By Jason Keidel
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It was the chat that went viral, that pinballed through the new media and its infinite social networks: two alphas who collided but never conceded. I watched the interview twice, listened to it thrice, and neither was nice.
To qualify myself, to shed my shill status, I will say I’ve met Mike Francesa once – before I joined WFAN. Indeed, I interviewed Mike for amNew York (a subsidiary of Newsday), a free paper you see bulging from those red boxes on every corner, buttressed against other rags stiff-arming extinction.
I expected ten minutes of Mike’s time, yet he gave me an hour. He answered every question and more. Forgive the platitude, but he treated me like a son.
And that was the last I ever heard from him. I clipped a personal note to the newspaper that ran my profile on him. I called him, “Facebooked” him, and tried to reach him through his former producer. My goal was to get my foot into the famous, WFAN door. And I never got a response. So you could argue that my beef with him is greater than all of yours. Combined.
Did he big-time me? Perhaps But it’s not his job to get me a job. And I made it here without him, with help from some very kind people who are too humble to want their names plastered to this piece. So I have no dog in this hunt. I don’t, however, see any major malfeasance in the infamous tête-à-tête you witnessed on Friday.
Should Mike have let it go after the third time he told Darrelle Revis it was a penalty? Perhaps. Should Revis have answered the question more candidly? Probably. Should the PR minion not have ordered the cornerback to hang up? Clearly.
Mike should have acknowledged that Brandon Marshall stumbled into Revis, thus initiating the contact, and Revis should have admitted he tugged on Marshall’s jersey. And then both should have moved on. Unfortunately (and famously) they didn’t, which led to Revis making the silly assertion that Mike can’t judge the play because he never played in the NFL. So, by extension, you and I are not allowed an opinion, either. This is the default defense of many athletes backed into a corner. Most great players bristle at anyone who questions their genius. Perhaps it’s part of what makes them great.
This radio combat was catnip to those who dislike Mike. “He finally got a taste of his own medicine!” you bellowed, along with gratuitous references to his weight. Many of you see him as a surly radio boss whose tongue whips the first caller to question his opinion. Many of you have cringed while he pounds the magic button on the screen to his left after John Q Public says something Mike decides is dumb.
You may find it a faulty caveat, but Mike doesn’t consider callers his audience. Once your voice makes it to his studio, he considers you part of the show, subject to the bylaws of his logic. He makes a distinction between the callers and his overall audience, whom he cherishes. You may believe it or not. I do.
And now it’s time to tell the truth. You still listen. If all your bold declarations that you’ve forever turned the dial since Dog left are true, then how did you hear the interview? And why did the article on this site get more hits and comments than any in its young history? And why does Mike’s audience tower over the competition?
Both men are at the top of their profession, unwilling – if not unequipped – to have their authority questioned. Revis was raised in the galling poverty of Aliquippa, PA, brilliantly described in Sports Illustrated by S.L. Price. Revis makes a living fueled by those memories and the obdurate arrogance that he can’t be beat. On a lesser level, so does Francesa. No matter the vocation, few men surrender the Pole Position. Call it a draw.
To paraphrase the advertising mantra: all publicity is good publicity. Which means we tune in to watch celebrities, teams, and talk radio hosts fail as much as succeed. (How else do you explain the obsession with Lindsay Lohan?) The Revis Reaction was a perfect pretext to sound off on Francesa. Fine. Just stop pretending you don’t tune in.
We know Mike loves tweaking the Jets and their fans, which has helped create the friction between the franchise and Francesa, and will have you speed dialing the polarizing host, telling him to eat his words after Revis (who had another interception) and his Jets beat the favored Chargers. It should be entertaining. He is, after all, an entertainer. And, no matter your take, you can’t say you weren’t entertained.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com