photo credit: the internet
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email
Good morning sports media watchers. The Social Justice League had a busy week. Accordingly we will be trading our bath robes for cowls and capes and will spend most of our time here talking about the nuances of what is and is not acceptable in the wide world of sports. If this sort of stuff really annoys you, consider this your trigger warning. As always feel free to reach out privately (links above) if you want to continue the discussion offline.
Suggested Soundtrack: Nothing Compares 2 You
Ok, let's get to work.
The NHL Gets it Right
After being penalized in a playoff game that his team was in the process of losing, Chicago Blackhawk Andrew Shaw flashed a double single-fingered salute to the refs on his way to the box. He was then seen shouting what looked like "fuck you, fucking faggot" at one of the officials. This was broadcast to the hundreds of thousands of people watching in bars and at home.
This happened on a Tuesday night and was the dominant story on Wednesday in most places. What would the NHL do? Should the NHL do anything?
Here is a round-up of the good, bad, and ugly of how the media covered this story prior to the NHL's eventual 1 (playoff) game suspension.
- Stephen Brunt appeared on Andrew Walker's radio show (April 20, Hour 1) and the two had a good discussion, culminating in Brunt's wise point that regardless of whether this had been part of the culture in the past, the goal is to eradicate it from the culture going forward. That can only happen by setting good precedents in the present.
- Jeff Marek did a very professional job drawing out Nick Kypreos as the latter was advocating for the following predictable stance: "How can you be sure what he said! You need proof! You can't convict him based on lip-reading!" Nick had all the fervour and confidence of someone who has watched a lot of Law & Order. Jeff calmly explained to him that legal standards are appropriate to courts of law and that sports leagues are different. Kypreos pushed back endlessly but eventually ran out of gas when Marek simply asked "what do you think he said Nick?" Doug MacLean also added valuable insights on how the Hawks' coach and the GM would approach defending the player. (April 20)
- Species1967 over at PPP had a very clear and compelling analysis of why the NHL has to leave precedent behind and set new standards for its players going forward. In particular he nicely points out the conflict between those who argue that what is said on the ice should stay on the ice and the fact that "the league's national broadcaster in Canada touts its 4KHD TV ensures you won't miss even the smallest detail of action in a game."
- Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune talks about the Shaw case from his perspective as an openly gay sports reporter. "Now put yourself in the shoes of a closeted gay athlete. You're in a locker room or on a playing field, and you hear your teammates use that word. You start thinking, "Is this how they really feel about gay people? Is that what they would call me if I came out to them? Would I still be a member of this team? Would my career be over?""
- Damien Cox continued his strong critical stance of the NHL in matters relating to the league's handling of on-ice violence. In this article (auto-play ads & video warning) he lays out the comparison with the NBA case involving Rajon Rondo as well as the 2011 NHL case involving Sean Avery.
Aside: comments are disabled on Cox's piece on Sportsnet. There is no link given to the editorial policy that explains why this is the case. By contrast, the Brunt piece we discussed last week is up to 450+ comments. Here are the top two by "likes":
Dan Fitzgerald Rank 10111 — "This is not his team yet. Whether they win this year or not he will dismantle the Jays. Bye Edwin, Bye Jose etc etc etc. The seats won't be filled next year. Mr. Rogers shame on you."
topherben Rank 1737 — "Well, I guess since Rogers so badly bungled bringing Shapiro over here in the first place, the least they can do is leverage their media assets to rehabilitate his image post-haste. I mean how many of these "Mark Shapiro really isn't such a bad guy" articles is Sportsnet planning to have written this season….."
Sportsnet also allows you to sort comments by "Editor's Pick" which was my next step. Here is what shows up:
If you can't be bothered to highlight any of the 450 comments, then maybe ditch the Editor's Pick model? More generally though, it would be nice to have a consistent policy on comments. Not allowing comments on sensitive topics is understandable in some cases to protect the writer from abuse, or because of limited resources to moderate the discussion.
