Sweeny: Personal Reflections As WFAN Turns 25
By Sweeny Murti
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My dreams came true on July 1, 1987. And I had no idea it happened.
When WFAN first came on the air I was a 17-year-old boy in Pennsylvania, about to enter my senior year of high school. I had decided some three or four years earlier that I wanted to broadcast sports on the radio for a living. In my dreams I saw a place where people would go to talk sports all the time and call it work. It started without me twenty-five years ago.
I was too busy that summer wearing out my cassette tape of The Joshua Tree in my Walkman and scooping ice cream for minimum wage ($3.35 an hour I think) to notice what was going on in New York. Like every great invention of the last 42 years, I was nowhere near it when it happened. But, boy, did it become a big part of my life.
By the time I had even heard of WFAN, it was the summer of 1990 and I was about to start my junior year in college. In August of that year, before classes started up again, I spent a week in New York City, my first prolonged visit here. I had intended to go visit this all-sports radio station. I wanted to walk in the door and announce my presence with authority. I needed to see this place created out of my dreams and have my future open itself up to me. Turns out, I couldn’t even get them to open the front door to me.
After navigating my way on the R train to Astoria, I walked confidently toward the old building at 34-12 36th Street. I couldn’t get past the security guards at Kaufman-Astoria Studios. I couldn’t even talk my way in. Maybe a different career choice was in order.
I might have done a better job at getting in the door if I knew anything about the radio station. Truth be told all I knew was that it was all-sports and they carried Mets games. Other than a few games, I’m not sure I even heard any of the talk shows to be honest. I guess it’s okay to admit it now, but the first time I ever heard any of the shows on WFAN was when I walked in the door for my internship interview in March 1991 and heard what was playing on the speakers in the hallways. Not the strategy I would recommend when looking to procure a job of any kind.
Having built a pretty good resume for a college student, I guess I impressed them enough anyway. I started my internship in the summer of 1991, when Stump Merrill was managing the Yankees and Buddy Harrelson was managing the Mets, only a few months after Scott Norwood’s wide right, and about a month before Michael Jordan won his first NBA Championship.
That was the beginning of the rest of my life. Since May of 1991 I have spent all but 30 months employed by WFAN. I have gone from intern to producer to update guy to Yankees reporter. I have been to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics. I have seen too many things and have too many stories for just one column.
I was in the control room the first time Jerry Seinfeld called Steve Somers and gave us what still might be the funniest hour ever heard on our air.
I went through the Canyon of Heroes in Yankees victory parades in 1996 and again in 2009.
I was in the newsroom when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994 and for the first real Subway Series in 2000.
I listened on my Walkman when Doc Gooden threw a no-hitter in 1996 and on my iPhone when Johan Santana threw a no-hitter in 2012.
Many things have changed in the last 25 years, but WFAN is still a sports fan’s must-stop.
The athletes have grown up in this world where instant reaction rules, for better or worse. One of the original sports talk whipping boys from 1987, Darryl Strawberry, smiled ear to ear the first time I walked up with a WFAN microphone in 1996. Few athletes have captured our listeners’ attention the way Straw did for our first decade. It wasn’t always nice, but it was always from passionate fans and Darryl seemed to appreciate that.
Some of the kids who grew up listening to us have grown into the stars themselves. Jon Daniels is general manager of the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers. He once told a colleague that he used to listen to me do updates late at night when he was in college. Theo Epstein, former GM of the Red Sox and current President of the Cubs, has told a similar story to Mike Francesa. WFAN hasn’t just become a place for fans to gather, it’s become part of the sports landscape.
Go to any major outlet, local or national, and you will find people with WFAN ties: Mike Breen, Ian Eagle, Jay Glazer, Steve Levy, Chris Carlin, Sam Ryan, Kenny Albert, and even more who simply listened to the station as a kid and dreamed of doing the same thing.
For the last 25 years, when a big sports story breaks, local or national, there is one place to turn to hear details, reaction, analysis… basically to talk about the story as if you were sitting on your porch or a local tavern. Even in an ever-changing media landscape, there is nothing to duplicate what WFAN has become. Sure, everyone can blog and tweet about what they feel, but only on The Fan can you hear the passion and the heartache and the raw emotion that comes out only from true sports fans.
It’s even better than what I dreamed when I was 17.
What’s your favorite WFAN memory? Let us know in the comments below!