Total Pageviews

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A NEW SEASON BEGINS SOON....

Image result for niagara ice dogs logo
Finally it appears that the exhibition season in the OHL is drawing to a close and the real games can begin.  I understand the need for exhibition season and training camp.  You want to get your team prepared for the season, assess your talent and start to ingrain the athletes that you have in the team concept.  It can however drag on a little bit.  Coaches have a pretty good idea of how they want to shape their roster, so someone really has to stand out in order to make the surprising jump to the squad.   

The IceDogs did the write thing by doing a mini barnstorming tour for their exhibition season and played in regional places like Thorald and Beamsville.   Hey, the new building has 5300 tickets to move! Getting out in the region likely sold a few more ducats.    Last nights game versus Windsor was a spirited tilt in which the final score means very little in the final equation (Windsor won 5-4 in a SO by the way).   Late in the third period, three separate fights broke out.  Twitter immediately responded , though I wonder if these following two tweeters were at the same game:  

Niagara IceDogs Twitter Feed: 16:15: It's getting a little wild now. Three scraps at once. Pandemonium.

St. Catharines Standard Twitter Feed: Stupid time. 3 fights break out at once. Nonsense. Quickly cleared up.

One sounds like legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross, and the second one sounds like an old guy who sits grumpily on his front porch yelling at birds!

The IceDog fans showed they ability to do their opposition team homework as reports indicate there were a smattering of boos for Logan Brown, the hulking forward who chose not to report to Niagara and got shipped off to Windsor.  He won't get the Lucas Lessio treatment by Niagara Fans.  Remember when the agitating forward also did not report and then flipped off the fans late in a playoff game?  Now, those were good times!

The IceDogs have the luxury of a strong returning corps, so there are not that many spots available.  Remember this is a team that took the OHL finalists to seven games last year and had them down 1-0 heading into the third period of game seven before losing 2-1.  Expectations and hopes are rightfully high.  Combine that with the Meridian Centre opening, IceDog fans can expect some fine entertainment this year. 


We at TV Cogeco are anxiously awaiting the new season and how the new arena will look on camera.  Some buildings like Kitchener, Windsor and Oshawa look great on camera and in HD, while others like Mississauga, London look a little darker and not as TV friendly.  One thing that we can announce is that on Saturday night games, you can expect expanded coverage in the form of a half hour pregame show called End 2 End Rush.  Ed, Al, and I are will preview not only the game, but what is going on around the league.  You can expect something a little different from the norm, as we are all excited to share our knowledge, personality and expertise.   Personally I wanted to call the show either "Locker Room Towel Snapping" or "Puck Bunnies".   On a side note, does anyone have the need for a custom fitting bunny suit?  I only wore it on weekends, honest!


We will present a special Thursday night Edition on Thursday October 16th, the night the IceDogs open up the Meridian Centre for hockey with a game against Belleville.

FINALLY..
Sportsnet360 did a fine profile on former Erie Otter/Maple Leaf hopeful Connor Brown. Brown, the former captain of the Otters was drafted a couple of years back by the Leafs despite an albatross-like -72.  Of course with the advent of analytics, that number has been dissected, trisected and analyzed six ways from Sunday.  Note the soothing OHL voices that you hear when they show some of Brown's highlights.  See I told you that Ed and I would be on Sportsnet someday! 





Until Next Time!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Broadcast Shuffle

Image result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logoImage result for Rogers hockey logo
Dangling on the periphery of the sports media business, I have a healthy interest in the comings and goings of sports broadcasters.   Broadcasters, for the most part, are not that dissimilar than players in regards to their goals and dreams.  They want to get to the NHL as much as the players do.   This off-season was one of the more fascinating ones in terms of the amount of movement of hosts, play by play broadcasters, and analysts.  Of course a large part of this was the gigantic 12 year deal that Rogers signed with the NHL for national broadcast rights.  Make no mistake about it, Rogers has a sizable task ahead of them.  They have pledged to deliver games nationally across multiple platforms like no other broadcaster before.  Plus they have the regional rights to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, and part of Toronto's schedule.   

