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).

Mike's Off: Francesa Falsely Reports Tim Tebow Turned Down Rosie O'Donnell Radio Show Due To "Her Lifestyle"

Mike Francesa told listeners that Tim Tebow refused to appear on Rosie O'Donnell's radio show "because of her lifestyle." That was moments after this photo, showing Tebow and O'Donnell sitting within feet of each other, was tweeted by Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, O'Donnell's current colleague - and Francesa's former colleague.

Time for another episode of “Punk Fiction” starting Mike Francesa as Winston (The Sports Radio Host Who Cried) Wolf.

At the top of his Friday afternoon “Mike’s On” show, Francesa – who was broadcasting from a hotel in Indianapolis, site of Super Bowl XLVI – said that Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was making the rounds on “radio row,” dropping by several radio shows – except for Rosie O’Donnell’s SiriusXM show. Francesa told his millions of listeners, and many viewers on YES Network, that Tebow, the devout Christian known for post-touchdown praying formations that bear his name, refused to do O’Donnell’s radio show due to her sexual orientation.

Or as Francesa put it, “because of her lifestyle.”

Contrary to the new title of his show, Mike’s off on this one. Way off.

It’s no secret that Francesa has a history of making inaccurate statements on his show. In fact, right after the Giants and Patriots advanced to this year’s Super Bowl, Francesa recalled how the last time both teams faced each other in the Super Bowl four years ago (in which the Giants defeated the then-undefeated Patriots 20-17), he picked the Patriots to beat the Giants by a score of 20-17… only to have audio evidence surface that confirmed him actually picking New England to beat New York in Super Bowl XLII by a score of 35-17.

Yep, Mike’s off.

But he was off the chart with his Tim Tebow/Rosie O’Donnell “report.”

First off, Tim Tebow has not even played a full season in the NFL, and he’s already got a worldwide following amongst football fans and churchgoers alike. And when you can get two-hit wonder John Parr to re-record the bigger of his two hits to include references to you, you wear that as a badge of honor. For him to actually decide to blow off Rosie O’Donnell – who announced in 2002 that she is gay, and married her partner in San Francisco in 2004 – because of her sexuality, would be a major bonehead move on his part. Such an ignorant move would dramatically demolish his vast fan base. That certainly doesn’t sound like something Tim Tebow would do.

And given the source, Mike Francesa – The Sports Radio Host Who Cried Wolf – it’s no wonder the “report” didn’t spread like wildfire across the Twittersphere, let alone the news cycle, during the afternoon. Even a sports radio host with more credibility like Jim Rome – and that’s not saying much – might move the needle by suggesting Tebow would not want anything to do with O’Donnell because she’s gay.

And just when you thought this latest in a long line of lies from Francesa was sad, there was confirmation that Tebow did indeed appear on O’Donnell’s radio show for at least “30 seconds.” Unfortunately, unlike the revisionist history Super Bowl XLII pick, there’s no audio of Tebow’s appearance, but we have a photo that proves that they were within five feet of each other – because how does that saying go, a picture is worth proving a thousand fabrications of a sports radio host? Anyway, that’s Tim Tebow on the far right.

Here’s the kicker: The source of this photo was the man you see right there in the middle – Chris Russo. Mike Francesa’s former on-air partner. Just days ago on “radio row,” these two were all chummy on their respective radio shows.

The timestamp on that photo was 1:07 PM. Francesa had announced just seconds later that Tebow had denounced O’Donnell.

Would anyone be surprised if Tim Tebow filed a lawsuit against Mike Francesa on the grounds of libel or slander? Certainly, Francesa’s track record of mistruths is appalling. Yet he continues extending that track record, despite being caught in lies many, many times, to millions of listeners and viewers worldwide.

It seems the ultimate way to prove him wrong is to prove him guilty in a court of law.

Stretching the truth about a Super Bowl score is one thing.

Suggesting a popular football player is ostracizing a celebrity “because of her lifestyle” – why, even Bruce Jacobs would have to admit that’s pretty low.

In “Pulp Fiction,” Winston Wolf proclaims, “I solve problems.”

Mike (The Sports Radio Host Who Cried Wolf) Francesa? He is a problem.

UPDATE: Here is a better photo showing Tim Tebow enjoying Rosie O’Donnell’s company – further cementing how much of a habitual liar Mike Francesa is. (CREDIT: Getty Images.)

Mike Francesa Sic'ed By Former Partner "Mad Dog" Russo On Radio Row

No, you're not seeing - or hearing - things: Mike Francesa was joined by his old on-air companion of twenty years, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, for a colorful discussion today on Francesa's WFAN radio/YES Network television show. Francesa later returned the favor on Russo's "Mad Dog Unleashed" program on Sirius XM's "Mad Dog Radio" channel.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, good afternoon, everybody!”

That was the popular greeting on New York sports radio for two decades by Chris Russo on the “Mike And The Mad Dog” program. Of course, Russo left WFAN for a new challnge at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, in which he is now in his fourth year as host at the “Mad Dog Radio” channel. Since then, Mike Francesa had sailed solo on WFAN, with a show renamed “Mike’d Up” for about four years, and now “Mike’s On” for about four months.

