SiriusXM Puts Dino Costa In The Doghouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dino Costa has been suspended by SiriusXM for agreeing to accept money for an appearance in what the satellite radio company says was a "contest." Incidentally, Thursday was the final day of Costa's contract with SiriusXM.

Dino Costa has been suspended by SiriusXM for agreeing to accept money for an appearance in what the satellite radio company says was a “contest.” Incidentally, Thursday was the final day of Costa’s contract with SiriusXM.

Mad Dog Radio nighttime host Dino Costa is mad as hell.

SiriusXM Satellite Radio suspended him for content on his Wednesday night broadcast.

Considering how satellite radio is unregulated, there has to be a good reason why one would get suspended from that medium.

But as Costa pleaded in a blog post on his website, in which he disclosed “Mad Dog Radio” program director Steve Torre informed him of his suspension twenty minutes before the start of his show on Thursday, it’s all a misunderstanding.

“On [Wednesday’s] show, I simply wondered aloud — who might be willing to pay me to go to their Super Bowl party?,” Costa lamented. “The result was people calling in from all points across the North American continent offering me the best deal they had to come to their party.”

Including one from Las Vegas who invited him to appear at his Super Bowl party.

“I agreed to do this for the sum of $3500. Plus airfare. Plus hotel. Plus a car service to and from the airport.”

It was that statement that led to Costa’s suspension.

“[The program director] Torre told me I ran a ‘contest.’ No, I did not. This was spontaneous, this was off the cuff, this was, in the end, radio genius.

“This was not a ‘contest’ — and not once did I feel that the three hours of radio magic constituted anything in the way of deceptive and/or nefarious conduct… It was fun and it was innocent.”

Costa also argued that he was not engaging in payola, like “what that dickhead and no talent sports talk host, Sid Rosenberg, did at a station in Florida a short time back.”

And he added that other “Mad Dog Radio” talent like Scott Wetzel, as well as former “Howard 101” host Scott Ferrall, now with CBS Sports Radio, had regularly endorsed gambling websites on the air – gambling websites that they personally maintain – a practice Costa referred to as “self-payola.”

The irony is that Costa was suspended by SiriusXM on the final day of his contract with them; according to a listener, he had mentioned his contract ended in August – same time one Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s does. Regardless, and no matter how “fun” and “innocent” the bit was, the timing of his suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time. Could it be that SiriusXM was simply looking for a convenient way to sideline him, which would give them an excuse for not offering him a new contract?

In other words: The next time we hear him on the air, will it be on SiriusXM, or on “Mad Dog Radio” (if it’s still around at that point)?

“Like everything else at this point — it’s to be seen how it all shakes out in the wash.”

Meanwhile, it appears that Costa is indeed going to head to Sin City and cash in on that $3,500. He recalled his last words to Torre on Thursday were: “Steve, I gotta go; with this suspension, I now have more time to plan for my Las Vegas trip.

“I’ll leave Vegas with $3,500 in my hand and zero regrets as to how I procured this money.”

SiriusXM might have regrets on double-crossing him out of a new deal, though.

 

(For more, please read this article on Costa’s suspension from my SportsRantz colleague, Kevin Canessa, who I will admit knows way more about the host than I do.)

Are We In The Dog Days Of "Mad Dog Radio" On SiriusXM?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo could part ways with Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling (left) and the rest of his colleagues at SiriusXM Satellite Radio later this year. Russo is currently in the final year of a five-year contract that he signed in 2008.

The new year of 2013 is underway.

Also underway is the final year of a five-year contract that Chris Russo, better known in sports radio lore as “The Mad Dog,” signed with SiriusXM Satellite Radio back in the summer of 2008. To do so, of course, he had to part ways with WFAN in New York, and end an on-air friendship with Mike Francesa (with whom he’s still friends off the air).

Since the launch of the “Mad Dog Radio” channel in mid-November 2008, a number of on-air talent had left for other opportunities. Gary Williams left the morning show on MDR to join The Golf Channel’s new wake-up program, “Morning Drive,” with was then co-hosted by Erik Kuselias, who is now with NBC Sports. Williams’ replacement in 2011 was Jason Horowitz from SiriusXM’s NFL channel, but that was short-lived as Evan Cohen now co-hosts the MDR morning show alongside Steve Phillips, formerly with ESPN. And John Feinstein, who had been co-hosting the MDR midday show with Bruce Murray, departed to become the midday host at CBS Sports Radio. (For what it’s worth, Scott Ferrall, who had previously hosted a sports program on SiriusXM’s “Howard 101” channel – as in Howard Stern – also left to join CBSSR.)

It seems the only constants at the “Mad Dog Radio” channel have been Russo (naturally), who hosts the five-hour “Mad Dog Unleashed” show in afternoon drive; Murray; and evening host Dino Costa – and oh, by the way, his contract is going to be up at the end of the month. Costa foresees continuing to host a show on the SiriusXM platform, yet at the same time, he had some not-so-nice things to say about his boss, “Mad Dog” Russo.

While the fate of the “Mad Dog Radio” channel on SiriusXM won’t be known until this summer at the latest, whether or not Costa re-signs with MDR, or SiriusXM, could be a giant clue. He might choose to leave satellite radio – and Russo – and do his own thing. Maybe he’ll follow Feinstein and Ferrall to terrestrial radio, and any of the five sports radio networks that now exist.

