When is the party?
Judging by the reaction of "The Michael Kay Show" crew to its win over WFAN's Mike (Sports Pope) Francesa in the January ratings book, it's not a matter of IF but WHEN they beat The All-Knowing One in the full (three month) Winter ratings book for the first time in 17 years.
On the air, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg, two members of the cast, imagined what type of party they would throw, even describing the location and music that would be played. Kay did not participate in that particular early Wednesday afternoon hoopla because he said he was "getting a colonoscopy," which was likely not the kind of celebrating he envisioned.
When he did hit the air, Kay reveled in the January win. His show notched a 5.8 share (in the key men 25-54 demographic) to Francesa's 5.0 share. The celebratory mood was enhanced when Dan Le Batard joined the proceedings. He triumphantly proclaimed the Kay show as "the number one sports talk show (in New York) in afternoon drive" and ripped Francesa, dumping on "the style of show" he does.
Still, all this ESPN chest-thumping was done with the race still far from the finish line. You can't cash the ticket until the race is over and it will take two more books to determine who the real "winner" is. So, Kay's quasi celebration was meaningless. It sounded like it was about propping up egos.
The media attention to the January book, which as a stand-alone measurement does not tell the whole story, can be attributed to the amount of time Francesa spends saying there is "no rivalry" and Kay's very public whining about his 17-year quest to finally beat Francesa during an entire three-month ratings period.
With all ESPN's marketing might (which includes cash giveaways) and access to "big name" guests, its afternoon drive show's inability to hit the promise land is mind boggling. Yet while Kay & Co. finally believe they have the momentum to topple the Sports Pope, could their premature "victory" lap come back to bite them in the tuchis.
If Francesa winds up winning the Winter book, will the February celebration be looked back on as the ESPN mouths spiking the ball before they actually hit paydirt? Will Francesa use this (Rosenberg also jabbed Francesa for his tweet criticizing Landon Collins) as motivation for himself and the unwashed masses who still swear by him?
Francesa has already showed he can hang in and win over the full ratings period. He came from behind to nose out Kay 5.9 to 5.8 in the Fall ratings book. Now, with Kay & Co. and others (some Gnomes have even predicted Kay will drive His Holiness back into "retirement") dissing and dismissing Francesa as a relic, albeit one charging $8.99 for his app, it's a safe bet the Pontiff will shoot back. And if he actually losses he will concoct a way to twist the numbers, at least in his own mind, to declare victory.
Meanwhile, no matter what happens, of bigger concern to both Kay and Francesa, and the suits running their stations, is the inability for the sports talk format to finish number one in the market, in ANY time slot (WFAN and ESPN's morning drive ratings ain't nothing to crow about), against a variety of other programming.
Is that because the sports talk format has become less about sports?
Anyone want to celebrate that?
START CRYIN' FOR ZION
Outside of coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke alums, the two most concerned organizations waiting to see if Blue Devils' star Zion Williamson returns to the court are CBS and Turner.
Williamson is a ratings magnet. He affects viewership. Having him in five or six primetime NCAA tournament games starting next month is gold to the broadcasters.
Without him, the tourney loses most of its star shine and a significant amount of viewers who would've tuned in just to see Williamson perform.
MORE GARDEN PARTY?
Could there be a day when the Knicks don't play in the Garden?
Even a segment of the local NBA media, most of whom have blessed, endorsed, and through their work show just how much they want the Knicks latest "plan" to succeed, get all excited when someone, in this case, Bill Simmons, reports "sources say" James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan is seriously considering selling the team.
Let's take this further. If Dolan were to sell the Knicks but keep the Garden, imagine what it will be like for the new owner? Dolan would be that owner's landlord. In that position Dolan would cut a rental deal that would be favorable to his interests. So, not only would the new Knicks owner have to pay Dolan exorbitant rent but also likely give him a piece of other revenue streams like concessions, apparel and other Knicks related items sold in the Garden.
It's not a reach to suggest the new billionaire who bought the Knicks would want the team to play in a new building that he owned. Why pay Dolan again after you already paid him billions to purchase the franchise?
So, the questions for all involved are 1) Do the "new" Knicks need to play in the Garden to succeed financially? 2)Or does the Garden need the Knicks playing in the building in order to retain its "World's Most famous Arena" status?
THE BRODIE SHOW
The "C" of "CMB," Chris Carlin, recently posed a telling question to listeners, asking: "Has there been anyone else with so many pictures put out by a team than the Mets do for Brodie Van Wagenen?"
The answer is no, certainly not for a GM. BVW has changed a lot of things in and around the Mets. Another telling sign came when the New York Post put a picture of one of his hires, Adam Guttridge, assistant GM/systematic development, on its backpage. While Guttridge title sounds important, the subject of statistical evaluations ain't real juicy.
No matter, Guttridge is one of Brodie's boys. And so far all the coverage, and the pictures Carlin spoke of, coming out of Port St. Lucie, more than indicates that BVW is the star of the show.
So, when is some outlet going to give him his own show or weekly radio spot? Van Wagenen has more sizzle that Mickey Callaway (that's no revelation) and Mets fans would tune in to hear him. ESPN-98.7, could pull an end around by signing BVW, keeping him way from Entercom-owned WFAN. Or WCBS-AM, which will air Mets games this season.
AROUND THE DIAL
Just wondering why John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling keeps telling anyone who will listen (most recently in Newsday) that he has a contract for life? Is it because he really doesn't have a contract for life? Or is it because he knows Entercom may bring other voices into the Yanks booth to rotate with Sterling and Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman during the 2020 season?. ... It should not be lost on those who care that WFAN's "CMB" had a good ratings month in January. It also should not be lost on anybody that Maggie Gray, Bart Scott and Carlin have struck a major chemical balance.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: MANNY MACHADO
Could any sports figure enjoy a better week? Machado pockets $300 million in guaranteed money to play in lovely San Diego. And once Bryce Harper signs the spotlight shifts to him and Manny lives happily ever after – until he opts out. What a life!
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: ALLIANCE OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL
The first rule of establishing credibility is ensuring you are financially sound. Everything else is fixable but without dough you're a schmo. Shame on the startup football league's organizers for needing a lifeline this week to get players paid.
What Sean Doolittle said: "Manny Machado's deal is good for the game but don't spit on my cupcake and tell me it's frosting."