PA. NFL Network Viewers Denied Tebow Time

NFL Network viewers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh - including Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley - were not able to view Friday night's Jets/Bengals broadcast, forcing Rich Eisen to address the odd situation via Twitter.

It’s as if the Keystone Kops were controlling the cable operations in the Keystone State.

On Friday night, as the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals were preparing for their first preseason action of the year – and Tim Tebow’s all-important first official snaps in a Jet uniform – many viewers of NFL Network instead were greeted with a replay of Thursday night’s Ravens/Falcons preseason tilt.

Including, for some reason, viewers in the Philadelphia area.

“Someone want to explain to me why NFL Network has a replay of the Falcons/Ravens game on and [not] Jets/Bengals?”, asked Dan Rodgers of Lower Merion, PA, moments after the game had started.

And Berwyn resident Stephane Hardinger expressed outrage, demanding: “I MUST SEE TIMOTHY TEBOW PLAY.”

Philadelphia was not alone in their lack of Tebow Time, as it appears NFLN viewers in Pittsburgh were also affected – including one LaMarr Woodley, who has only been the outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last six years.

“What channel the Jets game on?,” he tweeted to his 133,000+ followers at around a quarter to 8 PM. Moments later, he would personally tweet NFL Network’s Twitter account seeking answers.

Even viewers from “the sticks of PA” chimed in expressing their incense of not being able to watch Tebow and Co.

In fact, viewers from Virginia to Indiana had been watching the replay of the Ravens’ 31-17 road rout of the Falcons instead of what would be the Bengals beating the Jets 17-6.

What went wrong?

No, not with Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez, but with NFL Network’s apparent botching of this blackout in areas outside of New York – very far outside New York, it looks like.

Even though it’s only a preseason game, and despite the fact that the Jets were on the road in this preseason game, WCBS-TV, which carried the contest in New York, has requested the game be blacked out on NFLN in the greater New York metro.

Being situated in New York, I can confirm that I saw Ravens/Falcons on NFLN on Friday night. And when I flipped over during a commercial break on WCBS’ Jets/Bengals coverage to NFLN, for no particular reason, to watch day-old Ravens/Falcons footage, I saw Verizon FiOS insert a local ad break right in the middle of a drive.

I can understand if CBS asks for NFL Network – which was carrying WCBS’ feed of the game, thus may have lied within CBS’ request – to show alternate programming in New York so that more viewers would watch the Jets/Bengals game on WCBS’ air. (It’s moot, given that Time Warner and Cablevision, the two major cable companies in NYC, don’t even carry NFLN, but that’s beside the point.) As such, even viewers in Connecticut and New Jersey were affected by this blackout request. And so, NFLN, rather than just go dark for three hours, had beamed the Ravens/Falcons game to areas in New York City, as well as Connecticut and New Jersey.

Yet in NFLN’s infinite wisdom, this included South Jersey, which is Philadelphia Eagles territory. This caused a domino effect that spread to Philadelphia itself, and Pittsburgh, as well.

After about an hour of fielding Twitter complaints from several viewers – including the Super Bowl champion and one-time Pro Bowler LaMarr Woodley – NFL Network’s Rich Eisen was compelled to address the issue. “To the people of Pennsylvania, I have no earthly idea why you can’t see Jets/Bengals on @NFLNetwork,” he tweeted. The fact that the face of NFL Network had to tweet about this may be indicative of a veiled “mea culpa” on NFLN’s part for mishandling the blackout of Jets/Bengals in selected areas.

Just so I had all my bases covered, this morning, I spoke to Alicia, a representative from the service department at Comcast, the largest cable provider in Philadelphia, and she confirmed that, according to a colleague who was on duty Friday night, there were no issues central to Comcast with regards to blacking out NFLN or airing replacement programming, nor were there any customer complaints at that time.

Meanwhile, in an ironic twist, it appears viewers in Cincinnati – whose Bengals have been a repeated local television blackout victim during the regular season – were able to watch the WCBS-TV feed of Jets/Bengals on NFL Network on Friday night (that is, if they haven’t switched from Time Warner). Locally, Bengals preseason broadcasts are carried on WKRC-TV – and you’d have to wonder if there would have been similar issues, had NFLN opted for Brad Johansen’s call of the game. With Tim Tebow on the roster of the opposing team, probably not.