Later this year, “Mad Dog” will be in the hot seat. Maybe he’ll go back to terrestrial radio, as well. There is the usual prediction that he will once again team up with his old buddy, Mike Francesa, who is actually doing quite well flying solo on ‘FAN.

But remember, the NBC Sports Radio network still has a few time slots to fill, as it will be broadcasting 24/7 on April 1. Unless they have someone else in mind to hand the vacant afternoon drive time slot to, “Mad Dog” should be a hot property.

The only downside of leaving SiriusXM for Russo is that he would no longer get the opportunity to be a guest DJ on E Street Radio, a music channel inspired by his idol, Bruce Springsteen.

Without Russo, and with or without Costa, “Mad Dog Radio” would likely continue as a sports talk channel on SiriusXM, albeit under a new name.

But when people take notice of the talent that have jumped ship, that can’t be good dogma for the channel.

UPDATE, 3.4.13: Of note: Adam Schein, a veteran of CBS Sports as well as the SNY regional network, has been hired as the channel’s new midday host. So what does this mean for previous midday host Bruce Murray?

Concussions, Linsanity And Tebowmania: Sports Media Journalists Look Back At 2012

In this scene from SNY’s “The Year In Review” of 2012, Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman takes the Post’s Phil Mushnick to school.

Christmas time means it’s almost the end of the year – and that means many year-end specials.

The regional sports network SNY has once again assembled a “Year In Sports” special for 2012, consisting in discussions of the biggest topics in the sports world not only in New York City, but nationally as well.

The local sports media panel consisted of Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, and Neil Best of New York Newsday, all of whom appeared on the 2011 edition of “The Year In Sports.” This year, the trio is joined by their counterpart from The New York Times, Ken Belson.

One of the topics discussed during the national window was the phenomenon that was Linsanity, when Jeremy Lin had led the Knicks for a remarkable stretch. He currently plays for the Houston Rockets – but the show’s moderator, Chris Carlin, asked if Linsanity would have even reached such heights if, say, Lin had never played in New York at all.

“Not one fan needed the media to tell you that that guy did something special to that team,” Mushnick contested. “No one had to read a paper, turn on the radio, watch TV, other than the [Knicks] game.”

“The beauty of the Linsanity story,” according to Best, “compared to Tebow, he actually did do something.”

In the same segment the brief Linsanity period in New York was discussed, the seemingly outgoing Tebowmania period in New York was also touched on.

“Jeremy Lin kind of came and went,” said Best. “The staying power of this Tebow story is amazing.”

“It’s driven by the media,” remarked Raissman on the media’s fixation with the Jets’ backup quarterback. “He’s not dressing, and they’re writing stories about him.”

Raissman also argued – as he has in past Daily News columns – that networks that covered Jets games this season showed more shots of Tebow on the sidelines than Jets players that are actually playing.

“We have to give this guy credit for the way he has handled this,” Best said, “because with this ridiculous spotlight on him, he has not wavered, not complained; he’s been accessible with the media.”

(By the way, not too long after the special was recorded, Tebow did kinda complain a bit.)

Also discussed by the New York sports media writers was the surreal year R.A. Dickey had for the New York Mets. “He’s a genuine character,” opined Belson. “He’ll stand at his locker and talk to you forever… You can’t help but like the guy.”

That did not seem to be the case when during the Mets’ Christmas party, he discussed his contract situation at length. “This guy was asked a question, and he gives what he always gives, an honest answer,” said Raissman. “It’s interesting to watch… the guy go from hero to bum.”

(Since the taping of the special, the Cy Young award winner has gone from New York to Toronto.)

The foursome also talked about the swift resolution of the Bernie Madoff situation involving the Mets; the future of the Yankees franchise if the team’s YES Network is sold to Fox magnate Rupert Murdoch (Raissman: “You look at everything Fox has gotten into and owns the majorityship: they’re not there to be sitting in the back of the bus; they’ll be driving the bus”); and the media’s role in the fate of the New York City Marathon after Hurricane Sandy crippled the city – and not one of them mentioned Mike Francesa – at least not in that discussion.

The locals were asked about the possibility of Francesa and his old WFAN on-air buddy, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, reuniting on the radio.

“I’m sure there’s a shot, but no,” answered Mushnick. “They’d be killing each other.”

Best affirmed that the two “do not hate each other,” they just “got sick of each other professionally.”

“Why pay them both the kind of money they’re making,” asked Raissman. “You think Francesa’s gonna give Dog part of his salary? The Pope would never do that… He’s doing his own thing with his ratings; [WFAN] don’t have to pay two guys.”

Best pointed out that Francesa could be retiring in 2014; Raissman suspects it’s a contract negotiation.

Best: “I think he’s serious about maybe walking away in 2014.”

Raissman: “Yeah, right… You’ll have to carry him out of that studio.”

The national panel consisted of Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, both making return appearances this year; plus panel newcomers Rachel Cohen from the Associated Press, and the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman. The latter had a strong opinion on the impact of concussions in the NFL.

