Friday, August 15, 2008

So long to Mike & The Mad Dog

New York sports reached an abrupt end of an era last night, when WFAN announced that Chris Russo was leaving the station to pursue other projects.

With Russo's departure came the end of the Mike & The Mad Dog radio show, which reshaped the landscape of sports talk radio over 19 years, not just in New York, but in markets across the country.

I was a loyal listener for 15 years, listening to the two very different personalities duke it out over a variety of topics, usually about sports but sometimes about family, movies, politics music or TV. Their unique way of conversation was always fascinating to me; the term "Let's be fair" -- Russo's way of getting a caller or Francesa to see his side of a debate -- made it into my personal lexicon. One especially entertaining non-sports discussion always stuck out, the time a couple years ago when Mike and Chris got in a dead-serious conversation about how long they were going to live, weighing factors like they were discussing the chances of the Yankees making the playoffs. That was the kind of stuff that made the show so great. Sports meant so much to the both of them that even their conversations about real life felt like discussion of last night's action.

It was no secret the two men didn't get along all the time, and when Newsday ran a report in April that the end was near for the program, I hoped it was just another squabble in what had always been an uneasy relationship between the two. But Russo, 48, was ready to go his own way. Francesa, 54, signed a five-year extension at the FAN. Russo is rumored to be getting his own show on Sirius satellite radio.

So you could bet your life I was setting my alarm in California this morning to catch the beginning of Francesa's first show on his own. I turned on the YES Network to check it out, and after Francesa's opening 15 minutes discussing the split, the Mad Dog called in and shared his thoughts, at one point breaking down over the finality of the moment.

And just like that, it got misty in my house as well. If that sounds ridiculous in the grand scheme of things? Sure. But the truth of the matter is that these guys became two of the closest sports fans I had. If that sounds weird, I understand, but I also know I'm not alone.

So long Mike & The Mad Dog ... gone but not soon to be forgotten.

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