We got what we were looking for, but a lot of us left thinking we deserved so much more.
To say Wednesday’s Mike and Mad Dog Reunion was highly anticipated for those of us who grew up listening to Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo riff for five and a half hours every day would be an understatement. And to call it a disappointment would be ridiculous.
But on the day after, I’m having a hard time saying it truly lived up to the billing—unlike FrancesaCon 3—because about a third of it practically put the audience to sleep.
The “one night only” reunion could have been epic. It could have been everything the die-hard Mike and the Mad Dog fans really wanted to hear—three hours of Mike busting Dog’s balls and Chris setting up his old partner with his signature “Say something funny, Mike.” We wanted to hear Francesa mock Russo for jumping ship to SiriusXM where nobody listens to him or Russo take a jab at Mike falling asleep on air a few years ago. That’s how the night basically started off. There was energy, a buzz “in da building,” to steal one of Mike’s lines. There were times where it felt like it was 1994, 1998, 2001, and 2004 in Radio City Music Hall. They had picked up where they left off in 2008, their chemistry still as strong as ever.
Then you realized it was 2016 because you were looking at Twitter in the middle of the show. Joe Torre and Mark Messier are still talking? Didn’t Mike and Chris know we came to see them? Not a half hour of Torre or 20 droll minutes of Messier. Or really anyone else besides Mike and the Mad Dog themselves.
Francesa and Russo—who ruled the New York airwaves as the greatest duo in sports talk radio history for 19 years at WFAN—reunited for a version of their renowned radio show on one of the biggest stages imaginable. The format featured a mix of them debating the current sports landscape with interviews with some of the biggest names in New York sports that harkened back to their glory days—the mid ‘90s to mid 2000s.
Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin, former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, and former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy were three of the special guests. Coughlin showed some personality and revealed he’s basically still bitter about getting the boot as Giants coach. Valentine hammed it up and mixed in a couple of great stories from his disastrous season up in Boston and heydays at Shea. Van Gundy was just as witty as he is during NBA broadcasts and told a hilarious story of old school Knicks Xavier McDaniel and the late Anthony Mason brawling during training camp.
But for a crowd clamoring to be entertained by the sounds of the know-it-all, heavily New Yawk accented Francesa and the hyperactive, pronunciation-challenged Russo—and not put to sleep like the teenager two seats next to me—the hosts really should have canned the guestspots and didn't do the audience any favors picking two of the worst possible candidates to conduct long, drawn-out interviews.
They asked me when I want do this again. I said when Hell freezes over."
Torre, the former Yankees manager, and Messier, the former Rangers forward, were highly important figures in New York sports during Mike and the Mad Dog’s run. We all get why they would be part of this special program. Interviews with New York’s biggest names drove Mike and the Mad Dog's popularity, Francesa has said repeatedly. Constantly getting guys like Messier and Torre gave them unprecedented credibility. We just didn’t know on a Wednesday night in March that they would suck all the life out of the building.
When it was just the two of them, everyone was riveted. Francesa’s story about the duo’s worst fight was one of the evening's highlights. During one period in the 90’s, they basically didn’t speak to each other for six months outside of doing the show. They’d sit in silence during commercial breaks. No interactions off the air. The icebreaker was an invitation to Francesa’s wedding.
“I didn’t send you the invite,” Francsesa said, pointing to his wife, Roe, in the crowd. “She sent you an invite.”
Then there was the moment where Russo spotted free agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in the crowd and flailing his arms and practically screaming, implored him to just “sign the damn contract” with the Jets.
And when they announced it was time to do over/unders in baseball, the crowd went wild. Francesa liked the Mets over 89.5 wins. Russo took his beloved Giants over 88.5. Francesa, noted Yankees fans, liked the Red Sox under 87.5. Russo, just to tweak Mike, took the Yankees under 84.5.
It felt just like the good ol’ days. Only we wanted more.
You can’t completely clown the show because I'd be lying to myself if I didn't say it was overall entertaining and unforgettable. The idea of two radio hosts selling out Radio City Music Hall is preposterous. And the occasion was for a good cause—the Garden of Dreams Foundation earned well over $1 million for its worthy causes.
“They asked me when I want do this again. I said when Hell freezes over,” Francesa joked.
Leading up to Wednesday’s main event, WFAN played some of the best Mike and Mad Dog clips and one of them was Francesa and some cohorts ripping Russo for the crappy food served at his wedding. It was six minutes of radio gold. Remember the “Daredevil” story? What about the time Russo basically had an aneurysm after another early playoff exit from his Giants?
That’s what we wanted at the reunion. Instead, we got almost an hour of Torre and Messier going on and on with no inflection or memorable lines. Thankfully the alcohol started to hit members of Mongo Nation—the highly devoted Francesa disciples from Twitter who were well represented—and they began to shout some of Mike’s favorite catch phrases from the mezzanine for a sorely needed comic relief.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many of us in attendance wanted a repeat of FrancesaCon. But we should have known better. This was corporate, this was calculated, this was strategic, and, if I'm being honest, a bit of a letdown. Yeah, there were amazing, hilarious moments and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and couldn’t leave without buying a commemorative t-shirt. But I know the true die-hard Mike and the Mad Dog fans wanted more. We deserved more.
The duo took questions from social media and one asked about the chances of them getting back together. Francesa, much to the delight of the crowd, said “Nevah say nevah.” Please, God. They certainly don’t need to redeem themselves after last night. I think we can all agree we need more Mike and the Mad Dog. Three hours—really maybe an hour of just the two of them doing their thing—was the ultimate tease.