“It’s the old journalism adage, you have to follow the money. This is cigarettes, this is asbestos, this is another big liability case, and how do those cases end? Usually, they end in really big settlements. And at some point, the NFL is probably, I think, going to have to write a very large check to a lot of people, and I don’t think it’s gonna be five years. If you let this thing drag out for five years, it’s going to be a big mistake.”

Deitsch argued that only something “catastrophic” such as “deaths on the field” would negatively impact the league. “It is a violent game; I think people have accepted that.”

When the current NHL lockout and whether or not it could be a death knell to the hockey league was brought up, after Carlin pointed out “ratings have gone down continually” before the lockout, Deitsch chimed in with: “Chris, there’s nothing more I love than hunting and fishing shows on the NBC Sports Network.” (NBCSN would be airing NHL games right about now, had there been no lockout.) Deitsch believes that viewership and attendance levels will be retained, but at “a far lower base than the NFL and the NBA,” it will take between two and four years.”

“The fans might forgive once,” Cohen argued, “I don’t know if they’ll forgive twice.”

Ourand suggested that the league consider contration in order to survive. “There’s value to having teams… in Florida and… in Phoenix,” Futterman replied, “but if you’re going to do that, you have to figure out a way to support them, because those teams can’t seem to support themselves.”

As was the case with the New York sports media panel, the red meat that is Tim Tebow was also thrown out to the national sports media panel.

Ourand: “He is such a fascinating character nationally, and polarizing. People just want to know what’s happening with him.”

Carlin: “Why is he so fascinating, especially this year when he hasn’t been on the field?”

Deitsch: “Well, he’s fascinating for [ESPN boss] John Skipper because no network has ridden Tebow harder than ESPN.”

And with social media playing a huge role in the Olympics – for viewers as a complaining device, mostly – Twitter’s existence vis a vis sports events was also discussed.

“Twitter is a game changer,” Deitsch said. “It’s become the water cooler conversation for sports fans… The fact is, we now live in a universe where the second screen is how we watch TV: first screen, we look at TV; second screen, we want to be social with our friends and family, and Twitter is among the best social emdia services you can have for sports.”

“It feels like the event’s over, and you gotta keep looking at your computer, and looking at your iPhone,” Futterman said, adding that “it can be a little frustrating” and “distracting” to the sports fan.

It can also be distracting for athletes, in a way. “Every time you put an athlete on Twitter, you give him another excuse not to grant you an interview,” Futterman argued. “And that’s my real problem with it… I think we empower it sometimes too much, in the sense that — I don’t need to talk to you, just follow my Twitter feed.”

Warned Ourand: “You do have to worry much more about what you put out there and what you tweet… But it’s changed the way people watch sports, period.”

Ourand also commented on the changing landscape of college sports, predicting that there will be “more realignment” in college football to the tune of “four 16-team conferences.”

Quoth Deitsch: “Money is driving this ship.”

Cohen: “It’s very obvious, they’re following the money.”

Futterman joked that eventually in college football, there will be “two conferences: one would be ESPN, and the other is Fox.” Yet he added: “They [schools] need the money. They gotta get it from somewhere, and TV seems to be the place where they’re going to get it.”

Members of both panels were asked to choose what they thought was their biggest stories or personalities of 2012, and what they think will be the biggest story in 2013 – but I won’t spoil it for you. (Okay, I’ll share one: Ourand says he’s looking forward to the launch of the new Fox Sports One cable network. “It’s the latest potential competitor to ESPN, and I’m dying to see what it looks like.”)

Catch the “Geico SportsNite: 2012: The Year In Sports” special when it re-airs for the remainder of the year on SNY. The special will be rebroadcast on SNY at the following dates and times: Thursday, December 20, 2 PM; Sunday, December 23, 3 PM; Wednesday, December 26, 7:30 PM; Saturday, December 29, 9 PM; and Tuesday, January 1, 2013 (New Year’s Day) at 12 Noon (all times Eastern).

AUDIO/VIDEO: Don Imus Joins Mike Francesa On WFAN’s 25th Anniversary Show

Don Imus appeared on WFAN for the first time since his firing in 2007, as Mike Francesa brought him in as part of the station's 25th anniversary special. Imus thanked Francesa for putting his "job on the line" in the wake of the comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team that led to his departure from WFAN, as well as MSNBC.

WFAN is celebrating is 25th anniversary. And Mike Francesa has long argued that it would not even have lasted 25 months, had it not been for the show that Don Imus hosted every morning.

So naturally, Francesa welcomed the longtime WFAN morning man, whom he referred to as “my old friend” and “the smartest man I ever knew”, on the program, because as Francesa told listeners on WFAN, as well as viewers on YES Network, “it would not be a 25th anniversary program without” him.

In his first appearance on the station since his controversial ouster five years ago – though his likeness was actually heard on their air back when the station commemmorated their 20th anniversary – Imus, speaking by telephone from New Mexico, began by joking, “I’m out at the ranch currently, trying to figure out how to breathe.”

Certainly, WFAN was able to breathe a little easier ever since the move from AM 1050 to the blowtorch at AM 660.

“Emmis Broadcasting, Jeff Smulyan, I guess he bought ‘NBC,” explained Imus, because ‘FAN had already been established on 1050… which you can’t hear, by the way, if you parked next to the transmitter in your car.”

