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Usual Suspects

Bill Watters's show falls victim to AM 640's format change Add to ...

One of the worst-kept secrets in sports radio finally came true this week with the cancellation of The Bill Watters Show on AM640 in Toronto. Watters's three-hour afternoon slot is going to be filed by talk-show host Arlene Bynon, as AM 640 fully adopts the news talk format.

It marks the end of seven years with Watters hosting a sports show on the station. Watters will continue to appear on the station on Leafs Breakfast, after the team's games and he will also joining the pregame show for the coming season.

"A majority of our listeners have wanted a drive show that is more consistent with the other day-parts - where we have seen substantial growth - and we've heard them," AM 640 senior program director Gord Harris told Usual Suspects in an e-mail. "The Leafs, however, are still a key part of our programming, and we'll be discussing Leaf-related issues, and breaking Leaf-related stories as they happen on all shows - as warranted.

Watters tells Usual Suspects that he's naturally disappointed, but "I move on. I'm under employment of Corus Radio till my contract runs out. I understood what my employers were doing. We did best we could. When you've done it as long as I had, with no professional training, it becomes a part of you. Part of my success was that I was myself. I have no regrets with that."

Watters had previously been a major hockey agent and assistant general manager of the Maple Leafs before going to AM 640 when it obtained the radio rights to the team. He hosted the two-hour Leafs Lunch (which peaked as high as 7.5 in the ratings) before taking on his old broadcast partner Bob McCown of Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590 in the highly competitive afternoon drive slot.

While Watters made a few inroads, it was not enough to convince Corus to stay the course for the final year of the contract with the Maple Leafs.

"It's a juggernaut at the FAN," says Watters. "And we tried to snip away at Bob's numbers. Some fans just won't turn the dial. Turn on FAN you have a rating of at least 3 and then Bob builds on that. Every listener you get has to leave Bob, and he gives no reason to leave him. They have to beat themselves."

Which begs the question of where the rights will go next if Corus (as expected) decides to get out of the action after this contract. The team did Corus few favours, not getting into the playoffs since the 2004-'05 lockout. But it's expected that the feud between TSN Radio and The Fan 590 will drive the payments higher. The only question for the Leafs is do they make the sale now or wait until spring and hope that the club is getting a playoff spot? Interesting gamble.

Fowler Twitter: Not only is 22-year-old Rickie Fowler on the precipice of becoming a star on the PGA Tour (he finished a strong fourth place in terrible conditions at the Open Championship in England last weekend), but he's also one of the stars of the Tour's social networking. Best known for his garish Puma golf threads, he's a regular tweeter about life on the PGA Tour.

Fowler talked about leveraging social media on Tour while winning the RBC/Westjet Putting Challenge in downtown Vancouver Tuesday. "I see it as a way to let his fans get a direct contact with me. It's giving fans an inside look at what they're not going to see or get directly about me. Updates on my life, how I'm playing. Instead of reading a magazine article they can find out all the little things they enjoy."

Fowler's part of small coterie of media pals/ fellow golfers. For instance, JustinRose99 chronicled Fowler's progress Tuesday, "Check out a video with me and Rickie Fowler about life on the road. Go to http://www.zurichna.com/zna/zurichgolf/helppointforyourgame.htm" Along with friends Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane he's also a member of Golf Boys, which has a YouTube video of their music.

"Bubba Watson and I spend a lot of time together. We poke back and forth to each other all the time on Twitter. Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan... the four of us have got our own little band that we talk about ("Nothing serious") and post videos. Ian Poulter, McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, the guys who are on Twitter on a daily basis, they're all good guys, fun to be around."

Unlike some of the more spontaneous athletes who do "stream of consciousness", Fowler measures out his words. "I usually try to do my editing before I post," he laughs. "Sometimes people take it the wrong way. It's not easy to put sarcasm on there. You're always going to have haters and people rip on me a bit. That just how it goes."

Fowler says Pouter and Stewart Cink are the golf Twitter heavyweights. "Poulter's good on what he's doing. I like to read Andres Gonzalez, he's from Washington, a rookie this year. He's under the radar on Twitter so far. Kip Henley is a caddy ("My job is to wash a guys balls and carry stuff."), his tweets are more controversial so you want to make sure his followers are of a certain age group."

Asked what he's tweeting about Vancouver, Fowler smiles, "It would be a great place to get my first Tour win."

Daly Bread: Then there's PGA_JohnDaly's take on Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf Club. "definitely an unbelievable, awesome golf course & love it ---1 thing I would change is the name to: Shaughnetrees!"

 

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