Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dog Days

Perhaps there will never be a reunion between Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. But I think if you ask most longtime WFAN listeners, they would clamor for the duo to put aside their differences and join forces once again. But could it ever happen? Neil Best had a good interview with Russo the other day. For those that missed it, take a look below at some of Doggie's comments. Sure he points out some of the things he doesn't miss about WFAN, but it certainly sounds to me that he feels nostalgic about his old gig. I can't go too crazy with the idea that he's happy at SIRIUS/XM talking Nebraska football and Carolina Hurricanes hockey. Sounds to me like he misses the pace and the fervor of the FAN time slot he shared with Francesa for almost 20 years. But what's your take? Here's Neil's story:

Chris Russo misses local slant, but likes new life
Neil Best

For most New York sports radio listeners, Chris Russo's trademark cackle is but a memory - other than in those spot-on imitations by WFAN's Craig Carton.

It is a reality Russo knew he was accepting when he left the FAN for Sirius XM, a pay satellite service with 18.6 million subscribers nationwide but a far lower profile among tri-state fans than WFAN.

Still, Russo said Wednesday that while he does not regret the move and enjoys many aspects of his new gig, he sometimes misses the impact of being on a local, 50,000-watt powerhouse.

"There are times, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it,'' he said, a feeling more pronounced now than in the fall because of the national scope of the NFL.

The baseball is so much more local. Those are the days where you definitely feel a little pang, like, 'Boy, Mike [Francesa] has got to be at Citi Field today, or Mike's got to be at Yankee Stadium.'

"I guarantee you when the Mets and Yankees first play [June 12] I will definitely sense it, because I won't be part of that. There are times you miss that.''

He added, "When the Yankees are [losing], I have to assume fans are more attuned to what Mike is saying, or Kay than myself. I do feel that pang. Not all the time, but I've felt it.''

As for Francesa, he said, "I don't care if you had the worst divorce in your life. When you're married to someone for 19 years there is going to be an element of that marriage you'll miss,'' he said.

"That byplay between me and Mike, I miss that occasionally," Russo said. "I can't deny it. But overall, I don't have any regrets.''

Francesa still has neither hired a new sidekick nor ruled out doing so eventually. The urgency has been eased by the fact his ratings have held up well.

What about Russo's? There are none on satellite radio, and Sirius XM says there is no reliable way to measure his audience.

Instead, Russo said his feedback comes mostly from callers. There are more of them than in the early days of "Mad Dog Unleashed,'' which premiered eight months ago Friday, but Russo estimated 70 percent still come from the tri-state area.

The best part of the new job, he said, is the freedom he has to discuss what he wants and go where he wants, including a number of road trips that never would have happened at WFAN.

"Nobody looks over my shoulder and tells me I can or cannot do this or that,'' he said.

From 2 to 7 Wednesday he covered a broad range of topics and took calls from Manhattan to Maui. He led with Magic-Celtics - On Dwight Howard: "Keep your big, fat trap shut!'' - but he dealt with the Mets and Yankees and had guests from Charles Barkley to Ed Olczyk to Len Berman.

"One thing I don't miss is nine million calls a day about whether Joba should be in the rotation,'' he said. "Or nine million calls in the wintertime about how the Mets have to sign Manny Ramirez.''

With only four ad breaks per hour, Russo has the luxury of more time, but that puts a greater burden on his voice, which gave out for a week in November. He said he did a "terrible job'' of taking care of himself but now is more careful.

Russo's deal is believed to be worth $3 million a year, but Sirius XM has been in a precarious financial state. Is he concerned?

"I think we're going to make it,'' he said. "I don't go to work every day wondering if this place is going to collapse. And don't forget, CBS Radio ain't doing that great, either. If we're doing bad we've got a lot of company.''

"Mad Dog Radio,'' for which he is executive producer, now is a 24-hour sports talk outlet. He said he would give himself a better grade for doing that part of his job than for his own show.

Meanwhile, at his old home, he is gone but not forgotten.

Russo said he had heard about Carton's imitation but not heard much of it himself.

"I don't think it's malicious," he said. "I take it as a compliment.''


Loki said...

What do all these words mean?

Ryan T. said...

As listeners we're only subjected to Mike's antics through the radio and we can change the channel anytime we want. Mad dog seems like a genuinely good dude, and he had to put up with that guy every day, face to face, for 19 years. It's no wonder he finally had enough, it's amazing he made it that long. It's just a shame than in order to escape, he had to sacrifice the station and audience he seems to truly respect, in a way that Mike never has or will.

He does deserve a lot of credit for taking his show on the road and delivering exactly what we've expected of him after years of listening to him on the FAN. It's his Saturday morning show, but every day. All while Mike still tries to figure out what he's doing 8 months later.

Anonymous said...

Well said Ryan T.

I miss Dog a lot. He may not have been the most knowlegable but he was a lot of fun and added greatly to MMD.

Mike has it good in that not only does he have such a large market to draw from but many of his listeners are perfect for his show-- big football/baseball fans and mediocre at best towards the NBA/NHL. Dog has it hard in that he has to talk about all sports and all markets.

The flip side to that is when things slow down we get 8 months of Mike Bashing the "core" or Mike playing wannabe Yankee GM.

Dog was definetly the victim in the MMD saga and he deserves a lot of credit for tolerating Fatso for so long but as if part of a bad marriage he woke up and moved on.

I will always hold animosity towards Mike for the breakup.


wtsherman said...

"That byplay between me and Mike, I miss that occasionally," Russo said. "I can't deny it. But overall, I don't have any regrets.''

---Funny for reasons we can all imagine and enjoy.

wtsherman said...

As for Francesa, he said, "I don't care if you had the worst divorce in your life. When you're married to someone for 19 years there is going to be an element of that marriage you'll miss,'' he said.

--No double entendres here, just hilarious on its face how he's latched on to this parlance/imagery/explanation

wtsherman said...

Lastly, to Gman - I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer not drinking forties.

And hell, I live in Durham, so you know I'm banging Yuengling 12 packs.

gabagool said...


"I mean, what, are the Celtics gonna lose game 7 at home? "(Repeat it about a dozen times......which one of us didn't KNOW it was gonna happen

And, really the Slob EITHER is turning into a Red Sox fan OR a desperate attempt at using the maddog schtick of trying to tick off Yankee fans by sucking up to the Bosox.......anything to boost those ratings........even as far as calling Masterson a "star" lord.

gabagool said...

And rereading that post. THREE MILLION PER. THREE MILLION! If there are ANY knuckleheads out there who think that THIS IS NOT, hands down, the GREATEST single nation in the world, they are NOT dealing with a full deck.

Three million. He bites. The radio station is NOT making it (so the hes making money for the station arguement is out the window) I think the fact that Mikes ratings have held up IN SPITE of an almost UNANIMOUS group agreement of its IMMENSE SUCKNESS, supports the arguement that its the TIME SLOT AND LOCATION of the MMD show that fuels its popularity, not the god given "talent" of either. (Man, why was that ever really a debate?!?)

Well, at least they can always say that Perez Hilton is luckier to be born in america than them.

God bless America.

gabagool said...

Oh, hi again.

Mike, STILL think the Mets would be take 4-6? THrilled with 5-5? That the Giants are a good team because their pitching is so good?

Mike sure knows a lot of FACTS.