Friday, July 24, 2009

Mike Toth needs a message-polisher

Reading this line from Mike Toth in Bruce Dowbiggin's column calls to mind the time back in the day broadcasting Queen's football games when there was a analyst who, during his first game, had an unfortunate tendency of uttering a drawn-out, "Wow," after almost every play.

Really, wow is about all one can say:
"On The Fan 590, Rogers Sportsnet host Mike Toth suggested that young women including Sportsnet co-workers Martine Gaillard and Evanka Osmak get by with less than perfect knowledge of sports.

" 'This is going to sound harsh,' Toth said. 'But be that as it may, here it comes: There are no female sportscasters that I can think of that have more knowledge than their male counterparts.' "
One comes not to bury Toth. He is entertaining on The FAN 590's late-morning show The Bullpen, with Mike Hogan, and he was very accommodating to my good friend Tyler King when he hosted Kingston's most-listened-to hour-long sports show on CFRC 101.9 FM.

However, in the manner of that Weekend Update gag, "Really? I mean, really?"

Apparently our man never noticed Lesley Visser or Pam Oliver on NFL broadcasts. ESPN's Robin Roberts comes to mind. Former Score correspondent Patricia Boal, she always came across very well. Canadian Stacey Dales always got very good reviews when she was at ESPN. No doubt there are plenty of talented, intelligent women in broadcasting programs across Canada, who don't mind looking good for themselves but who also want to show they have the chops. Toth should spend one day job-shadowing Alison Sandor, the recent Carleton graduate whom this old cowboy

Visser's name would have immediately shot to mind even if she had not just been named the No. 1 female sportcasters and Jeff Pearlman had written about her for Sports Illustrated. As Pearlman pointed out, a decade ago she was replaced on Monday Night Football when the highers-up decided the show needed to get younger and hipper. They replaced her with Melissa Stark and put comedian Dennis Miller in the booth (Miller is older than Visser, how's that for irony). Visser is still going strong and Stark, quoth Pearlman, is "somewhere."

The other sticking point with that statement is that it assumes male sportscasters need a perfect knowledge of sports, which we know is not true.

There's no personal animus here toward Toth. He is heart-on-his-sleeve and he's willing to flip over a few rocks that the Canadian media usually stroll by, from the lack of widespread coverage for junior hockey, to the apparent lack of diversity in a CFL crowd. Sometimes he just makes a blanket statement that leaves some of us small-l liberals wincing.

The rub is that if you hear anything about it, it's usually from a male columnist such as Dowbiggin, not an interest group. That might say something about how people look at talk radio, as something that's for quote-unquote angry white males, not for anyone else. They're not listening. That should be of concern to programmers, since you can't kiss off a large portion of the potential audience.

Anyway, it just needed to be pointed out. Give Toth credit. Anyone who's ever thought The FAN 590 was sophomoric knows that still puts them several years ahead of their brethren in Ottawa and Vancouver. As far as we know, no one's stormed out of the studio in Toronto lately because someone had the nerve to disagree with them:
"Pratt had just finished airing an editorial shortly after 4 p.m. Monday about how a couple of gladiators like golfer Tom Watson and world champion poker player Doyle Brunson were able to continue to perform despite their age.

"Taylor made light of the comparison and chastised Pratt for even suggesting that poker was a sport.

"Game on. The high-pitched yelling and screaming maxed out the decibel levels of the station's control board. After a brief interlude of dead air, roughly 12 continuous minutes of taped commercials were followed by a repeat of a previous interview. Pratt eventually returned to finish the last hour of the show, making no reference to his spat with Taylor.

"When eager listeners tuned in Tuesday for round two they heard Rick Ball announcing he would be sitting in for Pratt with Matt Sekeres subbing for Taylor."
Some would say David Pratt should be chastised for even suggesting golf is a sport ... just kidding, not really.

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Andrew Bucholtz said...

At least Pratt didn't steal this rant from Rick Reilly. Seriously, though, how stupid is it for two radio hosts to fight about if poker can be compared to golf? Almost as bad as Toth suggesting that all women sportscasters are dumb.

dzuunmod said...

