The Ups and Downs Of Toronto Sports Radio pt1

Top O the morning all. Sorry for the delay in posting, but I was too tired last night and hit the hay EARLY. In any event, a couple of interesting things have happened this week and of course I thought I would share:

First, the god awful interview of one Chris Bosh on the Fan 590. Now, lets get one thing straight. The three guys were in a tough spot. All of Jack Armstrong, Eric Smith and Paul Jones are part of The Toronto Raptors “family”. All three are on various broadcasts of team games. So, for the three of them to be the only guys interviewing Bosh in my opinion is unacceptable. This interview is the primary reason why you need at least 1 unbiased person in the studio asking questions. Secondly, I fully appreciate the notion that when someone is on your radio program or your tv program they are referred to as a “guest” and there may be a certain expectation of treating them as such.

With both of those in mind, the interview with Chris Bosh, to quote Judge Smailes, SUCKED. It was almost an entire smoochfest. Seriously, it was almost as if no one listening really ever cared about the Raptors OR Chris Bosh. There was one exception in the interview; Eric Smith at least had the balls to say to Bosh that he felt the way Bosh conducted himself could have been better on twitter etc. Thank god someone said it! I mean read the message boards, listen to the call in shows- hell read the opinions around the globe on Bosh and his tweets and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this whole thing out.

Jones’s questions were mild at best and Armstrong’s questions and comments were total suckjobs. Although many predicted Bosh would leave and thus his eventual departure could be described as no real surprise to many this was an emotional (as emotional as one can get when it comes to sports) outcome. Blame him or not, the fans have supported Bosh in the 7 years he was here. Many (not I) viewed this as a slap in the face. His comments to ESPN upon signing about being a caged animal certainly should have been raised but well, that would be confrontational. The interview was plugged on twitter. The interview was replayed on PTS. In truth, the preview should have been, come listen to the Raptor guys kiss Chris Bosh’s ass.

There are ways to ask hard hitting questions, the ones the fans want to hear without being disrespectful of their “guest”. The question about being booed was the right topic, but certainly a total fluff ball one. “Hey Chris, when you back, you are prepared for a chorus of boos right, I mean you know it’s coming- how will that make you feel?” After Smith asked about the way in which Bosh handled things and Bosh gave an inane response of I think I handled it right- someone- not Smith should have hammered him on it. Hey Chris, can’t you see that your approach really pissed people off in this town? “Hey Chris I don’t remember any other superstar in the NBA dealing with it as you did- what were you thinking, what was your motivation????”

I’m no fan of Jim Rome. However I can’t for one second seeing him ask questions like that if a star left his home town. Bosh, you may recall in Miami said that this coming together of the 3 amigos had been in the works for some time- more than the “days” they’ve been telling people. An interesting article appeared in the Cleveland newspaper about hos this may have been in the works for years. Ya think, maybe Bosh should have been asked about it? Numerous articles were around suggesting that at the end of the whole process, Bosh was the most important domino, that the deal didn’t come to close until he decided he was willing to go to Miami- that’s a pretty big story, at least I think so- yet it wasn’t asked.

Look, I get the position these guys are in. They spend time with the players. They spend time in practice, in hotels on the road with the guys. Hell, I’m pretty sure that at least part of their salary is paid by the Raptors. If they can’t ask the questions that need to be asked, then do the interview on Raptors TV- ask them on a pre-game show, post game show or during half time. In my opinion, and judging by the number of emails I got expressing the same sentiments, this wasn’t a good interview. I didn’t want to hear Jonas, Jim Ralph, Joe Bowen or anyone on leafs tv interviewing Sundin. I want someone who can ask hard questions, the ones that may make the “guest” a tiny bit uncomfortable. One doesn’t have to be disrespectful to ask the questions.

I think if guys who are on team broadcasts are going to be on the radio at other times – interviewing members of the team in which they work for, there has to be an unbiased voice on the air. Otherwise there may not be any credibility. Just because a station is a rights holder shouldn’t mean the station has to be biased. So, if your going to have 1, 2 or 3 guys interviewing a team guy you need another voice in there. There is no finer example of a guy on the rights holder’s station going after a team than Bill Watters, who clearly goes to the other extreme. Mike Wilner has gone that way lately, having had his hand slapped for doing so.