A laughing Francesa, in perhaps a veiled swipe at his competitor, ESPN Radio, which up until April had only been heard on AM 1050, replied, “That’s true.”

Imus: “So that was moved over then, to where we were at 660, which is where you guys are now, which is one of the great signals in the history of broadcasting; at night, you can hear ‘FAN in 38 states.”

“And then, we inherited you,” Francesa said to Imus.

“At that point, the sports talk thing, which is a great idea – it was Smulyan’s idea, I believe – was not taking off [due to] a number of things; they didn’t have any great talent, I don’t think they did, I don’t want to disparage anybody; and then, they had a horrible signal [on 1050]. So by coming to 660, getting us, I think that’s some decent talent, and then along came you and Mad Dog…”

“And the thing took off,” Francesa added, “thanks to you.

“As I always told people, how do you start a sports talk station? I said, ‘go get Don Imus, that’s the way you start, and you take it from there’, because without you, it never would have got off the ground. You carried us for a long time before any of us figured it out.”

And just as he had told Chris “Mad Dog” Russo earlier, Francesa let it be known that Imus has not only greatly influenced WFAN, but the “Mike And The Mad Dog” show, as well.

“There wouldn’t be a Mike and the Mad Dog, or an ‘FAN, without you,” Francesa informed Imus. “You carried us for a long time before we kinda figured everything out, so this is all credit to you.

“It was a wonderful run that I will never forget, both the years with Dog – which I’ve tried to forget through the years as much as I possibly could – and obviously, the time with you.”

Francesa remembered how, on some days right before his show started, he would spend quality time with Imus in his office, “and someone would come down and talk to us, and we’d have him running down the hall within five minutes.”

“I was a horrible influence on you,” Imus recalled. To which Francesa countered, “You taught me everything I knew, as a matter of fact.

Francesa remembered one morning, in anticipation of WFAN’s move to 660, doing the sports updates for Don Imus’ WNBC-AM show. “You couldn’t have been worse to me if –”

Imus: “That’s not true.”

“You were terrible to me that day.”

“That’s just lies.”

“Oh, you were throwing your gum at me and stuff –”

“That was a form of affection; it had to be.”

“And then after that, you learned to love me, so it’s unbelievable.”

Francesa also reminisced about when he started filling in for the precursor to “Mike And The Mad Dog” on WFAN, Pete Franklin. Imus immediately jumped in with a “Brief Franklin” crack – he had been on the air for about as long as WFAN was on 1050 – then added, “What a psycho.”

Imus then shared what may have been the weirdest moment during his tenure at WFAN – a moment that turned out to be an inpatient stay.

“[Mark] Chernoff was reminding me that one time… at ‘FAN, my lung collapsed when I was on the air.”

Francesa: “Is that true?”

“Yeah. So I’m doing the show, and Bernie and Lou are making fun of me, because I’m gasping for air… I didn’t know what it was… [Joel] Hollander and Chernoff take me to the hospital for a collapsed lung… Long story short, I had to have a lung operation, which was horrible… So Chernoff and Hollander would come see me all the time, they were great… They come over to see me, and they had moved me to another room for some reason. So they go in the room, the beds were all made up. I thought I was dead.”

“No,” Francesa advised Imus, “you got it wrong, they were hoping you were dead… after what you put them through.”

Imus: “They got me on the days I wasn’t drinking and doing drugs.”

Francesa told Imus that he remembered when “Imus In The Morning” emanated right from Imus’ hospital bed. “You went in, got your lung done, and you didn’t miss one show the whole time,” an amazed Francesa remarked. “I think you did a show from the operating room one morning.”

In closing, Imus had heartfelt words for Francesa: “I’ll always appreciate, for the rest of my life, the loyalty of both you and certainly Chernoff, and by the way, Mad Dog… You guys are very standup guys. A lot of people don’t know that you actually put your job on the line and tried to save mine, and I really appreciate it. It all worked out fine and God bless you.”

In April 2007, after WFAN had fired Don Imus as a result of the backlash following his infamous “nappy headed hos” comment, the station had been placing various substitute hosts in morning drive for several months – for the first two weeks of this period, it was none other than Mike and the Mad Dog, who had actually done both the morning shift and their regular afternoon drive program on WFAN later in the day. And while Imus had been dismissed by WFAN and MSNBC, the program was still being syndicated via Westwood One for a short time thereafter, so some listeners across the country – that is, those who didn’t jump ship when Imus got the ax – got to hear “Mike and the Mad Dog” in Imus’ old timeslot – on Imus’ old affiliates.

And while Imus returned to national radio via Citadel (since acquired by Cumulus last year), WFAN is thriving in morning drive with “Boomer And Carton.”

So when Don Imus tells Mike Francesa, “it all worked out fine,” it has – on both sides.

The final words of Don Imus on WFAN on their 25th anniversary, five years after being fired from the station: “May the ‘Fan have 25 more.”

(Click here to watch video of Mike Francesa’s interview with Don Imus from the WFAN 25th anniversary show.)

(Click here to download Mike Francesa’s interview with Don Imus from the WFAN 25th anniversary show.)