At any rate, NFL Network is scheduled to carry one more Jets preseason game this month, and it’s scheduled for next Saturday night against the crosstown rivals – and Super Bowl champions – the New York Giants. And it looks like for the second week in a row, NFLN will once again lean on the Jets’ local broadcast team. In fact, according to the schedules on both the Jets’ and Giants’ websites, it appears there’s not even going to be a Giants broadcasting crew handling the game on television. Yes, it’s considered a Jets home game, but did I mention the Giants just won the Super Bowl?

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to find out whether or not Philadelphia-area viewers will be complaining about how they’re watching a rebroadcast of Friday night’s Ravens/Lions game in lieu of Jets/Giants on Saturday night.

Likewise, we’ll also know if LaMarr Woodley – whose Steelers play both the Jets and Giants in the first half of their 2012-13 campaign – will miss out on viewing potential “game tape” as a result of another screwup at NFL Network.

He may have to go over to Culver City and punk someone.

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Requiem For Linsanity

With reports surfacing that Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin could be joining the Houston Rockets, it means that he'll more than likely take "Linsanity" with him. Which means no more Lin puns, and most importantly, no more ignorant comments or headlines referring to his ethnicity.

Jeremy Lin, the sports media hardly knew ye.

For it was only February, when injuries to the Knicks team enabled you to display your basketball talent and spark the phenomenon known as Linsanity. And the sports media took notice.

Unfortunately, at the same time, a few individuals within the sports media couldn’t quite understand Linsanity for what it was.

Like Jason Whitlock.

You remember when, after that victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in which you scored a career-high 38 points in a game, the Fox Sports columnist tweeted that “some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight?”

Or the fine folks at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, who retracted one of the original ingredients in their “Linsanity” flavor – fortune cookie pieces?

Maybe the MSG Network cameraman who thought it was a good idea to show a fan sign superimposing your face over a fortune cookie at a Knicks game might owe you an apology?

And, of course, there’s ESPN. You remember, Jeremy, how after your first loss as a Knicks starter, multiple instances of the phrase “chink in the armor” began emanating from the Worldwide Leader’s many platforms? And a couple of ESPN employees in Anthony Federico, Spero Dedes – Knicks play-by-play man on New York’s ESPN Radio – and Max Bretos, who paid for their use of the phrase in regards to you with their jobs (or in the latter’s case, a good chunk of it)?

Of course you remember, Jeremy. “They’ve apologized and so from my end, I don’t care anymore. You have to learn to forgive, and I don’t even think that was intentional.” That was what you said in response to ESPN’s mishandling of Linsanity.

And now comes word that you’re leaving the Big Apple for the team that waived you right before the start of the previous strike-shortened, Linsanity-stricken season, the Houston Rockets.

And you know what? I don’t blame you.

I don’t think you’re hightailing it to Houston for the money (i.e. an offer sheet of $25 million over three years, with most of it in the final year, that the Knicks are not expected to match).

No, I think your decision to leave New York was made easier due to a few bad apples in the sports media, particularly ESPN.

See, Houston – or even Oakland, for that matter – is a smaller media market than New York. Hence, ESPN probably won’t be as captivated by Linsanity on the Houston Rockets as it used to be on the New York Knicks. So if you were to score 39 points or higher in a game for Houston, it’ll now be confined to a mere honorable mention on “SportsCenter,” as opposed to the previous fawning over your presence on the program during your Knicks tenure.

In other words, while you’ll continue your storied basketball career and keep writing new chapters for your amazing story, as long as you’re not in a Knicks, Lakers, Heat or Bulls uniform, you’re more or less off the radar.

But the good news is, there will be no more negative vibes coming out of the sports media to worry about.

Yes, Jeremy, I realize that the Asian-American Journalists Association created a list of “danger zones” for journalists to avoid in the wake of the “chink in the armor” episodes at ESPN and others. But it should have never come to that. Because a few individuals neglected to use common sense when reporting, discussing or tweeting about you, that put a damper on Linsanity far before your season-ending injury with roughly a quarter of the regular season remaining.

