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Toucher Getting Touchy

Well BO Blogs fans, we’ve got some more Boston sports talk radio drama. No, this time there are no casually racial jokes, or anyone calling NFL reporters racial or sexist terms. This time, we’ve got good old fashion sensitivity and seemingly fragile egos.

For those who don’t know, Toucher and Rich is the morning show for 98.5 The Sports Hub. The two main hosts are Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never really been a Toucher and Rich fan. Even when they were on the rock station WBCN. I have never really found them very entertaining. I don’t know what it is, they just aren’t for me.

WIth that being said, I wasn’t too up to date with the happenings on their show. I had tuned a couple times scrolling through the radio on my way to work in the morning. I also heard from several sources a while back that Fred Toucher was having some trouble with his voice. That made me tune in a few times to hear it. It was ugly to say the least. Toucher was clearly having some kind of health issue that was impacting his voice. That was mildly amusing, but it really made you feel for the guy. Not only that, but it was very distracting to listen to.

It was announced in April that Toucher was leaving the show to have some kind of surgery to fix his voice and deal with a couple of things in his personal life. A little bit of a story, but honestly not a huge deal. So after that I went back to not paying attention to them.

That was until the ratings came out for all the Boston stations and Toucher and RIch were obliterating all of their competition. We are talking all time high ratings for a big market morning show. Like a lot of people, I’ll never miss a chance to laugh at WEEI for going from number 1 to the bottom of the ratings books. But that was as far as it was going to go.

Then we come to Sunday morning. I awoke to the thought of a beep baseball practice in the pouring rain. Who doesn’t love that? Then as I was gearing up, I decided to scroll through Twitter. All of a sudden, I stumble upon a tweet from Fred Toucher, whom I do not follow. Here is what Fred had to say: “Call me a wimp. But nobady on my show has reached out to me besides @Lockhart81 (Mike Lockhart) I have reached out to Rich and got basically nothing back. Obviously the show is fine without me and I should start planning my future.”

Now that reeks of sensitivity to me. Also, judging by the misspelling of “nobody”, I think there may have been either a little liquid courage or perhaps some sort of pharmaceuticals on board. I get it though. It can understand the feeling of being out for medical reasons and the show you’re on not missing a beat. Like I said, I think that’s more of an indictment on the opposition, but I can imagine that doesn’t feel good.

Now some have speculated that this was some kind of a bit, or angle. Toucher’s responses to other tweets make that hard to believe. In a response to a fan saying that he missed Fred on the show, Toucher tweeted, “No one will talk to me.” That seems a little odd. Why wouldn’t his co hosts at least respond to him? It gets worse for his mates in the morning. Fred responded to yet another fan with this: “They don't need me. Cancer scare and I don't hear a word for weeks. Then I reach out to them...Nothing back.”

Oof. The guy had a cancer scare and the guys won’t even reach out? If this is a bit, it is making Shertenlieb and the others look like absolute assholes. I understand whoever replaced him not caring that much because, you know, job security. But Rich not reaching out is a sign that there is definitely a fracture in their relationship. I am home sick from work today, and a couple people there have reached out to me. I’ve been working at my current school since September. Meanwhile, Fred and Rich have been together for years and Rich didn’t even send him a text? I’ve heard from a couple different people that Rich is a bit of a head, but I can’t confirm that. I’ve never met the man.

Now after that kind of tweet storm, I figured Rich would go on the radio Monday morning and address the issue. If someone made me sound like an absolute soul-less prick, I’d have a couple things to say. So I tuned in and never heard word one about it. One thing that I did hear, that I actually enjoyed, was a segment called “The Curse of Dale Arnold,” and a 15 year old reference to WEEI host John Dennis, but nothing about Fred. It just seems so heartless.

Now, in reality, the world of radio is kind of heartless. I assume Fred Toucher makes a lot of money to bring in ratings in the morning. Clearly, due to ineptitude elsewhere, the show does not need Toucher to dominate the ratings. Also, he is due for a new contract soon. That is massive leverage for the station to lower his pay. Not to mention that he’s had a few personal issues that they could probably do without. Why pay big money for a somewhat controversial figure that you don’t really need?

There is precedent for this in Boston radio. WEEI did this with Kirk Minihane, but the difference there was they actually did need him for ratings. Rich Shertenlieb will be fine in the morning with whoever they are rolling out.

Now that you know the story, here’s what I think is going to happen. 98.5 will lowball Toucher with an offer that he will decline and counter offer for more money. They’ll say “We don’t need you,” and he’ll either accept a tiny offer or try to start his own podcast or something. Meanwhile, Rich will continue to do the morning show with a placeholder. Then, when either WEEI folds or Adam Jones' contract with EEI ends, he’ll leave that dreadful Jones and Mego show and slide right into that spot. I know Jones is basically B-level Michael Felger, but that’ll play well for 98.5. Unfortunately for Fred Toucher, he’ll fade into obscurity…

Then, I’ll go back to not listening to this show that is currently talking about the Jonas Brothers, and did an incredibly boring interview with the Bruins radio play-by-play announcer. And they’ll continue doing massive ratings for years to come.

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