Erin Andrews "Exhausted" With Tebowmania: "ESPN's Really Fascinated By Him"

Erin Andrews tells Rich Eisen she's "exhausted" with all of the coverage Jets second-string quarterback Tim Tebow has been receiving. "ESPN's really fascinated by him," says the former ESPN personality, now working with Fox Sports. Watch Andrews on the debut of "Fox College Saturday" this weekend.

Calling out ESPN for way too much Tebow Time? That’s fightin’ words.

Especially when they come from a former employee.

That would be Erin Andrews, who left the Worldwide Leader after nine years for greener pastures at Fox Sports. She was the inaugural guest on the new season of “The Rich Eisen Podcast“, and among many of the subjects during her conversation with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen – himself a one-time ESPN personality, for about as long as Andrews – the world-famous second-string quarterback Tim Tebow came up.

“ESPN’s really fascinated by him,” Andrews said. “I think the cameras are always on him, aren’t they? It’s like, Tebow holds the door open for someone — ‘BREAKING NEWS: Holds The Door Open For An Old Woman’.”

Andrews questioned how worthy Tebow is of all the coverage he’s receiving, when the fact of the matter is, he’s the second-string quarterback on a team where both he and primary quarterback Mark Sanchez failed to find the end zone in the preseason. “How much impact is he really gonna have?,” she asked. “If it’s not the last name on the back of the jersey, would we care anywhere else? I’m just confu — I don’t know… He’s a backup quarterback. I just don’t understand.”

“It’s exhausting,” she continued. “And I know we’re supposed to love it in the media, but after awhile, it’s just like, ‘Okay, can you just play without all the hype, and this drama around him, and you know, what’s Tebow doing today’ — just go play the game. I get a little exhausted with it.”

She did say that she was “proud” to have covered Tebow’s college days at her alma mater, Florida. Despite that, “what else is there about Tebow that we need to know about?”

“You tell me,” Eisen countered. “You’re the Gator.”

Eisen admitted that while NFL Network has “our fixation” with Tebow, “we didn’t send our signature show there. Like, they sent “SportsCenter” to Cortland, New York” [site of Jets training camp].

Meanwhile, Andrews did have nice things to say about her former ESPN colleague Chris Fowler – in fact, she enjoyed working with him on “College Gameday” so much, she says, that it was “really hard” to make the decision to leave for Fox. “He’s insane good,” Andrews raved. “I don’t think the guy gets enough credit.”

Eisen himself must miss the Worldwide Leader. He admitted to Andrews that around six months into his NFL Network tenure, he once came back from a commercial break on “NFL Total Access” by telling viewers, “Welcome back to ‘SportsCenter’.”

If you want to hear Andrews’ appearance on the podcast – and we know you’ll want to do that now that it has to do with Tim Tebow – click here. The Andrews interview begins at around 17:00; the Tebow talk starts at around the 25:00 mark.

And be sure to watch the video version of this podcast Thursday on NFL Network.

20 Years After: The Olympics Triplecast

It's the twentieth anniversary of the Summer Olympics in Barcelona - and that means it's been twenty years since NBC launched the ill-fated "Olympics Triplecast" concept. The pay-per-view package offered three channels ("red," "white" and "blue") of live content for $95-$170.

It seemed like a revolutionary idea in 1992.

It proved to be one of the biggest cable television turkeys of the 20th century.

And considering cable television existed for only a quarter of the 20th century, that’s saying a lot.

Once upon a time, back in the spring of 1992, as NBC executives were brainstorming ways to bring viewers a unique and unprecedented way to experience the upcoming Summer Olympics in Barcelona – ways that would serve to offset some of the vast funds that NBC has committed for broadcast rights of the Olympic Games, costs that shattered their own previous record to carry the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul – they decided on a pay-per-view package that would deliver live, commercial-free coverage of the Olympics via three cable channels. NBC would partner with cable giant Cablevision on this venture, which meant they would split any profits it made, and assume half of its total losses.

And they knew going into the lighting of the torch that the Olympics Triplecast was not going to be a success from the getgo.

