It’s funny how things seem to happen while I am away. This is just but one of the things I have had people ask me to chime in on, so here we go.
Andrew Krystal took to the air last week, to discuss with Howard Berger and then a sports psychologist Brian Burke and his grieving. Specifically, Krystal asked whether or not people (and I think by people what Krystal really meant was the sports media) should avoid criticizing Burke due to the fact that Burke tragically lost his son Brendan in a horrific car accident last year. The argument was, in essence that none of us know what it’s like to walk in Burke’s shoes and therefore those who are in the business of being critics should take the unfortunate death of his son into consideration before doing so.
Bruce Dowbiggin outlined the story in column after the blog and on air comments.
Here is a loose version of what Krystal had to say:
AK: I believe the media should back off Brian Burke- he’s a winner and he’s under a lot of stress. Should the media back off? Burke has had tragedy in his life and imagine if you had people who were paid a lot of money to talk about everything you do, wouldn’t that be a pain in the ass to deal with under normal circumstances let alone under these circumstances.
If you had a tragedy in your life- I look at Brian Burke as the maple leaf king. Brian Burke is the most important sports figure in the city. I think what’s happened to him, where he lost his son, I have a problem being part of the sports media, tearing a strip off the guy, he’s done a lot of good, my problem as a person following the sport and talking to you about it every morning – because of the guy he is, he is a decent guy, he has had a really tough time – at a point you want to separate what you do for a job and what someone is as a person. Is it time for the media to back off Brian Burke? I know he seeks the attention, maybe you can say I am going soft.
I talked to Berger about this, look what hes going there, i don’t think any of us can understand unless you go through it, is there a grieving distraction with Brian Burke? how can you perform with a devastating loss like Burke has gone through.
This is a guy who I am going to have a tough time criticizing because he’s a good guy and what he’s going through. He has a tough job here in Toronto, and should we cut him some slack? Maybe the media should back off.
Berger: no , media shouldn’t cut him any slack- it’s the way he wants it and he has been very busy.
AK: it’s been said to me confidentially and publicly that the Toronto Maple Leafs GM is not fully there.(implying that Burke’s head just isn’t into it as a result of the loss)
AK: Let’s face it, we are talking about Leafs Nation, a term that I coined
I am thinking that given what’s happened to him, and that he’s a winner, should we back off this fella?
I’ve had the question raised to me, or I’m watching tv and I’m thinking about this man, how can i criticize him? I like him and he’s gone through a big loss and I feel badly, and I am asking you should I go easy on him?
AK then opened it up to callers, here is one of the real classy ones:
caller: what about the family who is grieving because their mother didn’t get the job because Burke’s wife did??
Then AK brought on Dr. Todd Kays, a sports psychologist to talk about the grief that Burke must be suffering:
Dr. Todd Kays- losing a son or daughter is the hardest event in a persons life because it’s out of the natural order. It does absolutely effect everybody. However, we all have a different grieving process. Each person has to dictate for themselves, what is going to be best for them, how they are going to cope, having the support around them helps. It’s a one day at a time.
AK to the Dr.: Is there a media code of conduct- how do you approach people dealing with loss?
The Dr.: It is tough, have to get back to your work, maybe your performance isn’t your best, but that’s part of the territory and those who are grieving are going to have to focus and realize that there are people depending on them. With the media I think there is an ethical obligation to respect the wishes of the grieving person with regards to asking about it. (the suggestion is that if a grieving person says to the media I don’t want to talk about this, the media should stop prying). The biggest problem for those grieving is that life goes on after the loss.
Here are some “clips” from Berger’s blog that apparently lead to Krystals comments:
“As I left the conference room and walked back to the main practice rink, I reminded myself of how difficult a year this has been for Burke. We talk and think about him almost solely in terms of his job with the Maple Leafs, and that is clearly the way he wants it. But, I believe it is critical not to forget – particularly at a time when so much angst and emotion is being spent on the hockey club – that Brian is still very much in the grieving process for his son, Brendan, who was killed in an automobile accident just more than nine months ago.”
“What I think we have to remember, more often, is that Brian is a human being and grieving father… as well as the proprietor of the NHL’s most widely-followed team. And we should remember it in that order.
