Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


Good morning sports media fans. Using today’s post to clear out the queue. I’m working on some cool projects for the site in the upcoming weeks and months.


Traffic here is up pretty significantly over the last month or so. If you’re new, let me take this chance to welcome you to TSM and tell you a little bit about our approach. This is primarily a site for listeners and readers and viewers of sports media. Jonah and I are both fans and observers of the industry. Neither of us claims to have any expertise, other than having grown up devouring sports coverage and having lived in various other markets.


Second, Jonah and I are editorially independent. We collaborate on plenty of things, but at the end of the day my opinions are mine and his are his. He has his sources and I have mine. He’s not responsible for what I write and vice versa. We think that makes the site better.


Finally, speaking personally, I am motivated to write because I enjoy having interesting debates and encountering divergent opinions. Nothing I write here is about being right; everything should be taken as an invitation to disagree. So please contribute to the conversation below. The more opinions there are the better.


Sports Consumption Habits


I am working on a few things that relate to how/where/when people get their sports news. This provides a good opportunity to take the pulse of the readership.


My question is this: what is your daily routine when it comes to getting up to speed on the sports stories/topics of the day?


I want to know the places you go for sports news, not for live sports.I am not asking about how much radio you listen to, or which station you prefer to watch the games on. Just try to focus on your default tendencies when you wake up. Is it Twitter first, then the Star with your morning coffee? Or is it radio first, then TV with breakfast, then Twitter for the rest of the day? Or is your main source the apps you have on your phone while you take the TTC?


You can pick 2 in this poll but there’s no way to rank them, so only choose options that reflect regular daily usage. If that means only selecting one option, then just pick one.


Note: if you work for a sports network, radio station, newspaper, or digital outlet you are not permitted to view the results. Leave.


If you ignore this request, then I expect compensation for the market research I am providing. The rate is the industry standard, though I do accept in kind forms of payment, e.g Numeris reports on how Tim&Sid is doing year over year versus what used to be in the timeslot, or how ratings changed after Jay&Dan left for the US.



Please expand on your votes in the comments. I am very curious to hear the details of how sports news fits into your routine.


The FAN’s ever shuffling deck


Despite their dominance of Toronto sports radio over the last 20+ years, the FAN is addicted to change. We covered Blundell’s recent departure after 2 years in the prestigious AM slot. Dean is still very present in the market, and has been tweeting up a storm since being “reprogrammed” by the FAN.



(Aside: there’s something odd about claiming sports media needs to be drained while celebrating the heroic return of people who spent a decade on TSN. Dean also tweeted his love for Bob McCown.)


Shortly after the news that Brady & Price would be taking over mornings, the news leaked out that longtime Sportsnet utility man Ben Ennis was being called up to the majors for a full-time gig. Jonah was able to confirm that Ennis is going to be joining The Andrew Walker Show in the coming weeks.


Regular readers will know that cheering for Ben Ennis has been a staple of this space. I had hoped he would end up as the next host of JaysTalk, but this is good too. Ennis has dutifully taken every shift that needed filling. It’s good to see someone who put in the hard work being rewarded by management.


I am not convinced the Walker Show needed fixing. Also, if the network wanted to find a place for Ennis, he strikes me as a much better fit for the morning show. They clearly knew both that they wanted a spot for Ennis and that Dean was being let go so it is odd they didn’t put 2 and 2 together. When you combine these points with the fact that PD Dave Cadeau hired back the guy he fired just 12 months ago, the Ennis + Walker decision looks very unmotivated.


All of that said, Walker has established credibility in the market, having been a co-host on the FAN morning show and then being entrusted with his own show for a year.  Zany Ennis should give him plenty of opportunities to come across as the reasonable one. It’s worth noting that this will be Walker’s 4th role in 4 years. That’s a lot of change, but if you work for the market leader I guess you can’t complain.


My only request for the new show is that they use this as an opportunity to ditch some of the extraneous stuff and focus on good sports talk: fewer producer pop-ins, fewer random chats with Sportsnet personalities, pick your best themed segment and get rid of the rest. Essentially, be a generalist show for the younger sports fan. None of the other shows on the station are really aimed at that market.


I have no inside knowledge of what is taking place behind the scenes but the Winter 2017 line-up changes don’t strike me as as anyone’s carefully crafted plan for the future of the station. It looks a lot more like making things up as you go along. Or a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.


The Brash Brothers


I listened to about 6 segments of FAN590’s Starting Line-up with Brady & Price over the last week. Here are a few thoughts:


  • Brady’s former partners have either ceded the mic when challenged or sounded slightly unhinged in their replies. The new guy, by contrast, seems firmly committed to the Fairness Doctrine. This will yield a very different, and possibly entertaining, dynamic once they find their groove. Right now there is a lot of loud talking that feels an awful lot like jockeying.


  • They took calls during half the segments I heard. No thanks. I really don’t care what Joe Stuck in Traffic thinks about the Leafs.


  • Hugh sounds good on radio. Hopefully they figure out how to use him effectively beyond updates.


  • Forgot to mention this earlier: both guys have experience working in other markets. That’s a great thing. Too many Toronto media grew up Leafs and Jays fans, lived here their whole lives, and eventually were hired into media roles. Outside perspective is good.


