Prime Time Sports Review for Friday, August 24, 2012

By Ami Angelwings

4pm hour – Listener Phone Calls with Jeff Blair

  • Blair asks callers if they think Lance Armstrong’s legacy is tarnished by allegations of drug use
  • Blair has no problem with cheating, says that we all cheat

5pm hour – Roundtable with Jeff Blair (Host of the Jeff Blair Show), Michael Grange (Sportsnet columnist), David Branch (CHL President), Dan Robson (Sportsnet reporter)

First segment: Discussion of the Toronto Blue Jays

  • Branch is impressed that Alex Anthopoulos has stuck to his rebuilding plan
  • Grange is disappointed by Paul Beeston’s statements that now is the time for the Blue Jays to spend, he believes last year was the time when there were big name free agents to sign
  • Robson thinks that the Jays shouldn’t be blamed for having a disappointing season because the Jays have been so injured, is optimistic for the future
  • Blair believes the Jays have to address John Farrell’s contract situation, Branch agrees, believes it could be a distraction and affect the team
  • Grange thinks that Farrell isn’t so special, and if he’s playing coy, you should let him go

Second segment: Discussion of Jay Triano being hired as coach of Team Canada

  • Grange thinks Triano has really grown as a coach, and his experiences in the NBA will help him
  • Blair thinks that NBA players don’t respect coaches that haven’t played in the NBA, Robson agrees but thinks an endorsement by Steve Nash will help

Third segment: Discussion of Augusta National allowing women as members

  • Grange and Blair don’t think Augusta National is sexist, but that they didn’t want to cave to public pressure
  • Robson thinks it is long overdue and that Augusta shouldn’t have let it get to this point and be stubborn
  • Grange argues that Augusta treats the people that they let in so well that you can’t really feel that there’s anything bad about them, and that their point was about their right to let in whoever they want as members, not to be sexist

6pm hour – Roundtable continues

First segment: Discussion of the doping allegations against Lance Armstrong

  • Blair believes that there’s nothing wrong with athletes taking banned substances to boost their performance, believes that fans get better entertainment for it
  • Grange, Branch and Robson believe that sport is about fairness and that it sets a bad example for children

Second segment: Discussion of NHL CBA negotiations

  • Blair thinks that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent statements show contempt for NHL fans, Grange doesn’t agree, believes he’s just complimenting the fans
  • Discussion changes to the CHLPA and sharing some money with junior hockey players
  • Branch thinks that more should be done to boost education packages for the players, says that as a parent he wouldn’t want his son to have a lot of money in his jeans
  • Branch says that it’s not true a lot of CHL owners make millions on the junior teams, points out that Eugene Melnyk’s lost money on a team in the GTA

Third segment: Prime Time Wizards (formery known as the Bullets)

  • First bullet is about Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon being nabbed for steroids, Branch believes we need more testing
  • Second bullet is about the Conference Board of Canada report that says Canada could have 3 more NHL teams, Grange jokes that the report implies everybody should be investing in commodities now
  • Branch thinks the report is wrong and misses other challenges of having NHL teams, Grange and Blair agree
  • Third bullet is about Jon “Bones” Jones refusing to fight a replacement opponent and Dana White getting angry at him, Blair asks if this is the first sign of weakness in UFC
  • Robson wonders if this is just all part of the show, Grange thinks it’s good that a fighter has the clout to stand up for his own health and well-being

Thoughts:

I didn’t really enjoy this roundtable at all.  Dan Robson and David Branch didn’t add very much to the conversation, and Branch’s involvement in three of the segments somehow turned it into a discussion of the CHL and hockey Canada.  In the Jay Triano discussion, he and Blair ended up talking about the men’s hockey team, in the Augusta discussion, he talked about CHL players and their parents, and in the NHL discussion, it ended up being an interview about the CHL with CHL President David Branch.

