Seen & Heard – Quick Hits Edition

Good day sports media fans. Jonah and I are both working on special projects, so consider this a quasi-open thread with a few items to guide discussion.


Traffic here is up pretty significantly over the last few months. If you’re new, welcome to TSM. A lot of what I write is informed by discussions with people in the industry. I have been fortunate enough that most of the respected media members in the market have an ongoing professional relationship with me. (Some people only write to yell at me.) as such, before I write I talk to several people to get on-the-ground insights. This helps discussion here remain connected to how things “really work” in sports media.


Despite the inside baseball nature of what we talk about, this is primarily a site for listeners and readers and viewers. I want people to come here and talk about their experience as consumers of sports media. Lots of writers claim to be the vox populi when they castigate management or criticize a player. I want this place to embody the voice of the people on sports media. If we lose that then we’re just an industry blog and that’s a really boring thing to be.


Please contribute to the conversation. The more opinions there are the better. My only request is that you try not to call people out. If you see a point of view with which you disagree, debate the premise not the person.


Contact me @mikeinboston or by email with any story ideas or feedback on anything you read here. As always, thank for pointing me in the direction of good and bad interviews, segments, and articles. Ok, enough of that. Let’s get to work.


Sports Media Consumption Habits


We ran the following poll back in March: what is your daily routine when it comes to getting up to speed on the sports stories/topics of the day? I wanted to know the places you go for sports news, not for live sports. Here are the results.



Unsurprisingly Twitter was #1. I want to try this again, but leave Twitter out and ask a modified question. Think about how you consume sports media. Where do you go when you want sports opinion and news?


I’m not interested in passive entertainment, where you’re not really paying attention. I’m specifically asking what you do when you want to engage with sports media. Do you flop in front of the TV? Are you on an app on your tablet? Are you at your computer? Is it radio? Is it a podcast? Keep that in mind and pick 1 option below as your main destination. Obviously, most of us will have many but I want to know your #1.



If I left something out, post in the comments and I can add it in.


The Athletic Flexes its Muscle



In its first few weeks in the Toronto market The Athletic scooped up most of the unemployed newspaper folks. I interviewed EiC James Mirtle back when they launched. Since then they have amassed enough subscribers to be able to expand their salaried roster, and today brings news that they are expanding yet again, this time into Montreal.



As someone who has chronicled the ongoing loss of traditional sports media jobs, this is tremendously exciting. As a Canadian, I am especially thrilled to see money being poured into keeping sports writers employed in local sports markets where Rogers and Bell own a significant number of reporting and broadcast outlets.


One of the most fascinating tensions I see in their model is that their marketing strategy is built around the premise that the old ways of doing things don’t work. That applies to the funding structure, but also to the kinds of stories that are written. The Athletic sells itself as “independent” and there is no reason to doubt that based on the body of work so far. Sean Fitz-Gerald‘s excellent piece on the different values at TSN and SN when it comes to political expression is one data point. No one else is going to write that piece. So that is one place where they are doing something different.


Another place is that they also are trying to capture the “intelligent” sports consumer. I’m not exactly sure where this fanbase is currently getting their sports news. However, Implicit in The Athletic’s message is that the traditional outlets – print, TV, radio – are not doing a good job of delivering content that is up to your level, smart sport fans.


The oddity is that most of The Athletic’s roster is staffed by people who used to work for papers … you know, the places that are delivering the lousy click-bait lowest common denominator dreck we all hate. Perhaps these same writers were constrained by meddlesome editors and now they will be unshackled to write the cutting edge stories that smart fans crave.


It’s too early to tell but it’s a question worth keeping in mind as you sample their content over the next few months. The Jays will miss the playoffs, 2018 was supposed to be the year we got grass in the Dome, the Leafs will start a training camp with newfound playoff expectations, the Raps enter a season that is supposed to break the mold of the previous few, NHLPA is at war with itself and the league, the Argos can’t draw flies, Rogers is going in to Year 4 of 12 and ratings are still not good, TSN now owns all the NFL TV broadcast rights … there are a lot of stories to be told and there will be a lot of outlets telling them.


Over to you: is The Athletic doing something noticeably different from the competition? Are you still on the fence about the value they provide?


