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The wonderful website Grantland.com has a few words today (OK, more than a few) about WFAN Radio, which turned 25 last week. If you don’t know the FAN, it was the first all-sports radio station in America, debuting in New York City in July of 1987.
Not to overstate the case or anything, but it changed my life. It changed the lives of millions of people in the tri-state area.
Do you know how we got sports news before WFAN? In brief, 2-3 minute bursts every half hour on the news stations. Or on the weekly (I think it was weekly) Art Rust Jr. sports talk show on WABC.
Or by calling SportsPhone, which will sound hilarious to you young people out there. Yes, we actually used to dial a 976 number during the day to get updated sports news. I remember pleading with my father on many occasions, “Dad, can we please call SportsPhone tonight?”
So the idea in 1987 that suddenly, we would be able to listen to sports talk all day long, 24 hours a day, and call up the station and talk Jets, Knicks, Rangers, Yankees, etc. with knowledgeable hosts with strong opinions? It was beyond nirvana for sports junkies.
I remember how excited I was listening on the first day, as a 12-year-old. Over the years, as I moved away from New York, I loved returning home and catching up with old friends, which is what the hosts felt like.
I’d hear Mike Francesa, the man with the biggest ego in America, argue with “Mad Dog” Chris Russo about old baseball players. I’d listen to Steve Somers, schmoozing on the overnights with the insomniacs of New York.
And when living in North Carolina, it brought me faint relief late on Sunday nights during football season, when the FAN signal would come through and I’d hear the desperately passionate fan Joe Benigno would rail about our beloved Jets, making the same points I made to my fellow sufferers hours earlier.
Sports talk radio doesn’t seem so revolutionary now; every city has a station. But then, it was a godsend.
The Grantland article is an excellent oral history that covers the highs and lows of how history was made (the stuff about Don Imus, and Somers, are particularly awesome). I highly recommend it, even if it takes a few sittings to get through.
**Today’s my 3rd blog-iversary over here at Wide World of Stuff. Yep, on July 11, 2009, I gave the world just what it needed: another blog.
If you’ve been reading since Day 1 (I’ve written 985 posts since then, but here was my first one, or you just are discovering this site today, I want to thank you for taking the time to visit. I’ve had 316,698 visitors since I started, which sounds like a lot but really is pretty small. Still, I’m proud of my little corner of the Web.
I know there are a million websites you could be reading, and I’m truly honored you take the time to read mine.
**And now, in keeping with one of my themes of bringing you the weirdness of our world, I present the 2012 Humpy Awards, honoring the best dog-humpers in all of the land.
God bless America.