Why do so many people think George Stroumboulopoulos is the next Dennis Miller?
Remember the ill-fated Monday Night Football experiment in 2000 and 2001? Miller, a famed comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member, joined the broadcast team as a color commentator. A funny man? Yes. An unmitigated disaster as an analyst? Yes. Awful Announcing pegs him as the No. 1 sports media bust of all time.
The reason(s) Miller didn’t work out? He had no experience as a sports broadcaster and his references, though often hilarious, were esoteric. The pigskin-huckin’, gun-totin’, beer-swilling component of the NFL viewing population in particular didn’t care for Nietzsche references during instant replays. A brief taste of Miller’s worst (best?) quips here.
The backlash toward Miller was understandable, even for those of us who enjoy his comedy. But I scratch my head at the outrage over Sportsnet’s decision to make Stroumboulopoulos its Hockey Night in Canada anchor on CBC’s broadcasts and host of various other Rogers hockey broadcasts. Here’s a sample of the Twitter vitriol:
Stroumboulopoulos replacing MacLean on #HNIC? What a joke…and a poor decision. I know I won’t be watching those broadcasts!
— BlameItOnFastFoods (@Blamefastfoods) March 11, 2014
— Kelly Senecal (@kelcynical) March 10, 2014
— Susan McLoughlin (@H2OWise) March 10, 2014
After seeing the Twitter feedback, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just cherry picking, so I canvassed several national newspaper polls. Sure enough, in each one at least 70 percent of readers think ‘Strombo’ is a bad choice.
But why? Because he dresses like someone who enjoys artist collectives and fair trade coffee? Because he’s a former MuchMusic VJ associated more with tunes than sports? It’s discrimination if you ask me. Stroumboulopoulos is not Dennis Miller 2.0. Here’s why:
1. Not only is he a journalist, he started as a sports journalist.
Stroumboulopoulos went to Humber College for radio broacasting. He worked as a sports reporter at the Fan 590 alongside Jeff Marek, who is also part of Rogers’ new dream team. He covered the NHL and NBA. He has spent more than two decades hosting radio and television programs.
2. He’s comfortable in the spotlight and asking tough questions.
Hosting the Stanley Cup final or interviewing Gary Bettman (which he’s done, by the way) is a big deal. But in 10 years hosting The Hour/George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, Strombo interviewed the likes of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Jimmy Carter, Tom Cruise and LeBron James. He’s comfortable talking to big personalities on a big stage and, with all due respect to the game we love so much, he’s tackled much tougher topics than hockey.
3. He’s a Canadian and a diehard hockey fan.
The “what does Strombo know about hockey?” argument perplexes me, too. He’s a massive hockey fan who has spent his whole life supporting the Montreal Canadiens. He’s no insider, but as HNIC anchor, his job is more about directing traffic than providing expertise.
Do I know for sure George Stroumboulopolous will be a smash hit in his new gig? Of course not. But the guy deserves a chance. He’s far more qualified than 70 percent of Canadians think he is.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin