I don’t know about you, but I felt a little underwhelmed by last night’s proceedings. It was three parts obviousness, one part tantalizing springboard, one part bullies being bullies, and once all those ingredients were gathered, nobody put anything together.
Each segment was split into a pre-recorded introduction and a live panel moderated by Bob Costas.
Here we go, out of order…
1: Searching For Diamonds in the Sports Radio Compost Pile
Panel: Mike Chris Russo (Mike and The Mad Dog), Michael Strahan (New York Giants), and Mitch Albom (Detroit Free Press)
This segment didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. Yes, radio guys have to have polar opinions to bolster ratings. Yes, there are some hosts who have gone to the “morning zoo” well too often. And yes, Mark Madden is an embarrassment to his profession, to the city of Pittsburgh, and to Hawai’ian shirts. What I took from this segment wasn’t about talk radio, though. When Michael Strahan retires from football, he’s going to have every sports network banging on his door. He’s a natural on television. They could have spent another ten minutes on this, but there wasn’t much ground to cover in the first place.
4: Pitchers Have Blogs, Utility Infielders Have Entourages
Panel: Selena Roberts (SI), John McEnroe (tennis legend and analyst), Tiki Barber (ex-NY Giant, NBC)
This panel had some interesting moments. Roberts gave the impression that money changed the relationship between jocks and journalists. She made her point by describing the hoops she had to jump through to get ten minutes with LeBron James. Meanwhile, Barber and McEnroe talked about the increasing fear athletes have of excessive scrutiny, out-of-context sound bites, and the occasional surprise hatchet job. They probably could have used another 15 minutes or so to get a little deeper.
3: The 900 lb. Gorilla Between New York and Hartford
Panel: Mike Tirico (ESPN), Dan Patrick (Sports Illustrated, syndicated radio), and Joe Buck (Fox)
This was the most useless part of the program. ESPN got real big, real fast. It’s all about the money. Fox has a tendency to go all A.D.D. with the crowd shots in baseball games. Celebrities in the Monday Night Football booth are there for the non-fans, because the diehards will watch no matter what. The panel spent a great deal of time nodding their heads in agreement, but there was no depth to the segment at all.
They started the pre-recorded portion with the original introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Ironically, most of the sports depicted in that intro aren’t seen on television anymore, unless it’s an Olympic year or that sport’s NCAA championship event. Nobody picked up on that, though.
The sports television world is converging on what I call the ESPN Triumvirate: Football, Baseball, and Basketball. Everything else gets pushed aside, allowed to bubble to the top when ratings warrant, then tossed back to make room for the next big fad. And it’s not just ESPN. The national broadcast networks, Sports Illustrated, and The Sporting News are all falling in line with Bristol, or more accurately, the principles underlying Bristol’s decisions.
They easily could have spun this segment off into another 90 minute show. They barely scratched the surface last night.
5: The Whitest Profession U Know
Panel: Michael Wilbon (Washington Post, ESPN), Cris Carter (ex-Minnesota Viking, ESPN), Jason Whitlock (Kansas City Star, foxsports.com)
Costas announced that this would be given a 90 minute show all to itself, and if this panel is involved, I’ll make damn sure to watch. All three panelists used what little time they had to make pointed, insightful comments on how the absence of color in the press box and the editor’s desk tilts how sports are covered.
2: Old Media Matter Meets New Media Antimatter
Panel: Will Leitch (deadspin.com), Buzz Bissinger (author, Friday Night Lights), Braylon Edwards (Cleveland Browns)
(Full disclosure: I’m a Deadspin commenter, and I’ve met Will in person.)
This should have been the last segment of the night, because it would have punctuated the whole show perfectly. This panel proved that Traditional Media Still Doesn’t Get It. Perhaps traditional media doesn’t want to get it.
Bissinger, frankly, made a complete ass of himself. The split second he got a turn to speak, he pulled out a folder containing a hard copy of one of Big Daddy Drew’s “Balls Deep” columns from Deadspin, and proceeded to use it as a sledgehammer. He used his time, and most of Will’s, spewing obscenity-laden generalizations about bloggers that could all be boiled down to this fallacy:
I am a Journalist, with a capital ‘J’. Therefore, the opinions I get paid for and have published are the only ones that are relevant. If you are a blogger, it doesn’t matter if your opinion is right, because you’re not a Journalist.
Bissinger managed to be even more condescending than that, saying that Deadspin was contributing to the dumbing down of society. I guess he’s fallen victim to it himself, since he never saw the irony of cussing like a sailor to decry BDD’s profane humor.
Edwards held his own under tough circumstances. His observation about the consequences of cameraphones and MySpace cut to the heart of the matter better than any of Buzz’s tirades. Mostly, though, he was just trying to stay out of Bissinger’s way.
