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I was scrolling through Twitter Thursday night, and read a post by Jonah Sigel at Toronto Sports Media. It read that multiple sources were telling him TSN 1050’s morning show host Dave Naylor was leaving the show he hosts with Michael Landsberg, to focus on his TSN TV duties. I looked into it Friday morning and was able to confirm that, indeed, Naylor was leaving the show to go back to the TV side at the network. So, here’s what’s happening – Naylor’s last show is Monday morning, and the station will immediately start looking for a co-host to work with Landsberg. It will be interesting to see who they settle on. Pairings with great chemistry are critical in sports radio, yet very few have it. It’s incredibly hard to find.

Speaking of sports radio morning show hosts, I talked to James Cybulski on Monday, hours after he finished his first full show as host of the new Vancouver sports radio station, Sportsnet 650. Cybulski is no stranger to being part of a brand new sports radio station. He was the 4-7pm host at TSN 1050 in Toronto when that station first went to air in 2011. We talked about what he learned from his time at TSN 1050, pre-show nerves, and his new Sportsnet 650 colleague, Andrew Walker. Our conversation is below.

Todd T. Hayes: What was your Monday morning like?

James Cybulski: Going to be bed the night before, I felt very calm. All of a sudden, when you climb into bed, and you go to close your eyes, next thing you know, your mind’s racing a million different ways, going, ‘Is this gonna be all right?’ or, ‘Should we try this?’ – just almost overthinking and trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to radio. It’s funny, I just (went in Monday morning) to just sit down and talk, and just know what you want to talk about. I think having been there once before, and having a better expectation, and going in eyes wide open – there was just a real sense of calm. And, a real sense, from a management stand point, that they get it. They recognize that this is going to take a while. This is not going to be built overnight. It’s not going to be a ratings winner in the first two weeks, or first three weeks, or first three months, for that matter. This is going to be a build. So (Monday morning) was just trying to take it as fun, have a good show, but knowing full well there are still four more days left in the week, and still a lot of days left in the calendar year. One day does not make a career, and in fact, one day does not make a week. A long way to go, but it was a great start, from a mindset standpoint, it just felt like a nice calm. It felt easy on a lot of levels.

TTH: What did you learn from your TSN 1050 days?

JC: What I learned, was probably, not to over think things. I tried at times so hard to be different. And to be different from what the norm was. Going head to head in the afternoon with Bob McCown, and for me, I felt I was trying so hard to be the opposite of Bob. I was probably taking myself out of the mix sometimes. I think learning to trust my instincts. I think there was probably some insecurities on my part, on what I wanted to do, what I wanted to talk about. I think, in this case, sometimes the old K.I.S.S. theory works really well – Keep It Simple Stupid. Honestly, this time around, there is a way more sense of calm, and knowing what I want to talk about, and speaking passionately about what I want to talk about, as opposed to coming to the table with twenty different stories, and what do I really want to talk about? I think having a better sense of that now, it feels way different. That’s what I probably learned best. I learned not to overthink things, and just speak passionately about what I want to talk about.

TTH: You’ve lived in both Toronto and Vancouver. What are the biggest differences between Vancouver sports radio and Toronto sports radio?

JC: I think it’s the expectation of what the norm is. I think the expectation in Toronto, the winning formula for so long was always what Bob McCown has done. There’s a pace, a style, and that has been a winning formula for that show and format for a lot of listeners, and for (sports media) industry people as well. That is the expectation on how things should be done. Bob has done a phenomenal job at that. I think any of us would kill to have a career like his. Not everybody can pull that off. In Vancouver, the expectation is the emphasis is on local-local-local. Almost hyper-local. I think in any market people want to hear what’s happening with respect to the home team, but a big story is a big story. If you’re a sports fan, you’re listening to sports radio station because you’re a big sports fan, and you probably want to hear what’s happening with big sports stories. For example, in Vancouver, sure you want to hear what’s happening with the Canucks, but I think you also want to know what’s happening with Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension. Or what’s going on in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick protest, and why he can’t get signed. Conversely, I think that’s an expectation in Toronto, or any other market, for that matter. I think you lead local. I think that’s an old, simple basic industry formula, but I think people want to hear big stories as well. Sometimes both markets are guilty of it, although I think it’s easier in Toronto to talk more national stories. In Toronto, what is deemed to be a national story in the west, is generally code for ‘Oh, it’s a Toronto story.’