But this is Cox and this is Sportsnet. He can take the heat, and you can afford to hire full-time moderators to keep the trolls and hate-speech out. TSN ditched comments back in January, shifting everything to their social media platforms, because, as everyone knows, when you want to discuss how the Leafs off-season is going you want to do it on TSN's Instagram page.
More on this topic in the weeks to come … back to the topic at hand.
- Bryan Hayes asked a very good question: would the NHL be forced to act simply because the entire incident was caught on video? Absent the video would they still be inclined to do more than give him a slap on the wrist? If this is such a good question, why is Bryan being lumped in the Bad section? Read on …
- As has become the norm on Overdrive, rather than letting Dog carry the conversation, the Noodle leapt right in and it sounded something like this: "wordswordswordswords, seat belts, smoking, racism!, Tiger Woods, wordswordswords …" By the time he was done Dog had gone back to texting and so it was Bryan and Jamie McLennan debating a topic about which the latter had so many thoughts it was as if he had none at all. Not exactly good radio.
- Whether you like it or not, Bob McCown has set the expectation for the timeslot. The timeslot demands competent intellectual analysis of the big stories of the week. The current roster was not capable of doing that in this instance. This is a problem that is not going to go away on its own, and Summer Is Coming …
- On to Leafs Lunch. As I was was making the podcast rounds on Friday morning (April 22) I asked myself: what were Andi Petrillo's thoughts on the Shaw suspension? Here's what TSN's iTunes podcast feed looked like on Friday morning.
- In other words, two full days had gone by and no one had bothered to update the feed. Glancing down it seems like the is a problem most weeks. The message from TSN is pretty clear: we don't care about our radio station, and neither should you!
In conclusion, the NHL got this one right and they deserve credit for that. What Shaw did was not the worst thing anyone has ever done. Is this still something worth stamping out? Of course. Clearly if we had to choose between stopping jocks from calling each other faggots or stopping gays from being assaulted or fired for their sexual preferences we should work on the latter. Thankfully we don't have to choose. We can work on both problems at the same time.
Over to you: 1) Did the media blow this incident out of proportion? 2) Who is missing from the above Good/Bad/Ugly/Silent list?
The Company We Keep
ESPN fired Curt Schilling this week. Schilling had posted a message on social media warning people that allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity would put their daughters at risk from men pretending to be women. This is a reaction to a widely repudiated law from North Carolina. The NBA is being pressured to move its All Star game in response.
As any sensible person can see, allowing individuals to use the bathroom of their choice won't affect the fact that assault is already very illegal. So this is only worth bringing up if you want to profess your dislike for trans folk under the guise of concern for the children. If you're interested in what goes on inside the mind of a self-righteous bigot, Outsports has screencaps of Schilling's deleted posts.
Richard Deitsch over at SI.com has a run down on how we arrived at this point and Schilling's long and illustrious track record of hateful and uninformed comments. "This isn’t a freedom of speech issue because Schilling’s speech isn’t being censored on his feed. He has every right to espouse whatever he wants, and his employer in turn, has every right to respond accordingly should it have issues with those opinions, which ESPN clearly did. In reality had Schilling been an analyst that ESPN felt it could not live without, he likely would have gotten a longer rope, perhaps been given a lengthy suspension here as opposed to an outright termination. But he’s easily replaceable – as most of us are. I’d expect him to work somewhere in the sports media again, but it will not be at ESPN."
I can't imagine too many other sports outlets will be calling. Schilling wore out his welcome in the state of Rhode Island when we he bilked the taxpayers for millions. He's still a celebrity among Tea Party enthusiasts in Massachusetts, but media is about eyes and ears and clicks, and that demo is both a minority in MA and well outside the target demo for advertisers. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I suspect he will spend a year or two on the Make America Great Again speaking circuit before coming back to sports. (Aside: Deitsch's SI articles grind my system to a halt on both my laptop and my tablet. Anyone else?)
