Mike Francesa will become an unrestricted media free agent effective at midnight Friday, a status he has not experienced in nearly three-and-a-half decades.
"It’s been a long time," he told Newsday on Wednesday.
Even though Francesa’s final show on WFAN was in July of 2020 – when he ended what had been a limited role on the station – he has remained under contract to Audacy, WFAN’s parent company.
He was limited in what he could do on other outlets and has turned down most requests to appear even as a radio guest.
The limited exceptions have included a couple of mini-reunions with his former partner, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, on SiriusXM. He also appeared on WFAN to wish departing former colleagues Joe Benigno and Steve Somers well.
But now, at 67, he is plotting his next media move, free to do as he wishes. Two things he said he will not do: Work full-time anywhere, or work in any capacity at WFAN.
It is not that he has ill will toward his former station. He considers himself a FAN lifer. But that ship has sailed.
"I have no interest in going backward," he said. "My time at the FAN is done. My story at WFAN is written. That wouldn’t interest me . . . I’d like to see the people there get opportunities."
Francesa left Audacy on good terms but has acknowledged regrets about his messy final act, including a return to the station in May of 2018, four months after an elaborate farewell that lasted most of 2017.
He left his full-time job again after 2019 and spent the first half of 2020 with a limited presence on Radio.com and WFAN before departing altogether.
Since then, his public sharing of sports opinions mostly has been limited to his Twitter account.
"From a FAN standpoint, to me, the book is closed," Francesa said. "But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel like broadcasting. I’ve missed the audience. I’ve missed the buzz. I’ve missed some of that. It’s just logical."
Now anything goes. So what will it be, if not WFAN?
Francesa said he has had offers but is focused on something "that would be fun or gives me a chance to have a new experience . . . Maybe I’ll surprise somebody and do something that would surprise me."
He mentioned perhaps being involved in a show as a once-a-week contributor, which is something that fans long have suggested he do on Russo’s show.
"Nothing’s been discussed," Francesa said. "I would say right now, probably not. I think he’s got a pretty full schedule. He hasn’t offered that. He’s the one who has a show. I don’t.
"I don’t know if I would do something like that. I don’t say ‘no;' automatically. I don’t know if it would make sense. But like I said, everything’s pretty much open now."
Francesa said the past one-and-a-half years have afforded him valuable time with his three children as they near college age. When they leave home, he and his wife, Roe, plan to spend less of winter in Manhasset and more in Florida.
Speaking of Florida, the primary focus of Francesa’s attention for the next several months will be the highly regarded horse he co-owns, High Oak, who will race on the Florida circuit this winter with an eye on a Kentucky Derby berth.
"It’s my dream," Francesa said. "One of my goals in life, from many, many years ago, was to get a horse that had a chance into the Derby. I didn’t say win the Derby. I said I want to be there right as they get ready to enter the gate with a horse that has a legitimate chance to win.
"We have the horse. I think he’s that kind of horse. The question is: Can you keep him healthy? Can you get him there? Can he get the racing luck he needs and get there?"
Francesa will take that as it comes, like life itself. He said at his age, he finds himself tweeting RIPs too often. He thought about that when he learned that John Madden had died on Tuesday.
"In the early years, he was a fixture on ‘Mike and the Mad Dog,’" Francesa said. "He loved ‘Mike and the Mad Dog.’ That was early Madden, vintage Madden. He was so gracious to us. He was on all the time."
Time marches on, in life and on radio. WFAN has undergone a significant generational shift over the past two years, to the point Francesa said he sometimes does not recognize the voices he hears on the station.
"Everything that I had to do was written and done and accomplished," he said of his time at WFAN. "I’m very proud of my time there, but I think that’s over with."
He added, "The wheel keeps moving. You have to move with it . . . FAN has had a storied life. Now it’s clearly into that second generation. It’s in the next generation, and it’s got to prove itself all over again. It’s a business where you have to prove yourself every day. Nothing stays forever."