Andrew Marchand, The Post’s sports media columnist, caused some waves on his recent podcast with Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand. He argued Russo has overtaken his former “Mike and the Mad Dog” co-host and fellow WFAN icon as the GOAT of sports talk.
“I feel like when you look at Russo and Francesa, that Russo has surpassed Francesa,” Marchand said. “He’s kinda Tom Brady to Peyton Manning of Francesa. They had their legendary, iconic, run in New York. They came up at the right time when sports radio exploded. They had tremendous chemistry and it was a great show. And so they’ll always have that, and that’s what they’ll always be known for.
“But if you look that second career, now that third career, Russo has outdid him. … I think you can make a very good argument that he’s the best sports talk show host of all-time.”
Marchand’s argument: Russo has built a strong lineup with SiriusXM’s “Mad Dog Radio” and his television work on ESPN First Take (and MLB Network’s High Heat) has exposed him to a younger generation and raised his profile. And it’s a strong argument. Russo is undoubtedly a bigger deal than Francesa at this point in time. And he shows no signs of slowing down.
Our counterargument: Television work (and podcast work) shouldn’t be factored into the equation. If this is an all-around sports talk personality competition, sure, Russo rates ahead of Francesa. But Russo is then looking up at other legends like Howard Cosell.
We wouldn’t declare a boxer better than Muhammad Ali because he transitioned to UFC and also won a championship there. We need to keep this to radio. And Francesa still has the edge on Russo there.
Francesa’s solo show on WFAN was a much bigger deal with much higher stakes than Russo’s solo show on satellite radio. And it was a smashing success until the last ratings book, where the big guy slowed down a bit and Michael Kay nipped him. Moreover, Francesa’s own career renaissance a few years ago set the stage for Russo’s. The Mongo Nation-driven evolution of his popularity spurred the Mike-and-Dog nostalgia that helped re-elevate Russo at a time where he was more or less in the Witness Protection Program.
They held FrancesaCons, remember, not MadDogCons.
It feels uncomfortable even discussing this. Francesa and Russo are both all-time greats. There is no need to differentiate. But if we must, the nod goes to Francesa. Back after this.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]