Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston (hatemailaccount  a-t- gmail -d-o-t- com)


Gary Bettman’s NHL



“If not this then what?” This is a question I have asked myself when trying to understand how people can hold on to untenable positions. “If not this then what?” means: what would it take to get you to change your mind?


I asked myself this question when my Catholic friends defended the Vatican’s cover up of the rape of children by priests. If you won’t come out against enabling child rape, what would you come out against? I have asked myself this question with respect to Rob Ford defenders. If smoking crack with gang members won’t cause you to withdraw your allegiance to this person, what would? Is there anything he could do that would make you say “that’s too far” or are you really saying that there is nothing he could do to lose your support?


I have been asking myself this question with respect to the goon culture of the NHL for many years. What would it take for the pro-violence crowd to have a change of heart? I thought the McSorley incident might bring change. It did not. People said “he was aiming for the shoulder!” I thought the Bertuzzi assault would bring change. It did not – people blamed the victim. And here we are again with Thornton’s on-ice equivalent of a curb-stomp.


This is your league Gary. I know that people say “Gary just does what the owners say!” but that’s not true of your counterpart in the NFL. Bud Selig went after steroids (a decade too late) as a way of rescuing his legacy. I worry that Gary will wait until someone dies on the ice before trying to rescue his own legacy. Is that what it will take Gary? Because that’s where we are. Just look at the response from within the game: the number of people defending Thornton, either directly or indirectly, is frighteningly high.


I was listening to Pierre McGuire on a Boston radio station. After saying that the Thornton assault was wrong, he praised Thornton for his contrition after the fact. He was effusive in saying that this shows what kind of a character guy he is. He went on to blame the officials for failing to call a penalty earlier in the game.


When someone is paralyzed on the ice I will ask the question “if not this then what?” and I know what the answer will be. People will say he should have never put himself in that position. The change will never come from within. There are too many people committed to defending the game’s history of violence as intrinsic to what makes the sport great. These are the same people who defend fighting by saying it eliminates cheap shots.


Gary Bettman has a very difficult job. But this issue is not difficult. The 10 or 15 game suspension Thornton will receive will not deter things like from happening again. A 50 game suspension, plus a loss of a 1st round pick, plus a large fine might.


Radio Ratings


Great discussion earlier this week of the new book. As far as I can tell there are two camps on TSN’s rise and The FAN’s losses. The first camp is that this is just a regression to the mean. After the death of the Watters show, the FAN went largely unchallenged and so absorbed Watters’ audience. Once TSN established itself, some of that audience gravitated away from the FAN. This seems really plausible to me. The 2nd camp is that the downward trend of some of the FAN’s shows is reflection of listener dissatisfaction. This also seems plausible to me. No one on this site ever writes that PTS is as good as it used to be. The fact that McCown is checked out is largely uncontested. The fact that Shannon and Cox turn people off is also uncontested.


I want both stations to thrive. I have no tribal allegiance to Bell or Rogers. Like most Canadians, I have been fucked over by both. Both produce good and bad content. As I wrote a while back, I want Bob to start thinking about how he wants his run to end. The current trajectory is not a promising one. My own 2 cents are that Bob might benefit from a Johnny Carson schedule – come in Mondays and Fridays, and let someone like Friedman hold down the fort mid-week.


Quick Links


PPP has their annual worst article of the year award thread up. If you enjoy horror movies, you’ll love reading the nominations.


Shoalts has an article on Duthie spurning Rogers to stay with TSN. I’m amazed at how univocal people are in saying that Duthie is so far above the rest as a presenter. I’ve always been of the view that a trained monkey could do this job, but I guess I’m in the minority.


I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Dowbiggin has a column up at the Globe. If you ever wanted proof that no one is ever really fired from a job in Canadian sports media, this should be it.


Low Hanging Fruit – Radio Edition


  • Brunt rightly called out AA for saying that JP handled his issues in Toronto well. That’s the kind of bullshit we became accustomed to with Riccardi. If I were AA I would look to minimize those comparisons right now. I wonder if any media member will follow up with AA about that comment … somehow I doubt it.


