Is the Media Cheering for a Blue Jays Demise?

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There is someone I know in the media circles who was hoping the Blue Jays will do terribly in 2016. The basis for his statement is the installment of Mark Shapiro as Team President and later on Ross Clark as General Manager. He believed the two would tear down the work of Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos and start over from scratch. Plus he is worried that the Blue Jays would become “Americanized” whatever the hell that means. As ridiculous as his comments are, he is not a lone wolf.

After a slow start to the month of September, the Blue Jays have rebounded during their west coast road trip and have held on to one of the two wild card spots in the American League. While Blue Jays fans are still behind the team, there is a faction who like nothing better to see the team crash to the ground. And it is often the media that is leading the charge. This is not like tanking for the entire season in order to secure the first overall pick, which by the way I still think is a ridiculous way of improving a team. But the media could care less about the Blue Jays. They would rather see a struggling Yankees team than a successful team based in a Canadian city.

Just about every website, newspaper, radio, or television program is hosted by someone who is critical of the Blue Jays. That’s not to say criticism is not welcomed but I would expect them to address hitters who are not driving in runs and a bullpen that can’t hold leads late in the game. I don’t read or hear that coming from the media. When the Blue Jays were winning division titles and world series championships in the early 1990’s, there was so much negative attack on Manager Cito Gaston. Despite being black, Gaston got ridiculed regularly by sports reporters made up of mostly white men. This kind of hate would draw ire by others in the industry. But Gaston must have been a conservative Republican because there was no such resentment towards the media.

There are the usual suspects like Mark Spector and Marty York. To their credit, they don’t hide the fact that they hate Toronto no matter which team it is. To them, Drake and Mike Myers are probably considered persona non grata. Then there’s the rest of Toronto media. They are often left-leaning, and despises competition of any kind: commerce, education, health care, etc. But especially in sports where in their world there is no winners and losers. And don’t get me started on fighting in hockey. To top it off, Canada’s major league baseball team is mostly made up of Americans. Even if all of them plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming US Presidential Election in November, their association with a country that has cops shoot supposedly unarmed black people puts them on the enemies list.

It is rather disgusting to see and hear the Blue Jays continually being put down by these so-called journalists. But as I have mention before a number of times, there are people who blindly accept everything in the media as fact. By the time the truth is revealed, the damage is already done. I don’t expect them to change anytime soon. They think bad news sells but I also believe fans today will not buy it. We will see how the rest of the season goes. Chances are the media won’t like what they see, the Blue Jays making a deep playoff run.

Also see:

The Blue Jays are Doing Well, So Why All the Panic?
Rooting Against Someone is Gutless… and the Bat Flip Heard Around the World
Nobody is Watching Sports Channels

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Nobody is Watching Sports Channels

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Nobody is Watching Sports Channels
It was a sad time in Canadian broadcasting last week when about 380 people at Bell Media outlets lost their jobs. These moves are devastating not just for those affected by the cuts but the overall quality of radio and television programming. While some are blaming the latest layoffs to corporate restructuring, I have another theory that is highly more accurate.

For the purpose of this forum, I’m focusing on Bell Media’s only sports property, TSN. Contrary to popular belief, the real reason the powers that be made these cuts is because of a decline in viewership. And the reason there is a decline in viewership is because there is hardly any sports on TSN. You see, there was a time when TSN (or The Sports Network) used to be the home of everything sports. And what I mean by sports is talking about the struggles of the Maple Leafs, the success of the Kansas City Royals, and whether Stephen Curry can duplicate his MVP season. Not anymore. In its place are stories about racism, violence, and lifestyle choices. They may involve athletes, coaches, and other sports figures but it has nothing to do with sports. Even on issues like drugs, gambling, and concussions, there is a sense people want to point the finger at the game rather than chalking it up to the actions of the individual. For example, if a hockey player gets knocked down with an open ice hit, the focus will be on the player being allowed to deliver that hit instead of the other player putting himself in a vulnerable position.

For the last number of years, channels like TSN and Sportsnet, and their American counterparts ESPN and FOX Sports, have shifted their focus more towards social issues rather than sports. There are a number of broadcast executives who bought into a false impression that putting on this kind of content will result in an increase in viewers. What it actually did was turn off the true sports fan and made them go elsewhere for their fix. Why do you think Off the Record is now off the air? For the amount of money subscribers are paying to get these channels, many believe it is no longer worth it and have decided to pull the plug on cable.

