Coming Back Very Soon…

December 2nd, 2010

It has been almost two months since my last post. Unfortunately, as many people know, life has a tendency to get in the way of things like writing a blog. Job hunting, death in the family, job hunting, being a father, job hunting, planning a fundraiser, job hunting, etc. If anyone is still reading my blog after the long hiatus, please know I appreciate you staying with me. I also know I have some work to do to regain anyone that walked away (which I can totally understand).

That said, I’ve got lots to say, and plan on doing so very soon. The Islanders have gone from bad to worse, especially off the ice, which breaks my heart. The Jets are flying high, with their biggest game of the season on Monday against the Patriots. The Derek Jeter negotiations continue on an unexpected roller coaster. And so on…but we all know these things.

Look for something new early next week. I promise! Until then, did I mention I was job hunting?

The New York Islanders: Where The Interns Are Also The Radio Broadcasters

October 8th, 2010

For the last nineteen years, I’ve gone out of my way many times to defend the New York Islanders organization. For the first five, I was paid to do so, as a member of the team’s Public Relations Department, and for the last fourteen, since my departure for a position at the NBA, as a staunch, ardent fan who always tried to maintain a tie to the place where I grew up both personally as a fan and professionally as an employee.

I was paid to defend the Fisherman jerseys (which I obviously regret). I was paid to defend the Kirk Muller deal (which I will always defend, because I still believe it was the right idea). Once I was not paid, I still chose to defend everything I believed to be correct. I backed the Lighthouse. I gave Garth Snow a shot when everyone else was more concerned that he was promoted from backup goalie to GM, and think he has done a better job than anyone cares to give him credit for. I think Scott Gordon is one hell of a good coach. I did not defend Mike Milbury’s ridiculous moves.

Those days end now.

As the Islanders, after being backed into a self-constructed corner by first failing on an annual basis to come up with a radio deal to satisfy all of their fans, and then after pulling the plug on a real radio broadcast and going the cheapo route by simulcasting last year, announce that their games will be broadcast on the Hofstra student radio station, I think it might be time to jump off the ship, whether it is sinking or not.

I am a product of college radio and support it to the fullest. I was Sports Director of WNYU my senior year there, succeeding a guy you may have heard of, Kenny Albert. The New York sports media is dotted with other alumni of this program, including C.J. Papa, Rich Ackerman and Steve Cangialosi, with many more having very successful careers behind the scenes. I know how important college radio is to students that want to get into the business, and believe they should be afforded every opportunity available. I called a my fair share of basketball games while at NYU, including one at Madison Square Garden and one at Boston Garden. I had two internships while working there. Both of these internships created relationships that still remain, and have contributed to various opportunities I’ve had in my career. Even with all of that, I could never have fathomed the concept of any of us calling NHL games while still in school. Even Kenny rode the bus in the minors for a couple of seasons before his first NHL gig.

With that said, let’s talk about the Islanders’ amazing decision to place their games on a college radio station. I’ll break it down into different areas, so that all arguments on both sides can be seen:

–Station Signal: As I alluded to earlier, the team’s broadcasts have been much maligned for many years not because of content (until last season), but because too many Islander fans couldn’t hear them due to poor signal strength. The signal that WRHU has is stronger than anything the Islanders have experienced for a long time. If this part of the decision is true, it is a major plus. However, if recent reports of actual signal strength, such as this one by the inimitable Dee Karl, are true, then this is just as bad as what they have had in the past.

–Content: The decision to simulcast last season was an atrocious one. The team has obviously realized that and is correcting the error. I assume that Chris King will be the play-by-play guy for the broadcasts, and that is something that is well deserved. Chris is the consummate pro and one of the nicest guys in the business. There is a reason the Islanders kept him around while they were doing the simulcast thing, and now he is being rewarded.

I also have no problems with students hosting the broadcast, doing intermissions, and running all of the technical operations. What better way to learn than by being doing something first hand. Some will mock this, but I will not. Sure, I am guessing there will be a technical glitch here or there, but that can happen to even an experienced engineer. Again, this is a plus.

Where this whole plan unravels for me, and I mean the WHOLE thing, is with the decision to use Hofstra students as the color analyst. This is a decision that ranks right up there with the one to simulcast. Listen – I have nothing against any of these kids. Like I said, I’ve been there. But I fail to see anything that qualifies them to be an analyst on an NHL broadcast of any sort. Most will stand up and say that they know the game, but they also should know that the role of an analyst on a radio broadcast requires a little more training than simply watching games from the stands or on TV.

Look at every analyst on every broadcast you watch. The overwhelming majority are former players or coaches, who have a knowledge of the game that is more intricate and in depth than anyone really cares to realize. I’ll always be of the opinion that a former player or coach should be in that spot, especially one that has ties to the team that fans can grab onto and relate to on a personal level. You will also find the occasional media member as the analyst. This is how Chris King originally got into the Islander broadcasting biz, how Sherry Ross became the Devils radio analyst and how Suzyn Waldman earned her way onto Yankee broadcasts. None of them played the game professionally, but all had an insight into the game that came with years of being around the game and all deserved the opportunity they got to show their stuff on the air.

Where, exactly, did any of the Hofstra students gain this knowledge? By watching the Hofstra club hockey team? What, exactly, will any of these students add to the broadcast in the analyst role? In a market that boasts radio analysts like Dave Maloney and Carl Banks, this decision deserves every bit of ridicule that it will receive. Since when did a major league team’s broadcast become a training ground instead of a place where the analyst enhanced the listening experience?

