The One Thing My Mother Did When I Was A Teen That Changed How I Thought About My Body. - CATEGORY Headline Report: TITLE

New York sports radio legend Mike Francesa took a break before his final week on WFAN for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: You have a time machine: What is one event in history you would like to have attended?

A: First one: March 8, ’71 [Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali “Fight of the Century”]. I would have loved to have done “Mike and the Mad Dog” ringside at the Garden. I could see us there at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, before anybody was even in the building, being able to do what we did so many times later. … Bobby Thomson … Then Colts-Giants, ’58.

Q: Who are the athletes who took your breath away the first time you saw them play?

A: [Mickey] Mantle was warming up on the sideline, I was coming out up the first-base exit, he was past the dugout having a catch, and he just kind of mesmerized me, and I think he was just this bigger-than-life figure. I used to throw a fit if anyone wanted to leave before his last at-bat. The first time I laid eyes on [Michael] Jordan — Carolina — I never saw anything like it in my life. The only other player that I ever saw physically that had that impact on me on the basketball floor was Len Bias. But Jordan, the first time I saw him on the court at Carolina, he was just different. He just looked different, absolutely different. Just like the first time I saw Seattle Slew come on the racetrack at Belmont. … He just looked faster than the other horses.

Q: I thought you might say Lawrence Taylor.

A: L.T. was famous before I saw him in person, and everyone was already talking about him.

Q: Which sport do you think you’d be the best general manager in?

A: Football. But I’d want to coach. If I could do one thing over in my life, I would want to be a football coach. I would love it. I’d give anything to make a game plan.

Q: Would you be like Bill Parcells?

A: No, I’d be more like [Bill] Belichick. I’d be more worried about the game plan. Parcells was more worried about motivating the guys than anything else. I think the formulation of the game plans would be so fascinating, to try and out-think the other team, the way Bill Walsh did. Bill [Parcells] didn’t try and outsmart you, Bill tried to get his guys to where they could physically beat your rear end. He could motivate waiters. … He could motivate anybody to do anything.

Q: Why did you and Parcells click?

A: ‘Cause we’re both wiseguys (smile). We had the same mentality, and I think we actually had the same kind of mother, from what I can understand.

Q: Describe your relationship with him today.

A: I wish it was better. Sometimes you can be so close — and we were so close — that a lot of things get in the way.

Q: One question: What would you ask Lou Gehrig?

A: How much did [Babe] Ruth really get on your nerves?

Q: What would you ask Ruth?

A: Was the game as easy as it looked?

Q: Muhammad Ali?

A: I would actually ask him what he really felt about Malcolm X. The other thing I’d ask him is did he really think he won the [third Ken] Norton fight?

Q: Vince Lombardi?

A: Did the Eagle [1960 NFL Championship game] loss haunt you your whole career? It’s the only playoff game he ever lost. He finished 9 yards short. The other thing I’d like to ask him is: “How close did he come to coaching the Giants?”

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> Why Mike Francesa's radio domination almost never happened >
Mike Francesa with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.ESPN Films

Q: Quick hitters: Ed Coleman.

A: Jovial.

Q: John Sterling.

A: Character (chuckle).

Q: Brent Musburger.

A: Best studio host.

Q: Jim Nantz.

A: Great announcer.

Q: Jimmy The Greek.

A: One of a kind (smile).

Q: Howard Cosell.

A: Before his time.

Q: Don Imus.

A: Radio brilliance.

Q: Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.

A: Unique personality.

Q: One baseball game, who do you want announcing it?

A: The one announcer that to me meant bigness in baseball was Mel Allen. As a kid I grew up on the beach, and there were two things you could hear going from blanket to blanket to blanket to blanket. You could hear 77 WABC blanket to blanket. So if it was “Strangers in the Night,” you’d hear it every five minutes, or “Light My Fire” every five minutes, whatever the song of the summer was … “Satisfaction.” … You could hear Mel Allen almost blanket to blanket. And years later people told me on Sunday with my football show, you could hear me tailgate to tailgate at Giants Stadium, and I always took that as the same kind of honor.