While Off the Record is gone, shows like The Reporters continue to avoid the axe. It has done nothing to promote sports and too much focus is on the problems going on in our society. Prime Time Sports is another show that has long passed its shelf life. That fact that there is little stuff about sports on these shows should be sufficient grounds to terminate them. You could say Don Cherry does the same on Coach’s Corner. But I would argue that Grapes brings these issues up to respond to the critics while staying true to the subject of hockey.

The decline in television viewing is everywhere whether it is news, sports, business, or entertainment. The media has become a cesspool of liberal junk. You don’t have to listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch FOX News to understand what I am talking about. If we continue to see more of this on TSN or Sportsnet, we will continue to see more people in broadcasting out of work. But as our current Prime Minister would say, it’s 2015, right?

UPDATE (April 28th, 2017):

ESPN have laid off 100 people. This time, many who have been shown the door are reporters and hosts. The announcement comes as the network was about to host the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s been almost two years since I wrote this piece but it seems it’s been only recently that people are starting to realize the real reason there has been a decline in the network’s ratings.

Here’s link to a piece where it pretty much echoes what I have said in this article:
‘SportsCenter’ anchor agrees politics is hurting ESPN.

There are some, however, who are still in denial. Here are just a couple of them:
Conservative Media Is Wrong: Cord Cutting – Not Politics – Led to the Massive Layoffs at ESPN
No, ESPN’s Layoffs Aren’t A Result Of Its ‘Politicization’ Of Sports

Also see:

Sports is the Only Reason to Keep the CBC
Sports Media is Becoming Boring
People Don’t Watch Sports, Fans Do

The Blue Jays are Doing Well, So Why All the Panic?

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04 September 2014: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) watches from the dugout during the MLB regular season game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg FL.

The Blue Jays are in the hunt to take the American League East. But they are coming off a tough series at home to the New York Yankees where they won only one of the three games over the weekend. After the series concluded, the Blue Jays sent down pitchers Drew Hutchison and Aaron Loup to the minors and called up a couple of position players, Matt Hague and Ezequiel Carrera, to replace them on the roster.

The moves should not as a total surprise. Gregg Zaun has pointed this out on a number of occasions. The Blue Jays will spend the next two weeks on the road where, despite his performance in his last two starts, Hutchison has struggled. Coupled that with the number of off-days during that stretch, his spot in the rotation will not be necessary. While many experts felt the Blue Jays can go with a 4-man rotation for the time being, I don’t think any of them expected to see Hutchison sent back to Buffalo. Same goes with Loup who hasn’t been used much since the acquisitions of LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe. But at least Hutchison will be able to work out the kinks and Loup will be simply be getting in work. Hague and Carrera will provide a luxury that the Blue Jays never had all season, depth on the bench. The Blue Jays have won 15 of their last 18 games. All this should be a sign that the team is doing well as they make a run for the playoffs. But many in the media don’t see it that way.

Why on earth has there been so much emphasis on the sending down the 5th starter in the rotation, which Hutchison has become? If people are starting to sweat over this, the problems Hutchison has on the road is the least of their worries. Perhaps you don’t have to look further than the last story I wrote on Danny Valencia. There are people in Toronto who will believe anything they read. Let me take that back, they will believe anything from publications like the New York Times, Huffington Post, and ESPN, just 3 organizations that are more about politics than sport. But we’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter from these sources and people still buy them hook, line, and sinker.

It is one of those mind games that players, coaches, and managers like to get into. Now we are seeing it in sports journalism. You put that false impression into people’s heads and all of a sudden they will start believing it. Believe this: the Blue Jays will be playing past October 4th.

Also see:

Firing Exposes Incompetence… Among Fans and Media
Outsiders Strike Again
Sports Media is Becoming Boring

Sid Sexiero Should Succeed Solomon

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For regular readers of this blog, it comes as no surprise how much I despise activists who call themselves sportscasters. They could care less how well or how bad your team is doing so as long as you remember there are poor black people out there getting beaten up by police. I shouldn’t be singling that group out but they are currently the Flavour of the Month in the progressive circles. There are quite a lot of these people out there: Keith Olbermann, Bob Costas, and Bryant Gumbel just to name few. Here in Canada, there is Sid Sexeiro.