I understand why you’re leaving, Jeremy. But don’t take it personal, okay?

Meanwhile, there’s still a chance the Knicks might equal that offer sheet from the Rockets (all James Dolan has to do is crank up Cablevision subscribers’ bills a little bit – which would be similar to how Time Warner Cable agreed to crank up their own subscribers’ bills to keep MSG Network on the air at the height of Linsanity).

If you remain a member of the Knicks, Jeremy, Linsanity will live on.

But if you indeed end up heading for Houston, then Linsanity, as we know it, is dead.

Sure, you’ll be in a market where the worst offense in the local sports media is plagiarism – but most importantly, you’ll no longer need to answer to the Jason Whitlocks and the Anthony Federicos of the sports media.

I guess that was your plan all along.

The Lin giveth, the Lin taketh away.

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.

ESPN Radio Ready To Play Ball On FM In New York City?

There are rumblings that ESPN Radio in New York City could finally land an FM signal, which would possibly give them more leverage in acquiring local radio rights to Yankees baseball - provided rival WFAN doesn't also make the jump to FM in response.

Earlier this year, I wrote a full-length article on the sports radio landscape in New York which, at the moment, consists of two stations, both on the AM dial. Meanwhile, many other radio markets (some with up to four stations in the format) have at least one sports radio signal on the FM band.

Note that in the previous paragraph, I wrote “at the moment.” That’s because the sports radio void on FM in Market No. 1 is about to come to an end.

It is being reported that ESPN is currently in the process of nailing down a deal for an unidentified FM station in New York City, so that the programming currently heard on AM 1050 can move to their new FM property, while the content on 1050, as I have previously speculated and others are doing so today, would switch to the feed of the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes network.

The station currently known as “ESPN New York 1050” holds the radio rights for the Jets, Knicks and Rangers – and an FM station could buoy their chances of landing the Yankees, whose current radio deal with WCBS-AM expires this year.

Sources say that an ESPN deal for an FM stick could be reached as soon as this week. A perfect launching pad for the new FM signal could be Thursday night’s NFL Draft, which emanates from Radio City Music Hall.

The FM signal most anticipated to convert to ESPN in New York City would be 94.7 WFME, licensed to Newark, NJ. Their signal is limited on Long Island – where a huge population of Jets fans resides – but as Radio Insight’s Lance Venta points out, the 1050 AM and 94.7 FM signals “complement each other” (of course, that’s considering 1050 AM remains with their current English-language ESPN Radio programming). An ESPN Radio spokesperson told Radio Business Report that they “have nothing to announce” at this time (shocker). Likewise, getting an answer from Family Radio about the fate of WFME-FM may have also been akin to pulling teeth, but I would consider it a far more pleasant experience than actually having a tooth pulled. I spoke to Judi Rathbone, the secretary of Programming for Family Radio in California, and while she had pointed out that sister stations WFSI in the Washington, D.C. area and WKDN in the Philadelphia area were sold (the latter switching to a conservative talk format just this week, in fact), she had heard nothing about a possible sale of WFME-FM. When I pointed out what many local news outlets in New York, as well as radio news sources, were reporting, Rathbone tells me that it’s “just speculation,” adding, “We did have a few [parties] that were interested in purchasing WFME.”

Not only is it known which station is ESPN’s likely target, but given the phrasing of the report – “a long-term programming rights deal” – it is also possible that ESPN could enter what is known as a local-marketing agreement (LMA) with another station. So it could be possible that WFME may not be the station in question – but then, if WFME is not for sale, then how come they switched from a non-commercial license to a commercial one earlier this year (as covered in my post on this earlier this year)?

