Changes At The Fan, Brunt Exited All Part Of Summer Recap

With our summer coming to an end, I want to share some random thoughts on sports media and life in general as the kids head back to school and work travel works toward normalcy again.

I was able to spend the better part of a month in the northern part of the GTA this summer (Barrie area). The person who finally was able to put the small area of HOV lanes into the 401 N and S deserves a medal of freedom. What a difference.

SUMMER IN THE BIG SMOKE

For those who thought that Amsterdam, Colorado, or the State of Washington were the marijuana capitals of the world, I ask you to take a look at the number of dispensaries on Avenue Rd.(from the 401 to Lawrence Ave.). I used to live in that area and it has apparently become a LOT more fun now!

 

Credit to those at MLSE who run the high end offerings at the Budweiser Stage at Ontario Place. Forget platinum seats – there is no better bang for the buck than what goes on down there. A boat ride, fine food and drink as well as excellent service at a reasonable price,and great music to boot. The folks at Palace Sports and Entertainment used to run something similar at Pine Knob back in the 90s but I haven’t seen a better premium experience than this anywhere.

I get that Toronto remains a Leafs town in terms of media. I get that the Leafs play from September through to early June. I understand people have families and summer is the ideal time to take a vacation. However, there are sports going on and one of them has a much better winning record than the Leafs. Yet, on multiple platforms, the programming is really, really awful.  What the FAN pulled, running other out-of-market shows in Toronto is the worst I have seen in Toronto ever. Truly embarrassing for a city that prides itself on being world-class.

JOHNNY COME LATELY

The word replace can carry a negative undertone and none is intended here at all, but wow has Mike Johnson filled in really, really well where Ray Ferraro used to be on TSN radio. Again, one doesn’t have to be better or worse but let’s just say that the segments haven’t suffered with Mike taking over where Ray once was. Classic example, the other day Johnson was asked about Leafs prospect Matthew Knies. Johnson explained that he’s worried about his skating and that Knies is a player who relies heavily on his strength as his super skill noting that he will face lots of players in the NHL who are equally as strong if not stronger than him. 

You read me here and on Twitter and you know I am not a huge fan of junior hockey. That is not a knock on it at all. It’s just a fact that I didn’t grow up watching it and I don’t know either. The primary reason I didn’t watch one minute of this summer tournament was purely 100% hockey fatigue. I have simply had it with hockey right now. I feel like I’ve had my fill of hockey the last two years and I need a break. I didn’t care who was playing or when I wasn’t going to watch. I didn’t watch a single minute of the tournament. FWIW, I spent a lot of time listening to audio clips of Toronto sports radio the last 10 days (see below) and I didn’t hear a whole lot of discussion of the abysmal attendance that I saw on Twitter.  I don’t think it had much to do with Hockey Canada as much as a time of year and hockey burnout. 

DEATH OF LEAFS TV

When LeafsTV came on the scene there was a lot of buzz. When the announcement about the death of LeafsTV occurred, a whole lot of meh. In between? Unrealized potential.

If you are running TSN Radio, you suddenly have a problem. What do you do with Frank Corrado? Corrado has proven to be a very good fill-in this summer for many. He’s a rare talent in that despite being a hockey player he’s found a groove as an interviewer and host with an ability to take his experience in one sport and tie it to others while not limiting his focus to only his experience. His ability to talk about golf, basketball, or football is one thing, but on several occasions, the interview subject from another sport recognized Corrado for his questions. With Jeff O’Neill returning to Overdrive, the table is full. If I am running TSN Radio, I would find a slot for Frankie somewhere and soon.

CHANGES AT THE FAN

Stephen Brunt is easily amongst the best storytellers we’ve ever had in the sports news business in this country. He made the pivot to Sportsnet 11 years ago walking away from his gig at the Globe and Mail. He’s been on the air with McCown and others for a very long time and seemed rejuvenated in his role with Ben Ennis of late. Then, along came Cutter Colette, and once again the mighty dollar came ahead of the fan experience and the product . “I am not retiring” Brunt told his audience in his exit statement on air. So, we will have to wait and see what the future has in store for Brunt, but whatever it is, we wish him well. I hope there is a keyboard and a microphone involved. 

What does that mean at the FAN?  No one is really saying, but one has to believe that whomever joins Rogers on the sports side will have to be willing to do so inexpensively.  With that in mind, I am told that Justin Cuthbert (the son of Hockey Night’s Chris Cuthbert) will be joining the station on the AM drive shift. What does that mean for the others on the current AM drive?  I am not sure. If I had to bet, someone was going to be joining Ben Ennis in the chair formerly held by Brunt. Time will tell.

Producer turned morning host JD Bunkis announced this week that he leavint the AM drive show on the fan (see above) and starting his own show – The JD Bunkis Podcast on The Fan 590 at 9 am.  The show will be taped live  in studio and available wherever you stream audio.  Bunkis, in my opinion, get a bum rap. He’s guilty of being too pasionate. I hope a less pressured time slot and a less crowded studio gives him the creative freedom he needs.

Speaking of the FAN, the station celebrated its 30th anniversary last week.  Congratulations and thank you to all of those out there who have had any part in bringing us sports radio during that time. “The sports sense”??? would not be complete without the FAN. One of the driving forces behind the station was Alan Davis as the original Program Director. Davis was on with Bob McCown and John Shannon on their podcast and I highly recommend you listen to it.  Davis lamented about the complete lack of leadership and vision in the sports media world in Canada right now, especially when it comes to radio. His company is investing 100’s of millions in talk and personalities across multiple channels while our outlets do little more than trip over each other letting people go.