Whenever you see Sexeiro on TV, or hear him on the radio, doesn’t he sound like he is the least bit interested in talking about sports? He certainly likes to be mad as hell about everything, but so does Mel Gibson. Sexeiro’s new TV show with Tim Micallef on Sportsnet will launch on Canada Day. And if you follow the mantra of the Pension Plan Puppets, Sexeiro should be ridiculed for replacing a woman (Hazel Mae) on the supper hour sportscast. But since the two are on the same left side of the political dial, I’m guessing the PPP will bite their tongue on this one.

Sexeiro is part a long list of people in the media who have been put in a prime position on network television and does not, and will not, do what he or she is supposed to do. In this case, talk about sports. But I also believe his level of talent should not go to waste. With Evan Soloman being shown the door at the CBC, who better to take over Power and Politics on state media than Canada’s version of Olbermann? Frankly, Sexeiro will do a better job on CBC than Olbermann did at MSNBC.

This move kills two birds with one stone, we are rid of an annoying talking head on sports television and the peaceniks get someone who can articulate the corruption in the Harper government without the baggage of his predecessor. It is a win-win situation. I believe Power and Politics is where Sexeiro belongs. This is his calling.

Also see:

In Defense of George Stroumboulopoulos
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
Sports Media is Becoming Boring

 

Could Dean Blundell Be What the Doctor Ordered?

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Dean Blundell

This week marks the return of former Edge morning man Dean Blundell to Toronto radio after a 14-month hiatus. This time he will be quarterbacking the morning show on the Fan 590.

Blundell is radio’s version of Darcy Tucker, a guy who can get in your face and be a key offensive piece. He may be the guy who can liven up what is traditionally a dull media market. There will be those who will say: Dean is not a sports guy, why is he on the Fan? My response is: neither is the rest of the sports media in Toronto, so in that sense he should fit right in.

I don’t think it will be a difficult transition for Blundell from the Edge to the Fan. The two stations are geared towards a male audience and Blundell often talked about Toronto sports teams, especially the Leafs, when he was at the Edge. He often had Leafs players on his show especially the late Wade Belak. The banter between the players and Blundell made for great radio. Blundell also seems to be the only media personality, other than Don Cherry, who is willing to defend Toronto’s turf. Remember when he sent Todd Shapiro to agitate the Philadelphia Flyers when they were in Toronto during the playoffs? Can you name any current media type who had the balls to do that?

But with that being said, Blundell is on a leash. Perhaps not short but long enough for management to handle. I will guess that people will listen and watch him closely to see if he trips up again. The scrutiny Blundell will be under will be no different if he was playing for the Leafs.

Judging by the reaction to the news, it is no surprise that those who are in shock that Blundell is back on Toronto radio are the same ones who also want to sanitize hockey. I saw one article that suggests sports radio should have more women. I’ve got four words: The Fabulous Sports Babe. She was the best when she had her show in early 2000s yet these same people could not stand her. They feel sports talk should be more like “The View”? Isn’t there already one like that on TSN called “The Reporters”?

Like I’ve said before, the sports media in Toronto is boring. Someone needs to drop some ice into people’s pants. Blundell is capable of doing it. The question is, will he?

Also see:

Sports Media is Becoming Boring
In Defense of George Stroumboulopoulos
If It’s Panned, It Must be a Good Move

The Leafs Bring Out the Worst in People

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Fans Wearing Paper Bags

No professional sports team turns passionate fans into kooks like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Usually when teams lose, fans are disappointed and the media wonders what went wrong. But there is always tomorrow and you live to fight another day. That doesn’t seem to happen in Toronto where people hang on every game as if their life depended on it. No better example than last week when three so-called fans were charged for throwing jerseys on the ice. Their act is hardly considered criminal but I’d be hard-pressed to call them Leafs fans from now on. Sure there are fans in Montreal and Vancouver that riot in the streets when their team loses. But it’s kind of ironic that the most peaceful of protests creates the most stupidity.

Anyone who followed the Leafs during the Harold Ballard era knows this is not the first time the team is mired in a lengthy stretch of futility. The difference is that they didn’t have Twitter back then or forums like this one to whine and complain. Couple that with the amount of television coverage the Leafs are getting, there is more opportunity for people to do stupid stuff in public. And that is what all this “outrage” is really about. When I started out in journalism I was taught not to report on people who commit suicide. In television, we were told not to show those who run out into the field or on the ice during the game. Doing so encourages attention for those who crave it. I believe the same goes with anyone who likes to throw jerseys, crutches, or waffles (or any kind of food) on to the ice during a game. This not like a throwing a hat on to the ice to celebrate a hat trick. No one is doing it to seek their 15 minutes of fame.

