End of An Era As Mad Dog Resigns

Radio shows should not mean this much to me, or anyone else – but this one did. For anyone not part of the Mike and the Mad Dog family over the last years, listening to any part of today’s swan song gave a glimpse to how many people they effected and how deeply they effected them. We invited Chris and Mike into our lives for almost twenty years, and they invited us into theirs. Today officially ended an era, not just at WFAN or in New York sports media, but in radio history.

I grew up with Mike and the Mad Dog. Sitting on my kitchen counter listening to the small clock radio as I helped my Dad prepare dinner as a kid. Desperately trying to call in to win Giants playoff tickets, as if a ten year old could ever answer their trivia. Those pre-Internet years when we all relied on the duo to bring the first two days of the NCAA tournament to life because New York was the mercy of CBS’ one game. My annual ritual of sneaking the radio into school with the headphones up one sleeve to listen. Same thing when Opening Day for baseball rolled around.

Delivering newspaper’s for four or five years, through rain, sleet, sun, or snow, they were there. I remember their debut on YES, spring 2002, right during YES’ carriage disputes with the cable companies before baseball season started. But I remember it more because I was watching right before attending my grandfather’s funeral. Over six years later, I had my parents bring me a walkman during a long hospital stay so I could tune in from 1-6:30.

In between, we had all the Yankee playoff runs, especially the magical ’96 season when the production staff made the rallying music before each World Series game. Who could forget Dog’s tirades after the Giants lost in the playoffs in the early ’90’s. The list goes on. The interviews, the callers, the classic moments, the memorable moments. Enough material to put the show into syndication like classic TV shows. All over now.

Forget why this happened or who’s fault it is. Both unanswerable questions. Celebrate the show for what it was – the best sports radio talk show ever, at any level. Now what? Both will certainly have success going forward, however the spotlight is on each, forever compared to what they did together.

Francesca starts his journey Monday, same time, same channel, new format. Expect things to remain status quo. He’ll remain on YES as well, though less entertaining for television without the gestures and tirades of Russo. Francesca announced he has full reign to re-create the program and plans to recruit new talent to appear regularly, not a new full-time partner.

Russo, on the other hand, opened himself to more risk. Rumors have him accepting a national deal with Sirius/XM satellite radio. Today he spoke of missing the hotness of New York sports, plus his contract release has a no-compete with ESPN Radio in NY, not satellite, further indications he will end up along side Howard Stern for a newly merged company desperate for listeners.

More questions rise than answers. Other RSN’s in New York have to consider Mad Dog for a program, if not a simulcast, now that he’s not obligated to YES. MSG is particularly hurting in the sports department, and could use some fresh blood, while Russo would fit right in on SNY, although he may overshadow the other FAN talent already in place. His personality translates and histriconics translate to more entertaining television on a daily basis than Francesca does. Mike operates well in a more controlled network setting, the exact format his successful Mike’d Up on WNBC follows. Russo will resurface on TV somewhere.

Looking at the bigger picture, what will this do to sports radio? We’ve already seen a seismic shift to the Internet in recent years, will this break-up have a ripple effect. It sounds far-fetched to think one little radio show in New York could change the whole landscape, but this same show already did change the landscape when it first started. Now, a whole generation of followers may choose to move elsewhere. Does ESPN radio in NY win? Does Francesca or Russo in solo efforts win? Does some new trend emerge from this? Will WFAN produce another star from the Mad Dog replacement?

The questions can go on all weekend, as could the stories about the show and the last 20 years, and all the moments we shared with this dynamic duo. Something in me died when I read the news last night. More importantly, I’m grateful for the last 19+ years, and like all the other listeners out there, I’m happy to have lived through this amazing run.

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