photo credit: Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star
by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email
Programming note: I'm still away on special assignment so I am writing less frequently. Follow me on Twitter for occasional sports media observations. Retweets are sometimes sincere. Also, we're working out some WordPress bugs so things may look a little different than usual. Let me know if someting isn't working. As always, if you want to take issue with something written here or educate me on how the business really works, please be in touch via DM or email.
Lastly, to read past columns scroll to the bottom of this one and click on the "mike in boston" tag. Apparently this is my 100th post for TSM.
Suggested Soundtrack: DeVothcKa – How It Ends
Raptors Playoff Coverage
The last eight months in Toronto sports have been more successful than the previous decade combined. The Jays made it to game 6 of the semi-finals, producing some moments that will be iconic in this city forever. The Leafs won the draft lottery and will pick a player who reportedly has the talent to be a star. And the Raptors made it just as far as the Jays, providing the city with a welcome collective rallying point during what is usually a disappointing time of year. As we head into the normally dull months of summer, Torontonians have a competitive TFC team to watch, as well as the Argos playing outdoors for the first time in eons. In addition, the Euro touranment begins in a couple of weeks which turns our mutlicultural city into a constant good-natured party. Fun times ahead.
As we close the book on the 2016 season let's be honest about one thing: the Raptors playoffs were often painful to watch. The series against the Heat and Pacers gave rise to doubts about the level of talent on the team, and the one against the Cavs confirmed that hypothesis. Elements of this roster may well form a contender in the years to come but, as composed, this team is not championship calibre. The drubbings at the hands of Lebron over the last two games exposed the need for major improvments — on both offense and defense — if this team is going to take the next step.
Here's a quick rundown of the univocally cheerful post-mortem columns:
If you read them all get used to the phrase "no shame in losing" since it is repeated ad infinitum throughout. If you only have time for one, read Cathal Kelly who does a good job putting the entire season into context.
With the 5 week playoff run a lot more has been written about the Raptors than usual. Further, many people have been writing about the Raps who normally focus their attention elesewhere. This echoes back to something we have discussed before. During the Jays playoff run and ensuing off-season front office circus Jeff Blair sneered at "baseball tourists" in the media.
@SquishyWalnuts1 Oh there will be PLENTY of whining from baseball "tourists" in the media, don't worry …
— Jeff Blair (@SNJeffBlair) December 1, 2015
This was at a time when TSN was going hard at the AA story, the payroll, the Jose and Edwin extension talks etc. People like Blair and Bob McCown seemed very annoyed that Jays stories were being broken by the competition (see my column here). But the basic complaint is an interesting one to reconsider now that the shoe is on a different foot.
Over the last month several columnists have been parachuted in to provide full-time coverage of the Raptors. In particular, Dave Feschuk, Bruce Arthur, Cathal Kelly, and Steve Simmons all wrote regularly about the Raps. While Bruce and Steve wrote occasionally about the Raptors during season, Cathal's 2016 resume mostly includes soccer, tennis, Manziel, rugby, fishing, and everything else under the sun. If you look at Feschuk's posting history over the months before the playoffs began, it's 100% Leafs, followed by some Master's coverage, and then on to the Raps.
Obviously you want all hands on deck to cover the most important stories from all angles. That seems like the right approach, and if you're paying a columnist big bucks then you want him (or her … are there any female all-sports columnists? Let's come back to that another time) writing as much as possible. The question I have is about credibility. If writers don't cover a team on a regular or semi-regular basis, do you find them credible when they swoop in during the playoffs?
Over to you: Who was your go-to writer for Raps coverage over the last month? Which of the generalists do you find most credible on basketball?
Note: please don't read what follows if you are in charge of hiring (ha!) and firing in sports media.
One question came to the forefront during the Raptors' playoff run: do we still need both reporters and columnists in 2016? Here's what I have in mind. Rachel Brady covers the Raptors during the season for the Globe. Doug Smith does the same for the Star, and Ryan Wolstat and Mike Ganter both do for the Sun/Postmedia. Most of these people took a backseat (in some cases literally) to the usurpers mentioned in the previous section. This is not because they are not good at their jobs. It has to do with the role they have been assigned.
What value was really added by, for example, Rachel Brady's game 6 recap? This is not a criticism of her work. It's a point about the modern sports readership. You have Cathal Kelly writing a column about the game. Anyone reading that either saw the game, or saw the highlights, or already knew the score. It's implausible to me that someone would sit down and also read a 700 word game summary the next day. Why would you when there are so many other things to read, and so many other ways to find out what happened?
The game summary seems like a relic of a bygone era when not every game was on TV and where it was hard to follow players and teams from other markets. If that's right, then this kind of story is not really needed anymore. It makes more sense to farm out game recaps to wire services and let both Rachel and Cathal write columns on the team, or just have one person covering the team as a regular basketball columnist with the other serving as a generalist who can bounce around when fishing news breaks. This seems to be in part Sportsnet.ca's and TSN.ca's approach, as their Game 6 story is from Canadian Press. Sportsnet has Grange doing the heavy lifting on Game 6, with Steven Loung, Donnovan Benett, and Jeff Simmons filling in the gaps (at the time of writing this column).
