Do The Toronto Raptors Get A Bad Rap?

It started as an innocent call to the Fan 590. A guy called in complaining about the coverage the Toronto Raptors get on the Fan590. The caller alleged that everything the Toronto Maple Leafs do is over-hyped and nothing the Toronto Raptors do is every hyped. His point was that the Leafs play of late has the media in a buzz, while no one talks about the Raptors except in a negative tone.

Taking the call was Eric Smith and Jack Armstrong. Part of Smith’s response was that, on a no name basis, there are those in the Toronto Sports Media who aren’t as big of fans of the Toronto teams as others.

Smith, in case you don’t know, is an active participant on Twitter (you can follow him at @eric_smith). So I, being the curious type, sent him a tweet asking him to, on a no name basis to expand upon his comment. Now, I have said this before but the one area, in my opinion anyway where Twitter is really useful is making guys like Eric Smith, (you can add in many sports media personalities here, especially on the local beat) accessible to us fans. Now I guess, prior to Twitter, I could have emailed Smith if I had his email address and maybe he would get it, and maybe he would have read it. Personal experience has shown that as long as you aren’t a total dink and are the least bit insightful most of the sports personalities in this town will indeed respond to you. In this case, what ensued was pretty cool, all things considering. Smith explained that in his opinion there are members of the local media (not on the Raptors beat) who don’t want other sports (hockey being the exception) like basketball and baseball to succeed here. He and I then went back and forth several times to the point where he invited his Raptors broadcast partner Paul Jones (@paul_jones) to the conversation.

The three of us discussed the issues for several tweets and the take away I got was that there is a genuine belief by those in the media, that other non-Raptors media types don’t respect basketball or the Raptors the same way that they do the Maple Leafs and hockey. Jones said that things are better today as opposed to the past, but still one gets the sense there is some bad blood in the media towards the dinos and those who cover them.

It got me to thinking, and who am I to suggest that these guys are wrong, they are living it, they know who their breathern are and who may have the hate out for what they do better than I. Are those in the media really anti-bball/Raptor or is there more at play? Are the Raptors getting a bad rap from the local media?

So here is what I think, and I am curious to know if I am on or off base.

The Raptors have been around since 1995. They have made the playoffs 5 times over those 15 years. They have advanced past the first round one time.

I would like to think that winning solves all problems. Not to point any fingers, but had this team been more successful then I think more people would be interested in covering them. This has been a team that has been all about the promise. There has been lots of hype, lots of enthusiasm but unfortunately for various reasons little in terms of wins.

Now, the Raptors do have an awesome fan base. The games are well attended and the Raptors blogs are some of the best around. There may not be as many Raptors fans as Maple Leaf fans, but man are the rabid. We have to remember that Jones and Smith were talking media not fans.

The second thing I have said many times about the MSM in this town is that they don’t talk basketball or Raptors because they don’t know it. How hard is it for us canucks to rip on Toskala for letting in a soft goal? Unless your real fan of the game it’s hard to make legitimate comments on what is or isn’t going on. Many who cover sports in this town don’t have that background. For them to start talking x’s and o’s in basketball when they don’t know what they are talking about would be, in a word bad.

Personally, what I think has happened is pretty interesting. When Colangelo arrived it was the first time a real NBA executive joined the team. It was like the Raptors became legitimate. I know Isiah was here early, but he had never done what he was doing in Toronto before. I know we had Lenny Wilkens, but a coach is different than a GM. Colangelo was viewed as the real deal. He has been given every benefit of the doubt since he arrived. Those who may have criticized him publicly or questioned his moves have been very quiet since he arrived.

Colangelo, arrived and was instantly successful. This early success added to the aura of BC. He almost became too successful too early. Expectations were too high. Imagine if after Brian Burke arrived last year the Leafs miraculously made the playoffs and won a round. Colangelo’s challenges since have, for the most part gone unmentioned in this town. The truth is, he has rebuilt this team, hired a coach, with little real result yet. His team this year has yet to find common middle ground. They are either at the top of their game or the absolute bottom. They are just never in the middle . That’s a tough nut to swallow for fans let alone the media. His team also seems to lack an identity. While Chris Bosh is the “the franchise” it isn’t like you see his face all over the city. This isn’t a knock on Bosh, more a reflection of this team… I think if they were in first or second place, going on 5-6 game winning streaks things would be different. If the team had more success, those in the media wouldn’t be able to ignore the success. The same way the Toronto Blue jays were the toast of the town jsut before and during their winning years.

So do the Raptors get a bad Rap? I don’t think so. I think that despite their 15 year history they are still a new team in search of their identity in the marketplace. If MSMers are balking at them, it’s because they don’t know the game, or they haven’t been forced to cover them as a result of winning. If the complaint is lack of coverage, isn’t that better than negative coverage? Yes, as Paul Jones said, silence is very telling, however, it is better than constant bashing or negativity. If the MSMers are doing that behind close doors, we wouldn’t know about it. I haven’t seen public evidence of what these guys speak.

To the fan who called in, I couldn’t disagree more. The Leafs, for as long as I can remember have been the whipping boy of the local media. The main reason I started TSM was that I felt and still do feel that man in the media are too negative about our teams all the time. The Leafs have been so bad for so long that any positives are magnified. The fact that they too have hired a proper GM for the first time in years is something to get excited about. When they couldn’t win a game early this year, I wouldn’t say the press was too positive (nor should they have been). The fact that the Leafs have fought back is remarkable. No one publicly predicted it. So is credit deserved for good play? Of course. The same way criticism was due during the first 20 games of the season.

