by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email
Good morning sports media fans. Regular readers will have noticed that I stopped writing about radio in 2018 after spending more time on that medium than any other in the previous 5 years. The reasons for that are varied and you can read more about that topic here and here.
I sent out a request for a guest post from someone who still has sports radio as part of their daily routine. Long-time reader and frequent commenter Yaz agreed to write a year in review on TSN1050 and FAN590. If you would like to pitch a one-off article, write to me firstname.lastname@example.org
2018 was a seminal year that saw new A-list advertisers Bentley and Maserati appear on 590 while 1050 scored a major deal with a commercial for a head lice remedy. 1050’s moribund signal continues, and both stations sputter on with more of the same-o, same-o. Other than Price being let go and MacArthur switching teams, there were not any major changes unless you consider the addition of another ex-NHL player to First Up as a major change. The Brady-Blair-HCN-Bunkis/Ennis-McCown roster and the Landsberg-Petrillo-MacArthur-Overdrive playlist continued from 2017.
Let’s break it down:
BRADY AND PRICE
Price out. Brady and Burrill must be given a short life or they’ll lose whatever listeners they still have. I miss Brady and Lang/Walker. Do away with the Burrill highlights; they are soul sucking and offensive. Listeners should be tuning in for the hosts, not the guests. Whenever there was a good segment with Brady and Price talking about the Leafs game the previous night there was no mention of it in the Pod description so most people would miss it.
The single worst segment across both stations was the last third of the 5:30 – 6 AM segment when they literally ‘mail it in’ with ‘The game with no name.’ Nobody is engaged and they openly mock their own segment in a way that isn’t entertaining, just degrading that makes it an uncomfortable imposition to listen to. For those who aren’t aware, in this segment Hugh randomly chooses a Wikipedia page and gives Brady and Price (may he rest in peace) progressively more obvious clues until they get the answer. Often begins with something like ‘I invented Scotch tape.’
They’ve been experimenting this week. On Friday, ‘Amusement parks, water slides or zoos, which are you buying, which are you selling, which are you holding on to? Ash, go!’ Go where? Down a wormhole of banality? This may be a good segment if I was on mushrooms, but even then it’s a maybe. Brady has yet to recover from Blundell stealing his chair. Not sure what it is. A la Good Will Hunting, 590’s PD needs to bring Robin Williams back from the dead to grab Brady by the shoulders and say ‘Greg, it’s not your fault. Greg? It’s not your fault. Greg? Greg? It’s not your fault.’ Until Greg breaks down, bear hugs him, and sobs uncontrollably until he lets it all pass. Then, Greg will jump in a rusty car from the 70s and drive to California to see about a girl. If 5:30 – 6 am is a warmup, do it off the air. Drink espressos and do pushups, hit a punching bag or something, don’t offend your listeners. Brady and Price may not have been great but it was professional. This iteration of Brady is more akin to student radio. Spice this up with a triumphant return by Mike Eppel and his updates on the Hang Seng Index.
Just speculating, but it sounds like whenever Blair floats off into another dimension with a stream of unending er-er-ers and an-an-ans when asking a question to a guest, he is reading something about his next question or his Producer is pestering him with some facts to ‘leverage’ his performance. Note to PD: leverage also exists to the downside. Blair’s deep well of sports knowledge would be better leveraged by putting a black bag over his head similar to when members of Hezbollah picked up Mike Wallace in a jeep to take him to a secret location to interview their leader. When they pulled the bag off his head, Mike was focused. Blair needs focus. He is focused when doing ‘The Lede’ Podcast so there is hope. Replicate that. Like a toddler losing focus, Blair’s Producer has to walk in to the booth, point his finger directly at the middle of his eyes and sharply snap his fingers. Renaud Lavoie is the best guest on this show. Find more Insiders like Renaud who didn’t go to Ryerson or Western and all sing the same damn tune like a choir.
Can’t really comment on the show. Constant juggling of hosts. It really isn’t a show, just a time slot filled with insolent noise. Listened to it maybe twice under duress. Fridays with Brian Burke and Doug Maclean is solid radio though. Never miss it. #AskBurkie, #AskMac is a great segment. Couldn’t Matt Cauz do something similar from 10-11 am?? He is in every single other damn time slot except for 4-7.
