Right after New York radio power couple Mike Francesa and Chris Russo split up in August 2008, a listener told Francesa that the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show on WFAN had become like a soundtrack to the city. It was true. Had Do the Right Thing been filmed ten years later, you could imagine their show blaring in the background as Danny Aiello and Co. flipped dough at the pizzeria. Somehow when Francesa’s arrogant bluster mixed with Mad Dog’s goofy, off-the-cuff rants, beautiful music was made. Like most great duos, it couldn’t last. In order to gauge how each is doing as a solo artist — Francesa still on WFAN and Russo on Sirius XM — I spent Tuesday afternoon listening to both shows … simultaneously.
1:34 p.m.: (Electric guitar jamming) “Mike’D Up.” Opening: He’s ready to go. On the Fan. New York sports radio … He’ll get you the sports any way that he can. It’s Mike Francesa on the FAN. “The looong fall begins,” opens Francesa, remarking how, with the Yanks, Jets, and Giants all playing great ball, ‘tis the season to be a New York sports fan. For thirteen minutes he extols the virtues of these hometown teams. “The only thing better? How ‘bout if you’re Archie Manning, sitting at home with your wife, watching Eli drive down the field to win the game, watching Peyton drive down the field to win the game. It was a Manning Sunday and a Manning Monday. Back after this.” If that were a first-inning pitching performance, it would have been three-up and three-down.
2:04 p.m.: “Mad Dog Unleashed” opening: My friends, we cannot keep (inaudible). (Russo talking over music) Here’s the deal, I get the best of both worlds here. NFL Training Camps. Federer and Nadal. The San Francisco Giants. Yikes, when was this bumper made? July of ‘08? “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, good day, everybody” says Russo, slightly amending his signature WFAN call. “Nice to have you with us on this busy Tuesday afternoon on, what is the date, the eighteenth?” (Papers ruffling) “Uh, it is the … 22nd of September.” Details were never Chris’s forte.
2:29 p.m.: Francesa shifts to the bumbling Mets, 11–3 losers last night, and asks, “How do you like Citi Field? How does it look empty? You got ladies knitting there. And a 65–86 record? Well, they’re not gonna lose 100.” Highly doubtful that “You Got Ladies Knitting There” and “Well, They’re Not Gonna Lose 100” were slogans Mets execs considered for this year’s new ballpark and team.
2:40 p.m.: Tom in New Jersey wants to know how Peter King, on his recent list of top quarterbacks of all time, has Brett Favre (fifth) over Brady (tenth). Russo agrees with “Tommy” on the logic that Brady has three Super Bowl wins compared to Favre’s one. Mag Dog impressively names each Favre playoff stink-a-roo, concluding with, “Pete, Petey, Peter, Peter, Peter, come ahhhhhhhn.”
2:42 p.m.: Francesa, still picking on the Mets, learns that Daniel Murphy leads the team with eleven home runs. “Wow,” responds Francesa. “When was the last time that happened? Willie Keeler?” A quick search reveals that “Wee” Willie Keeler led the 1905 Yankees with five home runs. That comment, in a nutshell, is why, once a split was inevitable, it made more sense for WFAN to stick with Francesa. The guy definitely knows his New York sports.
2:54 p.m.: Coming out of a commercial break, Mad Dog delves into Springsteen’s United Center set list from last night. ‘“Working On a Dream,” “Thunder Road,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” … Springsteen’s hot, he’s into it, no doubt about it.”’ It’s impossible to take music advice from a guy who dances like this.
3:20 p.m.: Chris from Parsippany has a question for Francesa about technology and the way it will affect the way we ingest our sports. “In ten years,” explains Mike, “you will go to the web for your newspapers.” Really? In 2019, newspapers won’t be the best way to get scores? Extending the metaphor, this was the moment the no-hitter was broken up.
3:58 p.m.: Dave in New Jersey asks Mad Dog if he trusts Angels closer Brian Fuentes in a big spot in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. “I trust him nowhere,” says Mad Dog. “Lance in Mississippi … ” Not exactly in-depth analysis. Meanwhile, over on the FAN, Francesa has spent the last 25 minutes waxing poetic on Eli Manning’s two-minute drill.
4:20 p.m.: A caller asks Mad Dog to analyze the Texans’ decision to draft Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. “Bush is not as good as we thought he was gonna be. He dilly-dallies too much, that would be my explanation.” There you have it. “Here’s Mike in Charlotte, North Carolina … ” On national sports radio you have to know a little about a lot, and on local sports radio you have to know a lot about a little.
4:43 p.m.: Larry in Massapequa asks Francesa if Joba is destined to start or relieve. “A starting pitcher is like a painter,” explains Francesa. “He has to come out and use his whole palette to paint a picture. When you go into a game as a relief pitcher, you have an objective. All you have to do is close the window. Joba is not good at painting the picture.” Well said.
4:49 p.m.: Cory from Vancouver wants to know Mad Dog’s opinion of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. That sound you hear is 100,000 listeners clicking over to see if Howard Stern is back from commercial.
5:05 p.m.: Manager Joe Girardi calls into “Mike’D Up” to say that Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin are still in competition for the Yanks’ fourth starter spot in the playoff rotation. It’s the first new piece of information either show has produced all day. By the way, between Gaudin and Joba, who sounds like a painter and who sounds like a guy who closes windows?
5:16 p.m.: Over on Sirius XM, Mad Dog, incensed with his program director’s lack of NFL knowledge, has started peppering him with pre-merger football trivia. (“Who quarterbacked the Bears in ‘63 when they beat the Giants? C’mon, you gotta know this one.”) “I just don’t understand why you continually do this,” asks the program manager. “What are you gaining out of this?”
5:19 p.m.: With Girardi still on the line, Mike suggests that this year’s Yankees infield of Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and A-Rod is the best offensive infield of all time. He then adds, without provocation, that the ‘99 Mets infield of Olerud, Alfonzo, Ordonez, and Ventura was probably the best defensive infield ever. Girardi counters with the Indians infield of Thome, Fryman, Alomar, and Vizquel. Francesa throws out the ‘62 Yankees of Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson, Joe Pepitone, and Clete Boyer, as well as the ‘66 Orioles with Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Luis Aparicio, and Brooks Robinson. And Girardi reminds Mike not to forget last year’s Phillies infield. Whatever that was, it was enjoyable.
5:52 p.m.: “Who scored the only touchdown in ‘48 for the Eagles in the snow against the Chicago Cardinals?” Mad Dog demands to know. “In the ‘57 divisional playoff game, which team came back from a 27-0 halftime deficit?” “Which player was tackled at the thirteen-yard line to end the 1960 NFL title game?” “Who missed the tackle on Otis Taylor in Super Bowl IV, which allowed Taylor to go 80 yards for the touchdown?” “We’ll take a break and we’ll come back with more trivia.” May his milk always be spoiled.
6:21 p.m.: Mad Dog runs through the early scores, including Phillies 9, Marlins 3, explaining, “The Marlins just don’t have enough weapons in the dance.” This is not a dance to which you want to be invited.
6:29 p.m.: Shortly before both Mike and the Mad Dog sign off for the day, Mario in St. Paul asks Mad Dog if he can verify Giants linebacker Danny Clark’s claim that the new Dallas Stadium only has six shower stalls and three toilets in the visiting locker room. Mad Dog can’t verify this but finds it hard to believe.