With that in mind, Rogers wanted to recruit the best talent available from a pool of on-air personalities largely derived from TSN, CBC and its own existing talent.   TSN fired the first salvo locking up much of its elite talent.  Gord Miller, Chris Cuthbert, Bob MacKenzie and James Duthie stayed with TSN and there was little doubt that had the aforementioned been available, they would have been coveted.  From there Rogers built up a strong on-air team.  Without going into too much detail (you can find all the personalities in this release:  HERE , Here is a list of main shuffling of talent with the odd commentary:  

Play by Play
While Jim Hughson and Bob Cole were given for Rogers, Dave Randorf and Paul Romanuk were somewhat surprising.   Randorf was the biggest talent to migrate over from TSN where he hosted the CFL on TSN and called Canadiens regional games as well as other World Tournaments.   To me Randorf works better as a host than a play by play guy, and I think he is a very good play by play commentator.   He is an outstanding host who controls the CFL Panel, while letting their personalities shine.   Romanuk is repatriated after several years in England where he dabbled in broadcasting covering hockey in England, calling the Spengler Cup every Christmas as well as penning a couple of books.   He used to be TSN's main broadcaster for the NHL and the World Juniors.  Credit to him for staying relevant after an absence of several years. He will call national games, as well as Leaf regional games.  That last move bumped Joe Bowen to radio only for the Buds, a move that drew something of a mixed reaction.  Many have a strong allegiance to the affable broadcaster, while others are not fans.   Joe Bowen in any medium is a good thing for Leaf fans.  He is close to reaching an iconic status reserved for the likes of Bob Cole, and Peter Maher 

Other regional changes included Rick Ball moving from Vancouver radio and Hockey Night in Canada over to Sportsnet where he will call Calgary regional games.  He is a very good get for Rogers as he has had national exposure and could slide into a spot vacated by Bob Cole, if and when he retires and would it surprise anyone to see the venerable broadcaster behind the mic for a few more years yet!?

Colour Analysts/Hosts/Reporters
Craig Simpson was a given for Rogers, given his long association with Jim Hughson. Glenn Healey whose style is not for some hockey fans also comes over.  I enjoy Healey's style and broadcasting but wish he would incorporate more of his dry sense of humour into his analysis.  Others flat out dislike the guy for some reason.    Gary Galley also was no surprise as he has been paired up with Bob Cole a lot in the past . Cole calls the game the old fashioned way.  When the play is on, the microphone is his, but when the whistle blows he defers to his analysts.   Galley, in particular has adapted well to Cole's style.   Mike Johnson, who seemed to show great promise with TSN last year as a colour analyst and panellist moves over to Rogers, likely in a similar role, though lots more panel work is apparently in his future.   Millen will call Leaf regional games with Romanuk. Kelly Hrudey, who moved upstairs to analyze games will take the regional colour spot alongside Rick Ball while Drew Remenda, late of the San Jose Sharks broadcast team, will occupy the regional colour spot in  Edmonton.  On the host side, much of the team was unveiled as the "Dream Team" but then Rogers added Leah Hextall, who was with NESN.  One wonders if she will carry over the combative nature that is symbolic of much of the Hextall clan. 

Loose Ends:
There were a few other moves that I may have failed to mention but those were the ones mentioned.  A few omissions from the Rogers team were Dean Brown , who likely goes to radio only for Ottawa, as TSN has their regional games.  Andi Petrillo is still with CBC, but with the Women's World Cup, the Pan Am Games and the Olympics in the next couple of years, she will be very busy.  Kevin Weekes was not listed among the Rogers talent, and I know he works with the NHL Network, but I'm not sure if that will be his full-time gig.  The only openings I can see are with newly signed Montreal regional deals and with Vancouver radio with the departure of Rick Ball.

On The Radio Side
I will be very interested in seeing how both The Fan 590 and TSN 1050 approach coverage this fall and winter.  Will The Fan go all in on hockey and use its station as essentially a marketing tool for its NHL package?  Will it continue to balance the coverage?   Jeff Blair favours baseball and soccer over hockey and Tim and Sid tend to bounce around a lot, but they do seem to focus more on football, basketball and games shows that are hit and miss!  That definitely could change.  Personally, the national package will sell itself.  People love their hockey and despite some of the grumbling you read about a monopoly on hockey by Rogers, they will migrate over and watch the games, especially if Rogers makes good on their goal of delivering unique coverage of the game.   TSN, I expect will stay the course, with perhaps more of a focus on their regional coverage by their resident experts Bob McKenzie and James Duthie.   

