Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

 

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount (a t) gmail

 

I’m going to be posting less frequently in the month of July. Hope everyone is enjoying the first day of summer.

 

World Cup media coverage

 

With the opening round in full swing I thought it would be good to look around at how the media is covering the games, as well as the social and political angles that dominated the headlines in the lead up to kick off. The most notable aspect of the coverage, for me, is an absence rather than a presence. Stephen Brunt is not at the games in Brazil. For better or for worse, Brunt has been a lead soccer reporter and journalist at many if not all of the world cups since ’94. I say for better or for worse because some people find his analysis shallow. I’m not a big enough soccer fan to know.

 

The reason Brunt’s absence is notable is that last year there was a kerfuffle between him and Simon Houpt at his previous employer about Brunt’s coverage of the Jays for Rogers. Brunt did a TV profile on the Dominican Jays prior to the start of the 2013 season, and was criticized for essentially producing promotional material under the guise of journalism. Brunt fired back that Rogers had given him resources that the Globe never would, and that he was so much happier in his new role. You can read a transcript of Brunt’s reply here.

 

Sidenote: It’s hard to pick a side on this one. The Globe encourages its writers to produce advertorial content. So, there’s a pot and a kettle here. 

 

How is this relevant to Brunt’s absence from the World Cup? Well, I would have thought that a station with Rogers’ resources would want their most high profile people covering the games on the ground. It’s possible that Rogers asked Brunt to go to Brazil but he declined. Or, it’s possible that Rogers decided it would be too expensive to spend so much money to have Brunt there in person. (If Mr. Brunt wishes to clarify, my contact details are above)

 

Brunt penned a column on the politics of these games for Sportsnet last week. It’s a decent piece of writing. But what’s more notable is how little material he produces. If you click on his name you are taken to a 3 week old story on the CFL, and then 3 stories from a month ago and then 3 stories from 2 months ago. By contrast, Cathal Kelly of the Globe has been writing up a storm from Brazil, covering all aspects of the World Cup on and off the pitch. Several of the people I follow on Twitter dislike Kelly’s writing on soccer, but as a casual fan I am enjoying reading his daily reports.

 

We’ve covered the death of Stephen Brunt the journalist on this site in the past, so I won’t spend too much time bemoaning the career exile that is Sportsnet’s magazine or his rather idiosyncratic understanding of conflict of interest. All good things must end. But since Brunt is still appearing on the radio and finding time to write for Sportsnet’s website, I think it is fair to point out that he is not in Brazil covering a sport he has covered many times before. What is the point of buying up established journalists if you are not going to put them to their best use?

 

Who are you reading/watching for analysis of the World Cup?

 

Lawsuits!

 

The Sterling lawsuit is apparently back on. He has hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the other owners, presumably as a way of proving that the league treated him unfairly by forcing him to sell after private racist comments he made were leaked. To be honest, I love this story and I hope he manages to get his day in court. Sterling is a scumbag but he’s not wrong here. He was denied due process and should fight it. I felt the same way about A-Rod’s ban by MLB. The NBA’s reaction was swift but reeked of damage control rather than principle. Sterling was a known racist long before these tapes came out and the NBA did absolutely nothing about it.

 

The O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA is moving forward and the testimony is really interesting. The hill that the NCAA has chosen to die on is that college athletics are about amateurism and paying the players would corrode the pillar on which the games are built. That is of course complete bullshit. The highest paid public employee in 45 out of 50 states is either the basketball or football coach. North Carolina was recently outed as having sham classes for the athletes.

 

The ideal solution is to cleave off the business of sports from the university altogether. Just create a minor league system like baseball and hockey have. Pay them, and be done with it. The best in-between solution I have heard is to create a separate degree — like a Bachelor’s of Sports — and have athletes enroll in that rather than a regular degree program. It would have lower standards and could allow for stipends and additional funding. But we need to stop pretending that student athletes in the major sports care about education and that the athletics department cares about educating their players.

 

The NFL is facing a fresh concussion lawsuit which may or may not include Dan Marino. The 765 million dollar settlement from last August was rejected by a judge and it seems this has opened the door to new and potentially more damaging suits. Recently the producer of the League of Denial documentary accused ESPN of “abandoning” the project under pressure from the NFL. I doubt this story goes away any time soon. The careers and life-spans of NFL players are shockingly short, and the league has been largely immune from bearing the responsibility for what happens after to these human beings after the cheering stops.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • I spent some time in a Toronto hotel for work recently and saw a few segments on TSN featuring Cabbie. I found them to be unwatchable. Do people like his brand of comedy? He seems like a nice enough guy, but the bits weren’t for me.

 

  • Wilner on JaysTalk – “this team’s struggles have nothing to do with last year’s team’s struggles!!! They are completely different teams!!!” Every other baseball analyst on both stations – “we saw how this team could struggle last year and they brought back essentially the same group of guys.”

 

  • On the dangers of hiring a current athlete as an analyst, Fox learned a valuable lesson after UFC’s Chael Sonnen was banned for PEDs shortly after criticizing another fighter for taking PEDs.

 

  • I wonder why Rogers took so long to announce the hirings of the rest of the HNIC roster. Any guesses as to who, if anyone, gets left behind? Will anyone currently at Rogers become redundant? Will TSN pick through the leftovers?

 

  • PTS without McCown is so much worse than PTS with McCown. Yet TSN allows Naylor to be on vacation at the same time? Kind of a missed opportunity there.

 

as always, thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (in boston)

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