Masai, Toronto As An NBA Detterent, NHL TV Ratings, Birdcages & More It's been a crazy couple of weeks in sports media, here's a roundup.

<span class="entry-title-primary">Masai, Toronto As An NBA Detterent, NHL TV Ratings, Birdcages & More</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">It's been a crazy couple of weeks in sports media, here's a roundup.</span>


Greetings and salutations and a hat tip Happy Birthday this week to one Robert McCown.

What a crazy, crazy couple of weeks in the sports media world it has been. Lots and lots to talk about and in no order here we go:

Numerous scribes have started to utilize the rise in sports gambling in their tweets and columns. Curious, do any of them have affiliations or are being paid to do so? Many of you ask ME if they have an affiliation that begs the question, do media members have a responsibility to their audience to make such disclosures? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tim Leiweke followed Richard Peddie as the king Of MLSE. When Leiweke left, there was a lot of speculation as to who would replace him. When Michael Friisdahl assumed the crown, the general response was “Who?” and even today, many people aren’t quite sure who he is or what he does. After having Nelson Millman, Don Kollins, and then Dave Cadeau lead Sportsnet’s Fan 590 there was the same type of intrigue on who would lead the fledging radio network. With, Greg Sansone all but the de facto leader there was a lot of internal surprise at Rogers that an actual job was even posted. Well, the reaction to Dan Toman taking the role was identical to that by many when Michael Friisdahl was hired, “who”?

That’s not a knock on Toman – AT ALL. The reality is that many in the business had never heard of him.

For the record, Toman’s official title is Director of Audio Programming, Sportsnet | The Fan 590. For the past 4.5 years, he served as the Head of Content, Yahoo Sports Canada. Prior to that, he served time at the Score on the editorial side it appears for about 2.5 years and before that, he was with ABC News on the production side. All cool experiences.

One thing noticeably missing? Radio experience.

Let’s wait and see what happens over the next 4-6 months with a new leader at the helm. I am surprised that an entity like Rogers would hand the reigns to someone to run Radio without any prior experience in the medium but let’s see what happens. My concern is that they continue to evolve to digital (which I love) while not appreciating the differences between the two. Let’s see if Dan knows digital audio content if the stations FINALLY spend 2 seconds on their streams and breaks down to at the very least hour segments if they are too lazy to break down into theme segments.

Speaking of which? Did you happen to notice the other night that Buck Martinez was calling the Blue Jays game and while his voice was telling us one thing, the picture was telling yet another? Yes, “windup and the pitch” were about 5-7 seconds ahead of what we were actually seeing, in this case, the pitcher hadn’t even started his windup.

Few love the voice and work of Dan Shulman more than I do, but no matter what the execs are saying, the simulcast is total garbage. These guys can’t do a good job on TV while trying to do the same on the radio. Don’t care how amazing Vin Scully was in the past, nor how good Dan is now. It’s just not the same. I’d say it’s a passing grade when Shulman is calling the game. When he’s not? The rating is preeeety preety miserable.

Good news on the NHL TV audience side, the Leafs Canadiens tilt will only help this round and of course (sorry Toronto haters) the Leafs’ ability to march on will only see the number grow. Will these numbers and the current strength of the Blue Jays season thus far mean enough revenue to all for the return of radio on Sportsnet?

Are you old enough to rememebr this:

No fans in the game made what happened in Toronto the other night to Maple Leafs Captain John Tavares clearly affected the impact of the awful injury to Tavares.

The good: Chris Cuthbert did an INCREDIBLE job by saying so little. He let what was going on in the arena, the deafening silence define the moment. No words told the story.

The intermission panel was one of the best they’ve ever had too.

and this:


The bad: Replaying the injury 20x over and over again. I am told by many that with no fans in the arena, the crew at the CBC felt obligated to stick with the scene until Tavares was taken off the ice in that immediate family members were watching. I get it. However, showing the hit to the face from every angle was equally not cool. They did at least not repeat the scene of JT trying to get up which was truly Thiesman esque.

