photo credit: Twitter/great radio topics
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail
Good morning Toronto sports media. Another busy week with most of the usual suspects making headlines. If you did really good work this week and don’t see it recognized here, my apologies. It was hard to find the diamonds amid all the rough. As always, please email or DM me if there are stories I should be writing about. Once more, into the fray …
Argos Find a New (Dysfunctional) Home
One of our long national nightmares is finally over … probably. The CFL’s eldest problem child has finally moved out of the house. In buying the Argos, Bell and Larry Tanenbaum are providing long term ownership stability for the first time in a generation.
This is a reasonable move for Bell since they are already financially invested in the success of the CFL as the league’s main broadcaster. This move does somewhat open TSN up to potential criticisms of bias since they will now share an owner with one of the teams they are covering. I doubt anything significant will come of this, but it is something to keep an eye on. Most of Canada resents Toronto for thinking of itself as the centre of the Canadian universe, and if TSN spends time on the Argos at the expense of cities that actually support the CFL there might be some blowback. But all in all this is a good move for Bell, the CFL, and the Argos.
I am confused as to what Mr. Tanenbaum is getting out of this deal. Given the small sale price — so small no one seems to be able to find it — it is clear that money was not the reason he jumped on board the good ship Argos. His presence is even more curious when you think about the three headed monster that is MLSE. Tanenbaum has been, up until now, neutral as between the bitter rivals that make up the rest of the board. By signing on to this deal he now has slightly more eggs in Bell’s basket. One might have thought that the arrangement only works if Tanenbaum is fully impartial. Again, this might not lead to anything, but it will be something to watch as sports’ most dysfunctional ownership group lurches forward.
When you do the accounting you now have:
– a Rogers owned team playing in a Rogers owned dome
– two MLSE teams playing in a MLSE owned arena
– a Bell/Tanenbaum owned team sharing a field with a MLSE owned team, in a MLSE operated but city owned stadium which wasn’t designed for CFL football.
Questions: if you support the Argos, what are you hoping for out of this new ownership group? Also, are you planning to attend any games at the Dome this year?
Putting the E in MLSE
In classic MLSE fashion, the Argos press conference turned into a debacle as news of the Babcock hiring leaked out. The flying elbow off the top rope came when Seen & Heard favourite David Shoalts — seriously I love Dave, both for the amount of content he gives me to write about and for being the only person at a major news outlet covering radio ratings — asked Tim Leiweke to confirm that Babcock was a Leaf. The glorious video can be found here. In light of his recent work in print and on Twitter, Shoalts’ “don’t give a shit” meter is confirmed to be at an all-time high. Tanenbaum fielded the fumble from Leiweke and sheepishly admitted that an announcement was expected at 2:30, or approximately 15 minutes after the end of the press conference.
Many observers ripped Shoalts for taking the wind out of the Argos’ sails, and I will admit that was my first reaction as well. A similar incident occurred two years ago when Mike Toth was heavily criticized by many (including media members) for asking about Colangelo at Ujiri’s introduction event. TSM has a write up here. But the more I reflected on this I can’t blame Shoalts for asking the question. Here is why: many of the same people on the Argos stage were involved in signing Babcock. So they knew, or ought to have known, that these two events were going to collide. Hence, this is a mess of their own making just as the decision to keep Colangelo on when signing Ujiri was. I can’t really fault Shoalts for revelling in a madness that was entirely MLSE’s own doing. In addition to my support, his colleague Cathal Kelly also has his back:
There’s a rumour running around that the Rogers faction of MLSE are responsible for leaking the Babcock news to scuttle the Argos press conference. I have no idea if that is true, but it’s a fun thought to entertain.
The other notable media performance stemming from the Argos news came courtesy of Damien Cox who had this to say:
Nice job, as always, by @ArashMadani in breaking Argo sale story first a couple of days ago. EVerybody else playing catch up.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) May 20, 2015
I don’t know why Damien does this. It is a matter of fact not opinion that Rick Westhead and Dave Naylor first reported the impending sale to Bell and Tanenbaum but not Rogers about three weeks ago, and Naylor confirmed it some time thereafter. It may be the case that Madani was “first” according to some arbitrary and pointless way of keeping score but it is clear to any rational observer that the original reporting and real journalism were done by others. The lack of professional respect Cox demonstrates is astounding but hardly out of character. Madani unfortunately ends up being an innocent victim in all of this.
