Every Dog Has Its Day: End of an Iconic Radio Duo?

M_m_shrunk

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.

24 comments… add one

  • “This update is sponsored by Toy-roada.”
    Sorry IH, great piece but I will not miss these guys one ounce! Dog’s anti-NY attitude and their holier than thou attitude towards callers, as the kids say PEACE.

    John - YF June 25, 2008, 12:13 pm
  • “I will not miss these guys one ounce!”
    I’m willing to bet that you’re in the majority on this one John, but what can I say – I also liked the J. Geils Band during one (thankfully brief) period of my childhood.

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 12:20 pm
  • When Simmons called it the best sports talk show ever, I knew it was true.
    The problem is Francesa thinks he’s too good to be paired with Russo. That’s a shame because they’re an institution together but mere sportscasters apart. It’s too bad egos get in the way.

    A YF June 25, 2008, 12:28 pm
  • You’ll miss them when they’re gone. It’s great radio and the replacements will surely be lacking. Even ESPN, with all their bucks, can’t replicate what MMD does.
    And I agree with the criticisms, but only along the lines of the grass always being greener.

    A YF June 25, 2008, 12:30 pm
  • “The problem is Francesa thinks he’s too good to be paired with Russo”
    Nail on the head. And he doesn’t even try to hide it.

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 12:41 pm
  • The problem is Francesa thinks he’s too good to be paired with Russo.
    Spot on, A. While I enjoy the show in very small doses when road trips offer little else (satellite radio has greatly diminished my stomach for M&tMD), I always found Francesa’s smugness really tough to listen to. I don’t think I will miss the institution, though I will remember it. A new one will come along for sure – this is New York after all.

    SF June 25, 2008, 12:45 pm
  • I’ll take ‘em up here, if we could somehow oust Dennis and Callahan (otherwise known as the medical procedure D&C) for them.
    Bad is relative………….

    dabize June 25, 2008, 12:47 pm
  • IMO, Max Kellerman and Michael Kay are the two best shows in that format. Max Kellerman is a super smart guy, loves the fans, cocky as all heck, but still comes across as receptive. Joe B. and Evan Roberts are also pretty good. My least favorite’s are Steve Summers (his nicknames kill me and he always says “With The” in front of everything) and Mike and the Mad Dog. I don’t get to listen to Boomer and Karton (Sp?) but I hear they are pretty good as well.
    I am sorry I can’t get past the utter disdain they show for callers. You can think your ideas are better/more along the lines of being correct without being complete jerks about it. But I can see how some people might find that enjoyable.
    PS – Michael Kay is getting there and when he finally does I will stop listening to him as well.
    No worries IH, there are periods of my life I am not too proud of either, mostly when I went through my Brian Bosworth phase and would put lines in my hair and color them or even better my baseball #.

    John - YF June 25, 2008, 12:48 pm
  • IMO, Max Kellerman and Michael Kay are the two best shows in that format. Max Kellerman is a super smart guy, loves the fans, cocky as all heck, but still comes across as receptive. Joe B. and Evan Roberts are also pretty good. My least favorite’s are Steve Summers (his nicknames kill me and he always says “With The” in front of everything) and Mike and the Mad Dog. I don’t get to listen to Boomer and Karton (Sp?) but I hear they are pretty good as well.
    I am sorry I can’t get past the utter disdain they show for callers. You can think your ideas are better/more along the lines of being correct without being complete jerks about it. But I can see how some people might find that enjoyable.
    PS – Michael Kay is getting there and when he finally does I will stop listening to him as well.
    No worries IH, there are periods of my life I am not too proud of either, mostly when I went through my Brian Bosworth phase and would put lines in my hair and color them or even better my baseball #.

    John - YF June 25, 2008, 12:48 pm
  • “Nail on the head. And he doesn’t even try to hide it.”
    He doesn’t. But he never has. What makes Russo great is he knows this, and yet he’s been able to deal with it for 19 years. From the quotes, he seems genuinely shocked and hurt. I gotta say I come out liking him a lot more in this. Francesa comes out like the pompous ass we all know him to be. What made him interesting was his willingness and interest in engaging a fanboy like Chris.
    And if we want to know what Francesa will be like in his next incarnation we need only look at Sterling. That’s funny after all they years they’ve laughed at him together.

    A YF June 25, 2008, 12:53 pm
  • “my Brian Bosworth phase”
    Pictures please. No, really, pictures please.
    It’s interesting what you say about Kay John because I really can’t stand him while, as noted here, M & MDog are fun for me.

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 12:57 pm
  • John – I don’t disagree with you on the complaints. It’s just great entertainment and the number of listeners is a perfect metric of that. Many will come afterwards, and have, but I don’t think we’ll see those numbers for long time if ever again.
    Max Kellerman is excellent. But having a foil adds a different dimension. It’s a different category.
    Kay I can’t stand by himself. Him and Sterling were perfect for each other – their egos balanced out and their strengths were magnified.

    A YF June 25, 2008, 12:59 pm
  • To Francesa’s views on his superiority, this from the April 20, 2007 NYT article about them filling for Imus: “Radio is so personal,” Mr. Francesa said. “You can’t be sensitive and do what we do. He likes to yell a lot. I’m the more calculating one.”

