Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo: Russian “lesbian” band TATU performing at Sochi

by mike in boston [hatemailaccount -a-t- gmail /dot/ com] @mikeinboston


The Surreal Sochi Experience


Maybe I’m just getting old but winter seems to be dragging on with no end in sight and it’s making me cranky. Rob Ford continues to embarrass and Sochi is a clusterfuck. I cover LGBT(etc) issues here quite a bit so I won’t go in to the protests. As the Games get underway one thing many people will be watching for is whether medal-winning athletes will show support for the protesters. I hope they do.

The main thing I want to discuss is the level of sheer incompetence that seems to pervade the planning of these Olympics. I live in the States and the tone here is one of political Schadenfreude at all the mistakes. Even though the Cold War has been over for decades, many Americans still view Russia with mistrust. Canadian coverage has an element of this as well, but that’s mostly as a way of making ourselves feel better about the Gretzky torch lighting fiasco.

Since these games seem to be a vanity exercise for Putin that will cost the Russian taxpayers for generations, I think the amount of media coverage devoted to #Sochiproblems is fair. Every city/country that decides to host the Olympics should be held accountable for the white elephants they decide to build with public funds. In Russia’s case, despite being the most costly winter Olympics, they couldn’t manage to delay those criticisms until after the games. I guess that’s what missing manhole covers will do.

Bruce Arthur & Sean Fitzgerald are doing great work but @sochiproblems is the place to go to watch the disaster unfold from all angles.


CBS wins the NFL sweepstakes


Thursday night programming is where many U.S. networks live and die. CBS has just secured the rights to 8 NFL games for this fall on Thursdays and that is sure to shake things up. I’m a big fan of Nantz and Simms and so I like that CBS got the package. CBS is going to use the NFL to help promote its other shows, as well as secure its standing as a sports network. As I have mentioned in the past, I like that the NFL spreads its games around between networks. This provides choice to the consumer, and it keeps the networks competitive. No one can be too comfortable or stagnant when the games are on so many channels. This is why we see such great innovation in how the game is presented. The quality of an NFL broadcast is peerless in my opinion.


Rogers & the NHL


This leads to the other major media news this week. Rogers, who jus spent 5.2 billion dollars to become the main national network for the NHL in Canada, announced that they will be changing the focus of their NHL coverage.  Rather than spending time on the state of the game, they will highlight the players and the goals and the saves. Now, of course, this a great idea. People who like hockey care about what happens on the ice. The concern is that this will come at the expense of legitimate journalism on things like concussions and the financial health of the half dozen teams who seem to always been on the verge of collapse. I have written a lot about why I worry that the NHL having only one media partner would be bad for fans and this announcement raises further worries.


I’m a little disappointed that Chris Zelkovich didn’t discuss any of these concerns in his piece. For example, Chris writes “Canadian hockey broadcasters spend way too much time discussing business issues, [Moore] said, something that most fans aren’t interested in hearing about.” I think this is demonstrably false: when PHX was on the verge of coming the Hamilton people cared a lot about the business issues of the NHL. The same is true of what is going on in Quebec City, and what happened in Winnipeg.


What is true is that the NHL would prefer if journalists spent less time criticizing the health of the league, it’s issues with goons and dirty hits, and  impending litigation. To try to suggest that fans don’t care, and so Rogers is just trying to serve fan interest, is highly disingenuous.


If Rogers and its employees will no longer be covering these issues, this is a real opening for TSN and CBC. There is no reason not to cover both the on-ice and off-ice aspects of the sport, and as a viewer/reader/listener, I will be taking notice of how Rogers treats off-ice issues going forward. The appearance of bias is, as they say, just as worrisome as actual bias. Rogers opened itself up to the appearance of bias when it bid a ton to be the exclusive voice of the NHL. This announcement does nothing to dispel that appearance. Rather, it reinforces it.


Low Hanging Fruit – PTS Edition


When TSM asked which media member we would most like to be rid of many people mentioned PTS regulars as candidates who should walk the plank. This seems like as good a time as any to revisit PTS’ FOB problem. For those new to the site, ages ago the commenters coined the term FOB to refer to people appearing on PTS whose main credential is that they are Friends of Bob.


The original FOB was, I think, Gord Kirke. He is/was Bob’s agent. He was basically harmless, since he rarely contributed much. But when there was a discussion about free agency and contracts he occasionally had some insight. The next one I remember was the late Jim Kelley. He was an NHL writer for a Buffalo newspaper, and was most famous for being attacked by Domonic Hasek. Why was this person a regular co-host on PTS? You guessed it — FOB. He would drive me crazy as you would prattle on endlessly about the Jays or the NFL or whatever with zero expertise. Then there was this guy Brian Cooper who showed up out of nowhere for a while. His claim to fame was being a fundraiser of some sorts, but he often came on to discuss sports. Why? Who knows, but it was not good radio.


The most recent FOBs is by far the most disliked: John Shannon. He showed up a long time ago as an occasional guest to discuss the production side of the NHL when he was working for the league. I really enjoyed these segments as he was knowledgeable about a very technical subject. This led to a regular co-hosting gig where, as we all know, he is impossible to shut up. Whether he’s adding his own sound-effects or talking over guests, he’s by far the worst thing about PTS these days. More recently, Butch Carter has started to irk some commenters, largely for Shannon-like reasons. Like all FOBs, Butch would be fine as a guest on a topic about which he is credible. As we’ve discussed many times on this site, being a generalist is hard and few people can do it well.


When Nelson Millman kindly agreed to be interviewed for this site, he mentioned that he would talk to Bob just about every day and they would talk about the plan for the show and potential adjustments. The fact that the FOB problem has endured for the last 5-7 years or so makes me think this is a contractual issue. My guess is that Bob has a “FOB clause” that allows him to pick co-hosts. The addition of Brunt has been fantastic, but the remainder of the choices have been to detriment of the show. The reason Brunt is so great is, in part, because he makes Bob raise the level of his game. As many have noted, when Bob does one of those grumpily old man rants, Brunt just shuts right up and refuses to take the bait. The other co-hosts thrive on these pointless arguments, and it’s terrible terrible radio.


I’m sure the current program director is hearing the same thing we are hearing, and can’t be thrilled about the cast of hangers-on who drag the show down. Sadly, it seems that little will change until Bob retires. I wonder how much of his audience will have switched over to Naylor by that time. I’m a fan of the PTS I grew up with. I hope they find some way to recapture some of that in the time they have left.


thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time

mike (in boston)

About the Author