Wish I could say I agree on Toth. I'm only familiar with him in his roles as anchor on Sportsnet and fill-in for McCown via the show's podcast, but I find him unbearable. He mangles common idioms with incredible frequency, he makes completely nonsensical analogies and liberally tosses out arguments that have no basis in fact, QED.

It'd all be kind of cute if he was hosting a 10-2 open-line in Calgary. How he's gained such prominence is totally beyond me.

Jordie Dwyer said...

Toth gained his celebrity from his time at the then Calgary 2&7 television, before jumping ship to Sportsnet and playing to the audience (if you could call it that in the other sports network's early days)....
Once Sportsnet actually started to draw regular viewers lately, they relegated the 'not viewed as young enough' Toth to a backup role, which soon turned into a columnist and sometime substitute anchor because of a blowup with another staffer....
He still has his audience, ironically mostly in Calgary and Toronto...

Anonymous said...

I always thought Toth was a smug, smarmy twit who was always impressed with the sound of his own voice.
It can't be too hard to find a female sportscaster who has a higher sports IQ than this knob...even Carolyn Waldo could kick his sorry ass.

Tyler King said...

It's fun to isolate the easiest arguments to counter, isn't it?

What about this one:

"Toth also suggested that women at his network get more promotional outings and publicity because of their looks: “From a public relations standpoint, do you want Mike Toth to MC your golf tournament? … The females within the confines of Sportsnet’s newsroom get more of an opportunity to do that sort of thing.” "

Is that not accurate? And if so, is it not unquestionably wrong?

As much as I disagree with Mike Toth on some things, I'll always respect him mightily for being willing to talk about the realities of his industry ... there's something severely wrong with hiring in sportscasting.

sager said...


Maybe the point is, who becomes a broadcaster so someone would ask you to MC a fucking golf tournament?

You're there for the work, not the perks. It's more important to be the change you want to see in the industry, soemthing you yourself do every day, than worry than Evanka Osmak gets invited to emcee more charity events.

Besides, it's master of ceremonies. Maybe the default action is to invite a man to emcee. I don't know.

Point being, to say there "no female sportscasters" who know as much as a fan is asinine.

Again, though, Tother should get some benefit of the doubt. He'll touch on some stuff that others don't touch, but maybe he doesn't always bring enough perspective.

At he didn't add, "It is anchorman, not anchorlady, and that is a scientific fact!"

Anonymous said...

I work in sports media and all I can say is while it might not have been 'politcally correct' for Mike Toth to say what he did, he is 100%absolutely right. There is not one woman at TSN or Sportsnet or the Score who has better sports knowlegde than the men. That is a fact and if people don't like, well I am sorry. Also, I heard the entire radio exchange and while Toth said women don't have the same sports knowledge as men, he also was very complimentary to the female sportscasters, saying they are some of the best broadcasters he has ever worked with. Meaning, they do deserve their jobs, but they are also hired for reasons other than their sports knowledge.

And if Bruce Dowbiggen would step off of his holier than thou platform for a moment, maybe he would like to explain why his newspaper ran photos of attractive sportscasters when his article primarily talked about Toth and his supposedly condescending remarks about women in sports. Because, Bruce, sex sells and that is all Toth was saying, and you proved his point by running those photos.

sager said...

Hence the term, "message-polisher." As so often happens, Toth had a point, but said something which came off less than enlightened.

I'll cop to the fact I hate it when people preface remarks by saying, "This is going to sound harsh." If it's going to sound harsh and you have a serious point to make, than think of better way to say it.

Also, Bruce Dowbiggin probably did not make the call to run photos of attractive sportscasters. As you know, columnists don't get to pick the photos that run with their articles.

Remember, I said that if newspapers picked up on this because it's an excuse to run a picture of Erin Andrews, that kind of proves the point.

Anonymous said...

You are in charge of finding 10 Canadian sportscasters to participate in a series of "Stump the Schwab" episodes. Who do you choose ?

sager said...

Arash Madani, Pierre McGuire, Adnan Virk, Tim Micallef, Eric Smith, Evanka Osmak, Brian Williams, Jock Climie, Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller.