Toronto Sports Media July Blues Semenko, More Vancouver & Twitter

Good morning sports media fans!

I was in Toronto most of the last week and am now back in Seattle. I’ve lots of plane time to think about things and lots has been going on, so without further ado, here we go:

“This game is fundamental to who we are as Canadians”

So, said new CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie this week at his hiring presser.

I totally get why someone newly minted into this role would say that, however, I made the point on Twitter that I don’t know anyone who defines their “Canadianism” by the CFL’s existence.

I’ve said this a million times, but let me re-state it once again.

I actually grew up on CFL football. My grandfather used to take us down the exhibition stadium to watch games. I knew EVERY Argo, and by the way, I am not talking about Flutie or Ismail. This is Joe Barnes, Connridge Holloway etc…

I have NOTHING against the CFL, the Argos or ESPECIALLY those who love the either the league or their CFL team.

In fact, when I started this website I fought with the Argo’s to give me a press pass so I could get a writer down to their games to cover the team.

The point of my tweet was that in my circle of friends/people I know (like really know) none of them would say part of their fabric of being Canadian had anything to do with the CFL. ( I fully blame the ownership of the ARGOS over the years for this for completely not understanding marketing or their market but that’s a different topic).

Well, that set of a complete Twitter sh!t storm.

No, the idiots that troll Twitter never surprises me (see below). What did surprise me was the number of younger people outside the GTA with whom I could actually have rationale “discussions” with who felt very passionately about what the game means to them.

I heard from people from all across the country who, without name calling, without insulting actually messaged me that in fact the CFL, their team, their experience did define part of who they were as Canadians.

Thanks to TSN vet David Naylor and ARGO season ticket holder for filling my Twitter feed so much so that my cell died 2x in one day!

Of course, I did hear from lots of Twitter Trolls this week. The highlight or one that surprised me the most was this one, a member of the Calgary Stampeders broadcast team:

Funny, when I tweeted back to him how much I am sure the CFL Hall of Fame (he is a member) appreciated him resorting to stereotypical name calling he did not respond, let alone apologize, no he just deleted his tweet.

In this era of media downsizing, one may have thought that those still with jobs in the business would become more fraternity like and “support” one another.

Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in my experience in the Toronto sports media world.

It appears that the hatred of the other outlet has really increased over the last couple of months.

A couple of cases in point.

I noticed that ran a story on the Raptors citing “a source”. Well, the only outlet that had reported that very story before Sportsnet wrote this gem in question was TSN.

I tweeted out asking if “the source” was Tsn- with my usual tongue in cheek.

Instantly my phone exploded with comments and messages which would have made the likes of Nick Kypreos proud…

Most, if not all went something like “those fuc!ers at Sportsnet!”.

Here’s another great example from the previous week, Mike would call it bad Twitter, I call it telling:

Twitter stuff:

It seems to me that the cross-channel hatred is truly at an all-time high right now, I feel it and I am not it. That’s too bad.

What surprised me most this week, however, was how little this bomb dropping story got covered in the GTA:

“Dan Shulman says he is stepping away from ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball next season to get a better work-life balance.”

Kudos to Richard Deitsch for landing this bird.

Folks, this is BIG news.


No, it may not mean that things are changing immediately, the story says in fact that little will change in Toronto in the near future however when the Big Dog is going to be in the market more to establish a life balance that should have sent jolts through the entire market in Toronto.

I am not speculating here, and I have not heard a word about this but let us just review what we know based on the facts.

Shulman will still have a full college basketball schedule for ESPN. He will also call the entire MLB postseason on ESPN Radio (which is good news for baseball fans) and do a limited number of weeknight MLB television games for ESPN. He said he will also continue calling a small package of Blue Jays games for Sportsnet (Canada). Based on that schedule, he’ll probably be down to about 60 dates per year for ESPN.

Ok, let’s see here.

Correct me if I am wrong but the NCAA College basketball season runs roughly November-April. So, with the exception of tournaments, he’d be tied up once a week in that time period.

Come, say MLB opening day he’s pretty much done with that gig. The article he says he will do some weeknight games for MLB TV/ESPN.

While the article says he will do a small package of Jays games, that could change, right?

If, hypothetically, he wanted to do more than a small package of Jays games on TV what would stop him? Don’t you think Rogers would rearrange every chair imaginable to have more Dan Shulman?