AUDIO: Chris Russo Joins Mike Francesa On WFAN's 25th Anniversary Show

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo joined his former radio colleague Mike Francesa on WFAN's 25th anniversary show. The duo ruled afternoon drive during their radio run, which lasted just short of nineteen years.

The last time Mike Francesa and Chris Russo got together was at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis earlier this year. From that appearance, it was as if the afternoon drive show they hosted for nearly two decades on WFAN/New York, “Mike And The Mad Dog,” was still going strong. Their chemistry is that strong.

So, of course, when Russo appeared on a special six-hour Francesa program commemmorating the 25th anniversary of WFAN signing on the air, the two naturally picked up right where they left off.

“Dog and I have actually been apart since August of ’08, but it’s almost like you can flip a switch and start over,” Francesa told WFAN listeners, as well as viewers on YES Network.

“It’s amazing,” Russo affirmed.

Russo spent nearly an hour on Francesa’s program, as he and Francesa reminisced about their long-running WFAN show, which aired from the 5th of September, 1989, through the 5th of August, 2008. None of these years more impactful than year one.

“Our lives changed dramatically that first year,” Francesa told Russo.

“Mike And The Mad Dog” would also impact WFAN in many positive ways – billing being an important one – even though the vibe on the air may have been negative at times.

Said Russo: “I think the first time the fans sort of acknowledged the fact that they liked what they were hearing, it gave us, ‘You know what? If we’re making money, let’s not moan and groan about this. Let’s make it as good as we possibly can’.”

Russo also argued that “Mike And The Mad Dog” had benefitted from local sports teams performing well – especially since, once upon a time, WFAN was the only game in town when it came to radio play-by-play for most teams. There would be no ESPN Radio in New York until Francesa and Russo had their dozenth year in the bag.

“‘FAN became the place to go, because you had all the games on.”

In its inception, WFAN had been broadcasting on AM 1050. Then, NBC put WNBC-AM, along with their entire NBC Radio repertiore on the block. Emmis made an offer, and the rest is history.

“The turn right in the beginning, from changing the station to 660, inheriting Don there, and then having Mike And The Mad dog take off” were the three key variables that Francesa believed contributed to the start of WFAN’s success – “Don,” of course, being Don Imus, a holdover from WNBC-Am.

“Him getting there in ’88 was huge,” Russo said of Imus, “and the switch to 660, too…”

Even though Imus, and Russo, have long since moved on from WFAN, Francesa remarked that both of them will be a part of WFAN’s legacy – even though Imus has set up shop with another radio station and syndicator, and Russo is on SiriusXM Satellite Radio with his own channel bearing his likeness.

“You deserve a tremendous amount of credit,” Francesa said to Russo. “You were an enormous part of this station’s success, and that will never, ever change. This is always home to you, and it always will be.”

While it’s obvious that WFAN was the pioneer in sports radio, it’s amazing just thinking about the head start the station had on the landscape as we know it today (and with two new networks launching this fall, it keeps getting bigger).

“Look at everything out there,” Francesa advised Russo. “There’s so much there that wasn’t there when you and I started. I mean, we pretty much had the first ten years to ourselves… It was pretty much you and me, and that was it.”

“No competition,” Russo responded.

So when will Mike and the “Mad Dog” be together again next? Will it be for WFAN’s 30th anniversary?

If the baseball gods have their way, we may not have to wait that long.”

As he ended his call with Russo, Francesa promised him: “If the Giants and the Yankees make the World Series… we’ll do a show together.”

Now that would be a home run.

Not as deep a home run as WFAN hit on the 1st of July, 25 years ago.

(Click here to download the third hour of WFAN’s 25th anniversary show, which includes all three segments of Russo’s appearance in their entirety. Also appearing on this audio file are former WFAN program director Mark Mason, and three people who had previously produced “Mike And The Mad Dog”: Bob Gelb, Chris Carlin, and Marc Malusis.)

Quarter Flash: WFAN – And Sports Radio – At 25

New York's WFAN, the first 24-hour sports radio station in the country, celebrates its 25th anniversary on July 1. Shown is a billboard from the early '90's, featuring caricatures of the station's iconic morning host, Don Imus, and afternoon duo, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.

July 1, 1987. 2:55 PM. Disc jockey Dan Taylor was wrapping up not only the country format that had been on AM 1050 for fourteen years, but the WHN callsign that had graced the frequency for 51 of the previous 65 years. In doing so, Taylor wished new station owner Emmis Broadcasting luck with the new format that would be heard on the frequency at the top of the hour: sports talk radio, with the new call letters WFAN. He called the new project “very ambitious” – twice in a six-second period, in fact.

It was in February of 1986 that Emmis Broadcasting – known since 1998 as Emmis Communications – purchased WHN, along with two other stations in New York and Washington, D.C., from Doubleday Broadcasting, who had only purchased WHN two years prior from Mutual Broadcasting. 1986 would prove to be a very hectic year for Doubleday Enterprises, which purchased the New York Mets earlier in the decade: not only would their book publishing practice be sold to Bertelsmann, but the Mets would go on to win the World Series. Coincidentally, the flagship station of the Mets at the time was WHN, which under Emmis’ watch, had added sports talk programming in the evenings. Not necessarily as an accomplice to Mets broadcasts, or to offset nights when the Mets were not playing.

