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Bruce Dowbiggin

Down But Not Out: The Unsinkable Bob McCown

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 “I guess I should let you know that I have had two strokes over the last couple of weeks and have been in hospital since. Can’t walk or talk but am getting better very slowly! Hope to get home and back on the podcast as quick as possible!— Bob McCown

Tough news for The BobCat. The 71-year-old has had a major medical setback, and those who know him wish him the best. Here’s what I wrote about this unique broadcast maverick in December of 2020 after he’d written a controversial (shock!) column about his past, present and future.

“The first time I met Bob McCown was on his Global Sportsline show in the fall of 1982. I was the sports editor thingy at TV Guide, and every Friday I’d go on his show to pick NFL games. He was on his first marriage at the time, and I believe one of his kids was around when we pre-taped.

To say I was excited understates my mood. Bob was wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater, he was smoking furiously and the energy in the studio was incandescent as he spoke to producer Mark Askin in the control room. He carried me through the segment, demanding I be interesting, taking contrarian positions to boost the atmosphere. I try not to look at the result which is still on tape in my basement somewhere.

Off-set, he told me what his real bets were for the weekend and about a plan he had to go to Vegas to use his blackjack system to break the bank. (He did eventually author the Vegas move when he was on CJCL radio, doing his show from his place in Vegas. The blackjack system didn’t work, and he returned to Toronto and other glories.)

Later, after I’d made my bones at CBC, he periodically had me on his Friday Round Table on The FAN 1430/ 590. The only rule with Bob was Don’t Be Boring. That meant don’t talk about the Leafs power play or how will the Blue Jays do this weekend in Milwaukee. Or else you wouldn’t be back.

He wanted a take, the big picture, business talk and a healthy dose of American references.The atmosphere was all snark, all the time. And his audience loved it (the panelists did, too, unless Bob got mad at you and banned you). The people who ran sports listened. I used to say that when McCown, who rarely watched much of what he talked about, turned against someone it was over. Toronto sports was run for years by McCown, especially after Harold Ballard snuffed it.

Later, when I was sports media columnist at the Mop & Pail and McCown was battling the suits at Rogers, I’d save Bob for a slow day. I knew if I called he’d fill my ear with industry gossip and some tasty ad hominems for his current enemies. He rarely disappointed.

In short, I’ve known him for a while— less so since moving to Calgary in 1998. And so my take on his volcanic feature in the G&M this week is probably more measured than some others I’m hearing. It’s clear from Simon Houpt’s lengthy description of him that McCown is in some peril of his own making. (No surprise as he’s done “King Midas in reverse” for decades) He’s selling his mansion, scrambling to cover losses from the Mike Weir Winery, losing weight to start dating again.

In the piece he takes shots at Rogers as “idiots” for canning him, describes his latest business tumult, the failure of his last marriage and sarcastically rips his current broadcast partner John Shannon (also canned by Rogers in the purges following their disastrous NHL $5.2 billion brainwave). It’s searingly honest and self-critical. It’s also rambling and sad.

Most of all it’s Bob— or The Bobcat in deference to his Ohio roots. He’s always been the product. He read the room and saw the need for celebrity. So he made himself one in the fashion of the big American flannel mouths like Mike Francesa, Chris Russo, Larry King etc. His tantrums and moods and sullen periods were all part of the act.

Along the way he invented sports radio in Canada, taking it away from earnest hockey pucks talking trades to Marvin Miller discussing labour law during another MLB strike/ lockout. What’s the phrase? Often imitated, never duplicated? His catch phrases became part of the vernacular. One of them, “I don’t give a fadoo” gave birth to Fadoo as his company handle.

On my own radio shows I shamelessly copied his strategy of never having current marble-mouthed athletes on the show (unless the station paid for a spot). He wanted people with edge who’d appeal to the “$500 million a year Bay Street guys” he frequently cites in the G&M. Movers. Shakers. Guys who stood up at the Raptors games in their open-necked shirts and rope jewelry to shout at their developer pals two sections away.

They were his guys, and they insulated him from the suits at Rogers who wanted him gone. When his mentors (Nelson Millman, Keith Pelley, Scott Moore) left the suits finally had their chance. Sure, he made Rogers money. But the insubordination and the mailing-it-in days got to be too much drama for the phone salesmen.

