Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Getty

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by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail

 

Good morning sports media watchers. I’ve been hanging on to a bunch of stories that have been clogging the bases, so this weekend’s post will mostly be a clearing of the deck to make space for all the exciting sports media news that is sure to come as we move into the summer. As always, I’m grateful to those of you who email or Tweet me to let me know of noteworthy segments and columns.

 

JaysTalk

 

With the Leafs and Raps in full off-season mode, local hearts and hopes currently belong to the Jays. The season is going more or less according to rational-minded expectations, with the team in 1st place in runs scored, and among the league worst in starting pitching. While this was predictable to the impartial observer, this result is contrary to the desires and wishes of many in the media who were betting  that the youngsters on the pitching staff would thrive and that the veterans would fend off father time. Here’s John Lott with his always sober analysis.

 

It’s obviously still quite early and the starting pitching can’t get much worse, but there’s a good chance what you are seeing now in terms of wins and losses is more or less what you will see the rest of the way. Pitching will likely improve but hitting will likely regress. Even if the young pitching comes around, it is unlikely any of them will still have innings left in their arms should this team be in contention. The conclusion is hardly a surprising one: there’s just not enough established major league talent on this roster, or enough depth in AAA.

 

One of the most interesting story lines this year is injuries. If you’ll recall there was an incident last year surrounding Adam Lind’s foot and the team’s purported mishandling of it. This year the emerging story line appears to be the team allowing players to play through injuries instead of going on the DL (but eventually ending up there anyway). I can’t recall a time in the last 20 years where team decisions surrounding injuries were such a prominent story line.

 

One notable chapter in this saga came when TSN 1050’s Scott MacArthur reported that the struggling Mark Buehrle was headed to the DL. The latter publicly blasted that report after delivering a strong start. Here’s the Globe’s Robert MacLeod with the money quotes. MacArthur appeared on TSN Drive (May 7, Hour 1) to defend himself. It’s a great listen. He lays out the reporting, the difficulty of being singled out in a scrum by Buehrle, how he approached the player, and how they eventually resolved the issue. This stands in stark contrast with the incidents we saw this year involving the Leafs and various media members. Very professional conduct all around.

 

Still with the Jays, I have no idea what is going on with their radio broadcasts. The problems with their TV tandem have been well discussed by others, but I have avoided this by watching the away broadcasts for the most part. I am fond of Jerry so I still listen to the FAN’s radio calls. Last week I tuned in to the MLB At Bat app to hear Wilner and Duane Ward fumbling about. I’m not sure why the FAN sends Siddall to TV or why Jerry needs time off during the game. Thankfully this is a “home games only” problem since Rogers doesn’t send Wilner on the road (unlike TSN1050 with Scott MacArthur). But for some reason during yesterday’s game Joe Siddall was flying for solo for an inning or two. If Jerry is getting too old to call a whole game then maybe it’s time to come up with a better plan than letting Joe try to be Vin Scully.

 

I have advocated for a while now that they should consider blowing the whole radio side up and starting fresh. I pine for the days of Alan Ashby. I wonder how much money it would take to get him back.

 

Over to you Jays fans: 1) should management be blamed for the team’s injury woes? 2) are there any redeeming aspects to the Jays TV and radio broadcasts? I think Barry Davis does a good job — better than Sam Cosentino did in the same role — but that’s a pretty minor aspect of the production.

 

Poisoning the Well

 

As TSM and TorontoMike outlined in their posts last week, there were several flaws in Dave Shoalts’ story on Dean Blundell’s second month’s ratings. According to Shoalts, Dean turned things around in April from a moribund start in March. Shoalts goes further and posits that, in fact, Blundell is now succeeding where the previous morning show was failing.

 

Rogers never fully explained the reasons for the switch to Blundell, but the ratings now tell the story. A broadcast-industry source provided radio ratings from Numeris that showed Brady and Walker’s decline started in April, 2014, and they were never able to arrest the slide.”