“We’ve never expected [to] break even,” said Tom Rogers, then-president of NBC Cable (currently the president/CEO of TiVo) back in May 1992, months before the opening ceremonies bowed in Barcelona. “We’re hoping to do more than the [1.45 million] who bought the [April 1991] Holyfield/Foreman fight.”

“This was never designed to make a killing,” Marty Lafferty, then-VP of Olympics PPV at NBC (currently a programming consultant for digital distribution service GenosTV) was also quoted as saying at around the same time.

As for the apparent mastermind of this venture, then-Cablevision president Charles Dolan, he had this to say as the launch of the Olympics Triplecast drew one month closer: “We might lose our shirts.”

The end result: The Olympics Triplecast ended up taking NBC and Cablevision to the cleaners, to the tune of an estimated $100 million – or roughly the same margin that surpassed NBC’s $300 million bid to air the Seoul Olympics.

And it cost an additional $100 million to operate and promote the Triplecast – and even promotion of the pay-per-view event was flawed in that several NBC affiliates chose not to advertise it, citing it as competition to their own over-the-air Olympics broadcasts.

Advanced sales of aptly-themed Olympics Triplecast packages – a $95 “bronze” package for limited action; a $125 “silver” package for complete action; and a $170 “gold” package for that and glorified souvenirs short of a T-shirt that reads “I bought the Olympics Triplecast, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” – were virtually non-existent.

“I think people just weren’t ready for it,” New York Times television sports and sports business journalist Richard Sandomir told me via telephone. “The idea that there wasn’t enough time on the broadcast network for all the programming… was somewhat ahead of its time. It was just done in the wrong way, at too high a price.”

Charles Dolan’s son, James, who at the time was vice president of Cablevision (and is currently the entity’s president/CEO), and who had been appointed executive in charge of the venture, had come up with a new $29.95 single-day viewing option, in response to the lackluster advanced package sales he had been seeing in the spring of 1992. He stressed the usefulness of the $29.95 option as he guaranteed “four or five super days that could generate in very high buy rates.”

It’s amazing to see Dolans change their tune over the course of a couple of months. In June of 1992, James Dolan virtually contradicted his own father, vowing: “I think this is going to make money.”

In August of 1992, as the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, as well as the Olympics Triplecast, drew to a close, Charles Dolan admitted: “The public didn’t find enough incremental value for the Triplecast over what they could find at NBC.”

He was also optimistic that the $29.95 one-day viewing pass, which many cable systems along for the Triplecast ride had largely sought, would potentially lead subscribers into eventually shelling out for “the $125 package” (I guess “the gold” was off the table at this point). “That’s how we rationalized it,” he said with days remaining in the Triplecast phase. “There was a lot of rationalization.”

At that point, the $29.95 option was slashed to $19.95, further illustrating a fallout in finding buyers. Yet even then, the elder Dolan “did not think it would do much.”

In short: “We were wrong… We blew it from an economic point of view… I blame myself for all of this.”

NBC even resorted to airing select hours of Triplecast coverage over CNBC, albeit with no audio. There’s even a report that “some cable systems [would] show the Triplecast channels for about five minutes before scrambling the signal, hoping to entice viewers to buy it.”

And in the end, after NBC originally anticipated as many as 2.8 million households springing for the Olympics Triplecast, while executives with the venture later estimated a more down-to-earth figure of 250,000, the actual total number of people who purchased it was around 200,000 – that figure according to Sandomir, who following our conversation wrote his own item on the 20th anniversary of the Olympics Triplecast, which you are encouraged to read.

So why the steep price tags for the “silver” and “gold” packages? Why not mark down the $125 package by $50 or more, when they’re able to offer $29.95 single-day passes that themselves ended up being marked down? To do so would have besmirched the many advertisers of the Olympics coverage on NBC – mind you, the “Olympics Singlecast” – and thus may have impacted their exposure on the Peacock Network during the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Even if the entire package was offered for $29.95, Sandomir thinks there would have been “a lot more buyers” – but at the same time, “they would have lost a lot more money.” Never mind the potential besmirchment from NBC advertisers: compared to today, cable television was more or less still in its infancy in 1992.

“Pay-per-view was relatively new back then,” recalled Sandomir, who added that it was “astonishing” that NBC and Cablevision expected people to pay “triple digits” for such an event at that point in time. “People couldn’t wrap their hands around it, because it was too expensive.

