Frequency 660 kHz
Format Sports radio
|Power 50,000 watts|
Facility ID 28617
City of license New York City
Owner CBS Radio
|First air date October 7, 1988; 28 years ago (1988-10-07)|
Transmitter coordinates (main antenna) (auxiliary antenna)
Branding Sports Radio 66 and 101.9 FM, The Fan
Slogan Your Flagship Station For New York Sports
Sister stations WCBS-TV, WINS, WCBS, WFAN-FM, WCBS-FM, WLNY-TV, WBMP, WNEW-FM
WFAN (660 AM), also known as "Sports Radio 66 and 101 FM" or "The FAN", is a radio station located in New York City. The station broadcasts on a clear channel and is owned and operated by CBS Radio. WFAN's studios are located in the combined CBS Radio facility in the West Village section of Manhattan; its transmitter is located on High Island in the The Bronx. WFAN is also heard on WFAN-FM (101.9 FM); CBS announced a purchase of that station from Merlin Media LLC in October 2012 and began a simulcast of "The FAN" on November 1, 2012.
- Early history
- The launch of sports radio
- WFAN moves to 660
- After the switch
- Recent programming
- Team coverage
- Midday show controversy
- Twentieth anniversary
- Twenty fifth anniversary
- Move to Manhattan
- WFAN FM
- New York Yankees and New York City FC
- Exit Imus, enter Boomer and Carton
- The end of Mike and the Mad Dog
- Influence of sports format
- Frequent callers
- Reception of WFAN
- The FAN Sports Network
WFAN was one of the earliest stations to adopt the sports radio format.
The 660 AM frequency in New York City originated as WEAF on March 2, 1922, owned by AT&T. In 1926 WEAF became the flagship station of the NBC Red Network, one of two radio chains operated by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). By 1928 WEAF was purchased by NBC's parent company, the Radio Corporation of America.
As a result of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement of 1941, WEAF became a clear-channel station and could be heard across most of the eastern half of North America at night. In 1943 the United States Supreme Court, citing antitrust concerns, ordered RCA to sell off one of its radio networks. The company decided to keep the Red Network, and it was rebranded as the NBC Radio Network after the Blue Network was divested to Edward J. Noble, which was later renamed the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).
WEAF's call letters were changed to WNBC in 1946, then to WRCA in 1954, and back to WNBC in 1960. During the 1960s, WNBC relied less on network programming and adopted a talk format, followed by a switch to a middle-of-the-road music sound. The station spent much of the 1970s and early 1980s flipping between the Top 40 and adult contemporary formats, with varying success. By the middle of the 1980s up until its closing, WNBC played less music and relied more on personality-driven talk programs with hosts such as Howard Stern, Don Imus, Joey Reynolds, Alan Colmes, and Soupy Sales.
The launch of sports radio
At 3:00 p.m. on July 1, 1987, Emmis Communications-owned WFAN signed on at 1050 kHz, replacing country music station WHN, and billing itself as the world's first 24-hour-per-day sports talk station. (The WFAN call sign was suggested by the wife of "The Fan's" first program director, John Chanin.) The first voice heard on WFAN was that of Suzyn Waldman, with a sports update, followed by the first show, which was hosted by Jim Lampley. Waldman reported for the station, covering the New York Yankees and New York Knicks for 14 years. Other hosts besides Lampley during WFAN's fifteen months at 1050 kHz included Bill Mazer, Pete Franklin, Greg Gumbel, Art Shamsky, and Ed Coleman. Ann Liguori is also one of the original hosts and was the first woman to host a show on the station. "Hey Liguori, What's the Story" aired the first weekend the station was on the air in 1987 and continued until 2008. WFAN also inherited broadcast rights to the defending World Series champion New York Mets from WHN, who had held the rights for several years.
