The milestones on Mike Francesa’s road to his scheduled Dec. 15 departure from WFAN continue to speed by.
Next up are his final appearance on Radio Row at the Super Bowl, followed Feb. 5 by the end of his long-running Sunday morning NFL show.
But so far Francesa is far from feeling wistful, and he shows no sign of second thoughts about leaving at the end of his current contract.
“I’m fine,” he said in his office before Tuesday’s show. “Everything is. I’ve worked very closely with the station on it. I’ve worked closely with the company. [CBS Radio president] Andre Fernandez and I have met on numerous occasions.
“Callers are starting to call about it a lot and I’ve really tried to back that off. Hey, I’m here for a year! I understand it’s all meant, from their standpoint, with goodwill. But I’ve tried to back that off.”
The goal is to spread out events associated with his final year — including regular stops that take on special meaning this time — at about one per month, such as Mohegan Sun in February, Francesacon in March and Bar-A in August.
There will be a penultimate show featuring an audience and VIP guests on Dec. 14 at the Museum of Broadcasting, but Francesa insisted on the final episode to emanate from the station’s Tribeca studios.
“They wanted to do a last show in front of an audience; I didn’t,” he said. “I wanted just myself and the callers. No audience, no media.”
Might he be tempted to extend his stay if, say, the Jets and Giants both were undefeated as of mid-December?
“You mean if I leave in the middle of some massive sports story?” he said. “It could happen. It won’t change me. I don’t think it can. I think this has to go the way it goes.”
The looming finality registered with WFAN’s VP of programming, Mark Chernoff, as the calendar turned to 2017.
“It’s really hit home that, wow, this is the last year,” he said. “I hope he has a lot of fun the next 11 months and really enjoys himself. I want him to stay. If he doesn’t want to stay, obviously that’s his decision. But I obviously wish that there was a way he would. If that’s not to be, we’ll do a lot of fun things.”
Francesa, 62, generally has managed to maintain his ratings success in the 8 1⁄2 years since the departure of his partner, Chris Russo.
“Was I worried what the reaction would be if I failed? Yeah, obviously, I’d be silly not to worry about that,” he said. “I knew everyone was lined up. They wanted me to fail so badly. I’d set myself up to where they were going to destroy me, which I knew. I didn’t want to let that happen.”
Francesa, who has been at the station for 30 years, has been shocked by the attention he continues to get, a phenomenon enhanced in the social media era.
“I just started getting so much publicity where it got insane and just went to another level,” he said. “I don’t know why it happened or when it happened, but it happened . . . There just became this tremendous fascination with me and it never waned, and right now it’s bigger than it’s ever been.”
True, but some of that attention is harshly negative. A Twitter account called @SportsFunhouse gleefully documents his every wrong prediction, misstatement and contradiction, and radio hosts including WFAN’s own “Boomer and Carton” poke fun at him.
Does that bother him?
“I don’t see a lot of it,” he said, “but it’s gotten to be crazy from a standpoint that obviously to these websites, their whole thing is based on getting page views. I’m money for these websites.
“Now, to put me up there in a positive way probably doesn’t sell as well as putting me up there in a negative way. But they’re really stretching the issue on some of these things. It’s almost like there are stories where you’re taking one line out of context and trying to create stories out of them . . . Some of it is utterly ridiculous.”
As for Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason, the station’s morning team, he said, “If I say something on the air and they want to replay it, that’s their business. I don’t even acknowledge their show. So if they want to spend all their time talking about me, I would think they have more interesting things to talk about, but that’s up to them.”