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.)

Mike Francesa, Twitter Cop

Mike Francesa commented that not only do high-profile athletes and broadcasters have no business being on Twitter, but that it "should be against the law" if they use it. Meanwhile, the WFAN host has had no problem exhibiting Twitter-esque activity on his own radio show's smartphone app. (Image by "Matthew Funtime" via the Twitter account @MikeFrancesaNY.)

So on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Francesa had an interesting theory about Twitter. He’s of the opinion that it “should be against the law” for anybody with name recognition to be tweeting – specifically “broadcasters, media people and athletes.”

“Nobody needs to hear from any one of them,” Francesa ranted on WFAN/New York as well as on television via YES Network. “Including me, because you’re never going to catch me tweeting. It’ll never happen. I promise you, never.”

(Hear all eleven minutes of his Twitter rant here; right click to download.)

It’s a curious stand to take, especially when he swears that he will not sign up for a Twitter account. Could it be that he’s just gotten wind of the wildly popular Mike Francesa parody account on Twitter, that he’s taken such a harsh stance against the popular microblogging website?

The fact of the matter is, for such a high-profile personality on the premier sports radio station, Francesa joins Tony Paige – who hosts the overnight shift four times per week – as the only WFAN hosts without a presence on Twitter. Morning hosts Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason have operated their own Twitter accounts for years. Late morning hosts Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts share a Twitter account (though a disclaimer reads, “Ev does the tweeting”). Heck, even Steve Somers, who’s been with the station since its inception in 1987, is even on Twitter.

Meanwhile, YES Network operates a Twitter account dedicated to Francesa’s program. And once Francesa was off and running about his “Twitter should be illegal” rant, YES Network staffer Anthony Griek informed all 11,000+ followers of the account that the purpose of the @MikeFrancesaYES account is “to promote news about the show”, usually guests that Francesa is scheduled to interview on his show that day. With that, Griek also made a point to write, “For those asking, Mike does not tweet here.”

Like YES Network, WFAN has its own way of keeping listeners updated with upcoming guests. The station’s parent company, CBS, calls it the “Audio Roadshow.” Among the other features of the app, specifically designed for Francesa’s program, are a convenient WFAN audio stream, a “spot poll,” and on most days, the first thing you’ll see when you open up the app is… a sports comment written by none other than Mike Francesa? We’ve archived one from mid-February about how Francesa “saw Lin in person last night” at the Garden – as in Jeremy Lin… remember him? – on what would be the first game the Knicks would lose with Lin being a starter. (This, of course, led to unsavory headlines that got a bunch of ESPN personnel in hot water.)

“Unfortunately, I caught the Knicks on a night when they couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean,” Francesa wrote on February 18.

But wait a second… Wouldn’t Mike Francesa writing a brief blog about Jeremy Lin having nine turnovers in a game be equivalent to just going on Twitter and doing it? Even though he’s not officially on Twitter?

So Mike Francesa contends that “nobody needs to hear from” broadcasters, athletes and media types, himself included. So then why does Mike Francesa send these “un-tweets” through the “Audio Roadshow” app?

I suppose this wouldn’t be the first time Mike Francesa would be considered a hypocrite – in which case, he might get sent to Twitter jail for a long time.

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.