Prime Time Sports Review for Thursday, April 4, 2013

By Ami Angelwings

4pm hour – Listener Phone Calls with Bob McCown

  • Calls are about the Blue Jays and blaming the media for hyping them up and getting fans excited and about the Jays in general, some talk about Luongo

5pm hour – Listener Phone Calls with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt

  • Bob talks about how callers are blaming the high expectations of the Jays on the media, and that Sportsnet personalities are being pressured to talk about the Jays as if they’re better than they really are
  • Brunt rants about the Globe and Mail accusing him and Sportsnet of pumping up the Jays, by doing the TV special about the Jays’ Dominican connection
  • Brunt talks about how the Globe and Mail was the only place that ever censored something he wrote, that when he was writing politics, he was told to profile a political figure, but because the person had politics that were opposite what the Globe and Mail supported politically they cut his story apart
  • Brunt also complains that Globe and Mail writes stories to include their advertisers’ interests
  • Calls are about the Blue Jays, Luongo and Colby Rasmus’ failures at the plate
  • Many callers compliment Brunt’s Jays/Dominican special

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

First segment: Interview with Glenn Healy, CBC hockey analyst

  • Bob, Brunt and Healy discusses Luongo’s comments that his contract “sucks”, Bob wonders how his contract could suck when he has so much guaranteed financial security and how Luongo plans to fix his bad contract if he hates it so much
  • Bob talks about how if he was a GM he would never sign a player to a no-trade clause, Brunt says that then he will lose players to teams that will

Second segment: Interview with Jonah Keri, baseball writer

  • Keri talks about the Tampa Bay Rays producing so many good young starting pitchers
  • Bob asks Keri about Jose Bautista complaining about the umpires, Keri says that it’s understandable to be upset that umpires are not making the correct calls
  • Keri talks about spending some time with Pete Rose recently and enjoying himself

Third segment: Interview with Drew Edwards, Hamilton Spectator

  • Edwards explains the Chris Wililams situation, that he is trying to get out of the final year of his contract by using a little-known clause in the collective bargaining agreement
  • Edwards says that Williams can sit out this year and avoid chance of injury and then trying to sign in the NFL, or he could sign a new deal with the CFL for more money but then it would be a 2 year deal
  • Brunt thinks Williams would be “nuts” to play this year and risk injury for the money he’d be paid ($48,000), Edwards says that fans would be angry about his lack of loyalty to a team that gave him a chance, but given how short football careers are, his decision is understandable


And cue the fan angst.  Hopefully, after today’s win (and power outburst), fans will be less panicky about the Jays or the expectations on them.

It was interesting to hear Brunt respond to the Globe and Mail ripping him and Sportsnet for his Dominican/Jays piece, AND to air out some dirty laundry from his time at the Globe.  Usually, Brunt is very moderate/polite about these things but he sounded pretty angry, probably because he feels he never threw the Globe under the bus while he worked for them, which would be very true since he would always defend the Globe’s integrity when Bob attacked them for being biased (Olympics, most influential people in sports list).

I didn’t think I would like an extra hour of phone calls, but I enjoyed them because with Brunt around, it really turned into a discussion between Bob and Brunt about the issues brought up by the callers.  I also think Brunt helps to moderate Bob’s gut-reaction to callers a lot, and it becomes them chatting about the issue (much like their talk segments to begin the 5pm hour.)

The 6pm hour wasn’t all that interesting to me because it was going over the Luongo situation for an entire segment, and I don’t think Keri got enough time to really dissect the Rays’ pitching story.

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April 5, 2013 12:27 pm

Well, I can see both sides of the Rogers boosterism argument. While I think the author of the Globe article picked on the wrong guy (Brunt), I do understand his overall opinion. But, of all the Rogers personalities who cover the Jays, Brunt is not one of the bigger offenders – that award would go to either Buck or Pat (both embarrassingly over the top with their constant hard sell). Jamie Campbell too needs to at least try and show some measure of professionalism – and not admit like he did last night that he “lives and dies with every pitch.” Yikes. What happened to the notion of no cheering in the press box?

The caller, though, who prompted Brunt’s rant did have a good point. I’m a Jays fan, but I wasn’t comfortable with the jumbotron introduction to the 2013 Blue Jays, which included a number of sound bites from journalists (both from Rogers and other companies) going on about the potential greatness of this team…with the Indians standing there and watching. You want to talk about bulletin board material? It was tasteless, in my opinion.

