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Mad Dog Says WFAN Is ‘A Much Different Place’

“Ownership is different, the studio location is different, the lineup is different. Still, it should also be noted that outside of Maggie Gray, everyone in WFAN’s current weekday lineup worked as a full-time employee while Russo was there.”

Brandon Contes

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Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo is a sports radio and WFAN legend. Russo, Mike Francesa and the late Don Imus helped build WFAN into some of terrestrial radio’s most prime real estate. But after a caller asked Dog about the current state of The FAN, the iconic radio host quickly noted how different it is. 

“It’s a much different place than it used to be, much different.” Russo said during his Wednesday show on SiriusXM, noting the departures of Craig Carton and Don Imus before him. Russo also referred to current morning co-host Boomer Esiason as being “new to it,” even though the former MVP quarterback has been with WFAN for almost 13 years. In fact, most of WFAN’s weekday hosts are not “new to it.” 

It’s true, WFAN is very different than they were when Russo left a dozen years ago. Ownership is different, the studio location is different, the lineup is different. Still, it should also be noted that outside of Maggie Gray, everyone in WFAN’s current weekday lineup worked as a full-time employee while Russo was there. That stat depicts a lot of continuity for a radio station over the course of 12 years. 

Boomer Esiason was co-hosting mornings, Gregg Giannotti was behind the glass in the midday, Marc Malusis just started transitioning from producing Mike and Chris into an on-air role and Joe and Evan were in the 10am – 1pm timeslot. And beyond their weekday lineup, WFAN still boasts station icons Mike Francesa and Steve Somers in the evening. 

The caller also noted 66-year old Joe Benigno’s tendency of telling the audience that he plans on retiring soon.  

“Joe shouldn’t be doing that,” Russo responded. “The audience doesn’t want to hear about Joe’s golf plans in 2024, you gotta do a show. It has changed. I don’t know how you want me to respond to that.” 

It’s not the first time Russo brought up Benigno’s affinity for retirement. In February, Russo called Joe and Evan on WFAN to discuss the NFL expanding their playoff format. The former WFAN afternoon host ribbed the new duo for taking vacations in February, less than two months after landing the drive time slot. He later commented on the prime radio real estate they now own, to which Benigno said “there’s no way I’m doing this when I’m 70 years old.” 

“You have had a great career here, let’s not talk about the end,” Russo responded. “The average guy does not want to hear Joe say I gotta get out in two years. They may want you there for ten years.”

Russo added that Benigno’s focus and goal should be beating Michael Kay and being the best sports talk show in New York City. 

“There’s nothing left to prove for me,” Benigno said defiantly, while also stating that it may have been a focus 15 years ago, but not now. “I came from nowhere to do this, out of nowhere. There is nothing left to prove.”

Benigno might not have much left to prove, but it’s hard to imagine ratings aren’t at least slightly important for WFAN’s afternoon show.

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Barry Jackson, a veteran journalist with the Miami Herald, reports that 790 The Ticket morning hosts Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard will move to that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WQAM slot during the week of Oct. 3.

In more station movement, Joe Rose’s WQAM morning show with Zach Krantz now will be simulcast on The Ticket, replacing the Tobin/Hoard program. Audacy, which owns both WQAM and The Ticket, also simulcast Marc Hochman’s and Channing Crowder’s afternoon show.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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