NEW YORK sports fans suffered a major blow last night. And, for once, it had nothing to do with the Yankees stinking up the city.
They say that breaking up is hard to do. Apparently not for Mike and the Mad Dog, WFAN’s popular afternoon sports talk show.
For some months, there had been rumors about a break down in the relationship between Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo.
Now, after 19 years analyzing the Jets, Mets, Nets, Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, Mike and the Mad Dog is no more.
It’s now Mike minus the Mad Dog, or to give the new show its proper title, Francesa on the FAN.
Russo, a 48-year-old father of four, was unwilling to commit to another five years with WFAN and has decided to go it alone. He denied any rift with Francesa.
Although he has yet to announce his future plans, he is being tipped to become the voice of sports on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Sadly for disciples of Mike and the Mad Dog, there will be no farewell show.
“You only get a goodbye show when you retire,” said Francesa. “No company gives you a goodbye show unless you’re no longer going to be a competitor. And we all know that Dog will work again.”
Russo said: “I’m not sure I’ll take another partner on, because before Mike, I was solo. I can do a talk show. Solo, partner, anything I’m on, I’ll do a good talk show.”
Mad Dog splits with Mike after 19 years together
Of that, I have no doubt. But I would question seriously whether it would ever be as good as Mike and the Mad Dog.
The fact that they were so different was their strength. Francesa is a Yankees fan. Russo supports the San Francisco Giants.
Francesa is cool, calm and collected; Russo excitable, opinionated and famous for his rants.
George Vecsey of The New York Times once described his voice as “a bizarre mixture of Jerry Lewis, Archie Bunker and Daffy Duck.”
He was introduced to WFAN listeners by Don Imus on his morning show as the sports reporter.
The departure of Imus, and now Russo, is an undoubted blow to WFAN in its ratings battle with ESPN.
For those who follow sports in the New York area, Mike and the Mad Dog was compulsive listening between 1pm and 6.30pm on weekday afternoons.
The only sports talk show that comes anywhere close to it is Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN. And they spend a lot more time talking about sports nationally than they do focusing on the local scene.
Boomer (Boomer Esiason) and Carton (Craig Carton) have their followers. But, as a Yankees fan, I can no longer listening to the irksome Carton (a Mets fan) gloating about their demise.
I always found Mike and the Mad Dog’s coverage of the New York baseball teams fair and, for the most part, unbiased.
Okay, so Francesa went over the top about Joe Torre leaving the Yankees last year, but you could never accuse either of them of not having their finger on the pulse.
They knew New York sports; they knew the personalities. Afternoons won’t be the same without the Mad Dog barking.