Chris “Mad Dog” Russo often is asked about the potential for a reunion with a certain sports-related celebrity, but on Tuesday he had an actual one with a guy he met at Shinnecock Hills 11 months ago.
It was then that Tiger Woods informed Russo near the putting green that he is a fan of his SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. “Tiger Woods!” Russo said last June. “I got an acknowledgment. I’m all set. Success.”
Then it happened again, briefly, at Bethpage Black, when Woods came over to say hello near another Long Island putting green.
(Russo, who lives in Connecticut, knows Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, a Connecticut native and resident.)
These sorts of experiences are one reason Russo parted ways with WFAN and Mike Francesa 11 years ago. Russo often had a greater taste for “remote” programs than did Francesa, and he has taken full advantage of that freedom.
Russo seems pleased with the arrangement, because last month he signed a new four-year contract, a deal that will take him to 15 years overall, nearly as long as he was at WFAN as one half of “Mike and the Mad Dog.”
“I was always going to stay,” he said Tuesday at Bethpage Black. “They made it easy. They wanted me, I wanted them. I’ve said a thousand times it’s a great place to work . . . To me it was a no-brainer.”
Russo believes this contract might finally stop speculation about him rejoining Francesa in some form. That and the fact that when Francesa came out of a brief retirement last May, he did so by returning to WFAN.
“I think Mike re-signing with FAN after he had retired, I think that did it,” Russo said. “The fact that Mike was free – and he was free first and had his choices of going some other places – the fact he went back to FAN I think put an end to ‘Mike and the Mad Dog.’
“For a while there with that ’30-for-30’ (ESPN documentary in 2017), I thought there was a chance of some sort of reconciliation. But I kind of felt that Mike wanted to stay at FAN, finish his career there, and once he decided to do that it became obvious that it was a situation where if Sirius still wanted me I would re-sign.”
Russo made what he described as “mildly critical” comments about Francesa’s return to WFAN last spring and said that he has not communicated with Francesa since then.
“I have not spoken to him officially, like, ‘Mike, how are you? Blah, blah, blah,’” Russo said. “So it’s been about a year. I haven’t texted him. We were very tight there for a couple of years.”
Russo was sharply critical of the show that originally replaced Francesa’s in early 2018, especially of the inclusion of Bart Scott alongside Chris Carlin and Maggie Gray.
“I wasn’t in love with Carlin’s crew,” he said. “It’s got its footing now (in the 1 to 3 p.m. slot), which is what it needed to do before they threw them into that spot in the beginning.”
Russo said it initially was difficult to transition from a New York-oriented show to a national one, but that over the years he has gotten the hang of it.
“It took me a while to learn how to do that - what turns on the national sports fan,” he said. “A Mets game against the Padres in the middle of May is not going to do that.”
Russo produces his share of viral audio, including recent rants about his frustration with the college admissions process for his daughter – who will attend Notre Dame in the fall – and with Mother’s Day, which he deemed a hassle. He suggested it be abolished in return for getting rid of Father’s Day, too.