“Even at $29.95, that’s a lot for one day… There was just nothing that could make [the Olympics Triplecast] seem like a bargain.”

As for maintenance of the Triplecast project, would assigning another person to oversee it have made a difference? It’s a mere blemish on the otherwise revered tenure of Dick Ebersol as president and eventual chairman of NBC Sports. “I don’t think he was ever much of a proponent of it,” Sandomir said. “He backed away from it, and let Jim Dolan be the frontman, which probably wasn’t the best of ideas.”

Knowing that Cablevision was, as Sandomir says, “operating in the dark,” with a $50 million net loss that Charles Dolan admitted in August of 1992 that Cablevision was “prepared from the start to lose,” Sandomir suggests that Dolan could have easily shot down any “grandiose” ideas that sounded far too unrealistic to the consumer.

Since that broadcasting blunder in Barcelona, NBC eventually arranged for live Olympics coverage to air on its cable networks such as CNBC and MSNBC, as well as cablers that would eventually come into the NBC Universal fold, such as USA Network and Bravo. And it’s been generating more advertising revenue than dependence on individual viewers to pony up the cash.

Sandomir observed that NBC, which went it alone in covering the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, chose to wait until the right time to expand to other networks. “The idea was that whoever was going to get the Olympic rights was going to have to wait for their cable networks to mature.”

Fast forward to 2012, and NBC now has its own dedicated cable network devoted to sports. And for this year’s Summer Olympics in London, NBC Sports Network is planning to broadcast more than 300 hours of coverage, which is a small fragment of the upwards of 5,500 hours of coverage of London that will air on NBC’s many networks and platforms, which include a 3-D outlet, and the release of the brand new NBC Olympics Live Extra smartphone app, which is only available to current cable/satellite subscribers.

When you compare 1992 to 2012, you can consider the Olympics Triplecast as somewhat of a learning experience, not only for NBC, but for Cablevision. Regardless of how young the concept of pay-per-view was at the time, no matter how many offers they made (viewing privileges for one day rolled back to $19.99 from $29.99) and no matter how many pleas were made (sampling the Triplecast on a “free” cable outlet like CNBC), subscribers were just not buying what they were selling.

Now, with several cable channels at NBC’s service, channels that are widely available on many cable carriers, they’re free to offer more coverage to viewers that they can shake a javelin at. And if CNBC and MSNBC are benefitting from the Olympics, imagine how much of an increase in ratings NBC Sports Network can experience this year.

Twenty years ago, NBC had an Olympics Triplecast consisting of three pay-per-view channels, whose total number of subscribers, either for a one-day pass or any of the “gold,” “silver” or “bronze” packages, probably couldn’t equal even the smallest service area for a major cable company.

This year, NBC has an Olympics multicast – and viewers don’t have to pay a single dime to catch a single dive.

Suffice it to say, NBC has learned its lesson from the debacle that was the Olympics Triplecast.

But is it really fair to label it a debacle?

“You can’t say that it was a bad idea to offer something more than what NBC was doing,” Sandomir argued.

In June of 1992, Tom Rogers had faith in the demand for the Olympics Triplecast. “People aren’t laughing at this product. They’re saying, ‘I can see how it will change watching the Olympics’.”

In 2012, we recognize how the Olympics Triplecast laid down the groundwork for an innovative Olympics viewing experience – as we curb our laughter.

(Attempts to contact Mr. Rogers and Mr. Lafferty at their current respective positions for comments were not successful.)

Tony Romo Puts Down NFL Network's "Top 100 Players" Lists – On NFL Network

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo responded to his finishing 91st on the network's most recent "Top 100 Players" list. "I don't even put my stock into any of that stuff," said Romo, who likened the list to "a couple of guys (that) throw numbers around." Peyton Manning also made this year's list at No. 50, despite being inactive the previous season.

Since 2010, NFL Network has been presenting an annual ten-part special based on a list of the “Top 100 Players” according to votes from active NFL players. The yearly foray into discovering which NFL players are the best based on their peers doubles as multiple programming content opportunities for NFLN, mostly during the period between the NFL Draft and the start of training camps. For instance, while a “Top 100” countdown is in progress during the ten-week period, you’ll notice that the “NFL Total Access” crew will devote a segment or two to the list, either speculating how high a player would rank or how many players at a particular position would make the list, or reaction to the player rankings unveiled in the most recent installment.

