I’m writing a blog at 10:04 at night for a sports website that me and two friends started two weeks ago. We’ve always thought we were funny, smart and sport savvy enough to be relevant in the world of sports commentary and better yet the age of the sports take. The reason that we got here is because we’ve been watching and listening to folks on Espn, Barstool Sports and other outlets our entire human remembering lives talk and bs about sports daily and thought “we could do that.” Well I feel pretty confident that anyone who’s been on any kind of sports radio or sport commentary medium got there in large part of listening directly to Mike and the Mad Dog or someone who was inspired by Mike and the Mad Dog. It’s like all the bands that credit their style or inspiration to the Beatles or Nirvana. Mike and the Mad Dog were the Beatles and Nirvana for opinionated embracing debate. What Howard Stern is to peddling the less fortunate on the radio, Mike and the Mad Dog was to sports takes.
Espn, who are the Black Sabbath of sports documentaries, had one tonight on Mike and the Mad Dog, who were the first of its kind. They were pretty much the first duo to just simply talk sports with any kind of gusto. Interestingly enough, WFAN in New York had one of the Gumbles and a guy from Cleveland try and be the sports radio team of New York. No surprise that folded like a slice of New York Style Pizza(like that NYC throw in? How can’t you?) Then the station went with to a couple of unknowns who embodied what it was to be from New York mainly because they were from New York. They were Mike Franseca and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. Like most success stories, it didn’t start off on a good note. Both of the guys thought it wouldn’t last and tried getting out of it. In fact, their first show was the first time they ever sat down and did anything together. I feel like that type of scenario has happened a few times before, but it always blows my mind when it turns out to be a building block for something important. Francesa was the even keeled, mild mannered guy, while Russo was the loose cannon who could fly off the handle any minute. Hence the name Mad Dog. Growing up, seeing the little that I did from them while they were being simulcast on the YES Network, what I always found interesting was how they would seamlessly switch roles. Where Francesa was the lunatic going off on a caller and Mad Dog was the calming voice of the discussion.
The documentary goes into the upbringing of each where Russo had a very pleasant upbringing where Francesa didn’t have a father growing up. It gets said that that is important because Francesa was very guarded. I found it not surprising how Francesa didn’t respect Russo at first and didn’t think he could “hang” with him in a real sports conversation. He learned quick;y that he could. Then it touches on what made show work so well was that they both were truly passionate about sports and especially New York sports. That was the difference. In a world where folks love to say and be the people you want to get beers with. Mike and the Mad Dog truly sounded like that and it never seemed contrived. Genuine at all times. You could sense the passion in their voices when they spoke. The documentary said that they appealed to white collar and blue collar people. It didn’t matter what your background was, at 1pm you were listening to what they had to say.
Another thing that made what they did groundbreaking was how they treated the callers. If you called in and were stupid, they called you stupid on the air. It was nice that they held morons accountable. But they tapped in to the raging fan. They knew fans were nuts because that’s what they were. They even had Bobby Knight on and had him say humanity has a temper. He was right. Something else they did that was way ahead of its time was about topics that had nothing to do with sports. For example, the documentary plays a short clip of them ranking their top 5 presidents. How hilarious is that, especially for the mid 90s? The answer is super hilarious. No one deviated from the norm back then. Now, that type of thing is done practically every second on every sports outlet. The goal at this point in today’s sports programming is to be a sports show that once and a while touches upon sports.
This picture wasn’t far off at all
Could Imus be any more repulsive? The answer is no
They butted heads a lot. Tons of differences of opinions. Anyone who ever watched the show could tell that they held a lot of stuff in and didn’t rip each other apart. But like they said, they learned to coexist due to success. I can understand that. If things are going to great, why get in the way of it? Why get in the way of money? But they realized that when thing were good between the two of them off air then things would be even better when they were on the air.
There were specific times where situations nearly ended the show, Situations such as Russo not bringing Francesa on Letterman, Russo getting jealous about Francesa being friends with Bill Parcells and the biggest issue was when Francesa pulling a power move and wouldn’t fly to Knicks vs. Pacers in Indiana because he couldn’t fly first class. Apparently that one almost came to blows. Then there was the day Francesa took a few days off and Russo decided to change up their radio jingle and cut Francesa’s name out of it as if no one would ever notice. Turns out, Francesa did notice to the point where he ended his vacation short and headed back to work. They both pretty much said that success they were having gave them huge egos. I can easily understand that though I’ve never been in a position to have a big ego.
Everything seemed to fizzle out when Don Imus thought it be a splendid idea to be a bigot and go after the Rutgers womens basketball team thus getting him fired thus opening the morning hours. Something Russo wanted to do. Francesa wanted no part of it. And that pretty much lead to the break up of Mike and the Mad Dog. I never really knew why they broke up. Just kind of chalked it up to creative differences, which I wasn’t to off but man it got emotional. Russo called in the day after the split and could barely get the word out about how he felt about Francesa and what they accomplished in 19 years. Then Russo’s dad calls in after they part ways and asks if he could call Francesa anytime just to talk had me weeping.
Today Francesa still has the radio show at 1pm on WFAN. Chris Mad Dog Russo has a morning show on Siruis radio.
The 30 for 30 ended with them reuniting at Francesacon in 2016 and having a great ole time. Laughing it up then walking out of the place with a hug of sorts. And when I say hug, I mean a totally looking fake hug where neither of them looked like they wanted to do it but the cameras were there type of hug. The type of hug that says “I’ll see ya when I see ya.”
Favorite aspects of this 30 for 30 was this line by Mike Francesa; If you’re confident in your opinions, you get called arrogant. Truer words have never been spoken
And this clip completely stole the show
And that’s just par for the course in the 80s