When the Boomer and Carton morning show on WFAN launched on September 4th, 2007, there was some uncertainty if the show was going to be a success.
In fact, co-host Boomer Esiason wasn’t quite sure if it was going to be a long-term gig.
“Initially, I’d be lying if I said yes,” said the former NFL Most Valuable Player. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy it as much as I do. I watched Imus all those years and I really felt like he enjoyed what he did. I never knew that I would get as hooked on it as I had become about six months into it.”
And there were others at WFAN who had their doubts about whether the new morning show was going to work because there was a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a good fit for Boomer.
“I think that’s probably why there were many around (WFAN) including Mike (Francesa) and Chris (Russo) that felt like I’d be done with this after about six months and that there would be no reason for me to do something like this,” said Esiason. “It took me a while to get acclimated but what also helped was working with the maniac Craig (Carton) who kept everyday a complete surprise. I never knew what was coming out of his bag of tricks as we got started.”
To say it worked would be an understatement.
Almost 15 years later, Esiason is still holding down mornings at WFAN. He now co-hosts Boomer and Gio alongside Gregg Giannotti, which is also simulcast on television on the CBS Sports Network.
Esiason’s goal was to bring an athlete’s credibility to the show, but he realized early on that a morning talk show, even on an all-sports radio station, had to sound different than any other show. It wasn’t just about Joe from Saddle River calling in to talk about the Jets. The show had to be a mix of what was going on in the sports world along with fun and entertainment.
And in Craig Carton, Boomer had with him a co-host that introduced him to the world of morning radio.
“Once I realized what Craig was doing, I then kind of had to rethink the way I was going about things and not be taking myself or the athlete all that seriously,” said Esiason.
“I felt like I was the straight guy and Craig was the loose cannon but in a funny way. The longer we worked together, the easier it was for us to become intertwined with improvisation. If there was a dead day with not much sports to talk about, that meant we had other avenues to go down and some of those were uncomfortable for me to go down.”
For Esiason, the most uncomfortable moment for him had to be on September 6th, 2017 when Carton was arrested by the FBI on charges of securities and wire fraud as a result of a Ponzi scheme. Boomer broke the news to his audience that morning and Carton subsequently stepped down from WFAN creating a vacancy in the chair next to him.
It didn’t take long for Esiason to realize who his new co-host might be. On the day that Carton was arrested, long-time WFAN employee Vicky Biello told Boomer it would be Gregg Giannotti, who was already working down the hall hosting the morning show on CBS Sports Radio.
“She said Gio was going to be my next partner,” said Esiason. “She knew because she had seen Gio around here for a long time. I knew Gio. I had taken him to Monday Night games and different things. It was just a matter of whether or not he would ever get comfortable doing it the way I got used to doing it. It took him a few months to really get comfortable and once he did, I felt like we had the same kind of magic that I had with Craig.”
WFAN announced Giannotti as Boomer’s new partner on November 15th, 2017 and the Boomer and Gio morning show debuted on January 2nd, 2018.
The show remains a smash hit.
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Esiason. “I would have never let the show get lost or lose. I was too far into it. We had to find somebody who had the nuts and bolts of radio but also could be extremely funny and knowledgeable about where we’re from because it’s still local radio even though it’s on a national television network.”
In addition to WFAN, Boomer remains busy with his other broadcasting gigs including The NFL Today on CBS and his syndicated Gametime with Boomer Esiason program. His itch to get into broadcasting started as a huge sports fan growing up on Long Island and continued during his college days at the University of Maryland.
Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2nd round of the 1984 NFL Draft, Boomer experienced his first taste of broadcasting while he was still playing. Esiason served as an analyst for World League of American Football Monday night telecasts on the USA Network during the 1990 and 1991 season.
It was easy to see that Esiason would have a future in broadcasting and that the best was yet to come…or so he thought.
After his playing career was over, Esiason signed a four-year deal in 1998 to join Al Michaels in the booth for ABC’s Monday Night Football. It’s been well documented that Esiason and Michaels didn’t have the greatest relationship and Esiason left the booth after just two seasons.
