The biggest sports media story of this week was almost certainly the uproar caused by Dan McNeil’s tweet about the outfit ESPN’s Maria Taylor wore for her reporting debut on Monday Night Football.
The Chicago radio host, a longtime personality on 670 The Score, suggested that what Taylor wore was appropriate for an adult film awards show, not a NFL telecast.
Outrage over the sexist remark quickly went viral on social media, drawing responses from former and current colleagues including Elle Duncan and Jemele Hill, in addition to Taylor herself.
Management at Entercom, the radio conglomerate which owns The Score, took little time to dismiss McNeil from the station, citing the “degrading and humiliating” remark made to Taylor.
Here's the statement. pic.twitter.com/3vz5rjSEhu
— Julie DiCaro is writing a book (@JulieDiCaro) September 15, 2020
McNeil is well-known to Chicago sports fans and the region’s sports media, but might not be as familiar to a national audience. That led some to immediately react against the “cancel culture” trend in current society and feel as if McNeil had been treated unfairly.
So how about some perspective from someone familiar with the Chicago sports media scene to help explain that this was hardly an isolated incident for McNeil, that he used up his last chance with management based on his past behavior?
This week in his Midway Minute newsletter, Kevin Kaduk looked at McNeil’s history on Chicago sports radio and how it pointed toward just such an end to his broadcasting career.
“Though if we’re being honest here in Chicago … was there really any other way for McNeil’s latest chance at The Score to end?
“Anyone who’s followed McNeil through his almost four decades of radio work is well aware of his ups and downs. His battles with management were legendary, his public battles with substance abuse and depression were worthy of sympathy.
“At his peak, McNeil was a first-ballot Chicago sports radio hall of famer. In a town famous for its dearth of signal callers, McNeil could quarterback four hours of radio better than anyone before or since.”
Kaduk went on to explain that McNeil had become increasingly difficult to listen to as his worldview became more insular, sharing stories of fishing trips and Rolling Stones concerts more than discuss the current Chicago sports scene.
Being a popular media personality can lead one to think that listeners will enjoy anything he or she has to say, but it can also indicate a lack of awareness toward a constantly changing audience. Such obliviousness can lull a radio talk show host into a false sense of comfort, a warped sense of invulnerability that can compel someone to say anything in a public forum without consequence. McNeil’s tweet about Taylor certainly fits that description.
Please check out Kaduk’s essay for more on the topic, including the parallels with Taylor’s career that McNeil might have realized had he taken the time to learn before firing off an offensive attempt at a joke.
Midway Minute has also recently moved to a paid newsletter model and if you’re a fan of Chicago sports (or sports in general), in addition to great sportswriting, Kaduk warrants your support. (But you already know that if you followed Kaduk at Yahoo Sports, including his days running the platform’s baseball blog, Big League Stew.)
With both Chicago baseball teams in pennant races and the Bears kicking off the NFL season, his work is worth a follow.