Is The Toronto Sports Media World Ripping Apart? Recent events feel like the industry is deeply divided, is age the number one factor?

<span class="entry-title-primary">Is The Toronto Sports Media World Ripping Apart?</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Recent events feel like the industry is deeply divided, is age the number one factor?</span>

By TSM

I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time. I have to admit, life has gotten complicated and, in many ways, I have lost my way. In the past, this was my outlet. My keyboard, this website and a way to untangle my busy mind. Through travel, lots of it, including multiple trips across the continent and overseas as well and work and other stuff I’ve forgotten my happy place, my keyboard and this child of mine.

I take a lot of pride in what we have here, in my opinion anyway, I don’t write for anyone other than me. I think Mike will tell you the same, both of our passions for the medium and well that’s our thing. So, it’s comforting for me to be here, to be present and to return to my roots. I feel calm writing here and I need that right now. As has always been the case, it’s my canvas, I share with Mike and well, we are lucky to live in a world of choice where you can vote with your eyes and express with your fingers.

I am 46, living in Seattle and like every other idiot does, I follow a city and country from a sports and sports media perspective that is some 3000 miles and 3-hour time difference. From Dick Beddoes all the way to Kyle Bukauskas I’ve read listened to and watched them all. We are however living in the most interesting of times with regards to those who cover the games we live by and love. A continental divide is upon us, a tactical shift and watching it unfold is nothing short of incredible. At least to me.

Let me explore.

I’ve written for years how incredible it is to marvel at cities like Boston and their current run of sports success. Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox all on the proverbial high. No, not all winning all the time, but seemingly on the cusp of winning; close enough to keep a fan base satiated.

In Toronto, it’s been a tough slog for, well most of my life. With the Leafs, the Burns and Quinn era’s were epic. The Raptors of late, the Jays with two exceptional runs all incredible memories. However, Toronto the loser (sports speaking) had been the mantra for a long time.

However, with the sudden rise of the Jays, the hiring of Brendan Shanahan, Masai Ujiri, TFC heck even the Argos things have been, pretty, pretty good. Many in the media, especially those who were notorious for being critics were suddenly devoid of content. AA, Shanahan, Masai, and others had their teams in fine form.

Well, nothing lasts forever and now with a just a little bit of adversity, the pressure seems to be springing a leak. At least with a few scribes.

By the way, there is no doubt that the three main franchises have only themselves to blame for this, their performance or news items if you will are the cause of the change in the type of coverage. If the Raptors don’t get bounced by the Cavaliers, if they don’t fire Dwayne Casey, they are not included in this discussion. Similarly, if the Maple Leafs had a better showing in the playoffs if they don’t broom out Lou Lamoriello, promote Kyle Dubas over Mark Hunter then they too would not be part of the discussion. Lastly, if the Blue Jays didn’t find themselves some 10 games out they too wouldn’t be part of the discussion.

Let’s add to this, of course, that sports is a results business and with that comes critics. So no one should be surprised that the feel-good coverage wouldn’t hold forever.

Let’s get one more thing out of the way. First, Dwayne Casey was universally like in the marketplace. When was the last time any top Toronto Sports personality was so well liked by the media? That was nice to see.

On the issue of the Raptors getting destroyed by Lebron and the firing of Casey, there was a bit of a split decision in the media. Some took the approach that it was Lebron the Raptors lost to and god himself would not have done any better. Others took the approach that certain players just didn’t play well enough and again the greatest NBA coach of all time would not have fared any better. Then there was a small bunch who voiced the opinion that the Raptors were in fact out coached, that there were issues between Masai and that in order for the team to move forward they needed a new voice.

With the Maple Leafs, there was a vocal crowd who thought that the Maple Leafs made a colossal mistake taking the keys away from Lou Lamoriello. They guys track record speaks for itself, he worked miracles in Toronto already and there was no reason to rock the boat. Then there were those who thought it made sense to bring in a new voice, however, the safer route was the more tried and traditional Mark Hunter. Hunter followed the more traditional GM course and given his position as a scout he would make the better GM. Lastly there are those who think Shanahan made the right choice by picking the younger Dubas in that he has been mentored by Lamoriello and to a degree Hunter and that he had unique skills and insights to continue the growth and developments of the franchise.

