With another of its popular “Oral Histories” debuting today, Grantland.com chronicles the birth and growth of 24-hours sports talk radio through the prism of New York’s AM radio station, WFAN.
In the introduction to “The sound and the fury: The fall and rise of the first all-sports-talk station, WFAN,” contributing writers Alex French and Howie Kahn explain that “On July 1, 1987 [when the station launched], there was one all-sports station in this country. Today, there are nearly 700. . . 27.5 million people tune in every week [to sports talk radio]. . .This is our most enduring national debate. And it’s voiceless without the FAN.”
· Through interviews with 60 people who were, at one time or another, involved with WFAN, the 15,000-plus word story (from 100 hours of tape and a transcript of 1,250 pages) details, among other things: the rough start for the station; the boost given by Don Imus and the ascent and ultimately the separation of station icons, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.
Additional content surrounding the oral history:
A • “Front and Center” Podcast with French and Kahn will appear on ESPNFrontRow.com Wednesday.
• Bill Simmons updates his 2006 running diary of Mike and the Mad Dog:
Previous oral histories at Grantland include: “The National: The Greatest Paper that Ever Died,” “Friday Night Lights: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn’t Lose,” “Disputed: Hagler vs. Leonard,” and “The Malice at the Palace.”
Launched in June of 2011, Grantland.com, a sports and pop culture web site conceived by Bill Simmons, the most popular writer on ESPN.com and host of the No. 1 podcast The B.S. Report. It is home to every Simmons column and podcast and features an accomplished and diverse lineup of the Internet’s leading writers and editors. The name of the site honors the legacy of Grantland Rice, the legendary sportswriter who helped elevate sports into American culture during the early 20thCentury. In addition to its content,Grantland.com is set apart from information-rich sports and news sites with a simple and elegant graphic style designed by renowned magazine designer Walter Bernard.
Four Quotes of Note from the story:
Jim Lampley (one of the first hosts at WFAN): I scripted an introductory segment, which was completely and totally facetious in intent. It was a litany of things that I foresaw changing in the culture, and in the sports world, as a result of the genesis of the 24-hour-a-day sport-talk radio station. I forecast a variety of absurdities: People would bend their schedules and neglect their work and their marriages and their children to sit on the phone and wait to be involved in discussions about nothing.
ESPN’s Mike Breen (former update guy for Don Imus): Imus was tough to be around. He used to kid — and it was half-kidding — that you weren’t allowed to make eye contact with him if you saw him in the hallway.
George Vecsey (sports columnist, New York Times): They truly were Martin and Lewis, Sonny and Cher. They were Simon and Garfunkel. Even if you can play a solo show in Central Park once a year, it’ll never be the same as when the two of you were doing it together.
Chris Russo (former WFAN host): The quarters were tight. It wasn’t state-of-the-art. There was no room to escape when you had an issue, when you’re not getting along. You’re on top of each other on a day-in, day-out basis. It probably helped us deal with the fights that we had a little better because they probably didn’t linger. We had no choice but to face up with each other. I only had three or four bad ones. But again, you’re gonna have three or four bad ones in 19 years of a relationship.