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 1:03 pm
  • Kay I can’t stand by himself
    This is funny because about the only time I can stand Kay is when he is by himself. Away from the Yankee police of YES he is more blunt and outspoken; when he does his announcing it is like someone from the teams’ PR division has inhabited his body, I hate the disconnect and it is one reason why I have a very hard time listening to the guy. I realize he is a company man but so was Sean McDonough when he did Sox games and for a long while he was able to criticize the team without punishment. I felt the same way about John Davidson and hockey – when he did national broadcast he was generally superb, but as soon as he got in the Rangers’ booth he was a shill, big time. I couldn’t listen to him in general because of this, he lost a lot of his credibility.

    SF June 25, 2008, 1:10 pm
  • I will say the show on YES is funny though. You mostly see them reading newspapers, and doing all sorts of random stuff while chatting with the users. Ah well.

    Lar June 25, 2008, 1:31 pm
  • That said, I probably watch/listen the show for how stupid they are more than for the content. So I guses in that sense, they suck.. haha..

    Lar June 25, 2008, 1:34 pm
  • The only people who could possibly stomach Kellerman would be Yankee fans, as he homers at such a level to make Phil Rizzuto seem a member of Red Sox Nation. Clearly I’m not alone in this train of thought as his ratings are bottom of the barrel, even in New York. Kellerman is one of those guys who thinks he’s really funny and original but isn’t (‘I’m the Prince of All Media!’ yes, if failing in different types of media is noble, then you a truly a prince).
    Francesa speaks down to callers like he’s Count deMoney (De Mohnay, De Mohnay)

    ponch - sf June 25, 2008, 1:39 pm
  • I’m surprised by the amount of negativity toward M&MD that has come out this week. These guys are the best in the business and the radio/tv ratings have proven this for years. Yes they speak down to callers, but I look forward to that when someone calls suggesting the Yanks trade Shelly Duncan and Ian Kennedy for Jake Peavy.
    Furthermore, as for the complaint that Mad Dog is anti-Yankee…so what? The great thing about the NY-area sports scene is that its not monolithic – I’ll never forget spending every morning of junior high school talking smack with Met fans before homeroom (unfortunately for me I was in junior high school ’84 to ’86). And to those who complain about Francesa’s smugness, dont you SF’s love the serving of humble pie that Mike’s been served since ’04?
    Anyway, I for one want them to stay together as its not the same when they are on the air alone. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.

    dknyc June 25, 2008, 5:24 pm
  • Amen to that dknyc – agree with every word…though not every caller they insult is proposing impossible trades, it is surprising how many do. And yes, when those guys call up I love hearing the inevitable smackdown.

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 5:30 pm
  • These guys are the best in the business and the radio/tv ratings have proven this for years.
    I try to limit equating popularity with quality.
    Personally I don’t really care if they stay together or not, I don’t find sports radio very compelling at all, regardless of who is jabbering. But when I do listen I can’t say I find the show indispensable. Particularly when they discuss golf.

    SF June 25, 2008, 5:36 pm
  • SF you are taking a subjective view – you dont find much value in what they do and for that matter you don’t find sports radio as a whole compelling. The objective view is that millions of people do find alot of value in what they do…and I think this thread is more for people who are fans of sports radio.

    dknyc June 25, 2008, 5:42 pm
  • Well, I listen to it enough (and have listened to it a good deal in my 14 years in the city, I wasn’t always so blase about the medium) to have an opinion about it, even as your assessment of my position is quite accurate.
    I find that the interwebs (blogs, sportswriter diaries, and quickly updated traditional news sources) has rendered the opinion making of sportsradio quite marginal. When I want quick opinion I no longer look to the talking heads, but rather the on-line writers who have adapted and make themselves available, guys like Olney, Neyer, Bradford, etc. Sportsradio was interesting, at least up until a few years ago, because of the access and entertainment it provided – if you couldn’t wait to read the next day’s paper (or that night’s Baseball Tonight) for the current news you could listen to Gammons, etc., show up on the radio. Now it’s not so necessary for the access, it mostly provides entertainment. And I don’t really find it all that entertaining anymore, without that access.

    SF June 25, 2008, 5:54 pm
  • I agree on the seismic shift in information gathering brought about by the web – when I was younger I had to tune into the 6:00 news or CNN Headline News at :19 and :49 past the hour to get sports news (not to mention tallying fantasy football scores with Monday morning newspaper).
    While yfsf, Olney, Nomaas, BDD, bronx banter, etc are now part of my daily routine, I cant see anything filling the void that Mike and the Mad Dog would leave. While I do listen to alot of Mike & Mike in the morning and enjoy ESPN shows like PTI/ AtH/Sports Reporters/Baseball Tonight, its hard for national shows to give the amount of Yanks/Mets/Red Sox/Giants/Jets/Pats/Knicks/Nets talk that I want to hear. As you mention, its no longer necessary for information dispersement…for me its more for the give and take amongst themselves and with the callers.

    dknyc June 25, 2008, 6:10 pm
  • Vinnie from the Bronx is on line 2…

    IronHorse (yf) June 25, 2008, 6:13 pm

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