TODAY'S PAPER
34° Good Morning
34° Good Morning
SportsMedia

Mike Francesa at peace in retirement from WFAN, except for the big events

Mike Francesa is shown is his home in

Mike Francesa is shown is his home in Manhasset. March 13, 2014. Credit: Newsday/Chris Ware

Mike Francesa still listens to WFAN when he is in his car, which he is frequently in his current role as "part Uber driver" for his three teenaged children.

He might also listen to music or political talk, but, he said, "I’ve never turned on the other station," referring to ESPN New York. "I will not do that."

So Francesa, who joined WFAN in 1987 and left in July, is on board as a mere fan of the FAN?

"That’s the only team I’ve ever known" he told Newsday in a phone interview on Thursday. "That will always be my team. I’ll always root for them, absolutely."

This is a pivotal time for the station, which after saying goodbye to Francesa, 66, also did so last week with one of his afternoon successors, Joe Benigno, 67, who retired.

Craig Carton on Monday joined Benigno’s former partner, Evan Roberts, as part of what the station hopes will be a long-term solution in afternoons following a period of instability.

Francesa declined to discuss the fact Carton, an old intramural adversary, now is working in his former time slot — and in a studio named for him.

"I will not comment on him," Francesa said. "I never have, I never will. I don’t have any comment. That’s their decision. Fine, that’s it. Move on, that’s it. We’ll see what happens."

But he did endorse the broader notion of it being a time for change at the FAN.

"The station had to move on," he said. "Whether you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers or whoever you are, you have to move on from Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene and whoever. You have to move on to the next generation.

"That station needs to find some shows and leave them in place and have enough confidence to leave them in place for a period of years."

That did not happen with Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, whose show was displaced when Francesa returned to WFAN in 2018 after a four-month hiatus, nor with the show that replaced Francesa after he left a second time.

But after decades at the heart of the local sports talk drama, Francesa has the luxury of watching it all from afar. For the first seven months of this year, he had a limited role on WFAN and now, none. He mostly is fine with that.

"Will I miss it on a big Monday? Yes," he said. "Do I miss it on a big event? Yes. Do I miss it day-to-day? No."

The time he felt it most was late this summer when Tom Seaver died.

"Those are the days I miss not having a platform, because I thought I had something special to say," he said. "There are a couple of days where I felt, ‘Boy, I really need to be on the air today,’ and I can tell you the one that hit me the hardest was the Seaver thing."

As for the day-to-day sports mundanity, though, not so much.

"I’ve killed the Jets for so long, that got tedious," he said. "I mean, how many times can you kick the same team that’s down?"

Not that he is without sports thoughts. Francesa watches as much as he always has and has things to say, only now his primary outlets are his family, friends and Twitter.

He posted a tweet time-stamped at 5:04 a.m. Thursday weighing in on new Mets owner Steve Cohen.

Why so early? Was he that desperate for a forum? Not exactly. He was on "puppy patrol" for his daughter’s 4-month-old Goldendoodle, who still is being house trained, so why not fire off a Mets thought in the process?

During the interview with Newsday he weighed in on Cohen’s Mets: "I would be stunned if they weren’t absolutely contenders to win it all every year."

And on the Giants’ general manager: "The bottom line is [Dave] Gettleman’s been hideous. The Giants have been a total embarrassment."

And on the Jets’ chance at drafting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence: "This kid would have to get hit by a truck not to be a star, OK. That’s how good he is. They have to take him."

Oh, and this on Jets’ ownership: "The Jets are a perfect example of bad ownership and how it can ruin a franchise, and that’s what they’ve done. They have terrible ownership."

So maybe he misses it a little. But Francesa, who lives in Manhasset, said. "It was time to go. I needed a change." He said his focus is on his family, with two sophomores and one freshman in high school, and college looming in the near distance.

He said he is "overjoyed" with the career he had and left with nothing more to prove or accomplish. But what about giving up that platform for his sports opinions?

"Now I say it to my wife," he said. "I argue with my kids. I argue with whoever. I give commentaries while I’m playing golf. People stop me on my way to the first tee and ask what I think.

"That’s how it is now. My audience is a little more limited. But I’m fine."

New York Sports