Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email

 

Good morning sports media fans. My suspension is over and I’m back to talk about the news of the last few weeks. As always, if there are things you think we missed please add links in the comments or email/DM me.

 

Bubblewrap

 

When the Jays shut down spring training in March 2020 Shi Davidi wrote about the dangers of not allowing media to have access to players. At the time we had no idea how long this would last. A little less than a year ago Auston Matthews caught COVID. Steve Simmons reported it and the local sports media world went into meltdown.

 

 

TSN jumped on the story and interviewed Simmons, then deleted the interview, and then re-instated it after internal debate. Other media outlets put out statements about their own policies about not naming players. Simmons called them out.

 

 

In June of last year we were still learning about the virus, and local sports media were opining daily on what was safe and unsafe as all sports leagues were trying to figure out how to salvage their 2020 seasons.

 

 

Fast forward to Spring 2021: the variants are loose in North America, there are no bubbles, fans are in the stands in some places but not others, there is a huge discrepancy in vaccination rates between Canada and the US, and we are having this whole conversation again.

 

The most notable sports media story was how people chose to react to the variant outbreak inside the Vancouver Canucks campus. The outbreak was caused by someone who was, according to reports, acting within team and provincial guidelines. In unrelated news, a restaurant owned by the same person who owns the team had to be shut down due to COVID.

 

 

While most focused exclusively on the risks to the players and their families, some found a different angle:

 

 

 

Cox’s interest in the fairness of the schedule due to a ‘rested’ Canucks team drew ire from others in the hockey world:

 

 

Damien then spent the next 24 hours sending a hundred or so quote-tweets defending himself against what he perceived to be misinterpretations of his original statement.

 

 

At the start of 2019 I wrote this piece about Damien Cox and what the future might hold for him after his exit from Sportsnet. Here’s a thing I said:

 

“I’ll confess to an unpopular opinion: I think there is room in the market for agitators like Cox. SN employs so many interchangeable hockey personalities that having someone with different opinions can be a good thing.” – some idiot on the internet

 

Since retiring as a full-time columnist at The Star for the greener pastures of Sportsnet, he has also ceded mindshare to the likes of Bruce Arthur and Dave Feschuk. His current columns rarely make an impression around the sports media water-cooler. And now without the large platform provided by Sportsnet, Cox’s agitational antics take place on a platform where he has to compete with countless others for relevance. It’s not going well in my opinion.

 

His case speaks to an interesting trend in Canadian sports media, which is mentioned directly by Eddie Lack in his tweet. If you made your name as (what Richard Deitsch calls) an “opinionist” during the legacy era, how do you hang on to a career while sports radio, studio shows, and newspapers are quickly dying off? As another example, Bob McCown claims to bring in millions in Bay Street value yet is currently on Sauga960. That’s a topic for another day.

 

Covering Canada’s Exiled Teams

 

The Raptors season is going down the tubes. Like the rest of us, the media have watched the games from their couches all year. Every game night this is apparent, as the bulk of the basketball media hangs out on twitter to comment on the action. In a normal year, they would be in the press box and wouldn’t have as much time for social media. It’s an interesting trend, one that is possibly to the benefit of fans, who get more access to media than they would otherwise.

 

The same phenomenon is happening with the Jays. For some reason, those watching the game from home feel the need to tweet something like “Semien!” during the game instead of actual analysis.

 

This raises an interesting question about how media think of the way that social media fits into their jobs. For example Dave Feshcuk (11k followers) hasn’t tweeted anything other than his own Star stories in years. His colleague Mike Wilner (77k followers) spends every Jays game breaking down plays, giving scoring updates, arguing with fans, and defending his honour:

 

 

I’m curious to know how fans of these exiled teams are experiencing the upswing in social media content from the sports media personalities they follow. The pandemic has levelled the playing field, in a way, by giving everyone the same point of vantage for the games. With the exception of Rosie Dimanno (unverified), everyone else is at home.

 

 

The news is coming out that the Jays will likely move to Buffalo in June and may not return to Toronto at all in 2021. This means that we could see more actual in-person coverage of the team if cross-border travel is permitted. While Sportsnet kept their staff in Canada, The Sun sent Rob Longley to Buffalo in 2020.

 

From my own perspective I am struggling with the amount of nearly identical Jays content both after and during the games. The dreaded “game story” has now become the default for many outlets, despite its low value for readers. With limited access to players and coaches, the human interest stories have also dried up. Statistical analysis is of interest, but since it is so early there is not a lot to say yet.

 

Questions for you: How do you like to spend your “2nd screen” time while watching the games? What kind of extra content do you look for? Which media members do an especially good job interacting with fans?

 

Quick Hits

 

Curling’s playoff bubble has been burst by COVID. It will be interesting to see how the NBA and NHL handle their playoffs in the wake of the new variants.

 

Aside from their on the field woes, the Jays are also having COVID-related issues. Here’s a nice round up by Kaitlyn McGrath about a bad week for the team.

