Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Sportsnet/PTS


by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail


Good morning sports media watchers. After this weekend we can all stop pretending we care about boxing and get back to our regularly scheduled sports interests. Sadly, with the Leafs and Raptors out of the playoffs, the next month or so is going to be a little dull. Good news is that CFL camps open soon. On to this week’s news …




Longtime readers will know that the stories I care most about involve the intersection of sports and social issues. From Penn State to Michael Sam to Black Lives Matter, there are distinctive angles to these important issues that emerge when viewed through the lens of sports.


As anyone who has lived in the U.S. can attest, racial and class warfare are real and ongoing battles. As Canadians we are mostly shielded from this, partly due to geographic happenstance (we don’t share a border with Mexico), partly due to our political history (we didn’t have a civil war over slavery), and partly due to reasonably successful multiculturalism policies. This is not to deny the realities of our own racial and social issues in this country, but it’s not the same in terms of scale, depth, or history.


In the wake of the Freddie Gray protests, the Baltimore Orioles have been thrust into the spotlight. First, fans were essentially locked in the stadium after a game while protests and acts of vandalism took place outside. Then the Orioles and White Sox played a game in an empty stadium, so as to avoid putting fans at risk but also to avoid creating fertile conditions for a riot. The next event was their lead executive eloquently speaking out in on behalf of the background social issues behind the protests. If you have not read them yet, do yourself a favour and go read the comments by Orioles COO John Angelos on the decision to cancel Orioles games at Camden during the protests. Here is a snippet:


“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards.”


I’m quite sure MLB would much prefer their owners refrain from taking such strong political stances on current issues, so the fact that Angelos (the son, not the father) stuck his neck out in this way is quite impressive. Don’t forget that there will be a strong contingent of Orioles fans who will be turned off by these comments. As with all cases involving police and poor black youth, there is a predictable Conservative-Liberal divide. What is unique about the Baltimore case is that a wealthy white person is now joining in the discussion, and siding with the protestors. Angelos’ position may be an unpopular one within MLB management. It may even be unpopular within his own family.


My general point is that sports are regarded by many as an escape and thus not appropriately a domain in which social issues ought to infiltrate. It’s easy to imagine people saying “just play the damn games, and leave politics out of it.” But the last several years have chipped away at that. That’s a good thing in my opinion. Professional sports makes millionaires out of some of the nation’s poorest, and these people are well situated to speak from first hand experience about what it’s like to grow up in disenfranchised communities.


We’ve seen a few glimpses of this in Canada. Jordin Tootoo, for example, drew attention to the plight of First Nations communities. With the recent discussion of carding in Toronto, one wonders if we are due for some prominent Canadian sports figures to start speaking out about race. As polite Canadians I wonder if we have the stomach for it.


Here are some must reads:


– ESPN’s Howard Bryant has some very intelligent thoughts on sports and race relations.

– Orioles outfielder Adam Jones speaks to the protestors.

– Vice’s Jorge Arangure Jr. on pro sports and the communities of which they are a part.

– Dave Zirin of the Nation on the history of the intersection of sports and social issues in Baltimore.


Quick Hits


Both NBA and NHL ratings are down in the US, per Sports Media Watch. Obviously the timing of the NFL draft had a lot to do with the decline, but the overall trend is not great. Is it possible that people are burned out on too much sports and are making sitting down in front of the TV less of a priority? With so many games and the ease of keeping up to speed on Twitter and real-time league apps, I wonder if the value of TV rights is due for a correction. How often do you keep up with games on your phone rather than sitting down to watch?


The Jays’ youth movement has hit a bump in the road. Media darlings Pompey and Norris are now in AAA, and Sanchez is likely headed to the pen or to the minors as well. Castro and Osuna have both struggled in high leverage roles. Alex has begun his annual fantasy baseball approach to roster management, and the parade of scrubs and reclamation projects is getting ready to start its march towards the big league club. It’s early but with all the injuries and the poor starting pitching, the obvious lack of depth and talent is coming home to roost. The team is below .500 but not far off the division pace. That said, the way they have been winning seems unsustainable. Hopefully that money they are saving for the trade deadline can be spent a little earlier.


Dave Naylor and Rick Westhead are reporting that Bell may buy the Argos and move them to BMO. This is all very logical since Bell has strong relationships with the CFL. The fly in the ointment is that BMO is part owned by MLSE, which is part owned by Rogers, who would not want to facilitate the success of the Argos if that means good things for Bell. The further complication is that Larry Tanenbaum, also an owner of MLSE,  is apparently in on the Argos deal, which would then make him slightly less neutral as between Rogers and Bell at MLSE. The Argos at BMO makes sense, but it’s worth pointing out that this is the last card to be played. If this doesn’t work, then there are no remaining excuses for why Toronto hasn’t supported the Argos. Are you excited to see the Argos play at BMO?


Low Hanging Fruit


  • I’m so far behind on podcasts so I can’t comment on what PTS has been doing this week with Bob in Vegas. One question: Bob has always come across as knowledgeable about boxing, but most of his references are from the 70s and 80s. Do people find him credible on current day boxing?


  • If you have time, go back and catch Brunt and Bob talking with Ray Ratto of CSN (Wednesday April 23, 5pm). Great discussion about PEDs, Barry Bonds, and the baseball hall of fame.


  • How do others find Screamin’ Wilner’s excited approach to play-by-play on radio? The contrast with Jerry’s understated style is, well, jarring. I guess I prefer announcers to maintain a little air of neutrality rather than wearing their hearts on their sleeves.


  • Tim & Sid fans — how are you holding up? It’s a long way to July. What are you listening to instead? Has Hayes caught your attention?


  • After a few weeks of using the Star’s iPad app I have given up. The layout is fine, but it’s too hard to find content. I hope they didn’t spend too much money on this thing.


  • Watching Kypreos and Hrudey wearing suits and standing on fake ice demonstrating hockey plays while holding sticks is like a bad SNL sketch. Both guys are serious hockey experts. This is demeaning. Just play clips and use tele-strators.


  • And lastly … look out Bob McKenzie. There’s a new insider in town. P.S. I love you Dean.



Dean Blundell (@ItsDeanBlundell)
A reliable source has told me for the #Leafs to get Babcock, it will take around 40M/6years to become HC & have a front office position.




thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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