The frequency is long familiar to New England sports fans, the number 850 having been associated with WEEI since 1994. The voices, too, are familiar, with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic doing their popular Felix Unger/Oscar Madison routine on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning’’ program for 13 years.
But the station and the show have never been associated with each other — until Friday morning, that is.
Turn on 850 AM Friday morning, and you won’t hear WEEI’s long-running “Dennis and Callahan’’ program. In fact, had you turned it on Thursday, you got a loop recording reminding you to turn to 93.7 FM, which now is WEEI’s exclusive radio home.
Now you’ll hear “Mike and Mike’’ broadcasting from Gillette Stadium beginning at 6 a.m., a savvy bit of synergy that coincides with the debut of ESPN Radio’s national daytime lineup taking over the 850 signal.
The lineup will include the “Colin Cowherd Show’’ as well as “SVP & Russillo’’ (featuring Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo, whose contract extension was officially announced Thursday). While these programs, which are available on 350 radio affiliates nationwide, have been available in Boston via simulcast on ESPN2, they have not been on the radio in this market since September 2009, when WAMG 890 and ESPN Radio discontinued their partnership.
In a market that supports two highly-rated sports radio stations — the CBS Radio-owned 98.5 The Sports Hub, which was second in the summer Arbitron ratings period, and WEEI 93.7, which was third — it’s never ceased to impress at this address how often readers have asked the last three years about when they might hear “Mike and Mike’’ on the radio again.
“We hear it all the time from Boston fans,’’ said the affable Golic, 49, who spent eight seasons in the NFL. “What will work out well for us now, hopefully, is that people will be watching it in the morning, then they’ll head out and leave for work and flip the radio on. In Boston, you weren’t able to do that until now. We’ve been hearing about it for a long, long time, so we’re really happy.
“I played most of my career in Philadelphia and that’s a lot like Boston. They let you know how they feel. And Boston fans have, even if we haven’t been on the radio.’’
Greenberg, who comes across as the fastidious and loyal fan (his Jets allegiances are well-known and often a source of humor) to Golic’s casual ex-jock, said he appreciates the popularity of the show in part because he remembers when its following didn’t seem to extend much past the two hosts and their staff.
“No one was probably aware of us until our fifth or sixth year on the air. So I still vividly remember a time that no one could have possibly cared less that we were on,’’ said Greenberg, 45. “So the fact that anyone cares at all, I am very grateful for. Last week we were in Philadelphia, this week we’ll be in Foxborough, and I’m fairly confident that there will be a large group of people that come out to see us. I remember a time in our earliest days when we went to an appearance at a restaurant in Chicago, and over dinner, not one person came over to talk to us. So we just went table to table to introduce ourselves. So if there’s anyone out there who enjoys what we do, we’re grateful for it.”
Greenberg and Golic can talk Boston sports with ease. But in a typically parochial sports market that tempts saturation not only with the two local all-sports stations but also fledgling NBC Sports Radio on 1510, if you’re going to focus on the national scene, it had better be done in a constantly entertaining and informative manner.
“There’s no question that in sports talk, being national creates some disadvantages compared to being local in scope,’’ said Greenberg. “Let’s put it this way, if you’re local, your job as a host is to have your finger on the pulse of what your audience wants to hear.
“Our job is to figure out what it is that the majority of sports fans in America are interested in. That is a constant challenge, the biggest challenge of my job, and one we attack every single day.”
It helps that they are neither cynical nor contrarian for the sake of generating attention. Greenberg and Golic takes sports seriously, but never themselves, and that, along with an All-Star roster of guests, is a critical element to their appeal.
“You think of morning radio sometimes and you think of, you know, shock radio,’’ said Golic. “They’ll get a little blue and cross the line at times, or maybe rant about politics or something. If some want to do it, that’s fine. We’re not really into that. We’re a couple of family guys who talk about our families and sports.’’
While their opposite personalities lead to inevitable humor and disagreement, both hosts insist their interaction is authentic. Which is another reason why they’ve resonated with Boston sports fans even when they couldn’t be heard here on the radio.
“My dad told me a long time ago when I first went into this business that you’ve got to be yourself, because if it’s an act, whenever people turn the microphone on they’re going to figure it out,’’ said Golic. “That’s truly how we are. Greenie truly is a germophobe. Greenie truly is high-maintenance. Greenie truly is a metrosexual. He is. And I mean that all in the nicest way.
“And I really am just a guy that sits around and eats and drinks and burps and whatever. So we really didn’t have to work on that. Maybe it’s evolved, but it is the way we are.”