Happy New Year!

Putting together pieces for this blog is always an interesting experiment. Sometimes pieces work out almost exactly the way I originally envisioned them. And sometimes they don’t. I work really hard at getting them just right. So much of all this depends on who will talk to me. Will they talk? Will they talk to me on or off the record? How much will they share with me? I’ve been working on a big piece since last summer but I haven’t yet been able to connect with the story’s main protagonist, so it sits, unfinished and collecting dust, in my WordPress draft folder. I’ll revisit it this year. When I started to write the piece about Bob McCown and his negotiating skills, I originally just planned to talk to some of the Fan 590’s former program directors. I was hoping to get to all four of them. I didn’t know if they would talk, balking maybe because of the subject matter. Thankfully all four did talk to me. Around the same time, I reached out to McCown a couple of times through some mutual acquaintances. Crickets. I knew McCown doesn’t do many interviews so I just took it in stride and wrote the piece I planned to write. It was 98% done when one of my McCown connections texted me to tell me Bob would talk and that I should go ahead and text him. Bob and I chatted at length one night the following week. We talked for so long, and McCown was so honest and offered up so much good stuff, that I had to completely re-write the whole damn thing. I was ecstatic that he talked to me but I had given myself a hard deadline for this feature, so there were a few frustrating late nights re-tooling the nearly five thousand words. What made matters much worse was this all happened the week of my wife’s birthday, and messing up a very special yearly tradition of ours. She wasn’t happy…at all. But as always, she supported my decision to finish piece. Her birthday this year is going to be epic! I tell you all this because I was hoping to have a unique piece for you on the World Junior Hockey Championship, but for a few reasons, it just didn’t work out. We soldier on.

Jeff Marek + Elliotte Friedman

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I’m always looking for new ones to check out. One pod I’m looking forward to listening to in 2018 is 31 Thoughts: The Podcast hosted by Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. Marek told me it won’t just be a recap of Friedman’s weekly must-read 31 Thoughts blog. It’ll be much more than that. “The whole idea was to play off the content factory that is 31 Thoughts and use that as a jump off point for conversation,” Marek said. “I don’t think it’s going to be, ‘And now, what did you mean by Thought 12?’ (We’ll) address a couple of issues from 31 Thoughts and move on to the news of the day.”

Marek was co-hosting the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast for five years with Yahoo! Sports hockey writer Greg Wyshynski. When it was announced in October that Wyshynski was leaving Yahoo for ESPN, they had to end the podcast due to the ESPN/TSN relationship here in Canada. “This is gonna sound so bizzare,” Marek said. “I stayed away from pursuing a podcast for a while because, this sounds so weird, it felt like I went through a break up. I went through a work break up. It doesn’t feel right doing another podcast right away.” As silly that may sound, one thing to know about Marek is that he is an incredibly loyal guy. Ask his colleagues or friends and they’ll all tell you the same thing, when Marek says he’s “in” for something, he is all in. Rogers execs then brought the idea of pairing Marek and Friedman together to produce a new pod, and Marek jumped at it.

I always find it interesting when someone from one of the big rich media companies decides to do a podcast. We know podcasts aren’t real money makers yet, they are more of an exercise in branding at this stage of the game. But for us consumers, it doesn’t really matter. Good content is good content. We’ll take it. Whether it’s Tim & Sid, or Jay & Dan, James Duthie or Bob McKenzie, the consumer wins big when some main streamers dive into the podcast pool. The anytime, anywhere availability of podcasts is what has drawn Marek to the format. “We live in a on-demand world,” Marek said. “Appointment programming for live event sports I get, but for things like media, it’s really challenging. I’m not at the same place everyday at 3 o’clock to watch something. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it, but I’m just not there at that time since we’re all busy and focusing on the things that we have to do. Juggling families and juggling school, and juggling whatever you have to juggle can make it challenging. That’s why podcasts are so attractive to me.”

Marek also believes, as a result of so many quality podcasts, we’re living in a new golden age of audio. “Whether it’s Serial, whether it’s the Joe Rogan podcast, anything science related, politics related, sports related,” Marek said. “This really is a great time for spoken word and for ideas. It’s all happening on podcasts.”

Don’t expect 31 Thoughts: The Podcast to sound like a sports radio show. “There’s a different way you approach them and broadcast them,” Marek said. “Radio you’re broadcasting into a room, whether it’s into a car, whether it’s into a bedroom, whether it’s into a kitchen, you’re broadcasting into a room. Podcasts you’re broadcasting directly into someone’s ears and you have to be sensitive about that. The best podcasts understand that and broadcast accordingly. The best example of that is The Daily, The New York Times podcast. The first thing I do when I get up in the morning – I put on a pot of coffee and I listen to The Daily. From a structural point of view, the art of broadcasting point of view, it understands that you’re living directly in people’s ears and there’s that one to one conversation that you’re having with people. For me, that’s really attractive. The ability to listen to it whenever you want, take it wherever you want. ‘Hey, I can take it on a treadmill. I’m gonna take it on a drive. I’m going to take it on the train to work.'”

The first full episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast is released tomorrow. Sportsnet posted a teaser this past weekend. It sounds great.