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Aaron Leibowitz | The Fan

The FAN

Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 07:11

 

Cue the music. 

“Sports radio sixty-six — the FAN!  — W-F-A-N, New Yoooork!” 

Cue the personalities.

“Joe and Evan in the midday ... This is Mike’s On, Francesa on the FAN ... Steve Somers here, and you there!”

Cue the callers.

“Bruce from Bayside, you’re on the FAN ... Bill from Brentwood ... Eli from Westchester...”

Cue the rants.

“Mike, is anyone worse in the clutch than A-Rod? ... Joe, why in the world would the Jets go for it on fourth down? ... Steve, I’ve been a Met fan for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this...”

And so it has gone on the flagship station for New York sports, every minute of every day — with the exception of a few minor road blocks — since July 1, 1987.

On that day, WFAN changed what it meant to be a sports fan. Almost 20 years before Twitter, the FAN provided an outlet for fans to chat, speculate and, above all, scream about their favorite teams. 

After the Mets completed their epic collapse in 2007, my dad and I walked out of Shea Stadium in a state of shock. Without saying a word, we walked to our car, sat down and turned on the radio to 660. 

We drove home in silence that day, listening to the soothing voice of Steve Somers, a.k.a. “the Schmoozer,” lamenting the dire state of our New York Metropolitans.   

That is the beauty of sports talk radio. Even if Schmooze couldn’t make us feel better, he could at least remind us that we weren’t alone. I don’t know Somers, and I don’t know any of the people who called in to talk to him that day. But all of them had watched the same thing my dad and I had, and all of them felt our pain.  

At low moments, WFAN is the best medicine. In the morning, it’s top-notch entertainment. And late at night, it’s the perfect post-mortem.

The question is, how much is too much? That was the question when the idea for sports talk radio first arose in the ’80s, and it is still pertinent today. 

When you talk about sports non-stop, you have to keep people entertained. You have to take extreme viewpoints. You have to scream.

Not only does the shouting become obnoxious at times, but the topics become worn out. There’s only so much sports to talk about in a given day, and eventually it can feel like the hosts are beating a dead horse (see: Tebow, Tim).  

Nonetheless, the appeal of WFAN — and of every sports talk show that gets it right — is that the banter is genuine. It’s you and your buddies debating who’s the best quarterback in the NFL. It’s Joe from Saddle River talking Jets with Ira from Staten Island. 

It’s the way real, regular people talk about sports: sometimes intelligently, sometimes stupidly and always loudly.

As one of the early minds at WFAN, Doyle Rose, told Grantland.com in a piece this summer celebrating the station’s 25th anniversary: “What really makes it work are the stories behind the stories, the characters, the discontent from fans and contracts that haven’t been negotiated properly. All the kinds of things people sit around and bulls--t about at the bar.”

That’s where good talk radio still has Twitter beat. It’s intimate. It’s authentic. It provides voices with real personality and raw emotion. 

Steve Somers may be here, and you may be there. But there’s much more connecting you than the miles and the radio waves. 

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Aaron Leibowitz is a junior who is majoring in American studies. He can be reached at Aaron.Leibowitz@tufts.edu.

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