The cherry on top of this farcical sundae came from current Argo Ricky Foley who attacked pretty much everyone in a series of tweets, the highlight of which was this:
If we look at the sentiment being expressed charitably he was probably trying to stir up some patriotic passion for the Argos. But any time you use the word “foreigners” as part of an outburst chances are you are about to come off poorly.
Overall this was an excellent hour of theatre courtesy of MLSE and the local media. Nice work everyone.
The Jays made front page news on Jon Heyman’s widely read CBS Inside Baseball page. Unfortunately the news is that the Jays are indeed very disappointing. The more specific news is that one of the best pitchers available on the trade market refused to be traded to the Jays.
Robert MacLeod of the Globe has some good reporting on the mounting frustration in the clubhouse. Steve Simmons reports that a meeting took place on the future of Jays’ manager John Gibbons and pitching coach Pete Walker. Scott MacArthur reports that Walker is taking things in stride. Anthopolous appeared on the FAN to try to pour cold water on Simmons’ story.
The overwhelming story line of the season so far is how poorly constructed this roster is on the pitching side. The Jays have cycled through more pitchers than any other team in baseball and sport league worst stats across many categories. AA’s reclamation projects have failed for the most part. While there is every reason to believe the starting pitching will regress towards career averages there is little reason to believe they will cancel out the poor start entirely. We are deep enough into the season that it is now more likely than not that the rotation and bullpen will end the season worse than last year’s mediocre results. John Lott has a good article laying out the gory details.
The good news of course is that with the new playoff system almost no one is out of it until late August. But there is little reason to think the current roster will win 90 games. AA has never made significant in-season trades or coaching changes. Will we see some this year? I guess it depends on whether he has been assured of a job for next year. If yes, then I reckon AA will hold the course and wait for the huge salaries to come off the books in the off-season. If no, then he has to try to do something to make this team better.
The Corey/Katy Perry controversy has died down but Scott Stinson at the National Post had a good article on the Broken Windows theory and sexism in sports. I don’t fully buy the argument because I think there is room for both cheerleaders and gender inclusiveness in sports arenas, but that’s a longer discussion. Good smart piece by Stinson.
There will be a vote next week on whether to ban Israel from FIFA as a result of the ongoing conflict in the West Bank. Rather than being an escape from political conflict soccer continues to be a stage for strife instead.
Vice Sports now has a full-time Canadian operation. I wish they were fully independent (Vice signed a $100 million dollar partnership with Rogers last year) but so far they have been a valuable addition to the sports media landscape. Not bad for a little Montreal magazine that mostly dished out snarky fashion advice.
Michael Sam is coming to the CFL. His sexual orientation will likely be a non-story. If he excels up here it will be interesting to see how the American media handles this fact in relation to his NFL snub.
In other news, LeTourneau University, an inter-denominational Christian school in Texas that plays in Div III of the NCAA, recently banned student-athletes from “same-sex dating behaviors and public advocacy for the position that sex outside of a biblically-defined marriage is morally acceptable.”
Low Hanging Fruit
There was so much low hanging fruit to choose from this week so this list is woefully incomplete. Add yours in the comments.
- Congratulations to Dean Blundell (who blocked me after just one day of following him) for having good guy colleagues. He also really doesn’t like Bruce Arthur.
— Ryan Fabro (@RYANFABRO590) May 20, 2015
- Congratulations to Andrew Walker for being the voice of reason.
But 3 days ago even BABCOCK didn't know where he was going. So if you "guessed right" in the last few weeks…. Well, congrats I suppose.
— Andrew Walker (@AWalksOfficial) May 20, 2015
- Michael Farber was a co-host on TSN Drive this week. He’s very good.
- If you don’t know what a word means it’s probably best not to throw it out and hope for the best. Dirk Hayhurst appeared on TSN Drive (May 18th, Hour 3) and referred to Joe Maddon as the “penultimate” manager in baseball.
- Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News is awesome. He was on PTS (May 21, 5pm) to talk about the Babcock snub and Buffalo’s smouldering rage. If you haven’t been listening to WGR then you’ve missed out on some quality comedy.
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)