WFAN moves to 660
In early 1988, General Electric, which now owned NBC through its purchase of RCA two years earlier, announced that it would close the NBC Radio division and sell its stations. In February of that year GE made a multi-station deal with Emmis and, in New York City the WNBC license for 660 was included in the sale. On October 7, 1988 at 5:30 p.m., WFAN moved down the radio dial to replace WNBC at 660 kHz. The last voice heard on WNBC was that of Alan Colmes, who said these final words to close the station: "I'm Alan Colmes. Thank you, God bless you, and for the last time, this is 66 WNBC New York City. Let's do the countdown." He then counted down the seconds to WNBC's demise with the legendary NBC chimes (the notes G-E-C) playing in the background. After 66 years, the long history of NBC radio in New York City had come to an end.
In the complicated switch that saw WFAN move to the 660 frequency, the 1050 frequency that was formerly the home of WFAN became that of Spanish-language WUKQ, owned by Spanish Broadcasting System. However, SBS already owned an AM station in the market, Newark-based WSKQ at 620 kHz, and in those days Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules stipulated that companies could own only one AM station per market. As a result, SBS received a temporary waiver to run 1050 while exploring the sale of either AM frequency. SBS chose to keep 620 (it is now WSNR), and 1050 was traded to Forward Communications, which owned WEVD, then at 97.9 FM. After that deal was approved, WEVD's call letters and programming moved to 1050 AM (it is now WEPN and ironically, it is also a sports station), and SBS took over 97.9 as WSKQ-FM. The October NBC-Emmis switch also saw Emmis's WQHT (then at 103.5 MHz.) move to 97.1 MHz., which had been the home of NBC's WYNY. Emmis sold the 103.5 frequency to Westwood One, who also acquired the WYNY call letters and its country music format.
As it had before when it took over the frequency formerly belonging to WHN, WFAN inherited broadcast rights from WNBC. The switch to 660 AM added the New York Knicks and New York Rangers to their lineup along with the Mets, who moved down the dial with the station.
After the switch
As Don Imus had already been the morning show host at WNBC, WFAN left the show in place when they took over the frequency. WFAN's original morning show on 1050 was hosted by Greg Gumbel. The show was a straightforward sports show (not dis-similar to Mike & Mike currently on ESPN Radio), but was not doing well in the ratings. At the time of the switch, sports talk radio was still an untested format with questionable prospects, and the idea of bringing on board a host that appealed to a broader audience would get more people to try the station out. WFAN also benefitted from the inertia from Imus's fans who were used to tuning into 660 kHz on weekday mornings to listen. WFAN instantly took advantage of its Imus inheritance; for example, it featured a special live monologue by Imus character Billy Sol Hargus from Shea Stadium moments after taking over the 660 frequency. Imus slightly altered his show for his new employer, adding sports updates and replays of last night's big plays. Discussions of sports stories that crossed over to general interest were also featured on the program, although Imus also kept many of his regular comedy bits that were not sports-related.
After the switch from WNBC to WFAN, Imus' morning show trailed the top-rated The Howard Stern Show on 92.3 WXRK by a wide margin in New York City as it had before the switch.
WFAN began doing sports updates every 20 minutes. These updates, called 20-20 Sports Flashes, are now considered an industry standard. When WFAN first started updates were done every 15 minutes. Additionally, in a nod to the former WNBC, update anchors often end their top-of-the-hour updates with the catchphrase "And that's what's happening ...", which is how WNBC on-air news readers had ended their updates.
Other programming that WFAN had at its launch included a mid-morning show with Ed Coleman and Mike Francesa, and an afternoon drive time show with Pete Franklin, who in Cleveland had become one of the first polarizing, outrageous talk show hosts. During his stay in New York City Franklin was probably best known for an incident where he used a four-letter expletive on air, in error, when trying to say "All you folks" (he was not disciplined for the incident).
Running a close second was a 30-second Franklin diatribe on whether he had been offensive – "Do I offend anyone? I'm not here to offend you, dammit!" – that has been replayed ever since, especially on the July 1 WFAN anniversaries.
In a further drive to boost ratings, Imus instigated a feud with Franklin, much as he had with Howard Stern at WNBC in the mid-1980s. Both Imus and Franklin took shots at each other during their shows, Franklin calling Imus "Minus" and Imus recording parodies of radio commercials where he bashed Franklin as a "dinosaur", among other things. Franklin left WFAN in August 1989.