Boomer wondered if broadcasting was still going to be part of his life.
“You have to remember…I’m surrounded by all sorts of allies and guys that I got along with immensely,” said Esiason. “I had this notion of how great broadcasting can be. What I didn’t realize was how insecure this industry can be. I go to ABC and unfortunately it doesn’t go well with me and Al Michaels and I have to re-evaluate what I thought broadcasting was.”
Boomer was quickly hired by Westwood One to do the national NFL radio broadcasts, which put him back in a booth for Monday Night Football, playoff games and a record run of 19 straight national radio broadcasts of the Super Bowl.
Boomer was feeling better about broadcasting.
“Thankfully, I got to work with Howard David, Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan in the radio booth,” said Esiason. “All three of those guys, along with the occasional Dave Sims and a few other play-by-players, made broadcasting fun again.”
Esiason joined The NFL Today studio show on CBS in 2002. Between that, the national radio broadcasts and his WFAN morning show, Boomer was juggling three huge jobs from 2007 until he stepped away from the Westwood One broadcasts in 2018.
It was time for Boomer to cut his schedule a bit.
“Doing all of that was exhausting,” added Esiason. “Finally, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it anymore and try to remain a normal human being.”
There was never a question of the passion that Boomer had for the game of football during his playing career or the passion that he currently has for his broadcasting jobs. There is however one thing that has kept him more focused and determined over the last 25 years than anything else; the work he does to raise money for the fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
For him, it’s personal.
In 1993, Esiason was traded by the Bengals to his hometown New York Jets. It was during training camp that summer when Esiason was told that his two-year-old son Gunnar had difficulty breathing and was taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Esiason launched the Boomer Esiason Foundation to raise money and awareness for the fight against CF. All of his broadcasting duties over the years supported him giving him a platform to get the word out.
“I had to try and save my son’s life,” said Esiason. “I think Gunnar, at the age of 31 and having his own child and now starting a whole new life because of new drug development due to the money we’ve raised along with the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was kind of my calling,” said Esiason.
“I had so much on my plate that every time I tried to do something, I always had in mind if it was another platform that I can promote what I was doing in real life for real people. It’s one of the things that has kept me going. To be able to say that I’ve raised over $170 million in the fight against CF over the last 25 years, is nothing short of a miracle but it’s due in large part to the companies I’ve worked for.”
Between the foundation, WFAN, The NFL Today and his other broadcasting duties, Boomer still has a pretty full plate these days. In 2020, he made an unexpected trip back to a broadcast booth during the pandemic when Tony Romo came down with COVID-19 and CBS asked him to fly to Los Angeles and work with Jim Nantz on a Cardinals/Rams telecast.
And that begs the question…would Esiason ever consider even as much as a part-time return to broadcasting NFL games?
“I’ve always told (Westwood One Executive Vice-President) Howard Deneroff if he needed me in New York for a Monday Night, I’d be more than happy to show up and do it,” said Esiason. “I think that ship has probably sailed. Certainly, CBS knows that they have me. I could do it in my sleep, but if I go and try and do that again, I’ll probably be asleep for a long time and never get up.”
Boomer Esiason continues to get up every morning to co-host one of the most popular shows on New York radio. With everything else that he’s busy with, he still manages to carve out time to spend with his family and watch his beloved New York Rangers and New York Mets. He lived the good life as an NFL quarterback and has certainly enjoyed a stellar broadcast career to go along with his philanthropic work.
Now as far as a return to the broadcast booth, I could also use an experienced analyst for Long Island high school football telecasts!
Just kidding Boomer…but seriously let me know!
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs
Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?
Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.
Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.
The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.
Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.
Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.
So how did NBC get here?
Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.
Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.
Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.
But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.
As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.
Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.
NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.
Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.
But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?
Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)
The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.
Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice
“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”
I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.
Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.
On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.
All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.
It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.
Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.
How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.
On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night.
Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night.
To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.
Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.
Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore
“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”
One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.
The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.
Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.
But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.
I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.
Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.
How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.
Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.
This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.
Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.
On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.
At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.
Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.
Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?
I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.