Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


Good morning sports media fans. I’m away on a sports media consulting gig this weekend but have a few things in the queue and an hour to kill so I’m reviving this column. Feel free to comment on these topics or whatever else is on your mind today.


Hockey’s Retrograde Motion


Two noteworthy pieces of writing this week relating to the ongoing issues in our national sports. The first is yet another chapter in Westhead’s War, as the lawsuit brought forward by ex-NHL players moves forward in Minnesota. The NHL has been arguing that there is no medical consensus on the relationship between head trauma and CTE, and has found a researcher – in epidemiology – willing to back them.


“It’s impossible to prove a link between hockey and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, because some people who haven’t played contact sports have wound up suffering from the brain-withering disease.” — Dr. David Cassidy


I’m no professor of epidemiology or expert in research methods but I would argue that this claim is flawed. The two halves of the sentence seem to have nothing to do with each other. One way to prove a link would be to compare occurrences of CTE in contact athletes vs the regular population and vs non-contact athletes. The fact that some people who don’t play sports have CTE wouldn’t undermine any correlations found there. Further, it is entirely possible that CTE has both genetic and environmental causes, so showing that non-athletes can suffer from CTE wouldn’t show the impossibility of a link between contact sports and the disease.


As I have written before, the NHL’s anti-science stance is not going to age well. They should be supporting this research and aligning themselves with a player-safety first approach. This is compatible with defending themselves from lawsuits. Gary has instead chosen to put winning the litigation ahead of all other league interests. He might win this case but incur bigger costs to the league as a result. This is the kind of small-minded leadership that has characterized his tenure as commissioner.


Second, the Hockey Hall of Fame committee has just elected broadcaster Pierre McGuire to join the exclusive club of 19 who get to nominate and vote on membership in hockey’s highest honour. Damien Cox has an excellent column explaining why this choice, at this point in human history, is the wrong one. Leaving aside McGuire’s credentials, Cox argues that having an entirely white older male voting block fails to represent both the current state of the game as well as its future.


“It delayed and delayed for years before finally being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era in which women deserved to be recognized as honoured members. Even then, only in four of the past eight years has a woman been chosen. Now, it appears it has no immediate intention to put a female or a person of colour on the induction committee.” — Damien Cox


It is hard to overstate just how out of touch with modern standards it is to have a board that has no women or people of colour. The business, academic, and entertainment worlds have all adopted the view that it is unacceptable to have positions of power that don’t try to be representatively diverse. The problem is present in all sports but seems to be especially acute in hockey and the outlets with a focus on hockey



For comparison, here is what the Fan New York looks like:



The PTS Shuffle


The massive news that Richard Deitsch was joining PTS temporarily crushed our site last week. It was our highest traffic week since the news that Scott Moore had hired Dean Blundell. I have not had time to listen to the new pairing but look forward to in the weeks ahead. Here are a couple of thoughts:



  • There is no business sense in having your two most expensive studio shows going head to head on TV. The timing of Tim&Sid in the 5-7pm slot was always confusing but now it seems untenable. While there is an age gap between PTS and T&S it’s hard to pretend that the latter still have mainstream appeal to the “coveted” younger demo. The best value for money for SN is to have PTS — with its splashy new American co-host — on the main channel with the widest reach.


  • The most obvious place to put Tim and Sid — if the plan is to keep them together — is up against their more popular cousins Jay & Dan. This might mean reducing the show from two hours to one, which arguably wouldn’t threaten anything of value. Their old podcast was a tight one hour show and still managed to fit in all the trademark bits. Another option would be mornings on TV and or radio. Their shtick always struck me as most appropriate for this time-slot, with word inside SN being that one of the two flat out refused to get up that early. Now that both are middle aged men with kids, this might be more palatable. Bringing them back to the Fan fold would be a boon for the station. Their departure was very awkward.


  • Deitsch’s network of contacts in the US alone should be sufficient to turn the PTS ship around. My #1 complaint over the last several years has been how eager SN has been to churn through their internal roster on PTS. The flagship show becomes “just another show” when it’s Doug MacLean after Jamie Campbell after Chris Johnston after Michael Grange. These are all fine folks, but they are available in spades everywhere else on the network. The PTS on which up I grew had a much more focused guest list — whatever happened to Lester Munson? — and this provides an opportunity to return to that standard and the kinds of topics they cover.


