Mike Francesa Sic'ed By Former Partner "Mad Dog" Russo On Radio Row

No, you're not seeing - or hearing - things: Mike Francesa was joined by his old on-air companion of twenty years, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, for a colorful discussion today on Francesa's WFAN radio/YES Network television show. Francesa later returned the favor on Russo's "Mad Dog Unleashed" program on Sirius XM's "Mad Dog Radio" channel.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, good afternoon, everybody!”

That was the popular greeting on New York sports radio for two decades by Chris Russo on the “Mike And The Mad Dog” program. Of course, Russo left WFAN for a new challnge at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, in which he is now in his fourth year as host at the “Mad Dog Radio” channel. Since then, Mike Francesa had sailed solo on WFAN, with a show renamed “Mike’d Up” for about four years, and now “Mike’s On” for about four months.

With both Russo’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” show and Francesa’s “Mike’s On” on location in Indianapolis for Super Bowl Week – WFAN is the flagship station of the New York Giants, who are in this year’s big game – there were rumors early on that the two would get together and do a segment.

And so, for the first time in over two years, since both of their respective shows crossed paths at Yankee Stadium, Francesa and Russo were together again, in person (Russo phoned into Francesa’s show in 2010 after the San Francisco Giants, Russo’s favorite baseball team, won the World Series; that was the last time both have talked to each other, at least with millions listening in).

There were a few exchanges during the fifteen-minute conversation (click here to watch video in a new window) that were amusing. One started with Francesa invoking an ugly ordeal involving Russo last year: he had went to Port Charlotte, Florida for an interview with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, but Girardi was a no-show. “Are you going to spring training this year, and then blame us for not getting into the building?”, Francesa asked Russo. “I’m getting blamed for you being in spring training… I didn’t even know you were in Florida!”

Russo responded by telling listeners (and viewers on YES Network): “It wasn’t Mike’s fault.” And he’s right. True, in the past, Francesa’s employer had issued a mandate that Russo may not broadcast his show live from Yankee Stadium or the Mets’ ballpark, CitiField. But Francesa had absolutely nothing to do with Girardi blowing off Russo in Florida last year.

The Mets also came up in conversation, as well. “You have a good job,” Russo told Francesa, “[but] you have nothing with the Mets now, you’re dead.” WFAN is also the flagship station of Mets baseball, and has been well before “Mike And The Mad Dog” went on the air (and there’s a possibility that the relationship may come to an end after the 2012 season).

“The Mets,” Francesa opined, “you feel bad for them… I wish something would happen.”

Russo also asked Francesa about Kim Jones, a WFAN contributor who just recently parted ways with YES Network as the pregame, postgame, and in-game reporter for Yankees games. “[New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob] Raissman wrote [about Jones leaving], didn’t he?”, Francesa asked Russo. “You probably gave it to him… if you don’t talk to Raissman, he’s got nothing!” Russo: “I dig that one… Funny!”

The top of the 2 PM (ET) hour was approaching, which meant Russo’s “Unleashed” show for the day would begin, so it was time for the Francesa/Russo reunion to come to an end – though Francesa would appear hours later on Russo’s radio show as soon as he finished up his WFAN/YES business.

“Dog has his show now,” Francesa told listeners/viewers, “but he don’t care, he’ll stay here.”

An animated Russo shot back: “I got some calls!”

To which Francesa, painting a picture of the demographic that calls Russo’s Sirius XM show, replied: “We’ll get one from the Eastern time zone.”

Parting in such sweet sorrow.

Ain’t that right, Mikey?

What a “good afternoon” for New York sports radio.

Mike Francesa No Longer "Mike'd Up" On WFAN

Starting this week, WFAN will need to change the title of their afternoon radio show hosted by Mike Francesa, since they could not come to an agreement with WNBC-TV for the rights to the name "Mike'd Up." Oh, by the way: Francesa has not hosted the WNBC show of the same name since last summer.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Houses Of The Holy” by Led Zeppelin?

