Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.
Mike Francesa gets quite a few things off his chest
Well, my friends, I officially have lost all sense of reason and proportion.
I just spent hours transcribing all 23 minutes of Mike Francesa's rant on WFAN in response to slights and perceived slights over the past month in the wake of his breakup with Chris Russo.
The raw text is interesting, but begs for explanation and interpretation, like stuff in the margins of prayer books that translates ancient, cryptic texts into plain, modern English.
Maybe I'll get to that tomorrow. Right now my fingers need a long rest.
So enjoy Mike unfiltered by clicking below."I have not often talked about any part of it. I havent shared any of it with the audience. I havent talked about it at all. Believe it or not, while Dog has been on this whirlwind promotional tour, as everyone has seen, and hes done 1,000 interviews, some of them even against this program, with old friends and foes alike, which is fine, not one person, not one person, and this has kind of amazed us, not one person has asked my opinion or has asked to do an interview with me about any part of what happened, not one. No one has asked me a question.
"I have to be fair. [Richard] Sandomir from the Times has asked me two questions. One was did I listen to Dogs show yesterday, which I had to inform him I had a show against it, which made it pretty hard. And Best of Newsday has asked a couple of questions. He asked me a few questions as things unfolded. But I have sat here in amazement that as this thing has unfolded over the last month, not one person has asked me to do an interview, or has asked my side of the story, which is fine. But I have to sit here and I have to say that Ive talked to the people here a lot and with some friends of mine that it did amaze me that in all the media not one person wanted to ask me what I thought about it or my side of the story. Not one.
"Now I understand that I have never been a media darling when it comes to getting great treatment, and I probably deserve a lot of that. People think Im tough, they think I dont court favor that well. Lets be honest. I dont have a lot of guys in the media, critics, who Im buddy-buddy with, as Dog lets say is with [the Daily News' Bob] Raissman, so no one has ever written one word about my side of the story. What I worry about it is that our side of the story never gets out to you at all. Our side never has gotten out.
"I dont care what the media writes. They can say whatever they want. They can have any opinion they want. They usually do. The question is, does the audience have any idea whats going on because of the way its been depicted?
"Frankly, I have taken a beating here for a month. And I said I never was going to say a word, not one, until the whole cycle was complete, and now the cycle is complete, because the promotional tour is over and Dog has begun his show, and the best to him. No ill feeling. I hope he does well. But as I said, not one time did anybody ask me my opinion of the breakup, just his. My opinion of the show or what happened or anything else, and frankly, I took the worst of it, which is fine. But really the worst of it.
"When the thing started in the summertime it was depicted that I was leaving and that I was the guy who was an ingrate and the guy who was bailing out on FAN after all these years when things werent going well and going to do TV and then that didnt turn out to be the case. No one even asked me if I was leaving. Then it didnt turn out to be the case. And then the story was that I ran him out. So it went from me being a guy who was an ingrate because I was leaving to me being the bad guy because I ran him out, neither of which was the truth.
"I wasnt leaving, and I didnt run him out. Never did. Dog chose to leave, which was fine. He wanted to leave, and again, he has every right to do that. The way it was depicted was ridiculous. I sat here and watched the interviews that went on and commentary and things I read. I read that I was jealous about how much money Dog made, which was never the truth. It mentioned what my salary was and what Dogs new salary was and how irate I was when no one knew what Dogs salary was or had any idea.
"You learn a lesson, folks. I hope you dont get your information from the newspapers, because the stuff that has been written during this time about me has been so wrong. It has never been even remotely accurate, I mean not even in the ballpark accurate. Stuff about me being jealous and irate about things like that is just totally ridiculous. I didnt do anything with him except be supportive. And I am not worried about anything financially. Im not here to talk about my salary. Ive never done that in 20 years. But I will say that its not anything that anybody has to worry about, nor is it anything . . . Let me just put it this way, OK: It wasnt an issue, OK. Let me put it that way. It was not a factor. It was not startling to me. It did not affect me in any way. It was not an issue.
