Luck's Role in My Radio Career
Decades ago, I was flipping through an astrology book. Once I did all the complex math using the numbers that made up my birthday, I turned to the appropriate page to find out what the stars said. This particular book revealed my lucky number was–apparently–seven.
Little did I know at the time that seven was looked upon as a positive number and the term “lucky 7” had some cultural use and meaning.
Megan Robinson reminded me of this when she tweeted out a link to a podcast she was on with John Chidley-Hill. It was the seventh episode of “How The Sausage Gets Made.”
I know Megan from her two go-arounds at Sportsnet 590 The Fan, once as an intern and once as a sportscaster and reporter. But I didn’t know all of the other roles she played surrounding those.
It turns out she and I have something in common: we both tried to get a co-op placement at a radio station while still in high school. She was successful while I was not.
But my attempt to get a co-op placement led me to where I am now.
Leading up to my co-op term that would start in February 2000, I mailed a bunch of letters to Toronto radio stations. They were all “cold call” letters; I didn’t know anyone in radio so I had no inner track.
Most stations turned me down. There were a variety of reasons. All of their co-op or intern jobs were already filled. Or you needed to be in a college or university program to be considered. Or… well, no reason at all (at least not one that was revealed to me).
However, I was lucky enough to make one important contact. Ian Cunningham at what was then known as FAN 590 had me come in for an interview. Great, I would get to showcase my ultimate passion for radio broadcasting! Unfortunately, it also showed my complete lack of knowledge of everything sports.
To his credit, Ian didn’t turn me down because I wasn’t a sports fan. But as you can imagine, to work at the largest (and first) sports radio station in the country, you need to know a bit about sports. I knew nothing. I was clueless. And I was so far behind that the little amount of time I had to catch up wasn’t enough. My hopes were dashed and the closest I would get to a co-op placement in radio would be working in that other broadcast medium at the local cable community TV channel.
But a year later, things changed.
“Who Do I Know?”
I was unemployed and had been trying to get a job in broadcasting. I kept thinking, “Who do I know in radio? Who can I reach out to?” After a few months with no real progress, Ian’s name finally came to mind. I’m still not sure what took so long. After all, I had just met with him the previous year. So I fired something off and reminded him of this.
At the same time, Toronto was about to get a new radio station. 1050 CHUM announced they would switch from playing oldies music to a sports talk format in the spring of 2001. In fact, the change would be done in tandem with other changes across the country and form Canada’s new national sports radio network, “The Team.”
I can’t say it was a motivating factor to send the letter at the time, but I was lucky enough that The Team was launching and enticing experienced people away from FAN 590 to work for them. Several on- and off-air employees were leaving and Ian had me fill one of those openings, hiring me as a part-time board operator.
And there I was, working in Toronto radio. The largest market in the country. I was in master control. In control of everything that went on the air. A large audio console was in front of me and it was connected to a 50,000 watt transmitter on the other side of Lake Ontario.
Fast Forward to Today
Things went well after that. Today marks day 5,281 of working for the same company.
Occasionally, I think back on all of the incredible things that have happened over that almost 15-year timespan and consider how lucky I have been. With her career story, Megan stirred those memories to the surface again.
I can’t answer the age-old question of whether luck is real or just a coincidence, nor whether luck is real or simply the result of hard work. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
But whatever my lucky number is–seven or something else–it’s working.