There have been tons of rumblings that Jerry Howarth is nearing the end of his line with the Jays. Can you think of a better person to be the next voice of the Blue Jays than Dan Shulman????

Again, I am not saying any of this happens. I am saying with the guy in the market more often than not there are possibilities.

And then, of course, there’s the one radio slot that could be his too.

McCown’s contract is coming up soon.

Does Shulman’s presence in the market suddenly give Rogers the leverage to talk turkey with Bob????

Dan hosted before. He was on the air the night Sundin for Clark went down, perhaps the greatest session EVER on PTS. Would he do so again? How much more valuable would he be in that chair now after years of experience south of the border???

This is a news story that could change a whole lot in our market.

This is fascinating stuff!

Out west, meanwhile, Steve Darling, James Cybulski and Mira Laurence were crowned the new am drive hosts of the yet to be launched Sportsnet’s on Sportsnet 650, a new Vancouver all-sports radio station launching Sept. 4.

Kudos to Rogers for hiring a female broadcaster on day one. That is a very welcome news story compared to the all male Fan 590 team in Toronto.

Here’s hoping Cybulski refrains from ever using the “they call me Cballs” ever on the air, and if he does refrain, we are sure he will be much improved.

Always felt like the guy got the short end of things in Toronto.

As for the rest of the day, it seems John Shannon is no longer in the mix of things.

I keep hearing the name Andrew Walker as part of programming.

Sounds like Satiar Shah to be the mid morning host, in “The Blair slot”

Lots of rumblings that Scott Rintoul will be part of afternoon drive.

Haven’t heard more about Jody Vance either which I think is a shame.

I will keep you updated on any developments as I hear them. Dave Cadeau is trying to keep things very UnToronto (see the female hire) and under wraps so we will see what happens.

Finally, if you are anywhere close to my age (or older) the following is must see TV. As you are likely aware, Dave Semenko passed away recently and the Oilers held a tribute for him.

Of all the BS in sports, the money, the drugs, the concussions, etc at the end of it all, I always hoped it was just grown kids playing a sport they loved. If you’ve held on to that notion too, these clips will warm your heart. Not that I didn’t before, but new found appreciation for Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson and Glenn Sather.

As a kid who grew up HATING the Edmonton Oilers, because they were just so damn good, this is truly special.

Enjoy your weekend and enjoy these videos:

The David Semenko Tribute:

Glen Sather:

Wayne Gretzky:

Paul Coffey:

Glenn Anderson:

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Paul G.
Paul G.
July 8, 2017 3:05 pm

I will continue to hope that Shannon goes to the west coast.

He was not on the July 7 Friday roundtable and his absence made for a better listening experience.

Mike V
Mike V
July 8, 2017 4:01 pm

Absolutely not does a professional sports league define what it means to be a citizen of a country. I wouldn’t say the NHL defines Canadians, the NFL defines Americans or Premier league defines the English, all of which would have a much better claim than CFL. I cringe every time some league lackey or TSN booster like Naylor goes on like this. Especially since they are only really referring to two places in Canada – Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. In the rest of the country, the CFL support ranges from good (Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa now) to meh (BC, Hamilton, Montreal) to an absolute disaster (Toronto, Ottawa previously) or nonexistent (east of Quebec City).

Walker is still my pick to move. It’s true that Shannon is absolutely terrible but with Bob in IDGAF mode for years now, I have no doubt a FOB just as bad with be the replacement until he retires. Getting Walker to go back west allows you to attempt to fix the 1-4 slot.

Shulman on Jays games over hosting PTS. That should be a no brainer.

July 8, 2017 4:26 pm

I’m not a big follower of the CFL but hoping things do turn around for them. Also a huge fan of Dan Shulman more of him on radio or tv would be fantastic news, I remember him when he first started at the Fan.

July 8, 2017 5:19 pm

Seems like a nice guy, but I would love it if Shannon went to Vancouver. No offence, but him and Bob sound so old together. Bob’s so much better with Grange, Blair, Madani, even Cox.

Re CFL – I’m not sure why people got up in arms over your tweet. It’s clearly off the map in Toronto, but also, something people are very clearly passionate about in the West. In Canada, I think Toronto is kind of its own island, sports wise. We have a little more in common with the tastes of North Eastern US cities than Western Canada.

I’ve grown to enjoy Walker and Ennis. I hope he sticks around. Unless that meant Tim and Sid came back to the radio, but can’t imagine that’s happening.

