Saturday, November 28, 2020
Sport

Seattle Kraken & Former Toronto Blue Jays Beat Writer Geoff Baker #inthepressrow – Toronto Sports Media Blog

Seattle Kraken & Former Toronto Blue Jays Beat Writer Geoff Baker #inthepressrow – Toronto Sports Media Blog
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By TSM

Lots to talk about – in addition to Mike’s stellar article about covering the Raptors from afar.

My take away from the article, given the decision to call Tampa Bay home for right now, the pressure is on the media outlets to send down their staff. Ideal? Nope. Florida right now appears to be the Corona Capital of the USA, and outlets are cutting heads left-right, and center and if the issue of keeping players close to their family exists, I can only imagine the same rings true for media BUT, sigh, I’d say the smart and savvy media outlets find away to get people down south to cover games. Sorry. I just do. How many media members pack and head for Dunedin every year for spring training? I don’t think it has to be a 6-month assignment but …. that’s just me.

On the topic, when he coached the Raptors Sam Mitchell taught a course in how to deal with the media as an active member of the organization. He poked Stellick and Landry- had a ton of fun with Brady and Walker or whomever and was an awesome guest. So good that he’s now a member of the Toronto Raptors media team. Well, Mitchell was on with the Overdrive guys this past week. One interview restored my faith in sports radio. No, I didn’t listen live, I get the segments and shows on my podcast but it very well may have been the best interview 1050 has EVER had on the air. Furthermore, it had nothing to do with a game, nothing to do with x’s and o’s and it had everything to do with the hosts (all three of them) allowing their guest to do his thing. That’s not easy. What makes McCown special, and without question, the best in town is his ability to ask a question and then react based on the answer. Many have tried, almost all have failed. Most come in with an agenda or a list or a time limit to hit. More importantly, many a host think they are the show. Hayes, O’Neil, and McLennan knew their place and played their roles respectively. Each had thoughtful, useful input but it was 100% reactionary. No one was trying to get to a question they had prepared prior to the interview. Mitchell, was on fire, no doubt and it helped. Sam, talking golf with these three is easy and fun to listen to. That’s not an accomplishment. Allowing Sam to articulate, as only he can what it’s like right now during the Corona in GA or FLA is political. You can hear it in his voice. That’s not easy radio to do, and it is not sports. However, the hosts showed their veteran broadcast chops and not only played along, but helped get the best out of Sam. That’s great radio. Those of you at the College of Sports Media or anywhere else teaching or learning to do radio. Please use this as an example.

On the topic of great radio, Brendan Shanahan’s interview on the podcast Smartless got lots of play for his suggestion that maybe when his kids are out of the house he would try his hand at coaching (“coaches make more than team president’s” was his best line on the subject”. However, this was one of the best interviews I have heard with Shanahan. Perhaps not being interviewed about his day job and performance set him at ease, or simply being amongst friends did, however, it was a rare, unique look into a guy who is for the most part fairly guarded. The least interesting part of the whole episode to me was the coaching bit. He’s a lot like many of the people I like. He’s a guy around my age, who is family-oriented, loves what he does (ok, so not everyone I like can say the same thing about that), but he’s clearly got a big heart and is a goof like the rest of us. That insight to me is refreshing. In being so guarded we don’t get to see much of him or get to know him and this podcast shined enough of a light to have a newfound respect. You can listen to it here, by the way, the whole series is really, really good.

I am asked all the time what non-sports media podcasts do I like and listen to. I work in tech and as a result, I really like the Scott Galloway pods. I am a huge fan of his Prof G podcast and the one he does with one of my favorite people Kara Swisher called Pivot. On a recent one, they had NY Times author Maggie Haberman on to talk about what’s happening in DC right now post-election. It is best to listen to what exactly Trump is doing and why. I know- don’t talk politics, all I will say is I don’t believe her take is political as much as explaining what she believes is the motivation right now. It’s the best explanation I have heard. P.S she thinks he is going to announce he is running in 4 years.

“If Gary Bettman wants to play January 1, they will play January 1.” so said John Shannon in our conversation last week. So, no matter the rhetoric right now between the NHLPA and the NHL my money says this gets done despite more ups and downs and we have fan-less hockey sooner than we think.

When one creates a list and published it i.e. the best of, the worst of, it is done to elicit responses which of course can be charged. Steve Simmons has posted his top 50 most influential people in the Toronto Sports world over the last 50 years. The list does exactly what it was intended to do, spark debate. Let’s state the obvious, everyone is going to have an opinion given the subject matter. Much of that will stem from age and experience as that is our lense. Also the word influential is interesting as the obvious follow-up question is what does that mean? What’s obvious is a lot of work was put into it and I think it does a great job (based on Twitter reaction) sparking debate.

