McCown Is Discouraged, Frustrated

TORONTO (Oct. 14) — It was back on June 15, a lifetime ago for Bob McCown, that our country’s most–celebrated sports radio and TV host suffered an ischemic stroke while recording his daily podcast. Four months later, the Bobcat is discouraged over his lack of progress and rehabilitation, telling me on the phone today that “I don’t have a life anymore.” An incident on Thursday afternoon hit hardest for the 71–year–old native of Columbus, Ohio.

“I fell down in front of my house and couldn’t get up,” McCown explained, his talking slurred, but clearly understandable. “It was horrible. There I was, lying on the pavement at the foot of my driveway. A couple of ladies went by in their car. They got out to help me. Turns out I tore open the skin near my knee and sustained a gash on my forehead, which I didn’t notice until was shaving the other day. I’m not a human being anymore. I have trouble walking [he uses a cane]; I can’t drive; I can’t go to the grocery store to buy food. I am still unable to accomplish many of the things we all do without thinking. And, it’s so damned frustrating. It hurts to say that I’ve seen no real improvement in the time since I had the stroke. I’m just doing the best I can… with lots of help from my kids.”

To those unaware, McCown’s plight hits home for yours truly. Though we occasionally clashed and have never been best friends, we also spent two years — from 1989 to 1991 — executing a magazine radio program that led directly to the first all–sports entity in Canada. Bob hosted Prime Time Sports with Bill Watters as his sidekick. I was the show’s first producer, lining up four segments of programming for our 6:10 to 7 p.m. time–slot. McCown was so prolific that the local show morphed into a national radio production; then, ultimately, to a three–hour colossus (4–7 p.m.) simulcast across the country on Sportsnet TV. When McCown, in late–June 2019, announced that the following night’s show would be his last, it came as quite a shock to viewers and listeners. Capitalizing on his fame, he and former FAN–590 colleague John Shannon hatched the Bob McCown Podcast, which instantly went viral. It was during the June 15 edition, with long–time National Hockey League coach Bruce Boudreau as a phone guest, that Bob’s speech began to slur and a noticeable droop appeared on the left side of his face.

“When it was happening, I didn’t realize that anything was wrong,” McCown recalls. “I’d suffered two minor strokes several years earlier, which I suppose were warning signs. Shannon insisted I get medical attention and I wasn’t sure why. I had a second small stroke after entering the hospital, then a really bad one five nights later. It happened while I was asleep. That’s the incident I’m having so much difficulty recovering from. After waking up, I could neither talk nor walk. There has been some improvement, physically and emotionally, since then, but not nearly as much as I was hoping for. I’m able to help out on the podcast with my slurred speech, but it’s not the same. Our sponsors have been kind enough to stick with us, though I’m not sure that will carry on much longer.”

Part of the reason surrounds McCown’s memory loss. He claims that it’s a short and long–term deficit.

“I don’t remember names,” he said. “Before going on the podcast, I have to write down which Blue Jays or Leafs players we’re going to discuss. Otherwise, I’d be in trouble. Do I remember our early years together doing Prime Time? Vaguely, but not the way I used to. Honestly, this thing is terrible. There’s not a minute of time when I’m unaware of what I can no longer do. Simple stuff, like getting up from a chair. Or, sitting down. It takes an incredible amount of effort and concentration. I get frustrated beyond belief. My legs haven’t been the same since the stroke. Spending five weeks in hospital atrophied my leg muscles and they haven’t fully recovered. Not even close.”

Neither is Bob particularly impressed with the medical help he’s received.

“Once you leave the hospital, they forget about you,” he lamented. “I’m on a waiting list for leg rehab. It’s been three bloody months. How long to they expect me to continue like this? It has also impacted my appetite. My weight has dropped from around 195 to 180 pounds. I feel depressed. My legs are still so weak. When you don’t notice any big improvement over such a length of time, it gets you down. It’s demoralizing. But, what can I do?”

One thing Bob can still do, with authority, is talk sports. And, say things over which more than a few people might bristle. For example, I asked McCown for his appraisal of the Maple Leafs in the first week of the NHL season. “I’ll be surprised if they don’t finish near the .500 mark,” he replied. “It is still a team that can score goals, but has no defense or goaltending. Witness the Montreal game the other night. How can a team challenge for the Stanley Cup when it is so comparatively weak, every year, behind center ice? I disagree 100% that the club will continue to flourish in the regular season. Ultimately, the Maple Leafs will have trouble making the playoffs. Just watch.”

About the Blue Jays, who were bounced from the American League wild card round in two consecutive games by Minnesota, McCown thinks all the talk about removing starter José Berrios was overblown. “It made no difference at all,” he said. “That team couldn’t hit with runners on base to save its collective life. Did it matter who was pitching when the club couldn’t overcome a measly, two–run deficit? To me, it was a non issue.”

For McCown, each day has become a forlorn challenge. “I’m not the person I used to be,” he admitted. “I figured by now I’d see some real improvement. But, it just isn’t there. Little things take so much effort.

“Thankfully, I have my children. They always help me. But, I feel so damned diminished.”