Emmis founder Jeff Smulyan had believed in the concept of a 24-hour sports radio station, going back to his childhood days. “This one,” he says of the format idea, “was my baby.”

And he thought AM 1050, which, according to New York Daily News media columnist David Hinckley, Emmis “had to take as part of the deal” with Doubleday to acquire two FM stations, WAPP (now WKTU) in New York and WAVA in Washington, would be the perfect breeding ground for that “baby” of his.

So in early 1987, Smulyan, along with three future presidents, if you will – two top company executives, Doyle Rose, who would become president of Emmis’ radio division the very next year, and hold that title for over two decades, and Steven Crane, a good friend of Smulyan’s (I’d use the term “BFF” but it didn’t exist back in 1987) who would later become president of Emmis International; as well as company sales manager Joel Hollander, who, after a future stint as VP/GM of WFAN, would become the president of future WFAN owner CBS Radio for what would turn out to be five tumultuous years in the ’00’s – convened in a coffee shop in Manhattan to discuss the future of the 1050 frequency.

“We felt there was no future in country music on AM,” said Smulyan in a conference call telephone interview with radio trade publication Radio Ink.

Of course, we would find out over the course of the next quarter-century that, not only was there no future in any music format on AM in general, but the future of spoken word formats, which once dominated the AM band, would be joining, if not replacing, music formats on the FM band in leaps and bounds.

Including the sports talk radio format that Smulyan believed in – but most of his peers back in 1987 did not.

“We had a managers meeting,” Smulyan recalled. “It was sort of overwhelmingly voted down.”

Rick Cummings, who served under the title of National Program Director for Emmis back in 1987 – and would eventually succeed Rose as the president of Emmis’ radio division in 2002 – was with Smulyan on that conference call and remembered his exact statement on the concept of 24-hour sports talk radio: “It’ll never work.”

Indeed, Cummings was pessimistic that there would be little demand for an all-sports station in two of the most important facets of radio. “From an operational standpoint, it was going to be extremely expensive to do,” said Cummings, who also thought that “from a ratings standpoint,” sports radio would be as equally harrowing to launch as “a music station.” He also recalled how research failed to dictate the need for a sports radio station at the time.

The day after that managers meeting, according to Smulyan, he received some apologies from Cummings and Rose – with a side of approval.

“We feel bad for you. We feel like we owe you one. It’s still a stupid idea. But let’s do it.”

And so, they did.

At 3 PM on July 1, 1987. Right after the final record on WHN played, Ray Price’s “For The Good Times.”

While the good times would eventually roll for WFAN as a sports station, it was not so much in its initial year of existence. “It was a struggle,” Smulyan said, who reminisced about hearing the first several days of the first sports radio station in the country, while vacationing with his family in the Hamptons for the Fourth of July holiday. “For the first year, it was really pretty dead.”

As much as it may have been a struggle to hear WFAN’s first weeks on the air, it was equally a struggle to sell the format to advertisers. Smulyan remembered sampling commercial breaks on WFAN in the fall of 1987 and “hearing a particularly marginal spot for do-it-yourself funerals or wills… We ran it every twelve minutes.” That would lead Smulyan to tell the general manager of WFAN at the time, Stewart Lane, “Gosh, I don’t know how much they’re paying us for that spot, but it’s not enough.” (In other words, it was an episode of “WKRP In Cincinnati” come to life.)

The early talent pool on WFAN was modest. Greg Gumbel was their first morning drive host, while Jim Lampley, who hosted the very first sports talk program on WFAN on the afternoon of July 1, 1987, eventually migrated to middays to make way for Pete Franklin. Smulyan remembers bringing Franklin, whom he labeled “probably the most iconic sports host in America,” in from Cleveland, where he had hosted the popular “Sportsline” program every afternoon for fifteen years on WWWE, nicknamed “3WE” (these days, going by the callsign WTAM). He agreed to a two-year deal to duplicate his success in afternoon drive in Market No. 1.

“Pete laid one of the giant eggs of all time in New York City,” recalled Smulyan. “He was awful.” (Dare I say it, real life radio in New York City imitating yet another episode of the fictitious “WKRP.”)

WFAN’s loss in Franklin, who quit with a few months remaining on his contract, would result in their pivotal gain in “Mike And The Mad Dog,” the quintessential New York sports talk show that would be WFAN’s benchmark for nearly two decades. And while Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left for satellite radio, Mike Francesa still holds down afternoons to this day – though the two cross paths every now and then.

Cummings described the early years of “Mike And The Mad Dog” as “pretty significant failure in the first year to pretty quick success after that.” A turnaround, more or less, mirroring WFAN’s financial status from their first year, in which they lost as much as $4 million, according to Cummings. In fact, he commended Francesa and Russo for “influencing advertising buys” on the station, contributing to the first phases of their financial success with the format.

And while Smulyan credited Francesa and Russo for “clearly” contributing to the station’s identity, “Imus gave that station tremendous, tremendous credibility.”

And it was an equally tremendous transaction in 1988 – Emmis’ purchase of 66 WNBC-AM from NBC, upon General Electric’s acquisition of NBC – that not only gave WFAN a more powerful signal at 660 AM, but would grant them their new morning host in Don Imus, whom Smulyan admitted coveting even before WFAN launched in 1987, as his program, which had been heard on WNBC-AM, shared the same 35-54 male demographic as WFAN’s all-sports format (“he owned that demographic”).

Smulyan called the Don Imus era on WFAN “the perfect marriage, even though Imus didn’t spent most of the time talking about sports.”

Of course, there was that controversial moment in the spring of 2007 when Imus, in making an effort to talk sports – specifically, the Rutgers women’s basketball team – used a poor choice of wording which resulted in defamation, and eventually, the end of his tenure at WFAN. But much like the successors of Pete Franklin, whose hire in and of itself was a poor choice, CBS seems to be satisfied with the successors to Imus in the morning, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.

WFAN would discover many notable names over its first twenty-five years on the air: Mike Breen, Scott Ferrall, Chris Carlin and Linda Cohn, just to name a few. Many of these folks would eventually move on to other opportunities – or, in the case of Gregg Giannotti and Adam Gerstenhaber, a.k.a. “Adam The Bull,” other brand new sports radio stations that CBS Radio would be launching in other markets. And any host, guest host, or “20/20 Sports” update anchor could tell you that they were grateful for the opportunities that they had at WFAN. (Okay – almost everybody.)

As the innovator of the sports radio format, WFAN was never afraid to try new things. The “20/20 Sports” updates, given every twenty minutes at twenty-minute increments of the hour, would be the device that WFAN would use to deliver sports news and information to listeners. It was inspired, according to Smulyan, by the wildly popular success of SportsPhone, which dispensed up-to-the-minute sports scores to callers in less than a minute. With the advent of the Internet, the evolution of how people get sports scores has altered dramatically – and thanks to consolidation and other financial factors, the sports anchor on a TV newscast is slowly becoming a thing of the past. And while ESPN Radio, the leading national sports radio network, has all but phased out full-time sports update anchors (example: Mike and Mike reading sports scores), that position still exists at WFAN.

In its infancy, WFAN would integrate radio calls of “great moments in sports” into their legal ID’s. Prior to the first voice heard on WFAN, Suzyn Waldman – who is currently the color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts alongside John Sterling – cracked that mic and said, “Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first broadcast of WFAN, all-sports 1050. You’re sharing a part of radio history with us today. This is the beginning of the first 24-hour-a-day sports station,” WFAN would play a legal ID spotlighting the New York Jets winning Super Bowl III.

“That was a great idea,” Cummings said of playing classic sports calls at the top of the hour, “that worn out in about the first 48 hours.”

“And I still thought it was the best idea of all time,” countered Smulyan.

While that legal ID idea might be tacky in retrospect, the concept of sports radio, while frowned upon 25 years ago, is certainly paying dividends in 2012 – a year that will see the creation of two new national sports radio networks to go along with the three preexisting major national sports radio networks, led by ESPN Radio and its 600+ affiliates.

In fact, over the last decade, the number of sports radio stations across the country has dramatically grown, with a figure of 634 recorded in 2010. When you factor in ESPN’s current tally of over 600 stations, Fox Sports Radio’s 400+, over 150 for Yahoo! Sports Radio, dozens involved with the new CBS Sports Radio, and some who will carry NBC Sports Radio Network programming, even if stations in this mix jump from one sports radio provider to another, you’re looking at over 1,000 radio stations dedicated to the sports radio format.

Quite a far cry from just one twenty-five years ago.

And WFAN’s finances, which bled $4 million in its first year on the air, is nothing to laugh at these days. In fact, they are a billing heavyweight, consistently ranking in the top ten billing radio stations in New York City, if not the entire United States, for years. And per advertising research firm BIA/Kelsey, for the first quarter of this year – perhaps enabled by another Super Bowl season for the New York Giants, whom have called WFAN home since the turn of the millennium – the station ranked number one in billing for all New York radio stations.

Mind you, not one penny of that revenue comes from a “do-it-yourself funeral” chain these days.

The secret to WFAN’s success is anything but a secret, what with hundreds of radio stations (and networks, it seems) aping their approach. But the winning formula, Smulyan says, is “information” – consisting of the aforementioned “20/20 Sports” updates and breaking sports news – and “entertainment” – knowledgeable, friendly hosts discussing sports news with guests and/or listeners. It’s a formula that CBS Radio has adhered to since purchasing WFAN from Emmis in 1992 for $75 million.

Aside from that formula, there are three on-air constants that remain on WFAN since they signed on in 1987: Steve Somers, the Fan’s original overnight host, who now handles the evening daypart; the ’80’s-era imaging on the station; and of course, play-by-play of the baseball team that they inherited from the country days as WHN, the New York Mets.

Of course, that relationship might come to an end after this year. And how ironic would it be if the first voice on WFAN would be heard every day on the station by way of Yankees broadcasts, 25 years after the fact? Now that would be quite a homecoming.

