After spending eight years at SportsNet, Sean McCormick said goodbye to his anchor's chair this past June to pursue a seat at City Hall.
Moving from sports broadcasting to municipal politics might not be the most obvious career trajectory, but McCormick is passionate about his adopted hometown. He grew up in Edmonton and spent several years working in Vancouver before he landed the gig at SportsNet. In the time since then he's become an enthusiastic supporter of the city's music community - founding the Queen West Musicfest last year.
These days, when he's not campaigning in his neighbourhood - Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina - you might find him, along with his wife, TSN's Jennifer Hedger, enjoying a coffee at the White Squirrel, catching a show at the Hideout, or just hanging out in Trinity Bellwoods Park where I spoke to him.
What is your day job?
Right now I'm trying to get elected [into municipal council, ward 19 Trinity-Spadina], that's my day job right now quite honestly. I resigned from SportsNet about a month and a half ago in order to pursue the election and campaign on a full time basis.
I was trying to juggle the two, I thought I could do SportsNet and do the election campaign at the same time, but I'm not in this to lose and I don't want to wake up on October 26th and realize that I could have done. So I talked to SportsNet and they were very cooperative with the process, so my fulltime job as of right now is the campaign and I think that's going to give me a really good shot to win.
How did you go from sports broadcasting to politics?
I've lived in Toronto for eight years now and I love this city. I moved here from out west - I was in Vancouver for a few years, grew up in Edmonton - and this is such a great city. It's the best city in Canada as far as I'm concerned. However, in the last few years I've grown increasingly frustrated with the way tax dollars are being utilized. I don't feel that Torontonians are getting good value at all for their tax dollars and rather than complaining about it, I figured it's better to be part of the solution - so I'm going to try and be a part of that solution.
What neighbourhood do you live in?
West Queen West, just a couple blocks from here.
What do you like most about this neighbourhood?
The culture down here is unbelievable. We come to think of it as the norm, because this is our neighbourhood, but it is such a unique area of the country - never mind the city. The culture is vibrant; visual art, music etc. - it's just different down here. The West Queen West BIA uses that phrase: "It's different down here" and it's true, you just walk around and there is a certain element of surprise around every corner. I mean you've got Trinity Bellwoods Park - obviously the cornerstone of the community. I just don't see my wife and I leaving here anytime soon, we love it.
How often does your job take you outside of the city?
I started at SportsNet as a traveling reporter back in 2003. I did that for about a year and a half, two years, so I was traveling all the time. If there was a story going on - if John Gibbons got fired as the manager of the Blue Jays I was on a plane going to New York to Yankee Stadium to cover the story. I traveled with the Leafs a little bit with SportsNet, did spring training with the Blue Jays down in Dunedin, FL - pretty much anywhere there was a story going on, SportsNet would send me.
With both you and your wife as sports broadcasters for competing networks, did you ever get into a rivalry?
We steer pretty clear of that stuff. We've both been in the business long enough to be a little bit cynical of everything. I mean we love it, it's a great job, but I think a little bit of cynicism keeps us sane. It's good though, she's my wife, she's my best friend and she's a sports fan, does it really get any better than that?
Outside of Toronto, are there any cities you're particularly fond of?
Yeah, my wife and I love Boston. Boston is an unbelievable city - it's clean, people are friendly, it's got a good transit system - same thing with New York, anything really in the northeastern United States.
My wife and I did a road trip; we got in the car and started off in Montreal and then drove down through Vermont, Cape Cod, Boston and New York. We went to Cooperstown (home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame), which was kind of neat. We didn't mean to go there originally, but we needed to break up the drive between New York City and Toronto somehow and my wife, being a sports broadcaster, didn't have any problem spending some time in Cooperstown.
But yeah, I would say our favourite city outside of Toronto would probably be Boston - I really like Vancouver a lot, being out there for a couple of years. It's gorgeous out there. I really respect cities that show well. Cities that are clean, well kept, pruned, things like that.
Aside from friends and family, what to you miss most about Toronto?
I miss the entertainment that is readily available in this town. As Torontonians, we take for granted the access we have here. For example, Kings of Leon were playing five blocks away from here at the Amphitheatre last night and you know, it's like "ah, whatever, Kings of Leon are playing here tonight," but it's not like that everywhere. Kings of Leon don't play in every city in Canada. I haven't looked at their tour, but I'd be surprised if they played more than three dates - if that.
AC/DC is my favourite band. I love AC/DC and they played Toronto on their last tour and that's it, that was their only Canadian date. So we come to take that for granted as Torontonians, so we'll go away places and it's nice to visit other cities - every city has something to offer, but they don't compare to Toronto for the entertainment. I'm not even talking just music, art, culture, sports, there's always something going on. You're never at a loss for something to do in Toronto - I think that's our big strength.
What do you see in other cities that you would like to see Toronto adopt?
I think our city can be a lot cleaner in a lot of ways. Obviously there's some issues as far as the budget goes and whatnot, there's reasons for everything. I think our parks could be a little better kept. I mean, here we are in Trinity Bellwoods Park and they mowed the lawn for the first time last week in about a month and a half. It's stuff like that. I think Toronto right now is a little scruffy; it's in need of a shave.
Any travel tips?
Always bring the iPod; I'm a big music fan so I always make sure I have some good music readily at hand. You gotta have the Blackberry too. My wife would probably disagree with me on that one - I'm a little addicted to it. I'm a bit of a workaholic, there's no question, and so I always like to feel connected. We just got back from a nine-day holiday and it took every muscle in my body not to look at my Blackberry more than twice a day.
Aisle or window?
You know, it depends on what city I'm going to. If we're going down to Las Vegas - Jen and I like to go down to Vegas at least once a year, we like to play poker - then I like a window because I like to get excited, I like to see the strip. If we're just going out west to see my parents - I'm 6'2", I like a little legroom - I go for the aisle.
What do you have coming up that you're really excited about?
Queen West Musicfest is right around the corner, which I'm really excited about. It's a charity music festival I put together that takes place in Trinity Bellwoods Park. All the proceeds go to the St. Josephs Health Centre, which is just down the street and it's all about celebrating Queen West music.
As I mentioned, I'm a huge music fan and we were over on the island a few years ago for the Virgin Music Festival and it was such an awesome setting - in the park, amongst the trees, people laying in the grass listening to music. So back a couple of winters ago I was driving by Trinity Bellwoods Park and I looked over and it just hit me - that park needs a music festival. Not just any music festival though, it needs to celebrate Queen West music.
My wife and I are big supporters of Queen West music. We see a lot of shows locally here at the Horseshoe, the Hideout, the Dakoka, all these great local music venues that we take for granted. So I tried to figure out a way that we could have something in the park that would work in cooperation with the city and the charity. This year we've got The Trews headlining and Maestro Fresh Wes opening and sandwiched in between are five great local acts.