I drive a car they don’t make anymore, a 2006 SAAB 93 Aero Turbo. That’s me who just whizzed past you on the 410.
A few weeks ago I investigated what looked like a tiny earphone jack buried in the armrest compartment, next to an oddly-placed second cigarette lighter/power source. I plugged a two-headed cord into said hole, the other being attached to my mobile phone. Voila — unlike AM radio, the Internet blared crisply out of my car’s audio system speakers. I had jumped into the 21st century.
Ever since, when I have a long drive ahead to the cottage or where ever, I listen to podcasts — Conan Needs a Friend in particular. The drive flies by, especially with Martin Short, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey or Jeff Goldblum riding shotgun.
It’s made me want to ramp up plans to launch my own podcast. This typing for a living thing is getting old.
It’s also helped me kick a decades-log habit — listening to Bob McCown on AM Radio 590 The Fan.
After today, Friday, it is no longer even an option. McCown himself confirmed on Twitter the rumour de jour that he and Rogers were parting ways after 30 years.
The timing is interesting. Rogers/Sportsnet and McCown’s show Prime Time Sports all just rode the wave known as The Raptors into advertising riches. A peek at the overnight TV ratings one week later, however, shows those four-five, seven million a night TV ratings are already well in the rear view mirror. Blue Jays Central drew 77,000 in overnight estimates Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET, swelling to 293,000 for a Jays game right after. The party, folks, is over and, truth be told, at the house mortgaged for those $5.2 billion NHL rights, they were already watering the drinks.
I will, however, unplug my phone cord Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. for one last listen to McCown at the Prime Time mike. With him, to be sure, will be many of the expert, entertaining, industry leaders he connects with on a regular basis. His brand is still gold among players, coaches, GM’s, owners, beat reporters and commentators, pundits and listeners.
His Christmas shows where he would call Gretzky and Orr and virtually every big name in sports as they were about to carve the turkey and bone the ham were very, very unique glimpses beyond the sports pages.
I was on his show once, many, many years ago, back when I worked at TV Guide at 50 Holly Street, right next door to Telemedia’s radio property, The Fan 1430 (later 590). You could follow the cigarette fumes to McCown’s studio. I guess I was there to talk sports TV ratings (and, again, I was right next door — plus I played hockey with half the staff over there). McCown did not seem to have much interest in me and even less about TV Guide or network television in general, despite his own pioneering days as a Global Sportsline anchor. Still, he was polite and professional and it was a kick to be in his nicotine-stained lair.
Back in the day, I loved listening to him try to drag former Toronto Sun scribe Jim “Shakey” Hunt back to current day topics when Prime Time Sports was new. Hunt would take the set up, pause and say, “However, that was nothing compared to the foggiest Grey Cup game of them all,” or some such ancient nugget. For the 26th time.
It was also insightful anytime he had on a coach, manager or fellow sportscaster who had just been fired. It was like being at the bar before the drinks were served. Those are the times when people are most vulnerable, and McCown knew how to stickhandle straight to the truth.
There was a great exchange several years ago with the late Argo coach Leo Cahill –an icon of the Toronto sports scene in ’70s — who was disparaged on more than one occasion by McCown. Leo was not in a forgiving mood and ripped into McCown live, on air, and it was the best radio ever.
Another highlight for me was anytime Herbert Randolph “Bert” Sugar was on. It didn’t matter if the Ring magazine correspondent really was ringside at all the classic Muhammad Ali heavyweight matches he claimed to be at; he always brought you there anyway.
Fun too, in more recent years, listening to McCown run his own bosses through the grinder, a media treat which is unheard of these days. Keith Pelley and Scott Moore would do his show and try to kid hard right back. This was that golden time when the Rogers’ twins were the new kids with the new train set, right before train sets and media ad revenues went the way of all newspapers.
If he was starting to sound a little like another dad yelling “get off my lawn” on the radio, so what — it worked for this dad (although, not so much for this dad’s son. See “podcasts,” above). He still was into it, however, even that first hour when he would take calls from the great unwashed. A good premise from a complete stranger sent him into a place of original, informed thought, and that’s what we all strive to hear .
It was even fun listening when he didn’t appear to get along that well with his co-host of the moment. McCown had a way of treating those folks like “temps.” I don’t think his cantankerous approach was that much of an act, and if you understood that, I think, you got him as a co-worker as well as a listener.
Recent regular Richard Deitsch added energy and expertise; Stephen Brunt used to, but you could tell those tire tracks up his back had taken some of the fun out of the gig. I’m not sure and have no inside information as to what Rogers plans to do long term in that drive home slot, but morning man (and frequent sub) Jeff Blair is apparently on deck for now.
McCown, who used to live and do his show from Vegas, had to know his number was up. He rolled a lot of 7’s, and made more money than most Canadian TV and film stars. There’s speculation he isn’t done talking, and hinted as much on twitter Thursday. If there’s a podcast in his future, I’ve got my double-headed phone jack all ready.