April 29, 2005

Media synergy sucks

I'm fed up with media synergy.

When I first became interested in sports media, I was fascinated by the words of those who covered the events and personalities coveted by a sports-mad public. As I learned more about it, I was further impressed by the professionalism -- even the specialised knowledge and skills -- displayed by various sportswriters and broadcasters.

Foster Hewitt was perfect as the play-by-play guy, as was Jim Robson after him. Howard Cosell was a brilliant broadcaster; not much of a writer, but a great on-air guy and interviewer. I don't know their names but the guys who do the radio stuff for the Seattle Mariners are great at what they do. There are many men and women just like 'em, too, following a ton of different matches on pitches, fields, rinks and courts around the globe. I watch, read and listen to talented people like this with a joy that almost surpasses my appreciation of the athletes they cover.

What I'm subjected to sports "coverage" like Mike Toth's latest online whinge about Todd Bertuzzi, however, makes me want to take it all back.

First of all, there are just too many outlets nowadays. TSN. SportsNet. The Score. ESPN. ESPN2. The Golf Network. That's not including regional networks, individual shows on cable stations, magazines, newspapers, internet sites, club newsletters and radio shows. You can't possibly find enough people with talent to staff places like this.

And herein lies the cyclically worse danger of media synergy. Not only are growing numbers of TV hacks beaming and printing their way into our homes, but they normally get to be hacks in all the other media as well. Hence my rant to Mike Toth, perhaps the least talented blowhard on TV this side of Squire Barnes. Toth is such a lame duck his own network can't assign him to one sport. No specialty here; he's listed as "Misc."

He writes in his online column,

In the NHL this week, we've had two perfect examples. Tuesday, Todd Bertuzzi asked Commissioner Gary Bettman for permission to play again after being suspended for attacking Steve Moore. No one can blame Bertuzzi for wanting to come back. However, it's clear that he's using his superstar status to try and sway the jury. A few weeks ago, Bertuzzi was one of the celebrities who were busy shaking hands, kissing babies and shooting pucks at an outdoor charity game in Hamilton. Most of the other members of the high-priced country club, also known as the NHL Players' Association, welcomed Bertuzzi back with open arms.

But Steve Moore?

He was nowhere to be found. Personally, I would have preferred to see Bertuzzi stay at home while Moore was introduced to the cheering crowd.

Who knows?

Maybe it would have given Moore an emotional lift as he attempts to recover from his career-threatening injuries. However, because he's not a big name on the NHL scene, the majority of people couldn't care less about his hockey future. Instead, most of the focus has been on Bertuzzi.

"I think he should be reinstated," Bertuzzi's Vancouver Canuck teammate, Brendan Morrison, told The Canadian Press. "It's not to take anything away from Steve Moore. Obviously, he's suffered a lot. But to start the healing process for Todd, the best thing is to reinstate him."

And while the players have spoken, so too, have the people. Monday night, on our Sportsnetnews Power Poll, 70 per cent of our audience voted in favour of lifting Bertuzzi's suspension.

"Who cares about Steve Moore?" they seemed to be saying. "When the NHL comes back, I wanna draft Big Bert in my hockey pool!"

Mike, your comments might fly in an on-air broadcast, where your audience is half-paying attention and waiting for the next highlight package. The fact is, Mr Toth, your logic just doesn't hold water -- put it in a permanent forum like the written word, and even less-than-discerning audience members can review and pick it apart.

Todd Bertuzzi's elongated suspension doesn't do anything to heal Steve Moore from his tragic injury, nor does it give hockey any chance for positive press. Bert coming back and playing his heinie off in the world championships, and doing so with clean hockey, would have gone a long way to ease everyone's pain over this ordeal.

I have two bones to pick over this one, neither of which have been given their due just yet:

What part did Colorado coach Tony Granato play in this whole thing? I mean, what the heck was Steve Moore doing on the ice at that point in the game anyway? Everyone knew the Canucks wanted blood for Naslund's earlier injury. The game wasn't even close, and Moore was serving no purpose by being on the ice in the dying minutes. The only thing Granato could possibly gain by throwing this guy on the ice is bragging rights that he had thrown it in the face of Marc Crawford & Company. Bert's piledriver was uncalled for, but wouldn't have been possible had Granato been a gracious winner in a blowout contest.

Secondly, how much responsibility do the media need to bear in this incident? Okay, Bertuzzi shouldn't have gone after Moore the way he did. But does anyone think we'd still be talking about this if eternal nice guy Trevor Linden had swung that right hook? I highly doubt current Team Canada forward Brendan Morrison would still be suspended by now had he done the deed. Even enforcer Brad May would have been skating by now had he opened that can of neck-crack on Mr Moore.

The fact is, Bertuzzi's superstar status is the whole reason overstretched media "personalities" like Mike Toth are still harping on the story. Regular folks, the ones who are hungry for real sports news, have considered this issue dead for a long time. Perhaps the sports media could give some precious ink to, say, the London Knights? Hell, the Chilliwack Bruins!

A message to the media: Get over Bertuzzi. Get over Steve Moore. Most of all, Mike Toth, get over yourself.

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