Sweet Georgia Brown

Greetings from my last night in this most recent road trip. For the record, 3 nights, 3 hotels. I have tried to watch NHL hockey in each of my hotels, one in Florida, two in Atlanta. Each hotel had enough ESPN channels to last a life time. None carried a network called Versus. Here I am in NHL markets, not playoff markets and I can’t find the game in the comfort of my hotel. If I’m working at the NHL I’m doing deals with major hotel chains to make sure that those who actually want to watch their product can.

Curious if I am the only one who is bothered by the following:

” Vernon Wells strides to the plate and digs his foot into the batter’s box. His senses suddenly are assaulted by a piercing voice.

“Hey Wells!” a fan’s shout reverberates throughout Rogers Centre on a night with another sparse crowd. “You’re finally earning your paycheck. It’s about time you put up some numbers, eh?”

Wells, who is in the third season of a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, grimaces over lunch as he recalls the taunt. The cavalcade of boos that tormented him a year ago has been mostly silenced this season with the center fielder ranking among the top 10 in the American League in most offensive categories, including home runs (eight), RBI (17), runs (22), total bases (72) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.032).”

That from the USA Today today, the cover story of the sports section. I don’t know why, but when I read that today it bugged me. Maybe the truth hurts. I don’t know, maybe I am alone in this but reading the words “senses assaulted”, “reverberates throughout Rogers Centre on a night with another sparse crowd.” and of course the inclusion of the Canadian “eh” from the apparent fan, pissed me off. The article is positive on Wells, who is enjoying a bit of a rebirth this season. The opening bit clearly taking a shot at Toronto and whatever baseball fans are left. I guess I know how hockey fans in those cities with empty arenas feel when Canadian media types do nothing but comment on empty arenas then. What I guess I won’t get used to is the obvious over use of the sterotypical “Eh” which every Canadian uses all the time…..

Bill Houston, wrote a few days ago that Greg Millen had been “shelved” by Hockey Night in Canada. Chris Zelkovich, a recent target of Mr. Houston’s followed that story up today with some quotes from the folks at the CBC who said Millen is bent not bust Betty:

“Greg is still a big part of Hockey Night,” says executive producer Sherali Najak. “He’s been here for a long time and I expect he will continue to be.”

I may be in the minority here, but I tend to prefer Millen to the new CBC flav of the month Garry Galley.

Dowbiggin reported this morning that Sportsnet personality Sean McCormick would be making a run for Toronto City Council in the upcoming civic election (that yours truly is paying lots of attention to).

Zelkovich, in his column has the story on McCormick who is running in the same ward as the son of NDPer Jack Layton, which is reason enough to vote for McCormick in my small, and insignificant mind.

Lawrence Taylor may be totally innocent of the recent charges against him but unless the accuser totally fabricated this WHOLE story, one can only ask what the hell was LT thinking being anywhere near a 16 year old girl. Unless this girl pulled this out of thin air, it’s hard to see how this comes out well for LT. No, not our LT, the hall of fame LT.

Oh…..and this just in, Reinsdorf is apparently out as potential owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. Interesting story on the boardroom shenanigans by Scott Burnside, from which this gem originates:

“The situation in Glendale remains fluid; if the city does not agree to the league’s conditions (on the Ice Edge Holdings deal), it is possible the NHL will instead move quickly to finalize a purchase agreement with Canadian billionaire David Thomson and move the team to Winnipeg. Sources tell ESPN.com there is a purchase agreement ready if the Glendale situation disintegrates. If the team moves to Winnipeg, the Ice Edge group would then move the existing AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, to Thunder Bay, Ontario. ”

Got that ??????? Clear as mud EH?



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May 7, 2010 1:48 am

I agree TSM. The shots are irritating. At least the future is looking bright with the team, so hopefully the poor attendance won’t last too long. Really more than anything, it’s just embarrassing.

And yeah! What is going on with this Coyotes thing!? What an utter mess. And the unbelievable thing is – they might go through this again with 2 or 3 other teams!

Al from Burlington
Al from Burlington
May 7, 2010 9:44 am

Why does the medis keep pounding on the Jays attendance? We have been in Pittsburgh the couple of days in meetings, and last night went to see the Cubs/Pirates. Man, if there were 10,000 fans it would be a stretch…By the way, local media is crucifing Big Ben

May 7, 2010 2:32 pm

The Toronto media has gone overboard on the bad attendance, there’s no doubt Al. It’s definitely noteworthy and concerning to some degree, but there are a few teams drawing pretty much exactly the same as the Jays – the media is fear mongering a bit here, I think.

Toronto can be a really good baseball market. There is a long history here, and people do actually play the game here. But after 17 years of no playoffs, announcing a rebuilding and trading your star pitcher – you’re going to suffer for a while. I think almost any franchise would. I think the low turnout is pretty understandable.

As the team gets better the fans will come back.

Al from Burlington
Al from Burlington
May 7, 2010 3:57 pm

TSM – Agreed, Ben is a douche. I would not be surprised based on what I heard and read this week that he will be traded.

