Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston @mikeinboston

 

Happy spring everyone. I’m going to use this post to clear out a lot of things that got stuck in the queue over the last month or so. If there are interesting issues I have missed, please post them in the comments.

 

Changes at the Globe & the Star

 

The biggest media story over the last few weeks has been the shake-up at the major papers, not just in sports but across the board. If you follow Simon Houpt then you know just how many high level newspaper people have been fired or reassigned. You also know that there have been some massive financial losses at the National Post. The industry is really in flux right now.

 

As a fan of good sports journalism, this is exciting. My hope is that the sports directors at the Star and the Globe are in the process of rethinking how they approach journalism. I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial in claiming that sports journalism is one of the most recalcitrant industries with respect to change. There has been one business model for the last 100 years, and in recent times that model has not served the reader very well. In 2014 you still see some people arguing that locker room access is the measure of the quality of one’s writing.

 

To summarize the major recent moves: Cox and Blair leave their columns for full time gigs at Sportsnet, and Cathal Kelly takes his column over to the Globe. This means that Feschuk moves up to take over Cox’s role, while Kelly takes over for Blair. Another way you could see the Kelly move is as a replacement for Brunt.

 

Cox the writer is a different person than Cox the PTS co-host and Cox on Twitter. In my opinion he has given up the thing at which he was best, and will now focus full time on things he doesn’t do well at all. That said, I think Feschuk is a perfectly capable replacement for Cox at the Star, and perhaps one that comes with less baggage. Kelly is a mixed case: he tends to try very hard to sound smart in his writing and this sometimes interferes with the story, but when it works it works well. My hope is that the editors at the Globe will work on and with him.

 

We have debated the plight of the traditional newspaper here quite a bit. We have seen the journalistic death of once venerable figures like Stephen Brunt when they leave their newspaper homes. So, it would be natural to think that there is no way to save things for the readers. But, I believe that newspapers (some of them at least) still have a credibility that is unmatched. If a story is going to break on PEDs, or NHL relocation, or homophobia in the front office, I want that story broken by a newspaper, not a blog and not Twitter.

 

So I’m cheering for the lean and mean sports departments that will emerge from these overhauls. The people in charge have a real chance to turn a negative into a positive. Good luck to these people in their new roles.

 

JaysTalk

 

Given how terrible the off-season and spring were, you have to count the start of the Jays’ 2014 season as a huge success. If they can stay at .500 through the first 50 games then they have a chance of being surprisingly relevant this summer. After Rogers slammed the door shut on adding new money to the budget, and after the Jays were publicly embarrassed by the news that they were asking players to defer money to make room in the budget for much needed pitching, an opening losing streak would have been the final nail in the public perception coffin.

 

The Jays have played well defensively, have hit reasonably well, and the starting pitching has been what we expected from this group. The bullpen has been over-taxed and has shown some cracks, but it has held up for the most part. There are some feel-good stories in McGowan and Hutchison, and most of the players are likable.

 

As you may have seen, the Jays had a historically bad half-inning against the Twins the other night, giving up a bunch of walks and wild pitches, blowing a lead and losing the game as a result. I took this occasion to tune in to Wilner’s show for the first time this year. Here is a brief paraphrase of what I heard:

 

CALLER: If the Jays are going to be out of it by end of May then I’m going to stop paying attention

MW: That’s your right. You’re entitled to that opinion. But it if you’re going to make a decision based on a half inning of baseball, then you know nothing about the game.

 

Glad to see that Wilner is still in fine form after all these years. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Jays fans deserve better than Mike Wilner. He’s not good at his job. The show has not improved, despite his efforts to condescend people into saying things he thinks are worth saying. Time for a fresh start.

 

I have lived in several baseball cities in the U.S. and nobody has a worse post-game show than the Jays. My apologies to Wilner’s co-workers who read this column. I’m sure he’s a delightful colleague and a real hoot at office parties.

 

Quick Hits

 

The MLS has seen increases in attendance across the board and are now closing in on a lucrative national TV deal in the U.S. Lots of people are rabid fans of top level soccer played in Europe and elsewhere, and complain that the level of play in the MLS is just too low by comparison. If teams get a cash infusion via a TV deal, this might lead to more elite players coming over, and in turn raise the quality of the product on the pitch. Going to a game at BMO is fun when the weather is nice (as long as you remember to bring a hat). If the MLS could become a good league, then the experience would be even better.

 

Bob Knight (noted anger management student) works for ESPN. In that capacity he talked about how the NCAA has “raped” its players through its rules. ESPN did not see fit to apologize for the comment, or force him to retract it. We can argue over how bad a statement this is, but I would have expected higher standards from ESPN.

 

Ho-hum. Another college athlete came out as openly gay to his teammates. In a few years this will be a non-story, but for now it’s more support for those who are thinking about coming out themselves. This is good news for social change.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Rosie wrote a Leafs piece that was quickly demolished by birky over at PPP.

 

  • Brian Burke is still a bully who seems really invested in what everybody else is doing.

 

  • Not sure if PTS had technical difficulties, but their interesting interview with the lawyer who is suing the NCAA on behalf of the players  cut off mid-sentence on the podcast.

 

  • Fair or Foul? Howard Berger wrote a blog post about why he and David Shoalts don’t get along. In it he mentions the recent death of Shoalts’ son. I had no idea about that, and it seems odd to raise it within something that could be construed as a hit-piece. Seems like he should have left that detail out. (thanks to reader Jonathan Giggs for the link).

 

Thanks for reading and commenting. Now go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

until next time …

mike (in boston)

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