Enough movement for you?  Its been a while since we've seen a talent shift of this performance, and it was actually a little less than expected as TSN stopped any talent raid in its tracks with its signing of key personalities.    All eyes will be on Rogers as they have 1000 games to cover, over 500 on a national level, and multiple platforms to deliver to the consumer.   They have a whopping 39 people on their on-air roster when you count all the broadcasters.  The numbers suggest wall to wall coverage.  The placement of that talent will be something to watch.  Do Nick Kyreos and Doug MacLean get the main Saturday night games?   What about PJ Stock?    Darren Pang?  All questions to be answered come October..Stay tuned!

Steve Clark
TV Broadcaster Niagara IceDogs now in his 8th year.  Last year covered the Hamilton Bulldogs on TV as their play by play announcer. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

OUA/CIS Need to Raise Their Media Profile

Image result for sportsnet logoImage result for oua logo
It was reported late last week and in the most of innocuous of fashions that Sportsnet was going to significantly reduce their commitment to university sports just one year after unveiling their SportsnetU/University Rush line up.  Gone are the weekly OUA football games and other non championship games.  The spin is that Sportsnet is continuing their commitment to our unviersity athletes but only at the national level.  Only the Mitchell and Uteck Bowls and the Vanier Cup will be covered in football while basketball and volleyball will get only their CIS Championships covered.   A couple of things need to be clear here:

1. CIS sports is a very undervalued product.  Many CIS athletes will compete beyond their university days. There are many CIS pro's playing CFL football and even the odd NFL one.  Basketball players are making their mark in professional leagues overseas.   Countless others dot the landscape playing pro soccer , Team Canada Rugby..  The list can go on and on

2. The CIS also draws very low numbers from a TV perspective and in TV land the number of eyeballs pays the freights.  As the OUA ponied up a fair amount of cash to ensure football got on the air on The Score/Sportsnet, you can imagine advertisers are not exactly flocking to the product.

So there appears to be a disconnect between the quality of athletic competition and the viewership.  Why is this?   Well, as much as I hate to disappoint the plethora of loyal OUA/CIS followers, nothing has really changed since the 1990's, when I started to closely follow university sport.  It has never found a consistent niche in the Canadian sports broadcasting landscape.

My own involvement in university sport started in the early 90's at the campus radio station at McMaster University.   We covered mens' and women's basketball, football, even soccer and had a varsity themed show called The Midday Marauder Report created and hosted by myself and Ken Phillips, a guy who went from knowing nothing about women's basketball to being one of its most passionate advocated.  Heck, he even married a basketball player!  Two other guys, Paul Johnson, now working a high profile job with the City of Hamilton and Steve Yull,  a Hamilton elementary school principal were the other two who were pretty passionate about university athletics.  Together we traversed all Ontario and Canada for zero compensation except the odd plane flight and hotel room and covered the Marauders in Thunder Bay, Windsor, Halifax and later on I continued on and added New Brunswick and Newfoundland to the old travel docket.

 Before we start firing up nostalgia music from The Wonder Years, these were good days in university sport.  There was a consistent presence on TV in the form of the OUA/A Game of the Week on CHCH Channel 11 covered by a crew featuring Paul Hendrick, now with Leafs TV and Ken Welch.  Later on TSN Radio's Mike Hogan and Rogers Reporter Elliote Friedman would serve as play by play broadcasters.  TSN would pick up the coverage for the Vanier Cup and The Final 8 Men's Basketball, with a young Gord Miller (I'll never forget Miller alone in a Halifax bar smoking a cigarette and hoping to pick up. I do not know if he did, but I'm pretty sure I went home alone).

While the numbers were not mind blowing in terms of viewership, they were steady and thanks to CHCH. Athletes in Ontario got a fairly consistent profile and viewers gained a familiarity with the stars of the league.  Then CHCH stopped covering and that consistency in coverage, that vital link to the national championships disappeared and with it went the profile of OUA Athletics.  There would be sizeable gap in coverage until The Score picked up University football and some basketball with Tim Micallef and later Simon Bennett, both solid reputable broadcast voices.  Adding colour commentators like Mike Morreale, a McMaster and Hamilton Tiger Cat star and legendary basketball coach Ken Murray added to the credibility. 

