit here and, like, bow down because he decides to leave his job at FAN, I mean, I’ve had arguments with people on Twitter about this. Sorry, that’s not happening. Mike never showed any respect to us going this way.”
Later, Kay added, “To say that we wouldn’t have the job? That’s nonsense. It’s nonsense. Did Mike and Chris bring it to a different level where it became something that you could program 24 hours a day? Yeah, they probably did. But don’t say they invented the medium. I’m sorry. I’m not going to do that.
“I have all due respect for everything that he did in his career, and he’s not done. That’s why I never understood the big goodbye. He’s coming back. He’s just left his job. Imagine somebody having a day for a player who leaves as a free agent. That’s exactly what Mike’s doing. He’s coming back next season to do something else on another station or another medium and we’re supposed to sit there, ‘Oh, Kumbaya, oh, he’s great.’ Please.”
La Greca noted that he got into the business because of Bob Murphy and Rust, to make the point that sports talk long preceded Francesa and Russo, whose show debuted in 1989. Rosenberg then added that as someone who grew up outside of New York, he had other sports talk hosts to listen to, and that non-New Yorkers often are unfamiliar with Francesa.
Said Kay: “Really, we never wanted to get into this. Again, a 30-year career in anything is amazing. He should be celebrated for it. But, I mean, the people that are on Twitter [saying], ‘You guys should have mentioned it the last show.’ Why? Why? Again, nothing but disdain and lack of respect coming from the other way and all of a sudden because he’s leaving FAN we’re supposed deify him?
“I’m sorry, that’s not the way it works, people. Respect goes both ways. If it doesn’t come one way it’s not going to go back the other. Called [us] ‘pea shooter,’ called, ‘They’ll never get close to me.’ Well, the final book of his life he finished second; we finished third. I don’t know. I was pretty good at math. That’s close.”
Francesa finished second among men ages 25-54 in the autumn ratings book with an average of 6.6 percent of those listening to the radio, while Kay was fourth at 5.0, in keeping with recent years in which he has been the highest-ranked and rated program on his station.
Rosenberg accused Newsday of bias in its reporting about the ratings race because of a tweet referencing Francesa’s wide margin of victory in the final week of the book, a tweet that was presented as a “holiday bonus” fact for a follower. The news article about the ratings referenced only the full book, the data and Kay’s recent strong showings.
“To me, the whole thing, it’s all good, just admit you’re biased,” Rosenberg said, referencing Newsday’s report. “You grew up here. It’s nostalgic.”