"To read the things I read and the way I was depicted was just comical. And I sat there as my family read this stuff and saw how I threw these tantrums, which wasnt true, and in interviews Dog did I got knocked for being a bad guy, for being an egomaniac and for being impossible to work with and called all these names. I never uttered a word during the whole cycle of this thing, which went on for a month, whether it was [David] Letterman attacking me, whether it was my old boss [Sirius CEO Mel] Karmazin attacking me, like I didnt make him enough money in 18 years he was here. I dont want to get on him very much. I think Mel better dig in and worry about the fact his [Sirius] stock is 70 cents a share. It was five bucks when he started there. Its up to 74 [cents]. I want to be accurate. Its up to 74.
"I was a little surprised by stuff like that, for no reason. Because all I did was come to work. That was it. I just came to work. I didnt have anything to do with that. I didnt have anything to do with the move. And I came here all summer and as always, came in, did a show and told you the truth. I told you things werent good. I told you we were at a crossroads, and anything I uttered to you all summer was 100 percent accurate and honest. I didnt know where it was going. I didnt know what was going to happen. And obviously we all know what happened. I didnt conceal anything from you. And I never led you astray.
"When I came back to do that show at Yankee Stadium [June 27] I sat and told you, 'Folks, things are not good.' I told you the show was at a crossroad. Now Ive sat here and said nothing. And I dont like to take the program and not do what we do, which is sports. But if I dont use this forum, I dont have one. I dont have someone doing the bidding for me, because like I said, Im not going to be a guy whos going to court favor with the media.
"Most of them, theyre not in love with me and theyd rather see me fall on my head, which I understand. Ive been here doing this a long time. But what I cant deal with is a guy like Raissman, who, listen, hes been Dogs guy for 20 years. I mean basically theyre inseparable. They live together now, I think, the last two months. Raissman is the worst culprit, because he has never, during the time that he has written all this stuff about the breakup of Mike and the Mad Dog has never, ever called me once for a comment, not once. All hes done is attack and attack and attack and the attacks are to attack me and make Dog look good, which is his prerogative.
"But when he called up to get the information about the fact that what Ive done over 20 years on solo shows, which Ive done one for 20 years on Sunday morning and Dog whos done one for 20 years on Saturday morning, and he was given the information, well, the information didnt suit him because my numbers, and thats just the way it is, are very, very good, and Dogs are less than that, substantially less than that, and he didnt write it. He refused to write it. He was given the numbers and he refused to write it, and hes just pounded away.
"So Ive sat here, and like I said, I dont want to make it about me, I really dont. And I know Im accused of being an egomaniac all the time so I should make it about me, because I get accused of being one anyway, so I should make it about me anyway, but I try not to make it about me and instead make it about sports, which is what I love. But I dont like the fact, and my friends are saying to me, 'Hey, you have to fight back,' and I say, 'Im going to sit back and wait and let this whole thing unfold.' But I took a beating, everywhere, every story. I was the villain, I was the bad guy, I was the reason. I was this, I was that, I was the bad guy.
"Chris is always the guy who played the fan, the guy who was more lovable because I played the tough guy. I understand that. Thats fine. Whats great about the audience is the audience sees through and knows what the truth is. And they know if youre telling them the truth, and Ive always tried to tell them the truth. I dont court favor. I dont go asking guys in the media or critics to do my bidding for me, so I get pounded, which is fine, but it comes to a point where you cant take it anymore. Where you say, this is ridiculous.
"A perfect example is Raissman, who is Dogs guy. Ive got him pounding me here since this whole thing started about how, 'Oh, FANs business is going to go down the drain and Francesa cant carry a show by myself.' I cant carry a show by myself? Ive done a show on Sunday morning for 21 years by myself that has never finished behind a conventional station in 21 years. Ive finished behind a few of those church stations, those religious stations that do gospel music on Sunday morning or sermons on Sunday morning, especially the Spanish-speaking ones, which do astronomical ratings. Ive finished behind a couple of those.
"Ive never finished behind a conventional station on Sunday morning in 21 years and my ratings are double Dogs by myself. But I cant carry a show and he can. Now, I never said he couldnt. And I take umbrage with someone who says he couldnt. But for him to write that I couldnt and Dog can is outrageous.