Ok, history lesson over.  What's going on now?   The same issues that plagued the OUA continue today.   There are a small army of passionate fans who believe that the OUA/CIS deserves a higher profile. Trust me, I get it.  I was one of those guys back in the day banging the drum for them to get better coverage. Realistically to build big, you have to start small.  To me the OUA is more of a regional property that could build a modest audience at the national level at national championship time.   Build in your region, and get support that way would be a logical place.  McMaster has it right.  They get football games covered on 900CHLM, a solid local news/talk station, and on Cable 14 TV.  Now that it is in HD the on-field product looks a lot better.  The aforementioned campus station, 93/3 CFMU-FM also does a nice job and they get reasonable newspaper coverage.  It's a shame that the local TV station CHCH is unwilling to commit the dollars to cover games on a Saturday but their mandate has drastically changed and live sports are not a part of it.

That said the OUA could do themselves a lot of favours by appealing to the TSN's and Sportsnet's to come out and cover their athletes and teams  and do stories on them.   Carleton men's basketball humbled an NCAA school by 32 points and it barely caused a ripple.  The Canadian women's rugby team that just lost in the final to England was filled with CIS athletes.  Were there stories done on them?  If you are not going to get live coverage then make sure your athletes and programs are going to be featured.  Make sure that you elbow your way into those Sportsnet Connected, TSN Sports Centre highlight shows.  

The OUA is also going to pump their streaming service OUA.TV as a means to cover events live, which is great.  That said they had better make sure that the technical difficulties are minimal and the on-air crew are taking their job seriously.  It is not easy covering live sports as an on-air personality.  It takes time and repetition to stay on top of the game.   Putting forth an amateur production will turn off even the most die hard of viewers.   Make sure you are getting veteran talent to oversee these productions to make sure that they are getting communicated in the most effective and most commercial way.  This admittedly will take time so try and be patient.  While I agree that streaming is going to be the way he view sports, a lot of people still like their traditional TV.  Building an audience will not happen overnight.

Informing your target audience is key as well.   The OUA did a fairly significant realignment of their basketball divisions and playoff format for the upcoming year.  Did you know?   I did, but it was not publicized.  Little things like that will draw a little attention to your product.  Make more of a big deal of it and make sure that it is explained clearly.  The release I saw about the division change was not really crystal clear in terms of where each team was playing.  The AHL (American Hockey League) did a very good job of presenting their realignment in clear chart form with each teams logo highlighted. It was released across multiple platforms.  That simple thing did a lot to highlight the changes that were forthcoming.

If you do get TV coverage, make sure your venue looks as TV friendly as possible.  Nothing turns off a viewer like patchy turf, empty stands and substandard lighting.   I know these things take resources, but work hard to create a TV friendly product.   Make sure the TV crew has ample knowledge and then some.  I've gone to venues and received a great statistics package.  Other venues only give you the game day program.   The universities SID should be working hard and bending over backwards to accommodate media.  Also, present TV friendly games and tournaments.  Now that we are not getting our clock cleaned by NCAA competition in basketball, how about covering those games either live or getting a reporter out there to cover the team.    Change the playoff format to accommodate TV.  Do it in a tournament style regional fashion over a weekend.  I know these are not exactly out of the box ideas, but they could be workable.  

The one thing the OUA and CIS cannot control is the dominance that some teams have in their respective sports.  Its no fun watching blowouts whether it is in hockey, basketball or soccer.  Right now a lot of Carleton men's basketball games, Windsor women's basketball games and Laval football games are over before the game is half over.    40 to 50 point differentials are no fun to broadcast .  Teams will try and rise up and match the dominant program, but that too will take time.   Kind of tough to build that audience you so crave if your team is kicking the other teams rear end or you support the team taking the beating.  

On the whole there is a market out there for university sport, but it is not on the same level of junior hockey in terms of popularity.  It's a niche market that needs to grow at the regional level before it truly things national.

