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Sports radio legend Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will join ESPN’s First Take to debate Stephen A. Smith every Wednesday.
ESPN announced Russo will return to the show on February 16, then appear weekly beginning March 2.
Smith kicked co-host Max Kellerman off the show in September. Smith now debates a rotation of personalities, who will continue to appear the other four days of the week.
First Take has suffered without Kellerman, as it’s often Smith facing cringy pundits, like Kim Martin and Domonique Foxworth, trying to fake cartoonish debates. However, Russo is a natural fit. Russo, known for Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN, is as animated and over the top as Smith is.
In fact, Russo was the most exciting option to replace Skip Bayless on First Take in 2016. ESPN ultimately chose Kellerman over Russo.
Two weeks ago, Russo appeared on the show to discuss the Baseball Hall of Fame election results:
Russo will make First Take better. It’ll be like a throwback to Smith vs. Bayless. Russo, like Bayless, is passionate about sports — not the color of each athlete and coach’s skin. Look for Russo to be Smith’s best debate partner instantly.
That said, don’t bank on Russo lasting long-term. Remember, Smith liked Kellerman at one point too before he worked behind the scenes to demote him for three years. Stephen A. Smith turns on everyone eventually.
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will continue to host afternoon drive on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and MLB Network’s High Heat.