Aaannnnnnddddddddddd Good Afternoon Everybody!
That was the greeting of the now-defunct Mike and the Mad Dog Show, which had a 19-year run until ending abruptly on Thursday.
As a resident of New York City from April, 1998-March, 2002, I felt obligated to weigh in on the end of an era. True confession as a lifelong follower of Boston sports who was a New York transplant for four years: I loved listening to Mike and the Mad Dog. Those guys were, as Mad Dog himself might say, “twemendous”. Just a great listen.
They were passionate about their topics and had the pulse of NYC sports like nobody else. Dog had his dog-whistle screech and quintessential New York accent. Francessa, who came across as a little smug, was the big Yankees fan, and seemingly the voice of reason for the show when Dog would go on one of his emotional rants. I found Dog to be extremely endearing. As a listener, you felt like you knew him.
As everyone knows by now, they weren’t best friends off the air, though they were by no means enemies either. Did that really matter? It’s like the Bird and McHale thing. They were great teammates on the court.
They basically had me at hello with Russo’s vintage opening. Then he’d break into, “How are you today Mikey?” And Mikey would always respond with, in that deep voice, “I’m fine, dawg.”
Then they’d quickly segue into the hot button issue of the day. “I mean, Mike, it’s just tewwwwible the way the Yankees keep giving away these games in the late innings.”; “Dawg, I know, Tohhhhrrrrre’s got to stick with his stahters longehhhh”.
When Dog really wanted to emphasize a point, he would start with, “Listen, Mike …”. And when Mike made a really astute piece of analysis, Dog would give him a tip of the cap by saying, “That’s a great point by you, Mike. Excellent point.”
You always knew when a really big game was about to be played, or had been played the night before, because Mike would refer to it in his very best New York accent as “Huuuuuggeeeeeee.”
It was great that Dog was a SF Giants fan instead of a Yankees fan. It made the show a great listen. They both were always very objective when talking about the Mets.
Dog loved to talk about tennis and Mike loved every team his close friend Bill Parcells ever coached or was affiliated with.
I remember one specific time I was driving up to Boston from New York in my car and I wanted to tear Russo’s head off. It was during the 1999 Red Sox-Indians Division Series and the Dog was just attacking Pedro Martinez for coming out of Game 1 after four innings with an arm injury. He was questioning Pedro’s heart and guts and calling him soft for coming out.
Because I knew what type of competitor Pedro was, I was getting so annoyed. I wish I had Dog’s phone number handy when Pedro came out of the bullpen a few days later and fired six no-hit innings at the Indians in decisive Game 5 while throwing in the high 80s. But those guys were so strong with their opinions that you either agreed or wanted to shake your transistor radio in disgust. That’s what made them so great.
I lived in New York during a great time period for sports. The Yankees were in the World Series all four Octobers I lived there. The Mets were highly relevant in two out of the four years. The Knicks were having a strong run under Jeff Van Gundy. The Giants and Jets were also at solid points, the former going to the Super Bowl in 2000 and the latter becoming important again under Tuna. Mike and The Mad Dog had the words to describe all that was going on at this exciting time in New York sports.
It’s too bad for New Yorkers who defined their afternoons with the banter of these two guys that they won’t be around in tandem anymore.
But they had a great run — one that I’m sure they are both very proud of.
P.S. — Bill Simmons a few years back wrote this classic running diary of a Mike and the Mad Dog show that he covered live.