You can bet your bottom dollar that “NFL AM,” the network’s new morning show which debuts in one week, will be in full swing debating the “Top 100 Players Of 2013” list next spring.

And has anyone noticed how each year, right after the countdown wraps up in late June or early July, there’s an all-day “Top 100 Players” marathon on the Fourth of July?

Like I said: multiple programming content opportunities.

Opportunities that even arise weeks after the complete list has been revealed.

On Friday, July 20, “NFL Total Access” conducted an interview with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, via satellite from South Lake Tahoe, NV, where he would be participating in a golf tournament. And suffice it to say, over one-third of this three-minute interview focused on how Romo ranked on the “Top 100 Players Of 2012” list: out of thirteen quarterbacks that made this year’s list, Romo was ranked 91st overall, leading only Broncos-cum-Jets QB Tim Tebow (95) among other players at his position.

What would ensue would be somewhat of an awkward moment akin to “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy” mocking the FOX network.

Host Andrew Siciliano prefaced soliciting Romo’s reaction to his ranking by playing video of NFLN analyst Marshall Faulk’s reaction to Romo’s ranking, originally broadcast on April 28: “I’m tough on Tony Romo. I believe that when I watch this guy play, the skill set that he has, the talent that he is, he’s sometimes disappointing. But to say that he’s number… (looks down, reads the ranking on the list) 91 of the top 100 players of our league is just doing him a discredit. I mean, this guy is, is, is really darn good.”

Siciliano: “Are you offended? Number 91?”

Romo: “No, I mean… The reality of that, I talked to [Cowboys tight end] Jason Witten, [Cowboys wide receiver] Miles Austin, about five other guys, and I was like, ‘Who votes on this stuff? I thought it was the players.’ And I didn’t vote, Jason didn’t vote, Miles didn’t vote, so… I don’t even put my stock into any of that stuff, it’s just… you get a couple of guys, and, you know, they throw numbers around… That stuff changes every year, anyway. You go and you win a Super Bowl, you go and play well, you know, that stuff just takes care of itself. It always goes by what you did the last season.”

It was at that point that Siciliano wrapped up the “Top 100 Players” content opportunity portion of the interview by noting that Giants quarterback Eli Manning, whose team did win the Super Bowl earlier this year, ranked 31st overall.

Oddly, Siciliano neglected to mention that Manning didn’t even make the list in 2011.

Based on Romo’s comments, though, it sounds like he’s more or less mocking the whole “Top 100 Players” routine in general. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the NFLN producers’ room upon Romo effectively trashing the “Top 100” list as “a couple of guys” that “throw numbers around.” Last I checked, the list was based on votes from more than just “a couple of guys.”

Of course, the fact that Romo admitted that several Cowboys players, himself included, failed to cast their votes for the 2012 version of the “Top 100 Players” list explains why Romo’s 91st place ranking this year was lower than his position on last year’s list (72nd), despite missing over half of the previous season due to a collarbone injury. So, in Romo’s own case, at least, his ranking did not necessarily fall in line with “what you did the last season.”

Then again, one of the thirteen quarterbacks that made the “Top 100 Players Of 2012” list, Peyton Manning, finished right in the middle at No. 50, despite not playing a single snap the previous season due to a neck injury. Maybe Manning’s peers’ votes are based on respect, or perhaps a testament to how bad his Colts team performed as a result of him being on the sidelines. But when your brother wins a Super Bowl, and is only positioned nineteen spots ahead of you on the list that year, something probably doesn’t add up.

Hence one of the reasons this list is put out each year: it’s fodder for debate – debate that will largely take place on NFL Network’s studio shows, even with the players themselves.

Indeed, when NFLN approached Giants defensive end Justin Tuck for his thoughts on his quarterback’s placement on this year’s “Top 100” list following his leading the team to a Super Bowl victory, he dismissed it as “a joke.”

Don’t be surprised if Manning himself is inquired about his ranking on the list, should he make his first appearance on “NFL AM” or “NFL Total Access” after earning his second Super Bowl ring.

