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Friday, August 15, 2008

Mike and the Mad Dog (and now just Mike)

Earth-shaking news out of New York, where Christopher Russo has decided that after 19 years of being the Mad Dog to Mike Francesa's overly "New York" confident sports expert, he's decided to go and do different things. Francesa today was quick to point out his admiration for Russo, and Russo was quick to say that he just wanted to do something different and that he and Francesa were getting along fine.

The show was like the city in which it's located. At its best, there were few better than "Mike and the Mad Dog". Both men are very knowledgeable, and Russo's recall of the details of games is astonishing. At its worst, the show could be indulgent, cranky, arrogant and "know it all" - ish, and when the two talked about matters about which they knew nothing (such as the presidency of Ronald Reagan or Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ"), they sounded foolish. To be sure, the latter took place with far less frequency than the former. The guys were able to draw great guests, they did their homework, and they interviewed well without kissing up. I particularly appreciated Russo's counterweight to Francesa's pro-Yankee, pan-New York city attitude, and I'm not sure how well either will fare without the other.

Francesa sounded lost and lonely today on WFAN, as though he had lost a good friend forever. I'm sure that he'll heal, and that his show -- with the best "real estate" in radio in New York -- afternoon drive time -- will continue to hold its own. It will be hard, though, for Francesa to replace Russo or even to try to do so. I'm sure that many would line up for that spot and the money it would bring, but Russo's shoes would be big ones to fill, and I'm not sure how well Francesa would do with another huge ego in the booth not named Russo.

As for Russo, he has the enthusiasm of a teenager who just sat in his first luxury box and saw someone hit for the cycle in person for the first time. He has the ability to play the first fiddle, and my guess is that he wanted that opportunity before he turned 50 (he's 48). He has a show with Boomer Esiason, and he indicated that in a few days he'll be announcing his plans. It will be interesting to see (or, perhaps, hear) where he'll surface.

Both are outstanding talents who have helped define sports radio and have accomplished a great deal in the past two decades. It's sad to see them split, but here's to hoping that both of them can have a second act that is at least half as good as the first.

Because if each can do that, he'll have accomplished a great deal.


Blogger Temple Football Forever said...

I will miss the show incredibly. They were both far better as a team than they were as individuals. I do agree when they talked politics they sounded foolish. But when I big sports figure died (Rich Ashburn, The Scooter come to mind) no radio has ever treated the passing better and with the proper amount of respect.

4:57 PM  

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