Completing the social justice hat-trick, Bomani Jones went on an ESPN show wearing the well-know "Caucasians" shirt that parodies the racist Cleveland Indians "Chief Wahoo" logo. He was told to cover it up by someone at ESPN though the details around that are sketchy. The Indians decided to demote the logo from its main perch to one of less prominence recently. This comes at a time when British teams are getting rid of their racist team names. In Canada, the main offender is the Edmonton CFL team The Eskimos. There is a good debate to be had about when a team name/logo is racist versus merely being culturally appropriative.
Over to you: 1) Do you agree with Deitsch that Schilling had become replaceable and was canned rather than suspended as a result? 2) If the Eskimos came out tomorrow and said they were changing the name to something more representative of the city, would you care?
This was the off-season of the Bat Flip in MLB, and almost everyone weighed in on the topic. The new commissioner seems to be on the side of those who think baseball's young stars should shape the game in their own image. Good.
On the subject of homophobic comments, Dean Blundell is in the news again. The comments made on his show by his former producer are being used as the basis for an appeal. Rogers can't be thrilled that his name is being associated with their company or that the Globe keeps using this picture every time they write about the comments that got him fired. If you need a refresher on why Dean still doesn't think his comments were homophobic, go here to this column by Simon Houpt of the Globe (which for some reason is not linked within the other Globe article). If you want an explanation of why the comments are homophobic, go here.
Chris Zelkovich writes about the 20% increase in Raptors playoff ratings over last year through the first 2 games. Expect that number to go up and up as the team strings wins together.
The CFL has a new drug policy, which, by the sounds of how happy everyone is about, makes the old sound as if it were written in crayon. This, however, will be something to watch in the season to come:
Hole in new #CFL drug program: Commissioner can reduce a suspension "based on exceptional circumstance or inadvertence." Slippery slope.
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) April 21, 2016
Low Hanging Fruit
- I don't usually listen to Hockey Central on account of all the yelling, but I thought it was pretty good with Jeff Marek as host. Regular listeners: is there a significant difference when Darren Millard hosts?
- Readers last week noted the amount of time and chuckles the Overdrive frat boys spent citing Brazzers, a popular porn video site with some mainstream connections. I know that the FAN has a "family friendly" directive out to its on-air staff (Blundell partially excluded), so this sort of thing would likely get you a sit down with the boss over there. I wonder if this is a general TSN1050 policy or an Overdrive special exemption?
- If there was one kind of Tweet I could banish from Twitter it would be people who post about scoring changes. I'm watching the game too nitwits, and if I'm not, then I'm probably following the scoring on a league app not Twitter. Count me on team Steve Buffery on this one:
I love getting scoring updates from guys in their living rooms
— steve buffery (@Beezersun) April 22, 2016
- I know Damien is not trolling because he has been a strong advocate for getting rid of fighting from hockey. The Flyers fans though were not happy with this tweet.
With Flyers down by 2 goals in the 3rd, they played Rocky theme music, showed fight videos. Franchise needs to move on from that mindset.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 19, 2016
- Not sure who makes the decisions over at PTS these days. But here's one that bugs me. Deitsch is one of your best guests. Why do you have him on in the 4pm hour, with Shannon no less! This is a waste of money. Have him on later and save him for when you have a host who knows to be quiet when smart people are talking.
- Never get into a war of words with someone who buys tweets by the barrel? (Sorry, I'll see myself out.)
— Darren R Pang (@Panger40) April 20, 2016
- Something is bothering John Lott and we are all the winners thanks to his newfound forthrightness. TSN1050 should sign him up as a regular guest yesterday, especially since they lost Dan Shulman. He's one of the best baseball minds in the country and seems to want to talk.
— John Lott (@JohnCLott1) April 21, 2016
- I didn't have time to listen to Dean's show this week. Did he talk about the Shaw incident? I am curious to know whether he found the comments homophobic.
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)