The ugly: I am not going to show it, but what the Toronto Sun portrayed on their cover yesterday was truly stupid. It was actually insensitive but more importantly, it was self-defeating. If the mission was to get people to talk about the Sun well, you got it. The problem is, the outlet actually has men and women who need the co-operation of MLSE to do their jobs. I’ve written countless times about the decline in paper sales and layoffs. I am pretty much the only one out there given accolades to the Sun and others at papers for stepping up their game especially during the pandemic. The Sun sports writers individually and as a group has been doing exceptional work lately. The idiot who put that on the cover just made their jobs so much harder. Access to players, management, “sources say”, all of those things come from relationships and trust. A classless cover image does the writers no favors. Use a photo of the bench, use a photo of him with this thumb up, use a photo of him being attended to, etc. The image and the tongue-in-cheek headline were just dumb.

and of course the organization does the right thing:

Let me tell you something, guys: Everybody has forgotten what happened two years ago. OK, yes, we won. But nobody cares anymore, OK? We want to win another one. That’s what you want to do. Yeah, you want to prepare yourself to win another one. Not play in the play-in game, not play in the playoffs, you want to win a championship. Everybody’s like, ‘Why don’t you get into the play-in?’ Play-in for what? We want to win a championship here, and we have to put ourselves in position.

That from Masai Ujuiri in his post-season presser. Usually, I’d say his sessions at the end of the year are tense, and he comes across as short and even angry. This year I’d say he was emotional.

I love, love, love what he says above. He’s in a results business that’s all about what have you done lately.

Stop it. Those of you thinking that I am forgetting how much he has done for the city, country, and organization. I get it. But, as he says, the goal wasn’t just to win one, it’s to win period.

“In that spirit, it’s time to pay it back. On July 1, Ujiri’s contract is up. If he wants to go – and it’s beginning to sound like he might – the city should accept with grace. It might even go so far as to encourage him to move on. He’s conquered this corner of the map of the known world. There are a lot more dragons out there.”

That from Cathal Kelly in the Globe and Mail in an interesting article.

I for one disagree with slant as presented. One can be appreciative of the work thus far, recognize the effort and the result but does one just have to shrug when he leaves and say, oh, well- good luck? I don’t think that a reasonable expectation of the fan base. I am not a basketball expert, but the team as it sits right now has a lot of questions that need answering. If he were to leave for another team (not a non-basketball role), I think doing so, leaving with the team in its current state would impact how people feel about him. Would it erase all the good? No. Do simply wish him well? Not sure that’s fair either.

What IS interesting to me is what Masai said next:

I want to know, ‘So what’s the next lift? What’s the next five years? What’s the next 10 years? What are we doing to put ourselves in the conversation with all the great teams and all the winners?’ That’s what we want to do, and that’s the conversation that I’m going to have with [ownership]. And, yes, I’m going to have asks, and I’m going to have a lot of things that I think we need to put forward here to address these things, and I think ownership is open to hear this.”So in terms of that conversation, that’s going to be had.

This has been interpreted by many reporters as Masai making demands (rightfully) from MLSE. I can live with that. In fact, I love it.

However, the inference to me, is that Masai is saying that ownership hasn’t been fully supportive, OR hasn’t been willing to do what it takes. Why do I say that? Well, I’d think that in his role, he’d be the one to tell MLSE what the next 5-10 years are. He should be telling them the plan, what he needs for the next 10 years. He omitted the word “continue” in this part of the “Speech” and it suggests to me that while he is seeking those answers (assurances) the reason he wants them is that he hasn’t had them in the past. Why do I say that? If MLSE has been fully supportive ( i believe they have) and if they are giving him everything he’s asked for( I believe they have) then why not simply say that he needs to know that he will continue to get the support to do what it takes to win over the next 5-10 years.

I know he said very complimentary things about the head honcho.