"He did write one word about Miked Up once. He wrote that Miked Up would be a colossal failure the first time I did the show and that there was no room on Sunday night for that kind of show. And I just finished my 250th show at NBC and you can go check and ask NBC about it. That show has record ratings thanks to you the public. For 250 shows its been No. 1. It has driven CBSs show off the air, by their own admission, and it has been a show theyve tried to copy in other cities because it has been so successful.
"I dont want to sit here and talk about the fact I did that. But you know what, why should I sit here and get beat up day after day by a guy who dislikes me and just likes Dog? Just be fair. Be a little bit fair.
"Im going to add some voices to this show. You know why? Because Im here for the next 5Â½ years and I think thats the best show. And Im trying to handpick them. Ive almost hired two people. It hasnt worked out yet. Im talking to a lot more. You know why? I want to give somebody good an opportunity. You know why? This is a great piece of real estate. Weve built something. Dog and I built something special here. Its a great piece of real estate.
"Hopefully the person I pick is here with me for the next 5Â½ years, because God willing Im going to be here, and is here long after Im gone. Im looking for someone to be that. I want to take my time and be sure its right, because I dont want to change again. I mean, I did 19 years with one person. It was great. We had our ups. We had our downs. We had more great times than bad times. We both did really well. But I got tired after a month of being the villain when I didnt say one word. I never did an interview. I never fought back. And I took a beating to the point where it hurt my family. They were upset about things that were written and said when they knew they werent true. To the point where stuff my wife did in private even got in the newspaper, when she did a nice gesture and thats even in the newspaper to make me look bad. And thats just wrong.
"For someone to sit there and say I cant do a show by myself, while Dog can, look at the numbers. Folks, in this town, and again, if I dont say it, no one will, there are only three shows that are No. 1 in sports. I have all three. Miked Up is No. 1. The NFL Now is No. 1. Mike and the Mad Dog has been No. 1 for 20 years. Thats it. No one else has a show. Dog had half of one. I have three. Thats it. No one else comes close. Theres not one person. Now, that makes me an egomaniac for saying that, but you know what, thats fact. You could look it up. Those are facts. So thats why its laughable that anyone is going to be jealous of their salary, because my salary is much higher than anybody elses in this town, by a lot. But its because I have three No. 1 shows. Ive earned that. Ive been doing this for 22, 23 years.
"I have great relationships with sponsors. Theyve known me a long time. I own a piece of The NFL Now. I have a great relationship with NBC. I have a long-term contract there. I have a long-term contract here. And the idea that someone is going to attack what were doing here and Im just going to let them do it and say things like, 'Oh, business is bad at FAN.' Well you know what? Business isnt bad at FAN. And business isnt bad on this show. We never lost a sponsor, not one, since the change.
"I have three outlets right now bidding to simulcast this show for five years three. And YES is one of them. Well see what happens. Thats business. YES has been great. Theyve been a great partner. MSG is wonderful. We have another that wants to bid, too. We have three outlets that want to simulcast the show next year three.
"We have not lost a sponsor, we have not lost a listener, we have not lost anything. I wish Dog well, I really do, I hope he does great. Why do I care if he does great? I hope he does great. I wish him well. I worked with him for 19 years. I have no animosity toward him. But I sit here and I became the bad guy and Im getting attacked, day after day.
"Now Raissman attacks me because he doesnt like me very much. He never has, and he thinks hes boosting Dog. 'Hey, Mike cant carry a show, listen to Dog, Dog can carry a show.' Although the ratings suggest that over 20 years Ive carried the solo shows better than Dog. That doesnt mean Dog cant do it, but how can you say I cant do it when my ratings are double Dogs for 20 years? And I also have a Sunday night show that is unbelievably, if you let me say, successful.
"Everyone in this town, every critic, wrote that show wouldnt work. Every one of them, and theyve never written another word about it since. The only guys whove written about that show are the guys who arent sports critics, just TV critics whove written about that show. The sports guys havent written a word, except to knock it. Which is fine, I live that every day.
"Im not going to get any good publicity from those guys, which is fine. If theyre fair. If theyre not, fine. I can live with that. But what I dont like is when they say that business is bad, or they say I threw a tantrum or say things that hurt my family, its wrong.
