Toronto Sports Radio- A Review

A happy Sunday evening to all. I had a great time on the radio today. Murray and his crew were terrific. Little TSM and I enjoyed ourselves and I would love to do it again. Murray has promised me a copy of the segment and I will put it up as soon as I get it. For those of you who were kind enough to both listen and email me privately thanks for kind words, they are greatly appreciated.

With that review of my foray into the medium, lets switch gears and start to focus on the first media power rankings. Here is a review of the folks on the two radio stations that cover sports in the city:

On the Fan: Rick Ralph, Don Landry, Gord Stellick, Daren Millard, Nick Kypreos,Mike Brophy,Doug Farraway,Jack Armstrong, Doug MacLean, Bob McCown, Stephen Brunt, Jim Kelly, Roger Lajoie, Norm Rumack and throw in Eric Smith, Paul Jones, Paul Johnson, Sherman Hamilton and Jack Armstrong, Howard Berger, Rob Faulds, James Deacon and a myriad of regular guests(Dan Shulman, Rob Becker, Peter King, Brian Cooper, Jeff Blair, Richard Griffin, Bob Elliot, Michael Grange, Mary Ormsby, Keith Law, Iain Page, Gord Kirke, John Wells, David Shoalts, Glen Healy, Scotty Bowman, Jay Triano, Chris Schultz, Damien Cox, Elliott Friedman, Nick Kypreos, Pierre Mcguire, Adrion Smith, Eric Smith
On 640: Bill Watters, Darren Dreger, Greg Brady, Jonas Siegel, Andy Frost and their guests(Bob the Bear Cowan, Darren Dreger, Scott Morrison, BoB McKenzie, Christine Simpson,Brian Duff, Rob Higgins, Jim Ralph, Joe Bowen, Sean Baligian,
The first caveat is obvious, one is a 24 hour sports station, the other, well, it’s a talk radio station that does several hours of sports a day. The Fan is the measuring stick in this town. They have been here the longest, built an established brand and continue to create and host excellent programming. Are they perfect? Of course not. One of their biggest problems, in my opinion anyway, is that there simply is not that much to talk about 24/7. Having said that they do a damn good job filling the hours. I am not an Argo’s fan nor do i follow soccer or high school sports. I don’t bet on football either so there are times that I just have no real reason to listen. To either stations when those topics are being discussed.
I am not listening to the fan early enough to listen to Rick Ralph start the day, so I can’t comment on his show. I think he does a great job on his news updates though. Stellick and Landry, in my opinion are a big tease. They own the morning drive when it comes to sports. They are on a sports station but I feel that they do more sizzle and less steak. They don’t talk hardcore sports as much as they do hi-jinx. The odd joke or “bit” is fine. In my opinion it is just over kill. The John Gibbons, Ken Dryden, Vito from Woodbridge and the mind reader schtick are just lame now – again in my opinion. Their insiders can be great. When they talk sports they are terrific. The segments they used to do with Sam Mitchell were the best on the station. I could do without Kathryn Humphreys to be honest.

You listen to Mike Hogan and Mike Tooth, you can’t help but think these are two good guys. They love all things Canadian, junior and college athletics and of course the CFL. Unfortunately, and maybe it’s just for me, but, very little of that makes for interesting radio. Like I said, they sound like nice guys talking sports. They have some decent guests who seem to know a lot about the CFL and Canadian college football. They do get some good NFL guests as well, however I think I am the only sports fan in this city who is not enamored with Chris Schultz. From my perspective, he is way too technical and relies too much on that from his playing days. He too, seems like a nice enough guy, just not compelling enough to listen to. I find their hockey and baseball coverage lacking. They do spend at least an hour each and every week during the season on the Raptors and that is great to listen to. As I have said though, by virtue of not being an Argo/CFL guy there are at least 2 days a week where I will instantly change the channel because that is all they talk about.