Let’s go down the New York radio dial and break down the possible suitors, frequency by frequency:

92.3 WXRK: Forget it. CBS Radio, owner of ESPN rival 66 WFAN, runs this station. In fact, if ESPN should gain a presence on the FM dial in the Big Apple, 92.3 would be a prime candidate to flip to a simulcast of WFAN… you know, to even the playing field. When a new FM sports talker in Philadelphia went on the air, CBS stood pat and left their legendary WIP on the AM dial, and watched as “97.5 The Fanatic” ate into WIP’s audience and revenues. As of last fall, WIP is now on FM in Philly. CBS would know better not to make the same mistake again. No dice here…

92.7 WQBU: The former WLIR/WDRE. Niche Mexican music on a fringe signal on Long Island. Nope…

93.1 WPAT: Spanish music, licensed to Paterson, NJ, but serving the city. Used to be a popular easy listening station back in the day. A possibility…

93.5 WVIP: Licensed to Westchester but receivable in most parts of the city. RBR.com says it’s possible…

93.9 WNYC-FM: NPR – i.e. non-commercial license. Not happening here…

94.7 WFME: The leader in the clubhouse…

95.5 WPLJ: While their ratings are mediocre, they bill very well. Yet RBR says this, too, could be a candidate…

96.3 WXNY: Univision acquired this signal just a few years ago, and it’s now in the top ten. Next…

97.1 WQHT: This station usually contends nicely with rival Power 105.1 particularly in the summertime. Yet owner Emmis has had financial troubles of late – so much so that they sold 101.9 to Merlin Media (much to ESPN’s chagrin). This would be a dark horse to land ESPN programming, provided Emmis is ready to unload another big city signal – and some radio observers agree

97.9 WSKQ: The leading Spanish music station in the city. Nope…

98.3 WKJY: Serves Long Island, so no go here…

98.7 WRKS: Also owned by cash-strapped Emmis, but “98.7 Kiss-FM” is a perennial top ten station, so a sale of this signal over WQHT would truly shock me…

99.5 WBAI: Another strong possibility, except for one problem: Owner Pacifica has been mighty stingy to give up this prized signal, right smack dab in the middle of the FM dial. ESPN could offer WBAI that suitcase that Jules and Vince had in the movie “Pulp Fiction” and they still wouldn’t budge. I would say 50/50 here, but they’re also operating with a non-commercial license…

100.3 WHTZ: The world famous Z-100. Pop radio royalty. Not happening here…

101.1 WCBS: The revamped “CBS-FM” is also doing well – and it’s also owned by CBS, which also owns WFAN, so this is off the market…

101.9 WEMP: Merlin Media CEO Randy Michaels confirms ESPN will not take over the signal they have owned for nine months now…

102.7 WNEW: Also owned by CBS Radio. Next…

103.5 WKTU: Like Z-100, all of Clear Channel’s FM stations are performing great. So their cluster will probably be off the market, too.

103.9 WFAS: The longtime White Plains-based station recently moved their city of license to The Bronx. Maybe, maybe not…

104.3 WAXQ: Clear Channel (see above)…

105.1 WWPR: Clear Channel (see above)…

105.9 WQXR: Now operated by WNYC, which means non-commercial…

106.7 WLTW: Lite-FM. ‘Nuff said. (Oh yeah: Clear Channel – see above…)

107.5 WBLS: This was another likely candidate for assuming ESPN programming on FM, as I pointed out in my original post on this issue. But Inner City, which also has its own financial troubles, does not appear to be putting this station on the market at this time. or, as Randy Michaels tells RBR: “I don’t think WFME has come on the market… Not likely to be WBLS… More likely BS.”

Come this weekend, New York sports radio listeners will find out for sure if ESPN becomes the first sports radio station in the area on the FM dial.

Or if people were just BS-ing them.

The Sad Sid Rosenberg Saga Continues

Troubled Miami sports radio host Sid Rosenberg was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license. According to a police officer, he refused to take a sobriety test because "he knew he would fail." Rosenberg has been battling addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling as early as 11 years old.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the ouster of Scott Kaplan, the San Diego sports radio host who made disparaging comments on the air about Andrea Lloyd Curry, an on-air personality for the regional sports network The MTN (which, incidentally, has announced that they will be signing off next month; hope everybody involved with that operation lands on their feet soon – especially Mrs. Lloyd-Curry). It was in that piece that you learned about, maybe for the first time, Kaplan’s former radio partner Sid Rosenberg, who currently handles afternoon drive on Miami’s 560 WQAM. I wrote that Sid would be “doing his best to stay out of trouble.”