I’ve rambled long enough for now….I’ll talk about the 2nd topic in the next post…



About the Author
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
July 15, 2010 9:21 am

For the record, Eric Smith and Paul Jones are not part of the “Raptors Family,” as you mentioned. They are solely employed by the Fan590 and therefore part of the “Fan590” family.

And, if you listened to the interview in its entirety, Armstrong led of the question period with a direct, pointed question that put Bosh on the hot seat from the beginning.

Just making sure the facts are straight.


Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
July 15, 2010 9:58 am

I listened to the Bosh interview and tweeted in real time about it, and concur 100% with TSM’s opinions on this matter. Let’s not let semantics get in the way of the post. Yes, Smith and Jones are employed by the FAN and owned by Rogers, so no link back to MLSE, the owners of the Raptors there, but that does not take away from them self-censoring themselves to protect their rel’ships. Smith has been far more heavy hitting on air for weeks now about how he feels, and although he addressed it, his questions on the matter with softballs and not nearly as pointed as on his own show.

None of Armstrong’s questions, even when they weren’t kissing ass, were remotely indicative of how almost all the hard core Raptor fans feel, so don’t even go there. Jack kissed ass big time, and I stand by that.

This reminds me of McCown, who also is justifiably critical of someone on the air, tones it down a bit when they are guests on his show remotely, and in studio we all know there is no hope, as face to face Bob is incapable of being tough but fair with his guests. E.Smith pulled a McCown in this case. On the Bosh kissass metre, Jack was 10/10, Jones 10/10, and E.Smith 8/10.

I do not think the dynamics will ever change here. Things dramatically change when you are paid. That explains almost everything. For example, Mike Ulmer justifiably ripped Hedo as the worst Raptor ever and explained why. He was dead on, but only after he is dealt does he write this, not in the middle of the season when all the nonsense was going on. Easy to do once the team has traded the player away and couldn’t care less about what is written.

There are exceptions to the rule, as RaptorsHQ, who have press credentials, and are currently in Vegas covering the Raps, are critical but fair with their questions and comments. Raptors Republic, with no press credentials, are the same way but with no press credentials don’t hold back at all.

This is more a reflection of where Raptor fans get their info from. True Raptor fans read and comment in the blogs, while following the wonderful mainstream beat writers like Arthurs, Grange, and Koreen who are witty enough to get their points across without ruining their rel’ships. Others in the mainstream I have no respect for and I will not name them, as it accomplishes nothing.

July 15, 2010 10:06 am

After the Mike Wilner Situation, I cant blame them for soft balling the issue.

If they pressed, who is to say that they could have lost their jobs? Or at least be suspended?

Like I have said in the past, things changed on the Fan in my eyes, I cant take the interviews seriously with how that situation was handled by the station and Kollins.

The Meatriarchy
July 15, 2010 10:07 am

Jim Rome also gives softball interviews as well. Can you imagine him asking Kobe or Derek Jeter anything like a tough question?

July 15, 2010 10:39 am

Whenever a “rights holder” interviews one of the athletes it covers, you have to expect softball questions because these guys know where their bread is buttered. Let’s get a station that has no ties to the team, and get them to do a real interview. Is that possible in Toronto? I think not. They’re all affiliated with one sports team or another.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
July 15, 2010 11:42 am

i suspect there is a reason Bosh agreed to be interviewed by those three.

the interview was ridiculous, and Jack in particular was in full Buck Martinez mode. some credit is due for asking uncomfortable questions but full derision is also due for not following up on the nonsensical answers given. examples:

– Bosh referencing his family as a reason for his move to Miami
– Bosh saying “it just didn’t work out” as an answer to why none of the players brought in to complement him yielded any results
– Bosh saying his twitter feed is “just for fun” when he clearly used it to rile people up about whether he should stay or go.

i’m embarrassed for all three. this was a chance to show they could be tough but fair, while asking the questions their audience wanted to hear.

Mike S
Mike S
July 15, 2010 2:34 pm

My favourite part of their show that day was when someone called in after the Bosh interview and congratulated them for conducting a very hard-hitting interview.

It would have been nice for them to press Bosh on why he and his agent refused to communicate with the Raptors over the last few weeks………….apparently Colangelo and the front office were not very happy that Bosh was ignoring them.

