*** Written By WFAN Veteran Joe Saponara***
Tonight at 8 P.M. ESPN will air a 30 for 30 on Mike and the Mad Dog. This stirs up a lot of feelings and thoughts for me. ESPN knows this is going to be huge. Their radio station competes with WFAN, and for years people like Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen were not allowed on with Francesa despite being his friends. You might think they would at least wait until Francesa signs off before airing something about him, but clearly ESPN decided to strike while the iron is hot. They know they’ve got something big here. Rumors and hopes of them getting back together continue to circulate.
I did not immediately get into Mike and Chris, or really WFAN for that matter. In 1987 I was only 10 years old. Watching sports was fun, and I enjoyed playing them. However, there were other things going on. I was in school. Afternoon activities included things like riding my bike and playing video games. Something else had my attention in 1987. Wrestling was taking off. Hulkamania had been running wild, and the same could be said for Macho Madness. There had been some sports discussion on radio. Occasionally I’d catch a little bit on WABC when the Yankees were not playing. Soon I started tuning in to WFAN. By the early 90s, I was hooked. One event that had New York buzzing was the Bills-Giants Super Bowl. Magic Johnson held his press conference to announce being HIV-positive in 1991. The Announcement was an ESPN film about that. Suddenly, for me these events became tied to Mike and Chris.
— ESPN Films 30 for 30 (@30for30) July 13, 2017
I can remember them discussing big topics. Something would happen and I could not wait to hear them break it down the following afternoon. Back then the NBA was huge. Especially in New York. The Knicks were relevant. They followed them on the road. Even a Bulls-Suns series was dominating shows. They would travel to games and host shows at arenas in other states. Russo loved the San Francisco Giants. I can remember Atlanta catching them in the great 1993 battle. That was the final year without a wild card. San Francisco won 103 games, but failed to make the playoffs. They hosted from 2-7 during my last year of high school, and I would tune in right after leaving so I could hear their opening. Fortunately, I had an open ninth period. I graduated in 1994. That spring the guys had a classic argument when Scottie Pippen refused to come out for a final shot because the play was not drawn up for him. Mike loved Pippen. Chris ripped him.
Soon after my graduation they changed times and came on at 1:00. I was so happy to be finished with school. When I applied to Petco, my application said I could only work until 1:00. It didn’t say that I needed to hear Mike and Chris, but in reality that’s why I wrote it. 2001 was significant because of the 9/11 attacks. Even now there is a lot of talk about the shows Mike and Chris did days later. Mike talks about going to the first game back in New York and how they were asked to be there so people knew it would be okay to attend. For years people would call and thank them for those shows. Callers said listening to Mike and Chris made life feel normal.
In 2001 I started working in New Jersey. Usually I worked at night. Most people listened to Mike and Chris on their way home from work. I heard them on the drive in. Once at the office, I would tune them in on a radio. Reception wasn’t always great. They did not have streaming available back then. Soon their show was televised by YES. That began a new chapter. Their television days made it easier to catch the show. You didn’t need to scramble for a radio. At first many people did not get it because of a dispute. We had DirecTV in the office, so I could pop them on.
Thursday night’s 30 for 30 will take me down memory lane. I will revisit some of these events, and numerous others as well. These men set the tone. It’s hard to believe that there was no 24-hour sports station in 1987. People thought it would fail. These guys started radio row at the Super Bowl! They are responsible for so much. Just ask Mike…he’ll tell you.