Back in 1999, CBS made one of its more questionable moves when it chose not to renew Sean McDonough’s contract so it could sign Dick Enberg. At the time, McDonough was calling the SEC on CBS, college basketball including the NCAA Tournament with Bill Raftery and The Masters. He had called the World Series and Olympic bobsleigh, luge and hockey for the Tiffany Network, but with one decision by CBS Sports president Sean McManus, McDonough was gone.
And while McDonough was still calling Boston Red Sox baseball on WFXT-TV, the CBS move made him question whether he should continue broadcasting. He told Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune that he was very discouraged as he was hoping to remain with CBS:
The blow hit him so hard he initially questioned whether he wanted to go on with his career.
“You start to think, `Do I want to spend my whole life saying he’s 3 out of 10?'” McDonough said. “Is that a contribution?”
Luckily, his father, Will McDonough who was then covering the NFL for the Boston Globe and an aunt who was also a nun, talked him out of quitting, telling him he was making more of a contribution than he realized.
The move certainly caught Sean by surprise, but after he took some time to clear his head, he signed a contract with ESPN in 2000, joined them in time to call some NHL playoff games (remember when the NHL was on ESPN?) and then settled in with the Worldwide Leader.
Looking back in hindsight now, it certainly worked out as Verne Lundquist stepped in to call the SEC on CBS, Enberg went on to a fruitful end of his network broadcasting career for CBS and McDonough moved to ESPN/ABC to call mainly call college football and basketball. Now that he’s going to call Monday Night Football for ESPN, McDonough can look back and certainly say the CBS move led the way for him to get back to calling a premier sports property for a network.
It took some time for McDonough to become an “A” announcer again, but it certainly worked out. And he’s definitely not looking back to when he felt he was at his lowest point in his career.