When talking about sports, you are supposed to have an opinion, which another person can then agree with or disagree with, so that a conversation may proceed and silence may be averted. The opinion need not be subtle or original, as long as it is arguable. Some people shun pregame predictions, or best-ever lists, or disparagement of referees, but very few of those who pay attention to spectator sports can go long without coming to the conclusion that one player is better than another or that someone ought to be traded, benched, or fired, if not pelted with batteries and coins. You present a hypothesis—Franco’s gotta go—and a discussion ensues. It is a useful talent, to be able to sustain a dialogue in this manner, and there are perhaps no two men who are more adept at it than Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo, the hosts of the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show, which airs weekday afternoons on WFAN, a sports radio station in New York. Mike and the Mad Dog have been talking to each other on the air about sports for fifteen years, five days a week, five and a half hours a day, which, if you account for advertisements, adds up to roughly fifteen thousand hours—enough time to read aloud all twenty-nine volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica more than twice.
It is safe to say, although many would argue the point, that in New York City sports provide the most common ground for routine conversation among friends and strangers—among men, anyway. Mike and the Mad Dog are the hub and the font of it. In the show’s time slot (one to six-thirty), only one radio station—the classic-rock Q104.3—attracts more male listeners between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four. Francesa and Russo are as much a part of the city’s soundscape as jackhammers and accelerating buses, and, depending on your cast of mind, they can be as mesmerizing or as odious as the Teletubbies. Though their faces may be made for radio, their voices, by most measures, are not. Francesa, who is from East Atlantic Beach, on Long Island, speaks with a thick Long Island accent, in a deep-timbred head-cold tone that makes words like “Giambi” and “Isiah” sound as though they’d been dunked in onion dip. His is the voice of authority, of donnish pronouncement. Russo, the Mad Dog, is also from Long Island—Syosset—but his voice is otherworldly: loud, shrill, high-pitched, a little hoarse, suggestive of after-school tutoring sessions and Benzedrine. He talks fast and has a savant’s memory for pitching sequences, third-down conversions, and obscure statistics from seasons long past. Russo is the ranter. When he gets worked up or speed-reads commercials, the syllables clot like kids swarming the ball on a soccer field, until out of a scrum of misshapen syllables a predicate emerges, or a slogan like “the luxury of Lexus.” He has a cartoonish cackle and a knack for malaprop: “analysis of paralysis,” “agrarius error,” “co-horsed.” Many declarations begin with a rapid-fire “bottomlineis,” “let’sfaceit,” or “nodoubtaboutit.” There is never a doubt, anyway, which one of the two men is speaking.
For two years, their show has been simulcast on cable, on the YES Network. Television is not kind to radio; it diffuses its charms and accentuates its limitations. But watching “Mike and the Mad Dog” can be enlightening, because it dispels once and for all the suspicion that they are broadcasting from a Massapequa bar or from adjoining cells. Generally, they are shown on a split screen: two men in golf shirts, two microphones, some stat sheets. Francesa, who is fifty, is a large man, with cropped gray-flecked hair and, when his face is at rest, the fishy frown of an expert on guard against the advance of paltry arguments. His smile suggests handsomer days. Russo, forty-four, is thin, long-faced, ferret-eyed, with boyish brown hair. He moves around a lot in his seat. On the radio, you can occasionally hear the evidence of this in the variations in the volume of his voice as he knocks up against his microphone, and then jerks away, though when a caller is making a long, complicated claim, he sits still, with his lips pursed, like a woman checking her lipstick in the mirror. The men sometimes consult the tabloids or fidget with pens. During a broadcast, Francesa drinks several bottles of Diet Coke.
体育投注平台“We don’t do guy talk,” Francesa likes to say. “We do sports talk.” By this he means that they do not engage in lewd conversation, scatological humor, crude provocation, or any of the brasher methods practiced by many sports talkers who might claim Mike and the Mad Dog as forebears. They do, however, do small talk, in part to establish when and how they found the opportunity to watch all the sports that the job requires: