On Saturday, Newsday’s Neil Best reported that WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog show, which he called "the most successful, influential show in sports talk history" may be coming to an end due to a growing rift between the co-hosts.
Originally paired at the suggestion of Don Imus and hating it (Francesa has described it as "an arranged marriage and almost a quickie divorce") the two have done the show since 1989. Perhaps having to do 8 hours/day rather than 5 – a temporary move by FAN to fill the morning void left by Imus’ banishment last year – was all the added stress that the relationship needed to finally break, if in fact it has broken.
Reactions from Russo and Francesa, who are scheduled for few joint appeances on the show this summer, lend some credence to Best’s story. Francesa replied with a typically curt "no comment" and Russo, while denying the report, acknowledged relationship issues and gave a legalistic justification for staying together: "I don’t know what he’s got exactly (referring to Best). What, that Mike and I are splitting up? Says who? Tell WFAN that. Contracts, contracts, contracts. You abide by contracts." Russo’s contract ends in 2009. It is unclear what the terms of Francesa’s recently negotiated contract are or even if it has been signed yet.
Many will say "so what", and haters of the show will rejoice if Best’s report turns out to be true. But love it or hate it, this show is an institution on NY talk radio – particularly when it comes to baseball – and I for one will miss it when it is gone, warts and all. Perhaps the warts most of all. The program format and its huge (in radio terms) following, are credited with inspiring such copycat duos as PTI and Mike and Mike in the Morning, and for many Yankee fans the pairing of a Yankee lover and Yankee hater has made for good entertainment. The personality quirkiness – especially the Dog’s almost unbelievable inarticulateness (he can’t even say the 4-letter "Joba" without it sounding like he has 20 gumballs in his mouth – "Jarbar") and frequent near-hysteria are entertaining and a great foil to Francesa’s imperiousness.
Yeah, it’s not Shakespeare, or even Dick Schaap, but I’d rather see M & M Dog stick around than split up.