Sports radio has been a huge part of my life. Thanks to years of listening I’ve come to love many of the New York sportscasters.
When I recently saw on Twitter there was going to be a bar-crawl “honoring” local drive-time sports guru Mike Francesa, my brothers and I knew we had to attend FrancesaCon. The event took place last Saturday February 1, the day before the Super Bowl, at several pubs on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Hundreds of grown men, and a few women, garbed mainly in Francesa's signature look: dress shirt (most with stomach pillows,) khakis, grey wigs, circular wire frame glasses carrying bottles of Diet Coke, arrived at Saloon Bar for the celebration. A few wore pope hats and one came in full papal garb as Francesa is nicknamed the "Sports Pope."
Drinking, chanting, trivia contests and interviews by a fake Mike of real athletes who showed, as well as buying and selling of FrancesaCon paraphernalia were all part of the salute to Mike.
Francesa has been the drive-time host at WFAN for 25 years, the first 18 with partner Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo. His call-in talk show is on every weekday from 1:00 PM to 6:30 PM, and during the football season he also does a show every Sunday from 9 AM until about 11 AM.
Francesa is not an easy character to like, but he is so knowledgeable and connected to the New York sports scene that he is a must-listen. Francesa is completely bombastic with the show's callers, hanging up on some and ridiculing others who dare to disagree with him.
Some frequent callers to the show have even become minor celebs. One notable caller is Jerome from Manhattan, a die-hard Yankees fan who rages about some Yankee failures, even minor ones, each time he calls.
Francesa is arrogant, pompous, and completely full of himself, he speaks with a thick stereotypical Long Island/New York accent, it’s difficult to imagine how this larger than life figure consistently ranks #1 (which he used to tell listeners daily) in the ratings, let alone gather such a massive cult following on social media.
The idea for FrancesaCon was conceived in late November by 23-year-olds Michael Leboff and Ron Haka, who worried that no one would show. "I think this comes from a place of love, mostly," said Leboff from Rockville Centre, NY.
My journey to FrancesaCon began at 12:30 in the afternoon when my twin brother Matt and I hopped on a train from New Jersey to meet up with our older brother Joe at the bar. When we arrived at Saloon at 2:00, it was a madhouse. Francesas everywhere. There were drink specials such as Jeter and Pope (Captain Morgan and Diet Coke), and a trivia contest hosted by a “Mike” and “Chris” as well.
Two impersonators of Francesa and Russo were interviewing guests such as Amir Khan, the 2004 Boxing Olympic Silver Medalist in the Lightweight division, and Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets Tight-End and team-leader in touchdown catches for the 2013 season. Even former New York Mets great and current Mets TV broadcaster Ron Darling showed up later in the afternoon.
Because the event was a “yuge” success there is no need to “werry” about whether there will be one next year, even the man himself said he might attend next year. Back aftah dis.