On September 5, 1989, a jointly hosted afternoon drive show with Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo – who had been a weekend/fill-in host to that time – would premiere. The Mike and the Mad Dog show became the defining show of WFAN, one of the most consistently popular radio shows in New York City and one of the most influential sports talk radio shows in the country.
The combined success of Mike and the Mad Dog and Imus in the Morning helped WFAN become the number one billing station in America during the 1990s. It also proved that the all-sports format worked as a radio format, prompting the explosion of sports talk radio across the country.
In 1992, Emmis sold WFAN to Infinity Broadcasting, which would be purchased by Westinghouse Electric Corporation – CBS' then-parent company – in 1997.
WFAN's morning show begins at 6:00 a.m. (Eastern time) with Boomer and Carton, hosted by former National Football League quarterback Boomer Esiason and radio veteran Craig Carton. The midday (10am – 1pm) timeslot is co-hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. Mike Francesa is the afternoon drive host. The YES Network aired a video simulcast of WFAN's afternoon drive program, previously known as Mike and the Mad Dog, Mike'd Up, and now Mike's On from March 2002 until January 2014.
On Monday nights during the NFL season, an NFL-based program serves as the lead in to Monday Night Football. The 2012 edition broadcasts live from Clifton, New Jersey's Shannon Rose pub, with Jody McDonald and Carl Banks hosting.
Steve Somers hosts during most other evenings, often leading into and/or following live game broadcasts. Tony Paige works the majority of the overnight shifts and hosts during the evenings on weekends. Marc Malusis and Lori Rubinson host on weekend nights, with Malusis covering late Friday/early Saturday and Rubinson covering late Saturday/early Sunday in addition to a post-Sunday Night Football program. John Jastremski and Jody McDonald work overnights as well. Adam "the Bull" Gerstenhaber hosted weekend evening shows until leaving WFAN for CBS Radio's "The Fan" in Cleveland (WKRK-FM). Another WFAN host is longtime New York rock radio fixture Richard Neer. Ed Randall hosts a radio version of the Talking Baseball show that aired on TV for many years. Midday host Evan Roberts also hosts a solo show on weekends, and WFAN broadcasts a general interest program every Sunday morning.
WFAN stands out in that all of its sports-talk shows are currently local in origin, not syndicated as is the practice of most sports-talk radio stations (usually except during the morning and/or drive-time periods).
Over the years WFAN has established a tight bond with its listeners, to the point where one of them eventually landed a regular on-air spot. Joe Benigno had been a frequent caller to "The Fan" (especially the Mike and the Mad Dog show) as "Joe from Saddle River", and his calls were typically interesting and insightful. In 1994 he was chosen to host a one-hour show during a promotion where listeners were invited to host a show. The test went well, and he later parlayed it into a regular overnight shift, which started in 1995.
WFAN also features the "20-20 Flash", a one- to two-minute update on sports scores and news, which occurs every 20 minutes (on the hour, twenty after and forty after). The update team consists of Harris Allen, Mike McCann, Erica Herskowitz, Bob Heussler, John Minko, Joey Wahler, Chris Lopresti, and Jerry Recco (the latter is also heard on sister station WINS weekday mornings). The station also employs beat reporters to cover the Mets (Ed Coleman), Yankees (Sweeny Murti), Jets (Chris Lopresti) and Giants (Paul Dottino).
In 2010, the station was honored by the National Association of Broadcasters with the Marconi award for Sports Station of the Year.
Currently, WFAN airs broadcasts of New York Yankees, the New York Giants, the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, the Brooklyn Nets, and New York City FC. During baseball season, the Yankees have first priority of airtime over all of the other teams. During the fall and early winter, the Giants have first priority, followed by the Devils, the Nets, and the Islanders.
Since 2013, sister station WCBS has been utilized as WFAN's main "conflict" station for pre-season Giants and regular season Nets games when they and any of the other teams play simultaneously. NYCFC contests which conflict with WFAN's Yankee broadcasts are streamed exclusively on the station's website; such games were carried over Salem Communications-owned WNYM (970 AM) during the team's inaugural 2015 season. WNYM may also broadcast Devils games due to scheduling conflicts with football or baseball (some preseason Devils contests have been streamed on WFAN's website due to such conflicts).