KEEP YOUR HEADS UP

I am told on multiple fronts that morale at both Rogers and Bell on the media side is horrific. People are being overworked and they literally have no idea how long they are going to be in their jobs. There is little to no faith in the current management teams by the worker bees. The cold hard fact is that whoever had the brilliant idea to empower those with mobile or cellular experience to take over media arms of companies was a fool. The two companies who should be leading the way with innovation are merely trying to hit numbers by cutting costs. There is nothing new unique or smart about that. Employees know it, the audience gets it, and eventually it catches up with you. Someone outside of these two companies will get it.  Can you believe in the year 2022, the best hockey production came from American broadcasters and at the same time the most popular hockey podcast also comes from the US?  

Riddle me this Batman, If you are running TSN, and you have talent like Ray Ferraro and Darren Dreger, how is it that you are good with the two of them having a podcast that your network has nothing to do with?  If you are Rogers, how do you pay Bob McCown to walk away and then watch him setup shop and run a better show on his own? You’re supposed to be media companies in the modern era. How does that happen? How have these stations not figured out how to monetize a digital audience yet? It’s truly stunning.

Rest assured someone out there will. Someone will figure out how to monetize the Canadian sports market while Rogers and Bell can’t seem to. If you don’t believe me, listen to Alan Davis. You will really enjoy it.

ENOUGH WITH THE LABELS

A whole lot of energy is spent on the topic of the future of radio, specifically sports radio. I will say it again, I think the issue comes down to improper labels. People still want to listen to sports content. The medium in which they listen and the vehicle that delivers the content are evolving. This isn’t new by the way. It’s always been changing but it’s the pace of the change that is really quick now. I don’t think people listening to people talk about sports is going away. I don’t think them doing so in a car is going away. Will it come through radio waves? Probably not. Will we be reduced to the channels we can get around us? No. Will we be restricted to the time a recording is made? Absolutely not.

THE NETWORK EFFECT

I am not a fan or enthusiast of cars. I view them as a necessary evil. I am really cheap when it comes to cars too. While I like nicer things, I find what I pay for a car obscene and I am constantly fighting myself because I do love to have the latest and greatest in tech but I hate paying for it in a car. Having said that, I gave my last car up just after the pandemic hit. I went carless for nearly 18 months. However, it became apparent with multiple drivers around and the world returning to normal(ish), I needed a car. With supply at an all-time low, I placed an order for a Tesla. 

In Seattle, we pay the second highest rate for gas in the USA and I was sick and tired of paying stupid high gas rates. While I see them everywhere, from a tech perspective they seemed to check a lot of boxes for me. Surprisingly, on a three-year lease, it wasn’t any more expensive than what I usually pay for a car. Not having to pay for gas was a huge plus. I’d say in the first 8 months I have loved having it, but I really didn’t use it all that much.

With the move to a Tesla, my entire view of Elon changed. My boy asked me to drive him back to university in Boulder Colorado instead of flying him back to move him back into school. So, we decided to load up the Tesla and drive it down together.The result was game-changing.

First, the car is great. I have a model Y and it’s got a ton of room so all of his stuff fits. However, as I said it’s just a car. What blew my mind is the infrastructure of chargers the guy built around the USA. No matter where we were, there were Tesla Superchargers. Every 3 hours or so we had to stop and pull off the road into the back of a hotel, a casino, a Walmart or a Target to charge up. The experience was fantastic! Each charge took about 20 minutes. We got out of the car, used a clean bathroom, stretched our legs, and grabbed a bite to eat etc. It was clean, it was, dare I say civilized.  So while the car itself seems cool, it really is the network of chargers he’s built that’s impressive. I can’t recommend one more if for that reason alone. It changed road trips for me forever.

FILTHY COMEDY I LOVE

While on the road trip we listened to a lot of sports talk and then a lot of comedy on Spotify. First, I can’t believe how filthy most of the female comedians are. Hilarious but really filthy. Secondly, I don’t know how a modern comedian survives. I’d say that 90% of the jokes we heard would absolutely get someone cancelled if they were said on stage today. I will leave it up to you whether that’s a good thing or bad. All I will say is that we laughed a lot on our drive.

Luke Wilson is a new mainstay on OverDrive. I didn’t love him last year when he was on. Not sure if he got some training, but he has really improved thus far. One + NFL week in and he seems like a fantastic addition to the lineup.

As someone who is back spending more nights a year in hotels than at home can I ask those who make beauty products a question?  I trust you make those little bottles in the rooms that we get for free in the hopes we will like the product enough to buy them at home right? Well, here’s an idea, when you put a label on them, perhaps consider that those of us, you know using them may not have glasses or contacts in when we get in the shower and having really pretty fonts on the bottle with a 3 pt font in a steam-filled bathroom probably isn’t the user experience you are looking for.  For what it’s worth.  

I didn’t catch the Emmy’s but agree with most of the awards. Follow me on Twitter for streaming editorial and more. The White Lotus, Hacks, Succession and Dopesick all fantastic choices.  Right now? Loving : Bad Sisters, The Good Fight and Industry. A big fat meh to season two of The Flight Attendant and Partner Tracks (Arden Cho could be the worst actress on tv right now). Going to see the new Fletch movie this week!

Jonah

Jonah

Born and raised in Toronto, Jonah Sigel is currently based in Seattle, WA. An avid sports fan, Jonah took to writing about the sports media world back in 2004 with two young kids at home, a new job and a return to Toronto. The interest grew and grew to include the former website Torontosportsmedia.com, the twitter handle @yyzsportsmedia, the PressRow podcast and now the all new yyzsportsmedia.com

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