Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

photo credit: Sportsnet

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by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / hatemailaccount at gmail

 

Good morning sports media observers. Lots of major stories this week as we finally put the summer behind us. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment here and keep the conversation going during the dog days. A reminder: please don’t attack other commenters. Disagree all you want but please try to do so in a way that moves the debate forward. Also, agreeing to disagree is a fine option.

 

The Real Blundell Resurfaces

 

On Saturday of last week a 60 year old Atlanta Braves season ticket holder fell headfirst from the upper deck onto the seats below. The game was stopped while medical staff tried to revive him, but he died from his injuries. Investigators are still looking into the circumstances surrounding his death. His family released the following statement: “The night Greg passed away, he was doing one of his favorite things – watching the Braves.”

 

Fan safety has been a big topic this year after a broken bat almost killed a fan in Boston. On Monday morning, 36 hours after a fan died while attending a baseball game, Dean Blundell, George Rusic, and Ryan Fabro took to the airwaves to tackle this sensitive subject. Here is how that conversation went:

 

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Dean: “did you hear about that guy at Turner field? Fell 80 feet … greased … He goes to lean over the railing to boo A-Rod. Blerrrrrr …. Whooooo …. <whistling sound of an object falling> … 85 feet and lands next to Brian McCann’s mum.”

 

George: “how greased do you have to be <laughing> where you don’t have the balance and fall 85 feet to your death? …. I always wondered how the mourning process works with something like that? Like if you’re visiting the family are you like ‘sorry, i guess’ …”

 

<audible laughing>

 

Dean: “I do too. Great question. Some people will be sad … because they lost a whatever … a drunk. I don’t know anything about the guy … but if the last thing you do is fall over a railing trying to boo A-Rod … God’s got your number.”

 

George: “how is the obituary written for something like that?”

 

Dean: “<imitates solemn sounding obituary describing the person falling to his death booing A-Rod> … Once again A-Rod wins it. What a season.”

 

<multiple voices laughing>

 

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While this kind of callous commentary might appeal to certain people, many listeners wrote to express their disgust.

 

Let’s take a walk down memory lane to when Dean was brought to the FAN.  In 2013-14 Brady & Walker put up record ratings for the station and so many observers were puzzled when Don Kollins decided to hire Blundell to take over one of the FAN’s most lucrative timeslots. As I wrote at the time, this was not a risk worth taking. Why bring in someone with a track record of saying awful things on the air when you have a strong performing show already in place?

 

Following his high profile dismissal for homophobic comments, many were concerned about the decision to bring that baggage over to Rogers. Senior management sought to calm those fears. Radio VP Julie Adam said of Dean:

 

Rogers has a zero tolerance in regards to discrimination, and our track record speaks to that, and we wouldn’t have him in if we felt there was going to be any risk to our reputation regarding that.” 

 

Sportsnet president Scott Moore said this:

 

I’ve spent a great deal of time with Dean and … he understands what we’re looking for. We were pleased with both the performance and reaction on his dry runs last year. He was playing a role on a younger-male radio station at a time when the shock jock format was hot. He realizes that the world has changed a little bit and that he … has to reinvent himself a little bit. I’m sure he will be a good fit.”

 

 

While Dean is most famous for the comments about rape that eventually got him fired, he also sports a track record of making fun of tragic deaths. When Edmonton Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss was found drowned in his home country of Latvia, Dean joked:

 

How much must it suck playing hockey in Edmonton when you . . . I’m not going back. I mean, you’d rather jump off a bridge in like a war-torn country in a freezing cold river than go back to Edmonton. Shame. I hope they find him. I’ve been to Edmonton. I know what that guy’s talking about.”

 

So for all the bluster about how Dean was not being brought in to be a shock-jock, that is exactly what he is currently providing to Rogers. And despite his #apology for making fun of Pelss’ death, he went right back to that card at the soonest opportunity.

 

The FAN now finds themselves in the worst-case scenario. “Blundell & Co” has not delivered the ratings gain they were banking on and Dean has reverted to saying the kind of things that got him fired from his last job. While his 102.1 had strong ratings when he joked about prison rape, his FAN show does not. With a new PD about to take over at the FAN, dealing with the morning show will become the top priority.

 

Questions for you: 1) if you were a guest, would you want to come on the morning show to talk sports with Dean? I’m thinking of guys like Jerry Howarth and Stephen Brunt … people who have serious credibility in this market. 2) With the return of Mike Richards slated for this coming week, which station are you planning to listen to?

 

Curt Schilling’s Emails

 

The other major story this week was Awful Announcing’s decision to publish correspondence from Curt Schilling to one of their writers following the ESPN baseball announcer’s suspension for this tweet:

 

Schilling took issue with AA’s coverage of his case and wrote a lengthy email criticizing writer Dan Levy. The site decided to publish Schilling’s emails, which in turn prompted a lot of outrage from all sides about the ethics of sharing what was clearly assumed to be a private conversation. AA GM Ben Koo wrote about the reasoning here.

