FIT TO LIVE | Jay and Dan
From the network that pushed the boundaries of sport with the FOXTrax Glow Puck we bring you Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole hosts of Fox Sports Live and the Jay and Dan podcast.
It has been over two years now. How is Los Angeles treating you two?
Jay: I love it. I have always been curious about the city, what it would be like to live here and to me it lives up to and exceeds expectations. Probably the biggest surprise is how nice people are here. I lived in friendly Manitoba. I know what nice people are like and believe it or not, as much as this may sound crazy, Southern Californians live up to that. That, mixed with the beautiful weather, makes it a pretty great place to hang your hat.
Dan: Well first things first. People who say you will miss the seasons are people who have to live through winter. You do not miss the seasons. I like one season. Summer. Year round. I don’t have to shovel snow.
How did Canadian broadcast legends Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole first meet?
Jay: Well it was really pure coincidence. I was already at SportsCentre at TSN for a year and Dan showed up around 2004. It was one of those situations where a spot opened up on the 1am show that I was doing and Dan was next in line. We just got along really well. We both had a similar philosophy on how the show should be done and we both had a similar philosophy about adding a little humor to the mix. We wanted to bring a little something extra to the show to make it more appealing, more entertain for people so we started letting our personalities shine. A lot of people believe that it sort of happened over night but it was a very gradual process. We started to tell a few jokes, our boss said maybe tell a few less jokes, and I we sort of found a happy medium and eventually came to a place where we were having fun but not too much fun. In the end, it was a pretty winning formula for us.
Dan: It is all thanks to one human. Blake Price. Blake Price was an anchor. He was on the 10 Eastern show with Darren Dutchyshen. Jay was on the 2am Eastern show with a beautiful women by the name of Jennifer Hedger. So Blake was having some challenges with his small and growing family and he needed a support system. He had to move back to Vancouver with his wife and kids, meaning Jennifer was added to his time slot, resulting in Jay being paired with me. Jay went from being paired with Jennifer Hedger to me. I don’t think he really loved me for the first few months but after he realized he had to work with me he came around, right?
How much do you attribute to the Wall Street Journal article by Will Connors, ‘Why Can’t We Have Canada’s SportsCentre’ to the FOX deal?
Jay: A lot. The thing about that is sometimes life is just about timing. Will was up in Canada, living in Canada, and liked our show and wanted to do an article about us. It just so happened to be the same time Fox was looking for a different style of morning show. It was just one of those things you can’t plan and had a big part of at least us getting that awareness. After that it was sort of up to us but it certainly opened a door.
Dan: It definitely helped. I think they would have found us because our bosses were talking to them after that and they knew we existed and knew we had a strong following in Canada. That was just the lighting rod.
Where were you when you received first wind of the interest from FOX?
Jay: Dan and I were at the Olympics in London in 2012 and got a call out of the blue from the Fox execs saying they wanted us to come down to LA and meet with them and hang out. Obviously it was a pretty bizarre call to get because we were in London and focused on the Olympics. We were happy at SportsCentre, loved doing the job and probably would have happily done it for another 10-20 years. It is just one of those things where it was an unknown and still is sort of a unknown, but you have to challenge yourself as you go through life. Especially in our business. I think it is easy to get a little stagnant if you do the same thing for too long
Dan: London. Olympics for TSN. The article asked why the American SportsCenter could not be more like the Canadian SportsCentre, which we hosted. Our future boss and current boss, Eric Shanks, opened up the Wallstreet Journal the day that article appeared and he just so happened to be putting together a new sports network called FS1. He wanted to be different. We went back and forth for about a year. It was on again, off again and then everything just clicked. We have been here since day one of the network.
From past articles and books I feel like when the opportunity came to move to Los Angeles it was, to an extent, an easy decision from a professional standpoint to take your talents elsewhere (like Lebron say). Was this a no brainer for both of you or did it take either of you some convincing?
Jay: Not necessarily because we had such a great gig going at TSN. Our families were happy, we were happy. It was also not like we were 20 something’s, fresh out of school. That made it a bit more difficult. But I will say this, that FOX bent over backwards not just financially but also in every aspect to make our families and ourselves comfortable down here. No matter what happens with the success of the show I could never complain about the treatment we’ve received from them. That really put it over the top, the way they treated us and the way they recruited us.
Dan: No. It wasn’t a no brainer at all. We went back and forth. It seems like an easy decisions but when you have a young family. Which I do. Jay was starting a family of his own. You don’t want to uproot the family from school and friends and family and move to a state, let alone a country, you have never lived in and a place you don’t know a single soul. We contemplated it for quite a while. It was one of those instances where you say if we don’t do this then we will kick ourselves. I always use this analogy. If we hadn’t of gone and one February evening when I was driving back to my home after doing the show and it was a snow storm and a transport truck passed me on the 401 and a sheet of slush hit my windshield – I would have been really mad I didn’t move to California for the weather and no slush.
Are there any words of wisdom or advice your today selves would have appreciated telling your TSN departing selves?
Jay: Great question. I would probably just say enjoy it.
Dan: Yah. Don’t have a 2-month good bye. We gave a 2-month notice. By the end of it even we were sick of ourselves. People were like “Aren’t you gone yet?”. That would have been my advice.
Much of your success has come as a tandem package like Jordan/Pippen, Russell/Cousy, Kobe/Shaq, Stockton/Malone, Burt/Ernie (you can decide who is who). Do you think there will come a point where you guys will pursue different career opportunities?
Jay: I think that is inevitable. I think it will have to happen at some point. When that will happen, I can’t tell you. I think at some point we will do something different. You can’t work together forever. But certainly I can see a time in our career where we are doing separate things but at the same time keeping the podcast going. It’s just so easy now with the technology available. So I could see us keeping the podcast going, even if for whatever reason we are doing two different gigs.