With both Russo’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” show and Francesa’s “Mike’s On” on location in Indianapolis for Super Bowl Week – WFAN is the flagship station of the New York Giants, who are in this year’s big game – there were rumors early on that the two would get together and do a segment.

And so, for the first time in over two years, since both of their respective shows crossed paths at Yankee Stadium, Francesa and Russo were together again, in person (Russo phoned into Francesa’s show in 2010 after the San Francisco Giants, Russo’s favorite baseball team, won the World Series; that was the last time both have talked to each other, at least with millions listening in).

There were a few exchanges during the fifteen-minute conversation (click here to watch video in a new window) that were amusing. One started with Francesa invoking an ugly ordeal involving Russo last year: he had went to Port Charlotte, Florida for an interview with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, but Girardi was a no-show. “Are you going to spring training this year, and then blame us for not getting into the building?”, Francesa asked Russo. “I’m getting blamed for you being in spring training… I didn’t even know you were in Florida!”

Russo responded by telling listeners (and viewers on YES Network): “It wasn’t Mike’s fault.” And he’s right. True, in the past, Francesa’s employer had issued a mandate that Russo may not broadcast his show live from Yankee Stadium or the Mets’ ballpark, CitiField. But Francesa had absolutely nothing to do with Girardi blowing off Russo in Florida last year.

The Mets also came up in conversation, as well. “You have a good job,” Russo told Francesa, “[but] you have nothing with the Mets now, you’re dead.” WFAN is also the flagship station of Mets baseball, and has been well before “Mike And The Mad Dog” went on the air (and there’s a possibility that the relationship may come to an end after the 2012 season).

“The Mets,” Francesa opined, “you feel bad for them… I wish something would happen.”

Russo also asked Francesa about Kim Jones, a WFAN contributor who just recently parted ways with YES Network as the pregame, postgame, and in-game reporter for Yankees games. “[New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob] Raissman wrote [about Jones leaving], didn’t he?”, Francesa asked Russo. “You probably gave it to him… if you don’t talk to Raissman, he’s got nothing!” Russo: “I dig that one… Funny!”

The top of the 2 PM (ET) hour was approaching, which meant Russo’s “Unleashed” show for the day would begin, so it was time for the Francesa/Russo reunion to come to an end – though Francesa would appear hours later on Russo’s radio show as soon as he finished up his WFAN/YES business.

“Dog has his show now,” Francesa told listeners/viewers, “but he don’t care, he’ll stay here.”

An animated Russo shot back: “I got some calls!”

To which Francesa, painting a picture of the demographic that calls Russo’s Sirius XM show, replied: “We’ll get one from the Eastern time zone.”

Parting in such sweet sorrow.

Ain’t that right, Mikey?

What a “good afternoon” for New York sports radio.

Mike Francesa No Longer "Mike'd Up" On WFAN

Starting this week, WFAN will need to change the title of their afternoon radio show hosted by Mike Francesa, since they could not come to an agreement with WNBC-TV for the rights to the name "Mike'd Up." Oh, by the way: Francesa has not hosted the WNBC show of the same name since last summer.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Houses Of The Holy” by Led Zeppelin?

When I first heard the song, I discovered that there was an album by Led Zeppelin, also titled “Houses Of The Holy.” Only to find out that the song I had anticipated owning my own copy of was not on that album. It was originally intended to appear on the 1973 album, but the band decided it didn’t fit with the theme of the rest of the album, so it was left on the cutting room floor, only to be released on a subsequent album, 1975’s “Physical Graffiti.”

Such is the feeling you’ll get if you’re a viewer of WNBC-TV’s Sunday night sports program, “Mike’d Up.”

Especially moreso since the program’s original host, WFAN’s Mike Francesa, officially left the program citing the desire to spend more time with his children.

Bowing on Labor Day Weekend 2003, “Mike’d Up” – subtitled “The Francesa Sports Final” – featured Francesa delivering real-time reaction to significant local and national sports stories of the day, and perhaps the week prior. However, during the summer months, WNBC-TV sports anchor Bruce Beck would host “Mike’d Up” as Francesa took his usual summer sabbatical away from television as well as the radio show, even when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo co-hosted the WFAN afternoon drive program up until 2008.

The decision for Francesa to relinquish his WNBC-TV show full-time was eyebrow-raising, in that the announcement came just three months after he proclaimed that he would be reducing his “Mike’d Up” TV duties from three dozen weeks per year to two dozen, mostly during football season.

Equally eyebrow-raising is the fact that, despite Francesa no longer appearing on WNBC-TV’s air, WNBC-TV has retained the rights to the “Mike’d Up” title.

As a result, WFAN – owned by CBS Radio – can no longer call Francesa’s radio show “Mike’d Up.”