When I first heard the song, I discovered that there was an album by Led Zeppelin, also titled “Houses Of The Holy.” Only to find out that the song I had anticipated owning my own copy of was not on that album. It was originally intended to appear on the 1973 album, but the band decided it didn’t fit with the theme of the rest of the album, so it was left on the cutting room floor, only to be released on a subsequent album, 1975’s “Physical Graffiti.”

Such is the feeling you’ll get if you’re a viewer of WNBC-TV’s Sunday night sports program, “Mike’d Up.”

Especially moreso since the program’s original host, WFAN’s Mike Francesa, officially left the program citing the desire to spend more time with his children.

Bowing on Labor Day Weekend 2003, “Mike’d Up” – subtitled “The Francesa Sports Final” – featured Francesa delivering real-time reaction to significant local and national sports stories of the day, and perhaps the week prior. However, during the summer months, WNBC-TV sports anchor Bruce Beck would host “Mike’d Up” as Francesa took his usual summer sabbatical away from television as well as the radio show, even when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo co-hosted the WFAN afternoon drive program up until 2008.

The decision for Francesa to relinquish his WNBC-TV show full-time was eyebrow-raising, in that the announcement came just three months after he proclaimed that he would be reducing his “Mike’d Up” TV duties from three dozen weeks per year to two dozen, mostly during football season.

Equally eyebrow-raising is the fact that, despite Francesa no longer appearing on WNBC-TV’s air, WNBC-TV has retained the rights to the “Mike’d Up” title.

As a result, WFAN – owned by CBS Radio – can no longer call Francesa’s radio show “Mike’d Up.”

Francesa disclosed on his “NFL Now” Sunday morning program on WFAN, and reiterated on his daily radio show (simulcast on YES Network) on Monday, that WFAN “and NBC could not come to an agreement.”

This also means that WFAN must now work on a new opening jingle for the show. Monday’s radio show started with a cold open, with Francesa explaining there was “no jingle today” because things were “in flux” at the moment. (AUDIO: Hear Francesa’s WFAN cold show open here.) He said that a new jingle should debut on Tuesday’s show. As far as what WFAN’s Francesa show will be called, it was expected to be “Francesa on The FAN,” which had been the subtitle of the program during WFAN’s “Mike’d Up” era – WFAN sports anchors referred to the afternoon show as such during sports updates on Monday – but Francesa disclosed on Sunday that “we have a new one ready to go,” including a corresponding jingle, but it needs approval from attorneys before going forward.

This begs the obvious question: Why in the world would WNBC need to hold onto the “Mike’d Up” name, when Francesa is no longer on WNBC, and has not been for half a year and counting? Perhaps they’re grooming a full-time replacement on the Sunday night show, who just happens to be named Mike? Or could they be saving it for a new show hosted by “Today In New York” co-anchor Michael Gargiulo? Hey – the Mayor of New York City is also named Mike… There are several possibilities as to why WNBC would choose to retain the name and not allow WFAN to use it for Francesa’s radio show – the most popular of which could be spite. There does not appear to be any bad blood between Francesa and WNBC; perhaps Francesa’s decision to scale back his WNBC duties to a half-year, before abruptly deciding to leave WNBC just three months later, did not sit well with WNBC.

There is no word on when WNBC’s ownership of the phrase “Mike’d Up” expires. Also, a search for the trademark of the phrase shows it was registered in September 2003, at around the time the WNBC show debuted, and is currently listed as “dead” with a 2010 expiration date.

For those outside the New York City area, Mike Francesa is known for his grandstanding demeanor, especially against listeners that call his show. This is why New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman has affectionately nicknamed Francesa “The Sports Pope.”

Maybe “Houses Of The Holy” should be the new name for his WFAN show after all.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, January 17, the new name of Francesa’s WFAN program is “Mike’s On.” The new theme song sounds exactly like the old theme song, with the singers saying “Mike’s On” in the parts of the song where “Mike’d Up” had been said. Listen to the new Mike Francesa WFAN program theme song here. And hear the open of the first show in the “Mike’s On” era here.