Friday, June 29, 2012

A PTU Salute to WFAN

The idea that there was ever a time without sports radio is crazy to most of us. For as long as any of us at PTU can remember, 660 on the AM dial has been nothing but middle aged men yakking about New York sports. Any extended trip in a car with your father or a stop in a pizzeria for a slice was accompanied by a WFAN host arguing with a caller. You had Steve Somers and his creepy uncle vibe late afternoons with Russ Salzberg (who would later take his sweaters to UPN/My9 News), Bill "you had no idea I was black until I worked on MSG" Daughtry in the evenings, Mike and the Mad Dog all the damn afternoon along with John Minko and 20/20 sports updates and Don Imus before the world hated him and his cowboy hat in the morning. World spanning NBC sports anchor Len Berman was an original host, as was HBO boxing guy Jim Lampley and Greg Gumbel. Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier did the Knicks games (one a national announcer now and the other the coolest man in the world), and of course the Fan has been the home of the Mets for decades now (Let's go Mets! F.A.N.) It all seems commonplace now but in the late 80s it was revolutionary. Today, it's a formula that's been replicated all over the country. Two assholes sit in a studio for 4 hours taking calls like this:

Host: Vinnie in Bayside on the line, how ya doin Vinnie?

Vinnie: How ya doin, Mike? First time, long time. I wanna talk about the Mets.

It's really simple but that kind of exchange didn't exist until July 1st, 1987. Now you have nationally syndicated shows, and every city has at least one station dedicated to talking about their sports teams. Sports fans are almost all obsessive, and we don't go a day without talking about some type of sport for at least a couple minutes, be it on e-mail, text, social media or even sometimes in person. Blogs like this wouldn't exist without people's insatiable appetites for all things sports (ok this blog would probably still exist) but it's hard to fathom that there was ever a period in this country during which people thought there wouldn't be a market for that kind of stuff. For better or worse (probably for better), WFAN blazed the trail for the round the clock sports culture. A lot of the voices have changed but it's still the same basic format and Vinnie is still mad at the Mets. I'm going to get a slice of pizza this weekend and listen to the bickering.

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