Put simply, this was an ambush. Costas, as an employee of Time Warner and NBC, in a forum provided by HBO (a unit of Time Warner), stopped being a moderator and became a fourth panelist, mostly serving up hanging curves for Bissinger. He even trotted out the tired, old “writer/commenter” fallacy, and tried to turn it on Will, as if to suggest that he should censor his readers.
The Point That Zoomed Over Everybody’s Head (I’ll Resist the “Costas is Short” Joke)
The common thread that tied the entire evening together was really the relationship between sports media and the regular folk who read/watch/listen to it. Sports radio is in a vicious cycle of hostility that will eventually spin out of control. They still have the ability to screen their callers, though, just as newspaper editors can select the letters they publish.
Everywhere else you look, however, you see players, fans, even entire leagues making end runs around Old Media. Curt Schilling launched 38pitches.com. The NHL was the first sports league to partner with YouTube, and is using the web to reach fans without leaving the fate of the game to A.C. Nielsen. Fans of under-the-American-radar sports like cricket, lacrosse, and rugby can get their fix without a national TV contract or a season preview in SI.
Most importantly, if a fan wants their voice to be heard, they don’t have to rely on the whims of the gatekeepers who guard the radio and the newspaper. If we have something to say, we will say it. We have our own publishing platforms now. If we don’t want to start blogs of our own, we can become regular commenters on somebody else’s blog.
Do you think Bob Costas was thinking about that as Will Leitch tried to reason with a Pulitzer Prize-winning loon? I don’t know. I expected Costas to make some sort of comment about how bloggers would react. The fact that he didn’t speaks volumes about who Gets It, and who doesn’t.
Or, if you prefer, Like The Oscars, Except The Nominees Can Kick Your Ass. (Just ignore the Lady Byng and run with it, please?)
And, thanks to the NHL announcing one award per day, I have another running thread to carry for a week. I’ll move the previously announced awards below the jump.
Before I forget again, here are the statistical awards:
- Jennings Trophy (Goalies, Team Goals Against): Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings (2.18 GA/G)
- Richard Trophy (Goals): Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (65 G)
- Ross Trophy (Points): Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (65 G, 47 A, 112 Pts)
- Niklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
- Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
- Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
This is going to be really tough to call. Toews and Kane could split so many votes that Backstrom sneaks into the award as a unanimous #2. Toews has the most talent of the three, but games missed to a knee injury held his stats down. Kane led the Blackhawks and all rookies in scoring. Backstrom was strong, but there might be a bit of an “Ovechkin’s sidekick” stigma to hold him down.
Prediction: Kane. When in doubt, go with the numbers.
6-for-8. My only misses were a 4-5 and a 3-6 with the weakest division champ. Not bad, if I do say so myself.*
*: I have just screwed myself for the next round by typing that. No sense in erasing it. The karmic damage has already been done.
#2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
Prediction: Penguins in 6
Actual: Penguins in 4
I just hope the Pens weren’t lulled into a false sense of security. It won’t get any easier than this.
#4 New York Rangers vs. #5 New Jersey Devils
Prediction: Rangers in 5
Actual: Rangers in 5
I mentioned in my prediction that age may be catching up to Martin Brodeur. I thought it would be in physical terms, not get-these-damn-kids-outta-my-crease terms. The non-handshake proved it: Sean Avery got into Marty’s head. The fact that the Devils couldn’t answer with either goals or physical enforcement sealed their fate.
#3 Minnesota Wild vs. #6 Colorado Avalanche
Prediction: Avalanche in 7
Actual: Avalanche in 6
“Something tells me that the Wild’s tough-guy makeover will backfire.” Sure enough, it did in Game 4. After three overtime games and a 2-1 series lead, the Wild responded to the Avs’ 4-0 lead in Game 4 with a pugilistic tantrum, starring Derek Boogaard and Stephane Veillieux. From there, it was all downhill.
#1 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Nashville Predators
Prediction: Red Wings in 5
Actual: Red Wings in 6
Nashville developed a gift for bang-bang goal outbursts. Shame it didn’t last long after Chris Osgood took over. I just hope Canadian fans were watching those Predators home games. Sommet Center had some of the most boisterous fans in the NHL during these playoffs. (Now if they could just keep that regular season average above 14,000…)
#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Dallas Stars
Prediction: Ducks in 6
Actual: Stars in 6
Game 6, 2:00 remaining, Dallas has just taken a 3-1 lead. Randy Carlyle pulls J-S Giguere for an extra attacker. Ducks get some cycling time in the Stars’ zone, then the puck is cleared to center ice. While the Ducks are clearing the zone, Chris Pronger takes a stupid cross-checking penalty at the red line. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2007-08 Anaheim Ducks in a nutshell.
