Thursday, September 04, 2008

With fans and TV friends like these, there's no happy medium

Travis Snider's splendid home debut betrayed everything all that is soulless and wrong about the Rogers Blue Jays, their main TV carrier and Toronto's alleged sports fans.

It was twofold. Sportsnet, as Drunk Jays Fans pointed out, was doing an interview with an ex-Leafs hockey player and thus ignored the super-prospect's first at-bat. Secondly, the lack of a warm welcome when Snider came up was described as "shameful." (Miked Up.)

For a diehard fan, there's only so much you shrug off before you want to get your Billy Jack on: It's only a silly baseball team which hasn't been in the playoffs since I was in Grade 11, and I want you to know, that I try. When well-meaning family members and friends say that "it's only baseball" and tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent, I try. I really try. Though when I see Travis Snider ... who is so special to us we (ought to) call him 'God's gift of sunshine' ... and I think of the number of years that he's going to have to carry in his memory ... the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours... I just go BERSERK!

No one's asking for the kind of saturation coverage TSN gives to hockey players who roughly the same age as the 20-year-old Snider. However, when the best homegrown hitting prospect the Jays have developed in relevant memory comes up to bat in his home stadium for the first time, pretty please with sugar on top and you can make this a Christmas and birthday present, focus on his at-bat. Don't talk over the play by doing an interview with ex-Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, which is what happened.

Granted, the broadcasters might not have even noticed Snider was up to bat. As Mike Wilner pointed out on the radio and on his blog, he got roughly, oh, three-one thousandths of the reaction elicited when the "gameday crew" at the world's largest Rogers Video store brings out the T-shirt shooter. It was pathetic.

Perhaps the ignorance and indifference is no surprise, when you consider how little evident fanfare the Rogers-owned network dedicated to the up-and-coming star of the Rogers-owned baseball team.

As someone whom, admittedly, can zone out on baseball for hours on end, it's hard to get wrapped around what is so hard to understand. What are sports consumers in the Centre of the Universe apparently incapable of seeing with their own eyes?

Any 20-year-old who smokes a line-drive single off a 3-and-2 slider from Joe Nathan, Minnesota's lights-out closer, with two out in the ninth inning when it's his first week in the majors pretty much has the baseball world by the tail. Typically, in that situation, most hitters expect a fastball, and if they get anything else, they need a miracle in a worse way than Ricky did in that Trailer Park Boys episode when he couldn't smoke or swear in a courtroom. Experienced major-league hitters, including a few on the Jays, will swing and miss or produce a weak groundball out if Joe Nathan throws them a slider in that two-strike situation. (Not that anyone is naming names, Vernon Wells.)

That's what makes the indifference so galling, as Wilner articulated on air:
I have to say, (I'm) very disappointed in the crowd of 21 and a half thousand people that when Travis Snider came to the plate for his major-league at-bat at home -- nothing. Quiet, polite applause, no different than the applause for Lyle Overbay or Marco Scutaro ... you know what? And I mentioned to somebody before off the air and they said, 'That's what you get in this city. People just don't understand.' And I try my best not to give in to the people who say Toronto's not a baseball-savvy town and the fans don't understand baseball and you know, whatever. But that showed me something. And that was just terrible -- terrible! Everyone who was at the ballpark tonight should be ashamed of themselves for not giving Travis Snider a better welcome to the big leagues."
I can see where it's possible Wilner laid it on a bit thick. It was the Wednesday after Labour Day. The tourist crowd who make a point to come see a game or two each season are gone. Everyone there was probably on freebie tickets.

The newspaper reporters got it right and made Snider the focus of their game stories (although saying that Snider and John McDonald are in any kind of "similar situation" as hitters is more than a stretch. The only similarity between Snider and the .540-OPSin' McGlovin as hitters as that they each use a bat).

Ultimately, though, this is what you get in a market where how baseball is presented and absorbed is affected by Rogers' uninterested ownership (hat tip to Dan Rowe). When you have big corporations that don't care about the stuff they own, is it really any shocker people don't show any love to God's Gift of Sunshine?

Anywho, it's dumbfounding that Sportsnet couldn't save the softball questions for CuJo for the next half-inning. Meantime, for fans, start getting to know Travis Snider, AKA God's Gift of Sunshine. Not next summer, after he does a six-week or so turn at Syracuse Buffalo just to fine-tune his swing and cut down on his strikeouts, but now.

Going to a Jays game and not clueing in about Travis Snider is like going to a hockey game and not knowing it's played on ice. Sorry for the rant, but someone had to say it.


Andrew Bucholtz said...

Very good points, Neate. Anyone who follows the team closely certainly knows about Snider and his importance to the team's future, but the causual fans likely don't. Sportsnet should have devoted more time to explaining his role and his history, as well as following his first at-bat. Still, because this is Canada after all, there are probably just as many people if not more who would like to see an interview with the Leafs' new backup goalie (who, to be fair, was quite the hero in T.O. at one point) as a detailed explanation about a baseball rookie.

(By the way, there's some great irony in how the story you linked about the newspapers getting it right is written by Tim Wharnsby: he's usually the Leafs' beat guy for the Globe. Perhaps the print media are better adapted than the TV types to covering stuff other than hockey [/print journalist bias].)

eyebleaf said...

standing O for the rant, bra, standing O.

shit's fucked up in this town when it comes to the jays. once we make the playoffs again, that bandwagon will be full again, there's no doubt about that.

but it's sad that Snider's memory of his debut in Toronto will be a lame one, crowd response wise.

rabbi_geoff said...

Amen. Very well said.

Mike said...

Let me also join in and say great post Neate, well said! I was actually upset my landlord dropped by just as Snider was up-to-bat so I missed it, but I'd be just as up in arms as you are had I seen that sort of reaction! They did make some mention to his first game when he started down in New York, but I think that was more to point out how great it would be to play one's first game in old Yankeee stadium before they break the champagne on the new one.

Agreed though, baseball does not gets its due credit in this town - too many freebie ticket holders and drunken Toonie Tuesday hooligans ;), not enough true fans (unfortunately)

Ian H. said...

In NY, they hold Joba Chamberlain in such high regard - but in Toronto, instead of hyping their "next big player", they cut to an interview with washed-up goalie Curtis Joseph. 'Tis a shame.

Mike said...

I personally love that Chamberlain failed against the Jays in his first start simply because of that ridiculous hype! :D

But yes, wish Jays players would receive the same sort of push here, sad that they don't...