The fact that I’m writing a new post about Sid Rosenberg is a safe bet that he has not. Again.

He spent Wednesday night at an establishment called Tootsie’s. (Possibly Tootsie’s Cabaret, operated by the same folks who run Rick’s Cabaret in New York City.) After some good clean fun, he headed home to Boca Raton.

But it’s quite difficult to get to your desired destination, when your car is idle with the door open and the engine running. Did I mention his car was idle in the middle of a street, blocking traffic?

Surely, Sid would realize this. Unless he was drunk. Or preoccupied.

“I discovered him laying on the ground behind his vehicle in the fetal position with his fingers in his mouth,” recalled Officer Jon Cooke as he arrived on the scene early Thursday morning. “He appeared to be attempting to induce himself to vomit.”

Indeed, Sid had puked on himself, and there was vomit inside his car, as well. But that wouldn’t be the only foul smell.

“I noticed a strong odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath.”

It appeared all of Sid’s senses were impaired. Red face, bloodshot eyes, “extremely slurred” speech, exhibiting “extreme difficulty keeping his balance,” and on top of all of that, “he was crying.”

Crying because he realizes that he had a major relapse. Sid’s life has been riddled with three major addictions – drugs, alcohol and gambling – dating as far back as his pre-teen years. So vast are his personal problems that he wrote a book about his troubled past. At the time of the book’s release, he disclosed that he hasn’t “been drunk” since 2005.

Yeah, looks like that streak’s history.

“He knew he would fail,” said Officer Cooke, recounting Sid’s response to a request to perform sobriety tests that he initially agreed to do. “He then refused to perform them.”

Rosenberg would be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as driving with a suspended license, which was confirmed to have been suspended three times. He spent the majority of Thursday in jail – he missed his afternoon shift on WQAM – and would eventually be released on $500 bond. He returned to the air on Friday and made nary a mention of his wild Wednesday night, at least in the first hour of the show. The Hollywood (Florida) Police Department confirmed that the official police report will be available next week. Additionally, charges will be filed in Broward County Court.

WQAM general manager Joe Bell declined to comment on whether or not the station would suspend Rosenberg, while program director Lee Feldman provided the vague answer, “Not as of right now.” [UPDATE: Rosenberg has been suspended for one week, and is off the air for the week of April 9.]

A suspension probably isn’t the answer. You suspend a radio personality if he/she has hurt other people, especially verbally (as was the case when he dubbed tennis players Venus and Serena Williams “animals” and National Geographic magazine material). But when a radio personality like Sid only hurts himself, that’s a different story. Perhaps what the Gamblers Anonymous veteran needs is a mandatory enrollment to Alcoholics Anonymous. On second thought, with word on the street that he amassed gambling debts totaling nearly $45,000 in a two-week period, maybe they can cut a 2-for-1 deal for him. And yes, he’s been in drug rehab, too.

It’s ironic that, in that erratic scene on a South Florida street early Thursday morning described by the police officer, Rosenberg was “crying” – because when you’re drunk, vomiting and curled up in a fetal position next to your car in the middle of a road, I’m no expert, but that’s usually a cry for help. And at this point, when he’s had so many frantic chapters written in his imperfect life, radio employment should be contingent on receiving the help that he needs.

And since it’s no secret that Rosenberg has a penchant for getting liquored up, it’s horrifying to imagine just how many times a liquored up Rosenberg was on the road, putting other lives in danger! Are his assets that tapped from gambling debts that he can’t fathom a few bucks for a taxi?

Reaction to Rosenberg’s recent DUI is mixed. Fellow radio host Dino Costa called the news “awful” and is “hoping he gets better soon.” While Adam Smoot sums it up best: “Even Sid Rosenberg’s demons have demons.”