The station is the flagship outlet for Westwood One's NFL broadcasts and some of its National Collegiate Athletic Association college football and basketball broadcasts. WFAN was the sole flagship of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship carried over Westwood One, but beginning in 2006, competitor WEPN took over a majority of the coverage including early round games as well as of conference tournament finals that Dial Global had the rights to; WFAN would air some of the conference tournament games but would not usually air the early round tournament games opting instead for local programming. WFAN does broadcast some of the tournament, but the majority of it—including the Final Four and the National Championship Game—is carried by WEPN-FM.
WFAN has marketed itself in recent years as the "Flagship Station for New York Sports." Terry Collins and Joe Girardi, respective managers of the Mets and Yankees, make exclusive appearances on WFAN during the season. WFAN usually also contracts at least one Giants and one Jets player to make exclusive appearances on the station during the NFL season, as well as Giants head coach Ben McAdoo.
The station was also the longtime radio home for the New York Mets, New York Jets, New York Rangers and New York Knicks (the latter two were inherited from WNBC while the Jets coverage was moved from WCBS). Currently, WFAN's primary competition is WEPN-FM, the New York ESPN Radio affiliate which now carries the Jets, Knicks and Rangers plus national ESPN Radio programming, all of which WFAN previously broadcast.
On April 11, 2006, WFAN started streaming live on the Internet. Web streaming of live games, however, is limited due to broadcast rights (Mets and Nets games are offered separately through the MLB and NBA websites as annual subscriptions). As of April 2010 WFAN, along with other CBS Radio stations, stopped streaming live on the Internet to listeners outside of the United States.
Beginning with the 2016–17 NHL season WFAN will broadcast 30 New York Islanders games, with the remaining 52 to be on WNYM. This marks the Islanders' return to commercial radio in New York City, as municipally-owned non-commercial WNYE (91.5 FM) carried the team's games during 2015–16, following the team's relocation from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center. The Islanders' primary radio outlet remains WRHU in Hempstead, owned by Hofstra University and covering the team's traditional Long Island fan base. As part of the deal, one game on WFAN will be called by Boomer and Carton instead of the Islanders' usual broadcast team.
Each spring from 1990 until 2007, WFAN conducted the "WFAN Radiothon" to benefit children's charities that seek to ensure the continuity of life in its earliest stages and the treatment and eventual elimination of childhood cancer. The three most recent beneficiaries of the radiothon were Tomorrow's Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS, and the Imus Ranch. WFAN has also done other radiothons and special broadcasts to raise money for assorted charities.
On August 15, 2008, Mike Francesa announced during the final broadcast of Mike and the Mad Dog that WFAN would broadcast a new fundraising radiothon. The new fundraiser would benefit both the Boomer Esiason Foundation for cystic fibrosis research, and the Mike Francesa Champions of the Heart Foundation, a new charity created by Francesa. The first radiothon took place in September 2008.
Midday show controversy
The midday slot has been one of the better slots from a ratings perspective for WFAN. However, this slot's hosts have often found controversy.
In the mid-1990s, popular hosts Ed Coleman and Dave Sims had their show cancelled. WFAN then announced that New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica and WNBC-TV sports anchor Len Berman would co-host the new midday program. The show seemed all set to go when, at the last minute, Berman decided to back out of the show. He cited that he would have to work a near 14-hour day, combining his 10 a.m. start on radio with his WNBC-TV duties, which consisted of him appearing on all three of the station's evening newscasts. WFAN would not let Berman out of his contract, and as a result, the slot was split into two shows: Lupica hosted from 10 a.m. to noon, while Berman hosted from noon to 2 p.m. The split format did not work, and eventually Berman's show would be cancelled and Lupica's show soon followed.
WWOR-TV sports anchor Russ Salzberg, who also worked an evening sportscast, was more than willing to assume the midday show duties. In 1995, he was joined by longtime overnight host Steve Somers and the show became known as "The Sweater and The Schmoozer", playing off Salzberg's habit of wearing sweaters on the air and Somers' on-air nickname.