I wish I could say that I am surprised that these guys didn’t ask very many tough questions, but of course I am not………….these are the same guys that praised just about every roster move that Colangelo has made since he got here…………and these are the same guys that trashed every American media member who said over a year ago that Bosh was going to leave Toronto………..when it comes to the Raptors, they are not very objective even though they think that they are completely unbiased.

July 15, 2010 5:14 pm

Well, to be fair, most of the press has liked most of Collangello’s moves, and Armstrong and Smith changed their tune on Bosh once the Raptors went into the toilet.

Mike S
Mike S
July 15, 2010 5:51 pm

Hey Daniel,

Armstrong & Smith & Jones were saying as recently as a month or two ago that they thought the chances of Bosh staying were 50-50, even though the rest of us knew the chances were close to 0……… was only in the last 3 weeks or so that they started saying that he was going to leave……….and that’s when they started criticizing him, mainly because they knew they weren’t going to have to deal with him on a day-to-day basis anymore

I do agree that most of the members of the Toronto basketball media (other than Feschuk) have approved of almost every one of Colangelo’s moves since he was hired………….my question to them is this: if all of those moves were so great then why has the team been so bad for the last 3 years?

Just Sayin
Just Sayin
July 15, 2010 7:03 pm

I get your point, but have you considered that the reason Bosh agreed to do this interview is the same reason that it “sucked”?

Bosh agreed to do an interview with people that he knows, likes and trusts, guys that he felt confident would not make him or let him look like an a$$hole.

In my opinion you can draw a greater conclusion from the context than the content of the interview itself.

Chis Bosh is a huge pu$$y.

July 15, 2010 7:48 pm

It’s fairly simple. If you do a team’s PBP or colour commentary, you have ZERO credibility hosting a show in a talk-style format about them.

This Lewickipedia Smith/Armstrong kiss-ass is splitting hairs when he says they’re paid by 590 – what they’re paid to do is Raptors games.

They’re not credible in terms of being objective.

Could Joe Bowen be taken seriously hosting a talk show on the Toronto Maple Leafs? No, no he couldn’t. So he doesn’t.

It doesn’t work, and like many other Toronto sports radio issues I’ve pointed out, it’s either discouraged or just isn’t allowed to happen in most American cities.

Mike Emrick wouldn’t host a “talk show” about the New Jersey sports scene while he does the Devils. He can be a guest, and of course, like Wilner does, guys can host pre and post-game shows and have opinions, but anyone who doesn’t think Armstrong & Smith haven’t had an agenda on their “show” to push the Raptors and NBA and ignore a lot of the other major stories in the sports world, must be kidding themselves.

But again, the issue is also when a guy is paid to follow one sport and one sport only, as Watters is, then it’s hard to take him seriously talking about the other sports in town. Same thing when the GamePlan fellers tried to talk NHL. It was laughable because you knew they weren’t watching NHL games, because they were being paid to be at NBA games.

It’s not a personal hammering of those two as much as it is a commentary on what you can or can’t be taken seriously about. For me, those two were far more credible and less annoying (sometimes, I’m not a big Jack fan at all) than that arrogant blowhard Swirsky.

I mean, would any of you take “The Jerry Howarth Show” seriously if he was trying to tackle all sports? Nope, enough said, that’s why the GamePlan was limited from the get-go in what it could accomplish. Neither guy’s a real compelling host, as it is.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
July 15, 2010 7:56 pm

It’s fairly simple. If you do a team’s PBP or colour commentary, you have ZERO credibility hosting a show in a talk-style format about them.

the only exception to this rule is Ashby on the Jays broadcasts and when he’s interviewed on PTS. He’s refreshingly direct in his criticisms of Cito and certain players. Apparently this is what caused his downfall in Houston, and given Rogers’ treatment of the Wilner kerfuffle he’s probably also at risk here.

I would trust Ashby’s opinion on anything baseball related. He’s the star of the Jays broadcast crew, television and radio.

July 15, 2010 9:24 pm

Ashby’s great but he doesn’t host a “general” sports talk show. That’s my point. He is direct in his criticisms.

But he couldn’t host “The Alan Ashby Show” during spring/summer months and be taken seriously talking about the NHL/NBA playoffs given his baseball commitments.

It’s again why Armstrong & Smith have very limited range in their talk show.