Angry little tyrant Bunkis is a 590 version of J. Edgar Hoover and Ennis is forced to talk with careful palms facing Bunkis like he is about to be jumped by an angry Rottweiler. Sure, debate is great for radio but Bunkis just always wants to be right and is angry and petulant all the time. Bunkis seems like a guy that obsessively consumes hockey blogs and listens to sports podcasts at 2x speed for six hours a day to find multiple obscure points to defeat Ennis’ POV. Who cares. Like dehoarding. Less is more. Information is weighing him down from hitting his next stride.
One of the top three worst moments in 2018 Toronto sports radio was during the thankfully buried Family Feud segment they incomprehensibly ran for a third of the sponsored 3-4 PM ‘Leafs Hour’ where they didn’t talk about the Leafs and didn’t talk about sports. This was a call-in-for-prizes segment that reminded me of SCTV’s infamous skit ‘Half wits’ except Half Wits was scripted, Good Show’s version was accidental. ‘Name the animal you are most scared of’. Let your imagination envision the downward death spiral of interest this segment went to. Bunkis endlessly mocking a caller for choosing a shark over Bunkis’ spider was the most bizarre moment of 2018 for me.
Better with Deitsch. But how does a guy sell his house and call in a moving company to come to Toronto to work for 20 weeks a year? Obviously it made financial sense for him or he wouldn’t have done it, but it’s a part time gig. Howard Stern hardly works at all but even he works more than that. Has to be 32 weeks minimum. Methinks the forlorn Deitch was purposely kept at 20 weeks by Bobby to ensure there is no doubt who the show host is. In Deitch’s own words: ‘It feels like I haven’t been on the air since the Carter administration.’ McCown needs to change tact here and increase Deitch’s appearances by 50% to start. Deitch sounds like a sad little toddler being forced to leave Disneyland an hour after he got there; ‘See you in six weeks.’ You can see his dejected eyes looking at the ground on the radio. Best guests of any show. TSN take notice: get some GUESTS! And, no, Dreger, McKenzie, Reda, Button, Rautins, etc., do not qualify as guests.
TIM & SID
Not radio. Let’s call it Telepodio (trademark pending). After they left radio they said ‘We’re going to lock ourselves in a room for a couple of months and come up with a bunch of new ideas.’ When they came out of that room they offered nothing original and appeared on a set reminiscent of a 1992 Applebees from hell. They’re still staring at laptops and reading script, put some video or pictures on the damn screen. Do at least one original thing. One. Radio on TV is one thing. Radio on TV with two mannequins staring at screens while one mumbles and the other one is always yelling is another level of hell.
TSN”s Original Six’r, Landsberg, is soundly defeating Brady and Price’s highlight show and has been for some time. Cue the Landsberg haters. Can we move on now? You didn’t like OTR. Okay. I get it. You can’t use it as a reason to hate his radio show years after OTR went off the air. And I like that they often begin a segment before the hour and go right through it rather than be a slave to some daft traffic update schedule ( though they unfortunately still do traffic updates). 95% of the OTR references are gone. Naylor is gone. Cauz mostly gone but preferred him over Colaiacovo. Something just didn’t sit right with Landsberg regarding Cauz and I’m not sure what it was.
And as an Original Six TSNer, Landsberg somehow was able to go over the head of his Producer (his kid) and get a roster change. Other than McCown, I think Landsberg is the most elderly across both stations but he doesn’t sound like it. Because of the stark contrast in signal strength, the only use for ratings in this market is an internal one to compare one quarter to the next, they serve no purpose to compare the quality of a show on 1050 vs a show on 590.
When FirstUp does a roundtable, the level of debate vibrates at a better and higher level. Guests in studio elevate a show. This is true of either station. 55% of communication is non-verbal. You can’t receive that communication when Ferraro is calling from his house in West Van while he’s tiling his new bathroom, or Dreger is driving his kid to hockey practice. When Landsberg, Colaiacovo, Feschuk, and Arthur sit down for a round table, the debate is fast paced and informative. They are engaged and listeners are thereby engaged. Listeners aren’t engaged when Burrill plays a clip of a Matthews wrist shot or Kawhi nailing a three pointer.
