"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

We Here, Them There

Over at Grantland Alex French and Howie Kahn offer up this entertaining oral history of WFAN.

And here’s Nick Paumgarten’s 2004 New Yorker profile on Mike and the Mad Dog.


1 Ara Just Fair   ~  Jul 10, 2012 12:10 pm

Man, I just slogged through that Grantland piece. Good Stuff. I knew squat about WFAN until I moved back to NY in the summer of 03. YES was on tv and I became instantly addicted to the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. Francesca nowadays by himself is intolerable. I really miss Russo. He cracked my up. I am no fan of Imus. While reading about some of the callers I thought about the movie "Big Fan" with Patton Oswalt. It's a pretty chilling look at the life of an obsessed radio caller.

2 The Hawk   ~  Jul 10, 2012 12:17 pm

I read that New Yorker piece before but it's really good so I just read about half of it again.

3 Matt Blankman   ~  Jul 10, 2012 1:25 pm

I need to read all of that Grantland piece, but Art Rust Jr.'s name is conspicuously absent in the intro.

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Jul 10, 2012 1:33 pm

I could bitch about the FAN, but honestly I don't know how I'd get through the day without it most of the time

5 Matt Blankman   ~  Jul 10, 2012 1:39 pm

[4] Yes! It makes me crazy, and yet it's oddly addictive at times.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 10, 2012 1:52 pm

Art Rust Jr. was the MAN!

7 Chyll Will   ~  Jul 10, 2012 3:27 pm

[6] Werrrd... the Cool DJ Red Alert of sports talk.

8 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jul 10, 2012 6:06 pm

[3][6][7] Wasn't Art Rust on WABC though? I need to check out that Grantland piece ASAP. I remember being a teenager listening to WFAN, thinking it was of WORLD-SHATTERING IMPORTANCE that I get through and prove my point on the phone. :)

9 Matt Blankman   ~  Jul 10, 2012 6:49 pm

[8] Yep, but they were giving some background of the history of sports talk radio in NY. To omit Rust from that is pretty bad. He didn't invent the format, but in the pre-FAN 80s, he was its biggest practitioner in the NY area.

10 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 10, 2012 8:50 pm

9) I called Art Rust once. On the rotary dial in my parents bedroom. Desperately wanted to know if he thought Reggie would make it to 500 home runs. I kept calling and it was busy, so I'd hang up and call again. And once, they answered and said, "WABC, hold..." I reflexively hung up. And that was as close as I ever got to being on the air.

11 Matt Blankman   ~  Jul 10, 2012 9:01 pm

[10] I got on the air with Art! I asked some ex-player who helped other ex-players with post-baseball life what sort of careers former players gravitated to. I was probably 12 or 13. It was a thrill and Art thought it was a good and thoughtful question, which was nice.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 11, 2012 5:57 am

11) That is so great!

13 William Juliano   ~  Jul 11, 2012 7:38 am

I remember listening to WFAN in the early days and became instantly hooked. For a kid who was a sports fanatic, it was the best thing in the world. It also helped me stay out of trouble when the phone bill arrived and my mother realized how often I had called Sportsphone (976-1313...I can still hear the intro...this is Howie Karpin for Sportsphone).

I pretty much listened around the clock. I was probably too young to get Pete Franklin, but I hated that he hated the Yankees. When I could get away with it, I'd listen to Captain Midnight, who was much more fun. The other hosts were kind of a blur because I was really more interested in the damn updates, always thinking I'd be the first to hear about a trade.

I first heard Chris Russo on a weekend show. He was ranting about how Will Clark was much better than Don Mattingly, so I hated him instantly. When he became the afternoon host with Francesca, I was appalled. However, in the early days, they made a great pair. I would listen to every hour of the show that I could. Unfortunately, as their egos became inflated, both became insufferable, and the show started to become more about the hosts comparing relative success, fame, wealth, etc. than talking sports.

I rarely listen to WFAN now. I’ll turn it on for short spurts in the car, but otherwise, the format has become a little outdated with the advent of social media and 24-hour access to sports. Unfortunately, the hosts have also become lazy and mostly uninteresting. With the exception of Evan and Joe, I sense very little passion.

14 Bluenatic   ~  Jul 11, 2012 11:35 am

I got a call through to the Mike & the Mad Dog show once, in the early Fall of 1991, when I was 16 years old. Ray Handley had just named Jeff Hostetler the Giants starting QB over Phil Simms, who I revered, and I wasn't handling the news very well. I asked Mike & Chris if it was possible that Handley was playing a game with the 49ers, who were up first on the schedule. Hostetler had beaten the 49ers in the previous season's conference championship game, and his mobility posed different challenges to a defense than Simms, a traditional pocket passer, did. I asked if perhaps Handley had named Hoss the starter so that the Niners would prepare to defend him, and then, after kickoff, pull a switch-a-roo and send Simms out under center.

Francesa and Russo responded as if this were the most nonsensical, idiotic thing that had ever been uttered on their program, which I concede it might have been. They mocked me and literally laughed me off the air. Then they chastised the call-screener for letting me on. The caller after me got a dig in, too.

I never called the FAN again after that.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver