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- More from Ted Cox
Once again, picking up where I left off last week:
If WSCR 670-AM didn't have a plan for the post-Mike North era, it got handed one last Friday by its all-sports competition.
When WMVP 1000-AM pulled Dan McNeil off the air in a gutless move at the end of his TGIF shift last week, months before his contract was to expire, it paved the way for Mac to return to the Score -- and return the Score to utter dominance in the battle between the two stations.
This decision wasn't just unfathomable; it was boneheaded.
And, sorry Phil and Eddie, not to mention Harry, but the more I think about it, the more I think it had little if anything to do with money.
Danny Mac might have been the highest-paid sports talker in the city -- by default, after North's deal expired -- but at a reported $600,000, his salary was still reasonable in the industry, even by recession-depression standards.
What's more, when you're unhappy with a guy's salary, you don't just take him off the air and keep paying him from here to May. That's counterintuitive, reserved for desperation moves, like WJMK 104.3-FM paying Steve Dahl $2.5 million to stay home.
No, instead you lowball, offer maybe $450,000 or $500,000, negotiate up to the end of the deal and then, if you're a spineless beancounter, pull the guy off the air just before he can say goodbye to his listeners and blast you on the way out the door.
That's the way the Score and CBS Radio did it with North.
So, if not money, what was the sticking point?
I don't think it's entirely coincidental Mac was fired a week after he ran a terrific column in the Sun-Times in which he strayed onto my own turf of sports-media criticism, writing, "It's nothing shy of embarrassing that ESPN's nationally aired 'Mike and Mike in the Morning' has become the highest-rated sports-radio program in any time slot in Chicago."
The point was, as I've written many times myself, that all sports, like all politics, is local, and as pleasant as the Mikes Greenberg and Golic are, there's no excuse for them to beat local hosts talking Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls.
It was honest and spot on, but if I read the cherry stems at the bottom of my Manhattan correctly, it was too honest for the ESPN powers that be in Bristol, Conn., if not for WMVP general manager Jim Pastor, whom I don't believe would have the, shall we say, wherewithal to make this move on his own.
Because look what it does. It not only pays Mac to stay home until the NFL draft, it sends him into the open arms of his old home at the Score, just when the Score most needs an infusion of talent.
Having already offered North a reported $750,000 (thanks again for that column, Mr. Mac), do you think the Score wouldn't leap at getting Mac for anything less than that?
Score program director Mitch Rosen just happens to be the guy who helped bring Mac to WMVP nine years ago, when he had the same job at the ESPN Radio affiliate, and he helped put together Mac's afternoon show with John Jurkovic and Harry Teinowitz (who threw up boo-ya cover this week by saying on the air Mac's departure was due to money - again, banana oil).
Yeah, Mac got the heave-ho at the Score before, but he also helped build that station, and he never burned any bridges, not even when Harvey Wells ripped him off from his rightful parting cash.
And yeah, he's an opinionated handful, but that's part of what makes him - let me put this as succinctly as I can - the best sports-talk host in the city, if I may be allowed to qualify that.
Sure, I admire the work done by the Score's Dan Bernstein and Mike Mulligan, and they can be brilliant, but Bernsy can also go flat with a mismatched co-host, and Mully is really still learning the overall business.
Mac has the rare ability to make whomever he works with sound better, and if you don't think WMVP's "Afternoon Saloon" sounds greatly diminished with Carmen DeFalco replacing him -- and, mind you, I always considered DeFalco the better half of his coupling with Marc Silverman -- you need to have your ears if not your head examined.
So just imagine the possibilities for the Score. Rosen could reunite Mac with Terry Boers as "The Heavy Fuel Crew" and place Bernsy with Mully, who were wicked funny together whenever they were paired in Mully's early days at the station.
He could leave Boers & Bernstein intact and place Mac in morning drive with any number of co-hosts - or bring over Jurko when his deal expires at WMVP later this year. He could leave Boers & Bernsy and Mully & Brian Hanley intact and loose Mac to run roughshod over midday.
WMVP didn't just hand over its playbook to the Score. It handed the Score an entirely new playbook of how to beat its head in.
I say that's worth even more than 600 large.