1050 10 AM – 11 AM
Offensive. No excuse. TSN calls themselves the top sports broadcaster in Canada and dumps this excrement onto this country’s largest market? This type of show should only play midnight to 6 am. Put Cauz in there for an hour with a rotating intern answering curated questions taken from a hashtag on Twitter. Bring Petrillo in another hour earlier for Leafs Brunch. Anything. Sports radio listeners in Toronto would rather listen to interns arguing about the Leafs fourth line than some American babbling about Hofstra or Syracuse Basketball. I have no problem if you spend twenty minutes interviewing Syracuse coach Joe Boeheim as long as you ask him what he thinks about the Leafs power play. I’d be more eager to tune to 1050 at ten AM for an hour if they played an air raid siren, a fork scraping on teeth, or a dog chewing gum. All three would be a good listen while at the same time being more entertaining and informative.
I like the speed of quality hockey information delivered by Button, Poulin and Miller or whatever combination shows up on a given day. And I like that Leafs Lunch now takes two hours. See above, make it a three hour lunch and add a martini or two. Better than HCN. Kudos to Petrillo for surviving the daily hostile work environment she is forced to swim in. I tune in there at 11 over Blair because I know they’ll be talking Leafs. Blair is attempting to counter but only on Leafs game days with ‘Leafs morning skate.’ At 11 am.
SCOTT MACARTHUR SHOW
Was a Tough gig to deliver three hours on your own. The 3 PM segments with Gino Reda were a go to for me while Bunkis and Ennis were playing Family Feud. Surprised at how much Reda knows about hockey as well as the business of hockey. While he has done some commentary over the years, I always just perceived Reda as an anchor on a highlights show. Same with Miller as a PbP guy who also surprised me with his deep well of sports knowledge. Though he has to work on his delivery, at least on radio.
I’ll preface this by saying this is still my favourite show. And if it isn’t yours or you hate it, let’s just agree to disagree. The Brazzers and Brass Rail chatter has been drastically reduced. Overdrive is now in that dangerous comfortable phase that seems to be leading to complacency and smug satisfaction. ‘Mailing it in’ as a catchphrase for the show jumped the shark in 2017. They have beaten that horse to death. Enough already. Stop saying ‘mailing it in’ and ‘personal day’. If you are mailing it in, don’t say it, just do it.
Overdrive and PTS are the only two that quaify as a ‘show’. And Overdrive more so. Scripted segments. Songs. Character segments. The ‘Hells Kitchen’ segment with Gord Miller as Gordon Ramsay was terrific, etc. However, like toddlers at a birthday party, they jump up and down and bounce off the walls in the first hour. Then they’re tuckered out in the second hour. Then they have a glass of milk and sit by the fire in the third hour while McKenzie wheezes some inane ‘Insider’ talk until they pass out with a thud and take a nap. Get Landsberg in there after the 5:53 PM break to pour some 5 Hour Energy in their ears to wake them up.
MIKE RICHARDS SHOW
New show but first thoughts: Interesting mix of two ex TSN anchors with ex Sporsnet reporter Barry Davis. Though Richards is also ex-Sportsnet from Calgary. In the second and third day of the show Mike stomped right over the ‘traffic on the 5s’ on purpose, even mentioning it while interviewing a guest. Finally, on Jan. 29 he said ‘After hearing your feedback, traffic will now be :05 :25 :35 and :55 to accommodate flow and guesting.’ Cue the 1050 crowd cheer clip. I imagine PDs cling to the traffic updates because it is something tangible that can be sold to an advertiser. Said advertiser likely never listens to the show and doesn’t hear the woman with the smooth FM radio voice smoothly hum the name of their company in a way that draws zero listener interest.