The midday show featured one of the most famous incidents in WFAN history. It occurred when Salzberg "banned" Eli from Westchester from calling his show due to his comments that Salzberg considered to be inappropriate. Salzberg notoriously said to Somers, during another Atlanta Braves World Series appearance talking about Braves' manager Bobby Cox: "What about Cox, Steve? You like Cox ... don't you, Steve?"
In 1999, with the ratings not being what WFAN management expected, the Salzberg/Somers show was cancelled and both men were fired. However a large outcry from listeners over the termination of the popular Somers—including comedian Jerry Seinfeld, a native of Long Island—led to WFAN management giving Somers the evening shift, which (despite frequent pre-emptions for live games) he continues to hold to the present day. In middays, Salzberg and Somers were replaced by Suzyn Waldman and Jody McDonald. Waldman had been with WFAN since its infancy, as she was the first update anchor, and had served as the station's Yankees beat reporter and the Knicks' studio host. McDonald, son of a former Mets general manager and also one of the original WFAN personalities, was the weekend overnight host before leaving for sister station WIP in Philadelphia, nearer to his southern New Jersey home. Both Waldman and McDonald had their fans and detractors at WFAN.
Waldman would leave WFAN in late 2001, joining the Yankees television broadcast team the following year. She would be replaced by Sid Rosenberg who, despite his shock jock reputation, had a vast knowledge of sports. Many felt there was great chemistry between McDonald and Rosenberg. However, the ratings still weren't what WFAN expected and in 2004 McDonald was let go, later to join WEPN, Sirius Satellite Radio, and WPEN radio in Philadelphia before returning in 2012. Overnight host Joe Benigno would replace McDonald.
Rosenberg was forced to resign from WFAN on September 12, 2005 after being given an ultimatum by station management for not showing up to host the New York Giants' pregame show the day before. Benigno hosted the show solo for over a year, and on January 2, 2007, part-time overnight host Evan Roberts became Benigno's new midday co-host. The pairing continues to consistently out-rate rival station WEPN, who broadcasts The Herd with Colin Cowherd and local programming opposite it.
On July 1, 2007, WFAN celebrated its twentieth anniversary. On the weekend of July 4, past WFAN hosts such as Suzyn Waldman and Jim Lampley did guest-hosting stints, and the station's current hosts provided career and station retrospectives throughout the weekend. The station also invited listeners to vote on the "Greatest New York sports moments", and the "Top 20 New York sports celebrities", during WFAN's 20-year history.
On June 25, 2012, notable current staff announced their favorite moments, interviews, and teams.
On June 28, 2012, it was revealed that Mike Francesa would join Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on the Boomer and Carton in the Morning program on June 29, 2012 as part of the festivities. It marked the first time they had appeared together since 2009, when Francesa was still the number one sports talk show host in New York. Later in the day, Carton and Esiason would join Francesa on his show, Mike's On: Francesa on the FAN.
The same day—Carton surprised everyone by welcoming back host Sid Rosenberg, and Rosenberg later joined Francesa for a short interview the next day. Other notable former hosts who joined Mike Francesa included Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo and Don Imus.
Move to Manhattan
On October 10, 2009 WFAN moved from its studio location for its first 22 years, the landmarked Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens. The station began broadcasting from CBS Radio's then-new Hudson Square studios in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood. Along with the move, the station changed its longtime call-in phone number from 1-718-937-6666 to 1-877-337-6666.
On October 6, 2012, CBS Radio announced the purchase of WRXP (101.9 FM) from Merlin Media for $75 Million. CBS began operating 101.9 under a local marketing agreement (LMA) at 11:57 PM on November 1, 2012, with the call sign changed to WFAN-FM.
New York Yankees and New York City FC
On September 11, 2013, the Yankees announced a multi-year broadcast agreement with CBS RADIO for Yankees games to be simulcast on WFAN and WFAN-FM beginning in 2014. All of the regular season and postseason games will be broadcast, as well as other related shows involving the team. WFAN takes over for sister station WCBS.
On October 3, 2013, New York City FC, a Major League Soccer expansion team set to begin play in 2015 that is owned by Manchester City F.C. and the Yankees, announced a radio broadcast deal with WFAN.
