Top of the am. Interesting reading Steve Simmons this am. His article, in case you haven’t read it is in praise of Ron Wilson and the job that he has done with this years edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Simmons suggests that Wilson’s accolades would be even greater if he were more well liked. The question I have this am, is more well liked by whom? Take a look at some of these comments:
“If there was something more likable about Ron Wilson, this city would be falling in love with the coach of the Maple Leafs by now. That’s the way it works around professional sports these days. You like somebody, you want to give them more of a break. You like their personality, you want to fight for them instead of with them. It’s a flaw of the population, a flaw of the media.”
Personally, I don’t think it’s a flaw. I think it’s human nature. Irrespective of the profession (if any) we as a society tend to go easier, if you will on those we like. I think the media, especially the sports media are much more easily swayed in their bias. If someone is good to the press they will get much better or balanced treatment then someone less kind. I am sure we can all imagine certain individual in sports providing certain members of the media with otherwise privileged information and in return the expectation is that the scribe will lean a little more favorably on the loose lipped individual.
“If Wilson wasn’t so caustic, occasionally abrasive and sarcastic — three of my favourite qualities — this city would warm up to him the way it hasn’t warmed up to a Leafs coach since Pat Burns.”
Here is where I have to take pause. Does the fact that Wilson displays these characteristics affect his acceptance from the general public? Does the fact that he is sarcastic or abrasive with the media make him less likable to us the fans? Simmons’ article seems to suggest it does. I, on the other hand would suggest otherwise. I think in other cities with other scribes in other sports it may, however in this town, right now and with the Maple Leafs, I actually think it has a positive effect. We the public have a love hate relationship with those on the daily beat. When Wilson snapped on Howard Berger the public applause and appreciation couldn’t have been any higher. That is not to single out Howard. When Wilson said to the press that they never once ask him a really hockey question, that was very well received by the public, not so much by the press. I think much of that starts with the relationship or lack there of, we have with the current group of sports press in this city. A large portion of the sports fans are tech enthusiasts in this city. Blogs, on the Leafs, Jays, Raptors, Argos and TFC are extremely popular. The NHL trade deadline day was won not by TSN, not by Sportsnet, but by Twitter. That’s a fact. Love it or hate it, understand it or master it. For Bruce Arthur in today’s paper (and I love Bruce Arthur) to essentially dismiss it as a fad shows a real disconnect with his readership (or potential thereof).
“Wilson knows how to coach. What he has to figure out — if he cares at all about his image — is how to better play the game within the game. Do that and he will have this city eating out of his hands.”
Is it possible that Wilson doesn’t care what the media thinks of him, but rather only the public perception? Are the two necessarily combined? That is, can the press loathe a figure, bash the hell out of him in their various mediums and yet have the public still adore that very same subject? I say the answer is yes and I think it happens all the time. Look at popular tv shows that get critically bashed. There seems to be an indirect correlation to the popularity of a show and whether or not the critics like it. Recall the Seinfeld episode that involved The English Patient. Most of us under 40 somethings hate the movie (if we were dumb enough to watch it). The critics loved it and it won an Oscar. Critics don’t love the movies that draw top numbers at the box office. Critics hated (with good reason) Titanic, yet it remains one of the biggest money makers of all time. So why, should we care what the press thinks of an athlete, coach or player’s personality? I think Ron Wilson is getting as much love from the city as possible under the circumstances. He could be the biggest prick to the press and win a Stanley Cup, would anyone care that he isn’t nice to Damien or Stephen? Hell no.
Now, where it can matter is when the person isn’t performing up to snuff. Then the press can certainly influence the decision makers. A coach or player who has a shitty relationship with the press and is going through hard times could be in dire straits as compared to a well liked guy. However, the well liked guy who doesn’t perform isn’t guaranteed anything either. John Gibbons was a nice guys and well liked by the press and well, look what happened to him. I think the same can be said for JFJ. The onus on the person has to be to perform to the best of their ability under the circumstances (or in many cases despite the circumstances).
It’s funny. You read Simmons’ column and it is a very well written piece. For the most part it is accurate. It is a complimentary tribute to Wilson and the job he had done. To an extent he almost disproves his own theory in his own piece of work. I can’t speak for you, only myself. I like Ron Wilson. I think his methods of using the press to speak about his players will land him in trouble as it has in the past. I think he is the perfect coach to instill winning in a rudderless ship. I love the way he handles the press. I don’t think it effects my access to him and I know it doesn’t change my view of him as a coach at all.
Simmons’ article is here