Prime Time Sports Review for Tuesday, September 18, 2012

By Ami Angelwings

4pm hour – Listener calls with Bob McCown

  • Bob is outraged about Escobar and thinks the Jays were too light on him, the callers are also outraged and agree
  • A caller suggests that the light suspension was to not decrease Escobar’s trade value
  • Many callers point the blame on Rogers, saying it reflects badly on them, Bob agrees, and says it reflects badly on the entire organization
  • Bob says Rogers hasn’t gotten back to them about sending somebody to be interviewed, then is corrected by Rogers who tells him that in fact they refuse to send anybody

5pm hour – Bob McCown hosting, Stephen Brunt co-hosting

First segment: Talk segment

  • Bob and Brunt discuss the Yunel Escobar situation, believe he should be punished more, Bob thinks he should be released or suspended for the rest of the season
  • Brunt says this is not a free speech issue because it is about workplace rules, and that Escobar was at work, Bob notes that if he (Bob) comes into work with an offensive t-shirt while on TV, Sportsnet would fire him
  • Brunt doesn’t understand why the Jays don’t do the cynical thing, with the season in the toilet, to suspend him for the rest of the season
  • Bob and Brunt are absolutely angry with Escobar and think its worse that he didn’t really apologize, and made excuses

Second segment: Inteview with Nick Kypreos, Sportsnet hockey analyst

  • Toronto Sports Media regular commenter, Alex, gets his email read on air by Brunt pointing out that Sean Avery in the NHL got 5 games for calling Elisha Cuthbert his “sloppy seconds”
  • Kypreos agrees that what Escobar did was stupid
  • Kypreos and Brunt talk about how funny it is that the NHL claimed the Canadian dollar had nothing to do with revenues going up when they wanted to praise the old CBA, but now, claim it does because they want to say how the old CBA is broken
  • Kypreos agrees with Bob that the problem is the teams in bad locations

Third segment: Interview with Bob Ryan, reporter for the Boston Globe

  • Ryan discusses NFL Films president, Steve Sabol’s death and the impact of NFL Films
  • Ryan says that the lineal nature of the game makes football easy to edit and turn into films
  • Bob says that the subtleties of shooting on film is one of the appeals, Ryan agrees

6pm hour – Bob McCown hosting, Stephen Brunt co-hosting

First segment: Interview with Gregg Zaun, Sportsnet baseball analyst

  • Zaun thinks the problem is that there is no culture of maturity in the Jays lockerroom, and if he were manager he would tell them to act like adults
  • He links Escobar’s behaviour to Brett Lawrie making base running mistakes and refusing to correct them
  • Bob asks who is responsible, Zaun suggests it might have to do with Alex Anthopolous being a bean counter and not a baseball guy
  • Bob wonders if this is Farrell’s fault because he’s the manager, Zaun says it must be because it stops with him
  • Bob says Escobar should not be a Blue Jay again, Zaun agrees, saying it’s his bad play combined with his bad attitude

Second segment: Interview with Alex Anthopolous, General Manager of the Blue Jays

  • Anthopolous says he wanted to react last night, but MLB advised him not to and said that’s not how they do things, and they had to have a meeting with the commissioner’s office first
  • Anthopolous says that at the end of day, it’s about how to move forward and how to fix the problem
  • Bob says he thinks the Jays gave Escobar the bare minimum and doesn’t want Escobar representing the Jays or Toronto again, Anthopolous says it’s Bob’s opinion, but that people involved determined that it was not Escobar’s intent to offend and how to move forward and turn this into a positive thing
  • Brunt says it’s great that they can turn this into a chance for activism, but how could Escobar get only 3 games?
  • Bob asks who decided this suspension, Anthopolous’ says that it was decided collectively, and they weighed previous incidents of other athletes saying offensive things including Kobe Bryant in the NBA
  • Bob says but the Blue Jays are empowered to release Escobar with pay if they want, Anthopolous says that they chose not to do that and that he doesn’t agree with Bob that intent doesn’t matter

Third segment: Talk segment

  • Brunt still can’t believe Escobar only got 3 games
  • Bob points out again that the Jays could have suspended Escobar on their own
  • Brunt says that even if this is about business, it’s bad to make the community think you don’t portray the values they want, and that it might be terrible business to do this even if you wanted to be cynical

Thoughts:

Wow. Wow. Wow.

This was an INCREDIBLY emotionally charged show, and I think it’s been a while since we’ve heard a show where the people involved have been this passionate and cared so much about the topic, and it really heartened me, both as a listener (I like passion) and as a LGBT person.  I knew that Brunt and Bob would disapprove of Escobar’s actions but I didn’t expect it to be THIS strongly, and that Bob doesn’t want Escobar as a Jay at all.  Also, I’m glad Brunt pointed out that this is about a person working for a company and not a free speech issue, because it’s something some people seem to be missing.

The callers were all on Bob’s side too, though some expanded the issue more than others.  While I’m glad to hear that sports fans are so supportive of gay rights, I don’t think all of this anger is just because of that, or at least, that the anger is more clear because of who it is, and what the situation is.

When this broke last night and I heard just how angry the Jays fans on the evening shows were, I told my friend that I think the Jays fans finally have a target for their anger.