  • I have been off podcasts for the last week or so, but the last time I listened to Tim&Sid they were singing a song about Masai Ujiri. Can we please move them to the morning where their whacky sounds, funny clips, and banshee laughter would be more appropriate?


  • TSN Radio seems to have made the decision not to air full shows of TSN Drive on Mon/Tue/Weds. This is the dumbest thing I can imagine, since one of their advantages over PTS concerns the co-hosts.


until next time …

mike (in boston)

About the Author
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 14, 2013 12:56 pm

Mike (in Boston): Great column as always. Best weekend read there is.

Dave in Bolton
Dave in Bolton
December 14, 2013 1:21 pm

just a few random thoughts for you all to think about

if Rogers were to buy TSN what changes would have to be made to Sportsnet?

which brand do they keep?

would the CRTC have an issue with it?

who would be suitor if Rogers decided to sell parts of their sports

December 14, 2013 3:35 pm

I’m so glad Pierre McGuire isn’t around these parts too much anymore. Thanks for the column Mike.

December 14, 2013 4:28 pm

Agree about Tim and Sid. Their “morning zoo” schtick got old for me a long time ago. I find them almost unlistenable now. Though Tim on his own is pretty good radio, Sid is always searching for the cheap one-liners. Tiresome.

Regarding the ongoing debate around hockey thuggery, it will never go away as long as the mouth breathers who love it keep wanting to watch it (the MMA cross-over crowd). The NHL is sports entertainment these days, not really sport.

December 14, 2013 5:57 pm

The mma segment on the roundtable was just awful. Full of inaccuracies and assumptions. Could have used marek or even brunt.

Normally bob at least acknowledges the hypocrisy of loving boxing and hating mma.

sam in oshawa
sam in oshawa
December 14, 2013 10:19 pm

oh curt wrists not strong enough to hold a hockey stick as a young boy? break out the shuttle cock kit…

December 14, 2013 11:20 pm

Beat anyone with a shoe lately?

Mike S
Mike S
December 16, 2013 2:26 am

I’m not sure I understand the comment about Naylor’s show……………as far as I know it is always a full 3 hour show unless they are carrying a Leafs game that starts at 7 PM, in which case it’s a 2.5 hour show

Duthie has proven he is more than just a good host on hockey games…………….he did an excellent job as one of the hosts at the Olympics…………….and he does a good job of making the unbearable 10 hour trade deadline show actually watchable

Mike S
Mike S
December 16, 2013 10:36 am

OK………….if you were referring to the Naylor podcasts, I agree with you…………….the way that 1050 does their podcasts is a bit of a mess…………..but I normally listen to Naylor live (and PTS on podcast) so the lack of Naylor podcasts doesn’t have much impact on me

The first hour of Naylor’s show on Mondays is usually pretty good because it is normally a mini roundtable with Naylor, Arthur, and either Simmons or Feschuk…………….if they don’t supply a podcast of that entire hour they are making a mistake

December 16, 2013 11:09 am

Once again, an excellent column.

And I couldn’t agree with Curt more. (Too bad about the dude from Oshawa, but….he does live in Oshawa and that would contribute.)

December 16, 2013 1:27 pm

Leafs and Wings on 24/7 is not too exciting. Where have all the great sports personalities gone?

December 16, 2013 3:47 pm

Kamlesh, they’ve all gone to media school and have learned to say nothing when they speak – about as interesting as dish water. And yet, highlight shows still scramble for those sound bites. Get those pucks in deep!

Reel E
Reel E
December 16, 2013 5:03 pm

Well Curt, you say that like they’re bad people. Didn’t anybody see Bryzgalov in 24/7. Any idea how much that cost him? We want these guys to be “characters’, but as soon as they are, we crucify them. How can you expect anything else?

Dave in Bolton
Dave in Bolton
December 16, 2013 5:23 pm

Gord Miller just resigned with TSN so take him off Rogers list

December 16, 2013 5:35 pm

Did I make them sound like bad people? Really? I’m not judging their character, just saying they’re boring, that’s all – at least in front of a camera. Which begs the question: What’s the point of putting them in front of a camera? Btw, you can say interesting stuff without sounding nuts. Brett Hull, like him or not, was an interesting guy.