New York Rangers on WFAN
Exit Imus, enter Boomer and Carton
On the April 4, 2007 broadcast of Imus in the Morning, Don Imus made a sexually and racially controversial comment in reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Imus made the remarks during a conversation with the show's producer, Bernard McGuirk, and Sid Rosenberg (who was on the phone).
Two days after making the comments, Imus issued a public apology. By that time, however, there were various calls for his dismissal, particularly from civil rights activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who threatened to protest both CBS Radio and MSNBC (which aired a video simulcast of the program), and to boycott companies who advertised on the program. WFAN offered its hosts and listeners a sounding board for their own feelings and comments, which were both for and against his dismissal. Chris Russo, in particular, expressed his disappointment at Imus for waiting two days before retracting his comments.
Imus was initially given a two-week suspension which was scheduled to begin on April 16, allowing him to work the annual WFAN Radiothon on April 12 and 13. On consecutive days Imus appeared on both Sharpton's syndicated radio show (April 9) and NBC-TV's Today Show (April 10) to reiterate his regret for the remarks. But on April 11, MSNBC announced the cancellation of the video simulcast of Imus in the Morning. The following day, CBS Radio dismissed Imus, at the time leaving WFAN with a very large programming—and money-earning—void in its schedule.
Imus' last WFAN program was aired on the opening day of the radiothon. Imus's wife Deirdre joined his longtime co-host, comedy writer, and news reader, Charles McCord, to anchor the final segment of the radiothon on April 13. Imus revived his program at WABC radio in December 2007, and took his fundraiser with him—with the charities intact—and conducted a radiothon there in May 2008.
From that point on, the 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. time slot was filled by various hosts. McCord and Chris Carlin remained on all the replacement shows as assistants and staff, in similar roles as they were on Imus's show, and the replacement shows continued to be syndicated via Westwood One. Mike Francesa and Chris Russo were the first to fill the spot, hosting for the two weeks (April 16–27) immediately after Imus' firing. Francesa and Russo also worked the shift separate from each other, as did fellow WFAN staffers Richard Neer, Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, and Carlin, who worked both alone and with co-hosts, notably Kimberly Jones and Washington Post sports columnist John Feinstein.
WFAN and Westwood One also brought in outside personalities into the slot. Among them were Boomer Esiason, Patrick McEnroe, Geraldo Rivera, Lou Dobbs, and Chicago market sports radio host Mike North. As MSNBC also held its own claim to the slot, the cable network was able to have its own replacement shows simulcasted; these programs were hosted by in-house personalities David Gregory, Jim Cramer, and Joe Scarborough; eventually Scarborough would become the permanent replacement host on MSNBC with Morning Joe.
On September 4, 2007, Esiason took over as the permanent host of the WFAN morning show, with veteran radio personality Craig Carton (previously of WKXW-FM in Trenton, New Jersey) serving as co-host, and Chris Carlin remaining to do sports updates. The new program is not distributed nationally by Westwood One. Charles McCord left the station shortly after the announcement was made and has since rejoined Don Imus at WABC. Carlin was also given his own show in the one-hour time slot immediately preceding Esiason's show. The television simulcast, which had been on MSNBC since the early 1990s, was not immediately brought back; it was not until September 2010 that WFAN reached an agreement with MSG Network to simulcast Boomer and Carton live each weekday; each four-hour show was simulcast live with a condensed one-hour "best-of" program airing later each day and throughout the weekend. In January 2014, the show's televised simulcast moved to CBS Sports Network.
The end of Mike and the Mad Dog
During their 19-year run as WFAN's afternoon drive team, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo had enjoyed a relationship—both on- and off-air—which varied from respect to contempt. The two hosts did not get along well during the early days of their partnership, and had several differences which potentially put their program in jeopardy. In spite of the disagreements, the duo always seemed to patch things up for the benefit of the station and their listeners.
In early 2008, several reports surfaced that Francesa and Russo were on the outs again, and these reports came as both men's contracts with WFAN were in the early stages of renegotiation. On June 22, 2008, sports columnist Neil Best of Newsday reported that the Francesa/Russo relationship had cooled, and they were considering ending their radio show. Francesa, reached by Newsday while vacationing, refused to comment. Russo, doing the show alone on June 23, denied the rumors. But on the June 27, 2008 broadcast, Francesa (working alone as Russo was on vacation) acknowledged the show was at a "crossroad", and could not guarantee the show would last through the summer. Francesa also stated he and Russo had not spoken since reports of their possible breakup came out.
