While Mike and the Mad Dog catered mainly to the New York market, their impact is well established nationally. ESPN Films documented their 19 year run.
While born a New Yorker I did leave the greatest city on the planet in 1989. That year also sparked the beginning of arguably the greatest sports talk tag team in sports media history courtesy of WFAN in New York.
Now admittedly the sports talk radio powerhouse of Mike Francesca and Chris "The Mad Dog" Russo has had little to no impact on me. At least growing up. While I did get into sports radio at a very early age of 12, my early exposure to the medium came from guys named Hank Goldberg, Scott Ferrall, and Tony Bruno to name a few.
Obviously now in my mid/late 30's and working in independent media, I recognize the impact and importance of Mike and the Mad Dog. Which is specifically why I was beyond excited to watch last Thursday Night's 30 for 30 documentary on the duo.
First off ESPN played the card right. They left the documentary right at under and hour. Perfect timing. Hit the points needed, sell the story and keep it moving. Typically many of their stories last longer or even are given extra parts and it applies to the story. As compelling as the story of Mike and the Mad Dog is to many, especially New Yorkers who were lucky enough to be able to hear them from 1989 to 2008, one hour was more than enough to hit what needed to be discussed.
One of the things you learn about Mike and the Mad Dog is above all else, even though they were an integral part of the media in addition to being connected with the most important chess pieces in the sports industry, they were sports fans first. They spoke like sports fans. They argued like sports fans. It's how they stood out. Nowadays many of the radio personalities that grace our airwaves are much more corporate and buttoned up for my taste.
While Francesa and Russo were especially polar opposites in their personalities, their passion for the teams they covered was downright obvious. They were fearless. They had no problem asking hard questions when it was required. Whether it was NY Giants owner John Mara or Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Mike and the Mad Dog were actually the first true bridge between the true blue New York sports fan and the people who held much of the influence. It's what again made the duo authentic and unique.
The most touching part of the documentary was when Chris Russo's father Tony called in on the very last Mike and the Mad Dog show asking Mike Francesa if he can continue to call in the show even though his son would no longer be a part of it. It was a touching moment in an otherwise brutal and somewhat ugly breakup. It also touched upon the polar opposite backstory of the two guys between upper middle class Russo and the grinder, fatherless Francesa.
Nearly a decade later there is still a burning desire out there to have a Mike and the Mad Dog reunion. Honestly I'm all for it. It is something that cannot be ruled out either. Francesa's deal with WFAN expires on December 15th and for all intents and purposes he has every intention of leaving the station. Who knows -- maybe in 2018 or beyond we see a Mike and the Mad Dog podcast. Maybe another radio platform. I mean God knows in 2017 there are so many mediums to use. Their names are already large enough to command the attention.
All in all a very solid documentary that highlighted the most influential sports radio duo ever. ESPN did well here. Simple and to the point.