Hub Arkush had just completed three hours of what amounted to self-admonishment.
“I was wrong,” Arkush said multiple times during his 6-9 p.m. show Wednesday on 670 The Score.
The station’s NFL expert kept apologizing for making denigrating remarks about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers the day before. His words had gone viral, reaching places on the internet he didn’t know existed.
But for most of the show, he opened the phone lines, anticipating a flood of venom for saying he won’t give Rodgers his vote for NFL MVP because Rodgers kept the team in limbo all offseason and lied about being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I’m still a little troubled that every caller was calling to support me,” Arkush said with a laugh after the show. “Because that doesn’t happen on The Score. So I’m not sure what to make of that.”
To be sure, Arkush took his share of criticism in those three hours. But he said that was the point.
“My only mission was to try and undo any possible stain that I would have put on the votes or the awards or my fellow voters,” he said. “I’ve literally just been sick about that.”
Arkush hasn’t listened back to what he said on the “Parkins & Spiegel” show Tuesday. But he has heard enough about it to realize that “a couple of things about Rodgers were completely inappropriate, sophomoric. It’s just not me.”
He called Rodgers “the biggest jerk in the league” and said “I don’t think a bad guy can be the most valuable guy at the same time.” Criticism of that nature has never been Arkush’s style. But like a quarterback taking every question from reporters after throwing a costly interception, he took the heat.
Coming out of one commercial break, producer Brandon Fryer played Rodgers’ response to Arkush’s remarks. The four-time MVP called Arkush “a bum,” suggested he should be excluded from future votes and said he never had met or been interviewed by Arkush. (Arkush actually has interviewed Rodgers many times on the field after games for Westwood One, but he didn’t expect Rodgers to remember.)
That was the first time Arkush had heard Rodgers’ retort, and, like everything else in this saga, it took him by surprise.
“I think that the guy was obviously hurt,” Arkush said. “Honestly, I was surprised that he said that much and came on as strong as he did. But I was wrong, so I’m not gonna criticize him for the way he reacted. But I will say if you listen to the whole thing, I’ll let people form their own opinions about Aaron Rodgers. I will say I found his comments very interesting, and that’s probably where I should leave it.”
Arkush isn’t facing punishment from anyone but himself. The Score management wouldn’t have let him host solo for three hours if it had any reservations, and the Associated Press, which oversees the voting for NFL awards, won’t take away his vote. The AP accepted his apology for discussing it, which the news organization asks its 50-person panel to avoid.
But Arkush might not be done apologizing. He’s the NFL insider for the Packers’ radio pregame show, and it will be interesting to hear how he’s received. He figures to come out of this fine in Chicago, where he has had the reputation of a reasonable and respected analyst since his days on the Bears’ radio broadcast (1987-2004) and as the longtime publisher of Pro Football Weekly.
(In full disclosure, my first job out of college in 1996 was at PFW, where I also interned in 1994.)
Though he’s loath to see any benefit from this, Arkush’s profile might be bigger than it ever has been. The story was discussed on sports talk shows and picked up by websites across the media landscape.
“The ironic part of it is, I’m talking to my editor [Shaw Media sports editor Kyle Nabors on Wednesday morning], and he’s laughing and I’m telling him how awful this is, and he says, ‘I don’t know. You gained 500 Twitter followers in the last hour,’ ” Arkush said. “That’s what I don’t understand. If all these people think I’m such a turd, why are they following me?”
Arkush doesn’t believe any publicity is good publicity. He’s just riding out the storm, using contrition as a life preserver. His callers Wednesday said they appreciated it.
“You’re a man, you own it, you take your lumps and you go on,” he said. “I don’t know any other way to do it.”