37 comments on “McCown Is Discouraged, Frustrated

  1. Thanks for getting this out there. Had the pleasure of meeting Bob a few times, I was in Media for 40 years in Kitchener …(not the hockey Brian Bourke…he spells it wrong…but there are some funny stories about that)
    I hope Bob can find his way to a better place. it’s frustrating to not be able to simple tasks.

  2. After tonight’s game, Treliving & Shanahan should be discussing if Coach Keefe needs to go. Winning ugly is not sustainable (is it?)

    A coach who’s more focused on the transition game, and getting and keeping the puck out of the defensive zone would do wonders for Toronto’s offensive stars.

  3. I feel for Bob as I know many people, as well as work colleagues who have suffered strokes and then the long walk to rehab to get back to some sort of normalcy. From the sports view, yes, always listened on the fan 590, today that is different for a variety of reasons.

    As for the Leafs, I will say this. At the start of the season I had stated Detroit and Ottawa would challenge for the playoffs, Tampa Bay is always there then you have Boston. I said someone would have to fall out of the picture completely as the other teams in the other divisions would be too strong to overcome in a wild card position. Simply put, they have better goaltending and defense. I think Toronto will be in trouble this year, but I want that to happen for one simple reason. I think they need a BIG reason to fail to tear apart the corpse four. My opinion anyway.

    Hope Bob heals to some degree of normalcy soon.

  4. Howard Berger, start doing a Toronto sports broadcast. What do you think of the Leafs so far? Brad Treliving and his Ufa signings all stink. The Leafs will miss the playoffs. A good opportunity will present itself, though. The Leafs have lots of upcoming uFAs. Brad can trade them all away at the deadline, including Willy Nylander. But will he do so? That is the question. Or will he trade prospects and draft picks to try to make the playoffs and miss. I’d rather see Nick Robertson and Pontus Hmberg on the team right now rather than Max Domi.

  5. Wishing you all the best Bob! Your insightful and intelligent sports commentary is the best in the business. Get Well Soon.

  6. Howie. Please ensure Bobcat sees the readers comments on this article. He has a ton of supporters out there pulling for his recovery. He needs to know it.

  7. I’m a senior citizen also Bobcat and listened to many of your broadcasts over the years.Your uniqueness is your abrasive style. You’re beholden to no one and expressed your contrary viewpoints eloquently. Listening to the Bobcat we always got the unvarnished truth with no agenda. Some of the guys on sports broadcasting now are pathetic shills for Rogers. No names have to be mentioned. We know who they are. Your singular voice and perspective is needed today. I wish you the best and empathize with your frustration with our health care system. Hang in there guy, a lot of people are praying for you to come back and take on “the suits.”

    1. Don’t be discouraged, Bob . I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke back in the summer of 2021 had to relearn everything. Be strong, brother.

    2. Bob is a icon in sports I know through practice and courage Bob you can get through this pain it’s very frustrating I know I being there you understand the mind and function aren’t the same you know you can do certain things and your memory or you movements aren’t reacting it’s a very hard struggle and when you know a name a face and forget you really then so the light it’s like it’s shut off .I can say Bob your an icon in the sports world you can make just go day by day read books on health read books on health as in vegetarian and brain health and try to understand the science of the body as it took me about 25 years with no help from doctors to figure certain aspects of how I function.I can say my mental state has improved but my reactions and my brain our in slow motion and you it’s like passing the puck your reaction is the player going to be there is an instinct that is automatically triggered in your brain as you see the play develope before ut happens it’s a move than your brain triggers that thought and it’s a special thing to have that prediction because you see in vision and when it happens it’s magical.Bob I know that you suffering is very mentally tough but your a sports guy you can push through this each day if you want call me to ask questions on this I know a thing or two about what your going through I can give you words of encouragement and really help you through explaining situations.I can predict certain things in sports now but my keen memory before could see plays instantly before they happen and when you lose that feeling it hurts because that’s a sport you love and have a feel for .After my injure I really didn’t have interest in sports became you don’t picture the game and mind doesn’t react the same but Bob I have to say watch the sports write your reactions down and the feelings about the game you love will come back your reactions might not be as quick but you know through all the sports you have watched that the outcome is on your side it’s going to be a long struggle but I know through experiences that you can recover slowly but surely and it takes practice in courage your mind and thoughts every day you love sports don’t leave something that puts joy in your heart that’s something you love because the mind works on inticing you to stop as motivation I am saying watch your sports right things down and encourage your brain that you can do the things you love by a slower approach but this hiply will help you through the process of refocusing on your state of thought the brain works in mysterious ways and your a sports icon and Remember the challenges is from your soul to make your self better by training your perspective on getting better .I know it’s going to be hard but (you as a sports guy you can do ut).

  8. When I was younger I couldn’t stand listening to the Bobcat, as I got order I realized Bob was smarter than I first thought!
    All the Best Bobcat, be the Fighter you have always been!

  9. Bob will make it back.

    He needs to find a better doctor who can advocate for him. I’d recommend trying Hyperbaric chamber therapy and getting a prescription for steroids.