Q: One football game, who do you want announcing it?

A: I’ll take two teams: Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis, and [John] Madden-[Pat] Summerall.

Q: One basketball game, who do you want announcing it?

A: Just like Laker fans had Chick Hearn, the metropolitan had Marv [Albert]. Marv was as good as it got on the radio doing basketball, no question about it.

Q: How did your obsession with JFK begin?

A: I was very impacted by the Kennedy assassination. I was home from school that day. I was in second grade. I was the only one in the house ’cause my mom went to the store. I couldn’t wait for her to come home ’cause the bulletin scared the heck out of me. And then I remember that night — and I had an Irish mother who was incensed that they would shoot an Irish-Catholic president. I still remember as a little boy that night, when they weren’t filling in with newscasts, they were running this loop of his life, like this biography, over and over and over all night. And then when I was in eighth grade, Bobby Kennedy was running for the New York Senate, he came through Long Beach and shook my hand. I was actually on the street, he actually was coming through the street.

Q: Maybe he recognized you.

A: (Laugh). So I was fascinated by them and it just grew and grew and grew, and then I started collecting Kennedy books as I got older. … I have a couple of hundred Kennedy books.

Q: Describe the first time you saw the Garden.

A: Before the season started — ’69-’70 — I went in to Madison Square Garden, and bought three $4 tickets on the roof. For three games. My mom would let me take the train from Long Beach ’cause it went right into Penn Station. I would go by myself, and come home. I actually saw Wilt Chamberlain play that way. I saw Bill Russell play that way.

Q: You were a soda jerk at the Atlantic Beach Club when you were 12. Did you make a good egg cream?

A: I did, I did, absolutely. You gotta have the right amount of syrup and the right amount of seltzer. Very, very tough. And you gotta put ’em in at the same time, that’s key.

Q: What drove you as a kid to work three jobs?

A: We didn’t have a lot of money, so we needed to chip in and help. We had some Christmases that were lean, but we were OK. I remember some years when I was 10 or 11 where we didn’t have a lot of money for stuff like sneakers and spikes, and you did the best you could.

Q: Describe your mother.

A: Very smart. Loved movies. Always well-dressed. My mother dressed to go to the supermarket. My mother didn’t own a pair of jeans. My mother would only wear slacks on the weekend. When she was 75, she wore high heels. She was very fascinated by show business and current events, she loved all that stuff. She was an interesting woman. But she was very opinionated. She was someone who I always felt was dealt a tough set of circumstances, and probably thought she deserved a different life.

Mike Francesa with former Mets manager Terry CollinsPaul J. Bereswill

Q: Did your father abandoning the family when you were a boy shape you as a father yourself?

A: It made me first not want to have kids. Coming from that kind of background, I always thought I’d probably be a lousy father. I think it’s made me probably even a better father because I’ve been so conscious of how important it is and just what commitments weren’t made. It’s been really an absolute joy to have three kids. Along with having a great wife, they are the joys of my life.

Q: You never knew him. Is he alive?

A: We knew he died, because my mother never divorced him, and he was a veteran, he was in the Air Force, so my mother got notification from Social Security when he died. And he lived to be in his 80s. That’s the one thing he gave me was longevity.

Q: How did your younger brother Marty’s suicide in 1990 impact you?

A: Probably a lot more than I know. He and I were very close. He was the kind of guy who would go out and be the life of the party and come home and wouldn’t talk to anybody for two days, and I don’t think his friends knew he was like that. Two years before he died, the first weekend that I was ever gonna be on national TV [CBS], the day before I was gonna be on TV, he broke down and I had to carry him into the psychiatric ward of Long Beach Hospital and put him in the hospital for a month. It wasn’t lost on me that my career was taking off when he was starting to spiral in this way. He would tell me, “I’m not gonna stay around very long,” then I’d tell the doctors, and they’d say, “No, no, he’s not suicidal.” He told me the truth.

