by Andrew Garda
Life comes at you fast. If nothing else, that’s what Mike Goldstein — better known to WFAN and Mike Francesa listeners as “Mike from Montclair” — learned last week when he blasted Gov. Chris Christie as Christie was auditioning for Francesa’s role.
Goldstein, who told Christie to “get [his] fat ass to the beach” next time he shut public spaces down. In return he was labeled a bum and, along with the rest of Montclair, a communist. After their exchange, Goldstein hung up the phone and moved on with his day.
“After I made the call, I drove to the Y as I normally do and I swam for 80 minutes in the pool,” Goldstein said as he recalled the day. While he swam, social media and the airwaves blew up, but Goldstein was unaware of it.
That the exchange had become a story only began to seep in when he drove to Bloomfield to coach a softball game. Goldstein’s wife called to tell him a local newspaper was looking to interview him, and a reporter appeared at the game for an interview.
Even then, Goldstein didn’t really think too much of it. He finished the interview, finished coaching the game and went home. He ate dinner and went to bed early since he had an early tee time and was going to get up at 4:30 a.m.
“So I went to the golf course, and at 7 o’clock in the morning, between nines I checked my phone,” Goldstein said. “Which I usually do. And I usually have zero messages at that time of day. [That morning] I had 71 text messages.”
Among those texts were requests from numerous radio producers, Inside Edition, TMZ and many others.
“It was crazy.”
For a guy who mostly just loves to talk and argue sports, it was a rather sudden spotlight.
Goldstein knew the sports media landscape and how quickly things could explode. Among his friends he counts people like Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, who called four times to make sure Goldstein appeared on his Sirius Radio show that morning and MMQB.com’s Peter King. Both Isola and King enjoyed seeing their friend catch a little of the spotlight.
They were happy their friend was getting some attention.
Goldstein was fine talking about the incident, but is just as content to get back to regular life.
“I work with my cousin in real estate development and it allows me to do what my real passion is, which is coaching high school softball along with Val [Tauriello]. It takes up five months of my time, it takes up March, April, May, June and July. And I love it. I love the kids and … that’s what I really enjoy.”
Softball, as well as his love of talking sports, is actually how Goldstein became “Mike from Montclair” to begin with.
Goldstein had begun calling WFAN and “Mike and the Mad Dog” back in the show’s infancy during the early 1990s. One of the sports anchors who does updates on the station is John Minko, who also coached a travel softball team.
Twelve years ago, Minko and Goldstein set up a softball game between their teams. And then Francesa and Chris Russo, the “Mad Dog” of the show’s name, got involved.
“They held it in New Milford and I would say 2,000 to 3,000 people showed up. For a girls 12 and under softball game,” Goldstein recalled. “[Russo and Francesa] signed autographs for about an hour or so before the game; they did a whole ceremony before the game. Our team played and they filmed it on the YES network. I was able to get a copy of it. Which was pretty cool.”
Between the game and the calls to the station, Goldstein developed enough of a rapport with Russo and Francesa that he was featured on ESPN’s recent “30 for 30” documentary series about the old radio show.
“I enjoyed doing that. They had actually come to Montclair last summer and interviewed us for about three hours at De Novo. Three hours turned into 30 seconds of fame. That was fun to be part of.”
When Russo left, “Mike from Montclair” kept calling Francesa.
“Sometimes we have positive conversations, but more times than not, he hangs up the phone and then screams at me. Tells me what a fool I am. And that’s the nature of our relationship.”
Goldstein never takes it personally because to him, that adversarial relationship is the heart of what sports radio is about.
“That’s why what I did with Christie was no different. He was sitting in Mike’s chair, he was auditioning for Mike’s spot. He was an easy target. He was low-hanging fruit, just because of all the crap that surrounds him. It was not a stretch. For me, Mike Francesa is a much tougher adversary than Chris Christie.”
More than anything, Goldstein was glad somebody got a chance to publicly call the governor to the carpet in a format where Christie couldn’t easily stop them.
“I’ve seen town halls where people have tried to confront him and he just shouts them down. Tells them to shut up and sit down. Or ‘You’re a fool’ or ‘You’re an idiot.’ At least in this format he couldn’t say that to me until I was done speaking. I got my first salvo in and it went from there but at least I got that shot in.”