(full disclosure: I bought a subscription around their launch when they ran a 20% off promo)


Quick Hits


The Star spent thousands of words on the tale of Cash Pomer. Steve Simmons is heavily quoted throughout. It’s an interesting peek into the rich kid culture of some domains of sports media. I wondered while reading why Bob McCown was not quoted. He worked with “Cash”, has the same interest in gambling and Vegas, and they are in a similar age group. I can’t imagine they didn’t overlap significantly at The Fan.


The NHL/Olympics story has the potential to be a catalyst for vulcanization within the NHLPA. Whether that goes in the direction of dumping Fehr or lining up behind him is yet to be seen. There is sadly a dearth of good reporting on this topic.


SBJ has a great report on the state of the industry when it comes to streaming rights. We keep waiting for Amazon/Apple/Fb/Twitter to come in and disrupt business as usual but so far that has not happened to a large extent.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Mailing it in, chapter 918: why would anyone want Bryan Hayes’ sponsored picks as a 19 second standalone podcast segment?



  • On his way out of town Andrew Walker took a pretty big shot. I can think of two people specifically who loved making mascot remarks: Jeff Blair and Dirk Hayhurst. Not sure who Andrew was referring to.



  • There is no lower hanging fruit than trying to discredit an opinion by attacking its source rather than its substance. I don’t face daily hateful responses to my tweets (in part because I know how to use the mute button) so maybe everyone cracks eventually. But I do wonder why people in the media feel the need to tweet this. How would knowing what a person looks like affect the validity of what he says?



  • Hard to occupy the moral high ground when you’re hurling insults at people.



  • Have not listened to much sports radio over the last month. How are the fill-ins doing? I find it hard to pay attention when there are so many fill-in folks. Need a clearer hierarchy. Lots of Joey Vendetta on radio as far as I can tell. The FAN should just give him a slot and see once and for all if the market is buying what he’s selling.


  • Over at TSN1050, the hierarchy seems to be, in no particular order … Matt Cauz, Gareth Wheeler, Mike Hogan.


  • Random blocks are my favourite kinds of blocks:



  • To the best of my recollection I have never tossed a tweet anywhere near Mr. Pagan. How does he even know who I am, let alone bother to take the time to search me out and block me? Thanks for reading, I guess.


  • Still working out the bugs of the moderation system. If you make an account – using a real email which always remains private – your comments are approved more quickly. We are still the training phase While the system gets to know all of us. Eventually users will have a quality rating based on their body of work, and those who fall below a certain threshold won’t be able to post. Work in progress for now. Will keep you updated.


  • Last item: I’m looking for a sponsor for my column. The donation scheme wasn’t worth doing. As I have written in the past, we don’t drive enough clicks to be interesting to anyone other than porn advertisers or the Come Visit Peterborough! campaign. If you can think of a good fit, email me [email protected]



thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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Paul G.
Paul G.
August 14, 2017 6:01 pm

The Star piece on Cash Pomer was good journalism.

Couldn’t help but smile however, that while including informative comments from Steve Simmons (with photo); the reporter declined to name the paper he writes for. In this day and age where it is a given that consumers use many different media sources on any given day, such an omission belongs in a bygone era.

Agree that hearing from McCown would have added to the article.

August 14, 2017 6:22 pm

I can’t figure out how the athetic can make money. I read 10000 subscribers at $40/yr. how much are they paying their writers? Just doesn’t make sense. I’m not a paid subscriber yet because I have not seen an article worth paying for .

August 14, 2017 6:28 pm

I think the Athletic’s marketing strategy is appropriate considering all those stats “gurus” think they’ve reinvented the wheel. Should feed right into the kind of people they’re going to attract anyway. Come to think of it, is The Athletic an ironic name?

August 14, 2017 6:30 pm

Will Bob get away with saying he wished Canada produced athletes named Smith or Jones? You can’t tell me that’s not racist.

August 14, 2017 10:38 pm

“We will cover sports in Montreal from a different angle, serving the thinking fan and not simply enflaming rage when it’s not warranted.”

I know exactly what this bolded part is referring to – many of the radio guys, bloggers, reporters, etc. in Montreal. I am a lifelong Habs fan and I have been frustrated with the negative and trolling Habs coverage in the last few years. I used to follow A LOT of Habs media guys on twitter but have tired of the clickbait posts and unending trolling after every Habs newsy tidbit/trade/signing. I now only follow Engels, Wilde, Basu, Lu, Stubbs, Jean and a few others. Berkshire and McKenna and Marinaro and Melnick are particularly odious on twitter.

