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The news broke Tuesday that 64-year-old sports radio host Mike Francesa looks set to return to WFAN for weekday afternoons (although the station themselves says just “we are in ongoing discussions“), only four months after his 23-month goodbye tour wrapped up with a final goodbye and the station naming the studio after him and trying to move on with the new cast of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott.

Francesa’s apparent return to reclaim his Sports Pope throne is downright Shakespearean, or Sopranos-esque (except with a lower actual body count than both), and it’s created a whole ton of talk. The reaction from many of the media to Francesa’s return, which saw him say he made this move only because of a “campaign in recent days” to keep him away, hasn’t been terribly positive. For example, there’s his old WFAN partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, now on SiriusXM and MLB Network, who said Francesa’s quick return after “such a long goodbye” makes him look like a “horse’s fanny”:

“When you retire, just retire. You finish, you say goodbye on a Friday afternoon, give the callers a chance, and move on. You can’t do a long goodbye, because if you do a long goodbye, it gets a little tedious, number one, and number two, if you change your mind in five or six months, you look like a horse’s fanny. When it’s time to go, just sense in your own gut and go.”

Russo then goes on to deliver a treatise on gender roles and parenting:

“Make sure that when you do retire, you’ve got something to do every day. Now, Mike’s got young kids (13-year-old boy and girl twins and an 11-year-old son), so it’s much harder. You can’t go to Miami or West Palm Beach or the Kentucky Derby because you’ve got to deal with young kids in school!…You don’t want to be home with kids! That’s why the wife, that’s why the missus is there! Let Jeannie Rousseau take the kids to school, let her worry about Colin’s headache, let her worry about Kira’s SAT scores, let me go to work and do a talk show every day, and I’ll see you at 7:30!”

Steve Politi of The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger weighed in in even harsher terms in a column titled “Mike Francesa is a jerk and WFAN is a spineless mess” (and yes, columnists often don’t write their own headlines, but he endorsed this one on Twitter):

I know, there is nothing about Mike Francesa’s return to WFAN just four months after his — cough, cough — retirement that should surprise anyone given the size of his ego. But his galling lack of self-awareness should at least be the subject of a psychological study, right? 

Imagine announcing that you were going to leave a job 18 months before you actually do it, then spending much of that time getting showered with hosannas before an elaborate celebration to mark your departure, only to announce within a few weeks that you’re not only coming back but you’re doing so essentially to spite the people who didn’t want you back. 

The technical term for that type of person is “a jerk.”

So I’m not surprised Francesa is coming back. He couldn’t get a stage big enough for that ego anywhere else, so he’s elbowing his way back into his old chair — and, if you are the type of person who makes a move like this, you don’t concern yourself with the other lives/careers that you’re impacting along the way. 

What about the competition? Well, Michael Kay of 98.7 ESPN New York (whose show recently beat Francesa’s replacements in the ratings, a rare occasion that caused some national ESPN PR gloating) compared it to Jay Leno coming out of retirement in 2010 to take The Tonight Show back from Conan O’Brien (a move which was not well-received by many) and called WFAN’s actions “disgraceful”:

“Let’s compare what Jay Leno did, right? I never blamed Jay Leno, I’ve always blamed NBC. I’ve always been ‘I’m in it for me,’ right? That’s my catchphrase. To come back, he doesn’t care. FAN’s disgraceful for what they did to the people they hired. They’re the ones that you should say is disgraceful. I mean, Mike misses being on the air, people should do what makes them happy. And he realized it after four months. But FAN got the one [ratings] book that they lost, and they bang those people?”

Andrew Marchand of The New York Post (who Francesa recently sparred with over Marchand’s reporting about Francesa’s future) has quite the lines in his column/news piece on the move:

At 64 and in “retirement,” Francesa has had trouble lining up projects to match his salary requests and his ego, which has led to his return to his old home. It is going to be a dysfunctional one, to say the least.

And some more on Twitter:

Marchand also noted that Francesa is taking a pay cut to come back:

As per Francesa’s replacements, Carlin, Gray, and Scott were quite positive in their show-opening comments:

“All I could tell you is this: We are not going anywhere, we are going to be a big part of this radio station for a long time and this is a business,” Carlin said as the show opened at 2 p.m. “You are talking about someone in Mike who was wildly successful for 30 years, so it only makes business sense to welcome someone like that back into the fold. Is it awkward? Of course it is.

“There’s room for all of us here and we’re all going to be here. We’re going to continue to grow and I guarantee you one thing: We are going to have a ton of fun doing it. If Mike’s back in the afternoon, and it certainly looks like that’s going to be the case, it only makes the radio station stronger.”

The rest of the media world isn’t anywhere near as high on this, though. And while the general listener reaction has been more positive, with some criticizing the CMB show and welcoming Francesa’s return, there are plenty there not thrilled with how this has been handled either.

It’s interesting that WFAN’s statement is only “we are in ongoing discussions“: it seems likely something will get done, but with no deal yet, it’s possible to see the waves of criticism here making them ponder if this reunion is really worth it, especially given the rumored widespread internal dislike of Francesa at the station. We’ll see how this all plays out, but the amount of ragging on Francesa here is certainly notable, and it’s pretty clear his WFAN return isn’t going to be welcomed by everyone.

[Funhouse on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.