The Howard Berger Two Step

Do you remember when I read the following to Brian Burke on the TSM Pressbox (it’s at approximately the 20 minute mark):

“There appears to be no limit to which Burke and Wilson will publicly fawn over Phaneuf; in fact, my bird-dogs tell me the open love-fest between Wilson and Phaneuf late in the season left others in the dressing room on the verge of nausea.”

Do you remember what Brian Burke asked me after I finished reading the above quote?

“Who wrote it”

Do you remember Burke’s response when I told Brian that the author was Howard Berger?

“Next question”

Now, Burke went on to explain, firstly saying that Howard is a nice enough guy and all but “the time he(Berger) spends coming up with rumours like this….Who are his bird dogs in the dressing room who talk to Howard? I think it’s a very short list.”

Now, if you’ve been the one to be reading Berger’s blog of late you will see that he has been very busy covering all the potential basis so that is “bird dogs” are all happy enough to keep talking to him. You’ve noticed he predictable shot at the choice that we’ve come to expect, the pitfalls etc.

Oddly enough however, take a look at what appeared in this mornings edition of the Berger:

“Upon seeing the reaction of a couple of players [one of whom is still with the team] to Phaneuf’s continuous, resounding endorsement of Wilson – both impishly jabbing with forefinger at their open mouths – I stupidly wrote that “…the love-fest between Phaneuf and Wilson, late in the season, left others in the dressing room on the verge of nausea”. This was a blunt over-statement; vehemently unfair to Burke, Wilson and Phaneuf. In fact, any chance Phaneuf has of succeeding as captain – in concert with the requisite personnel boost – hinges greatly on the symmetry between player and coach. If this one is as genuine as it appears, the Leafs will profit from the relationship.

Dion Phaneuf’s time has therefore arrived – be it amid debate or agreement.”

What????? You know, my mother in law tells my wife that it’s better to not have to say your sorry than to have to give the perfect apology.

Does “blunt over-statement” mean it was made up?

I mean what does what Berger wrote have to do with Phaneuf’s ability to succeed as a captain? Isn’t this simply an attempt, after realizing the damage he may have done to any relationship he has with the now captain, to get off on the right foot??? I am not suggesting Phaneuf read the quote. I am betting someone told him about it. I mean after all the bird dogs are the ones who leaked the info in the first place right? They are the ones who classified the fawning as nearly bringing them to nausea right?

I mean did the “bird dogs” say it or not?

If they did, why was it “stupid” to write?

Burke spoke of the media having a very healthy fear of retribution for carving a guy. Isn’t that exactly what’s going on here? Suddenly Phaneuf IS the captain and Berger has bashed him and now he is fearful that Dion won’t talk to him.

Why else recant?

Look, I have no problem with an apology. We all make mistakes, I make them every day. In this case I am just a little suspicious about the reasons for them.



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mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
June 14, 2010 11:25 am

just listened to the BB interview yesterdaY. firstly, congratulations on a very well run interview with one of the giants of the toronto sports scene. the questions were sharp.

my only complaint was that Burke’s response to the “do you think the media is fair” seemed canned. I don’t believe him when he says he feels the media does a fair job. you could have pressed him more on the fact that there are several papers, radio stations and TV stations all trying to fill Leaf related content and all claiming sources within the organization. I wonder how much of Burke’s time is spent trying to put out fires caused by so-called insiders. also, i would have liked to hear a question about a his assessment of the coach. Wilson’s tenure has been a failure by most objective standards, and it appears he is not well liked within the dressing room.

on topic, i think it may be time for the FAN to cut the cord. Berger is so wrapped up in his own credibility issues that every comment has to be parsed in terms of which axe he has to grind, and which bridge he has burned or is trying to rebuild. I liked Berger best when he was reporting on the line-up, injuries, and potential call-ups. Sometime late in the Quinn era he became too obsessed with the power politics of the MLSE. would anybody really object to a fresh point of view?

Ken G Harrison
June 14, 2010 7:05 pm

I completely agree – there’s no issue with having an opinion at one time and later, after accumulating more facts, publicly saying your past opinion is wrong and you now have a new one on the situation.

This is a wee bit different, saying the initial statement as though it were factual and then later saying it was stupid and untrue.

Nice catch.

June 14, 2010 8:04 pm

TSM, do you think Berger made it up more or less, or do you think he’s honestly just trying to make nice with Dion? He has to know if he can’t talk to Phaneuf that would be a problem as a Leaf ‘reporter’…big time (sorry for using that word in the same sentence as Howard).
HA, I bet he’s just afraid of Dion and doesn’t want to get the 1000 yard stare. Not a fan of Berger, and I think this just makes him look like even more of an ass-clown.

June 14, 2010 9:38 pm

Don’t blame Howard….he just momentarily forgot required synergy between the Leafs and their fawning media. I’m sure he won’t ever do it again. No one wants to get “Hodged”

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