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|Chris "Mad Dog" Russo|
October 18, 1959 |
Syosset, New York, U.S.
|Show||Mad Dog Unleashed|
|Time slot||3 pm – 6 pm ET|
Christopher Michael Russo (born October 18, 1959), known as "Mad Dog," is an American sports radio personality best known as the former co-host of the widely popular Mike and the Mad Dog sports radio show with Mike Francesa, which was broadcast on WFAN in New York City and simulcast on the YES Network. Russo joined Sirius XM Radio in August 2008 and is in charge of his own channel, Mad Dog Radio. He also hosts an afternoon radio show, Mad Dog Unleashed, that is the lead program of Mad Dog Sports Radio.
Russo was born in Syosset, New York. He went to Darrow School in New Lebanon, New York, and Rollins College near Orlando, Florida graduating with a degree in history. He also spent one spring at the Cranleigh School south of London, England (Russo's mother is English) and one semester at Sydney University in Australia studying Australian history and literature.
Prior to joining WFAN, Russo worked for WKIS in Orlando, Florida between 1984 and 1987 and WMCA in New York City between 1987 and 1988. During his career at WKIS, when it became clear that the people of Central Florida were having trouble understanding his accent, the station sent him to see a speech therapist twice a week. He got the "Mad Dog" nickname from New York Daily News Sports TV and Radio critic Bob Raissman.
Russo is known for his quick manner of speaking, the expressiveness of his voice, his quick whistles, and his trademark greeting of "Good afternoon everybody!" at the start of the Mike and the Mad Dog show. George Vecsey of The New York Times described his voice as "a bizarre mixture of Jerry Lewis, Archie Bunker and Daffy Duck." Russo's voice is also described as "Donald Duck on steroids" by Don Imus.
Russo has done his shows from the US Open, Brookside, Grand Lake and the Jersey Shore on many occasions.
Rise to prominence
Mike and the Mad Dog
Russo's rise in popularity happened rapidly. Russo joined WFAN in December 1988, as an overnight, weekend and fill-in host. He caught the attention of former WFAN Morning Show Host, Don Imus. Imus brought Russo on board the Imus in the Morning show as the Sports Reporter. The attention Russo received on Imus was enormous. Imus also later helped promote Russo's nickname. By early 1989, his work on Imus led to Russo getting his own regular weekend show on Saturday Mornings. When Pete Franklin's drive time Show from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. was not renewed by WFAN station management, WFAN paired up Russo with Mike Francesa, who at the time was a co-host on the mid-morning show. The show was dubbed Mike and the Mad Dog and launched on September 5, 1989, at 3 p.m Eastern Time.
The combination paired up Francesa's hard-hitting style with Russo's unorthodox and humorous style and proved to be a huge success. Francesa and Russo's show quickly became the signature show for WFAN, and among the most influential sports talk shows in the country.
On August 14, 2008, Russo reached a mutual agreement with WFAN to let him out of the remainder of his contract scenario. Russo insisted it was solely a personal decision and said, "This has nothing to do with Mike and I hating each other... This is about doing something different. I'm 48 years old and there are not going to be too many more opportunities to break away. It's time to try something else, but it was a tough decision to make." On August 15, 2008, Russo phoned Francesa on the show to say goodbye. A highly emotional Russo began to break down on air as he talked about his partnership with Francesa.
On October 16, 2009, Russo joined Francesa on his show for a 1-hour reunion show at Yankee Stadium, where both were scheduled to be broadcasting in adjacent booths. Francesa joined Russo on his Sirius XM show later in the day.
Mad Dog Unleashed
On August 19, 2008, Russo signed a five-year contract with Sirius XM Radio to headline a new sports talk channel called Mad Dog Radio on both Sirius and XM satellite radio. Russo hosts the channel's anchor program, Mad Dog Unleashed, live from Sirius's New York studios every weekday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET. Russo brought aboard long time WINS anchor Steve Torre as the new program director of "Mad Dog Radio" and hired Bill Zimmerman (known on the air as "Billy Z") as the executive producer of his show. The show began airing daily on Sirius Channel 123 and XM Channel 144 on September 15, 2008. The show now airs on Sirius and XM Channel 82.
