Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Twitter

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by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail

 

I’m playing catch-up on a bunch of different stories so if I don’t discuss something that ought to be talked about, please feel free to mention it in the comments section. Also, I am looking to talk to people who were at theScore prior to and during the Rogers purchase of the TV channel. If you’re one such person and would be open to speaking with me either on or off the record, please be in touch. On to the sports media stories making news this week.

 

Siegel Takes a Stand

 

Jonas Siegel is sick of it and he is not going to take it anymore. The “it” in question is rudeness from the Leafs’ Phil Kessel. Jonas took a stand this week on Macko&Cauz by publicly airing that Kessel had gruffly refused to speak with him following a tough loss in Buffalo. Kessel’s offending words were “get away from me.” Jonas went on TSN Radio to tell the world that he’s “not going to hide the way [Kessel] acts anymore.”

 

There are several noteworthy elements to this story. First, Jonas is one of the youngest guys on the Leafs beat. I don’t recall any veteran Leafs reporters taking stands like the one he is taking. One wonders how this will affect his ability to do his job going forward. Second, I don’t see any upside to Jonas’ airing of the grievances. What does he gain by putting Phil on notice that he won’t protect him anymore? What protection is Jonas actually offering? Finally, I wonder how long Jonas has been stewing on this story? How many previous incidents have there been? How many other players is he having personality issues with?

 

On the one hand I admire the decision to go out on a limb and take a stand on principle. Siegel has been on the beat for a while now and has a track record to stand on to back up his position. He’s not just throwing a fit because he doesn’t understand how the job works. On the other hand, this is a risky move. Given that TSN radio has a competitive edge over the FAN by having an every day beat reporter, I’m sure TSN took note of this kerfuffle. If Jonas stops being able to do his job because the players rally behind Phil and freeze him out, that will leave TSN no choice but to give the job to someone else. In a worst case scenario, this might just be the pretext they need to kill the beat reporter position altogether. [note – I chose not to ask Jonas for a comment for this story. My assumption was that he would not want to extend the shelf life of this controversy. If he would like to comment, I would of course welcome that.]

 

In all likelihood this will blow over in a few weeks. Scott Stinson of the Post tells us that nothing of value is lost when Kessel refuses to speak, which is probably right. But here is a question for you: was Jonas’ public denouncement of Phil Kessel principled or pouty? Does this affect his credibility — either positively or negatively — as a Leafs reporter?

 

The Bottom of the Barrel

 

The Kessel story spawned thousands of words, the most useless yet quotable of which came from Brian Burke. Always one for respectful and productive discourse, Burke thundered into town for an analytics conference and pronounced that Kessel shouldn’t have to talk to media “pukes.” Classy. Sean Fitz-Gerald of the Post does us all a public service by pointing out that Masai Ujiri was on the same panel and disagreed with Burke, saying instead that “I don’t want [a writer’s] story to mess with my thinking, or mess with what I want to do, because that’s the nature of human beings — we can’t run away from that.” A study in contrasts. Masai’s record in Toronto speaks for itself, as does Burke’s.

 

Burke went on to describe hockey analytics as “over-rated,” putting him in the same camp as Andrew Walker, and that hockey is an “eye-ball sport,” putting him in the same camp as noted media puke Steve Simmons. Thankfully he left town without threatening to beat anyone up.

 

The second way that the bottom of the barrel was scraped this week concerns a mediocre hockey team’s post-game celebrations. The only acceptable response to the Leafs stick salute story, in my opinion, is the following: this is too stupid for words and I refuse to lower myself by commenting on it any further.

 

Sadly, most of the Toronto media couldn’t help themselves and fired up the flamethrowers to deliver takes that could melt steel. Most of the opinions fell into two camps: 1) the old reliable lazy radio standby: look at how stupid fans are for caring about this — your calls next!!!!, and 2) this is another sign of MLSE’s disrespect for the fans — rise up Leafs Nation!!!!

 

This is classic loser-town fodder. If you have a good team, none of this matters. Michael Grange aptly states that “this edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs is as flawed off the ice as they are on the ice.” [note – I would love to link to Grange’s article but the ad that auto-plays crashed my browser. I recommend reading it, as well as the 169 comments that follow].

 

Welcome to Toronto Brendan Shanahan. RUN AWAY!

 

JaysTalk

 

One of the most puzzling things about the last 2 years with the Jays was the conjunction of trading high value prospects for major leaguers then refusing to take on salary. Many rightly asked, what is the point of giving up future talent if you’re not actually committed to winning now? The most plausible explanation of this incoherence is that the new Rogers CEO imposed a payroll freeze across the company and this trapped the Jays in no man’s land.

 

Well, the great news for Jays fans is that the freeze has thawed. But this puts us right back in the position we were after the Dickey trade. There are clear weaknesses on this roster. Money can solve those weaknesses. So Rogers needs to decide if they are in or out. The Martin signing suggests that they are in, but the proof will be in the pudding. This is not a time for half-measures. Martin will make the pitching staff better but the team still lacks a proper ace. Additionally, there are holes in the outfield and 2B that cannot all be filled internally if the team hopes to get to 90 wins.

 

John Lott has some good stuff on the Martin signing. Also worth reading is the last Drunk Jays Fan Andrew Stoeten. He was let go from theScore along with all their other features writers earlier this year. Good luck to Andrew in his eponymous new venture.

 

Quick Hits

 

Rick Westhead delivers some more exclusives to TSN. Here is one on the UNC academic scandal featuring quotes from a former CFL player who says he was pressured to take sham courses. Here is another one featuring some incendiary quotes from a former OHL team owner on the ongoing wage dispute between the CHL and its players

 

Chris Zelkovich of Yahoo!Sports reports on the CFL’s ratings decline: “This marks the second straight ratings decrease for the East semifinal and the audience for last year’s Grey Cup experienced a 17 per cent drop from the previous year.”

 

Raju Mudhar of the Star reports that Bell is cutting jobs due to the high cost of sports programming, among other things. What does this mean, if anything, for TSN Radio? On the one hand, they recently opted not to pay for NHL programming, so they can’t really use that as an excuse for cutting back on the radio side. On the other, they have been getting thumped in the ratings for 3+ years now, so the radio side is an obvious target for budget reductions. My sources at TSN report that there have been no signs of cutbacks there and that Bell remains committed to the radio station.

 

ESPN suspended Keith Law as a result of his Twitter debate on evolution with noted Republican supporter Curt Schilling, thus edging out the NFL for the organization that gets the majority of its suspensions wrong. On this topic, other than the famous Wilner incident, have there been high profile suspensions at either TSN or Sportsnet? I can’t really think of any.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

Tie Domi gave one of the worst interviews I have ever heard to Dave Naylor. He was on to promote an appearance at a Microsoft store and was upset at having to talk about the Leafs. At one point Domi claimed that Microsoft is the reason computers exist on the planet. Listen to the train wreck here.

 

PTS has no succession plan for Bob McCown but they have clearly found the heir apparent to John Shannon. Ken Reid has been making his mark on the FAN’s signature radio show the last few weeks.  In one notable case he interrupted a guest to make a reference to a 20 year old SNL joke.

 

The good news is that Brunt will be back … sometime in the spring. I reckon this means it will be a steady diet of Friends of Bob in the interim.

 

 

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thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (in boston)

 

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