So, here it is, the first edition of the High Profile Sports Media Blog, covering the Canadian sports media landscape. This blog was inspired by the interesting work of Sports Illustrated’s media writer, Richard Deitsch, Brian Stelter’s exhaustive Reliable Sources newsletter for CNN, and the deep dives done by Mike Boon on his great podcast, Toronto Mike’d ¹. Some weeks there may be one story here, some weeks there may be ten. This week there are a few to get the conversation going. Some stories might make you laugh, and some might make you cry. I hope you’ll find them all interesting. Ultimately, my main goal is to inform, and entertain.
This blog will at times include footnotes, to further clarify a comment, mood, etc. I will also use full disclosure where warranted. The blog will also include hashtags at the very top each week. Think of them as a 2017 version of a Table of Contents.
Now, here’s a little background on me – I started as a radio intern in 1993 at what was then The Fan 1430 in Toronto. I was hired as a full time show producer around the time The Fan switched frequencies, and moved down the AM dial to 590, where it lives today. I booked guests for shows hosted by Norm Rumack, Mike Hogan, Gord Stellick, Steve Simmons, and many, many others. I even subbed in a few times as producer of Prime Time Sports, hosted by the one and only, Bob McCown. In late 1997 I left The Fan and joined a fledgling new TV show at TSN called Off The Record with Michael Landsberg. I booked the show’s guests, and eventually became the producer. In 2011, I jumped back over to radio and took on the job as Senior Producer at TSN 1050 in Toronto, just in time for the station launch. I produced the original version of The Bryan Hayes Show, and discovered The O’Dog, Jeff O’Neill. I even travelled all the way to Russia, to produce the radio broadcasts for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship. My wife is still mad at me for being away that year for Christmas and New Year’s. I now run my own digital media company, called High Profile Talent. I create and produce podcasts. But, enough about me…
This blog will evolve for sure. It’s a little idea that I hope will grow, be well read, and well respected. I will, no doubt, tackle some controversial stories, but I will always attempt to do so in a fair, balanced, and accurate way. My goal always will be to attempt to speak directly to the newsmakers, and the decision makers, and then report my findings here.
If you have thoughts, comments, questions, or story ideas, please weigh in. You can always leave a comment here, or email me at Todd@highprofiletalent.com
And, off we go…
#gregbrady #fan590 #jeffoneill #tsn #danshulman #mikewilner #johngibbons #bluejays #richarddeitsch #jamesandrewmiller #sportsillustrated #peterking #edwerder #espnlayoffs #thanksforcheckingouttheblog
The Fan 590’s morning show host, Greg Brady, has started a podcast called, Point Taken, with Sportsnet Connected host, Caroline Cameron. I recently caught up with Greg to talk about the new venture, potential guests and topics, and if podcasts have influenced talk radio.
Todd T. Hayes: How did this podcast idea come about?
Greg Brady: I pitched it very early, after getting back (with The Fan 590). To my, I wouldn’t say surprise, but excitement, there was already talk about doing something that was not, one sport specific. Sportsnet has those, and they are very good. There’s a good baseball podcast, there’s a good basketball podcast, but there wasn’t something that was a general sports podcast of where you went after big names, and you also talked about mainstream stuff. It could be pop culture, it could be politics, it could be other stuff. So, there were names that were filtered around, and Caroline Cameron had approached (Fan 590 Program Director) Dave Cadeau, and was interested in doing more than she was doing, to stretch out creatively, and get experience in doing something more free form than a television sportscast. I knew Caroline, and she knew me. We both went to Western (University in London, Ont.), so we thought it would be a perfect fit.
TTH: Will it be done weekly?
GB: Yes. We hope to record it early in the week, and hope to put it out on Wednesdays. There was some talk about doing it as a weekend thing, but the metrics of the habits for people who are downloading stuff off Sportsnet.ca, or off the 590 site, indicate that it’s still more of a Monday to Friday (habit). I feel like Canada is more of a Monday to Friday culture, maybe on the weekends people put their phones away, and they get out of their routines, they go do yard work, they’ve got things they gotta catch up on.
TTH: When will you be starting it?
GB: We’ll do (this week), have it set to go on Wednesday. We’ve got Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo as our first guest. One thing people have asked about, whether it’s a Toronto sports podcast or a national sports podcast. I would say it fleshes out as national a little bit more, but we want to talk about issues. I don’t think we’ll ever get to point where we talk about ‘Well, the Oliers got eliminated, what should they do next year?’ I think it’s more bigger stuff, like ‘What did the relevance of the Oilers mean across Canada for people, What did McDavid being in the playoffs for the first time mean for people’ as opposed to, ‘Who should they pair Klefbom with next year on the blue line?’ I don’t think we’ll get that X’s and O’s about it. I’m doing a regional radio show basically, and Caroline is doing a national sports television broadcast, so we’re going to try and blend those two worlds together a little bit.
