Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition


by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount – gmail – com


A huge thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion last week. I thought some really good points were made on all sides. It will interesting to follow the Blundell story as it evolves. Thanks to those of you who emailed me to share your thoughts privately. Also, thanks to Jim Lang. 


I am going to use this week’s column to clear out a bunch of things I wanted to comment on, not all of them from this past week.


The Sterling Saga


This week the Clippers were sold for $2 billion by the Sterling Trust headed by Donald’s ex-wife. Donald Sterling also announced that he would be suing the NBA for $1 billion. Finally, the news came out that Donald has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What this means for the sale of the team and the lawsuit is unclear.


Bob McCwown opined that one of the biggest pieces of leverage Sterling will have in fighting his expulsion from the NBA would be his knowledge of the skeletons in the closets of the other NBA owners. The thought is that Sterling will have a good legal case if he can show that the league is treating him in an arbitrary fashion. If he can show that other owners are scumbags too, then he has a solid shot at blocking the sale. Part of me hopes this comes to pass, though I doubt this will ever make it to court. More likely is that the league will settle with Sterling privately.


Mark Cuban voiced his concerns about the process of removing Sterling. His comments and the fallout were widely discussed elsewhere. I don’t want to dwell on Cuban the person — he strikes me as a bit of a meat-head — but rather the content of his comments. Briefly, he talked about the fact that we all have biases. While Sterling may be an extreme version, we all should acknowledge our own prejudices and work in our lives towards correcting them. This is a totally cogent point that was lost in the furor over his choice of examples.


I’m  not trying to side with Cuban, I just think that he received an unfair shake and that a more eloquent person would have been able to phrase things in a way that kept the focus on the main issue. It’s easy to declaim Sterling. He’s a bigot. What is less easy is to shine a light on the ways in which people who would never self-identify as prejudiced behave in ways that contribute to racial inequality.


FIFA’s Qatar Problem


The world cup of soccer starts soon in Brazil. There have  been lots of stories on how much money the country spent on this event, while ignoring pressing domestic economic problems. There are currently protests, featuring the notorious Black Bloc, going on in Rio. All of that will shuffle to the background once the games begin and the (somewhat silly) nationalism that defines international soccer takes over.


The most interesting story though lies elsewhere. Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, recently admitted that giving the 2022 world cup to the nation of Qatar was a mistake. He cited the heat in summer as the reason for wanting to move the games to the winter. As you might recall, human rights advocates were incensed when FIFA selected Qatar as host nation. There were at least two reasons to be angry: 1) the games would require a huge amount in stadium costs that will leave no benefit at all to that nation’s poor, and 2) Qatar is a nation where homosexuality between men is punishable by jail or deportation.


Well, this month reports by ESPN emerged that many migrant workers hired to build FIFA’s white elephants had died to due the working conditions. One report estimates that 4,000 workers will die by 2022 at current rates. My main complaint is that all of this will be shuffled under the rug by plenty of good people because the world cup is a lot of fun. While the Olympics arguably are a forum for amateur athletes to meet and compete at the highest level, the world cup is basically a professional sports league. As a league, they can be punished by the market (consumers and advertisers) for failing to behave decently.


It’s a little frustrating that they choose not to set standards for the countries with which they do business. I mean, how hard would it be for FIFA to draft a policy of fair treatment and enforce it? This might eliminate countries like Qatar from competing to host the tournament, but so what? There will be plenty of other countries willing to throw piles of money at FIFA for the chance. There is little doubt that FIFA is an economically corrupt organization in the same way as the IOC. Does that mean they have to be morally corrupt as well?




A few things here:

  • JP Arencibia is still bitter about his time with the media in Toronto. I feel sorry for the guy and hope he manages to rebuild his career in the minors.


  • Ratings are way up this month while attendance continues to languish. This is such a tired story. Attendance always sucks until we hit the summer. The real test will be how attendance looks if the Jays are still in 1st place on July 15th. Also, it’s worth pointing out that at 55,000 seats, it’s easy for the Dome to look and feel empty. Newer parks are much smaller.


  • The team has played well of late and a lot of people are going with “this is the team we all knew we had last year!!!!” I think it is too soon for that judgment. Last year’s team won 11 straight and finished with fewer than 75 wins. Hopefully Rogers allows AA to go get the starter they need.


  • Go Jays! It would be so nice to have a team to cheer for this summer.


Quick Hits


  • ICYMI: Simmons wrote something dumb about analytics. SkinnyFish over at PPP gave it the treatment is deserved. Are we seeing the death throes of Simmons the writer? All of this smacks of a desperate attempt to stay relevant.


  • The Atlanta Braves are building a new stadium. The county is pitching in a bunch of money, but opponents of the plan were prevented from speaking at the hearing. Hooray democracy!


  • Fox was recently caught cutting corners in its baseball coverage. I wonder how MLB feels about this. They have invested a huge amount of money into the way their product looks on TV/web, and Fox might be risking its rights in the future if it keeps this up.


  • A media member in Philly got into a confrontation with a player after Tweeting the player’s wife in an attempt to get some facts/gossip for a story. Hopefully someone asks Brian Burke what he thinks about this. Prediction: the word “gutless” will appear in his response.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Naylor has a new segment called the Opening Bell where he talks about the issues of the day. It’s very very good. See his May 22nd discussion of the relationship between meaningful games and the lack of fighting in the NHL  for an especially good example.


  • PTS featured a roundtable of Blair, Cox, Shannon, and Doug Smith yesterday (per iTunes). Why does Don Kollins hate listeners? Quick Poll: if you were trying to make even worse radio and could substitute in one person, who would would you add and who would you take out? Show your work.


  • TSN Radio has a new Program Director, per Darren Dreger. I wonder who Jeff MacDonald is, and whether Rob Gray is leaving voluntarily or was fired. I’ll see what I can find out on this front. UPDATE: I have just been informed that Rob Gray has been promoted to manage TSN’s radio chain. People at the station have known about this since December. Jeff MacDonald was previously at the NHL network. Hopefully he cares about things other than hockey.



enjoy the sunshine

thanks for reading and commenting

mike (in boston)


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