Russo said there was nothing WFAN could have done to keep him after Sirius XM provided him an opportunity to not only do a show, but have his own channel, which he could not pass up. His own channel contains sports talk personalities from all over the country. Russo's 5-year deal was worth about $3 million per year and Russo can actually run his channel and hire the on-air staff, too.
On July 9, 2009, during a ten-minute rant, Russo reacting to his station being ranked outside the Top 100 stations on satellite radio, berated his entire staff, which included bringing on nighttime host Andy Gresh for an in-person dress-down. Russo concluded his rant by firing his program director, Steve Torre. Torre was later rehired and it is unknown if this rant was legitimate or a radio skit.
On August 28, 2013, it was officially announced that Russo had been re-signed by Sirius XM for three years, commencing in September 2013. Russo's deal also includes a daily hosting gig on a new baseball show, High Heat, which began on March 31, 2014 on MLB Network that is simulcast on MLB Network Radio.
Russo is the only child of Anthony "Tony" and Vera "Molly" Russo, from Flushing, Queens and England, respectively. Russo married Jeanne Lavelle on May 6, 1995, and they have four children, Timmy, Kiera, Colin and Patrick. He resides in New Canaan, Connecticut and has a lake home in Oklahoma on Grand Lake. He is a registered Republican, although he often criticizes the party, particularly over the Roger Clemens Congressional hearing and its position on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He is an avid San Francisco Giants fan. A funeral for Russo's father Tony was held on August 30, 2013.
- Russo, Christopher; Allen St. John (2003). The Mad Dog 100 : The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50898-0.
- Russo, Christopher; Allen St. John (2006). The Mad Dog Hall of Fame: The Ultimate Top-Ten Rankings of the Best in Sports. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-51746-7.
- Steve Zipay. "Long Island history: Mike Francesa and Chris Russo". Newsday. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-12.
- Dave Darling (2007-06-29). "'Mad Dog' a fan who has the gift of gab". Orlando Sentinel.
- Nick Paumgarten (2004-08-30). "The boys: what Mike and the Mad Dog talk about when they talk about sports". The New Yorker.
- ademakid212. "Chris' famous intro to the Mike and the Mad Dog show". youtube.com. Retrieved 2006-11-15.
- George Vecsey (1991-02-17). "Mad Dog is a preppie!". The New York Times.
- Jeff Pearlman (2004-02-24). "Mike and the Mad Dog make nice". Newsday.
- Alex French and Howie Kahn (2012-07-11). "The Sound and the Fury - The fall and rise of the first all-sports talk station, WFAN". Grantland.
- "Sports radio 66AM WFAN marks 20th anniversary". CBS Sportsline.com. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
- Neil Best (2008-08-14). "After 19 years, Russo leaves 'Mike and Mad Dog'". Newsday.
- Richard Sandomir (2008-08-14). "Radio Alert: It's Now Mike Minus Mad Dog". The New York Times.
- Dave Ruden (2008-08-15). "Mad Dog: 'Today is a tough day'". The Stamford Advocate.
- "Mike & the Mad Dog say goodbye". New York Post. 2008-08-15.
- Mike Francesa and Chris Russo (2008-08-15). "Mike & the Mad Dog farewell". WFAN.com.
- Terranova, Justin (2009-10-16). "The Mike & the Mad Dog reunion". New York Post.
- "Mike and the Mad Dog 2016 Radio City Music Hall Reunion". Retrieved March 31, 2013.
- Press release (2008-08-19). "Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo Joins SIRIUS XM Radio". Sirius XM Radio.
- Justin Terranova (2008-08-19). "Chris Russo Joins Sirius XM, will debut September 15". New York Post.
- Bob Raissman (2008-08-19). "Sirius XM to launch Chris Russo channel, 'Mad Dog Radio'". New York Daily News.
- Bob Raissman (2008-08-20). "Sirius XM's 'Mad Dog Radio' signals huge payday for Chris Russo". New York Daily News.
- Barry Petchesky (2009-07-11). "Mad Dog Goes Rabid, Needs To Be Put Down (SECOND UPDATE)". Deadspin.com.
- "Albany Press Releases".
- "WEDDINGS; Jeanne Lavelle, Christopher Russo". The New York Times. 1995-05-07.
- Neil Best (2012-10-03). "Dog's day: A day in the life of Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo". Newsday.
- Video on YouTube