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.