Anyway, Brunt can occasionally approach boosterism with his profiles/essays, but he’s also been quite critical when he needs to be (as he rightly pointed out in his rant). There are both homers and proper, critical journalists employed by Rogers. Though, it seems perhaps there are more of the former than the latter. Btw, Dirk Hayhearst is another one of the good ones – balanced and critical. But for the Globe to throw someone like Brunt under the bus seems petty, especially when there are those more deserving of it. Obviously, Bell Media were none too happy about Brunt leaving them for the competition and they were gonna show him! Unfortunately, the reasonable point being presented in that article, got lost in a show of petulance. Much like a Jose Bautista reaction to a called strike.

Another Steve
Another Steve
April 5, 2013 2:10 pm

The “no cheering in the press box” is directed at the day-to-day journalists, not at the people calling the games, as far as I understand it.

I think that there’s a huge distinction between broadcasters and journalists that some people just don’t see – curiously, there are lots of people who would argue that broadcasters are supposed to cheer for their team. We might even all think back to the Jays broadcasts in the 80s (and Fergie Oliver), or back to when TSN had them in the team’s hey-day. The broadcasters at that time were at least as one-sided as they may be now.

As for the journalists on the jumbotron, although I didn’t see it, in many ways the reporters who cover sporting events are just the same as entertainment reporters, so seeing their quotes can be, in my opinion, just like an entertainment reporter who says “one of the best films of the year!”

April 5, 2013 3:16 pm

Fair points. But, then these broadcasters/reporters can’t get all indignant when they’re referred to as homers (and I don’t mean Brunt.) This doesn’t only apply to the Blue Jays, but to any club that employs fans as broadcasters/reporters – yes, Chicago White Sox, I’m looking at you.

It’s personal taste, I suppose, but I prefer a certain level of objectivity from these people. Vin Scully is a fan of the Dodgers, but you’d never know it to hear him. He calls the game – he doesn’t root for the home team. That’s what I prefer.

As for broadcasters in the past being as “one-sided” as they are today? No way. Fergie Oliver was only a field reporter and no one took him seriously (kind of my point). But, back in the day, you had Don Chevrier, Brian Williams, and then Dan Shulman in the booth. No comparison at all to today’s shills. Sorry.

Nan Young Lee
Nan Young Lee
April 5, 2013 3:35 pm

Its getting out of hand on Sportsnet. Yesterday, Sid introduced a Bautista interview by saying he spoke with Barry Davis “…into a Sportsnet microphone, in front of a Sportsnet camera.”
I’ve noticed Bob McKenzie rarely if ever tweets his upcoming appearances on 1050, but gave a shout out to Patrick Burke’s fundraiser and to research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, while covering the NHL better than anyone else. It’s called integrity, folks.

Another Steve
Another Steve
April 5, 2013 3:46 pm

Thanks Curt. My memories from 20 plus years ago must be deceiving me, which is possible.

I prefer unbiased broadcasters as well, but I still find biased ones entertaining. However, I must admit that I really shouldn’t comment on the current TV team, since I listen to the radio feed most of the time.

Nan, what Sid does is called comedy. Perhaps lots of people don’t think it’s so funny. That’s fine – but when he is doing that kind of shilling that you mentioned, then it’s just a form parody. Jeesh.

April 5, 2013 5:30 pm

I had a talk with Lebatard once about a different kind of interest, where the sports media person has the same agent as they people they cover. For example, lebatard has the same agency as riley, wade and lebron.

He said “i can only do my work and let people judge if its biased.”

I would definitely say team broadcasters are different than the other media, since they are paid employees of the team.

I noticed Jack Morris on baseball central refers to the Blue Jays as “we.”

April 5, 2013 9:36 pm

to be fair, Jack Morris is a relatively new broadcaster, maybe he’s just getting the hang of not saying “we” for a team he did in fact play, and win a WS for.

Ami Angelwings
April 5, 2013 9:51 pm

Tabler also referred to the Jays as “we” on Tim & Sid.

I don’t have a problem with them using reporter quotes to promote the team since, as Another Steve pointed out, they do it in entertainment, and also in many other situations as well: politics (political ads often use quotes from articles of newspapers), and technology (again, using quotes from websites, or tech magazines). Using pieces of journalism to promote your product doesn’t mean the actual journalism is biased.

I do find the Jays broadcast extremely pro-Jays though. And I’m okay with broadcasters being “fans” in a way, in that, I’m okay if Leafs broadcasters sound excited when the Leafs score, but to a degree… and I feel like Martinez and Tabler go way too far where they start making excuses for players. In the opening day broadcast, Martinez talked about Cabrera’s 2012 numbers as if this is what we should expect this year. He briefly mentioned that he missed the rest of the season because he had been suspended for a banned substance, but didn’t elaborate, and it was one sentence said a lot later after he had already told viewers how Cabrera is such a great hitter, his 2012 numbers show this and we should expect more of the same.

