Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition

Seen & Heard – Weekend Edition thumbnail

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.


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.

POSTMEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19. My breaking story:

— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 19, 2020

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.

It’s been reported. It’s been verified. Why are so many members of the hockey media closing their eyes and pretending the Auston Matthews story didn’t happen.

It happened. Much like it happened to Ezekiel Elliott. And nobody ignored that story. Privacy for one and not the other?

— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 20, 2020

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.

“Athletes can’t be given a 100 per cent guarantee they won’t attract COVID-19, but can be guaranteed they’re in the safest place possible.” – Blair

“I’m guessing there are ways in which you could make it so that it was minimal or near-zero public health risk.” – Brunt

— mike in boston (@mikeinboston) June 19, 2020

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.

#Canucks release statement where they confirm that the source infection is a variant

— Harman Dayal (@harmandayal2) April 7, 2021

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

Canucks got more test results around 5: 30 pm PT/8: 30 pm ET last night and six more players had tested positive.

Obviously there’s fear of more players testing positive today.

Wishing the Canucks the best here. Hockey isn’t the priority right now.

— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 2, 2021

The question then becomes are you handicapping those playoff bound teams by forcing them to play against a VAN team that’s more rested than it otherwise would be. This is a complex problem.

— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 3, 2021

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

NEITHER DO YOU!!!! I get you get paid for stupid takes but this takes the prize.

What we do know is part of the team is sick enough to get IV treatment. That should be enough not to write that tweet.

— Eddie Lack🇸🇪🇺🇸🇨🇦 (@eddielack) April 4, 2021

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 (11ok followers) hasn’t tweeted anything other than his own Star stories in years. His colleague Mike Wilner (77ok followers) spends every Jays game breaking down plays, giving scoring updates, arguing with fans, and defending his honour:

Nice to know that @SiddallJoe ‘s take on the Vladdy stretch is the same as mine.

That means a hell of a lot more to me than any Twitter ratio could. #Bluejays

— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness) April 3, 2021

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.

Hello baseball. Globe Life Field (with sharp shadows) in Arlington. 100 % capacity

— Rosie DiManno (@RDiManno) April 5, 2021

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:

Cute, isn’t it, when you think back to a year ago and Randy Ambrosie insisting to the House of Commons standing committee on finance that he “wakes up every day thinking about the players and their families.”

And yet…

— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) April 10, 2021

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

I hope those drinking the Rock/XFL kool-aid don’t include the CFL owners/presidents/board chairs who might want to take a step back and consider seriously whether they’re going down a rabbit hole from which there is no return.

— Bob Irving (@BobIrvingCJOB) March 20, 2021

  • I’m loving post-Rogers Wilner:

#Tigers tie it up on a groundout by Victor Reyes with men at second and third.

Radio listeners are still not aware of this. #Bluejays

— Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness) March 28, 2021

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

Tim’s shoe-in of the week was never in doubt. Sabres win! 😂

— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) April 1, 2021

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

Happy birthday to our owner, Terry Pegula! 🎉

— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 27, 2021

  • Jay Onrait seems like a solid dude.

Can I introduce you to @dangotoole ? He and Bezos would get along.

— Jay Onrait (@JayOnrait) March 22, 2021

thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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