Friday, October 31, 2008

One poke over the line, Sweet Jesus ...

The blog-reading portion of Leafland has picked up their blue-and-white pitchforks.

Long story short, the FAN 590 hockey beat reporter Howard Berger from time to time taken the occasional, often well-placed poke at Toronto proper's year-in, year-out support of a team that has been left out of every Stanley Cup final across the past 40 years. It was all good. Berger does a good job, so let him have his enthusiasms. A man's got to have his enthusiasms. Then on Thursday, when he went one poke over the line by calling Toronto Maple Leafs fans "losers" in a HockeyBuzz column.

In response, the Barilkosphere has banded together, much like the '67 Leafs did (please don't point out the irony one has to go back that far to find an example of the Leafs displaying Hemingwayesque grace under pressure). Pension Plan Puppets has posted an open letter to Leafs fans asking them to turn away from the traditional media sources in favour of the blogeteriat. The full letter, after the jump.

Dear Most Valuable Losers,

Yesterday, continuing a long-standing trend, another Toronto reporter took his shot at Leaf fans. This time it was Howard Berger calling us "losers" (screenshot: one two) but we've seem the same cookie-cutter article before from virtually everyone who covers the team.

Quite frankly, we've had enough.

As fans, we believe that those most deserving of our praise and our scorn are directly involved in the game, whether it's on the ice, in the press box or in the executive corridors. Fans don't pencil in the starting five, make bad trades, or write the headlines of the day and shouldn't be blamed (or praised) for the totals in the wins and loss column.

Hockey may be just a game but it's also a passion. If you're looking for passionate hockey coverage that offers insight and humour and you're sick of being blamed for supporting a team you're passionate about, you have a better option.

It's time to leave the media superstars behind. There's compelling, timely, wide-ranging content waiting just for you online in the Barilkosphere.

Many have found this better way of following the Leafs, but not every Leafs fan has been so lucky. Please send this message to your fellow Leaf fans via e-mail or postings on message boards and let them know that they do have a choice.

We hope you'll join us here in the Barilkosphere and become regular readers, writers, and commenters.
Go forth and click through. Referrring to Leafs fans as losers, when your livelihood rests on their insatiable hunger for information, calls to mind the scene in Almost Famous when William Miller tells off the members of Stillwater: "She was your biggest fan! And you used her! You used her and you threw her away! And if you can't see that, that's your biggest problem!"

Leafs blogs:

Most Valuable Losers Once Again (Howard Berger,


eyebleaf said...

Thanks Neate.

Duane Rollins said...

Berger, who is a good reporter, it should be noted, probably needs a new beat. A man's mind does funny things after a decade of following around the same hockey team. But, I'm not going to throw him, or any other so-called MSM reporter (he says without shame, having done so yesterday. I'm a complicated man), under the bus. I will, however, re-state a feeling that I've had for sometime--the whole "no cheering in the press box" thing has gone 10 steps too far. Yes, reporters should be balanced. Yes, beat guys should keep the Ws and Ls in perspective. But, it would do every sportswriter some good to go back and remember what it feels like to be a fan. If they remembered the passion--and the fun--and understood that they are writing about/commenting on SPORTS, then, I think, you might see an increase in readership/listeners/watchers.

But, let's also talk about the bloggers for a moment....boys and girls...if you boycott the so-called MSM, then, I ask you, where are you going to get your information from? The last I checked "Bitter Leaf Fan" (for instance) isn't in the scrum after the skate. You can only gain so much from watching the team on the tube.

So, I can't say that I can support "turning away" from traditional media. Keeping up that critical eye, sure. But, turning away? If I did that then I couldn't read Brunt. And I can't possibly understand why I would want to do that.

Duane Rollins said...

Also, it should be noted, Berger didn't call Leafs fans losers. His copy editor did.

Not that the column was overly original, but its thesis was that Leafs fans are suckers that MLSE takes for granted. That's different than calling someone a loser.

Mike Radoslav said...

I agree with Duane, MSM reporters have an edge and an insight the regular person reporting on a blog will never have...well alright unless it's run by a MSM guy, or some family member of get the picture anyways. So to that extent I agree, we still need the mainstream element.

However the Leafs thing HAS gone a bit far and wouldn't mind finding a way to punish them a little if they keep using the same tired old story. I swear if plagiarism was around almost every article written on the Leafs in...god knows how long...would come up with red flags all over it!

The Leafs aren't the only ones needing to embrace a new way of doing things, the reporters following the team should probably do the same as well!

eyebleaf said...

I don't think we're calling for a boycott of the MSM. Just Berger. The MSM provides an essential service to us, especially the bloggers, but I want my information from someone who isn't going write a post like the one he wrote yesterday. It was complete nonsense.

Bloggers aren't in the scrum, like you said. But the MSM needs to hold itself to a certain level, and Berger is failing. Big time.

And I wouldn't want to stop reading Brunt either.

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Berger's a good reporter? He must be writing somewhere that the rest of us haven't discovered.

Duane, did you read the article at all? Are you serious in saying that it's just a misunderstanding from his copy editor's headline?

You make a great point about the columnists trying to remember what it's like to be a fan and in suggesting that some of them need to just move on to another beat.

