Forgiveness will surely be required as a result of my desire to differ from the clearly emerging consensus of the Canadian blogosphere regarding the aptly-named Tothilnergate. Full credit to Drunk Jays Fans for their Globe & Mail quality scandal-naming, though their own sycophantic take on the issue will be a major theme of the coming paragraphs.
Recounting the controversy is a needless task; OOLF has already done it. But what remains notably absent from the debate is a comprehensive third-party opinion that doesn't consist of a variety of attacks on this man, the product and pride of such markets as Estevan, Saskatchewan and Stettler, Alberta.
"I’m not a fan of Toth’s style," our own Duane Rollins easily admits. "Toth broke a simple rule," is Neate's take on it, and this is pretty well where blogosphere civility ends. "A little weasel" is DJF's analysis of the man, while The Tao of Stieb admonishes "Mr. Fun Stuff" for "burying vastly superior broadcasters on the air." Even the down-and-out Bugs & Cranks manages to throw out a "Mike Toth is a knob" after crying about the aforementioned Drunks not returning their calls.
So let's get the controversy out there; there is nothing wrong with what Mike Toth did or said, and you're all a bunch of suckups to Mr. Wilner for thinking there was.
This is an unusual stance for a blog, considering that the general blogophere protocol is one of consistently marvelling over whatever observations the popular Jays Talk host puts over the air. For some, it extends to marvelling over the comedic genius of adding "-age" and "-itude" to the ends of words. For fewer, the obsession extends to profiling in detail the varying inflections of the man's voice. Though we can't all be the unfailing and blinding Wilner fan that Dustin Parkes exemplifies, the consensus is pretty consistent; the buzzwords are "logic," "intelligent," "correct," and/or "awesome" (Sorry, Neate).
To preface my disagreement, I should make clear that I'm no Wilner hater. I'm on record as saying he should be the Jays' TV voice on Sportsnet right now (and I'm no jamiecampbell hater either). The man even appeared on my lowly college sports talk radio show during spring training, despite me taking five times the amount of time I asked him for. His dedication to fans through his FAN 590 blog is unmatched, and unquestionable.
But just as his fans profile him as the sole source of "logic" or "intelligence" in the Toronto media, they omit his and their reliance on the supposed "stupid" callers that make up the bulk of Jays Talk. When I asked Wilner what the "perfect call" would be for him, his first example was that "the perfect call could be a complete idiot." It's the conflict between the two that makes the show entertaining, which is why it's so baffling when Wilner fans honestly wish that he didn't take those callers, or leave them on as long. If he followed that advice, he'd be out of a job, because he'd have the most boring show on the station.
As for the logic bit, let's defend Mike Toth here for a second. Sure, his suggestion to hire Gary Carter seems a little farfetched and illogical (then again, they said the same about Garth Snow). But how can the Wilner fans, who oppose the panic-induced firing of John Gibbons because the manager has a supposedly low impact on wins, simultaneouly say that hiring Carter would be a bad move based on his likely impact on the team? Either a manager has an effect on the team or he doesn't, and Wilner fans can't seem to decide which it is in their blind rage against the Tother.
Frankly, there's a reason Mike Toth has been successful despite regularly infuriating the self-proclaimed sports intelligentsia. He's not afraid to stir up a bit of controversy, and in this case he's doing a great job of it. Who among us would be talking about the usually tame 4:00 hour of Prime Time Sports, or even listening to it, if not for the stream of anti-Wilner callers? Nobody would've wanted to listen to an hour of people raving about how awesome Wilner is — we can listen to the DJF podcast for that.
Toth makes an excellent point when defending himself; Mike Wilner doesn't, and shouldn't, need to be defended. This apparent rule that you can't attack someone who isn't there to defend himself is not any canonical regulation — it's just something that Wilner says (and is thus regurgitated by his fans as law). Sportscasters attack all kinds of people who aren't there to defend themselves. As to the crowd who say Toth's callers could have, and should have, just called the man himself on Jays Talk; calling into a person's show to attack them is the last thing any savvy sports talk caller thinks of doing. You're putting yourself at their mercy, and the frequent/popular strategy of hosts cutting off the caller and then proceeding to rip on them for five minutes afterwards is, while not a staple of Wilner's show, an omnipresent threat.
Perhaps Toth did "egg on" the callers, but for Wilner to then make a post on his blog clearly fishing for compliments? That's not taking the high road, especially coupled with his doing nothing to prevent or discourage the rash of vulgar attacks on Toth that followed in the post comments. Toth wasn't there to defend himself, and his reaction in his letter to DJF is certainly a more classy reply to an attack than Wilner's reaction was; not to mention that Toth faced far worse from the Internet hordes than Wilner faced from forty minutes of PTS callers.
In all, let's lay off Toth. Don't enter into the debate of who the superior broadcaster is, because they are apples and oranges. Mike Toth has to cover every sport imaginable, and can't be expected to be at a Wilner level on all of them, even baseball. But I will say this much; if junior hockey were popular enough to justify a Jays Talk-style show, then Mike Toth would be the Mike Wilner of junior hockey. It's all based on where your beat is, and we're in a sense spoiled by Wilner's ability to dedicate his entire career to the sport he's most passionate about.
To end off, a thought for the future; I'm surprised nobody's yet brought up the fact that last year around Christmastime, Toth and Wilner were in fact the regular co-hosts of Prime Time Sports, and in my opinion produced some pretty entertaining stuff. Here's hoping they get paired up again — I'd certainly be listening.