  • Last thought: the new rotation of cohosts from 5-7 means that Bob never has to worry about being the smartest guy in the room. My impression is that this is not a big hang-up for McCown but it is something to watch. For years we have heard Bob spew nonsense in the hopes of baiting co-hosts into dumb arguments. How many times have you heard him say “I read a study that says that 9 out of 10 Native Americans don’t mind the term ‘redskin’!” despite this being widely discredited. Brunt provided a masterclass in how not to engage in these useless debates, and hopefully Deitsch can follow that model. But if Bob starts to get insecure then he is likely to double down on the tendency to drag the conversation down rather than up.


Radio Ratings


The fine folks at Kowch Media have a new post up with some interesting numbers comparing this year’s winter ratings to last year’s. The winter book is not as important as the Fall and Spring ones since so many people are on vacation but this period also includes the NFL playoffs, the Raps and Leafs in full swing, the WJC tournament and the Olympics (in some years). So there is a lot of sports content driving interest, unlike the dog days of summer when it is Jays or nothing.


With the usual disclaimers that Numeris has tiny sample sizes for sports talk, here is the relevant data:


Adults 12+ comparing Winter 2016-17 to Winter 2017-18:



Adults 12+ comparing Fall 2017 to Winter 2017-18:



The first graph shows that both stations lost between 30-35% of their share from a year ago during the winter season. This mirrors a trend we saw in 2017 of big drops, conventionally attributed to the Jays’ poor showing last season. The fact that both stations saw the same reception despite the fact that one of them pays scant attention to the Jays throws a wrench into this interpretation. I would contend that podcasts are becoming the norm for on the go listening and this is causing a reduction in the number of people looking for talk, as opposed to music, on radio.


The only good news here for TSN1050 is that they saw an increase of 20% from Fall to Winter, as they aired lots of exclusive NFL playoff and WJC games. That said, they still only have 1 (PPM-equipped) listener for every 4 the Fan has.


I’ll leave further analysis of these numbers to the experts.


Quick Hits


I finally found time to watch Donnovan Bennett’s panel on being black in Canadian sports media. It is well worth your time. Having watched Morgan Campbell’s Ted Talk I was familiar with his views. The person who really stood out to me was David Amber. His contributions were especially interesting, intelligent, and thoughtful.


The amount of great baseball content coming out of Dunedin is positively diluvian. Top reads this week: this from John Lott on catching, this from Rob Longley on prospect Gurriel, and this from avid TSM reader Jeff Blair on brewing labour issues.


Still with baseball, this season brings new “independent” coverage of the team and new ways of supporting those providing this coverage. Keegan Matheson (CP/TSN/SN contributor) has a subscription Jays news and prospect site. Gregg Zaun has a free/ad-supported YouTube video manalysis service. This adds to the existing content provided on a regular basis by Barry Davis’ to his Patreon patrons. An embarrassment of riches for a range of Jays fans.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Heard on a SN outlet: “Troy Tulowitzski — they’ll be fine with him and they’ll be fine without him.” Yikes. That’s a very positive spin on something that is not good news.


  • The most humorous thing about eternally hopeful spring training analysis is how quickly this year’s shiny objects replace the trove from previous years. So long Ryan Goins, hello Aledmys Díaz (-0.7 WAR in 2017).


  • Not everyone is happy that Zaun is sticking around town:



  • Howard Berger wrote about Damien Cox’s recent role change at SN: “Cox, however, remains the true mystery at Rogers. He is a polarizing figure: opinionated, arrogant, haughty and knowledgeable.”


  • Al Strachan has been going after Calgary media for their failure to get to the bottom of Burke’s behaviour on a recent military flight. Burke had most of the Toronto media right where he wanted them during his time here so it’s not surprising to see him doing the same there.



  • Congratulations to all the CSA winners. I’m with Eric on this sentiment:




thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

photo credit: The Star
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