The last time Mike Francesa and Chris Russo got together was at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis earlier this year. From that appearance, it was as if the afternoon drive show they hosted for nearly two decades on WFAN/New York, “Mike And The Mad Dog,” was still going strong. Their chemistry is that strong.
So, of course, when Russo appeared on a special six-hour Francesa program commemmorating the 25th anniversary of WFAN signing on the air, the two naturally picked up right where they left off.
“Dog and I have actually been apart since August of ’08, but it’s almost like you can flip a switch and start over,” Francesa told WFAN listeners, as well as viewers on YES Network.
“It’s amazing,” Russo affirmed.
Russo spent nearly an hour on Francesa’s program, as he and Francesa reminisced about their long-running WFAN show, which aired from the 5th of September, 1989, through the 5th of August, 2008. None of these years more impactful than year one.
“Our lives changed dramatically that first year,” Francesa told Russo.
“Mike And The Mad Dog” would also impact WFAN in many positive ways – billing being an important one – even though the vibe on the air may have been negative at times.
Said Russo: “I think the first time the fans sort of acknowledged the fact that they liked what they were hearing, it gave us, ‘You know what? If we’re making money, let’s not moan and groan about this. Let’s make it as good as we possibly can’.”
Russo also argued that “Mike And The Mad Dog” had benefitted from local sports teams performing well – especially since, once upon a time, WFAN was the only game in town when it came to radio play-by-play for most teams. There would be no ESPN Radio in New York until Francesa and Russo had their dozenth year in the bag.
“‘FAN became the place to go, because you had all the games on.”
In its inception, WFAN had been broadcasting on AM 1050. Then, NBC put WNBC-AM, along with their entire NBC Radio repertiore on the block. Emmis made an offer, and the rest is history.
“The turn right in the beginning, from changing the station to 660, inheriting Don there, and then having Mike And The Mad dog take off” were the three key variables that Francesa believed contributed to the start of WFAN’s success – “Don,” of course, being Don Imus, a holdover from WNBC-Am.
“Him getting there in ’88 was huge,” Russo said of Imus, “and the switch to 660, too…”
Even though Imus, and Russo, have long since moved on from WFAN, Francesa remarked that both of them will be a part of WFAN’s legacy – even though Imus has set up shop with another radio station and syndicator, and Russo is on SiriusXM Satellite Radio with his own channel bearing his likeness.
“You deserve a tremendous amount of credit,” Francesa said to Russo. “You were an enormous part of this station’s success, and that will never, ever change. This is always home to you, and it always will be.”
While it’s obvious that WFAN was the pioneer in sports radio, it’s amazing just thinking about the head start the station had on the landscape as we know it today (and with two new networks launching this fall, it keeps getting bigger).
“Look at everything out there,” Francesa advised Russo. “There’s so much there that wasn’t there when you and I started. I mean, we pretty much had the first ten years to ourselves… It was pretty much you and me, and that was it.”
“No competition,” Russo responded.
So when will Mike and the “Mad Dog” be together again next? Will it be for WFAN’s 30th anniversary?
If the baseball gods have their way, we may not have to wait that long.”
As he ended his call with Russo, Francesa promised him: “If the Giants and the Yankees make the World Series… we’ll do a show together.”
Now that would be a home run.
Not as deep a home run as WFAN hit on the 1st of July, 25 years ago.
(Click here to download the third hour of WFAN’s 25th anniversary show, which includes all three segments of Russo’s appearance in their entirety. Also appearing on this audio file are former WFAN program director Mark Mason, and three people who had previously produced “Mike And The Mad Dog”: Bob Gelb, Chris Carlin, and Marc Malusis.)