Shulman to Toronto sports media in any capacity would be huge. He’s a legend at this point. If he’d be willing to take on more of a role on Jays PBP or do some radio work, that’s huge.

East York to West Coast
East York to West Coast
July 8, 2017 7:39 pm

Thanks for another great read, Jonah.

I think we are probably about the same age and I remember being a CFL fan as a kid but the games were never broadcast on TV because of blackout restrictions. If the Argos played at home or in Hamilton (their biggest rival) we couldn’t see the games. The other thing that bothered me about the CFL was the roster churn. The season would be going along then the final roster cuts from the NFL camps would be available. I have memories, probably flawed but also vivid, of Ottawa sucking until August and then wiping the floor with everyone when the new imports arrived.

I think the best thing about Dan Shulman, besides his obvious talent, is his humility. He is a natural and he always seems to understand and appreciate he was given a gift. He comes across as a class act because he exudes confidence without arrogance. It is a very hard to do that.

I now live in the Lower Mainland of BC and I’m delighted at the prospect of a Sporstnet affiliate in the market. I look forward to consistent access to Blue Jays games on the dial. As it stands now, one of the TSN stations will carry an occasional Jays game but they are often pre-empted by the Whitecaps. I’m sure the Canadians will also be carried on Sportsnet (eventually) so that is exciting as well. British Columbia is a hotbed of baseball in Canada and it is really puzzling that the sport has such a low-profile on radio.

I don’t know about the drive-time line up. Cybulski always impressed me as a nice guy but I don’t know why they would hire Steve Darling. He has the personality of a lounge chair and struck me as someone who got on-air because he was an executive’s nephew. I’m not familiar with Mira Laurence’s work but I look forward to giving that show a listen.

I completely agree that Sportsnet must do what they can to bring Jody Vance back. I would also love to see Don Taylor jump up the dial. In my opinion, he is far-and-away the best personality on TSN (although I do like Brad Fai on the Canadians’ broadcasts). I find the rest of the TSN Vancouver “talent” borderline unlistenable with the exception of Tom Mayenknecht.

Oh, and I would be willing to donate money and labour to building a wall to keep Shannon on the dry side of the Rockies.

Species 1967
July 8, 2017 8:26 pm

“Some former DT yuppie”

My sister and her husband are also huge into the NFL. They are about 40 years old, and live in the Niagara peninsula in a Hamilton suburb. They are by no means downtown yuppies. You know how much CFL they watch? Zero.

You know how much NFL they watch? All of it. Don’t say they are ignorant of the CFL game. My sister volunteered at the Hall of Fame in Hamilton for several years. The problem is the product is simply not appealing to them. The most laughable part is the concept of the Hamilton-Toronto rivalry, based on some 1970’s era days where the Hamilton Spectator and Toronto Star took potshots at each others cities, and dropped them on everyone’s doorstep each morning. The Star now owns the Spectator, and no one is reading either one anyway. The “downtown yuppies” are the market with tens of thousands literally on the Argos doorstep, like me, but I see no effort to really market the game to me at all.

That Tweet confirms a lot of what non-fans and people with little information about the CFL like me think: it’s for old men who reminisce about the “good old days” of watching games OTA and arguing about Angelo Mosca after drinking a case of Labatt 50.

“Downtown Yuppies” are a rapidly increasing share of the population. CFL viewers are a rapidly decreasing share of the population.

I would say what’s happened in the GTA (and Hamilton) is simple: The barriers to entry to the CFL are very very high, and they make no effort to resolve that. The barriers to entry to the NBA and MLS are very low, and the Raptors and TFC took the whole audience the CFL could have had.

Species 1967
July 8, 2017 8:36 pm

As a followup – I’ve been exposed to more advertising from the Toronto Rock (!) than the Argos in the past two years. So much I actually went to a game and loved it. The Argos? ZILCH.

July 8, 2017 10:46 pm

I must be the only one but I find a little bit of Shulman goes a long way – I find his voice aggravating and grating when doing PBP or an analysis on the fan be it on PTS or on the morning show – However if having him take on more Blue Jays PBP means bye bye Wilner I will personally strew rose petals at his feet and detail his car –

July 8, 2017 11:00 pm

@ Paul G I was excited for a Shannonless and Coxless roundtable at first. Then Doug Smith decided to be, as he bragged, a ‘contrarian’ on every topic. You could tell Bob et al were getting frustrated, especially when Smith couldn’t / wouldn’t understand that NHL teams have twice the number of players as NBA teams which explains why no NHL player is paid at the max. I usually like Smith when he’s on talking about ONLY the Raptors/NBA so I was really disappointed with his Damien Cox impersonation. Hopefully this is Smith’s last appearance on the roundtable.

