Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston @mikeinboston


Week in Review


Since there has been so much content posted here this week, I’ll keep my column shorter than usual. It was really great to read people’s reactions to the posts by TSM and Robg. The discussion got me thinking about whether aging changes your tolerance for sports radio shenanigans, or whether said shenanigans have become worse in the last few years.


One interesting thing to think about is how the introduction of Twitter has changed sports radio. It used to be that hosts were wedded to phone calls to generate material to fill the air. But now they can selectively interact with what people are saying in real-time on Twitter. This has changed the nature of most shows, but especially the day time shows that rely on audience driven content rather than interviews or analysis.


I’ll save more discussion of this topic for another day, but for now I’ll just add that begging for Tweets has replaced begging for phone calls as the go-to play when needing to fill time on radio. You can listen to a whole segment that consists entirely of “here’s what people are saying on Twitter!!!” and “just got this Tweet from @LeafsRool69, do you agree? Send us your tweets!!!”


For me, this is not good radio.


Musical Chairs


Shortly after last week’s column on the moves in sports journalism, the news broke that Bruce Arthur was leaving the National Post for the Toronto Star. This is a gigantic loss for the National Post. My biggest question is this: why didn’t Arthur go to the Globe?


There are several possibilities. One is that they didn’t want him. This is possible. His style is not for everyone, and the Globe may have higher standards for how their employees use Twitter. Another is that he didn’t want them. This strikes me as unlikely. No paper has the journalistic weight of the Globe. Another yet is that the timing just didn’t work out, and that by the time he considered leaving, the Globe had already hired Kelly. Hopefully we get the truth eventually. No one in the current media scene could replace Brunt, but Arthur is a better columnist than Kelly, in my opinion.


With Brunt, Cox, and Blair now retired from journalism, it will be very interesting to see whether new people will appear on the scene at these papers. As mentioned last week, Feschuk seems like an adequate replacement for Cox, and Kelly is an improvement over Blair. This means that the Star has at least one vacancy (Feschuk’s old role). Perhaps Arthur was hired to replace both Kelly and Feschuk. The Globe has remained fairly stagnant since Brunt left, and perhaps Kelly is the only addition they plan on making. My hope is that both sports departments clear out some more overpaid legacy types (when was the last time anyone read something good by Roy MacGregor or David Shoalts?) and hire some good young people to carry them forward.


One really has to wonder what will happen to the sports department at the National Post in light of this loss and their recent financial woes. The very talented John Lott is a prime candidate to be snapped up next. The Sun may be in need of a baseball person soon, so that’s a logical fit. But I have no idea if Lott would consider moving to that sports department. It’s not really a credibility upgrade over where he currently works. The Globe could certainly use him, but they seem to be moving away from straight reporters. I wonder how Lott would do in a more opinion-based role. I would love to see it happen.


NFL Cheerleaders & Fair Wages


One big sports & social issues story that is brewing concerns the treatment of cheerleaders by NFL teams. If you have not been following this story, several teams are being sued by current or former women who claim that their working conditions violated U.S. labour laws. The main point of contention is the mandatory free appearances the cheerleaders were required to make as part of their contracts. When you factor these in, they end up making less than minimum wage, or so they claim.


This week’s story came courtesy of the Buffalo Jills, and the report that their contract includes rules for how to wash their “intimate areas.” This rivals the previous high mark set by the Ravenettes, where cheerleaders were measured against the “jiggle test” to see if they could continue their employment.


Most of the discussion centres on the question of whether such contracts are demeaning. This is hard to dispute but also hard to get all that worked up about. I’m sure that people employed by Disney on Ice or Cirque du Soleil are subject to exacting physical standards as well. If you go in to a profession that treats appearance as a BFOQ then you can’t complain when they enforce it.


The real issue for me is the unpaid labour. We have seen new regulations looming for how unpaid interns are treated in Canada, and this seems in the same vein. It’s wrong to exploit people’s willingness to work for free. No one wants to work for free, and they only do it because that’s the price they are forced to pay to work at all in their chosen industry. I hope the cheerleaders win these cases, and that their compensation arrangement is altered. With the amount of money NFL teams make, to be requiring free appearances from their cheerleaders is patently unfair.


Quick Hits


Gary’s NHL continued to live up to its own standards with respect to attempts to injure. Giving Cooke 7 games for his knee-on-knee hit would be outrageous were it not the case that we’ve seen it all  before. My hope is that the NHLPA’s membership eventually votes in tougher rules for parlous play. Presumably the number of players who hate guys like Cooke vastly outweighs the number of guys who don’t. Put it to an anonymous vote: do these idiots belong in the league? The owners and Gary will never get rid of them, so the change will have to come from the players themselves.


Ron Maclean’s wisdom seems to come mostly from sitting next to a guy who is as thick as they come. When left to speak in his own voice, things didn’t go very well recently. By suggesting that French refs shouldn’t have worked the Canadiens game he mostly embarrassed himself, but by extension he also tarnished the refs, the French, and the NHL. See the linked article for some of the Twitter response to Maclean’s comments. The good news for Ron, is that Cherry came to his defence. That will surely help restore his image.


The Raps are down 2-1 to Fuck Brooklyn. The level of buy-in from the fans has been outstanding. The series is far from over, but I wonder if the We (are) The North campaign will be considered a failure if the Raps lose in the 1st round. We’ve seen with the Jays that courting the casual fan works well when there is lots of excitement around the team (anyone remember Love This Team?). But when you lose in disappointing ways, the marketing looks really hollow. I worry that We The North will become a punch line if the Raps flame out. It might have been better to wait until next year to roll that out.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Dear Dave Naylor: I’m really happy with your show for the most part and I like your shtick-less professional approach. But for the love of God, stop giggling.


  • Dear Don Kollins: iTunes informs me that PTS featured Cox, Shannon, and Butch Carter on the roundtable. Serious question: who are you trying to entertain with this product?


thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time

mike (in boston)

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