Keep traffic as a sponsored segment but get creative about it ffs. Lose the traffic person who hurriedly gets through the useless update just to read the adveriser’s copy. Make it humourous. We all know traffic sucks. Unless a sinkhole consumed 9 lanes of the 401, I need to know nothing. Any commuters who really care about traffic have it on their dashboard monitor or they tune to 680. Get Colaiacovo to say ‘Here’s the update, traffic sucks. This update brought to you by a shampoo for head lice.’ Make it a caller segment. Brady takes a call, ‘Rick from Scarborough, how’s traffic?’ ‘Sucks rocks on the DVP at Eglinton.’ Get Rick’s quick hot take on the Leafs power play then say ‘This update brought to you by the new Bentley Bentayga SUV available at Grand Touring Automobiles.’
On the get-more-guests front, Overdrive should have Macramella on once a week at a scheduled time in a sponsored slot. Very intelligent and informative guy who can also easily mix it up with their bro-talk banter. Eric was the ONLY one to deliver actual facts and relevant analysis on various sports legal issues as they arose. Regarding the Senators misfortune in their Uber ride in Arizona: across both stations it was unanimously spewed that what the Uber driver did was legal. Or, also false, that what he did was legal in Arizona. Yes, at first glance, it was legal. But the driver crossed a line when he commercialized the video. Eric talks about it deftly and at length. Go find it.
If he isn’t going to be on the air, then, at the very least, he should consult these TSN clowns before they endlessly deliver misinformation about an Uber ride, Colin Kaepernick, the CBA, or labour laws applied to Junior hockey etc. When something arises, I go to Eric first to see what the truth and nuances are, then tune in to hear everyone expectorate nonsensical ignorant bafflegab. No, they don’t have to be as versed in the law as he is, but it will stop them being objectively and inarguably wrong about most situations.
One of the best guests on PTS was Michael Rapaport. Until I listened to him describe the monumental impact Lebron has had in L.A., I had no idea he had that much impact. It is truly historic. This led me to listen to his Podcast for the first time. While I admit it won’t be for everyone and it would be hard to binge-listen to it relative to other Pods, Rap is the single best at one-person-radio. The show is literally one hot take after another. He is the gatling gun of sports talk. He speaks on any topic but seems to enjoy talking sports the most. The kicker to this is that Bob was more enthusiastically engaged with Rap than I have heard in years. 590 or 1050 – call Rapaport, agree on a price for a weekly 15 minute segment and do it.
Looking back on 2018, the Diego Maradona groaning interview clip was great. I could listen to it for hours. Lenny Dykstra repeats as the number one interview ( though it was on Stern), total gong show. Logan Couture gave the worst interview of the year. Seriously, these agents need to keep pet rocks like Couture off the air. Price tried his hardest, like a drunk Uncle entertaining a crying toddler. ‘So, do you follow any of this Leafs talk when you’re in Toronto?’ mumbling pause, ‘mmm..ahh, if you mean do I listen to TSN or Sportsnet and that stuff, no, not really.’ Thank-you partner in the game, Logan Couture, completely ignorant of the fact that his new eight year contract at eight million per year is solely because of television revenue. At least try or don’t call in. Sorry to bother you Logan. I’ve forgotten his name but PTS had a NY based lawyer (not the regular guy) peel layers off the Kaepernick onion that I hadn’t heard before that was a memorable moment.
In conclusion, I must say that I hate all these shows so much I listen to them all day long. Here’s hoping for a better 2019 in Toronto sports radio.
Talking head by talking head:
- Greg ‘And I’m not saying that because I worked a few years in Detroit’ Brady
- Elliott ‘One time when I was calling an Expos game’ Price. All best wishes to the now departed Mr. Price.
- Hugh ‘Good morning everybody!!’ Burrill. If I find myself in the unfortunate situation of listening to this, I attempt to switch the station before Hugh gets to the ‘B’ in everybody.
- Chris ‘No annoying word or phrase’ Johnston
- Elliotte ‘Sorry, that’s my kid crying‘ Friedman
- Jeff ‘An-an-an frankly, er-er-er-er, an-an’ Blair, along with the seasonal Jeff ‘Hundred percent’ Blair.