There will be those who welcome this kind of response to the team’s erratic play. Let’s get a couple of things straight. First of all, as I mentioned a number of times before on this blog, this is a Leafs team that is easily pushed around and does not want to get in other player’s faces. Second, this is the type of team those in the media and rogue fans want to see: no goons or enforcers, just ones who make highlight-reel plays. That to them wins hockey games just like the Detroit Red Wings. And they claim to be “mad as hell” at the Leafs for their recent play? Please.

Look at the Canadiens. If you see how they hit, battle, and fight, you see why they are at or near the top of the Atlantic Division much to the chagrin of a majority of Habs fans that prefer skill over toughness. Marc Bergevin has been able to assemble the kind of team Brian Burke promised to put together in Toronto and the Leafs are nowhere near it. But you don’t hear Habs fans complaining about their team do you? Perhaps not publicly. Even Montrealers who are cut from the same cloth as fellow Quebecer Brian Mulroney are considered pacifists.

But back to Maple Leafs fans in Toronto. It is sad to see that there are those who want to make these nut cases into some kind of hero. They need serious mental help and not a parade in their honour. The ones who come to the Air Canada Centre wearing paper bags over their heads might as well have balaclavas covering their faces, just like the thugs at political protests claiming they are doing it for peace and justice. The one common denominator of the two: there is no aim towards a solution, only a means of getting attention and creating chaos. The Leafs’ soon-to-be 48-year Stanley Cup drought is the least of their worries. I bet you they don’t even know what a Stanley Cup is. Torontoians seem to been quite comfortable in the victim role and that has got to stop.

Also see:

Leafs Nation Needs a Housecleaning
Are You Really a Habs Fan? Or Do You Just Hate the Leafs?
Habs Fans Becoming Snobs

Everyone’s a Critic

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From baseball fans to sports writers, everyone seems to have an opinion about the lack of movement by the Toronto Blue Jays at the non-waiver trade deadline. The team was in need to fill a hole in the rotation but the Blue Jays were not in a position to make the right move. Contrary to public opinion, I, for one, don’t believe in making a trade just for the sake of it.

It kind of reminds me of an old saying: everybody is a critic. I guess I include myself in this group. But there are far too many people ranting without a cause. Most of them are in the professional ranks. Their skin is either as thin as the paper they write for, or they have anger issues, or both. They also don’t believe they have to back up what they say. It takes some knowledge of the game (or the subject) to make an argument. In Canada, especially in Toronto, people think their knowledge of hockey is superior simply because they have the name of the country on their passport.

Toronto Blue Jays analyst Gregg Zaun is one of the good ones because he knows the game of baseball and articulates it well. He has been on Alex Anthopoulos’ case since the day he took over as Blue Jays’ General Manager. But Zaun understands reality too. While he was disappointed at the failure of the Blue Jays to add a starting pitcher, he knows it takes two to tango and either the asking price was too steep or teams had no interest in talking to the Blue Jays in the first place.

Criticism is a knife that cuts both ways. ESPN’s Jason Whitlock and Stephen A. Smith found that out the hard way when they recently made some controversial comments, Whitlock and his take on Canadian basketball players and Smith on the suspension of Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice. Whitlock may have expected some brushback after saying players from Canada are not motivated to win in the NBA. But he must have thought it would not be as harsh especially from “polite” Canadians or else he would not have written it. He went on Toronto radio station the Fan 590 to clarify his remarks but fell short of a full retraction. Smith had that same feeling. He must have believed his peers, especially in the African American community, would have his back in his analysis of the domestic assault accusation against Rice. Instead, he received a lot of backlash. Smith would later apologize but ESPN decided to suspend him for a week. I would guess he will use the time to count the number of stab wounds on his back.

Then there’s Rush Limbaugh. The conservative radio talk show host is never shy when it comes to rattling people’s cages. His remarks on Donovan McNabb while McNabb was quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles drew plenty of outrage. But since then, more and more people, including blacks, have come to the realization that McNabb was indeed overrated as Limbaugh pointed out but no one seemed to come up with enough guts to give credit where credit is due.

