I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of sports broadcaster John Saunders. The Toronto native died last Wednesday at the age of 61. News of Saunders’ death sent shockwaves across the continent. No one saw it coming. There has been a number of reports as to what led to his death. I’m not going to go into that area. What I will say is Saunders was one of the reasons I wanted to be a TV sports guy growing up.
I first saw Saunders on TV when he was at City TV in Toronto in 1982. Saunders parlayed that into a career at ESPN that spanned 3 decades. He was also the first play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors when the franchise came into the NBA in 1995. Saunders’ work extended outside broadcasting having been a director on the board of the Jimmy V Foundation, a charity named in honour of the late college basketball coach Jim Valvano. He became one of the better sports media personalities at ESPN but he also never forgotten his roots in Canada.
Saunders was well-respected in the sports and broadcasting industry both in Canada and the United States. It is pretty easy to see. I remember during the Raptors’ playoff series versus the Cavaliers earlier this year, Stephen A. Smith went on his First Take show, one day after the Raptors tied the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2, and mentioned to his co-host Skip Bayless that Saunders texted him after the game and told him “you apologize to Canadians everywhere.” It was amazing to hear current and former colleagues from Smith to Gord Martineau speak highly of Saunders both as a media personality and as a husband, father, brother, and friend.
Saunders will be missed by sports fans on both sides of the border. His professionalism will be hard to replace. Thank you for making us proud, John. RIP (1955-2016).
I would also like to offer condolences to the family of Dr. John McLaughlin. Richard Nixon’s former speech writer passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89. McLaughlin started a TV show in 1982 that became a staple of hot political discussion and commentary. I started watching the McLaughlin Group in 1994. Occasionally, the panel would discuss sports topics like Derek Jeter’s controversial home run in the 1996 American League Championship Series where a kid named Jeffrey Maier leaned over the fence in right field at Yankee Stadium and caught the ball right over the head of Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco. The McLaughlin Group was often imitated but will never be duplicated. RIP Dr. McLaughlin (1927-2016). Bye-bye.