But, let's also talk about the bloggers for a moment....boys and girls...if you boycott the so-called MSM, then, I ask you, where are you going to get your information from?

What do most of them actually provide that we can't get elsewhere? The Leafs' website has the press conferences online and they sure as hell don't do any unique reporting off-camera. The quotes are the same in every article. Also, almost to a man they played hockey to about as high a level as any fan so it's not like they are offering any sort of perspective from that angle. Most of what they are offering is opinion based on the games (that we can all see on television) or on quotations from media scrums (which are available for free online).

For most teams you probably need the MSM but the Leafs might be the one team in which you don't need the level of coverage that exists.

blurr1974 said...

@ Duane - Yes, being called a sucker is far more acceptable. The bitter taste is his attempt at either sarcasme, or "hey gang, I was kidding I love ya" at the very end of his post. read it. If you read howie with any kind of regularity, you'll know he wasn't playing nice.

@ eyebleaf - i agree, MSM does not by and large need to be boycotted, but there are certain beady eyed talking heads without whom, we Leaf fans can get along just fine.

Duane Rollins said...

I don't mean to bash blogging--hell, I spend a lot of time writing here. But, there is insight one gains from being around a team. You see stuff and are told things that you simply can't get from watching on TV or reading the official sites.

I do think that Berger gets stuff from time to time, yes. But, I don't want to get into a back and forth on his abilities. We are both entitled to our opinion.

As I wrote above, I think Berger's column was unoriginal and, basically, pointless (mail it in journalism I called it). But, as someone who has been burned by an over zealous copy editor getting way too cute with the head, it is important to realize that Berger didn't likely write the headline and the word "loser" didn't appear in the body of the article. Pedantic? Maybe, but I still think it's important.

Down Goes Brown said...

Also, it should be noted, Berger didn't call Leafs fans losers. His copy editor did.

While it's true that reporters don't write their own headlines, this was a blog post -- he doesn't have a copy editor.

Berger writes his own blog post headlines. You can tell because his blog appears on multiple sites and the headline is always the same.

Pension Plan Puppets said...

Duane - You're absolutely right in that everyone has their opinion about Berger to which they are entitled.

You see stuff and are told things that you simply can't get from watching on TV or reading the official sites.

There are definitely a lot of media members that do this. In this city specifically I think about the people that cover TFC as being very good about giving readers that sort of insight.

I can't really think of a single guy whose main beat is the Leafs that does the same since Lance Hornby left the beat.

Berger's last real insight from 'the dressing room' got him sued by Sean Avery...

MF37 said...

Duane - I'm not in the scrums because I see no value in being there (I know you picked my Bitter Leaf Blog at random and thanks for the shout-out).

Can anyone cite the last time a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs said anyting particularly noteworthy? I'd go with McCabe in 2002, but Ken Campbell waited six years to report it.

Can anyone here cite the last Leaf story a reporter broke based on having access? Simmons on Sundin's career ending hip injury? Bruce Arthur reporting that Kaberle was done after the Janssen hit?

If journalists are indeed getting scoops and insights from having access, they're certainly not passing it on to me.

I can get everything that's in the daily MSM write-ups and broadcasts - injury reports, starting goalies, line combos and roster moves - from the Leafs PR dept. If I want fake trade talk, there are countless chat boards I can go to for my amusement.

Conversely, I can watch all 82 Leaf games on TV, get Ron Wilson's post-game comments unedited from the Leafs' web-site, and read half a dozen game recaps on blogs by 9 AM the next morning. Most importantly, by doing so I'm spared the countless mentions of 1967, random pot-shots for being a loyal fan, and foregoing "analysis" that's written at about a grade five level.

In it's place I usually get a couple of good laughs, one or two pieces of insight, statistical analysis that's far more advanced than Cox's inept usage of +/- and, I would argue most importantly, an opportunity to openly communicate and exchange ideas with the authors.

I can spot the added value from blogs in this equation, can you tell me where the added value from the media comes in?

Down Goes Brown said...

It's certainly true that reporters have "access" that bloggers don't. Press box, scrumns, locker rooms. And they certainly love to remind us of it.

But in Toronto, at least, that access hasn't been worth much. mf37 points out how little we've heard in the way of scoops and fresh reporting. I'd go one further and add that all we seem to get out of these reporters and their access is grudges and personal vendettas.

I don't know why Damien Cox needs to be in the locker room when he never, ever quotes anybody. But I do know he's there, because at some point Darcy Tucker stood him up and he hasn't been able to let it go since.

Seems all these scrums are good for, in Toronto at least, is giving these thin-skinned divas an excuse to get all pissy at some player who forgets to make their job easy for them.

Anonymous said...

"One poke over the line, Sweet Jesus"....
as in "One 'toke' over the line, Sweet Jesus"?
Geez Sager, you mean to tell me you're old enough to remember Brewer % Shipley!?

sager said...

Old enough to remember it being on the soundtrack of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which only came out 10 years ago!

I'm so young that I thought Don Brewer from Grand Funk Railroad was the guy in Brewer & Shipley ... I guess that was Mike Brewer?

I speak of The Simpsons episode "Homerpalooza":

"No one knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bone-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drum work of Don Brewer? Oh, man!

"For more information on Grand Funk, consult your school library!"