Here's a quick rundown of all the people writing about basketball for the various outlets over the last month: (Apologies to anyone I missed. Message me and I'll add you)
Star – Arthur, Feschuk, Smith
Sun – Simmons, Ganter, Wolstat
Globe – Brady, Kelly
TSN.ca – Josh Lewenburg, Jack Armstrong, TSN.ca staff (?)
SN.ca – Grange, Blair, the people mentioned above, Dave Zarum, Dan Robson, Shi Davidi (??), Geoff Lowe, Eric Koreen, Kristina Rutherford, and Arden Zwelling
As mentioned, come playoff time the beat reports at the papers are mostly rendered obsolete by the heavyweights. Sportsnet has a different approach with Grange in the obvious 1-chair with tons of worker bees supporting him. TSN by comparison seems to be devoting few resources to generating readable content, and doesn't even bother giving their staff interns bylines. Classy.
Over to you: Am I underselling the value of written game recaps? Which outlet provides best value for comprehensive coverage? What's the right model for keeping both columnists and reporters employed?
Steve Simmons' casino story has been discussed ad nauseam so I will keep my comments brief. It's a non-story objectively speaking. They weren't out clubbing/drinking. They were sitting in a casino attached to the hotel. Rachel Brady has a good summary of the facts and player quotes. Steve's follow-up piece lays out some of his reasoning, and his reasonable point that it's about optics more than anything. I agree with this to an extent. Why open that door if you're the players in question? Steve explains that he doesn't think this had anything to do with the 38 point blowout. But this raises the question: why bother reporting it? There's a bit of a contradiction here. It didn't matter, but the optics were bad. However, the only reason any of us know about the optics is because you chose to write about it, making the non-story into a story.
Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News has an excellent piece on the hubris of the hapless Bills.
BlueBirdBanter has a great article on baseball's addiction to bean-ball.
How does Gary Bettman explain to his owners why he signed the TV deal in CDN dollars? The NHL had all the leverage over Rogers and he could have shifted the burden of currency fluctuations to them. Instead, the league faces losing a reported $200 million. Good news for Rogers, but it's not great to have your partner mad at you. Gary has a reputation for holding grudges and he doesn't like being publicly embarrassed.
Two Peel region schools are changing their names and logos to avoid appropriating Indigenous cultures. The Washington Post published a survey indicating 9 out of 10 Native Americans don't find the slur "redskin" bothersome. The survey has since been shredded. People need to stop creating debate about whether or not the word "redskin" is derogatory. Just substitute in "spear-chucker" and see if you still feel like there is something to debate.
Low Hanging Fruit
- The devil comes to you with an offer: Dean Blundell will think you're gutless but Marty York will be the only one to publicly defend you. Deal or no deal?
- Someone convinced the newspapers that the kids love videos because both the Star and Sun are adding video content to their published stories. Here is Doug Smith from his car. Here is a very awkward discussion between Ryan Wolstat and Steve Simmons. Did this enhance anyone's experience? I click links on newspaper websites because I want to read.
- Does anyone else chuckle when Sportsnet people cite Buck Martinez's experience as a manager when asking him a question? If I were Buck I wouldn't really want to remind people of that short-lived PR stunt. Bob McCown seems to agree with me on the merits of that decision.
- The confusing world we live in: is Rogers happy that the Raps run has distracted from the poor overall NHL playoff ratings, or sad that this is drawing precious eyeballs away from the NHL coverage, or happy that Sportsnet is getting 1.5 million viewers for a basketball game, or sad that the number TSN got for Game 6 will be even higher, or happy that the Raptors got another home playoff date?
- Bell reports that their ratings for the IIHF tournament were huge, and grew over last year's numbers. Does this confirm the hypothesis that Canadians are not really NHL fans, but rather fans of Canadian hockey? The test of this will be in September when the NHL dresses up its players in national colours. How are you feeling about that tournament?
- I seem to be getting fewer auto-play ads from both TSN and SN. Did my ad-blocker catch up or have they changed their business model?
Fun discussion on NBA officiating with Matt Devlin on Brunt & Blair (May 23, 9am). The awful calls were a major talking point during the Raps' run. The Jays are currently suffering at the hands of the cowboys who run MLB games. The NHL seems to have recovered from the Kerry Fraser ego era of refereeing. How can the NBA and MLB get their officials under control?
As we wait for the spring radio book, here are the results of our poll on TSN1050 v FAN590. Numeris says no one listens to TSN. My numbers say that's not true. My sample size is based on 700 votes. What sample size is used to generate Numeris' numbers? I'll wait …
- Finally, how do people feel about media openly cheering on Twitter? To my mind, it's an extension of the press box. Even if you are a fan, you're supposed to root for the story not the team. Is this a signal to the audience that one has hung up one's journalist trousers for good?
Goddamn it's fun to be a fan.
— Jeff Blair (@SNJeffBlair) May 24, 2016
thanks for reading and commenting,
until next time …
mike (not really in boston)