He’s the perfect hate-listen for rush-hour traffic.
Chris Christie loves to hear himself talk. Here in Jersey, we’ve been listening to our bombastic, basement-polling governor gabble through 8 years of sprawling press conferences and theatrical town halls. But the end is near. Christie’s term ends in January 2018, and he needs a new job.
He’s already auditioned for one position: sports talk radio host. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Christie subbed for soon-to-retire talk icon Mike Francesca on New York’s WFAN. Those are not easy shoes to fill. Love him or hate him, Francesca is endlessly entertaining. He’s prone to meltdowns and breathy pauses, but Francesca knows his sports.
Christie’s no slouch at gabbing about sports, either. Despite his responsibilities as governor, Christie has somehow been making regular morning appearances on WFAN’s Boomer & Carton Show, pontificating on everything from the performance of his beloved Mets to the creepily discussing the attractiveness of female tennis stars. He also has a monthly “Ask the Governor” radio show on NJ 101.5, a station that has been traditionally friendly to him. There’s a difference, though, between being a chatty guest and the main radio event.
Monday’s show opened with Christie and his partner Evan Roberts singing the “Mike’s On” opening show theme. Christie joked, “That’s just the beginning of the humiliation.” Roberts, to the pleasure of the entire Garden State, then said “Governor Christie is kind enough to be in the studio, and not at the beach” — a nod to Christie’s decision to spend the July 4th weekend with his family on a closed state beach.
Christie and Roberts then bantered about their shared love for the Mets before turning to the New York Knicks. All was fine until Christie’s geographic nemesis, the town of Montclair, hit the airwaves. First up was John from Montclair, who said he was part of the 85 percent of state residents who don’t like Christie as governor. Christie, who has always hated the Democrat-leaning town, said “you lost twice, John,” and then offered his support for President Trump by quipping that Hillary Clinton is a “criminal.”
Next up was Mike from Montclair, a veteran Francesca caller, who delivered the sports talk radio quote of the week: “Governor, next time you want to sit on a beach that is closed to the entire world except you, you put your fat ass in a car and go to one that’s open to all your constituents, not just you and yours.” Christie called him a communist from Montclair, but Mike didn’t back down, spitting “you have bad optics, and you’re a bully.”
Christie’s comeback — “Mike, I’d love to come look at your optics everyday, buddy” — was a lethargic punch. Although his first day was well-received by critics, that flaccid line was a good preview of Tuesday’s performance. Callers were less combative. The show slogged. Christie even said WFAN “screwed us” by putting their audition on the “two worst sports days of the year”: the dark days of baseball’s All-Star break. Day two is early to be making excuses.
Sports talk radio hosts and politicians have a lot in common; namely, they must be talented storytellers who know their audiences. Christie, at his oratorical best, is pugilistic and hyperbolic before toning it down. It served him well during his first years in office, before the cracks in his stories began to show. In some coverage of Christie’s radio audition, he has been described as the catcher for his state-championship winning high school baseball team — a way to confirm his sports chops. It is true that Christie’s high school, Livingston, won the Group 4 title in 1980, his senior year. But Christie was the backup catcher; a few years ago, the team’s pitcher told The Washington Post that Christie’s parents were “considering consulting attorneys” so that Christie wouldn’t ride the bench. Christie always feels like he’s aiming to even the score, to gain revenge on a decades-old slight.
Christie’s political career is as stalled as traffic on Route 1 on a Wednesday afternoon. Besides being dumped from his post as leader of Donald Trump’s transition team, he hasn’t been offered a job in the administration. Two of Christie’s aides were recently convicted in the Bridgegate trial, and both the defense and prosecution agreed on one point: he created a culture of revenge and shadowy operations during his tenure in office. In the most recent poll, he had a 15 percent approval rating. He’s been an exquisitely terrible governor, and we’re talking about New Jersey, where poor governance crosses party lines.
New Jersey being perpetually mad at Chris Christie is the most Jersey thing ever. Conservatives, liberals, we’re all tired of the empty promises. Our taxes continue to go up, and our services have been slashed. Christie’s an absentee landlord: according to NJ Advance Media, in 2015, when Christie began his ill-fated presidential run, he spent 261 days — 72 percent of the year — out of state. He’s done with us, and we’re done with him.
I wanted to hate Christie on the radio in a good way, in a I’m-stuck-in-traffic-on-the-potholed-parkway kind of way. Instead, I was reminded of when Christie’s penchant for opulent trips and plane rides paid for by others reached The New York Times. He told the newspaper, “I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can.” That kind of sarcasm used to be endearing to New Jerseyans — until taxpayers realized that they were the ones left dry.