 

Big Tech is coming for sports radio with a new “live” podcast app. We know that anyone listening via their phone has hours of podcasts at their fingertips. Live sports talk has been the exclusive domain of radio but streaming has basically caught up in terms of the required tech and bandwidth. Will people in cars choose an app over the radio dial?

 

Here’s a question: the number of sports media who are talking about gambling on social media these days is huge. People will post odds, talk up the games, and boast about winnings. If these people are being compensated by gambling outlets for this kind of content, do you think they should disclose this fact?

 

Low Hanging Fruit

 

  • The Athletic have not replaced John Lott or Andrew Stoeten. That’s a shame. Their baseball brand was much stronger a year ago.

 

  • Rick Westhead has not been seen on twitter since December 2020. We at TSM are big fans of his work, and wish him all the best.

 

  • Arash Madani still thinks Randy Ambrosie is doing a bad job:

 

 

  • The “voice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers” might be confused about what that job title entails:

 

 

  • I’m loving post-Rogers Wilner:

 

 

  • Sid may be gone but the hi-jinx lives on over at Tim & Friends. 181k followers, 62 likes. Not great.

 

 

  • Speaking of Buffalo, I wonder if their social media manager got a call from ownership after the replies to this post.

 

 

  • Jay Onrait seems like a solid dude.

 

 

 


 

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 7
  • comment-avatar

    I have been getting my Jays news from Stoeten on Substack. I subscribed for a year and it is well worth the $. Recommend it highly.

  • comment-avatar

    I’ve been around Jay a few times and can confirm he’s a really nice dude.

    I think I’m actually preferring Tim and Friends to Tim & Sid. I think he’s doing some interesting things with the show. Once again though – it’s just not a radio show. I’ll catch segments on TV but it’s just not a good listen in the car. I’ve noticed 590 has been preempting Tim for Jays talk … something you never would have seen if Bobcat was still around.

    TSM has mentioned he expects changes to 590 soon. I’m curious if at this point it makes more sense to create shows that are podcasts first. Deeper dives and more specific topics rather than a broad radio show that’s trying to appeal to everyone. Guess we’ll see.

  • comment-avatar
    Lee (Oakville)4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the post, MiB. Just a couple of quick thoughts. I noticed on Twitter that JD Bunkis describes himself as an Ambassador for Coolbet while also concurrently having a weekly guest from Coolbet on his radio program. I have never heard him disclosing this connection nor do I know if he is compensated by Coolbet. That being said it smacks of a conflict of interest on multiple levels and am surprised that Rogers would allow it to continue as without full disclosure, if at all. These types of disclosures should be mandatory to allow the audience to fully understand the connection between media members and any business connection.

    As for Damien Cox, I feel sorry for him and for his constant need for notoriety and relevance. He is now a parody of himself and yet he doesn’t have the self-awareness to recognize it.

  • comment-avatar

    Your comments on Cox brought time mind another newspaper sports reporter, Bruce Arthur. Now that he is a year into the Covid beat, can Arthur go back to sports: (1) Would he want to, and (2) would he be accepted back easily by all readers as “Canada’s favourite sportswriter” now that he has seemingly shown his displeasure and at time full throated hatred for all things conservative/the right.

  • comment-avatar

    Man, I feel for Tim. I’ve tried watching the show, and while Tim is a solid broadcaster and is taking the chance to try new things like he suggested he could now, the show has absolutely no soul. The revolving door of “friends” is a bunch of SportsNet B/C-rated lackies. Dangle…Nicholson-Smith…Bennett…etc. This show is more suited for a 10 to 12 or 1 to 4 time slot. Prime time? The Fan sure found a way to nosedive a show in a short period of time since letting go of McCown who had a stranglehold on the time slot for years.

    I’ve seen snippets of Sid on BT, and on one of his first days one of his guests was Bennett. It’s obvious he misses his old gig and buddies, and the same is true for Tim and his career-long sidekick. Giving it 3 years before they end up paired together again may be stretching it.

    Regarding Cox. He just keeps getting worse and worse. So crotchety and bitter ever since being let go by HNiC (which he had no business being a part of in the first place). F*** Bruce Arthur…he’s always been the absolute worst. Feschuk is not far behind. And now Wilner? The Star was a “must” subscription for me in years past. I absolutely refuse to ever give a dime again to that rag of a paper with that roster at its disposal.

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch3 weeks ago

    So is Wilner bitter at Rogers or does this demonstrate the muzzle Sportsnet are freed from once they leave ? I’m leaning toward the latter.
    JD Bunkiss is obviously getting paid from the betting company. Nobody gonna associate with something for free. But the Fan has always had their betting shows sponsored by the betting company du jour so it’s not a huge surprise.

  • comment-avatar
    Liberty Village Bob3 weeks ago

    @Lee (Oakville)

    sponsored content sucks. Bunkis should get called out for this but its really the station’s fault for letting it happen. In Buffalo the Bills pay for their own show on WGR and it is presented as legit radio. Total BS.