Steve Clark
Steve covered varsity sports for a number of years, and managed to hit Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and most Ontario Universities.   There is no truth to the rumour that bar revenue went up significantly when he was in these places.  That is purely coincidental. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

THANKS BUT NO THANKS UNIFOR


It started innocently enough.  I put out a Tweet saying that I did not support Unifor's potential involvement in junior hockey.  Within minutes, I was in a rather lengthy social media discussion/argument with several people that lasted half an hour. 

Let me get this out of the way first:  I want nothing but the best for any CHL player no matter what direction their career may take them.   By the time a CHL player is finished their junior career they should have a running start on either their hockey career, or the next stage in life.   This is not about denying a junior hockey player resources and assets, but more about the approach. 

Now that is out of the way, utilizing the resources and power of Unifor, a powerful amalgamation of approximately 300 000 unionized employees is not the way to go.  In fact it can be argued that unionizing CHL players fundamentally changes the dynamics of each individual team, and not for the better.  Union attempts in the past have been downright laughable with several individuals with question intentions behind it.  Georges Larocques's reputation took quite a hit with is affiliation with the group in questions.  

Look, just about everyone acknowledges the fact that paying a junior hockey player either $50 a week, or $150 if you an overager is a tad meagre and very outdated.   In that spirit David Branch and the CHL quickly sought to rectify the situation and certainly made being a junior hockey player a little more lucrative.  Now players can claim expenses up to $470 a month, get $1000 in off-season training money and can wait 18 months after their overage year to access their university package which promises them one year of university for every year in the league.  It is far from perfect, but certainly demonstrated a willingness and commitment to players.  I'd shoot for 5 years to access the university package and add more cash for off-ice players.  That invests in the players, and makes them both better athletes and hopefully people.  

Now adding Unifor and the Ontario government (for the OHL) into the equation, does not just muddy the water, but it pollutes it. For Unifor to use terms like "exploitation" when it comes to players is a tad heavy handed for players who are given access to the best equipment, training and treatment for injuries while playing in the best developmental league in the world.   What is the agenda of both of these entities? Were they invited to the junior hockey party or are they strong arming their way in?  Are they truly invested in the player, or are just invested for publicity and financial motivation? I strongly suspect all of the above.  

For Unifor there is union membership for upwards of 1500 player, and the prestige of calling itself the representatives for future professional athletes.  That has a nice ring for a newly created union.   For the Ontario government unionizing junior hockey players likely has the residual effect of enforcing a minimum wage or student wage.  That means CPP, OPP , EI and taxable contributions.   The government will take that in a heartbeat!

If you want to pay a junior hockey player $9.60 an hour as a student minimum, and over $10 as a basic minimum wage, you likely put a lot of junior hockey teams at a large deficit, and probably a few more out of business completely.  In Ontario, I cannot see the likes of small/mid market teams like Sarnia, Owen Sound, Belleville, North Bay and even Kingston and Niagara being thrilled with this.  Not every junior team in Canada is London, Kitchener, Halifax, Saskatoon or Vancouver.   They work hard to provide affordable entertainment.  

Unionize junior hockey players and watch ticket prices soar, junior teams operate at a reduced budget, or shut down completely.  In short, the game and the method of doing business will radically change. If Unifor forces their way in what will result is a protracted legal battle to try and define student-athlete, and or employer/employee.  Great, so lets add the legal system and the lawyers who will benefit from this.   

I could come up with numbers, and statistics to back this up.  In fact Kitchener, one of the acknowledged "have" franchises provided a very basic analysis of their finances in order to demonstrate that they were not exactly printing money.  You can find it HERE

To me it is obvious.    

Thanks but no thanks for your interest Unifor, and while you are at it, take the provincial government with you. 

Steve Clark

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Very, Very Random Thoughts From the World of Sports/Non-Sports

Image result for Orange is the New Black images Image result for Toronto Maple Leaf logo
Talk about a lazy Tuesday.  Thoughts of household projects should be first and foremost on my mind, but instead I sit here and try to think up ways to delay the inevitable.  Who am I kidding?  I can be as de-motivated as anyone when it comes to physical labour, So.....with my best Steve Simmons like rapid changes of topics, here goes!

