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The Usual Suspects

On Toth, ratings and the new LBOH Add to ...

Sportscaster Mike Toth has been let go by Rogers Sportsnet. The Saskatchewan native - who earlier had worked at TSN - has been a featured host for Sportsnet's Connected newscasts, but lately had been spending more time doing radio with The FAN 590 (also owned by Rogers) and posting to Sportsnet.ca. A network spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the veteran sportscaster had not had his contract renewed this week but declined further comment.

Which is a tactical way of saying we'd rather not answer more questions about Toth's . . . ahem, on-air adventures with candour. This past summer, for instance, the 46-year-old opined on The FAN 590 in the wake of the incident involving ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews, "This is going to sound harsh, but be that as it may, here it comes: There are no female sportscasters that I can think of that have more knowledge than their male counterparts."

The comment unleashed a minor torrent about the suitability of female sports reporters and about Toth himself - never a shrinking violet. Toth eventually brought colleague Evanka Osmak on his radio show to balance the story, but continued to assert the superiority of male sportscasters. Toth was also suspended in 2007 by Sportsnet for a confrontation with a producer and some pointed on-air comments about the new direction of the network. Usual Suspects attempted to contact Toth for comment but had received no reply.

Pratt & Taylor Off The Tube: The televised version of TEAM 1040's afternoon show Pratt & Taylor, has gone off the air for good. The daily show on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific disappeared when the network began its MLB playoff action, and many fans were uncertain where the popular program went. The cancellation was confirmed on the air last week by the show's hosts. "It worked very well early on, and for quite a while to help us market and grow both the afternoon show and the radio station itself," program director Rob Gray tells Usual Suspects. "Fast forward to the present day and the dawn of the personal people meters (PPM) era, and we have gotten just about all that we could have out of the TV show."

Gray points out that P & T on TV had some logistical problems due to the Pacific time zone. Coming on while games have been going on for hours in the east presented issues if the show was repeated later. "Dave [Pratt]and Don [Taylor]do quite a bit of Canucks' and Lions' pre-game show material as part of their content - dropping in scores from Eastern games etc. Whereas Bob McCown's round-table type of format has a longer shelf life on TV - it doesn't matter too much if it is rebroadcast at midnight. Ours often sounded quite stale-dated on TV."

There were also issues with Rogers broadcasting a radio program produced by competitor CTV BellGlobemedia and other minor conflicts with the affiliation of talent when either host was on holidays. As well, sources tell Usual Suspects that once Sportsnet's promise-of-performance requirements for regional programming changed on Sept. 1, the need for the Pratt & Taylor content diminished as well. Still, Gray says, "down the road if the opportunity was right I wouldn't hesitate to work with them again."

The disappearance of Pratt & Taylor comes on the heels of changes to Sportsnet's other televised drive-time radio show, Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown. That show was briefly cancelled this month before being revived on Sportsnet's East network.

Industry insiders now are watching to see if Sportsnet (which as been paring its budgets of late) continues to produce Don Taylor's late-night sportscast on the Pacific region- the only highlight program done outside Toronto. The show is likely on through the February Olympics but questions remain about its survival in a challenging economy come next summer.

Ratings Rants: As predicted by the Usual Suspects swami, Hockey Night In Canada did great business Saturday night with its three early games including Toronto/Vancouver (2.036-million) followed by Edmonton/ Calgary (1.119-million). Actually, anyone could have seen the combination of Canadian matchups plus the new PPMs would hit a home run for CBC... Go figure. ESPN's Monday Night Football ratings are sliding. NBC's Football Night In America ratings are up on Sunday. This week's Arizona Cardinals/New York Giants game - opposite Game 6 of the Yankees/Angels ALCS - drew a 10.4 overnight rating on NBC, the lowest overnight rating of the season for Sunday Night Football on NBC. But it was still up 44 per cent from the same week last year. While Monday Night Football is up 20 per cent over last year, a succession of mediocre matchups has seen the numbers slide in recent weeks. With no baseball opposition this week MNF continued its three-week slide in the ratings.

No Extraordinary Joe: Our comments about Greg Zaun's excellent analysis on Sportsnet during the playoffs drew this comment from reader Scott Cameron about another baseball analyst. "So, one Sunday night a couple of years ago I'm watching the Twins play someone and Joe [Morgan]tells us that Justin Morneau 'likes the ball up and over the plate'. I'm thinking 'for crying out loud, we all do'. Sometimes I really feel sorry for [Morgan's partner]Jon Miller." Which prompted another favourite from Joltin' Joe: 'The key to hitting a baseball is making good contact'. Why hadn't we seen that? For more Morganisms, consult the archives at firejoemorgan.com.

Beek Keeper: Pat Verbeek would be proud. Dallas Cowboys beat reporter Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been labelled "The Little Ball of Hate" by fellow Star-Telegram scribe Randy Galloway. Galloway was looking to describe a writer who was as cuddly as a wolverine - the MO of Verbeek, the feisty forward who was as soothing as strychnine during his NHL career. While some Texans were taken aback, Engel took the good-natured moniker as a compliment. She'd covered Verbeek in her days as beat reporter for the Dallas Stars. LBOH is now her nom de plume. But she still trails the real LBOH by 2,905 career penalty minutes.

Foot In Mouth: Oh, that Bob Griese, the veteran ABC/ESPNfootball guy. He knows how to make embattled ESPN feel worse. First he's popping gems about how he's rather a player have his "bell rung" instead of hurting a knee. In his latest oops moment, the Hall of Fame NFL QB drew a one-week suspension from the World Wide Leader for comments about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. While flogging an upcoming broadcast of a NASCAR race, ABC showed the top five drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. Griese's partner Chris Spielman asked about Montoya's whereabouts, and Griese The Entertainer giggled, "He's out having a taco''. Griese tried to make amends later: "Juan Pablo Montoya, he's one of the best drivers in NASCAR,'' he said. "Just want to apologize for the comment I made earlier in the ballgame.'' Sorry, Bob. A day late and a dollar short. See you in two weeks when ABC assigns you the Weber State/ Slippery Rock game.

dowbboy@shaw.ca/ brucedowbiggin.com

 

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