TTH: Have you talked to Andrew Walker about the differences in the cities?

JC: We haven’t had a chance to talk a whole lot about things, but I think he’s had a bit of a baptism of fire, and I think quite unfairly. Andrew is a phenomenal talent. I’m amazed at just how poised he is on the air for a guy who is still so young, but so experienced. I think Andrew is going to be dominating in this market. I think people are going to love what he has to say, and his perspective. You may not agree with him, but he is going to bring a fresh perspective. He’s honest. He’s pretty transparent in his opinions. You may not agree with them, you may not like them, but you’re going to listen. He creates that. I think, unfairly, people have been painting him as this ‘Toronto broadcaster who’s coming in.’ There were industry people who were criticizing him. They were pulling up tweets of his from six years ago. Six years ago when he was trolling on the Canucks. Nobody was cheering for the Canucks outside of Vancouver during their Cup run. With players like Max Lapierre, and Alex Burrows, and Ryan Kesler, the Canucks were one of the most polarizing teams, and unlikeable teams in the National Hockey League in those days. Andrew Walker wasn’t the only one who was throwing shade on the Canucks in those days. People unfairly painted him as this guy who hated the market. The guy chose to move here, and live here. The guy was the mid-day show host for the biggest sports radio station in the country. People were basically saying ‘Why is this guy coming here? He doesn’t like it.’ Well, the guy grew up in Western Canada, he’s talented, and wants to live here. So, give him the opportunity. Sometimes there’s this perception that you gotta hire local, you gotta hire someone who’s from the market. You know what? Sometimes talent wins out. I’d rather have the most talented individual. Doesn’t that sound a bit like discrimination? ‘I’m not going to hire you because you’re not from here.’ If you were to say that…if you used that in referring to another country, well that would probably be seen as racism. So, why is it ok if you’re not from a certain community? If you’re not from a certain community, you’re not accepted? It’s 2017. It’s time to get past this sort of stuff.

TTH: Lastly, just about the industry, how topsy-turvy it is these days. Do you consider yourself an industry survivor?

JC: Well, I don’t necessarily think of myself as that old, but I think I’ve certainly run the gamut. I don’t know if I’ve run out of places to work after this, so I better not screw it up. I say (that) tongue in cheek. What’s interesting, whether it’s an industry survivor or not, when I came out to Vancouver four years ago, the market quickly changed in a real volatile way, and not for the better at the time. There were cuts coming left, right, and centre, from every broadcast communications giant. We see it with newspapers. We’ve seen it in television. We’ve seen it in radio. There are a lot of really, really good people that got sidelined, one after the other. I watched the Sportsnet television side from the west coast Pacific bureau standpoint, basically erode after a year. A couple years later they shut down broadcast operations on the west coast completely in the Spring of 2016. At the same time, I think you’re starting to see the pendulum swing back the other way, where there’s investment. I think it’s a bit of a reset button, from an industry standpoint. The days of the over the top, obnoxious salaries, where people were finding these huge contracts, I think those, outside of a very, very select few (who) will find those contracts, the rest will almost kind of be…it’s almost like in a salary cap world in sports. Nowadays, you’re going to see veterans signing league minimums. I think there are still salaries where it beats working for a living, but I think the days of the over the top, massive contracts the local 6 o’clock anchor would’ve signed…you don’t need to pay people like that anymore. Executives at the top are starting to see that.

Author: High Profile Sports Media

I'm Todd T. Hayes, the former producer of one of Canada's longest running, and most popular sports television talkshows - Off The Record with Michael Landsberg. In 2011, I helped launch TSN's Toronto based all sports radio station, TSN 1050. Before joining TSN in the late 90s, I spent four-and-half years producing talkshows at The Fan 590 in Toronto.

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