NOW THERE ARE THREE
There are two books that I always think of when it comes to chasing my sports broadcasting dreams:  Howard Stern's Private Parts and Mick Foley's Have a Nice Day.   While the two personalities could not be more different, there journey's are what inspires me.  Stern , for all his crassness and controversy, reinvented himself from a mediocre radio DJ to the self-proclaimed King of All Media by taking chances, shining the spotlight on his own personality and broke down many radio taboos.   Foley plied his trade never missing a wrestling date, sleeping in his own car and always giving more than the required 100% to reach his dream of being a star wrestler.  One thing from his journey always stood out. He rarely, if ever, missed a wrestling booking because you never know if it is going to be your big break.  I carry that with me every time I travel the highways to St Catharine's, Hamilton or any other gym,/arena where I'm broadcasting.   Now, I can add John Feinstein's Where Nobody Knows Your Name, a look at various people in AAA baseball. The book deals with players, managers, umpires and even broadcasters as they chase the big league dream.  Sad to say that the story that resonated with me the most was the one in which the guy did not achieve his dream.  Go figure!  Still, it was a wonderful, and very relateable read. 

OHL'ERS ACHIEVING THE DREAM
Players are not the focus this time, but its coaches and GM's who earn the spotlight.  Congrats to Steve Spott on his gig as new assistant coach with the Maple Leafs.  A couple of years ago I heard Spott might be mad at me when I made an on-air comparison between him and Barry Trotz.  I hope he's forgotten about itr, or forgiven me because he could kick my ass six ways from Sunday.   Also, congratulations to Kyle Dubas, now former GM of the Soo Greyhounds, who is the new Assistant GM with the Leafs.  Dubas was never afraid of the big move, like when he acquired Jack Campbell for a boatload of draft picks, or when he chose Shelden Keefe as his coach, a move many raised their eyebrows over his association with David Frost.  Keefe has been a wonderful coach, leading the Soo to an outstanding record in the competitive Western Conference. Dubas forward thinking and use of new stats/analytics are what made him an enticing commodity for Brendan Shannahan and the Leafs.  Great to see OHL guys moving up.  Should also add Chris Byrne and Jeff Twohey to the list. They have landed with LA and Phoenix respectively. 

ICEDOGS UPDATE
Eyes will focus on the Dogs as they are one of several teams yet to ink their first round draft pick.  Logan Brown is a towering 6'4 centre, who would be a great addition to the Dogs this year and going forward.  He's hedged his bets and may go an alternative route.  I have to believe that a brand new arena and a team with great potential and a number of NHL Draft picks and prospects would be excellent selling points for Brown.  Time will tell.  Meanwhile, as you can see at the top of this blog, the new arena looks spectacular from the inside.  Seats are being installed, outside concrete and pathways are finished, signage is being raised.  Can't wait to get in and see where the old gondola will be.  The arena will be centre stage for a national audience as the CHL Top Prospects game will be played there early in 2015. 

BLUE JAYS FREEFALL
Another day of hand wringing for loyal Jays followers as the non-waiver trade deadline gets a day closer.  The Jays are middling/scuffling/free falling/struggling-- choose your adjectives.  Yet waiver wire pick ups such as Nolan Reimold and Brad Mills are your newest Jays.  Sergio Santos has been DFA'd and Alex Sanchez will be called up to be either a saviour or trade bait, depending on how you fell.   There is no better time to grab the AL East by the horns and claim the division. Baltimore, New York, Boston and Tampa all have their warts.   A move here and a tweak there plus a return from injury by Lawrie, Encarnacion and Lind could put the Jays over the top.   

NEW TV FAVE...
Completely random final thought but my wife and I are now hooked on Orange is the New Black, the great series on Netflix.  Smartly written and unafraid of tackling real story lines while remaining soap opera dramatic, its riveting stuff.   We're half way through Season Two and like many others are waiting for Season Three to be released!

Talk soon
Steve Clark
steveclarksportsbroadcaster.blogspot.ca

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A REVIEW OF PANTLOAD: 25 YEARS OF PRIME TIME SPORTS


Twenty Five years is the long time to be on top in any profession, let the alone one as competitive as sports talk radio.  Yet Bob McCown has been able to rise above all of his competitors.   When he started in sports media there were no all sports radio stations.  Now there are ones in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.  Yet through it all no single personality has been at the top more than the irascible McCown.   Pantload:  25 Years of PrimeTime Sports gives us some insight as to what makes McCown tick. 
Narrated by long time DJ Alan Cross, a radio pioneer in his own right,  Pantload starts with McCown walking down a hallway opining that entertainment is the key to good sports radio.  It is a theme repeated throughout the documentary. In fact later in the production we find out that the acronym POKE (Passion, Opinion, Knowledge, Entertainment) are sort of the unofficial pillars of sports talk radio.   Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that the enigmatic McCown checks all the four boxes.
Pantload not only manages to cover the rise of McCown, it also takes a look at the moments that defined and highlighted his long career and peel back the layers behind the Ohio born McCown. It also gives us a rare insight into his childhood, and upbringing and that is what works with the documentary. I did not know that his father died when he was one and that in high school the gruff McCown was even a male cheerleader.  We even meet Bob’s mother, who is a sharper  than her years would indicate and probably the only person on the planet who still could put McCown in his place.  
McCown’s long career is traced back to the Foster Hewitt owned 1430 and also details the unique relationship he shared with the broadcast legend.  A great anecdote was when Foster Hewitt, along with Bob walked out on a speech by baseball’s Mel Allen, the legendary voice of This Week in Baseball because he was too boring.  It was at 1430 that McCown realized that in order to succeed in radio he had develop an on-air character and personality and so the “obnoxious” “larger than life” “opinionated” “a—hole”(Bob’s words, not mine) that exists to this very day. 
Sprinkled throughout the rise of McCown are anecdotes from a who’s who of both sports and Canadian media.  We hear from Peter Mansbridge, Brian Williams, Dan Shulman, Stephen Brunt, Allan Davis (the first Program Director of The Fan),  Elliote Friedman and George Strombolopoulos.  There are lots of anecdotes by Nelson Millman, former Station Manager of The Fan from 1995-2010.  All are unanimous and effusive in their praise for McCown and his bombastic style.
McCown’s rise was not without its pitfalls along the way.   Paired with Dan Shulman (and what a dream team that would have been), the choice was made to move McCown to mornings and Shulman to PrimeTime Sports, a move that backfired and led to McCown getting fired, and only rehired when Shulman accepted the job of Blue Jays TV Play by Play Voice.   We did get to see a great and extremely cheesy commercial for the McCown morning show with Bob and Ricky Henderson on the golf course.  
Where Pantload really shines are in its coverage of when Bob was accused of racism, along with Steve Simmons and Dave Langford by Cito Gaston back in 1997.   McCown, a longstanding critic of Gaston’s managing style was blown off by the Blue Jays manager for an interview and that seemed to fuel him on the radio and led to Cito’s accusation.   Paul Beeston’s attempt to mediate backfired and led to McCown calling Cito an a—hole and walking out.  While we hear Beeston’s take on the matter, needless to say Cito was not consulted for the documentary. 
The other definitive moment was the Fan’s outstanding coverage of 9/11 fuelled by McCown who seamlessly switched from sports to 9/11 along with the rest of the station. Sports would become escapism from the tragedy of 9/11 but at the time it was inconsequential.   McCown’s balancing of emotion ranging from sympathy to anger was assuredly one of the finest moments of his career.  If David Letterman and Howard Stern were the emotional media heartbeat of New York, McCown was the northern equivalent. 
Produced by McCown’s Fadoo Productions, you knew that we were not going to see a hatchet job on Bob, but you did a fair and balanced account of McCown’s career as well as great insight into the genre of sports talk radio.  The documentary reached out to New York broadcaster, Mike Francesa who helped pioneer WFAN, the first all talk sports radio station.
What the documentary showed was that it takes real talent and hard work to do what Bob McCown does on a daily basis.  While one of the running jokes is that Bob sits behind a microphone a minute before his show begins, there is no doubt a lot of mental and physical preparation goes into the three hours that Bob McCown owns the airway.   Many have tried but no one has been able to topple McCown from his lofty perch atop the sports talk radio.  As McCown reaches the twilight of his career, one wonders who takes the Prime Time Sports big chair.  It seems that while his successor can sit in his chair, he will be hard pressed to fill it.
 For sports media geeks like me who also dabble in the industry, Pantload: 25 Years of Prime Time Sports was appointment viewing.
Steve Clark
www.twitter.com/SteveClarkMedia

Steve is the TV play by play voice of both the Hamilton Bulldogs and Niagara IceDogs.