 

This analysis is at odds with the previously trumpeted headline that Brady & Walker had put up the station’s best ever numbers for the morning slot. As TSM and TorontoMike point out, the story you tell depends which numbers you look at. I won’t bother going into the details since others have written all there is to say about that, but I want to note that there are now two truths out there from which you can choose.

 

  • Theory A) = Don Kollins blew up a successful morning show to chase an even bigger number
  • Theory B) = Don Kollins blew up the morning show due to sagging ratings

 

Which one is true? Well, as TSM lays it all out, the ratings in the key sports radio demo (Males 25-54) don’t seem to have been a problem, so theory A seems most plausible. I am open to the idea that the FAN has some really detailed numbers they are not sharing that showed an impending collapse of B&W’s number, but Shoalts didn’t report any such thing. So, assuming the M25-54 ratings were still strong, why did Shoalts omit this fact from his article? Again here we have two theories.

 

  • Theory 1) = Shoalts doesn’t understand ratings and someone at Rogers fed him highly gerrymandered data hoping he’d take the bait, and he did
  • Theory 2) = Shoalts owed someone a favour, or has some other reason for writing something pro-Rogers, and intentionally fudged the numbers

 

I don’t believe for a second that Shoalts doesn’t understand how ratings work and which demos are key. He’s a veteran journalist and even lowly bloggers know that women don’t matter when it comes to sports radio ratings. (I’ve written about that very issue in the past). But I’m also puzzled as to why he would intentionally write something that is clearly omitting key information. I don’t know what he’s up to but I’m on the edge of my seat to find out what he writes next. Shoalts is the Littlefinger Baelish of Toronto sports media.

 

One question I have about this fiasco is how this flawed piece got past his editor. It took no time for people to break down why the article isn’t accurate. I have no idea how much oversight someone of Shoalts’ stature requires, but this doesn’t look good on Globe Sports.

 

The always irreverent Shoalts had this to say.

 

 

Another question I have is why someone at Rogers would give Shoalts slanted numbers given that this would come across as slamming the old morning show to make the new one look better. Presumably Brady & Walker know full well that they are being sacrificed by someone at their own station. This can’t be good for morale.

 

We are two months in to Blundell’s tenure at the FAN. Have any of you warmed to the show? How different are the two morning shows? Whatever the ratings say, neither one is a critical success, and it will be interesting to see what changes are in the offing.

 

FHRITP

 

Three thoughts on FHRITP. I have many more but this story has run its course and has very little to do with sports media.

 

First, if this incident is your first exposure to this phrase I can understand why you are shocked and outraged. What an offensive thing to say to a stranger! But please understand that you are behind the times, and your outrage is partly constituted by your lack of cultural contemporaneity. Jameis Winston stood up in front of hundred of people and shouted the same phrase to cheers. The media mostly shrugged it off as an immature kid enjoying the references of his generation. My point is: the phrase is not new, and it loses its edge when you’ve heard it dozens of times. This doesn’t change whether it is offensive or sexist. It just means that it’s not as shocking to everyone as it is to you. See also, “Jane, you ignorant slut” for a more dated example of the same phenomenon.

 

Second, good on Shauna Hunt for confronting those who were bothering her. She had many options: she could have walked away, she could have ran after them, she could have thrown a fit, she could have ignored them … none of these would have highlighted the absurd levels of obnoxiousness that exist among a certain male demographic. If you have one of these guys in your life then you know how they make every social situation worse. If you resemble these grinning goofs, it’s time to consider making some changes to your life.

 

Third, can we please use this incident as an opportunity to rethink what we want out of news broadcasts. I am not going to make friends with this take but here goes anyway: the kind of reporting that led to FHRITP would not be missed if it disappeared entirely. Man on the street interviews (streeters, as they are know in the industry) are the least informative type of reporting. It takes no real skill to hold a microphone in front of drunk fans at sporting events. It would be very easy to hire a robot to replace this job. The type of response you get is beyond useless. I really don’t care to hear people scream “WOOOO TFC” or some version of that. I have no idea why news programs think we want this. It’s demeaning to the people holding the microphone. Give them more meaningful assignments.