On July 11, 2008, Francesa and Russo reunited for their first show together since news of their possible breakup came out. Both men were coy about their future beyond the summer. Francesa and Russo then continued their normal summer routine of alternating vacation weeks, and on August 5, 2008, they would do their final show together at the New York Giants' training facility at the University of Albany.
On August 14, 2008, Russo reached a mutual agreement with WFAN to let him out of his contract, which ran until October 2009. Russo insisted it was solely a personal decision and said, "This has nothing to do with Mike and I hating each other... This is about doing something different. I'm 48 years old and there are not going to be too many more opportunities to break away. It's time to try something else, but it was a tough decision to make." On August 15, Russo phoned Francesa on the show to say goodbye. A highly emotional Russo began to break down on air as he talked about his partnership with Francesa.
At the same time, while Russo left WFAN, Francesa signed a five-year deal to stay at WFAN and continue to host the afternoon drive-time show. On August 19, 2008, Russo signed a five-year contract worth about 3 million per year with Sirius XM to headline a new sports talk channel called Mad Dog Radio on both Sirius and XM satellite radio. Russo said there was nothing WFAN could have done to keep him after Sirius XM provided him an opportunity to not only do a show, but have his own channel, which he could not pass up.
Influence of sports format
WFAN's success—especially after the 1988 frequency switch—proved that sports-talk radio could in fact be a steadily profitable and popular format. This in turn fueled the explosive growth of sports-talk radio in the 1990s and 2000s (decade). Once a novelty, every major market (and many smaller markets) now has at least one sports radio station, and often more. ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Yahoo! Sports Radio have all launched 24-hour national sports talk radio networks, while NBC Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio (the latter of which WFAN will be a member) are set to launch in fall 2012. There are also nationally syndicated radio shows, such as The Jim Rome Show and 2 Live Stews. Additionally there are dedicated sports radio streams on satellite radio, such as NFL Radio on Sirius and MLB Home Plate on XM Satellite Radio. With the migration of music stations to FM and other carriers all but complete, sports talk radio are considered to have been critical in saving the AM band as a viable broadcast medium.
It is worth noting that, for all the success and influence that WFAN has had, its signature Mike and the Mad Dog show experienced limited syndication outside of New York state (the show had been carried over WQYK in Tampa, Florida and WROW in Albany, New York). This was primarily due to a desire by the hosts to keep their show New York-centric.
WFAN once produced some of Fox Sports Radio's programming, notably Chris "Mad Dog" Russo's Saturday show, but the relationship did not last even one year for the same reason that Mike'd Up is syndicated nationally only through the YES Network—the hosts often talk about the NFL on a national basis, but stick mostly to local coverage of baseball. Nevertheless, callers from as far as California and Norway made it to air.
Callers are an important facet of WFAN programming. A few callers have earned a reputation over the years and become as familiar to listeners as the hosts themselves.
Jerome Mittelman, known on-air as "Jerome from Manhattan," is a die-hard Yankees and Knicks fan. Jerome is known for his on-air take-no-prisoners blistering rants and raves, as well as his unique take on the English language. One of his favorite exclamatory phrases is "frickin' frack!" He refers to the bullpen as the "ballpen", and once shouted that the Yankees are "... done! D-O-E-N [sic], DONE!" His relationship status is intriguing enough for Steve Somers to once give Jerome $60 to take a lady out on a date, only for Jerome to keep the money and not go out on the date. Former host Sid Rosenberg once asked Jerome if he was upset that he was not taking his eagerly anticipated trip "... to Colorado?", and Jerome replied, "No, [it was] to Denver." He does "... not like jets. They make [him] seasick." Jerome, when he still called WFAN regularly, was known as being the only caller to have an audio intro, much like those played at the top of each show. Mr. Mittelman's health problems had kept him from the WFAN airwaves on a regular basis from late 2004 until mid-2008; when he again started to call in more frequently. Occasionally when he calls into Steve Somers' program, a special introduction is played to the tune of The Twilight Zone.
