Mike Francesa is a New York legend and institution (and the subject of the best parody account on Twitter). He has been the drive-time host on WFAN-660 since 1989. Most of that time, 19 years to be exact, was spent with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, but the Sports Pope, as he was dubbed by the Daily News' Bob Raissman, has been at it solo since 2008.
It's hard for a New Yorker to explain Francesa's appeal to outsiders. He has no patience for callers, which are a big part of his show. He is an expert on every single topic in and out of sports (hence the Pope nickname) and refuses to change with the times (if Francesa needs a stat, he just yells to his producers to "punch up the numbahs" or "bring me the book"). He still, however, has his moments of brilliance. He provided comfort and distraction, along with great radio, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He refuses to be the typical radio hack who teases stories "after the break" even though they are already all over Twitter and the blogosphere. He doesn't come up with lame schtick and catchphrases and bits.
The best way I can sum up the relationship most listeners have with Francesa is like this: He is that family member we all have and love; we can bash him, but we don't like it when outsiders take their shots. People mocking Francesa is not funny. Francesa in and of himself is funny.
So, in honor of the Sports Pope's 59th birthday today, I have compiled 10 of my favorite Francesa moments.
1. "It's never you, Jim!"
My all-time favorite Francesa moment. Just fighting with an engineer right on the show. Take note of the INTENSE death stare at the very end.
2. He Doesn't Care What Your Name Is
More Francesa arrogance. The Colts coach was Jim Caldwell. He called him Jim Cardwell. And he doesn't care if you don't like it.
3. "ANDY PETTITTE IS A STARTING PITCHER"
This is the all-time Francesa eruption. He was very passionate about the Yankees left-hander. The money shot comes at around 1:45.
4. Al Alburquerque
Francesa had never heard of the Tigers reliever, which led to an awkward moment where he thought a caller was pranking him.
5. "THEY STINK"
While the Andy Pettitte tirade came out of nowhere and ended quickly, this epic rant about the futile New York Mets during the 2012 season was a prolonged bludgeoning and Francesa at his best.
6. "I Was Never Asleep. I Promise You."
All of you are expecting the clip of Francesa falling asleep on the air to be on this list. However, the beauty of Francesa is not that he fell asleep. It's that a few days later, he issued a denial despite the video of evidence.
7. "Bring More Than A Peashooter"
ESPN is successful at almost everything it does. I say almost because one area in which it's failed is in going head-to-head against Francesa. Despite keeping all ESPN personalities off of Francesa's show, he still destroys ESPN's New York radio affiliate in the ratings. When Chris Russo left the show and some people thought Francesa could take a ratings hit, he reminded them that he was ready for war.
8. Tweeting Should Be Against The Law
As I said in the intro, Mike does not like the Internet, blogs and as you can see below, Twitter.
9. Mike Wants A Big East Tournament Game Restarted
Only a Sports Pope would think he could get the referees back on the court and a game restarted because he didn't like the finish. Fast forward to the 2:30 mark for the good stuff.
10. The End
We finish with the end of the Mike and the Mad Dog show. The day after the split was announced, Mike did this sentimental opening segment and then had his partner on for one last time.