These are challenging times for double-B, given his personal misfortune and the continued plight of the Maple Leafs. Rabid hockey fans in this area want results, and they aren’t reacting kindly to Burke with his team plummeting in the NHL standings. The accompanying strain was unmistakable in his voice and appearance earlier today. Brian has talked boldly about the Leafs from the moment he assumed the GM’s role almost two years ago. His walk hasn’t matched the talk. He knows it; he’s feeling it, and he’s not running from it.
Still, it’s important to occasionally consider the real pain that is never far from the surface with Brian… a heartache that no person should have to endure.”
Here is the snip from Dowbiggin’s column:
“But what happens when someone loses a close family member? Should the media leaven their criticism of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, whose son, Brendan, was killed in an automobile accident this year?
With the Maple Leafs floundering, it’s hard not to find fault – okay, a lot of fault – with the lack of progress since Burke grabbed the wheel. But The Fan 590’s Howard Berger has blogged that Burke’s heart doesn’t seem in his work since his son’s death, a suggestion Burke rejects.
So should media mitigate the barbs? Thursday on Andrew Krystal in the Morning on The Fan in Toronto, Krystal interviewed Todd Kays, co-author of Sports Psychology for Dummies. Krystal confessed he was having a hard time dissing Burke in light of his grief. So what’s a talking head supposed to do?”
So, given all the evidence here are my 2 cents:
Howard Berger’s column seems pretty harmless. I think it’s rather inane, but whatever. My take away from it is quite simple- shouldn’t the media, or anyone else commenting on someone not make that attack personal? Berger says we have to remember what Burke is going through. The implication is that before we rip him we need to remember. My gut tells me that Brian would prefer to be ripped for something he did irrespective of his state of mind. I don’t understand why it has to become personal under any circumstance.
Lots of commentators have questioned the Kessel deal. It’s mentioned all the time in an evaluation of the Leafs and of Burke’s tenure with the team. Nothing wrong with being critical. Nothing wrong with saying you think Burke made a mistake. Does it have to become a personal attack?
The point I don’t get with Krystal is why he even started talking about this topic at all. With the exception of saying that he has been told that Burke’s acting like he isn’t in to it anymore, he doesn’t say anything overly offensive. He suggests that people back off Burke. I don’t get why Krystal would even start down the path. It seems like this is a non story and instead of leaving it alone, he turned the tragic death of someones son into a story needlessly. Unfortunately, to me anyways it seems like a petty way to try to get people talking and as a result drum up ratings. I only mentioned one caller above, but isn’t that the type of comments Krystal solicits when he opens up the phone lines on subjects like this? Isn’t that the underlying intent?
As I have written and said before, we accept that people go on the radio and say things that they don’t necessarily believe in attempt to get a reaction. For the most part it’s pretty innocent stuff. I am not suggesting that Krystal doesn’t believe that people should lay off Burke, but this whole thing comes off to me as contrived and the chosen subject matter isn’t one I would have chosen.
Calling Tiger Woods former wife names, is one thing. It was topical and it was certainly said to get a response, however no one was hurt, certainly not in this market anyway. The death of the son of the “most important sports figure in the city”, should be off limits with respect to things done to get a response shouldn’t it? Why go there? The worst part to me is that Krystal (with that one exception) defends Burke. The problem is that he appears to be using him too.
This was an odd article coming from Dowbiggin, don’t you think? There were so many things going on in the business and yet he chose to discuss this one.. very odd if you ask me.
“We’ll have to see how much oxygen he gets from Krystal, who has a physical reaction any time a guest talks for more than 10 seconds.
Also at The Fan, Globe and Mail columnist Jeff Blair has been given a three-year deal to be host of the 9 a.m. through noon (Eastern) slot. Quite a vote of confidence for someone who’s never been a radio host before.”
The “he” mentioned above in the first sentence is Jeremy Roenick. The odd thing about the comment is that Dowbiggin has what seems like a regular date with Krystal on the air. I don’t know how you make these types of comments while reappearing on the guys show all the time. With friends like that….
With regards to the 2nd comment, the one about Blair, two thoughts. First, it seems odd to me that Blair apparently has a longer contract than I am told Krystal does. Second, again, it seems like there are sour grapes here. Dowbiggin it seems really wants to be part of the action in places like the fan. He is a regular guest on the station. Yet he also makes comments like the one above. How, as the saying go can one suck and blow at the same time?
More than a couple of media folk have asked me how a guy who is constantly on radio and tv also acts a media critic. If your a media critic, then how do you do appearances like this one
The Krystal hour in question is here
Berger’s blog is here
Dowbiggin’s article is here