Let’s leave the Jays alone for now. The same divide amongst those who cover them hasn’t appeared quite yet. With the team struggling and a sell-off possible we should watch to see if it materializes.

With the Raptors and Maple Leafs though, in watching, reading and listening to those in the business it is quite apparent that many of the differences of opinion are based in part on age and experience. Let me say I am not lumping every single reporter or columnist into a bucket and no I am not saying this is true for everyone but wow are the lines split and it appears that age plays a huge part.

With the Maple Leafs the younger side of the media seems to fully embrace the Dubas assentation. They’ve gone out of their ways to ensure that Leafs nation knows that Dubas is not really an analytics guru that there is a ton of hard work, personality and hockey sense behind the young phenom. This group is interesting to watch because they still have to deal with many in the old world of sport so there’s a careful respect for the Lamoriello’s of the world but clearly they approve of the likes of Dubas moving to the top.
At the same time, the older group, in general, seem to recoil at the appointment of yet another very young GM. The name John Ferguson Jr. gets thrown around as failed young executive with the Maple Leafs. There is a clear preference here for the old-style hockey management team. Led by either a Lamoriello or a Hunter because it’s worked everywhere else. This group too is in a precarious spot. Dubas got the job and they are going to have to deal with him and his new team moving forward. Furthermore, to take a shot at Dubas is to take a shot at Shanahan. Right now anyways, Shanahan appears to have nothing but horseshoes up where the sun doesn’t shine so taking shots at him doesn’t appear to be all that wise either.

What we’ve seen, read and heard is a whole lot of careful posturing and hedging. No one has come out and said that Shanahan made the wrong choice. Many have written that he had better hope that he made the right one. Again, that’s fair and understood. Just not exactly the hard-hitting journalism I’d like to see. It’s very easy to sit back and be critical. It takes a lot more courage to actually take a stand and argue a position. Few are willing to do that.

The story remains the exact same with those who cover the Raptors. No, not every tightly fits into a bucket but in general the result is the same. The older folks tend to be much more in the Casey should not have been fired bunch. They typically gave the Raptors hell for hiring their best coach ever, the guy who won coach of the year after their most successful regular season ever. They do so in caution of going after Masai who is equally as liked and respected a Casey. At the same time, the younger crowd was much more of the mind that it was time for a change. They offered up critiques of how Casey coached in the playoffs including several games vs the LeBrons’.

What is clear to me is that that there’s an opinion divide right now and it’s split by age. This has never been more apparent than right now. Analytics in sports (baseball and hockey for sure), Lou vs. Kyle, Casey vs. Masai the opinions are pretty much split based upon the age of the owner of the opinion. (Yes there are exceptions).

Taken a step a little further, I can tell you from my own opinion, the old guard has become very predictable. Very protective, in some places dismissive and unwilling to consider let alone validate new ways of looking or trying things.

Conversely, the younger members of the bunch are the ones who are more optimistic echoing the sentiment of a new generation. They tend to use data to back things up. They conduct more research and they have much less of a critical eye to reporting.

I think we can say the same with regards to the Blue Jays coverage of late too. There is a younger group of the core who take a less traditional, less critical view of the team and the franchise. They tend to give the team more a benefit of the doubt and more data-driven in explaining their beliefs. The older group rely more on their years of reporting, the traditional ways of doing things and basic good old fashion reporting and being critical.

I am not here to tell you which one you should read vs the other. I do believe that change is in the air. I think that there is a good young crowd of reporters who have come up into the market who are doing exceptional work in non-traditional ways. There is, however, something to be said about the on fire story that one of the more mature scribes uncovers and reports on. The Athletic represents more of the younger audience, while there remains an abundance of old outlets to keep an eye and ear on.

Whatever your preference we are at a fascinating time of change. I want nothing more than the all the teams we love to win. It will be very interesting to see how both groups cover the teams moving forward win or lose. Those who called out the Dubas hire will certainly have to be careful if he succeeds. Conversely, if they are right and it’s a disaster the fans will have a lot worse things to worry about than how the teams are covered.