 

This is a complex journalistic issue. Under most circumstances publishing personal correspondence should be wrong. Whether or not someone explicitly asks for “off the record” status, there is a reasonable expectation that emails sent directly to someone will not be published, absent something like criminal harassment. But obviously if the news value of emails were sufficiently high that could outweigh the breach of implicit or explicit confidentiality. Lots of famous news stories have been broken because private correspondence became public.

 

I discussed this case with a few people in the media this week and my main question is: what exactly is the news value of Schilling’s emails? All we really learned is that his apology for his tweet drawing a comparison between Muslim extremists and Hitler’s Nazi Party was insincere. I can see how that might be relevant to some people — namely those who thought the apology was sincere — but does that justify the credibility hit AA will take for violating confidentiality?

 

The main effect of publishing Schilling’s emails is embarrassment for Schilling. He comes across as very unhinged, and one has to think that this played a part in AA’s decision. Schilling’s original suspension has now been extended through the end of the season. I can’t see any value in bringing him back. As Richard Deitsch put it, Schilling is an average broadcaster, and there are plenty of those around.

 

What do readers think? I’m especially keen to hear from those of you with journalism degrees: is personal correspondence necessarily private? Is this evidence that blogs lack adequate editorial standards?

 

Musical Columnists

 

Sean Fitz-Gerald has left the Post for the Star. This leaves the Post with only John Lott and Scott Stinson as people with a significant profile. (Apologies to those working there whose names I don’t know). [edit – forgot Eric Koreen. Sorry Eric!] In light of the new relationship between the Sun and the Post I wonder how long the Post’s sports section will last. Lott is excellent on baseball and would be a seamless replacement for Bob Elliott when he retires. I have enjoyed many of Stinson’s pieces, but he’s still relatively new to the lead columnist spot.

 

Over at the Star, they now have a boatload of “generalist” types. Arthur writes on any and all topics. So does Rosie. So does Cox. Fitz-Gerald will have to fight to find his niche in this crowded space. But they have really solidified their place as the biggest sports section in Canada [Edit: apparently this is not the case. The Sun has more writers and covers more events. Apologies for the error.]. With the impending launch of their new tablet app, it’s great to see them loading up on content.

 

Over at the Sun, there are three main general columnists: Simmons, Buffery, and Lankhof. I don’t read any of these people on a regular basis but plenty of you do since all three have been around for ages. Clearly they are doing something right in the eyes of their bosses.

 

Then there’s the Globe. Basically it’s Cathal Kelly‘s paper now, and his track record since taking over the lead columnist spot is not good. His eccentric pieces are fine, and that’s probably where he would be best used. The Globe needs some more columnists so Cathal doesn’t have to carry the weight of being the voice of the sports department.

 

On this topic, here’s a question for you this weekend. Who is your “go-to” generalist when a big story breaks? All of the papers have people competing for your eyeballs, as do TSN.ca and Sportsnet.ca. Whose opinion do you want to read first?

 

Quick Hits

 

Sportsnet have doubled their Jays ratings relative to summer 2014, thanks obviously to the division leading team. That ought to take some of the pressure from the bad NHL ratings off.

 

Baseball Central on the FAN has been extended to 2 hours, which is a good move for the playoff push. I think they could use a 3rd voice though. Someone like Shi Davidi would be a great regular addition to that show.

 

TSN Radio is launching its Hamilton  station this weekend. That brings TSN up to 7 all-sports stations in the country. TSN1150 will feature a daily noon CFL show as well as a daily drive time show. I don’t get this at all. Why counter-program Leafs Lunch with TiCats talk when LL is one of 1050’s most popular shows? The same point applies to drive time: is there really enough Hamiton-focused sports talk to justify taking listeners away from Naylor? A more sensible move would be to go local from 3-5 and then tap in to Naylor’s show from 5-7.

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • Credit to TSN Drive for covering both the Bautista Sportsnet boycott and the Schilling suspension. One involves a competitor and one involves a partner. I thought they might steer clear of these topics.

 

  • Here’s Gregg Zaun hyping Jays tickets on Twitter. Anyone find this an odd look for the Manalyst?

 

https://twitter.com/GreggZaun/status/638761524820111365

 

  • Speaking of Twitter, Constable Cox of the bias bureau recently enlarged his job portfolio to include official score-keeper of the Toronto Sports Media League. Here’s his recent update of the leaderboard. Never change Damien.

 

 

  • Congratulations to all the bench talent who worked overtime this summer filling in for the regular hosts at both stations. Here’s hoping your hard work leads to bigger and better things either here or elsewhere.

 

  • Where’s Bob Mackowycz? It’s been 70 days since his last tweet.

 

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thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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