An Awful Announcing rendering of Stephen A. Smith, Chris Russo and Mike Francesa (from left to right). An Awful Announcing rendering of Stephen A. Smith, Chris Russo and Mike Francesa (from left to right).

There are few in the modern sports media landscape who’ve navigated the unique personalities of both Stephen A. Smith and Mike Francesa and emerged unscathed. That rare breed includes Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, who’s enjoying a career resurgence with appearances on ESPN’s First Take, MLB Network, and his popular Sirius XM show.

Russo, known for his unfiltered opinions, joined Suzy Shuster on The Rich Eisen Show (while Rich Eisen hosts the NFL Combine on NFL Network). There, he discussed the origin of his nickname while comparing his experiences working with Smith and Francesa.

“That’s a good question; wow. That’s a very good question,” said Russo. “I think Mike is a little more reserved. And I think you have to prove to Mike that you’re on Mike’s level from a sports perspective. Stephen A. takes you for what you are. He understands the embellishment of it. Mike can be a little cynical about somebody who yells a lot; Stephen A. kind of loves that.”

Russo shed light on the intellectual and enthusiasm levels of Smith and Francesa. He said while Smith’s enthusiasm plays well for him, Francesa’s intellectual depth is more suited for thoughtful conversations.

“Stephen A., you’ve got to match his enthusiasm and his delivery, which is a different situation. So, they’re two different little skill sets. You can have a lot more thoughtful conversations with Mike and a lot more enthusiastic conversations sometimes with Stevie A.”

Though synonymous with building up WFAN alongside “The Sports Pope” and establishing the “Mad Dog” brand in the Tri-State area, Russo finds himself sharing the stage with Smith on ESPN, injecting a new level of energy into the show even as he embarks on a new phase of his career.

While gleaned from years spent alongside these media titans, Russo was able to offer valuable perspectives on how different skill sets and contrasting styles like those from Smith and Francesa can play in the world of sports media and lead to significant levels of success and notoriety.

[The Rich Eisen Show on Twitter/X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.