Interesting times indeed.

So, a couple of random thoughts:

While scanning the internet last night I read a column that said the Blue Jays are 11 games out. I had no idea. I am fully willing to say that it’s all about me and my schedule but this is the least I have been into the Jays in a very, very long time. BTW, I guess i am not the only one who’s lost some interest in MLB these days.

There were lots of great stories during the crazy couple of days dealing with the Leafs and Raptors. In Raptor Land Ryan Wolstat had some of the best daily coverage on the beat. This story was one of the best as the season was collapsing. Equally compelling was Michael Grange on why Casey was fired.

On the Leafs side, two of the best columns were written by Damien Cox. This one, his latest was really good and open-minded, given I would tend to lump Damien in the more mature group. Cox wrote a really interesting article before the move suggesting that Shanahan himself should or could take the GM gig.

The most interesting read on the Maple Leafs? In my mind Justin Bourne over at the Athletic. Stories like this bring a uniquely personal take that has launched Bourne to the top of the heap at Mirtle’s house in my opinion.

The best Blue Jays piece of late was this one. Really well done. Equally as compelling? This one too.

Lastly, don’t mean it as a slight or backhanded compliment but you really should be listening to Bryan Hayes more. If you need proof take a listen to the interview he did with Masai cut Casey. It was not the Raptor’s guru’s best work, but more importantly, Hayes didn’t let him off the hook. It was a really good interview. I wonder what the departure of Val Meyer, VP and GM of Bell Media Toronto Radio means for the suite of TSN radio.

I watched the Celtics get destroyed by LBron last night. I thought for sure with home court they’d win. The 4th quarter was like watching the Raptors vs. LeBron. Am I supposed to feel better or worse? I was equally as frustrated.

Happy reading

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 19
  • comment-avatar

    I share your positive opinion of Bryan Hayes and would love to see him poached by Rogers to eventually replace Mcowan. There is no internal hire at the FAN that comes close. I’d be interested to know if any insider knows whether this possibility has ever been discussed.

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    Agreed with Hayes. He’s a great listen. Followed him from 640 and remember how he handled covering his dad’s slot the day after they fired Hayes Sr.
    Pre O’Neill/Maclellan his 2pm Hayes show had great interviews with David Zirin among others. He was the only host who’d do multiple sports and talk gambling and Vegas odds. He and Steph worked a great show on a silent network. 
    Pairing with Leafs Lunch and now Overdrive has worked well but his talent seems still obscured. Watch the draft day footage from this year…ugh…who were the clowns they panelled him with?

  • comment-avatar

    Thanks for the another interesting read and your thoughts. I was not aware of the loss at Bell media VP and GM , with summer fast approaching and most regular host on vacation this is a time were the up and coming talented to shine. September and early fall is when changes are made on and off air hopefully this is the case. Job loss is never easy, sad and unfortunate.

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    Big fan of Bryan Hayes as well. I would assume Rogers spent alot of money to bring Richard Deitsch on board to co host PTS to eventually take over when Bob retires ?

  • comment-avatar

    Once again, thank you for not only another good read; but for the time, effort and standard of quality that you put into your work.

  • comment-avatar
    Marcus 7 months ago

    “and god himself would not have done any better”

    I get that not everyone believes in a single supreme deity in the Judeo-Christian mode. I myself don’t believe in Zeus, but being that it is the name of a “being”, regardless of whether it’s fact or fiction, I’d still spell it with a capital initial.

    If it’s an accidental typo, so be it. But if it was an intended sideswipe at a certain belief (or beliefs), it doesn’t show well in a blog that often talks about respect and inclusion.

  • comment-avatar

    Jonah,

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    I wonder if the divide is less about the age of the opinion maker and more about the dominant preferences of the audience that they serve. For example, John Lott (The Athletic) is one of the senior members of the baseball media yet he uses sabermetrics in his coverage. Steve Buffery and Rob Longley, both younger than Lott, cover the Blue Jays for the Toronto Sun and they use more traditional stats. Perhaps the different approaches (new stats versus old stats) has more to do with the preferences of the respective audiences (The Athletic versus the Toronto Sun).

