2013 – Bob McCown

Bob McCown

Let’s resort to one of Bobcat’s own sayings as we recognize him with the 2013 Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for Career Achievement.
And no, it’s not “who gives a flying fadoo?” or “bite me!” but rather “greetings and salutations” to Bob McCown the undisputed and long-standing champion of Canada’s sports-talk radio market. He merits this recognition for a broadcasting career that began some four decades ago and this year includes the 25th anniversary of his current signature show Prime Time Sports (PTS on Sportsnet 590 The FAN).
During an interview with McCown some years ago, I asked him to pinpoint a reason for the unprecedented soaring ratings of PTS.
“One of the things has been the commitment that I quietly made long ago to abandon all conversation with athletes,” he said. “Coincidentally I started focusing on the business side of sport which was something that I was not only interested with but involved with. I’ve had my own company since 1980 and we’ve been in a variety of sports-related business ventures. So our athlete interviews are extremely rare.
“We’re always looking for story lines. I would concede that when I started in the business in the ’70s, it was legitimate to say that sports talk broke very few stories, we made very few headlines. We tended to follow what newspapers did. There’s been an evolution … it’s been slow but now we break as many stories as any media.”
The native of Columbus, Ohio was in his 20s during the 1970s when he began establishing himself in the Canadian marketplace. In the days before all-sports radio and TV networks, he was the original host of the late-night Global-TV Sportsline, the dream show of every sports fan.
It wasn’t just about highlights but delving into issues and shedding light on items that others simply couldn’t cover.
“If you’re inquisitive you learn from other people,” McCown once told me about his approach. “One person that I learned from in a roundabout way was Larry King. Many years ago when he was still doing Mutual Radio before he went to CNN, I used to listen to Larry. He was on from midnight until 5 or 5:30 in the morning. Back in the days when I was doing Sportsline on Global, I’d get off the air at midnight and on my drive home, I’d turn on the radio to Larry King who was being picked up on a station in Buffalo.
“Larry never read a book before he interviewed its author. He talked about learning with the audience. If you read the book and know the answers you tend not to ask the questions because you subconsciously assume that other people already know the answer.
“I want spontaneity. I want to learn with the audience. So I think that all came from that one piece of advice if you will from Larry King. Sometimes, the less you know the better you are. You have to have the ability to figure out where you want to go.”
Simulcasts of PTS on Sportsnet eventually allowed viewers to see that, yes, Bobcat constantly wears his trademark sunglasses. Behind those shades, he’s got attitude; he is, after all, Bobcat. His on-air prowls have clear goals in mind.
“We do two things on a daily basis: We entertain and we learn,” he said. “The audience learns with me. So I ask questions that I always don’t know the answers to, but I’m looking to go somewhere with them. I have a sense of humour about things, have a few laughs. I mean if we had a show where you
didn’t smile
or chuckle
or break out
laughin the middle of it, it wouldn’t be a very good show either.”
McCown hosted PTS from its launch on CJCL 1430 on October 2, 1989 as a syndicated radio sports talk show from 6:10 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
When CJCL went to all-sports radio in 1992, PTS became the afternoon three-hour drive show and went nationwide in 1993. While Dan Shulman also had a brief run at hosting PTS before joining TSN, for the most part it’s been McCown at the PTS helm through its quarter century.
“I’m overwhelmed and honoured to receive this,” McCown said when informed he’d be presented with the 2013 Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for Career Achievement.
So you see, the Bobcat does indeed give a flying fadoo!

….by John Iaboni