Mike Francesa was scheduled to be someplace warm Tuesday afternoon, wielding golf clubs, thus making way at last for the official premiere of WFAN’s first all-new afternoon program since 1989.
It began just after 2 o’clock with a snippet from the 1991 film “New Jack City” in which a character says, “CMB, man, we all we got.”
In that case, CMB was a gang. In this case, the CMB in question was Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, a trio who knows it will be under scrutiny as it succeeds the station’s biggest star.
They understand that, at least in the short term, they might indeed be all each other has got in the face of inevitable social media criticism.
Such criticism might hurt, but it will not matter. All that matters is the ratings, and the report card will come out in April, when Nielsen Audio’s winter book that covers January through March is revealed.
One thing is certain: The show is a radical departure from Francesa, who was solo for 5 1⁄2-hour shows the past 9 1⁄2 years. It features three hosts, one of whom is the station’s first woman in that role since 2001 and another of whom is its first African-American in that role since 1993.
The big event began at the top of the hour with Bob Heussler doing a “Sports Flash,” a once-an-hour news update that replaces the venerable 20/20 updates that have been heard since early in the station’s history. (When WFAN first went on the air, updates came every 15 minutes.)
The idea is that given the speed and accessibility of modern sports information, the regular updates were an anachronism.
At 2:03 p.m., Carlin said, “Mags, what’s up?”
To which Gray answered, “Just ready to get into this new year, new time slot, new everything, although maybe same old problem for the Jets and maybe some new problems for the Giants.”
That turned out to be a good stage-setter for the show, which over the course of 4 1⁄2 hours — one hour less than the old Francesa show — discussed the Giants for 3 1⁄2 hours, the Jets for one hour and hockey, college football and everything else going on in the world not at all.
“The preseason is over,” Scott said, referring to the three shows the trio did together in a soft opening Dec. 20-22. “Now it counts. It’s for real.”
Said Gray, “Are we not getting paid for those [December] shows?”
Carlin paid tribute to Francesa and Francesa’s former partner, Chris Russo, before a show in December, but he did so again for the record early in Tuesday’s grand opening.
“We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge who we’re following,” said Carlin, a former “Mike and the Mad Dog” producer. “Mike sat in this seat for 30 years, and he and Chris made this time slot what it is, which is the premier piece of real estate in sports media in this city and sports radio in this country, and nobody replaces Mike Francesa.
“He is an incredible talent who helped carry this radio station for a long time and none of us would be here doing this if not for what he accomplished. Look, we’re coming in. We’re not trying to be Mike. We’re not trying to copy him in any way, because you can’t.
“We’re just trying to carry on the tradition of excellence that has been established in our own way. We’re going to live and breathe New York sports with you. We’re going to ask the questions that you want asked. We’re going to get to know you; you’re going to get to know us. And hopefully, we’ll have a few laughs along the way.
“Look, we obviously owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mike, to Chris, for setting the bar ridiculously high.”
At which point Scott interjected with: “And raising the salary cap. Let’s put that out there.”
From there, “The Afternoon Drive,” as the show is called, dived into Giants talk, including who their next head coach should be and whether Eli Manning will remain the starting quarterback.
They invited callers on sparingly, beginning with “Steve from Harrington Park,” who had some unusual ideas for the head coach opening, including former Giants linebacker Harry Carson.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Scott said. “Glory days.” In other words: no.
For the most part, they took turns talking and did not seem squeezed by the three-person format. By sticking to the NFL, they kept things in Scott’s comfort zone as a former NFL linebacker for the Ravens and Jets.
The questions about how he will fare when talk turns to baseball or hockey will have to wait. The Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, NHL Winter Classic and College Football Playoff semifinals mostly did not come up.
Even the three guests were in keeping with the day’s theme: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, Manning and NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.
The three hosts navigated the interviews by taking turns and let the guests answer fully, unlike Francesa, who was famous for interrupting.
Brian Monzo, Francesa’s most recent producer, is working on the show this week, but it is unclear whether he will stay in that role long term.
One caller wondered whether Gray is OK with being referred to collectively among the “guys.” She jokingly said she prefers, “Queen Maggie, Queen of the People.” Then she said “guys” is fine.
As expected, Scott had some moments of edginess, a line he hopes to straddle without crossing it into trouble.
He said the Giants’ Landon Collins was willing to criticize Eli Apple but “doesn’t have the cojones to step up and tell Odell Beckham he was wrong.”
When it was pointed out to him that he had mispronounced “cojones,” he said, “Every once in a while, the Detroit comes out in me and some words I can’t pronounce, so you guys have to give me a pass.”
Scott later kidded Carlin about his weight, and said, “We should weigh your chest hair one day and see what it is.”
Scott also went down a far riskier road in joking about race.
“You can’t trust a black man over 40 with a mustache,” said Scott, who is black. “Just try looking up famous people that are black with a mustache. There’s something wrong with you . . . Most crooks are a black man with a mustache. I’m just telling you.”
Carlin and Gray sounded uncomfortable with that line of discussion, understandably so.
Scott asked Manning about the barre classes he sometimes attends in the offseason with his wife, a line of questioning not likely to have come up when Manning appeared with Francesa.
Carlin said he thought it was a different kind of bar class. “No drinking, no shots involved,” Manning said.
Manning had a tellingly evasive answer when asked whether he would be willing to mentor a young quarterback taken high in the draft next season.
Scott correctly offered this interpretation after the interview was over: “Translation: I ain’t mentoring nobody.”
Scott still had enough energy late in the show to offer an impassioned answer when the discussion turned to the personal problems that might have led to Apple’s behavior this season, which eventually led to him being benched in Week 17.
He talked about the pressures family members can put on successful athletes, saying: “They stop seeing you as a person and start seeing you as a means to an end . . . I hate picking up the telephone. How can I respect that? You don’t even see me as a person anymore.”
When a caller wished the new team 30 years of success, like Francesa had, Carlin said, “I’ll take next week.”
In closing, Carlin said, “Day One in the books. We did it!”
Said Gray: “We didn’t burn the place to the ground.”