Anyone who’s listened to New York sports-radio personality Mike Francesa over the years−and I am among them−knows the guy’s best left sticking to his area of paid expertise. The Long Island native, who is socially conservative at best, lords over Mike’s On, his weekday afternoon post on WFAN AM/FM (and past and current TV simulcast homes YES and Fox Sports 1) with an entitled bluster. But when it comes to competitive athletics−particularly golf and the college games−Francesa knows his stuff, so you allow and laugh off an occasional lapse into egomania or cultural disconnect.
But after a quarter-century (both with former co-host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and on his own) of opinionated banter and high-profile interviews, the veteran commentator finally touched a national nerve. As you may have streamed by now, Francesa, upon prodding from a caller, ad-libbed a 20-minute digression on Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy taking paternity leave and missing the team’s opening pair of games. His insights into the issue are best distilled via this continuous stream of thought (lest Francesa continue protesting context-avoidant reporting): “What are ya doing the first couple of days? Maybe ya take care of the other kids? Well, ya gotta have someone do that if you’re a Major League baseball player. I’m sorry, you do. That’s the only thing you’re doing. Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days. You know that. You’re not doing much those first couple days when the baby was just born.”
In fairness, the above−and none of what Francesa spewed−was as outright icky as WFAN colleague and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason outright suggesting Murphy’s wife should have scheduled her C-section for sooner (Esiason later apologized on-air and to Murphy privately). Nor was it any more groan-worthy than when, earlier this year, Francesa cautioned NFL teams about drafting openly gay college pass-rusher Michael Sam, lest it cause distraction and dysfunction in the locker room (one shudders to conceive of Francesa broadcasting when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson).
So for those squarely in favor of Murphy, the Mets’ and MLB’s actions who are first making Francesa’s acquaintance, my advice is to consider his comical misstep into this topical brouhaha a boon for national discussion. And to Francesa’s loyal, if at times puzzled, listenership, this is hardly the man’s most provocative display, so no judgment from me should you turn the page but not your dial.
As for myself, I was not only present at my son’s delivery and holding my wife’s hand, but stayed by her side the ensuing several days as she recovered from a stressful labor and complicated C-section. I even worked during that entire time (because I work from home and remotely from my laptop). Fourteen months later, I make routine mid-day drives to see my son at daycare, and have always tuned in to Mike’s On during the trip there and back. But since Francesa would clearly find my professional and domestic multi-tasking troubling (or, at minimum, foreign), I’ll make this easier on both of us by finally tuning out.