For a decade, nothing much changed on New York’s sports radio mornings: Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg on ESPN. Simple.
WFAN’s morning show blew apart on Sept. 6, when Carton was arrested on federal charges and a week later resigned, with no permanent replacement yet in sight.
ESPN has seen nothing that dramatic, but it, too, is preparing for a seismic change.
On Nov. 27, Trey Wingo will replace Greenberg, who is leaving his partner of 17 years to launch an ESPN television show in January.
Might that alter the ratings dynamic of a race that has gone to WFAN since ESPN Radio came to New York in 2001? Wingo declined to discuss WFAN’s crisis, but regardless, that is the goal.
“New York is the biggest market there is,” he said last week in an interview in Manhattan. “It’s the biggest station, the biggest city in the country. So, yeah, we’d like to do well here. I think that will be the plan of attack – for us to do well in New York City.”
As for whether Carton’s absence might offer an opportunity, he said, “I see everything as a potential opportunity. That specifically, I don’t want to [talk about]. That’s their issue and I wish those people all the best. I’m just going to focus on what we can do.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Wingo and Golic face is simply being a national show.
“I think that’s a challenge wherever we go, and maybe even more so here in New York because of the passion of New York sports fans,” Wingo said. “But if it wasn’t challenging it wouldn’t be fun.”
The trick will be freshening up a show that did well by its hosts and its company, and that has many fans, but that has been accused of lacking the edginess that often drives that genre.
Wingo called Greenberg and Golic “rock stars” and feels a responsibility to keep a good thing going.
“Look, at the end of the day there are only so many ways you can do sports radio,” he said. “I could lie to you and say we’re going to do a million different things that have never been done. That’s not going to be the case.
“At the end of the day you’re either going to like the way Golic and I talk about the topics of the day or you won’t, and that’s as simple as I can make it. I like our chances.”
One thing you will not hear from Wingo: contrived controversy.
“We aren’t going to shy away from anything, but I’m not a hot-taker,” he said. “You know: Declarative statement that really can’t be proven just to generate conflict on either side. That’s not what I do. I prefer reasonably nuanced discussion based on information, for lack of a better term.”
Wingo, 54, a 20-year ESPN veteran, will host “NFL Live” on ESPN through the end of the current season, then leave the show to focus on his morning job. He will continue to host the NFL Draft and “NFL Primetime.”
As with every sports talk morning host, the lifestyle will take some getting used to.
“It is a challenge, absolutely,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that eventually my body will say, dude, we need to go to bed now.”
Wingo caught the journalism bug early from his father, Hal, a longtime reporter, foreign correspondent and editor at “Life” magazine and one of the founding editors of “People” in 1974.
“I thought my dad’s job was really neat, and I was like, boy, I’d like to do something like that, because it seems like it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It has absolutely influenced the way that I wanted to work and the things I wanted to do, because I thought his job was really interesting.
“I tried to find something somewhat along those lines, and thankfully it’s worked out.”