And don’t be surprised if Eli Manning shares the same stance as his teammate Justin Tuck – as well as his divisional counterpart, Tony Romo.

Our advice to NFL Network staffers if Eli also writes off your “Top 100 Players” list as “a couple of guys throwing numbers around”: Don’t have a cow, man.

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.)

ESPN Blocks The Vote, Rejects NASCAR Driver's Ad Allegedly Due To "Religious Overtones"

ESPN, which airs all NASCAR Nationwide races, informed Nationwide driver Blake Koch that they have rejected an ad featuring his likeness due to "religious overtones." Yet they have no problem airing commercials featuring devout Christian Tim Tebow (inset). ESPN has since backtracked and claimed his "personal religious beliefs played no role".

Blake Koch is a very talented driver. He made his debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last year, and finished in the top 20 in four races, enough to rank 18th overall in 2011. Currently in his second season, Koch rounds out the top 20 after five Nationwide races. Not too shabby. The kid’s obviously got a bright future.

Unfortunately, his future in publicizing voter registration awareness is not off to a good start.

The website RiseUpAndRegister.com has affiliated itself with Koch in encouraging “the entire NASCAR nation to rise up and make our voices heard this election.” A quote from Koch on the website reads, “Over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election. I know I was one of them.” He’s spearheading a promotion where, if you join Rise Up And Register via text, you’ll be in the running to win a Chevrolet Camaro, which Koch even promises to “deliver… myself.”

There is a 30-second advertisement promoting the cause, the contest, and of course, the website.

Koch and crew hoped that the advertisement would run on ESPN, whose family of networks carry coverage of the Nationwide circuit all season long. Much to Koch’s chagrin, ESPN waved a caution flag.

On Thursday, ESPN released a statement stating that they rejected the ad, saying it “did not meet our guidelines in regard to advocacy messaging.” The Worldwide Leader also claims “Koch’s personal religious beliefs played no role in our evaluation.”

But Koch is claiming otherwise. Koch told Bob Pockrass, NASCAR journalist for Scene Daily, which has been officially rebranded as the NASCAR section of SportingNews.com, that he had been informed way back on February 24 “that they weren’t going to air the commercials due to political and religious overtones… particularly on the BlakeKoch.com website.” (The “Rise Up And Register” spot was uploaded to YouTube on February 29.)

As a result of ESPN’s refusal to run the ad, Pockrass is also reporting that the organization “has now decided to stop sponsoring the Rick Ware Racing car.” Though, as of post time, references to Rise Up And Register (including photos of Koch donning gear bearing the organization’s logo) appear on Koch’s website, and of course, likewise on Rise Up And Register’s website. And Koch tweeted today that Rise Up And Register would honor their commitment to sponsor 20 races and “they are trying [their] best to make that happen.”

Koch also appeared on Fox News Channel’s morning show and played audio of a voice mail left by Rosa Gatti, ESPN Senior Vice President of Communication, who explained it “was declined for poitical and religious overtones which we avoid by all of our standards.” Note that the spot does not make a single reference to religion or Christianity, yet ESPN, according to Gatti, believes that they “do see the religious aspects of” the campaign by looking “at Blake’s website.”

The ESPN employee’s voice mail is a complete contrast from the official statement ESPN issued last week citing his “personal religious beliefs played no role” in their decision to deny the spot.

Oh, I see. So maybe it would only be a conflict of interest because President Obama makes regular appearances on ESPN.

Yeah, right.

Let’s take a closer look at Blake Koch’s website. Part of his bio reads, “Blake’s ambition is to promote God back into the American family.” On the “Outreach” page, it promotes appearances that Koch plans to make at churches in cities where upcoming Nationwide races are scheduled to take place. And did you see one of the T-shirts that Koch is selling? It reads “For One Nation Under God.” Additionally, a link on the bottom right of the Rise Up And Register website asks visitors to “bring Blake Koch to your church!”

Likewise, Koch made no secret of his belief in his Christian faith when he appeared on Fox News. “One thing I will not do is deny my faith just because a particular sponsor might not like the way I express my faith… I didn’t think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not.”