Going into this season, I think some Jays fans (especially the ones who call into talk shows) were absolutely ready to carve the Jays if they had another non-playoff season.  They wanted to criticize the Jays, the players they felt were the problem (Escobar, Rasmus), management and ownership, and we’ve heard it on the phones on various programs.  People WANT a reason to be angry because of so many seasons where the Jays have missed the playoffs.  But then the injuries hit, and suddenly you couldn’t blame anybody.  The season was a write off, and while people TRIED to somehow pin this on management, or ownership, in reality, you really couldn’t.

This gives them their opening, because it’s legitimate (what he did was homophobic, the Jays did punish him very little) and they can pin this on a player that had a bad reputation coming in, and that’s having a bad season, and they can attack ownership and management too.

We’ve also seen this with Zaun finally able to put a narrative on the Jays season: they are a group of immature brats that have weak management.  I think it probably helps that people think Farrell is on his way out too, making him not everybody’s favourite guy also.

I’m not saying I agree with Zaun’s assessment (having just heard it), but I think he makes a strong case, given what we’ve seen of Lawrie, of Romero complaining about twitter “haters”, about the Jays fighting with umpires and complaining about calls.  It really does seem like this team is immature, and even the older players (Romero, Escobar, Bautista) are acting like children.

I think bad seasons need things to define them with, and it was really hard to define this season because of just how much has gone wrong and all the injuries, but the Escobar thing has.  And I’m not sure that it’s unfair either, it could just be that this has been the thing that people have sensed but been unable to put a finger on until today.  Zaun’s touched on this a bit, but I think today crystallized the problem in his mind and he was finally able to go “THAT’S what I couldn’t put a finger on!”

This isn’t saying that what Escobar did was okay and he’s a scapegoat, nor does it mean that fans SHOULDN’T be angry.  But as somebody who’s seen so many instances of homophobia where many people show up to say “well but he didn’t intend it” or “this is not a big deal”, I have noticed the reactions of the fans seem different.   I think in addition to how blatant it is, and how wrong it is, the “we need something to focus our anger at the Jays on” factor is assisting in the strong public reaction.

The Alex Anthopolous interview was definitely not his best moment.  He came off as tired (which I would be too if I had this season) and defensive, and with very little to offer.  He tried to do his usual charismatic “we talked to everybody, we tried to work this out, let’s move forward” thing, but Bob and Brunt weren’t buying it, and Alex had very little to offer up in his defense.  As Bob says, intent doesn’t matter.  First, it’s ridiculous to believe there was NO intent and Escobar spun a wheel to decide what to put on his face.  He knows what it means, he had intent to do it.  Not intending to be homophobic, just generally insulting, is like throwing a punch at somebody and saying “I didn’t intend to break your jaw, just bruise it a little.”  And honestly, what IS he going to say?  “YES I INTENDED TO HURT LGBT PEOPLE”?

And discrimination against LGBT people isn’t simply “I hate LGBT people and want to hurt them”, it’s also that you care so little for us that you don’t think about us, and therefore feel its perfectly okay to display a gay slur on your job in front of thousands of people.  It’s that we matter so little to you, that you don’t care about how what you do can hurt us.   In that vein, Escobar’s “oh the word means nothing!” defense shows just how little he cares about what those kinds of words mean to LGBT people, many of which are fans of the Jays.

His non-apology, I think, also galvanized fans against him, because it implied that he really didn’t think he did anything wrong.  If anything, it made things worse, and encouraged the view that he didn’t just make a mistake, but that he’s a personality you don’t want on the team.

And Brunt’s right, the season’s over and the smart move would be to suspend him for the rest of it.  It’d also be the smart move in terms of PR, because it could have focused all of the fan anger on Escobar instead of it now being another reason to hate the organization.  I also think this might be Alex’s first real blunder.  Up until now, people like him, and even after last off season where he didn’t sign any big free agents, people still seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I think that the dialogue about Anthopolous, in the media, and with the fans, is going to be a lot different from now on.  I think we can count today as the day the honeymoon is officially over for the media and the majority of the fans (and not just the ones that call into Wilner.)

The shine may very well be off Beeston as well.

I do agree with the one caller who said that this might just be a way to try to move Escobar in the off-season, because of the Jays said “we’re done with him”, they’d have no bargaining power with other teams, and there’s ALWAYS a team that thinks they can fix a bad apple.  HOWEVER, even if this were the case, it does not make it a good move, or the right thing to do.  Also, it could be argued that if this were true, it’s another bullet in Zaun’s “Alex is a bean counter” gun, because it shows that Alex doesn’t understand the fans and the marketplace, and cares only about player values.

I hope in the next few days, we’ll hear more criticism of the organization, because I think their poor response is a bigger deal now than what Escobar did.  He did what he did, and he was wrong, but the punishment (or lack thereof) is all on the Jays, and I hope people don’t take it easy on them.

As for the rest of the show: Kypreos basically reiterated what Bob and Brunt have been saying for the last few years (teams need to move, the high Canadian dollar benefits league revenues), and Bob Ryan didn’t really provide very much about NFL films except that he likes it.

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