 

Finally, I have a nagging suspicion that deep down news directors are hoping for controversy when they send people, mostly women, out for this assignment. This is a workplace safety issue and journalists should refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

 

Quick Hits

 

The Star’s Bruce Arthur has a good piece on Leiweke and BMO. The renovations are perhaps the only source of good news left for Leiweke’s last few weeks as MLSE boss, and even this is partly tainted by the whole Argos situation. Rightly or wrongly, Leiweke will go down as one of the biggest failures (relative to the talk he talked) in Toronto sports management history.

 

MLB needs to pay more attention to the ransom system by which many Latin players make their way into the league. Here’s a good story on ex-Jay Yunel Escobar and his path the big leagues.

 

Shoalts had another story recently, this one regarding Don Cherry’s role at Rogers-run HNIC. The article is pitched as a good news piece, after the much publicized diminution of Cherry’s role. Here’s a quote from the 82 year old: “Nobody bothers me. I have my own set I go to from another entrance, I never see [the other broadcasters]. I do the show and everything’s been good.” That doesn’t sound all that positive. Shoalts continues: “Cherry says he never runs into Hockey Night host George Stroumboulopoulos or on-air panelists Nick Kypreos, Elliotte Friedman and Kelly Hrudey, let alone the bosses.” I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds very harmonious. It seems odd to include these quotes unless you’re not-so-subtly trying to draw attention to a rift.

 

There’s a saying at ESPN that no one is bigger than the brand. That seems to be confirmed by ESPN’s decision to part ways with Bill Simmons. Awful Announcing has some theories about the story behind the story. I don’t think we have a Canadian equivalent to Bill Simmons, so it’s hard to really understand the meaning of this high profile divorce. Can anyone think of a comparison?

 

If you want some chuckles have a glance at Rick Westhead’s twitter feed in response to his reporting on the Coyotes and a potential snag in their arena financing arrangement with Glendale. Somehow I don’t think Rick cares where the team ends up. But I admire the passion that Coyotes fans are showing for their team. It can’t be fun. Westhead also has a story on Bettman being forced to testify in the ongoing concussion lawsuit, and another on Steve Montador’s family suing the NHL. Troubled waters ahead for GB.

 

Lastly, VICE has a shocking profile on the Isareli team whose supporters refer to it as the most racist team in the land. As I discussed with Gareth Wheeler of TSN1050, the passive acceptance of virulent racism in soccer is incomprehensible to me. If MLS ever makes it big in North America then you can bet this is an issue that will need to be dealt with over here.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Do you ever want to be part of the conversation but have nothing funny, insightful, or intelligent to say? Most people would accept defeat and move on, but check out how the pros handle it:

 

 

  • Shout out to the technical people on TSN Drive. Not a place I was expecting to hear Heartless Bastards as bumper music.

 

  • A while back I complained that Brady&Walker were too reliant on Sportsnet personalities as guests. Things have really improved lately and it is making the show way better. They even poached Deitsch this week. Yet, at the same time, they somehow have decided to make Wilner’s perpetually awful show a part of their show.

 

  • If you are very upset about Tom Brady’s deflated balls let me ask you this: suppose it turned out that the NHL had a rule about how sharp your skates can be, and Crosby had been violating this rule for years. What would you think the appropriate punishment should be for this form of cheating? I have yet to hear any plausible explanation for why people believe the Patriots gained an advantage in all of this. Does anyone even know where the PSI rule came from or how the legal range was initially determined?

 

  • Dean Blundell is reporting that Babcock has signed with the Leafs.

 

  • Best wishes to Stephen Brunt as he departs PTS. (edit: PTS staff have informed me that this coming week is in fact Brunt’s last week) We all eagerly await your return, whenever and wherever that might be.

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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