There are friends out there who still believe Rogers will recant and restore him to his afternoon perch. (Indeed, Toronto sports-talk radio is largely a disaster these days, a slop of dullards and hockey pucks driving the ratings needle down to zero. They could use him.) They contend there’s a niche out there for him. Bob’s been fired before and come back stronger.

The problem is, as Bob would say, tempus fugit. In the piece McCown hinges this next comeback on marshalling the Bay Street guys, the sharps and the squares, for another run at glory and prosperity. But the Toronto McCown conquered does not exist anymore. The aging Bay Street guys are fleeing the Covid-infested city for Caledon or Florida.

The arbiters of speech and behaviour have made his white-guy insouciance a tough act with younger people brought up to be nice little sheeple and to toe the line. The vast community of people who moved from outside Canada to the GTA are immune to his gruff charm. If they even know him.

His notion of a super sports zone at Downsview airport to put “Toronto on the map”— Bob’s idea, someone else’s finances— was not predicated on a population scared stiff of sitting next to someone coughing at a ballpark. Or government coffers mortgaged to the hilt to keep the basic economy functioning. I wish him well. But like Donald Trump it’s probably time for a new gig.”

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Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Trudeau’s C-63: The Criminalization Of “Harm”

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Our Boomer generation arrived just a little late for the onslaught of Daycare Reality. In the days when we walked to school uphill both ways, the oppressive regime of mothers being our primary caregivers was the norm. For better or worse, she provided the Rules of Behaviour. In a housecoat. With a flyswatter and a jar of cookies.

Then daycare became the place where society civilized its children while Mommy and Daddy underwent DEI programming at work. None of that messy variation from home-to-home on matters of civility, discipline or faith. With the state involved it was one-stop shopping.

“Billy. We don’t use violence to solve bullying.” “Jane, we must respect others’ workspace” and that classic, “Ms. Miller will conduct a struggle session to resolve this squabble.” Okay, “struggle sessions” didn’t have a name yet. But their insertion of an authority figure into every squabble was very real.

If not, pharmaceuticals were employed.

Fast forward a generation, and the products of early daycare were spilling out into society. Most were polite, reserved and, most important, deferential to authority. Sure, some dabbled in rebellion, but most accepted the essential tenant of the state being central to calming their fears of the boogey man. (That’s how safe spaces were invented.)

One of their fears, they were told, was Hate Speech. What began as an earnest attempt to silence Ernst Zundel’s #Nazi ravings has morphed into a Department of Daycare deciding whose speech is hurtful and whose is transcendent Happy Ways positivism.

Speaking of Happy Ways positivism, Svengali Justin the Munificent has introduced legislation C-63— the risibly named Harms Bill— creating an innocent little department of his government to regulate speech. The idea being that gender and race post grads will arbitrate whether your online speech is icky, especially to people in elected office (Calgary has already introduced a law banning the razzing of mayors who declare a climate emergency on their first day in office.) It will also guess what your future harms might be and award you an ankle bracelet.

Its reach has left foreigners gobsmacked. What was hunting porn and pedos is now hunting dissidents. This “expert” on turning society into a thought experiment was very chuffed about the possibilities of construing rude as criminal. (And bloating the bureaucracy even more) Now, smiling Princess Vapid is achieving ecstasy, because unelected bureaucrats will decide what is naughty speech and what is not.

You can’t blame Justin for pushing ever further into the suppression of speech. Using the slobbering servitude of the NDP as a crutch, he has already bribed most of the failing media companies in the country into toeing the line on policies— while they went light on stuff like the RCMP giving him a hall pass on the SNC Lavalin shenanigans. In lockstep with CBC, they get the money, his mistakes go in the round file.

Never mind that the population is fleeing media fossils like CBC or the Toronto Star for non-Canadian content that they (gasp) enjoy. In the interest of having dedicated government wind therapists, tax money will go to specials on imminent climate-change destruction, Islamaphobia or “Pierre Poilievere Is Donald Trump” exposés.