TTH: And it won’t be just sports guests?
GB: Yeah, we’re going to aim for musicians who have a passing interest in sports. I do think we will be able to dive in on somebody musically, or acting-wise. The last couple of years there’s been this whole (debate), ‘Should a show stick to sports, or can they stray from it?’ I still lean towards the latter, but I also know that there has to be a good reason to. Here, I’m not sure that there does. If there’s a musician that I’ve always had an interest in interviewing, I’m going to pursue it. Peter Garrett is the lead singer of Midnight Oil, not everyone would know who he is, but I’ve always found him really interesting. I’ve interviewed him one time before, and I’d love to get another crack at it. So, it’s kind of those things you want to put out there, and hope that there’s some interest. We’ll get a sense really early on, and hopefully we’ll have enough self awareness that you can’t interview the bass player of an obscure band that nobody has ever heard of. But, if somebody is putting a band back together, or if it’s Ed Robertson, of Barenaked Ladies, you’ll hope people will say that’s enough of a person that I do what to hear what he might think about sports, or whether he ever wanted to be an athlete.
TTH: Has there been talk about (the podcast airing) on the station at all?
GB: A little. I think it might. They need to work length-wise so it doesn’t sound too heavily chopped up. But I do know they’ve taken some other podcasts, the Free Association podcast that JD Bunkis and Donovan Bennett do, they’ve ended up airing it at night. They’ve tried to make it so they can fit commercials in the middle of it. Yeah, so I can see (ours) being on in the evening or in an overnight period at some point in time. You can never tell though. It might just live on its own on the web, depending on how happy they are that people are consuming it.
TTH: Will there be ads, live reads in it? I assume there will be (a commercial) rolled off the top.
GB: Yes, it will have a roll off the top. There’s no monetization for it right now, but I do think, I’m not in on those discussions, I know ESPN has been successful at it, how does Sportsnet find a way to push these (podcasts) out there to clients, and say ‘These are the download numbers, these are the impressions these shows are making, would you like to buy one, would you like to buy five.’ But, I wonder if that’s not down the road. Right now it’s just do the show that works best for you, do the the topics that you want to do. They trust my instincts enough, and Caroline’s, to put together what interests us, and find a way to put the ads in. On the 590 website right now, you download the podcasts, the ads that you hear on the air, aren’t airing online. So I don’t know if there is a methodology down the line to change that up, and somehow include the ads. But, right now we’re all like this with ads, we tend to cycle through them, but the only way to make it inclusive is if the hosts are reading them. As of this point there hasn’t been a suggestion that we’ll be doing this anytime soon, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future.
TTH: Do you think podcasts have influenced talk radio at all?
GB: I don’t see a ton of influence yet on terrestrial radio, but it is in my head. I think my approach doing mornings has been different than it’s ever been, in that, you’re conscious as to how long a person might be listening, but you also don’t want to cut something off that is going really well, and yet you’re constricted by the timing of it, because someone’s going ‘I need the traffic, so get to it. I need to know what happened in the Oilers-Ducks game last night, so get to that. You haven’t mention that in twenty minutes.’ That’s what I notice a lot. I think podcasts are way more about entertainment, than they are about information. I still think there is an element of terrestrial radio that informs. It’s sort of how we view Twitter. If the numbers are accurate, 70-75% of people period, aren’t even on Twitter, and not using it as a newsfeed, then it really doesn’t matter what I tweet at night about an opinion about the Raptors backcourt. The first time anybody hears that opinion, is on the radio the next day. I think (podcasts vs radio) is an element where it’s two different forms of entertainment. I read magazines, and I read books. I’ll read an autobiography on a weekend, if I can, that’s 800 pages, and I don’t even realize over the course of a given day I’ll probably have read eleven or twelve different magazine articles. Some on sports, some on music, some on politics. So, I wouldn’t say I’m picking one or the other, or that I prefer one or the other. But, it’ll end up being, somebody will say ‘Well, when this show (that I like) goes to commercial, or when I feel like they’re getting redundant, or boring, I’m not going to flip to another similar show, I’m going to put on a podcast I downloaded before I left work.’ So, to me, (podcasts are) almost like a companion piece. It’s longer form. Some people are watching a twenty-two minute sitcom, some people are watching a two hour movie. I think it compliments the other in a weird sort of way.