Francesa disclosed on his “NFL Now” Sunday morning program on WFAN, and reiterated on his daily radio show (simulcast on YES Network) on Monday, that WFAN “and NBC could not come to an agreement.”

This also means that WFAN must now work on a new opening jingle for the show. Monday’s radio show started with a cold open, with Francesa explaining there was “no jingle today” because things were “in flux” at the moment. (AUDIO: Hear Francesa’s WFAN cold show open here.) He said that a new jingle should debut on Tuesday’s show. As far as what WFAN’s Francesa show will be called, it was expected to be “Francesa on The FAN,” which had been the subtitle of the program during WFAN’s “Mike’d Up” era – WFAN sports anchors referred to the afternoon show as such during sports updates on Monday – but Francesa disclosed on Sunday that “we have a new one ready to go,” including a corresponding jingle, but it needs approval from attorneys before going forward.

This begs the obvious question: Why in the world would WNBC need to hold onto the “Mike’d Up” name, when Francesa is no longer on WNBC, and has not been for half a year and counting? Perhaps they’re grooming a full-time replacement on the Sunday night show, who just happens to be named Mike? Or could they be saving it for a new show hosted by “Today In New York” co-anchor Michael Gargiulo? Hey – the Mayor of New York City is also named Mike… There are several possibilities as to why WNBC would choose to retain the name and not allow WFAN to use it for Francesa’s radio show – the most popular of which could be spite. There does not appear to be any bad blood between Francesa and WNBC; perhaps Francesa’s decision to scale back his WNBC duties to a half-year, before abruptly deciding to leave WNBC just three months later, did not sit well with WNBC.

There is no word on when WNBC’s ownership of the phrase “Mike’d Up” expires. Also, a search for the trademark of the phrase shows it was registered in September 2003, at around the time the WNBC show debuted, and is currently listed as “dead” with a 2010 expiration date.

For those outside the New York City area, Mike Francesa is known for his grandstanding demeanor, especially against listeners that call his show. This is why New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman has affectionately nicknamed Francesa “The Sports Pope.”

Maybe “Houses Of The Holy” should be the new name for his WFAN show after all.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, January 17, the new name of Francesa’s WFAN program is “Mike’s On.” The new theme song sounds exactly like the old theme song, with the singers saying “Mike’s On” in the parts of the song where “Mike’d Up” had been said. Listen to the new Mike Francesa WFAN program theme song here. And hear the open of the first show in the “Mike’s On” era here.

WFAN's Mike Francesa Hints At Retirement

New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, one of the most polarizing figures in the format, is planning to leave radio in 2014 - but he assures that he's only "leaning" at the moment.

I tip my hat to Newsday sports media writer Neil Best for this scoop.

Mike Francesa, the longtime afternoon drive host at WFAN in New York, has disclosed to Newsday that he is “leaning toward leaving” the station when his contract expires in two years. It was originally set to expire next year, but he agreed to continue up until at least February of 2014 – when New York (or, if you prefer, New Jersey) hosts their first Super Bowl.

“That could be an interesting backdrop if that was going to be it,” Francesa said upon his final radio show possibly being broadcast amid the big game at MetLife Stadium. “It would be a fun way to leave if that’s the end.”

And it most likely would be the end for Francesa on the New York radio dial. When asked by Newsday if he would consider taking a job at WFAN rival WEPN “ESPN New York 1050,” Francesa said he “would never do that.”

For close to two decades starting in 1989, Francesa was paired with Chris Russo on the “Mike And The Mad Dog” radio program that was so popular, not only did it enjoy a video simulcast on YES Network, the regional sports network owned by the New York Yankees, but for a time, it was also syndicated regionally in markets such as Albany and Tampa.

When Russo left WFAN to embark on a new journey with Sirius Satellite Radio (now known as SiriusXM) as a personality and program director of the “Mad Dog Radio” channel, Francesa remained on WFAN in the same time slot, and the show, renamed “Mike’d Up” – which remains on YES Network – still achieves ratings success.

But there are three reasons why Francesa would gladly give it up – three young children that he is raising with his wife, Rose: twins Jack and Emily, who will turn 7 later this month; and 5-year-old son Harrison James (no word if a popular Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker inspired that kid’s name).

Yet Francesa remained steadfast that retirement is but a thought, and not set in stone. “I’m leaning [toward it],” says the 57-year-old Long Island resident. “I’m not here making any proclamations. I have a lot to think about… But I don’t see me doing nothing. I don’t think I’m cut out to do nothing. I just don’t know what I see me doing.”

One may get the feeling that this premature retirement talk from Francesa might be a ploy for his employer, CBS Radio – which owns WFAN – to put together a juicier contract with more money, and perhaps more vacation time – time that can be used spending with his three kids.

And there is always the possibility of Francesa receiving an even juicier offer from satellite radio – where his former on-air partner now makes a living.

As far as a possible reunion with Russo on SiriusXM, Francesa said bluntly, “I would say there’s a better chance that the Mets win the pennant.”

Certainly, the person WFAN eventually hires to fill Francesa’s shoes had better be amazin’.