Chris Russo split from his partner of 19 years, Mike Francesa, nearly a decade ago, an absence that has served to make their hearts grow fonder.
“When I left like that, you would figure, who knows where our relationship would’ve gone?” Russo said. “For whatever reason, Mike and I probably have a better relationship now than we’ve ever had . . . We get along.”
It likely helps that they no longer are trapped in a small room together for more than 25 hours a week, but they also share personal and professional history that is not easily forgotten, along with a chemistry that has been evident in several joint appearances in recent years.
As “Mike and the Mad Dog” from 1989 to 2008, they helped make each other’s careers.
“Mike taught me a lot about sports,” said Russo, who since 2008 has been at SiriusXM Satellite Radio. “I didn’t think anybody could do that, and Mike did, just the way he thinks about it. I picked up on it after five hours a day for 19 years, being at times cynical, and even some of his catchphrases. I say, ‘Let’s be honest’ a lot, too, things like that.
“I think he learned things from me, a little differently, maybe more the radio technique. But Mike taught me a lot more about sports than I taught him.”
Russo credits Francesa with mostly maintaining the ratings success they forged together.
“I left, not the other way around,” he said. “There was a lot more pressure for him than there was for me. I’m not going to be graded. I’m starting something different, something new. Mike was going to be graded.
“Mike has still been a major factor in the ratings for the last nine years, and he had a lot of pressure to do that. If he [failed], he would’ve gotten slandered, killed, and I would have gotten all the credit. He doesn’t get enough credit for that, and he should.”
Russo said he is happy at SiriusXM and that there never were advanced talks about bringing him back to WFAN to replace Francesa.
“First off, they probably knew you can’t go back and do that again,” he said. “Secondly, I think they felt getting a new team in there would probably be the best way. I think they realized that.”