Siskel and Ebert of sports talk

If you know me, you know that I’m a four-for-four Philly guy: Flyers, Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers. And as such, New York teams get a big ol’ Philadelphia BOO every time. But there was one good thing about New York sports, and that was the radio team of Mike Francesca and Christopher Russo on WFAN 660 AM, better known as Mike and the Mad Dog. A week shy of 19 years together, the Mike and the Mad Dog Show team broke up last Thursday when “Mad Dog” Russo was given his release from his contract with The Fan, while Francesca signed a new long-term deal.

Mike and the Mad Dog were the Siskel and Ebert of sports talk radio: Combative (occasionally with each other, in spectacular fashion), sometimes arrogant, but interesting, incredibly knowledgeable about both New York sports and many topics in general, and most importantly, very entertaining. And like Siskel and Ebert reviewing movies, they pioneered the two-host sports talk radio team so commonplace today.

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The chain of events that resulted in the breakup were in motion for a few months, but the end came quickly. The so-called “final” Mike and the Mad Dog show was last Friday, with Francesca suddenly solo. He opened the show with a heartfelt and classy 15 minute tribute to his former partner, followed by his first caller…Chris Russo.

Russo didn’t want a farewell show, but remained his fiery and emotional self, with both tearful remembrances and his customary giddy ripping of Mike’s beloved Yankees (still trailing the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in the American League East). Both of them joked that maybe it was a good thing for Mike that Chris wouldn’t be around to jab him and his Yankees if they actually do miss the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Francesca made the rest of the show a celebration of their 19 years, encouraging callers to share their memories.

I remember being glued to the radio the day after the Red Sox stunned the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. I made sure I wouldn’t miss the start of the show at 1:00 in the afternoon, to hear how happy Mad Dog would be and hear what Mike could possibly say after the Yankees poured gasoline all over themselves in the last four games of that epic series. I, like countless others, will miss their combined sharp commentary, especially as the calendar turns to fall and winter.

(Thanks to PB for the tip!)


2 Responses to “Siskel and Ebert of sports talk”

  1. 1 Nails August 29, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I am a METS, Giants, Sixers, Flyers guy! My rush hour drive time will ne’er be the same. I’ll miss the “Aaaaaahhhhhh….Gooood afternooon everybody….How are you today???……” And The Dog botching last names on the regular. I’ll miss Francesa trying to sympathize about knee surgeries althiugh his was probably just because he is a big dude, and not a 8-yr veteran running back. I’ll miss the Marquis- Dog’s schtick while grilling callers on Super Bowl Trivia. I will not miss the guys tormenting Mets fans as the torment on the field suffices!

    I was fortunate to attend a remote appearance of this dynamic duo at Bar Anticipation in Belamar, NJ a few years back. These guys revolutionized sports talk and had a massive following. It was the show you loved to hate or hated to love. It thrilled and annoyed you to no end! All good things….Good tribute!

  2. 2 Nails August 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    …..and I loved the nickname ‘Fatso and Fruit Loops’ as coined by Don Imus.

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