20 Aug 2014
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Francesa, Southside Johnny Rock Bar A

Annual broadcast draws huge crowds

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It has become a Jersey Shore summer tradition.

The one time all year when local sports fans can come together to listen to their favorite “drive home” sports talk radio personality over a few refreshing beverages and a live performance by one of the area’s most beloved musical acts.

On Friday, Aug. 19, Mike Francesa returned to in Lake Como for his annual Summer Beach Party. The event, sponsored by Miller Beer, took place from 1-6:30 p.m. and was broadcast live on WFAN and the YES Network. Admission was free.

Francesa, hosts his own show, Mike'd Up: Francesa on the FAN, during the afternoon drive slot formerly occupied by The Mike and the Mad Dog Show. This summer he used Bar A’s new Grotto Beach venue to hold the finals of the 2nd annual WFAN Fantasy Phenom Challenge.

The winner of the challenge is given an opportunity to host a weekly and paid show for one year on the No. 1 sports talk radio station in the United States.

Last summer’s winner, Gregg Sussman from Manalapan, NJ, was also on hand as he was selected to be part of the judging panel to help determine who would be replacing him as this year’s Fantasy Phenom Challenge winner. The Panel also included Omar Minaya (New York Mets General Manager from 2005-10) and Kim Jones (current clubhouse reporter for New York Yankees games on the YES Network and a semi-regular talk show host on WFAN).

After starting out with over 500 contestants, this year’s finalists were narrowed down to: Patrick Totaro (Brick, NJ), Mike McMaster (Basking Ridge, NJ), John Jastremski (Staten Island, NY), Patrick Creighton (Bethpage, NY) and Neeraj Joshi (New York, NY).

Each contestant was given two minutes to read off a “sports rant type” monologue of their choice to the panel and crowd. They were also asked to conduct an interview with a local sports figure.

Totaro was given the opportunity to interview Rick Peterson (New York Mets pitching coach from 2004-08); Creighton was paired with Howie Rose (current radio voice of the New York Mets on WFAN and television announcer for the New York Islanders on MSG Plus); McMaster with Justin Turner (New York Mets second baseman); Joshi with Justin Tuck (New York Giants defensive end) and Jastremski with David Robertson (New York Yankees relief pitcher). Peterson was the only live interviewee.

After Francesa requested that the Judging panel rank each contestant from 1-5, the entire panel agreed that Jastremski performed the best. However the final decision will be made by the listeners.

Fans were given the opportunity to text in their votes before the polls officially closed on Monday, Aug. 22 at 10 a.m. According to Francesa, the votes will be tallied and the winner will be announced on his show on either Monday or Tuesday (Aug. 22-23).

On different occasions during the show, Peterson and Jon Heyman (a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated and its website SI.com who writes primarily about baseball) joined Francesa in the booth. Heyman, a baseball insider for MLB Network, occasionally comes on Francesa’s show to talk baseball with him.

Francesa has had an interesting past couple of years at the WFAN. On Aug. 14, 2008, it was announced that Chris "Mad Dog" Russo would be leaving WFAN and thus ending the Mike and the Mad Dog show two weeks shy of its 19th anniversary. This ended two months of speculation as to whether the show was going to make it to a 20th season. Shortly after Russo left WFAN, Francesa signed a five-year deal to stay at the station. Sept. 8, 2008 officially marked the kickoff of Francesa's new WFAN program, at which time he announced on air that the show would be called Mike'd Up, the same name as his weekly television program on WNBC. Russo left to join Sirius XM Radio and has his own channel called Mad Dog Radio. He also now hosts an afternoon radio show, Mad Dog Unleashed.

Despite Russo leaving what was at the time WFAN’s signature show, as well as being among the most influential sports talk shows in the country, locals still continue to flock to Bar A every August for what is quickly turning into a Jersey Shore summer tradition.

“I’ve enjoyed going to it since back when dog was on the show,” said Ted Kaiser, 29-year-old resident of Rumson, NJ. “It’s just a nice time of summer to get out on a Friday afternoon and enjoy some sports talk surrounded by sports fans. I think it’s become a tradition for a lot of people.”

Adding to the day’s festivities, legendary Jersey Shore musical group, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes performed several songs in front of the Bar A crowd,  including crowd favorites “Talk to me” and “Forever”. The band has recorded albums at the Jersey Shore since 1976 and was closely associated with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Having now performed the past couple summers at this annual WFAN summer event, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes have become a vital component to this summer tradition. In fact, Francesa changed the date for this event to accommodate Southside Johnny’s schedule.

“I’ve been a fan of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes for awhile now,” said Vinnie, a 49-year-old resident of Hasbrouck Heights. “Whenever Southside is in Belmar I make it a point to get there”.

 “Funny story, when I was a sophomore at George Washington University in 1981 I went to a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes concert on a Sunday night and the next morning I had an accounting exam. I showed up the next morning sleep deprived and wearing a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes t-shirt. I ended up acing the exam. I wore that t-shirt for every accounting exam going forward.”

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