Q: You let your sons — Jack, 13 next month along with fraternal twins Emily Grace and Harrison, 11 — play football.

A: I try to teach them to tackle. I even spent time with them the other day on the [Ryan] Shazier hit. If they don’t show a really good ability at it within a couple of years, then I would ask ’em to go to other sports, and this is where the sport’s gonna really get hurt on the amateur level — parents are only gonna let the kids play who are really good at it. They’re gonna push their kids to other sports because they don’t want ’em to get hurt when they’re just role players.

Q: Describe your wife, Roe.

A: She is as tough as she is beautiful, and she’s the only person who can keep me in line. And she keeps me in line.

Q: What do you listen to when Julio drives you back and forth to the studio?

A: We listen to CNN, if we want to listen to anything political, which we’ve done a lot more in the age of Trump. Or we listen to music, and most of the time we listen to music on Sirius. We never listen to sports talk.

Q: Why not?

A: ’Cause I hear enough of it.

Q: Most unfair criticism?

A: That I’m mean. I don’t have a mean bone in my body. I’ve never turned down a picture, an autograph in my life. I can be hard on the air to people, because I’m performing.

Q: What is it like being called a bully?

A: I don’t think I’m a bully at all. I disagree with that. I think I’m argumentative. And I’ll even accept arrogant at times. And I’ll even accept that I am very tied to my opinion. I don’t like the idea of a bully, and I don’t mistreat people. I detest people that mistreat people. I never fought with anybody except management.

see also

> Mike Francesa rips into Giants over 'gutless' Eli Manning move

Q: Favorite actors?

A: Old, Errol Flynn. Now, Ed Norton.

Q: Favorite actresses?

A: Old, Bette Davis. Young, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Diane Lane.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainers?

A: [Bruce] Springsteen, [Frank] Sinatra, Billy Joel.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: I would have a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving. Or real good homemade lasagna the second day is about as good as it gets.

Q: Over-under on Diet Cokes consumed?

A: Two or three a show.

Q: Favorite stocks?

A: Amazon and Nividia.

Q: Why have you been so successful?

A: The best way I can put it is, to be successful at what I do, you have to have personality and presence. And I have both. Plus — and this is the biggest thing — the town, for whatever reason, cared very much about what my take was on sports. It became very important for this city to hear my take on whatever the story of the moment was in this city in sports. And that’s been my greatest blessing is that that has never changed, that has never wavered.

Q: Why do you think you were perfect for the New York market?

A: Well No. 1, I sound like a New Yawkuh. No. 2, I’m born here, so I understand it. I don’t think there’s any town that’s not a small neighborhood. I think everyone cares about their teams, and they want you to be able to talk their language. I’ve always been able to command the audience.

Q: What is your definition of a New York attitude?

A: Confident, brash, to the point.

Q: Favorite rant?

A: The one to stop the marathon. And the Eli one was another.

Q: Why are they so popular?

A: They are popular because they are timely, passionate and really entertaining.

Q: When you first started, what kind of a career did you envision?

A: I thought I could do this. I thought it kind of fit my skills. After I started, I knew it fit my skills. I went in and told them that I would be there for 15 years. … I’ve actually lasted longer than I even envisioned, to be honest with you. I was pretty cocky. I’ve always been pretty confident.

Q: Do you think you’ll choke up during your last show?

A: I think there’s a good chance, but I don’t know for sure. I know that it’s gonna be all callers, then I figure at 6 o’clock it’ll just be me till I say goodbye at 6:25. I’m sure the fans who listen to the show have already heard enough about how wonderful I am for the last month, OK (chuckle)? I’m sure they’re sick of it. That’s how it is at the end, everyone tells you how wonderful you are when you’ve had a good career. I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve had a great career. What’s important to me was I wanted it to be as good as it was the whole 30 years. I didn’t want us to slip, I wanted to go out on top. We’ve never been beaten by the competition ever, we’re not gonna get beat now, it’s not happening.

Q: What will you miss most?

A: When there’s a big event, and I don’t have a forum, I think I’ll go door to door (smile).

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