More than anything though, star athletes are concerned about their “brand”. They shy away from saying anything interesting or controversial because they don’t want to hurt their marketability. So, you have Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, Tom Brady, etc. All brilliant athletes, and about as interesting as a five pound bag of fertilizer.

Another Steve
Another Steve
December 17, 2013 12:09 pm

Curiously, “resigned” and “re-signed” have opposite meanings.

Ami Angelwings
December 19, 2013 5:05 am

TSN seems to not want me to listen to Bruce Arthur on Live Drive. Why don’t they just put full segments of all the days up instead of only some days? They never put Mondays on. I’ve emailed them and asked nicely if they could (because I assumed this was a mistake on their part) and they haven’t responded. :\

In contrast, The FAN always responds promptly to me when I ask for a podcast to be fixed or put up. They’ve even sent me specifically made podcasts for shows they don’t put up, like the one day that Mike Wilner had his brother Norm on during an evening show (not PTS or anything they normally podcast), and I asked them if they could put it up, and they sent me the podcast. 🙂

I find some stuff on TSN to be better listening than on the FAN (Shannon/Cox on FAN means I turn to Live Drive, even if Simmons is on, for ex) but in terms of my experiences with the customer service, I’ve found the FAN people to be much more interactive and friendly, and they’re always really great when I email them about anything. And it does mean something to me as a listener that they’re attentive and responsive.

I think Bob does occasionally mail it in (especially as we approach summer, and that point is getting earlier and earlier each year it feels like), but I still like listening to him when he’s with Brunt. When he’s with Cox or Shannon, the show is just painful, most of that being those two, and some of that being that Bob sounds grouchier with them and seems to change his opinions to keep them from yelling at him. I’ve been enjoying all the Bob/Brunt weeks for this winter/fall season, personally, and I like the double talk segments they’ve been doing now because I think they’re at their best when they’re just chatting.

To me, TSNR seems more… solid, and the FAN is more up and down, and I think this is because the FAN has more personalities. They’re less hosts, as they are characters, so if you like them, you’re going to like them a lot, if you hate them, then you’ll want to tune out. Whenever I listen to TSNR, regardless of the show, it seems like they’re always talking hockey or football, and analysis of it. The only person who sticks out to me as somebody I listen to for their personality is Bruce Arthur, everybody else comes off to me as just a commentator/analyst (though, I understand Steve Simmons has a personality that grates on people and maybe I just haven’t encountered it yet, I tend to avoid him because people warn me about him.) So, whenever Sid is on one of his rants, or Blair is screaming about something, or Cox or Shannon are on, I switch to TSNR, and I know basically what I’ll get. I prefer FAN at it’s best over TSNR, but I prefer TSNR over bad FAN. Similarly, I prefer Bob on his game over Naylor, but Naylor over grumpy Bob, or Bob + Cox/Shannon.

I know, I’m in a severe minority here (possibly a minority of one xD ) but I really like listening the younger hosts of PTS, the ones who are only recently getting a shot at being on the radio during the times we used to get Roger Lajoie or the Deacon. Those being Jeff Sammut (who is now moving up a bit, since he guest hosts the Blair show when Blair is gone), Ben Ennis, George Rusic, and Rob Wong. I don’t really know why, I just don’t find them annoying, and I like hearing their opinions on things. Being closer to my age group might have something to do with it, and that they don’t do the annoying stuff Tim & Sid do on their show.

Has anybody been listening to the Blue Jays This Week podcasts that Wilner & Ennis have been doing in the past few weeks? Wilner’s opinions seem to be jumping all over the place so he can disagree with Ennis on stuff. xD

Ami Angelwings
December 19, 2013 2:56 pm

I said “younger hosts of PTS” I obviously meant “younger hosts of the FAN” xD

December 20, 2013 10:53 am

Thoughts on where Millard ends up in the hockey rotation for sportsnet. Personally I would think their will be more talent brought in or promotted to be more a lead ( marek Friedman). I assume stays with hockey central at noon though not sure kypryos does.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x