July 15, 2010 10:13 pm

I remember they both went pretty hard on Encarnacion during a game for his lack of hustle on ground outs and strike outs that the catcher missed. Even the nicest and most pleasant sounding man on radio Jerry Howarth had a good go at him during it. Gosh I can’t even remember the Raptor guys actually calling out a player like that when the effort’s not there. But I agree with Julian, even though I am very happy with the Jays braodcast team on all sides, they shouldn’t be doing general sports.

I’ve felt this way very early on, sure I like basketball talk but I don’t need team shills which these guys obviously were. I’m not angry with them, most broadcaster do slant positive to the sport/team they are covering, but they shouldn’t be doing general sports show. Sure they might have connections to some guy in the Grizzles front office or a PBP guy from Sacramento but I never felt I got any thing more than company line from these guys. We aren’t a rookie fanbase anymore, we don’t need cheerleaders talking the game to make the fans feel okay, Raptor fans are pretty smart and can talk about the team, warts and all.

I don’t need the only electronic media voice to be guys telling me that every Raptor ever is always a good guy who works hard all the time, & every trade or signing made the team better, & every player loves being here. Or the GM and coach are so poise and respected and there’s nothing to worry about. These guy tried to sell everybody the Hedo came here because his wife loves it here and their love for the diverse city (even though I heard she never even lived here) Hedo party ways wasn’t announced from these guys, it came from the internets and blogs, the papers then got on it, only when it got out of control that the Smithstrongs talked about how it was an issue with the softest gloves possible.

Question I would have liked to ask Bosh, why did he feel the need to talk to only ESPN during his free agent time, seems like he would talk to ESPN Deportes before talking to anybody here.
He talked about his grandma is happy to be able to watch him, is not being on TNT at all an issue for players like him.
What did he mean when he said he felt like “a wolf stuck in a cage, while he watched other wolves eat steak”

July 15, 2010 10:21 pm

I’ll say it then, because I feel like some will agree with it here. Jack Armstrong couldn’t possibly get a job on an American network analyzing basketball, because of his lack of accomplishments, and Eric Smith certainly couldn’t be a “colour analyst” on any other NBA team in existence.

Feel free to challenge on that, but that’s how I read it. So I agree with FMT, these guys think they’re fooling people in town and unlike many of the hockey analysts in town, I always found Swirsky & yes, now Armstrong, Jones, and Smith are almost condescending, in a friendly fashion.

I mean, Jack Armstrong’s coaching credentials might not get him an interview anywhere in the US. Why work here if he could work in his home country? Swirsky obviously jumped at the chance to do games in his hometown in a fantastic sports city.

July 15, 2010 11:38 pm

Actually Julian Jack Armstrong has done colour analysis on NCAA games on ESPN and MSG over the past decade or so, you may have heard of that TV station in the US…
Sure these guys could have been harder on Chris Bosh, but even if they were, do you actually think Chris would have given up tons of information that angry Raptors fans are yearning for? The answer is no. Its alot easier to sit on blog posts and on blog comment sections and hammer guys than to actually be in the chair conducting the interview. The one guy everyone loves and respects, Bob McCown, turns into a pussy cat alot of the time when confronted by guests he has ripped previously. All i’m saying is that its easier said than done..

July 16, 2010 8:43 am

Yep, Paul, we agree actually. There are at any point in time 110-120 NCAA basketball games broadcast on a given weekend, so yeah, they like live bodies.

I don’t dislike Jack when he sticks to basketball, I’m just telling you to have him as somehow our pre-eminent hoops colour commentator in a nation of 30 million plus is a bit insulting and laughable.

July 16, 2010 2:10 pm

To clarify when I said “I remember they both went pretty hard on Encarnacion during a game” I meant Jerry and Alan during the Jays radiocast.

I think Armstrong can find work as a colour guy. A lot of colour guys in the NBA has his style and don’t see a big drop off of him and others I heard doing basketball games. As for Smith, well let me put it nicely, I doubt he will be the next Shulman.

rollo tape
August 9, 2010 8:21 am

I am trying to give the new guys a chance but the interviews are painful to listen to…not much prepping is evident judging by Lumby’s questions…

rollo tape
August 10, 2010 6:45 am

..sorry..referring to the “new” Fan590 morning show….noticed a lack of big name interviews…boycotting by certain media stars and players?..maybe…I dislike the new show …

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x