And it will be a homecoming for some of the people who have called WFAN home over the last twenty-five years, as Dave Sims (who currently calls “Sunday Night Football” radio broadcasts, as well as Seattle Mariners play-by-play on TV), Len Berman (longtime WNBC-TV sports anchor who once co-hosted a show on WFAN in the ’90’s with Daily News columnist, and current afternoon host on rival ESPN 98.7, Mike Lupica) and Spencer Ross (one of the original WFAN hosts), among others, will return to the airwaves of The FAN on July 1, where they will reflect on the station’s past, and perhaps revert to their previous roles and talk present-day sports. In addition, Somers will host a four-hour program on the afternoon of Saturday, June 30, and the day before that, Francesa will host a special six-hour show (not necessarily unprecedented since his regular shift is five-and-a-half hours) commemmorating the station’s 25th anniversary.

WFAN will be able to spend that time, and more, during afternoon hours on WFAN’s anniversary weekend, since the Mets will be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers. And how’s this for another twist of irony: On the weekend that WFAN turns 25, the baseball team that they currently hold broadcast rights to, the New York Mets, will be playing a franchise that, up until 1957, played in Brooklyn – and whose games were heard for nearly twenty years on AM 1050.

Who knew that, some three decades after the Bums packed up the truck and moved to Beverly, a 24-hour sports radio station, with the Mets, and more – the first of what would be a multiplying breed – would unfold on that frequency.

“When we put ‘FAN on the air, people thought we were nuts.”

Twenty-five years later, everybody – from programmers, to advertisers, and of course, the fans – is crazy about sports radio.

And not just Jeff Smulyan.

Happy 25th birthday to his baby.

(Click here to read a timeline of WFAN’s first 25 years via their website. Note: CBS Radio websites tend to get all Drudge-y and refresh every five minutes.)

There Will Be No Tebow Time To Kickoff The 2012-13 Season On NBC

We won't know until April at the latest when the next installment of the budding rivalry between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow will take place. And while the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Giants, there's still a good chance that they can open their season with the Broncos on NBC.

Regardless of the Broncos’ exit from the 2011-12 NFL playoffs, Tim Tebow has been a force to be reckoned with.

That was evident back in late December, when CBS and NBC fought tooth and nail (actually, “nail” may not be the best term to use when you’re writing about Tim Tebow) over who would air a regular season Broncos/Patriots matchup.

Even after the Patriots sent the Broncos packing in the playoffs, CBS expressed interest in having Tebow on their “NFL Today” pre-AFC Championship Game edition (he respectfully declined).

Then there’s the Super Bowl – and no, I’m not talking about the week leading up to it (though there is a mind-blowing update on that). How, you ask, could Tebow be a factor in the Super Bowl, which aired on NBC?

It has to do with who the eventual winner would be hosting on the Thursday following Labor Day – which will air on NBC.

And it’s all contingent on which team prevailed, based on their schedules.

On January 2, right after the conclusion of the regular season, the NFL released each team’s lists of opponents for the season ahead, home and away, based on records, but not the actual schedules – that will happen in April on a date to be determined.

Looking at the Broncos’ schedule, aside from the usual AFC West suspects, four of the other five teams they are scheduled to play on the road made the playoffs this year – Atlanta and Cincinnati, both Wild Card round exits, and both teams that just happened to play in this year’s AFC Championship Game, New England and Baltimore.

Indeed, the NFC division that Denver plays this year is the NFC South, including a home game against the Saints. Which means they would not play the Giants next year, especially on “kickoff” night, should the Giants win the Super Bowl – which they did.

So in order for NBC to start the 2012-13 season with some “Tebow Time,” they would have to be pulling for the Patriots to prevail – which they did not.

Granted, NBC might be happier that the Giants won: their home opponents for the 2012-13 season include New Orleans and Green Bay. Given how the Giants eliminated the Packers en route to their fourth Lombardi trophy, combined with the Saints traveling to Green Bay for the previous season’s Thursday night “kickoff” game, all signs point to the Packers opening the season in New Jersey on September 6.

But it will be a virtual lock that NBC ends up with at least one regular season Broncos game next season. The Broncos games that may likely be scheduled for primetime starts are home games against New Orleans and San Diego, as well as Pittsburgh, whom the Broncos eliminated in this year’s playoffs, and road contests at San Diego, Baltimore and New England.

You have to wonder if Robert Kraft is calling dibs on CBS’ behalf for the Patriots/Broncos game a second straight year.

But it would only be fair if the NFL scheduled that game on a Sunday night on NBC. Especially given CBS aired the previous two go-rounds, including a Saturday night playoff game.

It would only be fair if the Broncos’ third matchup with the Patriots in just the fifteenth game of the Tim Tebow era, was the marquee matinee for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” franchise for the 2012-13 season.

You would think CBS wouldn’t mind: with commitments to U.S. Open Tennis, FOX traditionally has a doubleheader in Week 1, anyway.

Perhaps the league can pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and schedule the game on ESPN or even their own NFL Network. But such a matchup with tremendous appeal is just too big for cable.

It’ll be interesting to learn where the Denver at New England game ends up in two months (or perhaps sooner; the league has been known to release schedule details for a handful of juicy matchups a few weeks prior to the release of the full schedule).

But make no mistake: NBC will get their share of Tebow Time yet.

Even if it doesn’t “kickoff” the new football season.

Just 212 days left.