With the internet and social media, opinions are no longer confined to the Letters to the Editor page of the local newspaper. But take their arguments with a grain of salt. It takes more than stoking the fire to sway public opinion. In the end, the truth will come out on top.

If It’s Panned, It Must be a Good Move

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What I have learned about sports media over the years is that they often don’t like the moves a team makes. And more often than not, the moves turns out to be great in the end.

Take the Buds’ decision to bring back Randy Carlyse. Some in Toronto would say it was dumb on the management’s part. I would probably agree unless of course you take in account what kind of hockey they like to see. Then you’d think the Leafs are on to something. Carlyse is the kind of coach Brendan Shanahan likes. He wants players to pull their own weight. Plus, Carlyse is perhaps the only coach who can deal with the Toronto media. I don’t think you can say the same with John Tortorella.

I believe if sports writers panned a move, it is really a good one for the organization. I have witnessed it during the Blue Jays run at back-to-back World Series titles. Pundits criticized the moves made by then GM Pat Gillick whether it was the trade for Rickey Henderson, or the signing of Jack Morris, or keeping Cito Gaston as Manager. I can bet most if not all want to take that back. A few even thought Calgary got the better of the Doug Gilmour trade to the Maple Leafs in 1991. More recently, experts felt the Raptors have given up on the season after the Rudy Gay trade. I like to hear what Masai Ujiri has to say about that.

Don’t buy into the knee-jerk reactions. Instead, save their stories and check back later in the season. Then let’s hear them tell us what they thought about the move.

Sports Media is Becoming Boring

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Part of the reason I got into radio was because of ESPN’s the Fabulous Sports Babe sports talk show. She made even the small stuff sound interesting. Some would say she was brash but that is what you want to hear. It didn’t matter if it hit a nerve, what she said was honest and it was the truth. She would make Sarah Palin sound like Mother Teresa.

When I was applying for a job at a prominent sports radio station years ago, I was told by someone in charge of programming that listeners want to hear the hosts talk about sports when they tune into their station and that I needed to brush up on that if I wanted to work there one day. So I have to ask, why aren’t sports radio stations today talking about sports? In fact, there has not been a lot of talk about sports in sports media over the last 20 years. Never has sports media (both in Canada and the United States) been so politically correct like it is now. Even PTI, where hosts once called players and coaches out and got on each other’s nerve, is now a hippie-style lovefest. Nobody wants to offend anyone, except if it’s on Twitter. And even then whoever tweeted out their hate ends up retracting it later.

Debate seems to be limited to what is comfortable. For example, there is a lot of talk about fighting in hockey but all the discussion seems to be towards the anti-pugilistic side. No one other than Don Cherry (and yours truly) publicly supports fighting in hockey but I know there are a lot more hockey fans in Canada that share that same view. Like fighting in hockey, listener/viewer/reader input also seems to be contrived, reduced to fake callers and emails written by staff. Then there’s the Toronto media making a big spectacle about equality in sports but they are the same ones who tried to run Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston out of town in the early 1990’s even during two World Series championships. The sports section of the major newspapers is easy to find, just look for the glass house.

Speaking of Toronto, when I tune to the Fan or TSN 1050 I expect to hear a lot of about Toronto sports teams. Hosts would often make a big whoop of their hometown team while slagging teams from other cities. But you don’t hear much of it. Why? Because a program from Toronto is also aired in Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver so it seems kind of pointless to focus solely on, for example, the Leafs. The show I do in Orillia takes a more local view of the sports scene. When people tune in they expect to hear news on the Barrie Colts of the OHL, Junior C hockey, high school athletics, etc. That makes my show unique compared to others.

Sports media is a niche format that caters to a specific audience. But lately there has been an effort to attract the lowest common denominator. At times there are topics on sports shows that have absolutely nothing to do with sport. Hosts seem to want to tie popular culture or political agenda to the topics being discussed. As much as I like to be aware of the social issues affecting our world today (i.e. Russia’s ban on gay propaganda during the Olympics), there are other channels for that. It kind of makes you understand why the bosses at Rogers want George Stroumboulopoulos as the new host of Hockey Night in Canada.

It is becoming such a bore to hear and watch sports shows on TV or radio. Sports media does not always have to air good news. Talking about whose struggling or playing badly and why IS sports. Tying it to the state of society isn’t. Sorry, call me Kevin O’Leary but unless it’s about wins and losses I don’t really care about how offended the natives are with the name Redskins.