The top sports media stories of 2018 revolved around one radio station and its signature host: WFAN and Mike Francesa.
1. BACK AFTA THIS SHORT RETIREMENT. After retiring in December 2017, Francesa called an audible and returned May 1, telling Newsday's Neil Best in April, "It's time to return to WFAN." That led to a lineup shuffle, with "CMB," the Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott show — the one that was picked to fill Francesa's time slot — moved to an earlier afternoon slot to make room for Francesa. "I never expected to be back," Francesa said on the day he returned. "It's just been a very weird turn of events." As part of his return, Francesa also announced his new "Mike's On" app, which launched in August and cost $8.99 per month.
2. CARTON CONVICTED. Craig Carton, the former WFAN morning co-host alongside Boomer Esiason, was convicted in November in Manhattan federal court of a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that misled investors to put money into his ticket resale business. As reported by Newsday's John Riley, the verdict was announced on the second day of deliberation after a weeklong trial on charges that Carton used deceit to raise more than $4 million to buy blocks of event tickets to be resold at a profit, and then diverted the money to pay personal expenses, gambling debts and prior investors. Carton, 49, of Manhattan, who was never at a loss for words as a radio host, didn't testify at his trial and didn't react as the verdict was read. Outside of court, he said he was “disappointed” but respected the decision.
3. INFIGHTING AT THE FAN. Craig Carton's replacement, Gregg Giannotti, drew the ire of Mike Francesa after his popular impersonations became a hit on social media. Francesa ripped Boomer Esiason and Giannotti's WFAN morning show, saying it "stinks" and that Giannotti is "short on ability." He added: "And Giannotti, stop with the impersonations of me. I mean, enough already. God, get some new material, please. No wonder your show stinks."
Giannotti responded the next morning, and he didn't hold back while continuing the impression and making fun of Francesa's show. “What he is is he’s an insecure bully who thinks those things are going to affect me, affect us, and it just doesn’t,” Giannotti said, who later went into Francesa impersonation mode and said, "Not everybody can have new material like me who’s been doing the same show for 30 years now, and listen, the guy is limited. He’s not talented. I’ll tell you, listen, I’ll show you talent. Talent is doing what I do, OK? Talent is doing what I do, where I open up the show, I make generic comments for five, six minutes, roughly, I take a break and I go out in the newsroom and eat some M&Ms. And I come back and I take calls for hours and hours and hours and then occasionally I put on a paid guest that I talk over the entire time."
4. MIKE VS. MICHAEL. Mike Francesa and Michael Kay were both off during the last week of the year, but they went at it on Twitter over the quarterly autumn book ratings. As Newsday's Neil Best reported, Francesa edged Kay, 5.9 percent of the listening audience among men ages 25-54 to 5.8 percent. Then came the fireworks. In early afternoon, Francesa tweeteed: "Very tough for constant and chronic losers to lose as always, especially when they give away a ton of money and still lose. I was No.1 in the fall book. Others make up nonsense."
That was a reference to giveaways that ESPN promoted during the ratings period, which ended Dec. 5. Kay, if you're scoring at home, hit back right away on Twitter: "You know what’s a really cool trick? Listen closely to what a person says or tweets and you can tell that they have a really small, tiny, insignificant package of self-esteem and self-worth. You really can!"
Kay, after cooling down, later tweeted an apology to his "family, friends and fans who expect better from me" and congratulated Francesa on his win and looked forward to doing battle the next three months.
5. MEET THE METS' NEW STATION. The Mets announced in September they are moving their radio home to WCBS (880 AM) starting in 2019 and running through at least 2025. Entercom is the parent company of WCBS, as well as the Yankees' flagship station, WFAN. The move ends a five-year run on WOR. In another move, Josh Lewin announced he would not be returning to the Mets' radio booth, insteading taking a job to call Padres games.