May 7, 2010 8:18 pm

Sorry guys but I have to be on the other side, I actually think the baseball writers are giving every absurd excuse in the book to try to explain the poor attendance. I was thinking something similar what TSM had in a throw away line. We here thumb our noses at NHL markets down south who doesn’t draw, give our best King of the Hill accent impression when mocking them, but when it’s it comes back with our pathetic attendance, we act offended. But then again a lot of the same people when the dollar was low begged for the NHL to help out teams like the Sens and Oilers but now has the “tough luck” attitude to the teams struggling down south. (but that’s another story lol)

Excuses like “The playoffs are on” are absurd IMO. If that is a reason, just leave now because a third of the season is thrown away because NHL playoffs are on. My gosh what if heaven forbid the Leafs make the postseason, what’s the attendance floor then? I know jokes are made of Jays fans demo but do their fans all have midnight blinking on their VCRs, can’t they tape the game, what about Tivo? Actually many NHL games are replayed on the NHL Network. I keep hearing the same excuse every year, and when attendance doesn’t really jump during the middle of the season the excuse of “People are out of town on vacation/cottage” will be said. Then in the end of the season it’s “Well they are out of it” It’s been this cycle for a while.

Yes other cities can be put on the list of struggling along with the Jays, but some of them actually have much more understanding excuse like teams in the city actually doing well in the others sports playoffs (which we don’t have), or poor having poor weather, (which I thought was the reason we build the dome so we don’t have that excuse) Plus we have so much more of a population than most of those cities, just by sheer numbers in population we shouldn’t accept or expect to be in the same attendance demo as a KC, should we? I think I heard Wilmer say our season ticket base is in the low thousands, that’s awful for a city this size.

I think there is a concerning baseball problem in this nation, fine nobody wants to compare it to the Expos. Then I’ll ask, whatever happened to all the A-AAA ball that was in this nation. We had a bunch of teams including the Lynx. Alberta had a couple of AAA teams, so did Vancouver. There was a bunch of “A ball” in this area from St. Cats, Hamilton to Welland of all places. All gone in the last decade. Nobody wants to talk about that (or care enough which might be the root of the problem) even baseball writers don’t ever bring up, “what happened to those teams?” I think there’s big concerns about the Jays on multiple levels. Sure if we make the playoffs we’ll sell out the place, but every lame team does that, but will we ever sustain a decent attendance? Hope I’m wrong as baseball a great sport

Mike S
Mike S
May 7, 2010 9:14 pm

I have not been a fan of baseball in over 10 years but I do have an opinion on this subject:

I agree with a lot of what FMT said above………….when the Jays get off to a decent start and the Red Sox come to town and there are less than 15,000 people in the stands, it’s a story worth talking about (especially when there is no weather issue and the Leafs/Raptors seasons are already over)…………..it might not be a major story yet, but it’s a story nonetheless

May 7, 2010 9:30 pm

FMT – I agree with you in some respects. Some weird excuses have been made. But in my opinion, nothing has hurt the Jays more than being in the AL East.

15 years (or so) without real hope of the playoffs. You said there are teams in similar positions. Name MLB franchises that can say they’ve been in that position. Pittsburgh and KC maybe. They both struggle.

I really think 15 years without real hope can’t be underestimated. I heard Greg Brady say that even the Leafs might start showing chinks in the armor after a period like that (not saying the Jays had Leafs support, but you get my/his point).

The Jays are also not similar to Southern US teams like Phoenix. First of all, by definition you can’t play hockey outisde in places like Arizona, Miami, Tampa Bay etc because it does not get cold there. There is no real history of hockey in those places. There is a baseball history in Canada, and Toronto (again, not close to hockey, but it is there). There are MLB players from the Toronto area, and kids do play the game here. Maybe not as many as before, but I see kids playing baseball at Christie Pitts every night as I drive by.

Also – you said nobody wants to compare them to the Expos. I think you’re dead wrong. EVERYONE has compared them to the Expos, regardless of how inaccurate the comparison is. Even last year, when the team was 23rd in attendance, people loved to jump to that conclusion. Despite Blair, Arthur, Simmons, Elliot and Griffin all writing articles this year stating that the situations are completely different, I’ve read seen several newspaper/TV articles ominously comparing the Jays to the Expos. It’s fear mongering.

Frankly it’s ridiculous. The Expos were in a Coyotes situation for about 9 years before MLB found a place to move them to. They didn’t have games broadcast on radio, and stopped selling concessions in the upper deck. They were owned by MLB and had no corporate support. Meanwhile, the Jays are second last in attendance a month into a rebuilding season after trading the face of the franchise. TV ratings are still good. The situations are not in the same zip code. You might as well fret about the Indians or A’s or Marlins or Pirates etc.

If the Jays don’t draw flies for a few years, Rogers looks to unload them, and MLB becomes interested in an unused market (Stark of ESPN recently said there is nowhere left for a possible MLB to go to), then we can start realistically comparing them to the Expos.

Until then, it’s just an MLB team struggling badly at the gate (as a few do every year).

May 7, 2010 9:35 pm

Thanks for the clarification TSM….though I do plan to get into the hall of fame one day…so there will be two Hall of Fame LT’s…that will certainly be confusing.

May 7, 2010 11:22 pm

I agree it’s a story, Mike. But no more a story than the A’s drawing 8K the other night. Or the Orioles drawing 9K a couple weeks ago. Or the Indians regularly drawing 10K.

You know what I mean? It’s noteworthy, absolutely. But not quite worthy of the attention it has received, in my opinion.

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