Stephen A. Smith
Tallahassee Democrat

Stephen A. Smith wants an ESPN First Take audience with Numbah One.

Smith more or less invited Mike Francesa to join him (and presumably Chris “Mad Dog” Russo) on a future edition during Wednesday’s broadcast. The guest spot was placed on the table while riffing during an Aaron Rodgers-Packers debate with Russo.

“By the way, I’ve got to get [Francesa] on this show one day too,” Smith said. “It would be my honor to have Mike Francesa.”

This has to happen. It would be the most ambitious crossover in sports media history. And it feels like the moment is right. Francesa cooperated with ESPN for the “Mike and the Mad Dog” documentary. The ice has already been broken between old rivals. Francesa and Smith discussed a partnership in the past. And, to be frank, the exposure would be good for Francesa and his BetRivers podcast venture.

You know Francesa has to feel competitive about Russo’s recent career renaissance, even as he is in semi-retirement. A First Take appearance would remind people that Francesa, and not Russo, is still the sports talk radio GOAT. It would also further elevate Russo and deliver ratings for Smith and ESPN. And who knows, maybe it could become something bigger. The idea of Francesa and Russo reuniting here and there to do First Take together is intriguing.

It’s a winning proposition for all parties. Make it happen.

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James Kratch can be reached at

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.