Dan: I think forever and ever now we are going to be joined at the hip. I don’t want to say TV is dying but it is definitely going online now. Hopefully we will be employed until retirement age and hopefully we will be paired together. The industry has changed so much, even the three years we have been here. No one could predict there would be this many layoffs and this much movement. No one knew new TV rights would be bid on by the YouTube’s and Netflix’s. If you have a crystal ball I would love to borrow it.
You guys have been making waves in the media over the past few months regarding the show, budget cuts, layoffs and restructuring at Fox Sports 1. I would just love to get your candid thoughts on this.
Jay: There is a misconception about that. I went on Dan Patrick and answered some questions. If you go back and listen to the interview at no point am I criticizing FOX. All I said was that the initial incarnation of the show, the way the show was when we first moved down here, where it was Dan and I and a panel of athletes like Andy Roddick and Donovan McNabb, I believed that wasn’t a great formula for success. I was willing to try it but it just seemed confusing. Two shows in one. As you know it is hard enough to get a person to watch any TV shows now much less a show that doesn’t exactly know what it is. Dan was more focused on the layoffs and things. Because Dan Patrick happened soon after Dan made those tweets I think it sort of got lumped in there. I like to clarify that that is certainly not the case.
Dan: We are starting to see some direction. The reason Jay and I spoke up. Jay did it on the Dan Patrick show, I did it by way of tweets during the Superbowl. You see colleagues being laid off and the industry going the way it is. You kind of get fed up. Someone tell us what the hell is going on here. After those things were said and Jay made his appearance on Dan Patrick Show our bosses called us in and said “We didn’t know you felt this way”. They set the record straight and the vision for the show. We got pulled off air for 2 weeks. People thought we were suspended. During those two weeks we were planning the show we currently do now. We had two weeks to put it together and we are very proud of the fact we put an entirely new production on the air in that two week frame. In hindsight I am glad those tweets were sent because it sort of rattled the jail bars for us a little bit and that was good.
How do you feel the new late-night talk show approach is working out?
Jay: It has been great, a real pleasant surprise. Even when we were back at TSN we were asked if we might do a Daily Show for sports because no one had really been doing something like that. Norm McDonald had tried it and the Onion tried it and I thought there was still a place for it and that is what we are sort of trying to do. We are trying to be the Daily Show for sports. We went from doing a highlight show to this show in just two weeks. It is a pretty fun and watchable show. My only regret is for you guys in Canada. That you still can’t see it up there. And that really sucks. Hopefully we can change that in the future.
Dan: We were sort of lost in that great big studio. You had to use all the screens. You can’t really do our shtick in that environment. It has been really great in that way. The smaller space is perfect for our needs. The ratings are the same as our old show if not slightly better. That’s with zero promotion. We haven’t run any promo on our own station let alone big FOX. It has been really good and we are slowly building a following.
The Podcast obviously started at TSN. Is that something you guys’ took on yourselves?
Jay: That was all Dan. 100% Dan’s idea. Dan really wanted to do it. I have to give all the credit to him. He really wanted to try and I said sure, let’s give it a go and it sort of took off more so than I had ever expect it would. It has arguable become something we are more know for than our TV show even. It has been a pleasant and fun surprise.
Greatest moment in sports.
Jay: For me my favourite moment is the 2010 Olympics. The Sidney Crosby goal. I was lucky enough to be in the rink. To me nothing will really top that. Olympics. Home soil.
Dan: Sidney Crosby. Game winning goal. Vancouver Olympics.
Greatest athlete of our time.
Jay: Off the top of my head I would have to say someone like Michael Phelps. You think of someone who has dominated over the course of several Olympics and now will compete at Rio. I love the Olympics. I love Olympians. So right off the top he jumps out to me. As far as my generation is concerned I think about guys like Bo Jackson and Dion Sanders who were not only able to play professionally in one league but play professionally and excel in another league.
Dan: Tough one. I am going to say Lebron James.
Top 3 on the Jay and Dan Pod Canadian Wall of Fame.
Jay: Tough. Probably The Great One, Neil Young and Lorne Michaels. I love that Lorne, he wears his order of Canada pin to the many formal events he attends.
Dan: Our Lady Peace. Terry Fox. Leslie Nielsen.
Favourite guest on the podcast or FS Live.
Jay: There have been so many great guests on both shows. I would have to say Martin Short though. Luck enough to have him on the show. That was a dream come true. Huge fan of that guy.
Dan: Nate Diaz. He was hilarious. We were terrified of him. He walked into the room and was like “Oh, It’s you guy’s” cause he didn’t know it was an interview with us and we were the ones that poked and prodded him and Connor when they were on with us together. He was amazing. We’d have him back at any moment.
Guest you would like to have on the show.
Jay: We really want Tegan and Sara. Sadly they just turned us down. We are going to keep trying. We love those Canadian girls.
Dan: I’d have Rhonda Rousey back. We’ve had her on the show before and when she smiles her cheeks hid her eyes. It is the most adorable thing on earth. So Id pick Rhonda.
How bad did the Andy Roddick’s rips hurt in that FS1 promo and who pitched this idea because quite frankly we found it hilarious.
Jay: I am not sure who pitched. I didn’t get the worst of that. Dan got it way worse than I did and had some serious bruising.
Dan: I asked him if it would hurt if he ripped tennis balls at us. He said yes. I said let’s try it one time. The next day we show up to work and they have catcher’s gear for us and I was like I guess we have to do this now. That’s the most upset my mothers been at me ever. All she saw – was no more grandkids.
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Also if you enjoy the read we are giving away a copy of Jay Onrait’s first book Anchorboy. All you have to do is share this interview on your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account and tag us in the post. Each post is an entry and a winner will be selected on May 23.