#1 Montreal Canadiens vs. #8 Boston Bruins
Prediction: Canadiens in 5
Actual: Canadiens in 7
It took everything the Bruins had to reach Game 7, but there was nothing left in the tank Monday night. Carey Price recovered from bad outings in Games 5 and 6 to post the Game 7 shutout.
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 Philadelphia Flyers
Prediction: Capitals in 7
Actual: Flyers in 7
Joffrey Lupul: Hero. Tom Poti: Goat. Gary Bettman: Off the hook for the theory that the Ovechkin-promoting fix was in.
#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Calgary Flames
Prediction: Sharks in 4
Actual: Sharks in 7
That was way harder than it needed to be for the Sharks. Nabokov’s challenge to “play like men” was pretty bold for a goalie, but it was probably the spark San Jose needed. And Ron Wilson’s “Rest JR for Game 6 so he can go off in Game 7” gambit worked far better than Mike Keenan’s tired “Ill-timed goalie change” schtick. That’s going to be an interesting locker room in Calgary next year.
November 22, 2007: Jarkko Ruutu takes two penalties for diving (which were overturned on appeal), but scores the shoot-out-winning goal for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh snaps out of an early season funk. Ottawa begins a long, slow decline.
April 9-16, 2008: Jarkko Ruutu gets some quality ice time, kills penalties, takes no penalties himself, and scores the game-winning goal in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Pittsburgh advances to the conference semifinals. Ottawa cleans out their lockers.
Gary Roberts isn’t the only Ottawa-killer on the Pens’ roster, I guess.
OK, so everybody is up in arms over Sean Avery’s latest attention-getting escapade. So what’s the big deal?
For those who didn’t see it, here’s the situation. Second period, game tied 1-1. Rangers have a 5-on-3 power play, with Vitali Vishnevski (elbowing) and Bryce Salvador (puck over glass) in the box for New Jersey. Avery, left alone in the crease while the Rangers moved the puck around the perimeter, turned his back to the play, faced Martin Brodeur, and started screaming and waving his stick in Brodeur’s face. Marty responded with a glove-handed slap to Avery’s head. Avery eventually stopped his absurd face-guarding schtick, and soon after he started paying attention to the play again, Scott Gomez set him up for a goal that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Today, the league announced an immediate rule change, giving referees the power to call an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when a player turns his back to the play to face-guard the goalie.
We don’t need a rule for this. Just let Avery, or the next pest to try this, get whacked in a vulnerable spot on the back of his body by a friendly-fire slap shot, and it won’t happen again. The referees had an option on the ice, too. Avery’s stick waving antics were clearly over his shoulders, so a high-sticking wouldn’t have been out of the question. Avery, 2 for high-sticking. Brodeur, 2 for roughing. There. Sunday’s problem solved.
Or just let Brodeur give Avery a little how’s your father the next time he’s near the crease. (What would lumberjacks like Billy Smith or Tom Barrasso have done to Avery while the ref wasn’t looking? I’m guessing that a slash to the ankles would have been a good start. Would Avery have even tried this with Ron Hextall?)
You know why Avery is so good at being an agitator? He’s mastered the art of picking his spots. He pulled this stunt during a 5-on-3, when the Devils couldn’t afford to retaliate without being out of position or taking yet another penalty. Any other situation, and there’s at least one defenseman patrolling the crease, ready to dump Avery on his ass, or worse, within seconds.
“The Sean Avery Rule”. Or, if you prefer, “The Cock Knocker Rule”. He must have the biggest shit-eating grin on his face right now. He finally went far enough to have a rule named after him.
I'm moving again.
Not in real life. Just the blog. Vox is an interesting hybrid of blog and social networking site, but for how I use it, it's neither fish nor fowl. WordPress works much better for my purposes, and it gets along with MarsEdit quite well. Sorry, 6A, but I can't wait for your API to catch up.
You can find the new Legend of Vincent Tremblay here: https://legendofvinnyt.wordpress.com/
(If that works as a link, that is. Maybe I shouldn't be posting from a Firefox 3 beta.)
This site will still be hanging around for the foreseeable future. I haven't figured out an easy way to transfer old posts yet, so I want to keep the archives intact.
It’s that time of year again. Dragging ass into work the morning after a good west coast game. Using the road games to recover those vocal cords for the next home game. Only turning off Versus long enough to turn on FSN Pittsburgh. It’s playoff time, baby!
Time to commit some predictions to a blog.
Back in February, I picked up a link to Cairo, an Explorer replacement for Windows that appeared to be heavily influenced by Mac OS X Finder. The screen mockups looked good, and I’d love to have a column browser-style file manager for Windows, so I subscribed to their feed to keep an eye on their progress.
Progress that came to a halt in March.