Whether the Worldwide Leader is playing a game of “CYA” or not with their statement issued on Thursday, the bottom line is that Blake Koch learned straight from the source that “religious overtones” played into ESPN’s decision not to air Koch’s ad for Rise Up And Register.

This is the same ESPN that has devoted hours upon hours of coverage to another outspoken Christian athlete – you probably heard of him… His name is Tim Tebow.

The same Tim Tebow that ESPN devoted not one, but two special editions of “SportsCenter” to.

The same Tim Tebow whose introductory New York Jets press conference aired, not only on ESPN, but in stereo on ESPN2 – with a tweeting Skip Bayless as a subwoofer.

And the same Tim Tebow whose commercials endorsing the energy drink FRS have ran on, you guessed it, ESPN.

Let’s pay a visit to FRS’ website, shall we? We already know what “religious overtones” to expect when we go to Tebow’s official website. Ah, there it is: Tim Tebow’s personal profile on FRS.com, which, in the middle of the page, has a shameless plug for the Tim Tebow Foundation, which “utilizes the public platform that” – wait for it – “God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in people’s lives throughout the world.” There it is! A reference to Tebow’s Lord and savior Jesus Christ on FRS’ website! Who knew? (By the way, FRS: You may want to update that part on your Tebow page about him being the “starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.”)

Does anybody know if Rosa Gatti or anyone from ESPN decided to take a look at Tim Tebow’s website, or perhaps his profile on the FRS website before airing the Tim Tebow FRS commercial? We wouldn’t want ESPN viewers to be fed any “religious overtones” if they saw that commercial, would we?

There’s a reason why you get over 2 million search results if you Google “ESPN” and “hypocrites”: because the Worldwide Leader is guilty of so many double standards. They won’t promote politics or religion unless it benefits them. In fact, when ESPN fired longtime “Monday Night Football” theme crooner Hank Wiliams Jr. after his controversial appearance on Fox News Channel, many were quick to point out ESPN’s political bias.

While there are no signs of Koch’s political preference on his personal website, when he says, “over half of all race fans didn’t bother to vote in the last election” – an election in which Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain – and concedes that “I know I was one of them”, and is now the face of a campaign encouraging all of “NASCAR nation” to “rise up and register” to vote in this year’s election, some people could draw their own conclusions. Especially when you consider ESPN’s decision to not accept Koch’s advertisement, yet they fawn all ower Tim Tebow – who has been seen in the same room as President Obama (just sayin’).

And here’s the kicker: In the ultimate sign of disrespect to Blake Koch, not only is Rise Up And Register not listed as his main sponsor on ESPN’s website, he’s still listed as a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing – and the driver of a Dodge, to boot. Somebody please alert ESPN that Blake Koch has joined Rick Ware Racing and now drives a Chevrolet – and he’s going to give one lucky race fan his or her own Chevy Camaro if they sign up for Rise Up And Register – on second thought, just tell them that he’s joined Rick Ware Racing.

Blake Koch. The latest in a long line of people to which ESPN owes a major apology – for another bout in a recurring disease known as hypocrisy.

UPDATE: Jerry Wilson of Examiner.com is reporting that not only did ESPN reverse its decision not to run the Rise Up And Register spot, but it was the organization’s “failure to fulfill its financial obligations to ESPN” that is the main reason why the spot was not run on their air. Additionally, the group “has failed to make payment to Rick Ware Racing for sponsorship of the car” – this likely lends creedence to Koch’s earlier tweet that both sides were working to “make that happen.” Stay tuned.

Mile High Anxiety: Peyton Manning's Break A Boon For Denver Sports Radio (And Twitter)

As Peyton Manning takes his time deciding on the next team he will be taking his talents to, sports radio in cities such as Denver, whose Broncos are in pursuit of the four-time MVP, is flourishing as a result. Twitter also brings out the best in this story - while some argue that it also brings out the worst when it comes to breaking stories.

The annual free agency period in the NFL usually spawns a life of its own in the 24-hour sports news cycle, especially on NFL Network, and of course, ESPN.

The 2012 edition is featured by what is being called in many sports media circles as “the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.”

But no matter which team the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback picks in the end, there probably won’t be any losers as far as the sports radio landscapes in the cities of the respective spurned teams is concerned.

The “Manning sweepstakes” certainly has made an instant winner out of Denver sports radio.