I currently subscribe to Athletic Toronto and will soon subscribe to the Athletic Montreal.

Twitter can be quite malicious and mean-spirited, which is very easy and cowardly to do with an anonymous twitter handle. If you post with your real name and pic, the probability of embarrassing yourself online is reduced. IMHO, that is what tweets like Smith and Campbell refer to (as well as a release from all of the insults they get online).
I have enjoyed Joey Vendetta on PTS these last few weeks. Though it is hard to tell Joey and Gord Stellick apart on the radio. lol

August 15, 2017 9:00 am

IIRC Cash Pomeroy was on weekend mornings primarily; don’t see how him and McCown would cross paths…though I so remember once they had McCown call into his show.

August 15, 2017 9:01 am

Pomer (f&#*# auto correct)

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
August 15, 2017 11:13 am

Haven’t posted here for quite some time. Sports media has become for me quite the bore unfortunately. So while it’s apros pos of nothing my two thoughts on The Fan.

The 1-4 Shouty Hot Take Show is just awful. No I haven’t spent a ton of time listening, it’s too painful. On the few occasions I’ve flipped it on Ennis just yells into the mike. He does it in interviews. His interviews have these awkward moments where I’m sure the guy on the other end if the phone wonders what he’s saying. It’s just bad radio. And a special this week only co-host doesn’t help. It only lowers the yelly bits count marginally.

McCown is pretty much done. I resisted the notion for quite some time as I still felt he did mostly good radio. Now it’s mostly not so good. When he has a higher level guest with some profile on he fawns. When he has a regular on he does his insulty last name thing. Sure it’s all in good fun but it doesn’t do anything for the discourse. What it does do, for him, is show he can be glib with guys like Deitsch. Yes we know Bob you’re a media star. Then there’s the constant retelling of the stories. Leo under the stands. Ali. Vegas. Maybe, like the old joke, he should number the stores to save everyone’s time.

Now back to the regularly scheduled programming on Spotify. And maybe a podcast or two.

August 15, 2017 12:48 pm

The Athletic’s success is because of their content and the way they write. They don’t use ‘narrative’ type of writing that we see from the Steve Simmons of the world, they take emotion out and simply look at facts. There will always be a level of subjectivity and ‘feel’ to the writing, but at its core its all based on facts. There are no personal attacks, no hit pieces, no hot dog stories. Is there any surprise that they are successful and Post Media is asking for a hand out from the government?

My only disappointment with The Athletic is they seem to be falling to the same ‘white male’ issues that every other media outlet is. They have had the opportunity to bring on female/minority faces, yet the majority of the new hires have been the same old same old.

My last comment on a lack of diversity in Toronto Sports Media was deleted, which is too bad, but its an issue. When you have old white male writing telling those who come from a different country that they don’t fit the ‘culture’, it comes off poorly. There needs to be more minority voices, and the Athletic has failed in that sense. A blogger tweeted that Mirtle had hired an awful lot of his pick up hockey buddies for editor jobs and freelance work, I have no idea if that’s true, but its an interesting suggestion. End of the day, the people writing should match the diversity of the audience, and I don’t think anyone in Toronto has come close to finding that niche, the Athletic included.

August 15, 2017 12:54 pm

And regarding Pagan, via a reddit commentor.

What this article fails to cover is Pagan did speak out the day after and rejected the notion that it was him.
On Wednesday night, Pagan said he’d been advised by his lawyer, Frank Genesee, not to speak about the incident but did suggest the police may have it wrong.
“I was drinking out of a cup,” Pagan told Postmedia, and suggested Twitter photos that show him after the can was tossed clearly indicate he had a cup in his hand. “I’d love to tell you what happened and my story … but I can’t say anything.”
Only after it was a lost cause did he admit guilt.
I’m part of the group that said let it die and let the guy move on, but lets also make sure we are telling the entire story, its not like Pagan was remorseful from the start, he denied it for 24 hours after.

I find it hard to believe he wanted to turn himself in while also doing media when he was saying it wasn’t him.

Pagan changed his story after to get sympathy. I have zero for him.

Steve in Waterloo
Steve in Waterloo
August 15, 2017 1:03 pm

Good to hear the TSM is taking steps to filter trolls. Most anticipated!
My go to for sports news is the web(Sportsnet/NOT TSN/The Score), but I still visit the Star and Sun most every day for opinion.

