Revenge is a false motivator for WFAN’s Francesa

Athletes can come out of retirement, and apparently so can sports radio hosts.

Four months after retiring from his radio job at WFAN, Mike Francesa told Newsday on April 24 that he is ending his retirement and returning to the station. The 30-year veteran is back.

The fan base Francesa left behind expressed its glee on social media upon hearing the news, while many others ripped the 64-year-old apart, and rightfully so. The return was not necessarily one of passion but of boredom and revenge.

According to the New York Post, Francesa will be taking back the evening primetime spot from the cohosts that replaced him, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott. Those three will keep a show together, but it will be shorter and take place earlier in the afternoon.

If Francesa was going to miss having a platform so much that he had to come back by pushing others out of the way so quickly after he left, then he should have never left. WFAN did not push him out the door – it was Francesa’s call to leave. Four months later, he went straight to upper management to get his job back.

When athletes come out of retirement, often it is due to passion for the sport and financial needs. For Francesa, money was not so much a factor this time – he took a “significant pay cut” compared to his previous salary of $3 million, according to The Post.

The report also included that Francesa turned down offers from other stations that did not offer enough money, but he had the motivation to make an exception for WFAN because his old coworkers did not want him there.

“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days,” Francesa told Newsday on April 24. “I didn’t decide to go back to WFAN until I was told I better not go back. For those behind it, that was the moment I decided to return.”

Along the way, Francesa pushed people aside to get his way, which is not surprising. What is surprising is how quick WFAN gave up on Carlin, Gray and Scott after losing just one three-month winter ratings book to ESPN’s “The Michael Kay Show.”

Now, after an 18-month retirement tour where Francesa was praised endlessly and could have chosen to stay, he is hurting people in the process to get what he wants. While Michael Kay said on his self-titled show on April 24 that he cannot blame Francesa for wanting to work again, he did say that Francesa will spin the situation as him saving the station.

Francesa is a hero, in no other eyes than his own.

It is WFAN’s management’s fault for letting the return happen. Adjusting to change takes time, and WFAN did not want to wait. Now Francesa will get his microphone again, at the expense of others.

Tensions with Francesa’s WFAN colleagues are already high after he poked fun at WFAN employees losing their jobs on MLB Network’s “High Heat” after his retirement. Boomer Esiason, a morning co-host on WFAN, called Francesa’s decision to return “classless.” Meanwhile, the cohosts he is usurping maintained confidence in their show rather than taking shots at the host replacing them.

Francesa’s return brings more competition to sports talk radio, which is welcomed, but the way he did it is not admirable. He pushed down others who earned their promotions to get his way because he missed having his voice heard. WFAN management gave in to his price point, and Francesa got his way after accepting an 18-month retirement love fest.

Athletes follow passion. Francesa followed revenge, and that is where he is wrong.

Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at or on Twitter @eswint22.