I moved to New York City in 1992. Yes, I’m old. Back then I was a musician. Or rather a struggling musician. To pay rent, I gave trumpet lessons in Westchester (affluent suburbs north of NYC for those unfamiliar).
Driving from 3-6 I discovered WFAN, the NYC sports radio station.
I’ve listened to sports radio in many cities. I’m a huge sports fan, but I find sports radio to be mostly buffoonery. WFAN was a bit different. Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo hosted “Mike and the Mad Dog” during the crucial evening drive time in NYC. This was 1992, pre iPod, pre Sirius, radio was a very big deal. And then as well as today, lots of people are driving around NYC.
And for a sports fan, they were great. Not stupid sports stuff, interesting sports stuff. As the top NYC sports station, they had all the top interviews. Francesa was the more intellectual sports guy and Russo was the funnier one, but Mike was funny and Chris was smart also. If you liked sports and you were driving, this was what you listened to.
They started in 1989. They worked together for 19 years until 2008 dominating the drive time radio slot. In 2008 Chris Russo decided it was time to go off on his own with Sirius and the partnership was broken. That was big news at the time, but Francesa has done the show solo since then, still dominating NYC radio ratings. He is known as the “Sports Pope” on NYC.
This would seem like fringe news in most cities. Sports in New York are different than in other cities. You’ve heard of Comic-Con or other similar events? There’s an annual FrancesaCon. Not a joke, and no, I have not attended.
Recently, Mike and Chris agreed to do a reunion show. This was non trivial news. Madison Square Garden sponsored it to support their charity and it was hosted at Radio City Music Hall. Tickets sold out in minutes. Every major NY sports figure was a part of it. It raised over a million dollars for charity.
This must seem crazy in other cities. When they announced that that they were splitting up, people cried. Literally, on the air.
Francesa is still the top sports radio guy in the country, but Mike and The Mad Dog is the bar for all sports radio.