There is no corner of Canadian society too small for the Church Ladies to ignore. For instance, the new legalized sports gambling industry. To paraphrase the old beer ad, “Those who hate it, hate it a lot”. Here CBC has the vapours over the world’s second-oldest industry. Commercial insertions, a flurry of statistics and some dubious spokespeople are among the complaints. So is the retrograde effect of gambling addiction, which was always beneath the surface when sports betting was illegal or offshore.

Another thing irritating the betting haters has been the presence of famous athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid (among others) in advertisements pitching the joys of parlays, teasers and side bets. The thinking goes that this star worship is ruining the youth of the nation, even though betting is illegal till 18 years old. While tempting adults who might otherwise be wasting disposable income on political donations.

With Ontario’s legalized betting market among the most competitive in the world— and Alberta making noise in this week’s budget about its about-to-open market— the guardians of decency have weighed in with something called “Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming”. It bans the use of sports stars in advertising for a legalized product. As Steve McAllister of Gaming News Canada reports, “there’ll be no more Gretz, no more Gronk, no more Jamie Foxx/Kevin Hart/Vince Vaughn/Vanessa Hudgens, no more Auston Matthews, and no more Mitch Marner/Leon Draisaitl/Chris Pronger on the Canadian airwaves, billboards, subways and/or social media platforms.”

Sports Interaction, the most prominent betting site on Hockey Night in Canada, deep-sixed their Marner/Draisaitl/Pronger ads on last Saturday’s HNIC game, replacing them with the “Americans-don’t-know-diddly-about-hockey spots”.

That should take care of that! Except that Americans haven’t applied a fatwa on sports stars shilling for casino gambling. So Canadians who want their guilty pleasure of hero worship will still be able to see Gretzky, Gronk and Jerry Rice on their cross-border U.S. channels. Or on websites that cross the border like Venezuelans sneaking into America. Unless the dutiful CRTC tries to substitute Canadian advertising standards on those broadcasts where Gretz has a pulpit. But let’s not give them new ideas for mischief.

None of this would be happening now if Canadian governments hadn’t spent the past decade forgoing wagering revenues that went offshore or into the black market. But it’s such a cash cow the industry can now run competitive sites, distribute money to Gambling addiction sites and still have lots left to give government for their hobby-horse progressive causes.

Which are now being ladled out to gullible students by activist educators or poured into the foreign adventures of people like Agriculture minister Lawrence “I’ll Order Lobster” McAulay. And don’t we all feel better about that? We know you do.

“Johnny? Stop looking out the window and start saluting Mr. Trudeau’s picture!”

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

From The Border To Kevin O’Leary, Canada Is Freaking Out Americans

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Tequesta, Fla.: Those Canadians who spend time in DeSantisLand  know that our American hosts are blissfully unaware of what happens in Canada. Outside blaming the True North for brisk weather like this week’s near-freezing temps in the South.

Then, out of nowhere, Canada and Canadians are suddenly blasting down the pike like an Alberta Clipper. Example: While everyone is talking the bum rush at the southern U.S. border, former GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was frothing about the steady tide of illegals crossing southward from Canada into the U.S.

He told X ,“The Northern Border is the next frontier for illegals. Career politicians including Republicans derided me for saying it last year. Now we’re starting to see the consequences.” One of the consequences is the PM not talking about our leaky border. But since the Liberals removed visa requirements for Mexicans the flood gates have opened. Canada’s fastest growing industry is human smuggling.

Vermont residents are very engaged with Canada’s dirty little secret. Swanton, Vt. resident Chris Feeley told reporters that “he has been hunting in the area since he was a teen and rarely ran into anyone. Now he sees illegals frequently. ‘The border patrol actually told us, ‘You guys might want to put a pistol in your backpack’ because nine out of 10 of them are just here for a better life, but there’s that one guy that’s got a rap sheet,” he said.

Will Trump build a northern wall as well as a southern barrier? Inquiring minds in Canada want to know. Then came the bimbo eruption from New York’s governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul’s state has the highest percentage of Jews in America (seven percent). One and a half to two million Jews live in the New York City area alone. She has a vested interest in their issues.

