On more than one occasion during CSTB’s near decade of operation, I’ve attempted to pay homage to WFAN veteran Steve Somers, whose Captain Midnight routine has aged like fine wine over the last quarter century. In stark contrast to the bellowing narcissist who follows Somers’ former WFAN colleague Chris Russo, Somers remains the consummate entertainer. The inspired banter between Somers and a revolving cast of night-owls, Mets/Knicks/Rangers/Yankees/Jets/Giants obsessives and other sports degenerates represents an oasis amidst the generic sports yack pontificating that WFAN popularized if not pioneered. On Friday, the New York Times’ Charles McGrath paid homage to the San Francisco native, calling Somers’ cadence and methodology, “ideally suited to the nighttime.”
Somers likes to say that he and his listeners are a family, and even in the passionate, eccentric and highly opinionated world of sports radio, his family is an unusual and capacious one. Its members include, or included, such beloved regulars as Doris from Rego Park, stuttering and coughing but phoning in faithfully, and Jerome from Manhattan, whose sputtering, apoplectic anti-Yankee rants caused Somers to play the “Twilight Zone” theme while a voice said: “His is a dimension of sight, of sound, but of no mind. There’s a rubber room up ahead. You’re entering the Jerome Zone.” But Somers’s fans also include the critic Gene Shalit, the actors Charles Grodin and Tony Roberts, the comedian Steven Wright and, most famously, Jerry Seinfeld, who calls in as Jerry from Queens, though in fact he comes from Massapequa.
They admire Somers’s wit and intelligence, the little set pieces he delivers at the beginning of each show, full of wordplay and alliteration. Somers writes them out beforehand on yellow legal pads, capitalizing most of the nouns, adjectives and verbs as a scribe might if copying a royal proclamation. He writes for the ear, not the eye, Somers says. A meditation on the theme of Alex Rodriguez’s collapse last fall looked like this: “The Lightning Rod only Wants to Be happy, and knows it’s very Simple to Be happy, But it’s very Difficult for Him to Be Simple. The Yankees Haven’t Been Doing Much, and Doing Nothing is Very Hard to Do, Because You Never Know when You’re Finished.”