Eli Strand (1943–2008), known when calling as "Eli from Westchester", was another famous repeat caller. Citing racism as the underlying factor behind any number of sports happenings, he was occasionally banned from calling for periods of time. One of the most famous times he was banned was by former mid-day host Russ Salzberg. However, he was also given an on-air tryout for the job which would eventually go to Joe Benigno. Strand, from Tuckahoe, New York, played college football at Iowa State University and spent two years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.
"'Miriam from Forest Hills" is a blind New York Islanders and New York Mets fan from Queens. The first Islanders game Miriam ever attended became the topic of a Rick Reilly column in Sports Illustrated.
David Paterson, former Governor of New York, has been known to call into the station on occasion. He has also used the alias "David from Manhattan." After the end of his term, Paterson sporadically appeared as a guest host and in-studio guest for the station; Paterson accepted a job with WOR in August 2011.
Doris Bauer (1945–2003) was one of the best-known late-night regular callers to WFAN. Calling in as "Doris from Rego Park" for a decade, Bauer was recognized by her chronic hacking cough, an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, and her loyalty to the Mets. She called to talk sports on the overnight show with hosts like Steve Somers. Such was her status as a beloved member of the WFAN talk community that, when she died at 58 of complications from lung and breast cancer, it was host Joe Benigno who broke the news to his late-night audience at 1 a.m., Doris' usual call-in time.
"Omar from Brooklyn" is another regular called on the Boomer and Carton Show. An avid Bills fan, Omar's trademark is to call in on a Monday to rant (often incoherently due to his thick accent) about the Bills shortcomings and his hatred for other New York teams. During these calls there is usually Middle Eastern music playing in the background, courtesy of WFAN. Boomer and Carton had Omar in studio as a guest, and Omar received a pie in the face from Boomer. Omar also received tickets from Boomer to a Jets-Bills game in 2011.
Reception of WFAN
WFAN's signal can be heard clearly on much of the East Coast of the United States and Eastern Canada after sunset because it is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "Class A" clear channel station.
During the day, WFAN's groundwave signal can be heard faintly as far south as Washington, D.C. and as far north as the I-90 corridor (the New York State Thruway and Massachusetts Turnpike), about 150 miles north of New York City. WFAN can also allegedly be heard clearly on the northern beaches of North Carolina's Outer Banks during the day and the southern beaches around Wilmington, NC at night. Signal strength varies depending on factors such as weather and elevation. Still, a good car radio can pick up WFAN cleanly in most of Pennsylvania, at times as far west as central Indiana, and throughout Connecticut, as well as parts of the Philadelphia, most parts of Southern New Jersey, Boston, Albany, and Syracuse markets, especially at night (WFAN does not broadcast on reduced power overnight, and thus needs very few affiliate stations for the teams it broadcasts).
Callers from these locations are not uncommon, especially as some of the on-air staffers have backgrounds in those regions (Bob Heussler does radio play-by-play for the Connecticut Sun, Fairfield Stags basketball and has done radio play-by-play for UConn basketball and football, while Chris Carlin handles Rutgers football games). Alternatively, the callers listen to the streaming internet feed on WFAN's website, using either the Radio.com or TuneIn Radio apps for iPhone and iPad, or watch one of the station's TV simulcasts ("Mike Francesa" on Fox Sports 1 and 2 or "Boomer and Carton" on CBS Sports Network).
The FAN Sports Network
In addition to having its broadcast heard on 660 AM in New York City, WFAN's programming is also transmitted via a secured internet feed to CBS owned and operated stations. These stations simulcast the same over-the air feed that is heard in New York City including all of the live team coverage including the New York Yankees, New York Giants, New Jersey Devils and the Brooklyn Nets. The internet stream legally cannot include professional sports coverage because the Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League provide their own in-house on-demand and yearly subscription services for live and archived radio and television broadcasts. WFAN's simulcasts make it one of only a handful of terrestrial based radio superstations in the United States; KPIG in Freedom, California and WBBR in New York also syndicate terrestrially, though through different providers.