- Kevin ‘Hunnerd percent, hunnerd percent’ Barker ( 100 x 100 is 10, 000, switch up to ten thousand percent’
- Renaud ‘To be honest with you’ Lavoie. Baby step this back to ‘Honestly.’ Then get rid of it altogether. Mix in a little ‘I’m not going to lie to you.’ Or ‘Truth be told’ into his list of English-as-second-language crutches. ‘To be honest with you’ is a habitual phrase that can slowly wash away trustworthiness.
- Nick ‘I’m sittin there sayin, he’s sittin there sayin to himself. They’re sittin there sayin’ Kypreos. One of the worst crutches in this market. Kypreos is where he is because focus groups have made it clear they like Nick because he forcefully speaks his mind. In the mind of Kypreos, he believes that prefacing every forceful point with ‘I’m sittin there sayin’ hammers that point home even better when all it does is dilute it. Take a breath, choose your words, and deliver what you want to say.
- Doug ‘Are you kidding me? Seriously. Are you kidding me?’ Maclean. Yes, we are.
- Brian ‘Now, first up, full disclosure, my son Patrick works for the Department of Player Safety. Having said that, the suspension they gave here was brilliant’ Burke
- Ben ‘I live in Oakville.’ Ennis
- JD ‘You live in Oakville.’ Bunkis
- Sid I’m yelling even though I am saying nothing worthy of yelling about because I think yelling grows listenership’. Seixero.
- Monotone Tim ‘places ball on tee for Sid to yell and hyperventilate about absolutely nothing’. Micallef. Separate these two. Enough already. Donnovan ‘Hell hath no fury like a black woman scorned’ Bennett would be a better pairing with Sid. Put Tim on AM 1050 from 10-11am with Clifton from Etobicoke.
- Michael ‘Original four TSN’r’ Landsberg. (along with Terry Leibel, John Wells and Jim Van Horne)
- Carlo ‘Time for Poll-aiacovo’ Colaiacovo
- Darren ‘My sources are telling me Nylander could be traded, he could sign a bridge deal, or he could sign a long term contract’ Dreger
- Matt ‘I’ll be late tomorrow, I have a wine tasting tonight.’ Cauz
- Andi ‘Thanks for takin the time’ Petrillo. It’s hilarious because she uses this sometimes to try and clue the guest that the segment is out of time. Sometimes the guest just continues to talk and she says it again. Once it was four times. Had me laughing.
- Gord ‘I don’ know why they have the salary cap. Why can’t McDavid make twenty five million dollars a year? In the premiere league players can make as much as the owners want to pay them. I go to London every year to watch the Premier league. I watch Premier League games with my British friends. Why does the NHL have a salary cap? Why can’t Matthews make eighty million a year? The NHL shouldn’t have a salary cap.’ Miller. He didn’t just beat that horse to death, he beat an entire species into extinction. Record it once and run it on a loop nightly from 3-4 am for anybody interested in hearing it for the hundredth time.
- Craig ‘I don’t know why I’m always yelling at Petrillo.’ Button
- Scott ‘You just made the list’ MacArthur. ( Soon to be Scott ‘It’s early.’ MacArthur.) Rare team switcher. Best of luck Mr. MacArthur.
- Bryan ‘Greasy’ Hayes
- Jeff ‘Mailing it in’ ‘Personal Day’ ‘Cuttin grass’ O’Neill
- Jamie ‘Changes the narrative on bottle service’ McLennan
- Ray ‘Who’s going to take that contract?’ Ferraro ( Who? Columbus, L.A., Penguins…)
- Richard ‘I’ll be back in six weeks.’ Deitsch
- Joey ‘I talked to Kawhi/Joey Bats/Marner at a party/event two nights ago’ Scoleri
- Bob ‘Twelve quadrillion is a rounding error.’ McCown
- Mike ‘Traffic on the fives’ Richards ( but only four out of six of them now)
- Mike ‘Sorry I have to interrupt. I have a new sponsor.’ Boone ( ten times per pod)
- Overall, I hope one of the first things on the NHL’s agenda is the force the NHLPA to get their players to stop saying ‘Like I said.’ After they haven’t said anything yet.