The Week That Was: Come Back To Astoria, WFAN

     Longtime WFAN programming director Mark Chernoff must be thinking to himself that things were a lot simpler and better back when that sports talk radio station made its home in the Kaufman Studios in Astoria. Kaufman was home to “The FAN” from its inception in 1987 until 2009, when its corporate overseer at the time, CBS Radio, moved all of their radio properties to Hudson Square in SoHo.

     When it was located in Astoria, WFAN executives liked to brag that it was the top ad-billing station in the world. Of course, the media landscape was quite different as no one heard of the Internet until the 1990s and social media, such as Facebook, was just getting started in earnest just as the FAN was leaving Queens.

      The past year has been a nightmare for Chernoff. It started with the long farewell tour of afternoon drivetime legend Mike Francesa who then changed his mind about leaving and was back on the air three months later.

     That wouldn’t have been so terrible if the station didn’t make a big deal of his replacement, the trio of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott, who then had to quickly be shuffled to the less scrutinized 1-3 PM timeslot.                     

      Last fall, Craig Carton, who was one half of the very successful morning drive team of “Boomer & Carton” (the Boomer being former NFL QB Boomer Esiason), was arrested by federal officials on charged of aiding and abetting a Ponzi scheme that involved consumers buying tickets to sporting and other entertainment events. Carton resigned from the FAN but it’s safe to say that it wasn’t voluntary.

     Last week the tabloids had a field day reporting that a former WFAN sales executive, Lauren Lockwood, is suing the station for $5 million on charges of sexual harassment and longtime midday host, Joe Benigno, was named as a defendant in the suit. Benigno’s agent, Marc Lepselter, has denied any wrongdoing on the part of his client.

      Making matters worse for Mark Chernoff is that CBS sold its storied radio division last year to Entercom, a no-nonsense, trim-the-fat, buttoned- down media company whose headquarters are in the Mainline suburbs of Philadelphia. I can’t imagine Entercom CEO David Field being happy about all this public upheaval.

     Chernoff did have to deal with one major crisis when the FAN was located in Astoria. Morning jock Don Imus made a dumb and insensitive joke about the very successful 2007  Rutgers women’s basketball team in 2007 and was fired by CBS CEO Les Moonves for it.

     Imus, who cared little about sports, was replaced by the aforementioned “Boomer & Carton” show and WFAN wound up getting higher ratings in the morning than it had ever gotten previously.

     Astoria was always a good luck charm for WFAN. Come back home guys!

     You can’t blame Mets fans for wanting to put a fist through the wall after learning Sunday that Noah Syndergaard had to be placed on the disabled list because of a virus he contracted probably from a kid  at a camp in Wayne, New Jersey the last day of the All-Star Game break. He was there as part of a promotion for Welch’s Fruit Snacks. At least it wasn’t something far more serious such as lyme disease. The Mets may want to include riders in future player contracts prohibiting them from visiting summer camps given their historical bad luck with regard to keeping their players on the field.

     News of Syndergaard’s bizarre illness came less than 48 hours after slugger Yoenis Cespedes informed the media on his first day back from a lengthy stay on the disabled list that he will probably need surgery on both of his heels. If that were to happen Cespedes estimated that he would have to miss a good chunk of the 2019 season.                       

    The one bit of good news for the Mets this past week is that they beat the Yankees on Friday night in Yankee Stadium by a score of 7-5 which means that SNY will finally be able to show a Mets-Yankees game as part of its “Mets Classics” for the first time in two years. The Mets lost all four games that they played with the Yankees in 2017 and the game that they won earlier in the year behind a great pitching performance by Seth Lugo at Citi Field was shown on ESPN as part of its Sunday night baseball package.

    Speaking of SNY, the Mets cable home debuted a new dating show Friday night that takes place at Citi Field that’s cleverly titled “Prospects.”  Comedian and longtime Mets fan Alex Aronson takes on the Andy Cohen hosting duties of this very low-budget spoof of Fox’s “Love Connection.”  If you liked past cheesy SNY shows as “Beer Money” and “Oh Yeah!” then you should really enjoy “Prospects.” It’s so bad that it’s good. 

     Newsday sports columnist Neil Best nicely updated the Latin phrase attributed to Julius Caesar of veni; vidi; vici (“I came; I saw; I conquered’) when he wrote last week about former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis announcing his retirement. Neil summed up his feelings for Revis this way:“He came, he covered; he collected.”

       In doing so, Neil was describing the mixed emotions Jets fans and management have with respect to Darrelle Revis’s legacy. Yes, Revis was one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history during his first tenure with the Jets. He was so good that opposing quarterbacks refused to throw to receivers who were being covered by him and thus the media coined the term “Revis Island.”

     The debit side to Darrelle was that he would frequently stay out of training camp whenever his agent wanted to renegotiate his contract and that was a frequent occurrence. To Revis’s credit he was able to get more guaranteed millions than most of his fellow NFL players.

    Jets owner Woody Johnson tired of Revis’s disruptive act and traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Two years later, after Revis earned a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots, Woody had a change of heart and re-signed Revis to a very lucrative contract. It’s too bad that his ability to cover NFL receivers had badly eroded by 2016 and he was more often than not burned by even mediocre wideouts.

     Former Nets forward Richard Jefferson did a solid job filling in for Jalen Rose on ESPN’s “Get Up!” last week as Rose was honeymooning. Jefferson was always good for a quip when I covered him back in the day at the Meadowlands Arena and he displayed that same quick sense of humor on camera.

     One of the most famous iconic brands for baby boomers, Hush Puppies, held a press event in town last week to mark its 60th birthday and to announce that it will be seriously targeting the American market once again.

     Hush Puppies executives referred to their company as the manufacturer of the first casual shoe in the world. I asked the company president, Greg Tunney, the reasons for the brand fading from public consciousness over the year. He told me that the old management team concentrated so much on the international market where the company has thrived that it neglected the USA.

      The company is changing with the times however as it is making leather slip-ons and suede oxfords in a variety of colors as opposed to the old beige loafer that was sold at Buster Brown back in the day. And yes, old school fans, the beige loafer is still available.

      If you are bored with typical jams and jellies Polaner has just introduced Fruit & Maple Spreads. Right now they come in just raspberry and peach but expect more flavors to be rolled out soon. They can even be used as a substitute for syrup on pancakes or waffles.

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