The first daily battle starts at the noon hour. This is a war that is starting to get more interesting as the days go by. Every time Kypreos and Watters are on the tv together they look like they are going to kill each other. Watters the ex-agent, assistant GM, high school coach and color commentator vs. Kypreos the ex touch guy player turned analyst/insider. You can’t help but believe that they truly want to cream the other every chance they get and they go head to head on most days at the noon hour. Mallard and Brophy are there with Kypreos and a ton of quality guests. The one nice thing about this show is that it pretty unstructured. In this case it sounds like a couple of guys talking about hockey the same way we all do with our own friends. Brophy lost of respect from me this past week when he went toe to toe with Pat Quinn, tried to embarrass him and was wrong. Up the dial, you throw in Dreger and another great group of guests and you have a show that is quite good too. Dreger seems to the new(er) boy wonder on the scene. He breaks a ton of stories and where he used to have to sit in McKenzie’s shadow he has his own track record now and people look to see what he is going to have to say when a story seems to be breaking, if he wasn’t the one to break it. Kypreos is a little too pro-player and Wilbur too ignorant (I prefer bigoted but I am flexible Mike S.) and his anti-MLSE stance has just about run its course. Truth is, I try to listen to who and what each are going to be talking about on a given day and listen based on that information. If you don’t care about listening live then you can do what I tend to do and pick after the fact by listening in on the web late at night.
Doug Fairway is the Fan’s DH. I have no clue if this true, but I get the feeling that he is the go to guy at the fan. He does an admirable job filling in WHENEVER. He ihas some good opinions and I love listening to his sarcasm when he does the deadline show or other big event shows. I have never heard his 1pm show so I can’t comment on it.
The one show I really like on the Fan is Maclean who just needs to stop talking about his own wealth for a segment and Armstrong who seems to know his basketball (hell if I know) and makes a great effort to talk shop in all the other sports, including hockey. These guys work really well together, they get good guests and both bring unique perspectives to the events as they unfold each and every afternoon.
The big boys come out during the drive home show. As I wrote this past week, when McCown and Wilbur are ON their respective games, both are excellent. McCown with Burke this week was the best interview I have heard with Burke since he took the job. When Wilbur actually interviewed Collangelo and didn’t try to use jokes and innuendo to prove to his listeners how close he is to the guests as he usually does he proved to be a great interviewer. It was the first time I had heard that in him. He should go that route more often. The shows are very different if you think about it though. McCown is the host on Prime Time Sports. Kelly or Brunt (or anyone else sitting in as co-host) fill in with opinion while McCown leads the discussions and directs the show. On 640, it is almost as if Brady is driving the ship. That is not to suggest there is no deference on the air, it is clear it is Wilbur’s show (hell, look at the name). Brady is driving the show though; Brady leads the show through, calls, breaks, news traffic etc. He is the one who introduces guests. Neither format is right, but they are different. Kelly is McCown’s Ed McMahon, Brunt much less so. There is no real sense of that on 640. The guys disagree quite often and there seems to be a mutual amount of respect for the opinion of the other. To me again, it comes down to the guests. In this category McCown wins for diversity. Whom is best is based on opinion of course. Put Mckenzie on with McCown up against the combo of Dreger and Morrission on 640 and you have a pretty difficult decision. 2 nights a week McCown does round tables. I think the format used to be great. I am not overly fond of a lot of the folks who have been around the table recently. Nothing personal, but Rob Faulds, and Mary Ormsby just don’t interest me that much, and a result I seem to be flipping more often away from them as I did before. The same can be said for having Morrison and Dreger on every night. I know, this is a leaf town, and we all love to talk LEAFS, LEAFS, LEAFS…but I would like to have a little variety. As with the lunch hour, my listening depends greatly on who is going to be on the show (both hosting and guesting!) I look every night to see who was on the show I didn’t listen to and try to catch parts of what they put on the web.

There is no better interviewer in the game, in this city then Bob McCown. We all know if big news breaks in the world of sports McCown will have a take on it, and someone involved at a high level will be on PTS to talk about it. It’s hard to compete with that. When it is hockey related, especially the Leafs 640 is the place to go. Wilbur and Brady do a great job breaking down all things Maple Leafs. With Burke in town they are providing much more balanced opinions on the Leafs and despite the fact they are on each and every night, Morrison and Dreger have the league covered. I will take Jonas’s green-ness over Howie’s editorials every day. If Berger could just report on the facts he would be a good beat guy. Jonas needs to spend more time in front of the mirror and work on his own material.

After 7pm, I don’t listen that much unless I am in the car. I listen to pre, post and live games. If I have twitter on, the Fan does a phenomenal job keeping folks up to date as to what is coming up on the air. If any of the shows have interesting topics/guests I tune in. Norm Rumack (I know, I sound like a broken record)does get some interesting people on who just don’t get called upon during the normal business day. He is much easier to listen to know that he adopted a team other then the Leafs and his rah rah Syracuse is pretty funny. I will say this, I will take the personality of Andy Frost vs. Mike Wilner any day. Both guys have the worst jobs in sports media, taking post game calls. It has become more apparent that this has taken a toll on Wilner as he gets more crotchety each and every year. Frost seems to have the right demeanor for the gig and man no better a voice for radio exists in this town.
So, there you have it. A fairly comprehensive run down on sports radio here in Toronto. I am going to try to provide the weekly media power rankings. Everyone is fair game. Radio, TV, print, play-by play etc. So many of you send me clips, links and articles, I will need more of the same so keep em coming.

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