Thursday, July 07, 2011

Knock 'em dead, Kinger

Once in a great while, those who Kingston sports near and dear are privileged to know a broadcast talent so extraordinary he becomes part of our shared heritage.

Nineteen seventy-eight: Chris Cuthbert broadcasts football games for CFRC 101.9 during the Golden Gaels' run to the Vanier Cup and goes on to a career at TSN.

Nineteen seventy-nine: Rod Smith enrolls at Queen's to play football for the Golden Gaels and goes on to a career at TSN.

Then for a long time, nothing happened. Until about 2007. On a Saturday afternoon of no particular distinction, yours truly happened to come across the dulcet tones of Tyler King calling a Queen's hockey game on CFRC. The result of that game has been forgotten by everyone save the players and coaches. What endures is that some typical insecure angry young man comment that I made on OOLF prompted Tyler, not that he needed the help, to e-mail asking for any tips to he could use to improve as broadcaster.

There was probably little I could impart since I work in a medium blessed with a backspace key, to be honest, but that hardly matters. What matters is that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one that has enriched the person who's the older of the two by a decade more than the younger individual. You are probably acquainted with either Tyler or me personally and professionally. If you are devoted or bored enough to be checking this long-dormant site tonight you probably know this is about sending Tyler, AKA Kinger, AKA Cookie, AKA Miguel Sanchez, off well as he wings west. Monday, he'll begin what seems like a great opportunity, working for Rogers Radio as a newscaster and hockey play-by-play announcer calling the action for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

No one gets that an opportunity while still on the cool side of 25 without working so hard for it that people feel compelled to open doors, like the way then-Kingston Kimco Voyageurs owner Gregg Rosen and coach Evan Robinson, my fellow Napaneean, did in 2010 when they agreed to let Tyler set up an Internet broadcast of their playoff games, which was without precedent for the Junior A team.

It has been and will continue to be a trip to have a rinkside seat to watch Tyler work on his craft, refusing to take the easy way out on any task, even though many do while trying to gain or keep a foothold in the tough-to-crack broadcasting field.

No doubt this reads like a total tire-pumping. That is not needed. Tyler has very fully developed ego integrity. It just bears putting in words that without our association, borne from a random CFRC/Queen's/Kingston/sports connection, the past few years would not have been as fun. Knowing Kinger was a conduit for keeping somewhat in tune with the Kingston sportscape. It meant having someone to bounce lines off, someone who could always be meta when it came to having a germane sitcom reference to break out with wit and impeccable timing. It also meant having someone to down a few beers with after the seminal Saturday in November 2009 when the Big Yellow Guys took down Laval. Tyler should know that I feel fortunate to have witnessed his career changes, I am glad I knew him while my professional set-up changed for the better.

None of that is profound, I know. Hey, the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share when we're uncool. That's from the Lester Bangs character in Almost Famous. Tyler has never seen that film, no matter how many times I have recommended it.

That's okay, though, since the kid is stubborn-to-a-fault true to himself, like most people who get anywhere in this life. What draws people to Tyler is that he has taken it to heart that being in the media isn't about the events or stories you get to cover on the corporate dime. It's about trying to keep yourself fresh. It's also about considering why the stories matter to the people involved, knowing all the while that understanding will not make you rich, it will win something much more valuable — respect.

By all accounts, Tyler has learned that, lived it and loved it on all of his stops. One mark that someone is capable of bigger and better things is those who effect lasting change before they move up the ladder. Very rarely does someone get to do that in campus media or at one of her/his first jobs. A proof of how good Tyler is the influence he managed to have in Kingston over a short period of time. The aforementioned Vees had never had live play-by-play prior to his arrival. Next season, that will carry on with Allan Etmanski calling the games.

Similarly, lots of young guys have had sports shows on CFRC 101.9 over the years. Most were just the same variation on Here's What's Happening In Sports And Here's What I Think About It — basically Bleacher Report in spoken-word form. Tyler's show, Offsides, grew into much more over its three-year run (interrupted by his stint at Syracuse). Tyler broke news with respect to the Voyageurs and Kingston Frontenacs and kept Queen's Athletics on its toes. Many informed sports fans came to see it as the city's most credible source for sports news.

One hope in writing this is that someone else comes along to fill that void in Kingston before too long. Sports coverage is a niche, nowhere as big in the grand scheme as hard news, but Kingston's dedicated sports fans are not always well-served by either of the city's two old-media outlets. That's not a slam on the hard-working people employed on the editorial side at the Quebecor-owned newspaper and Corus-owned TV station. Far from it. I am just trying to be honest about what everyone working in a newsroom knows but might not say aloud: the wild world of monetized media coverage means there is precious little a mass-audience newscast or newspaper can do for sports fans who want to know more about the teams in their backyard than who won and who lost. Most allow for as much unbridled creativity now as a box factory.

With time, that will change. All it will take a few more young people such as Tyler going out there and pushing the limits until they're the mainstream. Let's hope it happens soonly.


Michael Grobe said...

Well said Neate! From the moment I met Tyler - I knew he was destined for a professional gig in sports casting. He's going to move his way up to the top of the heap someday.

He's always been a great worker and will do well.

Superfun Happy Slide said...

Well, I almost burst into tears.

Super Fun