Chris Russo is making himself a marked man at WFAN
Is it possible that, at WFAN, the lesser-hated member of “Mike & the Mad Dog” is the one returning?
As Mike Francesa controversially makes his way back, Chris Russo is collecting feuds like baseball cards. Russo, whose entire life seems to comprise opportunities to boost ratings and controversies, now has had public skirmishes that have involved Bart Scott, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, WFAN VP Mark Chernoff and Boomer Esiason. His old partner and frenemy Francesa may be the one Russo is on best terms with these days.
His latest fight was particularly nasty with Scott, whom Russo blasted on his show, saying the former linebacker has no business being a part of the team that (temporarily) replaced Francesa.
“Bart, listen, good man, good guy, knock ’em dead, but you shouldn’t be doing a talk show,” Russo said Wednesday. “… Bart, you are not qualified. Just like I wouldn’t be qualified to be a linebacker coach if you were playing, you are not qualified, under any circumstances, to be doing an afternoon talk program on any big-market station in the country. It’s as simple as that.”
Scott, one-third of CMB (with Carlin and Gray), will have his air time reduced with Francesa coming out of “retirement.” While he has been publicly polite to the man who has Leno’d him, he didn’t hold back after Russo’s shots.
Scott, who has been criticized for his lack of baseball knowledge, said he’s figuring out the sport — but he has every other advantage over Mad Dog.
“It’s not rocket science what we’re talking about here,” Scott said on his show. “… I think I can catch up pretty good. This job’s about baseball, but it’s about a lot more than that, it’s about other sports as well. I’ll put my football acumen, my basketball acumen, my boxing knowledge about anything that he can think about. He couldn’t hold a candle to that.
“… This is what happens when people start getting old and see the end coming. They start to try find excuses, to find reasons why they’re not relevant anymore. Your time is past, my time is now. And listen, I already retired and I’m in your sandbox now and I’m pushing you off. You’ll be a non-factor in probably the next two years.”
While Scott and Russo are mostly strangers, Russo and Carlin are not. Carlin was the longtime producer for “Mike & the Mad Dog”; Russo and Francesa were at Carlin’s wedding.
And they have one another’s phone numbers, too. After Russo and Francesa joyously conjectured about the end of CMB on MLB Network’s “High Heat” last month, Carlin sent an angry text to the two that read, according to The Post’s Andrew Marchand, “Blank my you know what.”
That message’s existence became public knowledge when Russo talked about it on the air, which Carlin thought crossed a line — after already having crossed a line by speculating about his show’s demise.
“Dog talking about a private message, that frankly I sent to both of them in a moment of anger. But I’m from Jersey, what do you expect?” Carlin said. “… Chris wanted to interject himself to get some attention.”
Furthermore, Russo declined to go on CMB’s show at the Super Bowl, and, Carlin said, he then went on another radio station to blast Francesa’s replacements.
Gray called Russo a “fraud,” which Carlin endorsed.
“For me personally, having the relationship with them as I have over the years. Dog, for a long time I have considered a friend,” Carlin said. “Even worked over there for a little bit. It’s disappointing on a lot of levels. He, first of all, somehow thought that knocking my partners was not knocking me. Well, that’s wrong. I’m sorry, we’re a team.
“And secondly, as Maggie said, come on over. Bart will have a few laughs with you. … Chris and I, who have been friendly for 15 years, this is what he is. He jokes with you to your face, and then he decides, ‘I’ll say whatever I’m going to say. When you’re not looking I’ll fire away. And then I’ll cut and run.’”
“The real person — not the host — is a total fraud,” Gray said.
Russo, in response, nearly laughed at the thought he was afraid to visit the show. And on “The Michael Kay Show” Wednesday, Russo was informed about the “fraud” comment. He indicated he and Carlin are done.
Speaking about his relationship with Francesa, Russo said: “It’s not like Mike and I aren’t friends. That relationship hasn’t been irreparably damaged, as it appears now the relationship I have with Carlin is. And I was his real good friend for a long time. So I don’t know how that can now be repaired.”
And all of this comes on the heels of Russo’s public dispute with Esiason following Russo’s and Francesa’s mocking of CMB.
“Classless, it really was,” Esiason said.
“I don’t think it was the nicest thing that someone could have said,” Chernoff said. “You’re right about that. … Knowing Dog, I think Dog thought he was being funny. It wasn’t funny. I agree with you. It wasn’t funny.”
For now, Russo is the only one laughing.
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