Last thought: Cadeau filled three vacancies on this show, plus another one in the 1-4pm slot. Four radio jobs: zero women hired. The message from the FAN is clear to females who want to do unscripted sports talk. Don’t bother applying.


Westhead’s War


The CHL minimum wage lawsuit has the potential to fundamentally alter junior hockey in this country. Yet TSN’s Rick Westhead seems to be the only person who is investing significant time in this story. Given how few original sports stories there are out there, it is a little surprising that no other outlets are writing editorials or doing in-depth interviews on the subject. Sportsnet had a summary of the case back on February 9th and a report on Don Cherry’s comments on February 11th.


Don had this to say on the subject:


“Absolutely ridiculous as far as I’m concerned getting minimum wage. They should be happy with their scholarships, they should be happy learning their trade, absolutely it’s a money grab as far as I’m concerned.”


I want to come back to the issue of “learning their trade” in a second. On the topic of money grabs, Rick’s reporting has led to a few interesting exchanges on Twitter.




Here are some thoughts on this debate:


1) The character of CHL owners is irrelevant. I’m sure some of them are great. The claim before the court is that some owners would be ruined by paying minimum wage. That’s an empirical claim that requires substantiation.


2) I fully accept the hypothesis that the players are fairly compensated via tuition grants. This leads to the obvious question: if they can pay tuition for all the players then why can’t they pay wages instead? The difference is that a wage is a guaranteed operational cost whereas tuition liability only kicks in if the player goes to school.


The proof is always in the pudding and that’s what the lawsuit is about. More generally, this case is a dialogue with Canadians about how we think about minor league for profit hockey. It strikes me as disingenuous to call this vocational training given how few players will make a living playing hockey. However, let’s take that starting point for the sake of argument. Legislation has changed around unpaid internships precisely to protect people chasing career opportunities from being exploited by employers. In most industries if someone is working for you, you have to pay them. Canadian courts will need to decide if chasing the dream of being a pro athlete is significantly different.


As a Canadian citizen, I care more about the basic principle of compensated labour than I care about junior hockey. If the CHL is not sustainable without bypassing minimum wage laws, then so be it. If Canadians care enough about the potential loss of teams, there are other ways for communities to keep their teams from leaving (subsidies, taxes, levies, etc.).


Asking the group with the least power to front the cost of junior hockey is unfair.


Quick Hits


Vice Sports has been nominated for some of their original sports journalism. This piece by Patrick Hruby on the racial aspect of the NCAA’s business model is excellent.


Richard Deitsch hosted a roundtable featuring Muslim sports media members. This could not be more timely.


There is a veritable cornucopia of quality Jays writing coming out of Dunedin. Griffin and Lott are their usual paragons of professionalism. Davidi and Nicholson-Smith are an excellent one-two punch for Sportsnet. Steve Buffery has also been a great addition to the beat. As a relative newcomer his perspective is refreshing.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Welcome to Toronto Mr. Price! Oops, we forgot to edit the photo so you actually appear in it on Tweetdeck.




  • Congrats on getting your own show Scott MacArthur. We’ll get around the updating our app eventually, because … Mail It In Friday!, am I right?



  • Back to newcomer Elliott Price. I don’t know how things work in Montreal but if you’re going to challenge your interlocutor by asking a question referring a statistic, you need to know the answer beforehand.


  • It’s a delight to hear Ben Nicholson-Smith getting airtime on the Jays broadcasts. The high water mark set by Ashby will be hard to match but spring training seems exactly the right time to give some more people a chance to develop.


  • Random blocks are my favourites:



  • To the best of my recollection I have never tweeted anywhere near Mr. Ward. How does he even know who I am, let alone bother to take the time to search me out and block me? According to my records, the last time I wrote about him was over a year ago. Thanks for reading Aaron!


  • In related matters, the transition from NHL player to network hockey expert is not always easy. Opinions need to be backed up with persuasive and cogent reasoning. Patrick O’Sullivan is learning that lesson. It’s not going well.



  • When does Mike Johnson (54k followers) get another major gig? It’s been a while since his mysterious dismissal from Sportsnet.


  • As part of their annual Trade Deadline victory lap TSN sent out a press release citing the number of “likes” Jay and Dan got on Instagram. Who exactly is that data point supposed to impress? Do advertisers care about this?


  • According to our last poll (you can still vote if you like) people prefer Jay&Dan to Tim&Sid by a factor of 3 to 1. Honest question for fans of either duo: do you care about their sports takes … at all, or is it all about who tells the best fart jokes?


  • Is there anything more entertaining than Arash Madani’s passive aggressive tweets at the CFL?



  • Kate Beirness is a home grown rock star and I’d be surprised if she sticks around very long to compete with Jay&Dan reruns. I’m not sure where her career ambitions lie, but she can probably write her own ticket at this point. TSN may need to start thinking about what they could offer to convince her to stay.


  • 33 34 days and counting since Cathal Kelly’s last sports article for the Globe. Friday’s sports section featured 8 stories, one of which was original writing.





thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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