Stuff like that is more homerism than I’m comfortable with, even on home broadcasts. I’m okay if announcers sound more excited about home team accomplishments because I understand that some listeners like feeling as if their excitement is being mirrored in the broadcast, but if it goes into “the home team can do little wrong, bad players are just slumping, drug enhanced results can be portrayed as if they’re the norm”, which is what Martinez and Tabler often sound like, it turns me off even if I’m cheering for that team.

Ami Angelwings
April 5, 2013 9:57 pm

@Alex I think Lebatard has a point, especially since “appearance of bias” can appear even if you’re not associated with the people or teams you’re talking about. Critical journalists tend to get accused that they “hate” the player, or “hate” the team by fans. Journalists that try to explain why management made unpopular moves get accused of being homers even if their employer has no relation to the team. Bob is accused of ignoring the CFL because his company doesn’t own the rights. If a personality on TSN Radio is critical of the Jays this season, they’re going to be accused of biased because Rogers owns the Jays, etc… If fans don’t like what you’re doing, some of them can find bias no matter what.

April 6, 2013 12:56 am

I think Dan Lebatard may have the best sports radio show out there. I listen on podcast here and there. Don’t know why he isn’t syndicated yet.

April 6, 2013 2:09 am

At least a couple years ago, Lebatard (and Hochman) had always said they didn’t want to change the show if that’s what they had to do to take it national. I take Lebatard at his word that he has turned down bigger jobs to stay in Miami and do what he wants to and do with the people with whome he wants to do it.

He has a good relationship with the 790 people and does the ESPN show with his dad and it’s run by the PTI people.

I was a huge Lebatard show fan (day 1 listener), but soured on the show when the NWO Miami Heat were created.

Reel E
Reel E
April 6, 2013 9:24 am

The Simon Houpt article in the Globe & Mail was about the perception he was getting about Rogers and their avalanche of (mostly) pro-Blue Jay coverage across all 5 platforms. It’s a perception shared by most of the people I know. As for any criticism levelled directly at Brunt, the only evidence was one word: fawning, the word Houpt used to describe Brunt’s Dominican piece. Having not watched it, I can’t say if Houpt was accurate or not. I can say that was his opinion. What I got out of the rest of the article was an admission from Rogers executives that this aggressive hype was deliberate, and that it won’t be ending
anytime soon. As for Brunt, he’s a great writer and I wouldn’t call into question anything he writes. The problem is he’s working for a company that openly admits its bias, so he gets painted with the same brush. It may not be fair, but then neither is the “reporting” we’ll be getting about the Jays from Rogers. If Brunt has a problem with that, he should take it up with Pelley. I think the really interesting thing is how TSN is covering baseball, and how Sportsnet is covering hockey. I wouldn’t know the breakdowns in percentages, but it sure seems to me The Fan is talking a lot less about the Leafs and TSN is talking a lot less about the Blue Jays (and nobody is talking about the Raptors). I’m curious to see if that shows up in the ratings. I think that, although a lot of people are really excited about the Jays, it’s really early days. The Leafs haven’t been in the playoffs in 9 years. When the playoffs start, will The Fan ditch the Jays? I wouldn’t count on it.

April 6, 2013 11:24 am

I did notice that 590’s slogan is now “everything blue jays.”

I only listen to naylor’s show on 1050 but there seems like there has been plenty of jays talk on there.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
April 6, 2013 11:41 am

good discussion here. the journalistic mantra i grew up with was that the appearance of bias can be just as bad as actual bias. the lesson was that journalists were supposed to actively take steps to remove the appearance of bias.

sometimes this means letting someone else write the story, sometimes this means not accepting perks, sometimes this means admitting conflicts of interests … there is no one right way to deal with the appearance of bias, but it must be dealt with if you value your credibility with the audience. once that’s gone, it’s nearly impossible to recover.

i have made my peace with the Brunt situation in the following way: Brunt is doing a different job for Sportsnet than he was for the Globe. The former was journalism, the latter is something else, and should be held to different standards. It’s not quite what Wilner or Martinez are doing, but it’s slightly closer to that than anything he did at the Globe.

I wish he were still at the Globe. But, he’s still excellent on PTS, and that’s a really good thing, given the co-host alternatives.

Not that anyone here should care, but I deleted Hayes from my podcast feed. I’m pretty disappointed that his show hasn’t improved over the last 2 years. I had high hopes for him.

(Another) Andrew
(Another) Andrew
April 6, 2013 2:10 pm

There’s nothing new about Brunt being a shill. George Gillette, anyone? That was when he was at the Globe.

April 6, 2013 6:46 pm

I know a number of former sportswrietrs that migrated go to TV that now consider tehmselves “entertainers” and not journalists anymore.

Because theybarent doing journalism anymore. To quote Mr Tony, they’re bloviating for big fat TV cash payouts.

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