I also believe he signs an extension.

I do believe he is VERY smart and I believe his words are chosen carefully, and none without giving them a lot of thought.

I think his comments on this topic are considered and contemplated before he spoke them and they were done with a very specific purpose. It seems to a tad odd however in that everyone I hear from says he has had carte blanche along the way. The inference from his comment suggests otherwise.

What’s the most interesting take on his presser? The part about competing in Toronto and Canada.

I think it’s difficult sometimes for the league to always include us in everything because we are the one team that is based outside the U.S. I’m sure sometimes it’s a pain in the ass for them. But guess what? That is the business you have put yourself in. You have put yourself on a global platform that you have one team in the NBA that is outside the United States, and we have to be considered in every single way. There are difficult decisions that have to be made based on this. But yeah, there is a lot of work to be done, honestly. I don’t want to call out anybody here. But there is a lot of work we need to address. And, to be honest, me being back here, there is going to be a lot of things I have to address with ownership in terms of some of those things we need to really address with Toronto.

Now, compare that with this…

Toronto may not be a glamour destination like California, or home to a historic franchise like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Cubs, or native to wide swaths of the major-league populace, but let’s stop acting like the front office has to sell players on Milwaukee.

This is a great place to play, and arms don’t have to be twisted to get guys to stay once here, as evidenced by the club’s strong history in retaining players that have been prioritized. Tired whinges like the border and customs and taxes are weak crutches that are convenient when the Blue Jays are struggling, or can’t compete on the baseball front.

That from Shi Davidi here when Springer signed with the Blue Jays.

It’s a fine line for Ujiri to walk. On one hand so much work has been done to promote the benefits of Toronto and Canada as an NBA market on par with anywhere else. Winning has helped enormously with all of that. Solutions to tax questions have been wrestled with; they can get the “good cable.” As an organization the Raptors have stopped at nothing to make sure players and their families are comfortable and feel at home.

Ujiri coming out and complaining about how tough it is to win in Canada undermines almost everything that has been built to date. But pretending there’s not that “extra layer” is failing to acknowledge reality.

Now, different sports of course. However, that’s Michael Grange, also from Sportsnet on his interpretation of what Masai had to say the other day.

There it is though. Doug Smtih talks about it in his book. He discussed it with me on my podcast. It is okay to admit that being in Toronto and in Canada is a hurdle to attract top talent to come here. It is not anti-Canadian to say so. It’s s hurdle, an obstacle not a wall. It doesn’t close any doors.

I don’t know why so many people, media members included have such a hard time with this, but as Grange puts it “But pretending there’s not that “extra layer” is failing to acknowledge reality.”

Congrats to Frank Seravalli on whatever may lay ahead for him.

Similarly, I see that our friend Natasha Staniszewski is heading west to Calgary! Congrats and good luck.

Sources tell me a dark horse, or cat candidate to coach the Seattle Kraken is current Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenville.

Wayne Gretzky has a Masterclass. The topic: Teaches the Athlete’s Mindset. The content is good. Delivery? Cure for insomnia. Why he would be an “interesting” choice to be on TNT never mind the $5m price tag.

Sounds like Ray Ferraro IS going to ESPN. What does that mean for TSN radio and games? Not sure yet.

Someone a tad grumpy?

Speaking of grumpy?

It’s been busy on the Podcast side, here are a few of the last ones:

Please stay safe and healthy, do your part get vaccinated, and enjoy.

Listen on all your favorite podcasts or listening services..

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    I hope Seravalli resurfaces at ESPN or Turner. He’s more informative than Friedman, without the cloying banter and performative hair and wardrobe.

    I agree with Damo on Dangle, but he comes off as a jackass even when he’s right. Unfollowing Damo on Twitter was one of my rare moments of brilliance.

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    JD Bunkis has some kind of gambling partnership. It’s disclosed in his Twitter bio.

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    I totally agree with Stephen A. Smith on the “superfan” in the Hall of Fame.