Get the Raptors on a real winning streak, get them deep into the playoffs. Then let’s see what happens. Until then, at least publicly I think the jury is out.

Happy Saturday



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December 19, 2009 7:36 pm

Interesting post, TSM.

On one hand, I think you’re right. The raptors, as a franchise have been mediocre or worse. So they do deserve some negative criticism from the media. Perhaps a lot more than they receive.

Now let me say I’m a big jays and raps fan. I’m not huge into hockey, but I really respect the amazingly passionate fan base here.

That being said, I think, without question, there is an element of the traditional hockey fan base and media that hopes sports they view as ‘non Canadian’ fail. I’m talking baseball, basketball and soccer mostly.

As proof, this upcoming season, watch how many hockey folks are going to act certain that the jays will relocate. Nevermind that only one MLB team has moved in the last 40 years and the Jays are not in the same stratosphere that the expos were. Now anything is possible, but places like Tampa, pittsburgh and KC are in much worse shape perenially and you don’t here people there expecting a move.

My point is I do think there’s a division between people stuck in the past who believe Toronto should only have NHL, CFL and curling and those who’ve embraced things like NFL, MLB and NBA. I think the former group overlooks that Toronto is the 4th biggest market in North America an one of the most multicultural cities on Earth. I wish they’d understand that while hockey will always be tops here, there is room to embrace these other sports. There’s 8 million people in the golden horseshoe!

So yeah. In short I do think there is an element of the old guard that wants the raps and jays to fail. And I wish they’d change their attitude – it would make Toronto a sports town that is a lot better and a lot more fun.

Swirsky's Soldier
Swirsky's Soldier
December 20, 2009 11:41 am

The reason the Raps don’t get the same coverage as the Leafs (or any Canadian NHL team really) is that hockey is king here. They are 2 products competing for the same customers, over the same time period. The media makes their money through advertising, and the advertisers want to see ratings. More hockey fans means more hockey coverage. The fans want to hear about the leafs…. so the media talks leafs. It comes back to the almight $… pretty straight forward.

If the Raps start winning consistently, they’ll get more fans, which will attract more advertisers, which will mean more coverage in the media. But, unfortunately, it will always be the little stepbrother with a learning disability compared to the leafs.

December 20, 2009 11:59 am

Well, Jonesy and Smith would know more than any of us about how some in their profession feel about certain sports/teams. The papers I read online (Globe first, then Star, occasionally Post just for Arthur.) do a pretty good job covering the Raptors and I don’t find them to be too negative.

The only time I really saw what they were talking about was this week on CTV. I was watching the news at 6 the night the Halladay deal was leaked and the sports guy (lance brown, i think) was reporting on that and the horrible raps loss to the hawks on the weekend. He then launches into a 40 sec diatribe on the teams. Don’t remember the exact words but the jist was “Both teams suck, nobody cares since they have no fans, we’d be better off if they moved and only the Leafs matter”. Now he might have just been mad that the best player in town was traded for prospects he knew nothing about but I was shocked that a)he would piss all over 2 of the towns teams and its fans and b) his producers thought it would be a good idea to let him say that.

As far as hockey getting more coverage than needed, that happens in every facet of the media. Cover the biggest story to death. It’s not just a Toronto or a sports phenomenon.

Daniel is right, you definitely see what Eric is talking about among the some of the hockey-only fans. Some irrational ones are absolutely incensed anytime the Raptors get any coverage, especially the ones who have to use multiple aliases to do it. They’re convinced that the teams are on the verge of moving (they’re not, at least a half dozen teams are doing significantly worse), they lose tens of millions (they don’t, again far worse teams out there) and the ratings are horrible (compared to HNIC they look bad, compared to other local ratings for NBA teams, it’s pretty good). To them, it would be a tragedy if the Raptors even got half the attention that the Leafs got and they actively try to diminish anything that is seen as advancing the NBA interest in Canada (or MLS or MLB for that matter). And you’re starting to see it more with MLS v. CFL fans. (though that might just be born out of the BMO Field debacle that C&S keep floating for no good reason)

I don’t know if its because of stubborness in old age (I get the feeling that most of these people are over 45), hatred for anything GTA by the rest of Canada, xenophobia (the phrase “american sport” is thrown around a lot) or the high-school b-ball captain took their crush to the prom instead of them, but the backlash from some is real.

December 20, 2009 2:22 pm

Here’s a good example of the old guard, hockey only attitude:

From Fred Patterson’s blog (of the old Humble and Fred radio show):

This first post says that the Raptors have no fans and are a non entity in Toronto. The second story says there are no baseball fans in Toronto and the Jays are a good as gone. I think both are pretty inaccurate and unfair. (This may come as a shock to him, but trading your best player does not mean your franchise moves. It just means you stink!).

Read through those and it’s pretty clear that he wants to see those sports fail.

I really don’t have a problem if people don’t like basketball, baseball, soccer or whatever. I just wish there wasn’t this attitude that’s hopeful of their failures. I would like to see Toronto have more teams, not less!

December 20, 2009 5:22 pm

Wow, that was a really dumb post by Fred.

December 20, 2009 6:24 pm

Yeah, no kidding. At least most of the comments for his post are of the ‘are you freaking kidding me?’ variety. Out to lunch.

December 20, 2009 10:10 pm

Reading the rest of the blog, that post doesn’t seem so out of place now. Most of it is irrational and over the top. I have a feeling Fred would be a big fan of Glenn Beck if he were in the States.

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