I want what’s best for others, particularly the marginalized and the disadvantaged, and I believe that if one is empathetic and concerned for society’s wellbeing, one can look in the mirror and be satisfied with a job well done and, eventually, a life well-lived.
Co-Host of Leadoff with Ziggy & Scotty Mac
The interview with Scott MacArthur was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
1Tell us about your role as Co-Host of Leadoff with Ziggy and Scotty Mac on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. What does a typical day look like for you?
Our first show went to air on September 30th, 2019 and so it’s been almost a year as I sit here right now. It’s crazy to think how little time has actually passed given what’s gone on in the world in the intervening period; we’ve discussed and covered a lot of heavy topics.
I wake up at 4:30 each morning and I’m in the car for the 7-to-10-minute drive to work (depending on red lights) by 5:15. I’m in the office by 5:30 for our 6:00 start. It may seem like I’m not leaving myself a lot of leeway but almost all of our preparation is done the day before. The only blanks which need to be filled are the games’ final scores and our takeaways from those games. It works best for me.
Many of our segments like, for example, “Yay or Nay,” in which we offer yes-or-no responses to realistic, yet hypothetical scenarios are drawn up the day prior. Minor tweaks can easily be made on the fly.
Sleep is important and when hosting a morning radio show, it’s something for which you’ll lack. Hugh Burrill, with whom I work, likes to say we’ll never fully get used to the shift but it’s something we each learn to manage. This is a fair assessment.
I go to bed at 10:30 pm and wake up at 4:30 am. I take an afternoon nap, often with interrupted sleep, between 1:30 and 4:30 pm. On either side of that nap, I’m in consistent communication with our show’s producer, Mike Gentile, who’s compiling the line up (or the run down) for the next day. He’s in touch with anyone who needs to know about specific elements for a topic or a segment.
Thankfully, we have a terrific technical director, Vick Polatian, who adds sound and other elements to enhance the broadcast. Ziggy and I have full trust in him; therefore, he’s got full licence to be creative and spontaneous with his use of audio.
So, long answer made short, we create most of what you hear on the show the day before.
2You were a host on OHL Primetime from 2004 to 2007. When did you first realize you were interested in on-air and radio hosting?
I’ve known I wanted to be an on-air broadcaster since the age of eight, which, much to my chagrin, is now a long time ago! “The little boy’s dream” goes back to approximately 1987.
I grew up in a house on Constance Drive in Oakville. We had a reasonably sized backyard; it wasn’t huge but it was big enough for two little boys to play baseball.
I’d take my brother, four years younger than me, and we’d play a game. I’d be the Blue Jays, big brother sets the rules remember, and I’d assign him another American League team. We’d play, one on one, and I’d do the play-by-play. The point wasn’t so much what was happening; rather, the point was me describing what was happening.
It’d be the same story each winter except we’d be out front on the driveway playing road hockey. I’d be the Maple Leafs and he’d be an assigned team, we had a bunch of child-sized jerseys so we’d be in the get up too, and I’d call our game.
I geared my elective high school courses toward English and creative writing; I knew I wasn’t a math or science guy.
I’m grateful I’ve been able to realize so much of what little me dreamed of achieving.
3How much do you prepare for a segment on Leadoff with Ziggy and Scotty Mac and how much is that conversation in the moment? As well, how did you get comfortable speaking on air without a script?
We have a general idea of where a segment is going to go but if one of us brings up a thought in the spur of the moment, we go with it. Here’s an example from last week: The Blue Jays acquired a pitcher, Taijuan Walker, from Seattle.
The corresponding roster move involved moving pitcher Trent Thornton to the long-term injured list, ending Thornton’s season. Thornton is having some elbow problems and he’s off to see the famous orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.
Well, Ziggy has had multiple surgeries performed by Dr. Andrews, he said so in the segment, and we ended up having an unplanned and interesting conversation about this doctor almost every North American sports fan has heard of but about whom we know very little.
Ziggy painted the picture, giving us a sense of Dr. Andrews’ hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, his clinic in Pensacola, Florida, and generally how Dr. Andrews schedules his day. I had ideas of where to take the conversation starting with the acquisition of Walker; however, Ziggy took the conversation in a different direction, a direction in which I was immediately interested and I figure if I’m interested, others will be too. I hope I’m correct in that assumption more often than I’m incorrect.
4What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of your job?
At this moment, the most rewarding aspects of my job are the fact I work with great people, including our producer, Mike Gentile, who is the best sports talk radio producer in the country; check his resume if you doubt me. We all enjoy one another’s company and if it wasn’t for COVID-19 restrictions, I believe we’d be spending more time together outside of working hours.
I also appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to interview brilliantly successful people; the relationships I’ve built with some of those people and the fact that, in some cases, those relationships will last for the rest of our lives.
My uneven sleep schedule is quite challenging but it’s one of those things you must accept when you take a morning drive role.
It’s been a challenging year, too, given the fact COVID-19 shut down the leagues and franchises we cover; so, attempting to cover the pandemic responsibly while maintaining a focus on sports; attempting to responsibly cover the civil unrest in the United States as Black people rise up against the systemic racism they experience and their descendants have experienced through the generations; and covering the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other parents and basketball players in the January helicopter crash. We’ve tried to do our best with all of these important matters.
5In 2019, you came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The sports world accepted this news and continued to support you. How did you feel after this and has your experience in sports media changed since then?
I came out as gay because I was sick of living multiple lives.
Many of those closest to me had known for a while, I’d had a couple of relationships, but I was finished with a compromised existence which required me to present different versions of myself to different people depending on what they did or didn’t know about me. Any LGBTQ+ person who’s remained quiet about their truth for any length of time knows of which I speak.
What’s mattered to me is the changes this decision has meant to my life. I have a wonderful partner, Zander, who’s a brilliant man and who’s helped me to confront some of the emotional challenges one faces when one has been shut down for more than 25 years, including all of one’s formative years (adolescence and young adulthood).
Additionally, I’m no longer a prisoner to my secret, which opens me up to being fully authentic; I trust me, I believe I’m armed with common sense, and I’m not scared to say what I think and how I feel. I want what’s best for others, particularly the marginalized and the disadvantaged, and I believe that if one is empathetic and concerned for society’s wellbeing, one can look in the mirror and be satisfied with a job well done and, eventually, a life well-lived.
6Do you have any tips for becoming a successful on-air host for young aspiring professionals?
The first thing I always say is this: The answer to any reasonable question is “yes.” You will work weird hours and those will be long hours; you will not be paid much; you are owed absolutely nothing and if you give off the stink of being owed, you’ll be rooted out quickly.
Be generous, be gracious, be humble; in saying that, accept nothing, I repeat nothing, which compromises you. If you’re being treated inappropriately, sexually or physically or emotionally or otherwise, in any way which constitutes the lording of power over you tantamount to abuse, speak to someone.
Bring your ideas to the table; don’t be discouraged by rejection because rejection is only in perception. What doesn’t work for someone likely works for another.
7The sports media industry can sometimes be a bit demanding, and some people, especially emerging professionals may feel like they have to hide things about themselves to be accepted. Do you have any advice for young professionals who are feeling like they cannot express themselves to the fullest in the workplace?
As I said in an earlier answer, I came out to de-escalate, hopefully, eliminate, the main cause of the internal strife in my own life.
I do, also, wish to be an ally. If you’re keeping a painful secret – it can relate to sexual orientation or gender identity but it isn’t limited to these matters – and you wish or need to confide to someone in the industry, I raise my hand and I offer my ear.
The major media outlets, these days, are owned by corporations, which means they’re equipped with human resources departments. An HR department, first and foremost, exists to protect the company; it’s now in the company’s best interest to support any employee who’s struggling with mental health challenges stemming from any of a variety of experiences. Speak to your boss, if you’re comfortable; they should be receptive. Beyond that, the company for which you work should have mechanisms in place to offer you support.