The persistence of memory: A tribute to two obsolete sports radio jingles

October 31, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 31, 2015

As I demonstrated in my previous posts, about the New York television and radio landscape of years past, I remember plenty of things that are no longer. (Perhaps this is something fundamental about human existence: We remember things that are no longer and dream about things that never have been.)

All of which is to set up two very short anecdotes about radio jingles and the weird persistence of memory.

As most Americans know, the New York Mets are playing in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, with the latter squad leading two games to one in the best-of-seven competition. The Mets, who last appeared in the Series in 2000 (a loss to the Yankees, for whom I traditionally root), have not won a Major League Baseball championship since their previous Series appearance, in 1986.

The Mets were booted from WFAN, their longtime radio home, in 2014, but I still associate the team with that station. In fact, even though I’m a Yankees man, not a Mets fan, I feel as though one of WFAN’s Mets jingles is burned into my brain. I can hardly say or think “Let’s go, Mets” without humming or think bum-bum-bum-BA-DAH-DUM! The bum-bum-bum in that formulation was actually the station’s main call letters, F-A-N, being sung by the vocalists.

Eleven days before the station aired its last Mets game, Greg Prince wrote a tribute to WFAN on the blog Faith and Fear in Flushing. An excerpt:

[I]t is a milestone, one someone as historically inclined as I am may not have completely appreciated upon the announcement that 660 and 101.9 won’t add up to Mets baseball anymore. For me and my 45 years of fandom, WFAN represented the longest pause I ever took tuning up and down the dial in search of the game, yet for others somewhat less tenured (but certainly fully vested) in the ways of Metsdom, WFAN has been it. If you took up the Mets as your cause 26 or fewer years ago, you poor bastard, you’ve never known a world championship and you’ve never known anything radiowise but WFAN.

I have to confess I was surprised by how many people I’ve heard from who tell me they’ll miss this: “LET’S GO METS! F-A-N!” It’s been aural wallpaper to me, a signal that I have a couple of minutes to think about something else while Remax is trying to sell me a house or somebody else wants me to donate my K-A-R to KIDS, but radio is so deceptively personal a mass medium that its most inconsequential elements worm their way into your bloodstream before you can receive inoculation against their effects.

Hence “LET’S GO METS! F-A-N!”…I get it.

On to the next anecdote. The other day, while driving around with my Parental Unit, I happened to hear Mike Francesa talking about the Mets. Francesa is an FAN mainstay, a legend on the New York sports-talk radio scene. However, his forays into TV simulcasting of his afternoon radio show have gone poorly and have given detractors such as the sports blog Deadspin plenty of opportunities to lampoon him.

Later that afternoon, I was thinking about Francesa’s commentary when I automatically broke into another FAN jingle:

Mike and the Mad Dog
On Sports Radio 66 — the FAN
New York

Lyrically, this is not an impressive effort. However, the jingle has a lot of verve, and I’ve heard it often enough that it, too, is permanently etched on some obscure part of my brain. I have no doubt that should I live to the point where I am old, drooling and senile, I will attempt at random intervals to sing (quite badly, and probably unintelligibly) this and other bits of musical flotsam and jetsam that were captured by my gray matter.

Which isn’t to say that I remember the songs with 100 percent fidelity. Mike and the Mad Dog indeed aired on Sports Radio 66, but the composition does not use the preposition “on” — or at least the introductory theme song, which can be heard here, doesn’t use the preposition. As for the “New York” punctuating the jingle, which I remember being crooned harmoniously, it’s not in the song — or at least, again, it’s not in the introductory theme. (The name of the city and state may be in a shorter piece of music that was used to buffer the show from commercial breaks; if I find proof to that effect, I’ll be sure to share it with you.)

But the kicker here isn’t that I misremember something; it’s that Mike and the Mad Dog haven’t been together for more than seven years. The show, which debuted in September 1989, abruptly ended in August 2008 when the Mad Dog — the high-pitched Chris Russo — left the station. It was the end of a longtime partnership so integral to the New York sports scene that the duo were the subject of a lengthy 2004 profile in The New Yorker.

But all that’s over now. It’s no longer Mike and the Mad Dog; it’s just Mike. I will try to remember that. But it’s hard sometimes, because the beloved songs of my past — so lively, so vivid — sometimes drown out the mundane dronings of the present…

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