Back in 2008, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left WFAN and his iconic partnership with Mike Francesa on Mike and the Mad Dog to get his own show, Mad Dog Unleashed, on SiriusXM. After doing one thing for almost 20 years, it sounded like Russo was ready for the challenge.
On Wednesday’s episode of the New York, New York with John Jastremski podcast, Russo talked about how sports radio has evolved. He was asked by Jastremski if he felt a chip on his shoulder going to SiriusXM to prove he be can successful without Francesa.
“It definitely did. It was a challenge. I was looking for a new challenge at the time. I think it was very important that we break off a little bit, give each other a blow. I think Mike looked at the show by himself, ‘let me prove that I can do this without him.’ I think it worked for Mike.”
When Russo got to SiriusXM, he had one worry about how his new show would do and that was whether or not there would be the same listener interaction compared to what he had at WFAN, but one iconic media personality helped bring those people in.
“I had Howard [Stern] there, who was New York and sort of helped set the tone for New Yorkers to buy Sirius, so I knew there would be a little bit of that crossover.”
The other thing that he noticed was five hours on satellite radio is very different from five hours on terrestrial radio.
“I didn’t realize how long five hours at Sirius is compared to five hours at WFAN with no commercials. I made a strategic mistake there. Five hours on Sirius is like seven hours on terrestrial. I definitely looked at it from a standpoint of let’s see what I can do here solo, let’s brand this channel. I didn’t feel pressure.”
The old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So, why would Russo change anything going from WFAN to SiriusXM? If anything, it gives SiriusXM listeners a little bit of radio nostalgia.
Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”
Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.
Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.
“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”
La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.
“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”
Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.
While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.
“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”
WFAN, WCBS Become New Flagship For Rutgers Football, Men’s Basketball
“The multi-year deal begins with the 2022-23 season.”
Rutgers University and Audacy have announced an agreement that will make WFAN and WCBS the flagship stations for the school’s football and men’s basketball teams.
The multi-year deal begins with the 2022-23 season.
“Rutgers athletics is on the rise under Greg Schiano and Steve Pikiell in the Big Ten, bringing excitement and anticipation to Tri-State area fans,” said Chris Oliviero, Market President, Audacy New York. “WFAN and WCBS 880 will provide listeners with unmatched coverage of the Scarlet Knights and we are honored to add Rutgers to Audacy’s market-leading play-by-play portfolio.”
A 30-minute pregame and postgame show will air on WFAN for all Rutgers football games, while basketball games on WCBS will get a 15-minute pregame and postgame show.
Games will be able to be streamed locally on the Audacy app, and the company said both stations will promote the partnership on-air and digitally, in addition to on-campus events throughout the school year.
Papa & Lund Make Andy Masur Defend BSM Column
“Masur wrote that Barkley’s personality, and his fit on the Inside the NBA set alongside Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, makes him such a magnet for attention and the most valuable broadcaster in sports.”
BSM columnist Andy Masur turned some heads with his recent piece on Charles Barkley.
Masur wrote that Barkley’s personality, and his fit on the Inside the NBA set alongside Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, makes him such a magnet for attention and the most valuable broadcaster in sports.
Masur appeared on Papa & Lund on KNBR in San Francisco on Thursday and defended that stance about Barkley.
“He dishes it out and he can take it too, which is a quality that a lot of people don’t possess these days unfortunately in our business and out of our business,” Masur said. “I just think that if he says something completely outlandish and it doesn’t completely come through, he expects that he’s gonna get grief for it the next time they’re on the set together. And they usually deliver to give it to him.”
Hosts Greg Papa and John Lund both said you can’t deny Barkley’s personality is part of what makes him as popular as he is. Their issue lies in the fact that Barkley can be quick to say things that aren’t true.
Masur said it’s on Barkley’s TNT colleagues to correct him, which a lot of times they do.
“It’s a double-edged sword too because I think like you said, what we do as far as play-by-play and what Ernie has to do as a show guy, I don’t think that Ernie is in the same boat as we would be if our color commentator made a mistake,” he said. “But I think that Ernie has the ability to step in there, or Shaq, or even Kenny has the ability to step in there and say, ‘No man you’re wrong and here, look at the facts.’ I think that even is more entertaining sometimes too than just the fact that he’s throwing out things and trying to throw them against the wall and see what sticks.”