While Sid has his share of supporters and critics, there’s been one person who’s been at his side for more than twenty years: his wife, Danielle. She should be praised for being Sid’s rock through all of his rocky times. Like that time in 2004 that he contemplated suicide – but was persuaded to reconsider after looking at a photo of his then-newborn daughter. And I’ll applaud Sid as well, for not letting his drug, alcohol and gambling habits tear apart his marriage to Danielle.

This is obviously not how the Rosenberg family expected to start Passover.

And in his first tweet since the hysterics, Sid wrote to his followers, “Thank you all for your love and support. Happy Passover and Happy Easter to everyone.”

Get well, Sid.

Third Time's A Charm: Giants, Cowboys To Kickoff 2012 NFL Season, Play Third NBC Game In Nine Months

The NFL has announced that the Dallas Cowboys will square off against the New York Giants in the 2012 season "kickoff game" on Wednesday, September 5. This will be the third time in a row that these teams will be playing on NBC, and the third year in a row that the Cowboys will open their season on NBC.

A month ago, we told you that the 2012 NFL season would be kicking off on a Wednesday night. And, of course, it would involve the world champion New York Giants.

Now, we know who the first opponent in the Giants’ defense of their 2011-12 championship will be. It’s a familiar one. And it is a division rival.

But it won’t be the Washington Redskins, who opened their season with the Giants for the previous two seasons.

Instead, it’ll be the Dallas Cowboys. That’s right: for an unprecedented third time in a row, the Giants and Cowboys will be playing a regular season game on NBC. Their first regular season matchup of 2011 was not until Week 14, with their Week 17 contest flexed into “Sunday Night Football” given the “win and you’re in” factor of the game.

And now, these teams will be playing the first NFL game to be played on a Wednesday night in 64 years.

So it shall be the Giants opening the 2012 season against a team they swept last year (Cowboys), as opposed to the Redskins, who despite their 6-10 record, managed to win both games against the Giants in 2011.

No matter how much apathy you might exhibit at this decision (and there’s been quite a few on my own Twitter timeline after the announcement was first made), it was the right decision.

Considering the Redskins were players (albeit not favorites, but on the radar) in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, had the former Colts quarterback headed to the Nation’s Capital, you can bet that it would be the Redskins, and not the Cowboys, opening the 2012 season, for the simple fact that it would be Peyton, barring a setback in his neck surgery recovery, against his little brother Eli, who has now won twice as many Super Bowls as his older brother. Of course, playing against his brother was a factor in Peyton choosing to stay in the AFC, and joining the Broncos.

And while Robert Griffin III, expected to be drafted by the Redskins, is as dynamic as the scouts say he is, he probably wouldn’t generate as much ratings gold as Tony Romo and company would deliver when they clash with the G-Men, as evidenced by their January 1 “playoffs or bust” showdown.

As for the Cowboys on NBC, the magic number is 3: Not only will this be the third consecutive time their game against the Giants will be shown on the Peacock Network, but it’s the third year in a row that the Cowboys have opened their season with a game on NBC. They hosted the Redskins on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 1 in 2010, and traveled to the Meadowlands to face the Jets in Week 1 last year. The Cowboys would lose both of those games.

And the odds don’t appear to be in the Cowboys’ favor for this year’s opener: The Super Bowl champion is a perfect 8-0 in the season “kickoff game” dating back to 2004. Throw in the Redskins’ win over the Jets in 2003, and you have nine years in a row that the home team won the “kickoff game.” (The lone road win was in 2002 by the 49ers; the team on the losing end of that one just happened to be the Giants.)

Also, as Inside Football’s Patricia Traina reminds us, the Giants have an astounding 5-1 record on games played on Wednesdays, including a perfect 2-0 in season openers played on “hump day.” (Note that these games were played way back in the mid-’20’s and early ’30’s.) This will be the first Wednesday game for the Giants in 78 years. (Efforting to get the last time, if at all, the Cowboys played a Wednesday game…)

The rest of the NFL schedule is slated to be released in the third week of April, possibly April 18 – though prior to, the league may share the matchups for certain games such as the trio to be played on Thanksgiving – the night game to be played for the first time on NBC.

But not before the first Wednesday NFL game since the merger is to be played on NBC.