The Athletic, IMO, has missed an opportunity during these dog days of summer. There is little content in the mainstream, and it seems that The Athletic is only adding a story or two each day. Loads of content right would attract more subscribers.

Cal-Eh Brent
Cal-Eh Brent
August 15, 2017 4:01 pm

Here are my ramblings.

1) Vendetta is terrible. The guy is a name dropper who used to lurk around celebrities and creep them out here in Los Angeles. His act wore thin here and now he’s back in Toronto. A bunch of athletes and musicians down here in LA are definitely happy about that.

2) Ennis is brutal. I listen to Scotty Mac now. I quite enjoy his show even if the delivery isn’t overly exciting.

3) Dan Riccio is a rising star. Pair him with JD Bunkis more often. They get the younger (my) demographic.

4) I quite like Donovan Bennett. I never cared for him much with Tim and Sid, but when he’s been on the FAN recently he’s very smart, articulate, and smooth.

5) Living in LA I try to keep track of home by listening to Toronto radio. It’s getting less and less. I’ll definitely make Overdrive appointment listening again when ODOG and Jamie are back, but right now it’s touch and go for me.

6) I have started listening a lot to CBS Sports Radio. I work from home and often have it on in the background. A very underrated national show is Bill Reiter with “Reiter than you”. I know it’s not a Toronto topic, and I know the markets are totally different, but it blows my mind how we can’t have a younger person (NOT BOB MCCOWN) get a shot with a national show. It doesn’t even have to talk about general teams, but rather current sports issues. I understand it’s a major risk, but I think many people would listen.

Paul G.
Paul G.
August 15, 2017 5:41 pm

Simmons responded to Kessel’s “Hot Dogs in the Cup”, with Naylor and company this morning, (video clip on TSN website).

Highlights include:

It was “small” of Kessel to do the Cup photo.
His “source gave him the wrong address” for the hot dog vendor.
The hot dog reference was only “3 lines” in a 900 line column.
The rest of his column is the “definitive” piece on Kessel’s situation in TO.

He did everything, but refer to himself a victim!

While I was not fan of Kessel during his last year here; Simmons has no defence for this particular story line.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
August 16, 2017 9:33 am

Forgot yesterday to weigh in on Vendetta. He seems to be headed to a bigger, regular role. Maybe he will take McCowns position in the near term. For me that would be a deal breaker. Personally I find him bereft of personality. Basically he’s a guy who knows a lot of people and it’s who he is. I heard him justify his name dropping recently by saying if they are people you know it’s not name dropping. A weak sauce justification at best. Also, we know, he can get tickets for events. He mentions it every time he’s on the radio. I guess having interesting original takes or being able to conduct an interesting interview are not important attributes. I listened to the 5 o’clock open yesterday. My net takeaway was I pray that Joey does indeed get Madani the Coldplay tickets. I look forward to the inevitable update.

August 16, 2017 5:35 pm

I feel I must rethink my opinion of PTS and Bob in general – Vendetta was starting to steer me away with his over the top self promotion but I find Bob getting far too political for me – I just turned him off after hearing him call the President of the USA a moron – Enough – Right or wrong I don’t tune in PTS to hear McCown blast off his political opinions – He has been doing more and more of it lately –

August 17, 2017 1:38 am

I’m normally on Bleached Report when I initially hear about a story or I get alerts from The Score. Then I will normally follow up on the story online at ESPN or SN or throw on a show I like where I know the topic will come up, like PTI.

Rick in Barrie
Rick in Barrie
August 18, 2017 11:51 am

David Alter didn’t have his contract renewed at The Athletic. Be interesting to see if more shuffling occurs as they grow & modify their roster/delivered product.

August 18, 2017 7:08 pm

Useful information.

Cal-Eh Brent
Cal-Eh Brent
August 19, 2017 6:12 pm

WTF is this garbage I see on twitter about Joey Vendetta doing an interview with Coldplay and it’s going to air on the FAN? Why is this being aired on the fan.

Joey Vendetta is NOT Dan Patrick who is able to bring non-sports guests on and make a seamless and excellent interview. My guess is Joey will spend the entire time being a fanboy to Coldplay and i’ll be sure NOT to listen.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x