Mike & The Mad Dog (1989-2008)
If you follow New York sports you know that Thursday afternoon, WFAN announced the end of the 19-year partnership between Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo on their afternoon drive time radio show Mike and the Mad Dog. I've been around a little longer than the show, but I can't really remember a time when they weren't on. It'll be weird to live in a world without this show which I show enjoyed listening to even though I wouldn't necessarily say I liked it.
Theirs was an odd appeal for sure. Francesa's a die-hard Yankees man, Doggie a die-hard Yankee hater (and not even a Mets fan; he prefers the Giants) a true oil-and-water mix for a New York sports talk show. As far as their on-air personalities I can't say I cared for either one's: Mike is a flagrant know-it-all, Dog a pathological yes man. Most conversations fell into a dependable pattern: Mad Dog would set up a topic, Mike would break it down invariably ending with his favorite phrase "and away we go," which would lead right into Dog's favorite phrase "Ah Mike, you're absolutely right." That dynamic that often yielded hilarious results when they strayed off-topic into the world of popular culture, a field in which neither knows anything about but Francesa in particular remains convinced he's an expert in. In what ultimately turned out to be their last full show together, Francesa, fresh off a long vacation, began talking about the modern classic The Other Boleyn Girl, raving about it like it was Citizen Kane.
Still, I must admit there were certain things they did better than just about anyone else. Both shared a unusual mix of fan and journalistic instincts: they were as passionate about sports as their listeners, but they never pulled their punches in interviews. Wherever their own allegiance lay, there's no denying the pair cared and their opinions were informed even when infuriating. And their audience cared too; they were the #1 show in their time slot for the better part of 19 years. That sort of loyalty is really remarkable. I haven't even been reading Spider-Man comics that long.
I am going to miss the show a lot; the banter, the arguments, the times when they clearly had no idea what they were talking about (The Other Boleyn Girl?!?), and maybe most of all those great retro jingles that opened and closed each segment ("Miiiiike -- Mike Fran-CES-a / and the Maaaaaad Dog -- Chris ROOO-so / On the Fan! / W-F-A-NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!"). In the last couple years I've started working a lot at home and I've begun putting on Mike and the Mad Dog's YES television simulcast in the background. Their discussions and squabbles have become my favorite background noise while writing. It didn't really matter what they were talking about. Even if I didn't like what they were saying, I always enjoyed hearing them talk.