When last seen on-air before his Christmas break, Prime Time Sports host Bob McCown was hinting broadly that, lacking a new contract, this might be his final appearance on the Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 flagship program. To the amusement of co-host Stephen Brunt, McCown wrote the number 30 on a piece of paper (30 in journalistic shorthand means end). Even as he performed this bit of low comedy, McCown had a wry grin on his face. After all, he ... we have been down this road before.
McCown was back in his usual chair Wednesday as host of the long-running program on The Fan and Sportsnet TV. A new deal must have been reached in a breakneck last-minute session over the holidays, right? “We’re still working on it,” McCown told Usual Suspects on Thursday. “I can’t say much more than that, really.” Are there other suitors for his services? “Look, people call from time to time, but I can’t be more specific. We’re working on it.”
McCown is in a strong position. In the battle between The Fan and upstart TSN Radio, he is the linchpin. As long as the veteran broadcaster holds forth from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, the coveted 25-54 male audience belongs to the Fan. Take him away from the station and everything is in play. And while he won’t say as much, McCown isn’t going anywhere soon. (Other sources tell us the deal may already be done.)
Which doesn’t mean he isn’t as irascible as ever. The recent Bell/Rogers corporate co-mingling in the purchase of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment still sticks in his craw. “I don’t know what to make of it,” he says in a phone interview. “We spend six months re-branding Sportsnet with new hosts and graphics and talking about going after TSN. Then this. It doesn’t feel right for those of us brought up to believe you’re supposed to kill the competition. It takes the air out of the balloon for those of us on the firing lines.”
And should Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke take umbrage with McCown, who will the bosses placate first now that both men are paid by Rogers? “That’s a really good question,” McCown allows.
McCown says that, on the level of the radio grunts, competition has never been fiercer. He lost several regular guests such as Dan Shulman and Lester Munson when ESPN (which owns a piece of TSN) told its employees that they could no longer appear on The Fan. “I know a couple of them who refuse to do TSN rather than be told who they can talk to,” McCown says. “Maybe we need to start telling Blue Jays guys like [general manager]Alex Anthopoulos that they can’t appear on TSN. [Rogers owns the Blue Jays.]I’m tired of being bullied.”
(For the record, TSN Radio sources have told Usual Suspects that they’re tired of The Fan scooping their regular guests.) Expect more McCown. And wait till he pulls hard enough on Burke’s tail. It’ll be worth tuning in.
You have to wonder about priorities in hockey’s media. Twitter exploded with wrath, sarcasm, indignation and venom when it was announced Thursday that the mediocre Ottawa Senators had four players voted in by fans for the NHL all-star game in Ottawa on Jan. 29. Not one was in the NHL’s top 10 in scoring. Quipped Jim Bray on Twitter at @jhabray “I’m guessing Tim Thomas only made NHL ASG because Craig Anderson and Alex Auld split the vote.” Others demanded a scrapping of the fans’ vote. St. Louis’s Andy Strickland @andystrickland: “Should we be taking the NHL all-star game serious? Did anyone outside of Ottawa participate in voting process?”
There was a similar tempest over Florida’s Krys Barch receiving a one-game suspension for allegedly making an inappropriate comment to Montreal’s P.K. Subban, who is black. Here’s Sporting News’s Jesse Spector @jessespector. “NHL tries to have it both ways. “@sn_nhl: Barch suspended for remark, says NHL agreed that it wasn’t racial.”
Then New York Rangers coach John Tortorella, with a history of being loose lipped, suggests referees conspired with NBC to send the Winter Classic into overtime. Calls the referees “disgusting.” Only gets a $30,000 fine. No suspension. And what from the media? Crickets chirping. Hey, Torts being Torts. Many outlets simply picked up wire copy on the story.
Wonder how Sean Avery, who was suspended for six games for demeaning comments about his former girlfriends, feels about that one? Next time rip the refs not the exes, Sean. As usual, Dave Hodge had the best take. Dave Hodge – TSN @TSNDaveHodge 22h “John Tortorella apologizes for being John Tortorella. TSN waiting for him to apologize for not being John Tortorella during his time here.”