The last part, I found really unenjoyable, because it was just him talking for an entire segment and basically having carte blanche to defend the CHL and it’s practices.  If Bob was there, I suspect we might get a livelier discussion, because it’s something he cares a lot about. Branch noting that he wouldn’t want his son to have all that money, implying that it’d corrupt him, is especially a statement that Bob would challenge, since Bob has noted in the past that you could hold the money in escrow.  Denying children the right to earn money from their labours because money is bad for them is a pretty weak excuse anyway, given that we certainly think earning money is good for adults.

Dan Robson barely spoke, and he only seemed to active in the Augusta debate, where I’m glad at least somebody was going to say that Augusta National was being sexist.  Grange’s defenses seemed to all boil down to “oh c’mon, they’re so NICE to me!” forgeting that there’s historically been large segments of the population (including people of color) who aren’t afforded the opportunity to feel Augusta’s niceness.  I also wish Robson had been more articulate and assertive in his counter of Grange saying that it’s about freedom of association, because as Robson kind of pointed out, they have every right to do whatever they want, and people have every right to criticize it.  Also, the “they’re just stubborn not sexist” argument is basically saying “they’re not sexist, they just do sexist things!”  It really doesn’t matter their intent, it’s the action that people criticize or praise because it’s the effect of that action that is at issue.

Part of the issue I have with the show is that both Blair and Grange can take a very long time to make their points when they’re not sure it’s a popular point to make, and when Grange and Blair disagreed on steroids, they both stuttered a lot and came up with long winded statements to make a short argument. :\  It was hard to listen to since I already knew the point both were trying to make.

Whenever Blair talks about how he doesn’t care about cheating as long as he’s getting enjoyment as a fan, I wonder if he feels the same way about journalistic ethics.  After all, I can make the argument that I, as a reader, don’t care if a journalist plagiarizes, pays for an interview, makes up quotes, misquotes people, accepts money to promote a product, or anything else.  Maybe I just want to be entertained by the writing I read, why do I care if a writer is being unethical?

Blair says that an athlete not cheating is cheating the fans. No. I feel cheated because I paid to watch a competition I believed was fair, and it’s not.  Much like I expect journalists to not be making stuff up when I read a newspaper or watch the news.  I’m cheated when they tell me things that aren’t true.  Does Blair think more journalists should be like Stephen Glass and fabricate entertaining stories?   If a journalist wins an award when they plagiarized, would Blair be happy coming in second?  I remember Blair getting so upset that Gary Carter accused him of misquoting him that he refused to vote for him to get in the hall of fame.  Apparently unethical behaviour won’t stop Blair from voting you into the hall of fame, but accusing him of unethical behaviour will.

I wish the Blue Jays discussion had been more focused on Beeston’s statements, because really, if you’re going to have a Jays discussion, that’s all you can really discuss right now.  It’s mere speculation aboout Farrell leaving, and we all know the Jays are injured and that sucks.  Given how hard Grange has been on the Jays, I would have enjoyed more of his thoughts on the matter.

Blair sounded almost delighted about Jon Jones refusing to fight.  I know he’s very anti-UFC and has been saying that Dana White has too much control and he doesn’t think it’s right how the fighters are treated, so I’m not surprised he jumped on the opportunity to discuss if the UFC has finally showed weakness.  It’s interesting to hear Grange and Blair be so happy that the workers are finally standing up to management in the UFC, when both were fairly silent when Branch was talking about the happy state of the CHL.

Ultimately, I think the biggest problem with this roundtable is that Blair and Grange were the only two real personalities on the show, and neither of them are particularly good at debating with the other.  Robson and Branch seemed to disappear into the background for large periods of time and when Blair asked their opinion, they didn’t offer up anything of real substance.  Branch only seemed really knowledgeable about hockey, and there wasn’t much hockey on the table outside of his defense of the CHL.  In general, nobody seemed to really want to disagree directly with each other.  Robson was very guarded in disagreeing with Grange, and Grange was guarded in disagreeing with Blair.

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