'Clearly, he can communicate. He also doesn't mind a fight,' says the WFAN host.
From the closed beaches of New Jersey to the studios of New York’s legendary sports talk radio station, WFAN? For New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that transition could become a reality in 2018.
The embattled politician — who had a historically low approval rating in his home state even before photos surfaced earlier this month of Christie sitting with his family on a New Jersey beach closed to the public because of a government shutdown — will fill-in for WFAN host Mike Francesa on Monday and Tuesday in afternoon drive. The guest appearance is being positioned as an audition for Christie, who is among a number of people vying to replace Francesa when he leaves the station this December after 28 years in the time slot.
“Listen, if he really wants to do it, he’s a name, he seems to like sports talk. Now he’ll find out there’s a difference between sitting in once every six months and doing it every day,” Francesa, who takes center stage in the forthcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Mike and the Mad Dog, about his partnership with fellow radio personality Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, told EW. “It’s a whole different dynamic, it really is. You’ve got to do a lot of work if you’re going to be there every day.”
Christie was floated as a possible replacement for Francesa earlier this year and the move comes after the governor has appeared as a guest co-host on the WFAN morning show, Boomer and Carton, hosted by ex-NFL player Boomer Esiason and radio personality Craig Carton.
“Clearly, he can communicate. He also doesn’t mind a fight. And he already is a brand, so he brings some dynamic,” Francesa said, before adding that the governor is a polarizing figure as well. “You can also talk about how he’s got a lot of negatives and he’s not very popular in the state right now. He’s got some baggage. He brings some good, he brings some bad. I would think the guy’s a governor of a state — he’s going to be a candidate if he wants to be a candidate.”
Christie will end his term as New Jersey governor in January of 2018, after serving eight years as head of the state. In an interview last year, Christie said he had “every intention of returning to the private sector” when his time was complete.
“I absolutely believe that what will happen is I’ll serve the full eight years of my term and then in January 2018 I’ll be, hopefully, getting a well-paid position in the private sector. It’s time for me to make some money,” he said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on New Jersey radio station 101.5 FM.
In a statement about the WFAN appearances, however, Christie’s spokesman, Brian Murray, said Christie was not thinking about the possibility of being an everyday host for the station just yet. “The governor enjoys the opportunity to talk about sports on WFAN and is happy to have the chance to do that with [co-host] Evan Roberts for eight hours next week over two shows,” Murray said. “Despite those eight hours, as always, he will be on the job as governor. As for the governor’s future, he appreciates the interest and concern about his next employment from his friends in the media, but he is not concerned at all about it.”
Francesa isn’t either — it’s not his job to find his own replacement, after all — but he thinks Christie does have one leg up on other competitors: an established name.
“I think now it’s harder to create a brand,” Francesa said, citing the current climate where “everybody having a podcast” creates an opportunity to break into the business but makes it harder to “cut through” the noise. “I think, right now, being a brand is completely imperative, but I think it’s harder to do. [Mike and the Mad Dog] created a brand, but I think it’s going to be harder now to create a brand and I do think sustainability now is going to be about being a brand. That’s why a guy like Christie would bring a brand. He wouldn’t bring a radio brand, but he would bring a brand, at least. What he would get that the other guys wouldn’t immediately is a lot of attention. That would be a positive. If it worked to his advantage, that would be a positive. … He can do that. Another radio host can’t do that.”
Mike and the Mad Dog airs Thursday on ESPN.