"And then you dont get the information. And the relationship I have is with the audience. Sometimes the media tries to be the conduit for that. But the good thing I do is I get to talk directly to the audience. And the audience is why Im here. Im only here because of you. I laugh through the years when people say, 'Oh, Mike doesnt like the audience.' Why? Because Im tough on a caller I dont like the audience? I love the audience. I try to be always respectful to the audience and Ive never looked the audience in the eye and lied, not one minute.
"And during this whole thing not once did I say anything that wasnt totally true. Not once. Not one minute, not one sentence. Everything I told you was the truth. And I never painted a rosy picture. Just go back and listen. But this idea that if I dont bring people onto the show the show is going to collapse, you know what, the show is not going to collapse. Im going to try to put together the best show because I want to. I have nothing to prove here. These guys let me do whatever I want. Ive earned that. They trust my judgment. And why not? Theyve made me a lot of money, Ive made them a lot of money. Thats how it works.
"But when youve got guys who have an agenda like Raissman, and I understand he loves Dog, so hes going to try to pump him up during this time when theres a split. Hes come after me hard the last month. But hes come after me with nothing but stuff he cant back up. He can say he doesnt like my show. Thats his prerogative not to like it.
"But he cant say its not successful and he cant say I cant do it because Ive done it for 20 years and Ive done it in three spots, and let him find a guy in this town whos done it in any category in the ratings on radio and TV. Theres none except the three Ive mentioned, and theyre all mine. Half was Dogs and he did a great job in the biggest one of all. But theres three and theyre all mine, and Im proud of them because of the relationship I have with the audience because the audience responds to me. And thats all I have, because the audience responds to me. They always have. They have for a long time. And the sponsors respond to that. Thats how it works.
"So I dont need the middleman. But I hate to have to come here and do this myself because if I dont do this it doesnt get done. Because not one person, think about it, you had the breakup of a show that was 20 years the No. 1 show in New York, and a show that was covered like a team, and when the show broke up I had two people ask me maybe three questions over one month.
"Not one person asked me to do an interview, not one person asked my side of the story, not one person, not one time, nowhere. Come do a sitdown interview. Come do one on TV, come do one on radio, come do one in the print, come do one in the magazine. Not one person asked to hear my side of the story. Not one. And I was getting pounded. I got pounded on network TV. I got made fun of on network TV. My family had to see that. I was called all kinds of names. I was told I was the reason for the breakup. I was called jealous.
"Hate to say it, but more power to Dog for what he signed for and everything he got. That wasnt going to rock my world. I hate to tell you, thats just the way it is. I hate to say it, because I never wanted to have to say it, but you know what, Ive been called all these names and said all this stuff that just is not accurate. Those folks have not come within two football fields of my salary yet in their stories. Which is not their business. But why write it like you know it when you dont have a clue.
"Heres all you need to know about Raissman: When I went out to Jets camp to do a show, I got Favre on. I worked hard to get Favre on that day. I spent hours behind the scenes to get Favre on that day, because I knew the audience would expect me to have Favre on that day. Hours to get Favre on that day. It took me hours of negotiation.
"I got him on and all Raissman did was knock me, and said I bullied the Jets to get him on. I had Mangini and Favre together doing an interview, the only one youll see, ever in this town that someone would get them to sit down together and do an interview. Then I get knocked, and he wanted to know why SNY, which he gets paid by, couldnt get a one-on-one with Favre. Now how is that objective reporting?
"And how is it objective reporting when during the biggest story that he would handle this year he did not call me once? Or the fact that he took all these numbers from FAN, and when they all played against his view of what would happen, meaning pro Dog and anti-Mike, he dropped them?
"Now Im not going to sit here and read them to you. But you can look them up. Theyre public record. Im not trying to run Dog down. Im trying to tell you, those are facts. And business is very good, and I can sit here and do this by myself for as long as I want, whether someone likes it or not. And Im not going to, because I dont want to. But you know what, enoughs enough. During this whole thing all I did was come to work, and I got hammered.
"Back after this."