The Sports Therapist is Gone. Mike Francesa Steps Down from the Pulpit

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WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK. By Bull Allen. Originally published in August 15, 2008, Updated with the Retirement of Mike Francesa of WFAN SPORTS RADIO yesterday.December 18, 2017 :

The Sports Pope has abdicated his microphone festooned pulpit. The faithful are bereft. No longer will we hear his catechism in New York drive time on WFAN.

Mike Francesa: unique, more New Yawk than New York, hardest working, hardest-talking engaging sports analyst ever, king of drive time for 30 years, Savior of the Sports Radio format when he and Chris Russo invented Mike and the Mad Dog in the late 1980s, replacing Pete Franklin. Mike retired yesterday doing his last program.

So now New York’s Number One Sports Therapist is no longer. He leaves the New York sports fan all alone. Who will take his place? Who can?

No one could get your through a tough loss, or make you feel better about a win for your team than Mike Francesa on WFFFFFFFaNNNNNNN, Sports Radio 66.

You learned so much from him. He asked coaches and managers and management the tough questions. And the coaches and managers and management had so much respect for him they took his calls and came on with him. That is respect.

Francesa should cover the White House. We need a reporter with guts down there and brains, with a thick skin.

Mike and Chris Russo made WFAN Number 3 in the New York market for years behind the boring all-news stations. They last about 20 years together before Mr. Russo left the program. Then Francesca did 4 and 1/2 hours himself for 9 years, plus the NFL program on Sundays. He just got better and dominated the drivetime slot as no other personality had since MusicRadio’s legendary Dan Ingram.

New York’s Number One Sports Therapist has left us. What a unique voice and personality he was. Thanks Mike.

I wrote the following when Mr. Russo left the Mike and The Mad Dog program, back in 2008. I think it celebrates them both. Mr. Russo has gone on to success elsewhere in sportstalk.

As Bob Hope used to say, “Thanks for the Memories,” Mike and Chris

New York’s sports therapists are no more. Monday afternoons will never be the same in New York.  When the Giants blew another game on Sunday afternoon, you tuned in to Mike and The Mad Dog to round up the usual suspects.

When the Knickerbockers had another debacle, you tuned in to hear Francesca and Russo light them up. You delighted in it.

When the Metropolitans let another lead slip away, M&TMD  made it better as fans listened  to their blunt knowledgeable criticism, they made the hurt and the heartbreak go away.

Being a rat dog dick of a reporter, who loves exposing the fallacies and poor judgments and conspiracies of life, it was more fun when New York had a big sports loss, or a ball club was in trouble, because then Mike and Chris just shown. The negative sports talk that they allowed sportscallers to call in and blast, and let the “professionals” have it, was cathartic.

When WFAN announced that Mr. Russo would not be returning to the program in September of 2008 when Mr. Francesa will be soloing alone, pending a new partner, a new format, whatever– I wondered how Mike would do. He did better.

I stopped listening a number of years ago, but still the program was unique. It pioneered. It made sports radio. Even ESPN Radio with all its money has never equaled the spontaneity and the feel for what the fans want to talk about that Mike and Chris brought out, and Mr. Francesa solo brought out all by himself.

Widely imitated, their format of two guys talking sports was humorous, kept things in perspective, and immensely knowledgeable bringing up parts of sporting events with blunt honesty and drawing out analysis that expanded the average fan’s knowledge of the game. They entertained. They educated. But kept things in perspective for both the sport-obsessed and casual fan.Every city in the country took up the Sports Radio Format.

Francesa when solo was just as interesting to listen to. So is Russo. But together as so many bereft sportscallers were calling in on the last day of the Mike and the Mad Dog program in 2008, together they were special.

Not since Bob and Ray had a radio team been so unique together. We’ll miss them. Like Bob and Ray, who were a humor team, when you stumbled on them on the dial, you could not move past the dial, you had to keep listening to hear in B and R’s case, the gist of the comedy bit.

With M & C, their unique New York-accent voices were compelling unlike the canned, modulated professional announcer droning sound of most of the nondescript sports announcers and other imitators.

Listening to M & C, and for the last nine years, Mike Francesa, your buddy on the radio was like talking sports in a bar  with your best buddy.

No other sportstalk show duplicated that.  Even the Mike and the Mad Dog clone shows that FAN has put together cannot hold the clean-up talkers’ mikes. Imitation of the original is never the same. They were never profane–but they were tough.

I will particularly miss Mike and remember when Mike and Chris would review a Giant loss or inability to handle a varsity NFL schedule. No one can light up sports management like Francesa, and in the Mad Dog Days, Russo could as a team.

When postmorteming losses, the mourning was never complete until you got the Mike Francesa “take.” He always surprised you.

I’ll miss Mike next spring when the Yankees try and sell you on their 2017 changes.  Francesa told it like it was.

Neither was better than the other. Neither tried to dominate the other as many team sportstalkers do.

Francesa, like Howard Cosell before him told it like it was.

But Mike was more: he was the voice, the glamour, the significance of sports in the way he sounded, his strong passions, his voice of authority.

Like Mel Allen on play-by-play, there will never be another sportstalk guy like Mike Francesca. He was unique and still is.

Thanks Mike.

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