One of the few pleasures I have in life are the Monday and Friday roundtables on The Fan 590 radio station. Almost anything is interesting when knowledgeable people gather and discuss things, but my first love is sports, and Toronto's all-sport station puts on good roundtables on the weekday bookends, from 5-7 pm.
The moderator is usually Bob McCown, the eminence grise of the sports talk biz in Toronto, if not in Canada. The Bobcat is a surly old guy who treats sports more as business than avocation these days, but there's enough of the little boy's wonderment in him to leaven the grumpy facade. Yeah, I'm more like him than most other broadcasters, so that's why I prefer him.
As it happens, he does a good job at moderating. He asks questions, gets OTHERS to offer opinions and facts and than sums up with his opinion, usually short and sweet. I bet he says one word to the guests' 10 during the segment.
Earlier in the year, it was announced that Mike Toth was going to be McCown's regular guest host when he was away and would be moving into the BIG chair, the Primetime Sports host spot, when McCown leaves (through getting fired, which has happened a few times, or deciding retirement or other opportunities beckon). The day the switchover DOES happen, I will cease listening to PrimeTime sports completely.
I have a short list of announcers/personalities who I dislike completely. Jungle Jay Nelson was the first name on that list. He was a CHUM DJ back in the day, and, unfortunately, the quizmaster for Reach for the Top when it was being filmed up in Barrie, the year I was part of the Bramalea team. The gentleman had an affliction for sticking his fingers up his nose, and for taunting losing teams in the academic showcase. When we lost, I felt like slapping my teammates upside the head. Him, I wanted to punch out and stomp on his guts. I was younger in those days. Today, I'd order a hit.
At any rate, the list has grown to include the likes of smarmy, would-be comedian Tim Micallef of The Score and especially Toth, late of Sportsnet, now of The Fan's future. Toth is awful. He is the king of the preamble, starting every question with some long, inane reference to his own life and opinions that nobody, not even those that love him and are related to him (thus HAVING to), care about. See, that's EXACTLY the way he starts everything. Plus, like Micallef, he fancies himself a comedian. He's not. He believes himself to be a king of April Fool's Day jokes. He's not. I believe he thinks he's informative and entertaining. He's not.
Toth comes from a journalism and sports background. I think he lives and breathes sports, and that's usually the sign of mental in-breeding. You have to have outside interests to draw on, to bring non-insiders into the discussion. I do think he's fairly well read. Mostly sports stuff, though. I heard an interview he did with Terry Fox's brother that showed him to be a compassionate, caring man. He isn't a blight on civilization.
But he's a bad broadcaster. He might be an okay radio call-in host. His ability to twit his conversational partners can probably induce some animated discussions. And that's what those shows are all about. But he can't turn it off.
The example was today's roundtable. Toth had written a blog a little ways back, suggesting John Gibbons be fired and replaced with the likes of Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter or Bob Brenly. Not all that well-reasoned, but not completely devoid of critical thought. When that didn't get the desired reaction, he reached into his bag of stupid ideas to champion the replacing of Gibbons (the real reason d'etre of the piece) with Gary Carter, a child-hood hero.
Now, that foolishness works for filling out a blog and probably doesn't engender any serious discussions in person because the sheer idiocy of the statement. But today, Toth just had to start off the roundtable with that idiotic stance, daring Jeff Blair to bat it down. And so he did, pointing out Carter's well-known lack of people skills when the cameras aren't rolling, his desultory status as an independent league manager and the fact not one MLB club wanted anything to do with the Hall of Fame catcher. Toth should have left it right there, but he decided he hadn't extracted enough entertainment value.
"But he hugged me," Toth bleated. He actually told Blair that he (Carter) had two things that Blair didn't have, 'A World Series ring and a plaque in the Hall of Fame." To Blair's credit, he didn't go across the table Pat Marsden-style and try to punch out the punk. The 'conversation' degenerated further into a shout fest, with all three professional sports journalists yelling facts at Toth, until he realized he'd missed the TV commercial cue and cut the discussion off. I turned the radio off at that point. So I don't know if anything further good (the guests leaving or physically assaulting Toth) happened.
I fully realize that Toth was 'funnin' Blair and the guests. Of COURSE he does not believe Carter should be a big-league manager, let alone the Blue Jays' field boss. But in his warped little reality, playing the devil's advocate with conviction is somehow entertaining, even when the losing side he's supposedly defending is asinine and completely without merit or entertainment.
To Mr. McCown, stay healthy, happy and employed by The Fan for many more decades still to come. AND STOP TAKING VACATIONS!!!!