I always try to come up with a word other than “legend” when describing one of the greats. For Steve Somers, it is the proper term.
Although he may return for an occasional show, his run of nearly 35 years as a regular WFAN host is coming to an end. His final regular show will be tonight, with a special sendoff on Monday afternoon.
There have been wonderful tributes to Steve, from Andrew Marchand’s column to Sal Licata’s monologue this morning. Marchand made a list of Somer-isms. My favorite was included. The Kings were from Sacratomato. Not Sacramento. Sometimes they would take on the Hollywood Fakers. There was a hockey team from Long Island. They were the Ice-Landers.
Many people know how much the station means to me. It has meant a great deal over the years. I have become friends with hosts and gone to see them at appearances. We have each other’s phone numbers. I have been at Mets and Nets games with Evan.
Many people associate me with Joe Benigno, and rightfully so. Everything started with Steve. In the late 80s I would listen to him overnight. Under the covers, as he said. Steve often talks about how intimate radio is. Especially overnight. Remember, this is more than 30 years ago. No social media. Only television to offer a possible distraction, and less than 40 channels at that. Usually, I would fall asleep listening to Steve, and intently listen in the dark to him and callers for hours.
It is hard to believe that 24 hours of sports on a radio station was not attempted until 1987, and people didn’t know if it would work. Somers was unique. He had all sorts of comedy and audio clips. When Mike Francesa complained that Joe and Evan were stealing his thing by playing John Sterling calls years ago, Steve pointed out that he was playing calls before all of them. I can remember looking forward to hearing Steve play NFL calls on a Monday morning.
There was one young broadcaster who really stood out. His Chiefs calls were passionate, and fascinated me. That man was Kevin Harlan. I remember talking to a friend in high school about how this guy was going to become the next great broadcaster.
People didn’t really know what the WFAN studios looked like. A show on CBS decided to do a feature on Steve, and it was a peak behind the curtain. Most people had never even seen a picture or video of Somers at that time. I also remember him appearing at a softball game. Just being close enough to see him and eavesdrop on Steve’s conversation provided me with a thrill.
In 2007 I attended the WFAN 20th anniversary celebration at Umberto’s Clam House. It was great to meet WFAN personalities and callers. Somers and Benigno interviewed me. To show that I had been listening to Steve for years, I mentioned how he used to make fun of AFC teams during their Super Bowl losing streak. He said they were too small. Lilliputian, he yelled. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’d heard that word, and I don’t think I’ve heard anybody use it since.
Steve didn’t want any fanfare. No farewell tour. Listeners have called in with their random memories. One caller this morning talked about winning a bet with Steve. He wants his pizza. Somers explained that the pizzeria this caller wanted to order from would not deliver, and Steve would be more than happy to reimburse him if the caller went and ate there. Before that, this guy accused Steve of arguing with someone about The Dewey Decimal System in a library. It was an amazing five minutes.
The overnight was strange. Still is. That’s why we love it. You hear from all types. Guys who work late. People getting up early. Elderly, unemployed fans. Everyone is welcome. Although Joe might have perfected the overnight and put his own spin on it, Somers got the ball rolling. He started it all. You can’t have a second without the first.
WFAN’s original overnight host is riding off into the sunset. Happy retirement, Steve. Congratulations on a job well done.