“I have been working my ass off on this story,” Brandon Spano, evening host on the sports radio station known as “Mile High Sports Radio,” KCKK 1510 AM, which simulcasts on a translator station at 93.7 FM, says of the possibility of Manning signing with the Denver Broncos. “It’s been absolutely insane… The phone lines have been insanely busy.”

Equally insane is the Denver sports radio landscape in general – even before Manning first set foot in Dove Valley as a free agent. Denver is one of the few cities that has four English-language 24/7 sports radio stations – one of which, 104.3 The Fan, KKFN, is showing zero shame in their captivation of “Manning watch” by temporarily transforming their station identity into “104.3 The Man…ning.” Three of the four stations are stocked with local hosts (the fourth, “1600 The Zone“, KEPN, a sister station of KKFN, is entirely dependent on satellite or syndicated programming). What makes the Denver sports radio panorama interesting is that, of the city’s four all-sports stations, not a single one currently carries radio play-by-play of the four major sports franchises of the Mile High City: Broncos and Rockies games are heard on the legendary 50,000-watt blowtorch 850 KOA, while Nuggets and Avalanche contests are carried by an oldies station, of whom its predecessor was “The Fan” for fourteen years before migrating to FM. As such, “Cruisin’ Oldies” is a sister station of the aforementioned 104.3 The Fan and 1600 The Zone.

It’s a win-win for listeners of Denver sports radio, as this setup simply means more time to talk Tim Tebow – and/or Peyton Manning – at any given time.

Recently, Colin Daniels of the Denver sports-laden blog/podcast hybrid South Stands Denver – I’m guessing it’s named after a section at Invesco/Sports Authority Field at Mile High – reached out to a half-dozen of the many local sports radio personalities on Peyton Manning’s impact on the local sports radio scene: Spano, Peter Burns and Renaud Notaro from Mile High Sports; Darren McKee from 104.3 The Fan (err, “Man…ning”); and from 102.3 ESPN, KDSP, Nate Kreckman, as well as Dario Correa, who under the alias “D In Denver” can be found on another local sports website, Denver Sports Nation – incidentally, “D”, who has been maintaining his own podcast on the website, will make his debut on 102.3’s airwaves this weekend.

“It seems easy right now,” says “D” of his inaugural show on terrestrial radio, “because there is so much to talk about.”

Indeed there is: as of March 17th, the Nuggets and Avalanche are both entrenched in second place in their respective Northwest divisions in the NBA and NHL, the Rockies are having a decent spring training period in the Cactus league, and the men’s basketball team of the Colorado Buffaloes (which, by the way, is another sports property of the mighty KOA) are preparing to square off against Baylor in the NCAA tournament.

But clearly, the story everybody wants to talk about is Peyton Manning dropping anchor in Denver, possibly displacing Tebow – whose 2011-12 season was so thaumaturgic, it resonated not only locally, but nationally – as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

“The ups and downs of Tebowmania were pretty crazy,” said Kreckman, “but this thing has three of the biggest sports names of the past thirty years: Elway, Manning and Tebow.”

Elway, of course, would be John Elway, the legendary quarterback from Broncos past who is currently in his second year serving as the franchise’s team president – and just happens to be one of the voices regularly heard on 102.3, appearing every Friday on the afternoon drive show hosted by Gary Miller and Vic Lombardi. You may recall that in 2011, after a 1-4 start with Kyle Orton under center, it was Elway that pulled the trigger on the Tebow era, amid mounting demand from Broncos fans. Yet, despite the switch to Tebow leading to a division title and even a playoff win, Notaro thought the decision should have been a no-no.

“The Broncos listened to the fans, and Tebow Nation went from 15-20,000 people to millions,” says Notaro, who hosts the early-evening show on Mile High Sports, right before Spano’s program. “Now [Elway] needs to sign someone like Manning if he wants to escape those fans.” In fact, as Manning was officially released by the Colts earlier this month, it was Notaro who was one of the original local voices who thought the Broncos should go after him. “People thought I was crazy,” he gleefully recalled. Notaro is of the opinion that, should Manning decide on a team other than the Broncos, Elway would “look like a buffoon.”