    It worked wonders for my Dad after he had a stroke.

  10. Man, that’s rough to read. my father was in a similar way after having long COVID. He was not totally the same person he used to be so in that way I can sympathize with McCown. I did catch the video version of the last pod and Bob was on at the end. He did look particular weaker and slurred speech but he sounded a bit better than the previous time I saw him on screen.

    I really wish things can get better for him but it isn’t sounding so great. My thoughts are continually with the Bobcat.

  11. Mr. McCown, do not give up, in October of 2000 I broke my spine in two. My odds of walking again were 30/70, I had my operation to fuse my spine together by using rods and 4 hooks to make a new spine in October 2001.
    Lots of rehab followed once I could move.
    I returned to work in August of 2002 with a limp, my point is Sir that you need to belive.
    I am still walking at 66 albeit still with a limp but I beat the odds and I know you can too.
    I am not much on God but I will give him a shout out tonight to keep an eye on you.
    Again Bob believe!!

  12. Hello Bobcat: sorry to hear about your situation. Listened to you every day since you started at 590 in the late 80’s. Never missed a day. Myself, I suffered a brain tumor operation in June 2022. Have to do exercising on a bike everyday. Like you, my leg muscles were gone. Doing all right now. You may have to do your own exercise regimen. That is what I had to do. It’s not what it was like 25 years ago, but at least I get by. Thank you for reading this. Ted Traverse.

  13. Hi Bob. You were always my favorite sports commentator and the panel with Shannon and Brunt were classic. I always appreciated that you didn’t just discuss sports, but focused in on the business of sports.
    Please know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers and I sincerely hope that you recover completely.

  14. Hey Bobcat… forget about all the stuff that you can’t do… focus your energy on what you CAN DO!!! Your first thing you can do is.. “BE YOUR OWN BEST DOCTOR!!!” So assemble your team including physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist etc… those folks that will knowingly have your best interests at heart!!! I’m just an avid fan who learned so so much from you about sports and life… and look forward to doing more of the same in the future!!! Go Bobat Go!!!

  15. Bob I am praying for your recovery,in this media landscape,where bell and Rogers own all the local major sports teams,and where the journalists who work for those companies act more like cheerleaders for the local teams,your voice is needed more than ever.As for you Howard,two thumbs up,it takes a lot guts and empathy to write an article like this,for a man that you fought with,and do not really consider a friend,you are a great example to your children,as to what a human being should be like

  16. Thanks for your writing. Howard, and to Bob for your years of sports insights. I’ve enjoyed both for years and I’m looking forward to more from both of you

  17. Bob I tweeted John Shannon-I’ve had two leg bypasses this year for clots and aneurysms …I had a nurse and physio attendant every week for months for leg rehab and at no cost and no waiting ! Services are there for you ! Get someone to dig this for you !!

  18. Hi Bob, my good friend Robert Armes and I wish you the best and don’t ever give up I am now cancer free and 2 yrs of not giving up. Best to you please say hi to John Shannon for us we worked on music for him at CBC HNIC
    Bob Johnston

  19. Hey Bob just want to say keep giving it all you have as you have been doing all your life. Your FAN590show allowed me to survive 25 years of commuting so just want to give back. You can do this.


  20. Bob, you were and still are the best sports radio celebrity I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to listen to.

    Stay strong and get better.

  21. Wishing you nothing but the best Bob. Your broadcasts have been a big part of my life over the years and I’ve always appreciated your Frank and definitive points of view. Thank you for sharing all of this through Howard. You’re in my thoughts and prayers as you continue your fight.

  22. Bob. I wish you all the best in your recovery. I spent many years enjoying your evening radio sports casts when driving home from work and want to thank you for you interesting and always incisive and controversial commentary.

  23. Keep up the good fight, Bobcat! You can do it! We don’t doubt you so you can’t doubt yourself! You’re a real fighter + this is just another bout that you might be behind a bit in points, but in the end you’ll KO that medical problem! God bless you mon chum….

  24. Bobcat, praying for you. Hopefully things will turn positive. You’re the best sports guy out there and we Canadians need you for our fix. Bobcat, you are a spry old fox and a fighter.

  25. Dear Mr. McCown

    Your courage, stamina and willingness to cope with and overcome your medical condition is exemplenary. Its hard work and sometimes improvement seems to be ever so slow, however, you have the determination and family support which are so very necessary and important.
    I was in hospital 3 years ago for over 3 months and know first hand that while recovery may at times seem slow, your courage and determination will pay real dividends.
    Keep up the effort….many of us are praying for you.

  26. Don’t give up keep working get a private physiotherapist you can do this we know you can do whatever ever you set your mind to do. Thinking of you praying you will keep trying.

  27. Bobcat hang in there ….maybe it’s time to go for some help for depression with your doctor that will help you through this. Godspeed !!

  28. Thank you to Bob for being so raw & honest in sharing his plight. And to Howard for writing with kindness & sensitivity.

  29. Wishing and praying for Bob’s recovery! He is greatly missed from the Toronto sports media scene, as you Howard are!

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