Carl A
Carl A
July 9, 2017 12:10 pm

Hoping that Dan Shulman can bring some professionalism to the television broadcast that is missing now. The homerism now is beyond extreme. It seems that Buck and Pat are being paid by the word.

July 9, 2017 1:45 pm

Maybe this was mentioned before but is it a stretch to think that maybe it is Buck (instead of jerry on the radio side) that is slowly going to be phased out of the booth in favor of a Shulman-Tabler pairing as opposed to Shulman doing anything else, if he does anything? I’m sure Rogers has all the numbers and such and I’m be shocked if the majority of the fanbase prefer buck over Dan so could the big wigs think of doing a switch in the booth?

Original Mitch
Original Mitch
July 9, 2017 4:15 pm

If Shulman goes to Rogers and says I want to call jays games full time you think they’ll stick him on local radio? Buck would be shown the door immediately or, more likely he’d be the new colour guy and Pat would be removed permanently. If Shulman goes to Rogers and says I want to host Sportsnet connected at 1am, then whatever contest winner they currently have doing it is immediately shown the door. Point is, Shulman is bigger by a country mile than anything Rogers currently has and could do whatever he wants there. Heck I bet if he wanted Ron Maclean’s job they would seriously consider it. He’s one of the best sportscasters on the planet, let alone North America. He rightfully can get whatever gig he wants at Rogers or Bell.

Paul G.
Paul G.
July 9, 2017 4:29 pm

When it comes to broadcast revenue from Jays’ games, television is the gold standard compared to the am radio side of the operation.

A talent such as Shulman with his extensive US TV history would be wasted if not used in that medium (an exception would be if he was offered/wanted PTS in the future). In such a scenario I would see Buck doing colour, with Tabler out of the picture.

Paul G.
Paul G.
July 9, 2017 5:46 pm

@Hugh Gibson..cannot disagree with your take on Smith.

It was just so nice not to hear Shannon and Cox’ constant interruptions dripping with “airs of superiority”.

Bob Canuck
Bob Canuck
July 9, 2017 5:59 pm

Assuming that Dan Shulman was truthful with ESPN when he said that he wanted to achieve better work-life balance by stepping away from the regular season of Sunday Night Baseball, how would being the radio/TV play-by-play person for the Blue Jays achieve better balance for him? Would he not be on the road for in excess of 100 days working for the Blue Jays? That must be more than his commitment for Sunday Night Baseball. In the SI article, Shulman said he wanted to spend more time in Toronto. Given Shulman’s stated reasons, I don’t see how they align with a full-time Blue Jays gig.

July 9, 2017 7:04 pm

It’s Condredge Holloway, not only did you get his first name wrong you also got his last name wrong. Dunlop was totally out of his league on the PTS roundtable.

July 9, 2017 9:38 pm

To be fair, it wasn’t Brendan Dunlops first appearance on PTS. Of course he was going to be tentative and not allowed to show his personality. However if sportsnet wants to progress beyond the conservative, middle aged white man demographic that it seems to cater to with PTS, having a guy like Dunlop on is progress. I’ve watched Brendan over the years from his days at the Score and he’s got great general sports knowledge, actual opinions, and most importantly personally. To judge him solely on his debut appearance is incredibly daft. Sportsnet needs people like Dunlop, Khamisa and Agro to reflect the modern day consumer of sport… and they are all solid contributors

July 9, 2017 9:39 pm

*damn autocorrect!

Intended to write it “was his first appearance on PTS”

July 10, 2017 6:19 pm

Worth noting, the CFL has never cared about any fans in the Atlantic provinces so please don’t expect anyone here to identify w the “Canadian” Football League. Some do, but the CFL has not earned it.

Dan Shulman would be a huge get for Blue Jays broadcasts, but the question remains, will anyone still be watching come next season? A return of Dan & Buck doing colour wouldn’t be anything to get upset about.

I hear a lot of the Shannon bashing, and while I get it, I find there are many more voices that pop up on Sportsnet that make me tune out. At least Shannon is usually good for an interesting anecdote every couple of weeks. Dunlop offered little to nothing this past roundtable, and made it virtually a 3 man show. In these summer months, there are so many opportunities to make a name for oneself, but only if you open your mouth and say something.

Gary M
Gary M
July 11, 2017 7:20 pm

I think people are greatly overestimating the value of a Dan Shulman in this era. He’s the steadiest broadcaster ever and great guy, but there’s no evidence that will translate to a single ratings point in a competitive radio talk situation. Or get anyone to watch a ballgame they weren’t going to watch anyway.

That’s not a knock on Dan. Johnny Carson and Larry King wouldn’t draw a number in this era either, nor would anchor types like Peter Jennings swing such a humongous bat. Anchoring stuff- like the Olympics, which Dan should totally do- is a role that’s really diminishing in importance. Which means a much smaller role for gentle, eloquent types like Dan Shulman who don’t seek to entertain nor inflame.

Original Mitch
Original Mitch
July 11, 2017 10:49 pm

@Gary M

You aren’t wrong at all. Dan Shulman is important to us sports loving nerds because he’s ours and he’s so damn good, but is someone tuning in to the Jays losing 19-1 just to hear Shulman wax poetically? No, they aren’t.

That said, a Rogers station that has THE Dan Shulman as their baseball face automatically gives it more gravity. Half of Twitter constantly rips “git up” Buck because he’s so shameless. The other half is baffled he’s employed. That goes away instantly.

Its kind of like George/Ron at HNIC. People tuned in this year because the Canadian teams were competitive, not because Ron replaced George. However, seeing Ron as the face of HNIC brings it way more gravitas than George.

People here love Bob McCown. Do new radio listeners? Doubtful. He’s old and crotchety and has a terrible cast of sidekicks. Yet he’s a name! He’s the face!

Its all about street cred imo and lord knows Shulman brings in more than the current cast of yahoos calling the games.

All that said, I agree with @bobCanuck. Leave a 1 night a week gig and replace it with 162 nights? Doesn’t seem to add up.

Mike V
Mike V
July 12, 2017 11:49 am

Sunday Night Baseball isn’t just a 1 night gig. Shulman has talked on the FAN before about the prep work and production meetings that go into it every week. Its more like a Saturday morning to Monday morning commitment when you consider the travel. 162 games won’t happen but does Rogers ask Dan to increase the load from 30 games to 50-60 area? Could easily see that, he could make that up just by calling weekend home series.

So now that it’s pretty much confirmed that the Walker experiment/disaster is now Vancouver’s problem, can we go back to focusing on Toronto radio? What’s going to happen to 1-4 now, does Bunkis get shipped off with Walker, does Ennis stay on in whatever new show comes etc?

July 12, 2017 10:51 pm

I had to post this ridiculous tweet by Jon Morosi …

Sources: #Cardinals interested in Josh Donaldson, but they have had no formal trade discussions with the #BlueJays. @MLB @MLBNetwork 8:31 AM – 5 Jul 2017

Needless to say, he rightly got torn to pieces on twitter (and also by Greg Zaun in one of his video ‘rants’) with some zinger memes thrown in, lol.

July 13, 2017 11:29 am

I’m surprised TSN 1040 never tried to get Jody Vance (as far as I know). She’s a very credible sports personality here on the west coast, certainly with more cred than say, Bro Jake. 1040 occasionally has a woman co-host if one of the regulars is away, but other than that has virtually no women (they lost a good one when Karen Thomson jumped to CTV TV). The other good thing about SN 650 besides the added competition is that we’ll get a lot more baseball, as 1040 doesn’t do a whole lot of it outside of Rob Fai and reception on 1410 for Jays games is spotty outside of Vancouver. As for Shulman it would be huge to have him do more Blue Jays games. I’ve not yet come around completely to Buck on PBP. I do think he’s better color so him and Dan would a return to the good ol’ days.

July 19, 2017 3:54 pm

Completely disagree on your take on Shulman.

He just quit a once-a-week, extremely well-paying job to spend more time at home, so why the hell would he want to go anywhere near a permanent gig calling the Jays which involves considerably more time away from home at nowhere near the money?

The PTS hosting gig I can see as it requires zero travel, but to pretty much blow your load over the fact you think he will be committing to a full Jays schedule anytime soon is hilarious and embarrassing on your part, and is why it didn’t make news because everyone else used common sense.

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