“Number 18 is right there,” he said of Manning. “You just have to get him.”

In the vein of having to get something – i.e. the scoop of a big story – Notaro was also quite vocal on the impact of social media on Manning’s terminal free agency period, as well as sports journalism on the whole.

“It’s removing all responsibility from reporting,” he says of sports reporters using social media outlets – usually Twitter – to break stories. “We used to need two confirmed sources before we could say anything,” reminisced Notaro. “Ten years ago, some of these guys would have been fired.”

“I’m not trying to be some sort of insider,” vows Kreckman, as opposed to “some guys in the industry who are trying to be Adam Schefter.”

“Twitter has become sports radio 24/7,” opines Burns, morning co-host at Mile High Sports. It’s always live and always local.” Which is why Burns says the Manning/Broncos saga “is perfect for Twitter.”

Ironically, at a time when many notable football players, past and present, have set up shop in the Twitterverse, Manning himself is not on Twitter – or at least he isn’t verified as such. Amongst dozens of impostors is an account that has over 45,000 followers, including (verified) NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Yet it has been inactive for about a year. By comparison, the popular Manning parody account “Peyton’s Head” is much more active.

Equally active on Twitter is 104.3 The Fan afternoon drive co-host Darren McKee, best known to Denver radio aficionados as “D-Mac.” He believes the millions of people that take to Twitter – “Peyton’s Head” included – have amplified the “Manning sweepstakes” tenfold.

“The Manning story is in a class by itself,” says McKee. “It’s the biggest free agency story of all time. It would not have been this big even a year ago, and that’s because of Twitter.”

Meanwhile, fast approaching 200,000 Twitter followers of his own is ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, who as a guard, won two of his three Super Bowl rings with the Broncos. Up until last year, he was one of McKee’s co-hosts on the Fan’s afternoon drive show – at the time, The Fan’s parent owner, Lincoln Financial Group, had held the market’s ESPN Radio affiliation; in fact, while 104.3 cleared “Mike And Mike In The Morning,” its AM sister station went by the moniker “ESPN 1600” (and this is why the station now known as “1600 The Zone” bears the yet-to-be-changed call letters KEPN). At the start of 2012, the station previously known as “102.3 The Ticket” switched its identity to “102.3 ESPN”. With the ESPN Radio affiliation relocation came the end of Schlereth’s role on 104.3. Currently, the national ESPN Radio feed airs “Hill & Schlereth,” which, naturally, 102.3 has cleared. But that’s a national show. You would imagine that Schlereth would have a “hot sports opinion” on the Manning/Broncos story, and what he would have said on Denver sports radio, he’s going to share with the local Fox station in an exclusive interview this weekend. In a nutshell, Schlereth appears to echo Notaro in that he is “excited” that “one of the greatest [quarterbacks] that’s ever played” could join the Broncos. And the analyst nicknamed “Stink” thinks Tebow, well, stinks.

“You can’t have a guy that completes 47% of his passes take you to the promised land,” Schlereth tells Ron Zappolo of KDVR/Fox 31. “It’s time to get a real quarterback.”

With four Most Valuable Player awards and a Super Bowl ring in two appearances, Peyton Manning is as real as they come.

And he’s real close to choosing his next employer.

And the reality is, sports radio in several areas – especially Denver – are reaping the benefits.

And, of course, Twitter.

Speaking of which… I’ll close this piece with links to Twitter accounts of the Denver sports radio hosts who were involved with the South Stands Denver piece

Darren McKee (aka “D-Mac”), 104.3 The Fan: http://twitter.com/DMac1043

Renaud L. Notaro, Mile High Sports 93.7 FM/1510 AM: http://twitter.com/RenKnowItAll

Brandon Spano, Mile High Sports 93.7 FM/1510 AM: http://twitter.com/BrandonSpano

Nate Kreckman, 102.3 ESPN: http://twitter.com/NateKreckman

Dario Correa (a.k.a. “D in Denver”), 102.3 ESPN and DenverSportsNation.com: http://twitter.com/DnDenver

And last but not least… the one who deserves the hat-tip for the South Stands Denver piece: Peter Burns, Mile High Sports 93.7 FM/1510 AM and Fox Sports Radio: http://twitter.com/PeterBurnsRadio