If you didn't see it yet, this is must watch TV
-Written By Alec Baicher
Yesterday, ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries presented: Mike & The Mad Dog.
What if I told you, the best team in sports, didn't play on the field.
ESPN 30 for 30's are the best thing going for ESPN right now. They are mini sports movies that are an hour long stories that dive into major sports personalities, events, and forgotten stories. Yesterday, ESPN did the right thing and made an hour long documentary about the two pioneers of sports talk radio, Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo.
As a New Jersey kid, and a life long New York sports fan, I grew up listening to Mike and the Mad Dog on the afternoon drive. There was nothing better heading to baseball practice after school, and having my dad put on Mike and the Mad Dog to talk New York sports. They were brilliant, they were entertaining, and they were knowledgeable. A lot of my sports knowledge and love for sports radio/media come from these two radio giants.
Anyway, the story of Mike and the Mad Dog is a long, and somewhat complicated one. A marriage that started rough, presumably went smooth in the middle, hit a few bumps in the road, and unceremoniously ended in 2008 after 19 years together.
If you recently started listening to sports radio religiously the past 4-5 years, you may look at Francesa as a pompous asshole who doesn't know anything, retracts on his statements, and is a dick to callers. I can't say you're wrong here. However, this was not always Francesa. The guy has the resumes, longevity, ratings, and paychecks (and the Mink Man) to back him up for years. He's Mike Zaun, he's the sports pope. The guy is an absolute sports encyclopedia. Francesa got famous in his first year of radio for proclaiming that Seton Hall basketball would win an NCAA title that year. People called him crazy and they had no chance. Low and behold, Seton Hall made it to the NCAA championship and lost to Michigan in the finals. Mike gained instant credibility and people would be tuning in to him.
Russo, the corky and wacky co-host of the show created the perfect pairing of sports talk radio. At first, Mike didn't think Russo could stand up to his sports knowledge. Slowly but surely, Russo proved he was extremely knowledgeable and the chemistry started to boom. Mike and the Mad Dog were the most powerful duo in New York. Every GM, head coach, and player in NY was tuning in to see what the two media giants were discussing. This was discussed in the documentary and was so damn cool to see. Everyone guy in sports now says "we don't pay attention to what the media says." BULLSHIT. Everyone was tuning in to see what Mike and Dog had to say (and they probably still do to this day).
The documentary was incredible. Mike and Dog were on WFAN this morning with Mark Malusis (former producer of the Mike and the Mad Dog show) and Kim Jones to continue the stories and memories shared between the two that weren't included in the documentary. A lot that was in the documentary I know from attending the Mike and the Mad Dog Reunion Show at Radio City Music Hall last March, but it still was an incredible documentary to watch last night. Two icons in my childhood that have come full circle after a presumably ugly fallout.
The fact of the matter is, did Francesa and Russo have their disagreements? Of course. But being together that long there was bound to be. The fact is, every sports radio show you hear across the country today followed the format of Mike and the Mad Dog. Everyone whose a sports fan needs to watch this. I watched it twice last night. Simply amazing.
P.S. Mike's contract at WFAN is over in December and rumors have ramped up the XM Radio may be having an hour (or more) spot called "MikeDog Radio" with Francesa and Russo uniting. MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!!!! FRANCESA/RUSSO 2020!!!!!