How the Junkies landed Rob Ford

December 4, 2013

(Gary Wiepert/AP)

The Sports Junkies have made plenty of national news with their sports-radio interviews over the years; Google “Justin Gimelstob and Kournikova,” or “Chris Cooley pulled over,” if you’d like a couple examples.

They’ve also made national news in other ways: Donovan McNabb’s wristband and Jim Riggleman’s trip to Caddies come to mind.

But I can’t remember another time when the 106.7 The Fan quartet has made national news just for booking an interview. That’s what happened on Wednesday, when the Junkies announced that Toronto mayor Rob Ford would appear on their show Thursday morning for a segment picking NFL winners.

“I mean, outside of Barack Obama, he’s the most known politician in the world right now,” John Auville said after the announcement.

“Who else would you rather have making picks besides the President?” Jason Bishop added. “I might even want Rob Ford over the President.”

“You’re gonna get more quotes,” Eric Bickel agreed.

The media’s reaction to this announcement surprised even station executives. The news was quickly picked up by, among others, Politico, the National Post, the Toronto Sun, the Globe and MailPoynter, USA Today, SI, DCistCity Paper, and many other outlets. Including The Post, I suppose.

So, how did this happen? Credit two producers from the morning show: Matt Cahill — known to listeners as “Drab” — and Matt Myers — known as “Valdez.” The duo, knowing Ford’s fondness for football, together crafted an e-mail to Ford’s public-relations staff more than a week ago, explaining that they’d like him to pick NFL games, as other politicians — including former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich — have long done for the show.

“It was collaborative,” station director Chris Kinard said. “They toss around who would we like to get if we could. Every once in a while one hits. And this one hit.”

Cahill and Myers heard nothing until Tuesday, when they were told by a Ford staffer that the mayor was interested, and would be ready to submit his week 14 picks on Thursday at 8:40 a.m. Ford’s representative told Cahill that he figured the segment would last one or two minutes; the station is obviously hoping to keep the mayor on for a bit longer than that.

(As an added twist, the Junkies are doing Thursday’s show live from Atlantic City before one of their regular poker tournaments at the Borgata.)

Many outlets have reported that Ford will make weekly appearances with the Junkies, but the station has only been promised this Thursday’s show.

“If it goes well, we’d love to have him weekly, but it’s just a one-time thing at this point,” Kinard told me.

Of course, the Junkies themselves promised that they would not go after the mayor or make critical remarks in this segment, and they had fond words for him after making the announcement.

“We are not going to attack him,” Bickel said on the air. “We’re going to embrace him. I would stump for his re-election….I love this guy. We’re not going to attack him. I am thrilled.”

Kinard hadn’t even known that his producers requested the interview until the mayor’s people accepted the request, but he’s obviously pleased by the outcome.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “He’s clearly an interesting, colorful figure. He has tied himself in with sports, wearing the NFL tie, going to the Bills game. Now it’s kind of a sports story too. I think it’s going to be an interesting segment. Look, he’s the mayor of Toronto. This is not of major political importance to Washingtonians, but I think it’s gonna be a fun segment and interesting, and that makes good radio.”

Oh, and Cahill asked Ford’s rep if the mayor wanted to make his picks straight up or against the spread.

“No, absolutely, the mayor wants to go against the spread,” he was told.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · December 4, 2013