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Bridgegate and Beachgate will destroy Chris Christie's sports-radio career before it starts

It was the perfect idea, in theory.

Back in February, a NorthJersey.com report said New Jersey governor Chris Christie was among the candidates to replace longtime WFAN radio host Mike Francesa, who’s been the self-proclaimed “numbah one” in the drive-time slot for a long, long time.

When that report dropped, I wrote this:

We all know he’s a huge sports fan — just ask Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He’s done some guest-hosting stints on WFAN’s morning show, Boomer and Carton.  And he’s brought that same aggressiveness he’s shown at press conferences to the airwaves.

Want someone who will take on callers? Check. How about responding to critics? Bet it’ll happen. And you know he’ll have some extremely fiery takes, including about Philadelphia and its fans.

This is what people want out of a drive-time radio host, especially in the media capital of the world. They want to (figuratively) wrestle with him, to scream at their radios and to engage with the loud guy at the bar who won’t shut up about his favorite team.

With Christie set to do a drive-time stint that’s an audition on Monday and Tuesday with co-host Evan Roberts, let me be the first to say I was wrong.

Christie added another scandal to a list of alleged misdeeds earlier this month when he was photographed at a New Jersey beach while the state government was shut down. It was given the stamp of disapproval across the nation: A name with the “-gate” suffix. His approval rating is reportedly down to just 15 percent.

And that’s why WFAN just can’t hire him as the daily host of its most coveted airtime.

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Imagine the callers who tell a producer they’re phoning in to talk about Odell Beckham Jr., then proceed to lace into him about traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge or to blame him for their woes in the Garden State. Francesa has dealt with his share of prank calls, but the majority of listeners respect him, love to banter about sports topics with him and want to hear what he has to say. After one too many scandals, how long would it take for listeners to forget Christie’s record as a governor? I assumed they’d put Bridgegate squarely in the rearview mirror, but now I’m not so sure.

And that’s where WFAN has a bottom line. Replacing Francesa, as I wrote in February, is “a bigger deal than you think.” It’s the biggest sports radio spot in the largest media market. If they hire a host whose ratings drop in a battle with ESPN Radio, it’s a disaster.

I’m all for putting someone in a show who will butt heads with callers and be fiery on the air. Christie would have been perfect for that role had he steered clear of the kind of controversies that alienated constituents.

But he didn’t.

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