    I think another divide within media is the extent to which the media member has built relations with coaches, managers, and executives. The more daily contact a media person has with the team will, in my view, factor in the timing and the force of their criticism. For example, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins received a largely negative reception from many members of the MSM upon arrival. How much of that criticism was driven by the MSM’s good relations with Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopolous? Dwayne Casey was well-liked and may have escaped or received less criticism because of his good relations with the old guard media. In other words, the nature of the relationship (good or bad) between the team and the media is what we are witnessing and not an age-related divide. The new media, which has less contact with teams than the old guard, appears more or less critical because their perspective is complicated less by personal relationships with the team.

  • comment-avatar

    You are missing the link for the Bourne article.

  • comment-avatar

    Masai couldn’t fire himself, so he did the next predictable step. Unfortunately, as I have said forever, the Raptors have a Star problem, in that they do not have one. They have 2 very good players, and improved the bench into the deepest in the league, but still lack the alpha dog. If the past few NBA off-seasons are any indication, there will be movement, but the question is can the Raptors compete in that pool? History shows that the answer is probably not. So unless Masai gets lucky in the draft, he will most likely be the next one out the door.

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    Poker Guy 6 months ago

    Hayes was awesome from 12-2 as Leafs Lunch host, and drives the show on Overdrive. Petrillo has been a poor choice as replacement. Actually, when Gord Miller is on, it’s much better, as he takes over the show and Petrillo doesn’t say as much, which is better overall.

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    Hayes is very good and has a bright future………seems like he has been around for a long time but he is only in his mid 30’s…………Petrillo is a good broadcaster (Olympics host, etc) but is not a good radio host………..Gord Miller is very good as a co-host……..most of the ex-hockey players on Leafs Lunch (Andy Chiodo, Mike Weaver, Carlo Colaiacovo, etc) are painfully dull……….I was not a big fan of Patrick O’Sullivan but at least he wasn’t dull

  • comment-avatar
    Poker Guy 6 months ago

    POS had a very slow delivery, and would put you to sleep with his delivery

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    Hayes is probably the best host on either station, but he also has plenty of areas to improve. He is often incorrect with a lot of his sports history on the fly, but O’Neil is good at calling him on it, despite not actually knowing the correct answer himself.

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    Douglas G. 6 months ago

    Hayes is okay, but his lack of knowledge outside of hockey is obvious and he often uses needless hyperbole & exaggeration. He has potential to be very good, but has a long way to go. Maybe in another show where they’re not trying to be 20 year old frat boys, which is often the case on Overdrive. If I want mindless chatter – which I do some days – I listen to 1050, but if I want intelligent conversation it’s McCown all the way.

  • comment-avatar
    Cirroc 6 months ago

    @Mike S

    You nailed it regarding Petrillo.  I like her just fine, even as a fill in for Duthie on the panel, but LL is borderline unlistenable at times because of her.  

  • comment-avatar
    Poker Guy 6 months ago

    @Cirroc

    Not borderline
    100% unlistenable. I wish Gord was the host full time.

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    The Londoner 6 months ago

    It is interesting what has become of the Blue Jays radio broadcast. It seems a bit like a revolving door these days. Perhaps I am just being sentimental about my childhood days of listening to the ubiquitous Tom and Jerry. Once Tom retired and then passed away, the radio team would change from year to year. Now it changes from series to series.

    Obviously Mike Wilner is playing a major role now. I wonder what Roger’s motive was to make such a big deal about bringing in Ben Wagner, but not at all mentioning the increased role Wilner would play. I think Wilner became such a divisive personality from Blue Jays Talk that they sort of slid this in quietly to avoid negativity from the fans.

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    Agreed Londoner. Just posted a new story on that topic.

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    Mike ftom Etobicoke 5 months ago

    Look no further than the Tavares signing and the terrible deals the islanders have done in the last few weeks to know that Shanny has made the right move.