So when the heinous Oct. 7 attacks murdered hundreds of innocent Israelis in their homes and communities Hochul (whose ancestry is Irish-American) sought to show her solidarity with her constituents. “If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said at an event for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York.

“That is a natural reaction. You have a right to defend yourself and to make sure that it never happens again. And that is Israel’s right.” Hey, she likes us enough to massacre us in retaliation. Now that’s a caring neighbour. Not surprisingly, when Canada’s media grandees heard the news they plotzed. And Hochul scrambled to clarify her remarks. But for a few days, Canada was a something. Americas would obliterate us for destroying Buffalo. The mind boggles.

Next, the liberals in overheated #TDS legacy media had one of their periodic fits over former president #OrangeManBad . They were left aghast that another Donald Trump presidency might decline to protect NATO partners from the boogey man. Trump even suggested he’d give Putin the A-OK to do his worst on Luxembourg or Montenegro. Shocked and appalled, they declared the end of NATO and McDonald’s McRib sandwich.

What the Jake Tapper Brigade neglected to mention in all this fainting and pearl clutching was that this would happen ONLY IF rogue nations refused to pay their obligations under the NATO charter. (Why ruin a good hysteria over running the full quote? See: Charlottesville, Jan. 6, drinking bleach.)

Now, which American neighbour to the North of Biden’s Bedroom is delinquent in its obligations to NATO? Might it be Trudeaupia where it’s more important than agriculture minister Lawrence McAuley be seen casually gorging on lobster in Asia than paying up for deterrents against the Chinese?

So to all his other self-inflicted miseries Prince Justin of Rideau Cottage was confronted with the pitiful funding of Canada’s military (his government just cut military spending by a billion) and its reliance on the support of strangers when it comes to protecting the Arctic, among other tracts of lands. Trudeau has lobbied NATO to include other spending under its requirements. But so far, NATO is not accepting maple syrup, Melanie Joly desk calendars and Bollywood costumes as applicable contributions to defence spending.

According to reports reaching us in the Land of Farenheit, Trudeau responded to all this scrutiny by flying west in a carbon-belching jet to promote climate something-something. But how would an incoming Trump administration deal with Trudeau (and his paid media) who has made POTUS 45 a convenient whipping boy? Has Canada’s PM said too much already? Might Trump tighten the pressure on paying up— just in spite? Trump? Spiteful? Never!

Next on the screens of Americans was the ubiquitous Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, Canada’s gift to Shark Tank/ Dragons Den. The recent civil trial of Trump in NYC has vexed him. So everywhere one looks O’Leary is schooling dim liberal hosts on CNN about the idiocy of the decision to fine Trump $354M for cheating no one out of nothing.

“It’s appalling. It’s unjust. I would go as far to say it’s un-American.” Here he is with some place setting named Laura Coates explaining how you do real estate in NYC. “That fact that he was found guilty, you might as well find guilty every real estate developer on Earth,” O’Leary says. “I don’t understand where someone got hurt … What developer doesn’t ask for the highest-price value for any building they built?… If this judgment sticks, every developer must be jailed. They must be found guilty. They must be put out of business. You can’t do this to one but not another. It’s not about Trump.”

O’Leary followed up by saying he wouldn’t be doing business in NYC until the decision was reversed. Others, including Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams followed suit, “100% of people who don’t understand banking, business, negotiating, or the world in general are sure Trump committed fraud. 100% of people who understand banking, business, negotiating, and the world in general saw ‘business as usual’ and no fraud.” Like O’Leary, Adams vowed not to visit nor do business in New York State, setting off an X wave of hysteria among former CDN sports writers and liberal arts graduates.

But Mr. Wonderful discouraging business is different. Hearing O’Leary’s warning to businesses to steer clear of NYC, Governor Hochul sought to reassure real-estate developers that the government will not go after them like they have gone after Donald Trump. Prompting Texas senator Ted Cruz to observe, “In other words, if you don’t make Democrats angry, you won’t get sued. But if you do, you’ll get the Donald Trump treatment.”

It’s almost too much Canada in the news. Luckily, Trudeaupia will slip beneath the waves of American attention again shortly, ignored and dismissed. To think we were that close.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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