For me, the most glaring omission is women generally. Again the word influential is key to trying to decide which women played a larger influential role over 50 years in Toronto sports. For example, Debbie Van Kiekebelt (from Kitchener) may not be the household name these days, but she was the first Canadian sports broadcaster. and I am sure the inspiration of many who have followed. Of course, being first in itself doesn’t mean you are influential. Steve If we bucketed broadcasters, Tom, Jerry, and Joe (all beyond deserving) as one entry, I’d do the same for a few of Christine Simpson, Barb Digiulio, Hazel Mae, Rosie DiManno (I may not like but have to give props too), Mary Ormsby and of course Christie Blatchford as women who I believe who have been influential throughout their career. At the same token, while there is no doubt that winning a major USTA trophy is and was IMMENSE, does Bianca even play tennis if someone like Carling Bassett doesn’t come before her? I’m told by many that there has been a no more influential voice in women’s hockey than Fran Rider too.

I reached out to Steve for a comment on the list in general and with regards to the only one female entry, here is his response:

I definitely missed Angela James. That’s on me.
I went through about 75-80 names in detail before finalizing the list. I never thought of this as a list about men or women. Just sporting people.
I thought long about Sandra Post, Marnie McBean, Fran Rider and Stacey Allaster (sp)
All of them terrifically accomplished.
And a lot of people have asked about Don Cherry, who I considered a national figure not. Toronto figure.
I can tell you one thing having done lists like this before – people first the name they believe is missing while never asking why is this guy there or that guy there.
I’m happy with the list save for Angela James. Remember it’s about sporting influence – not necessarily about personal sporting accomplishment.

So who would I leave off? Well, this won’t be popular but I am not sure how influential Doug Gilmour (and I love-and loved him as a leaf) was, I am not sure about #34, I am not sure about Dave Keon, in terms of influence either. Just my take.. no offense to any.

I will repeat it again. I think the list demonstrates a lot of work behind it. Its primary goal in my opinion is to spark debate and it’s done that. So much of our ability to like or dislike it is based on our own experience and lens and who was influential to me. I will say this, one of the other names that should be on there is Dan Shulman. His journey, his accomplishments make him, in my opinion extremely influential. I am curious if anyone thinks Michael Landsberg deserves mention due to his influence in sick, not weak, and mental health.

I have never done this before but I am putting together a list of my favorite tech toys of the year. I started taking notes during the Corona of gadgets and online experiences that I really think are awesome so I am going to publish soon my every item for your holiday list. If you have any ideas please email me here

Finally, I had that chance to speak with Geoff Baker this week. Geoff Baker has covered some big news stories, many of which have turned into controversy in which all of them the veracity of his stories was proved.

You may recall Tim Johnson managed the Toronto Blue Jays, only to be fired for lying to the players about a Vietnam career that didn’t exist.

Carlos Delgado, Baker reported was no longer standing for God Bless America during games in Puerto Rico. The story was picked up by major USA new outlets forcing Delgado to have to address the issue with the MLB media.

The same type of attention to detail accompanied Baker when he arrived in Seattle covering the Seattle Mariners. Baker broke the story on dysfunction with the Mariners management team as part of a story involving Eric Wedge and Howard Lincoln.

Most recently Geoff was on point again as the location for a proposed NBA team was front-page news in Seattle only to get unraveled as Key Arena carried the day for an NHL arena.

As we sit on November 22nd, there is ONE media member in Seattle who has ever worked full time covering an NHL team. ONE. Baker isn’t it by the way. Ryan Clark of The Athletic is, having covered the Avalanche for the most recent two years. I talked to Geoff about his Blue Jays and Toronto Sports Media impression (he agrees with Jim Fregosi who labeled the group as not hard, but “mean”; and the upcoming challenge in Seattle with the Kraken about 8-9 months away from becoming a hockey reality.

Seattle is a unique market for the NHL. There are a ton of us here who are Canadian, Northern European, or transplants from other hockey markets. There are youth leagues and adult leagues. The market has MAJOR advantages over your typical expansion markets. However, it’s amazing to me the complete lack of media experience here right now. The entire media world is crying poor in terms of revenue and audience. Seattle is 12 months a year Seahawks. The Kraken are going to fill a huge void. Are they going to replace the Hawks? No, they will not. However, this is a massive opportunity, right now to start to develop an audience and when was the last time a media outlet had that opportunity. Games will be played soon. Those players, those games, those teams will be here in less than a year. Some of the players, coaches, etc. are going to become Kraken. There is a huge, gaping hole in actual NHL experience in this market. 710 ESPN program director comes from Boston. Is a hockey fan. Awesome. He has, to the best of my knowledge never had a full-time gig covering the NHL. Can he have an opinion? of course. He hosts a podcast right now, not even a show on his station (which is fine). One guy in the market right now. One. By the way, this isn’t on the franchise. This is on the newspapers, radio stations, and tv networks to bring in the talent to build and grow an audience. Feed the beast, grab an audience. et.

Here is my discussion with Geoff, it’s fascinating.

Jonah

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