"They're talkin sports, goin at it as hard as they can.
It's Mike and the Mad Dog on the FAN Nothing can get by 'em. Turn it on and try 'em. Mike and the Mad Dog, WFAN."
"AAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDD!!!!! GOOD AFTERNOON EVERYBODY! HOW ARE YOU TODAY?"
This was the greeting heard on the NY sports radio station, WFAN, every weekday afternoon for nearly 19 years. Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo hosted the Mike and the Mad Dog radio program on WFAN, beginning Sept. 5, 1989, and was ended officialy just this past Thursday. And just like that, the tandem that laid down the standard for sports talk to follow, was no more.
For nearly 19 years, this afternoon drive duo had their fingers on the pulse of NY sports, and sports in general. In studio or on location, they were known best for pulling no punches with athletes and sports figures alike. They asked the questions that the fans wanted to hear, no matter the answer they were about to receive. They have had many clashes with sports figures, a noted one was Russo's going at it with Yankees GM Brian Cashman on the air. Willie Randolph also wouldn't talk to the team for a long time, prior to his tenure as Mets' manager, due to comments made. Through the phone calls they took, and the rise to stardom the show gave them, they became the voice of the NY sports fan, the voice that bridged the gap between athlete and fan, executive and fan...etc. And we loved them for it.
As the show grew, so did their influence on the NY sports scene. A notable example was when the Mets acquired Mike Piazza. The trade, in part, was made due to pressure exerted by Mike and the Mad Dog, no matter what anyone says. One can only assume that the show had some influence on the acquisition of Brett Favre as well. The voice of the fan was clear, and the Mike and the Mad Dog show allowed that voice to be heard, and the Jets brass had to be aware of it.
And their personalities brought the show over the top. The two came from different backgrounds in sports, and their rooting interests are very different, which made fore entertaining radio. Show fans will remember fondly Chris ringing the bell of the "Crack Committee" whenever the Yankees were in trouble, and Mike playing "We're Goin Riding on a Freeway.." when he wanted to show that the Yankees were cruising along. Whether you liked them or not, you cannot deny the passion that the two brought to the program. They loved sports, that was the common denomiator.
When they argued, some of the most interesting radio would occur. If two people are on the radio and they always agree, the listening will grow very bland very quickly. These were two guys discussing sports, and passionately at that. They represented us, the regular Joe that loves sports. The same argument they had between 1 and 6:30 PM could have been occurring at the bar down the street. These were two guys just talking about, and arguing about what they love, and it was great.
A lot was made about the fact that they didn't get along, that the two had problems. And maybe they did. Two things you have to remember when thinking about this issue, the first being that disagreement is healthy, which we discussed above. Too much agreement will not work. Secondly, two people don't work side by side for 19 years if they completely despise one another. They had to mesh in some way in order to not kill each other after all that time. Mesh they did, and it was magical radio.
And on a personal note, they were a show that could be counted on no matter what. I began listening to the show when it began in 1989, when I was in Junior High School, and continued listening consistently until they went off air, now as a 30 year old man married for 5 years. That's quite a long time to be able to count on something. In the world we live in, nothing stays the same, but Mike and the Mad Dog did. Through my schooling, my meeting and marrying my wife, 10 months of being unemployed, they were always there to make me laugh, and inform me of the sports news of the day.
Chris Russo has officially moved on to Sirius Radio, beginning Sept 15, while Mike will continue on the FAN. He has promised a new show upon his return to work after his yearly vacation through Labor Day. It will be entertaining, the Mad Dog will be on Sirius 123. I will continue to listen to both of them as much as I possibly can. But, as Mike put it on Friday "Mike and the Mad Dog comes along once in a lifetime." He couldn't be more correct. It comes around once in a lifetime, and they will be missed on the NY sports scene.