Media Icon and New York Native Michael McCarthy leads the Marquee Sports Network into a new era of Sports Broadcasting
Michael McCarthy has been characterized as one of the most successful and respected sports executives in the world with his vision, expertise and innovative spirit leading to the creation of top sports and entertainment businesses.
McCarthy was named GM of Marquee Sports Network in 2019. The new home of the Chicago Cubs launched in February of 2020, right as the coronavirus pandemic began.
McCarthy told SportsJam host Doug Doyle it was not the ideal beginning for the RSN owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group and the Cubs.
"I think the first thing we were concerned about, as all of us were, was safety and health and to make sure all of our folks were okay. You know it was a little stranger for us because we just put the thing together and really in a lot of cases just got to know some of our employees when this hit. We launched into producing games and talk shows and panel discussions from remote which was very new to everybody 15 months ago. It was a big adjustment. Some of the shows were better than others but we were really proud, first and foremost, of getting through it without getting anyone getting sick, which was terrific. We ended up doing that crazy 60-game season by remote. We're proud of what we did and we're proud of how it's gotten started. Cub fan base is crazy passionate as you probably know, not unlike the New York team fan bases, so we're having a lot of fun here in Chicago."
McCarthy rise to become a sports media icon is a good one. While attending Marist College, he began an internship with MSG Network in New York City. Years later he would become the President of the network. He would eventually help launch the careers of announcers like Mike Breen, Michael Kaye, Bob Papa, Gus Johnson and Tracy Wolfson.
McCarthy remains humble about his ability to hear and see potential in new and present talent.
"I can't take any of the credit, but I've been very lucky to be around people at young phases of their career and sometimes you just have a sense that it might work. We're really proud of Breen and Kaye of course, Bob Papa, Gus Johnson was another one who took an opportunity and went crazy north with it. I have to be honest too, there is something very special about the New York market where you can't do anything quietly there. If you put a guy on a Knick game, holy mackerel, you're gonna get attention one way or another. If you don't have a thick skin you are going to have to grow one pretty quick because of all the scrutiny."
McCarthy says he is thrilled that veteran broadcaster Jon "Boog" Sciambi is the new play-by-play voice of the Chicago Cubs.
"Great pipes but he has a funny knack of dealing with the heavy analytic world that baseball is now in without batting you over the head with it like a schoolmarm. You end up learning a little bit about some these crazy characteristics and analytical categories without feeling like you missed class. And yet he's one of the great storytellers and he just flat out loves baseball.
Before taking the Marquee Sports Network job, McCarthy had served many years as New York's MSG Network president and then at different points in his amazing media career became vice chairman and chief executive of the NHL's St. Louis Blues and chief operating officer of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.
McCarthy admits the sports media landscape has changed dramatically over the past several years and played a role in his blueprint for Marquee Sports Network.
"I think it's quite a bit different for a few reasons, not the least of which would be social media and the amount of response that you get. The volume of it is remarkable. The immediacy of it is remarkable. If somebody makes a comment on one of our shows, we can tell whether it went over not within seconds which is good and bad but it's certainly different. There's also a lot of ambiguity of where the future is for media. How will fans be consuming baseball games five years from now? I think anybody who tells you they know about that's going to work is not telling you the truth. You couldn't know. it's just too unknown, but you have the cord-cutting. You have people finding ways of accessing information that didn't exist several years back. So it's very different. It's very cool. I think a lot of think in the sports world, like yourself, we're kind of immune to cord-cutting. We find people still want to watch ballgames live, they're not happy to DVR them and watch them the next day. I think there's come change to come. Of course, the last one and the biggest one, at least for now here in Chicago would be the gambling component, just so prevalent on all forms of sports media including ours. By the way here in Chicago, much like New Jersey, it's completely legal to bet on a sporting event on your phone and people do it quite a bit. They watch us with questions about their bets as much as they watch to see who's winning or losing."
McCarthy's late father, Johnny, was the groundskeeper at the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium for more than three decades. Mike says his dad and Mets legendary pitcher Tom Seaver had a close relationship. Seaver attending Johnny's funeral.
While growing up as a Mets fan, Mike McCarthy admits his Met's allegiance never completely goes away, but he's more of a general baseball fan nowadays. McCarthy remembers watching many Jets games together with his dad and having arguments over who would beat who in the boxing ring from different eras. Mike ran cross country for Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York and would help his dad with groundskeeping work.
You can hear the epic "french horn" story in this edition of SportsJam with Doug Doyle and you can see the video chat at https://fb.watch/5GgRBRQI0x/.
Previously, Mike was president of New York’s MSG Network, vice chairman and chief executive of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and chief operating officer of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.