*This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity
Re-Learning To Fly
Professional athletes fly thirty to forty times every season. There are short flights, long flights, and turbulent-filled flights through sleet, and snow, and rain. TSN Radio host, and TV analyst, Jeff O’Neill aka – The O’Dog – played twelve years in the NHL. That adds up to a lot of miles in the air. O’Neill experienced a serious panic attack on a flight home from a Mexican vacation during the offseason after his third NHL season. The panic attack scared O’Neill so much, that he developed a fear of flying, and suffered through it for the rest of his NHL career. “I couldn’t sleep the night before if I knew I had to fly,” O’Neill told me. “In the 3rd period you would be thinking about it.” He told me he would be thinking about the team’s post game flight while on the ice, in the middle of shifts. He sought help, even doing hypnosis therapy, but nothing helped. He flew very few times after he retired from playing. O’Neill’s fear of flying resulted in his missing out on lots of unique opportunities. “Mats Sundin once invited me to the south of France. He rented a yacht. But I couldn’t go because I didn’t like flying.” O’Neill was assigned by TSN to cover Game 5 of the recent Rangers-Senators 2nd round series in Ottawa. Usually he drives when he gets these types of assignments. He drove all the way to Florida in 2015 to cover the NHL Draft for TSN ². This time he decided to fly to Ottawa, along with his TSN colleagues. It would be his first flight in nearly four years. “I missed some fun (work) assignments because of not wanting to fly,” O’Neill said. “Going to places like the draft, I’d have to drive.” The flights to and from Ottawa, from Toronto were smooth. “It was rainy so I thought they’d be rocky, but they were both good. I got to sit beside (James) Duthie on the way there, and beside Dave Poulin on the way back, so obviously being with colleagues and friends made it a lot easier.” Why all of sudden did he have a willingness to face this fear? “I’m 41 years old,” O’Neill said. “There are so many things to see in life. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 55, and think, Oh My God. So, I’m not saying I’m flying to Europe next week, but in the future I hope to take my daughters places.”
Embrace the chaos
Dan Shulman is the voice of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, and frequent Blue Jays play caller on Sportsnet. Dan was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, via email, about the marathon 18 inning, six-hour long Yankees-Cubs game he called a couple of weeks ago.
Todd T. Hayes: Was that the longest baseball game you have ever called?
Dan Shulman: No, I called a 19 inning game last season between the Indians and the Blue Jays.
TTH: Are the producers working extra hard as the game moves into the 14-15th innings to help you guys with material to talk about?
DS: To a certain extent, yes. We revisit some of the storylines from earlier in the game, but some of the best stuff just happens organically, whether it’s funny things going on in the stands, or starting pitchers coming up to pinch-hit for relievers, etc. You just have to embrace the chaos.
TTH: How did it effect your post game travel plans?
DS: It just meant less sleep. I always fly out the morning after the game anyways, so it just meant I only got a few hours before heading to the airport the next morning.
Longtime Listener, First Time Caller
I loved hearing Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, a couple of weeks back, call into Blue Jays Talk, the Blue Jays post game show on The Fan’s radio network. Did the show’s host Mike Wilner know the manager would be calling in? “I knew nothing going in,” Mike told me. “If you hear it, you can hear ten seconds in that I just kind of laughed, and that’s when I realized it was him. But beyond that, there was nothing. It was a complete surprise to me.” The show was close to its usual commercial break time, but Wilner was told by the producer not to break. “I was told to take a call. Usually at that point, we’re up against the clock, and I need to break. The producer, Josh Goldberg, said no, no, no don’t take a break, take this call. I (said) we really need to break, and (Goldberg) insisted I take the call, and I did, and it was (Gibbons). He said it was John from Toronto, but after a few seconds I said no, it was John from The Bronx. I should have said John from West Texas. He’s been threatening for years to call the show. He will occasionally joke with me about the callers, like ‘What did they call you about today? What were they complaining about today?’ So, for years he’s been saying one day I’ll call. I had no reason to believe he would call that night.”
Fun stuff all the way the way around. And good job by the producers, and web team at Sportsnet for getting the audio of the call up on social media so quickly that night, complete with the actual video of Gibbons, in the Blue Jays clubhouse, with a phone up to his ear.
More on ESPN Layoffs
If you’re looking for a bit more understanding of the recent ESPN layoffs down in the US, check out a couple of Sports Illustrated podcasts. Peter King talked to longtime Dallas-based ESPN reporter Ed Werder. Werder was caught in cuts. Werder told King, that after he was in informed he was being let go, the network executive asked Werder if he would still like to cover the NFL Draft for the network. The draft was scheduled for the following night. Werder turned down the assignment. On SI’s excellent Media Podcast, hosted by Richard Deitsch, esteemed writer, and author James Andrew Miller pointed out that many of the people ESPN laid off were beat reporters. Widely read, and respected baseball reporter Jayson Stark, among them. Miller suggested that those reporters may have been easy targets because of the effects of social media. If sports fans get their general daily news via social media, through following numerous reporters on sites like Twitter, then perhaps ESPN could afford to let some of their reporters go. Sports fan will simply get general daily information through re-tweets and others sharing information. It’s an interesting take for sure. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on as more job cuts are made.
1) Full Disclosure – I have a handshake sales agreement with Toronto Mike. I pitch companies to buy advertising time for the podcasts I produce, and for the Toronto Mike’d podcast
2) Full Disclosure – I booked Jeff’s travel for his radio assignments while I was at TSN Radio