Programming Note: We take a break from the drama of the last 24 hours for some lighter fare on the eve of the first Islanders-Rangers game of the season…CB
8:15 pm - The Islanders were playing WFAN in a charity softball game as Steve Somers stepped into the batter’s box. This was about a decade ago and Somers had already been plying his shtick about the NYI for years – heady, Shakespearean stuff like “Icelanders,” “Lorne Herring” and about how Long Islanders drove their tractors to the Coliseum. It was funny for some the first four or five times, but like Somers the routine got old, stale and offensive.
The Islanders player pitching the game just happened to come up with elbow tendinitis before the Schmoozer’s at-bat. Our relief pitcher just happened to be Mike Milbury. With his first pitch, Milbury just happened to bean Somers in the ass. Hilarity ensued. Payback was a pitch.
I’m told by friends at WFAN that Steve is a really sweet man who wouldn’t hurt a fly but keeps up the Islanders gag because he knows it still gets on the nerves of 8 or 9 people. And let’s face it, after more than 20 years at FAN it’s about the only signature bit he’s got. Give the 61-year old Somers credit for survival instincts: other than drive-time, he’s worked every shift. (Remember the Sweater? I try not to).
If you really listen to his opening monologues, you can tell he’s a gifted writer. Too bad he’s so out-of-touch with reality that he’s unable to balance some Islanders satire without being a complete doofus about it.
After numerous attempts to make it work, it became impossible for me to book an Islanders guest on his show. Steve’s producers would request a player interview. I’d say, “How do you think you’d look if you asked Scatchard to call in and then have to listen to his Icelanders crap”? The producer always replied, “Totally hear ya. Maybe some other time.”
In one of his more famous episodes, Somers came on the air one day and announced the Islanders were going to have a press conference and WFAN would air it live. The switchboard at the Islanders office practically blew up from all of the calls from people wanting to know what we were announcing.
Of course, the preposterous notion of WFAN playing an Islanders press conference live should have been the ultimate tip this was a Somers sham. Later on, he started playing farm noises, saying it was live audio from the Coliseum. Must have been a slow day in New York sports.
I called the studio and nicely asked Steve to stop and say it was all a joke. I told him about the jammed switchboard. Steve said I was the one who had to be kidding now. He couldn’t comprehend that people would take him so seriously. He clearly had no clue of the power of a 50,000-watt radio station in the nation’s biggest market.
He eventually stopped the bit, but the “Icelanders” silliness never stopped. A few years ago, Somers mentioned on-air that his Saturday afternoon producer was looking for a pair of great seats to a Sound Tigers playoff game to take his girlfriend. A friend told me about it, so I called the studio and they put me on the air. We had a fun and friendly exchange and I made an offer: if Somers would thank the Islanders profusely and not say Icelanders for the final two hours of the show, I would arrange for the tix. Steve kept his word. I should have made the deal for two years.
I’ve heard from so many Islander fans over the years who’ve let Somers get under their skin. I always thought they viewed it the wrong way. I mean, he’s so off his rocker, so from another planet. For a sports talk host pretending to be a Rangers fan, he’s not even very informed about his team or the game. For Somers, a hip pop culture reference is quoting a line from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma.”
Think about it: would Islander fans really want Steve Somers to be an Islander fan?