Additionally, put yourself in the press room at the Coliseum or Madison Square Garden for a minute. Look around the room, and you’ll see a plethora of seasoned radio professionals that have covered the game in some way, shape or form for more years than most of these kids are alive. Every one of them would love to have that one shot at being a broadcaster for a team and would most likely do it very inexpensively (yes, myself included). It is something that each and every one of them has dreamed of at some point in their career, and it is a slap in the face to all of them. These are some of the guys that you’ll be hearing the ridicule from as this decision becomes more and more real. Many of them have the forum already. All of them have more credibility in their pinkie toenail than all of the Hofstra kids have combined.

–Budget: Ah, yes. I forgot we were talking about the Islanders, so here is the real reason. Why pay an analyst or engineer or for airtime, when all of it can be free. This has to be the arrangement for the Islanders to even be considering this decision. Put our games on, don’t charge us, and let the kids do everything that they are dreaming about. Why pay for it when the kids can get college credit for it instead? When you think about this, it is a brilliant stroke by the Islanders. They can spin it all they want, talking about the signal strength and making their fans happy, but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line and, as we have seen with the Islanders, the cheapest route is often the one chosen. As they have proven this summer by letting go of head scout Ryan Jankowski, team legend Bryan Trottier and some other very highly qualified, highly respected people from behind the scenes that did more good for the organization than anyone will ever realize, all that matters right now is saving as many pennies along the way as possible. And I won’t even go down the team payroll path.

You would think at some point, the Islanders would try to do something big that doesn’t bring ridicule on the franchise, but at times, it feels like that they would rather go out of their way to be mocked. And this is exactly the type of decision that brings on that reaction. Why would the New York media take this team seriously when they choose to go in this direction? This market requires certain things for its sports teams to be treated the way they want, or expect, to be treated. Act like a minor league franchise and that is the coverage you will get.

Go through the teams and count the number of broadcasters working in New York that also have national roles in the business. Better yet, I’ll list them for you: Mike Breen, Marv Albert, Ian Eagle, Gus Johnson, Kenny Albert, Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti, Mike Emrick, Ron Darling, Bob Papa, Bob Wischusen…I might even be missing a couple of others. Part of being taken seriously as an organization is the image you choose to project. A large part of that is how you present yourself in your broadcasts. It is eminently clear that the Islander have no desire to be taken seriously in that domain. On the Islanders TV side, Howie Rose gave me my first real break in the business, and is a quality announcer, while his new partner Butch Goring does not need any defending, since that is exactly the kind of person that should be in that role, so there are no issues there (although the release of Billy Jaffe this summer was completely uncalled for). But on the radio side, even with the highly deserving Chris King playing a large role, this is blatantly obvious.

I can no longer defend the decisions this organization makes. This one just proves that they don’t care about anything except saving money, and that they don’t care if those decisions result in them not being taken seriously. They have taken a professional sports team broadcast and in essence are turning it into “NHL Broadcaster Idol”.

As one commenter on Chris Botta’s blog asked, what happens to the broadcasts when there is a conflict with a Hofstra basketball game? I wonder what it will feel like when they get bumped from there as they have from everywhere else, including the general consciousness of the New York sports media.

From Malakhov to Kabanov

September 22nd, 2010

The Islanders have a kid in their training camp by the name of Kirill Kabanov. The 18 year old was a third round pick of the team in this June’s Entry Draft, after he fell from his original first round projection due to questions about his off-ice personality/attitude/maturity (call it whatever you want, since a number of words work in that spot). That tumble is already seemingly justified, as today he was late for his second practice of training camp in two weeks.

It makes me think back to a Russian player that passed through the Islanders during my PR days there, that also had all of the talent in the world, but a two cent head that held back his career and kept him from being one of the best D-men of the 90s. Most Islander fans remember Vladimir Malakhov very well.

In the summer before the 1992 season, we got word that Malakhov was on the verge of being signed. One of our players (I think it was Steve Thomas, but am not totally sure) played against him in that year’s World Championships and reported back that this kid was amazing to watch, not even knowing that he was one of our draft picks. He was drafted in a time well before Russians were going early in the Draft, and Bill Torrey shrewdly picked up his rights in the tenth round of the 1989 Draft just in case the wall fell one day and Russians starting moving to the NHL en masse. That day had arrived, and Malakhov (along with Darius Kasparaitis – a different, and much better, story for a different time) joined the team in time for the 1992-93 season.

It was apparent to all everyone away right that this guy was special. He was huge, an incredible skater, could make any pass at any time, had a cannon for a shot and was even willing to drop the gloves if he had to. I’ve long felt that his skill level was arguably better than anyone in the league, including any established superstars. He was THAT good, and it just seemed like a matter of time before his name was on the Norris Trophy.

Then, we got to know him. Or should I say, we didn’t, because he had no interest in that. In fact, he had no interest in anything, it seemed. At times, that lack of interest in the world included hockey. He was lazy and aloof. On the ice, he would disappear for long stretches. I’ll never forget the night the Islanders were trailing by one late in the game, with the goalie pulled, when the other team iced the puck. As always, time is of the essence in a spot like that, but not to Vladdy. He casually took his time to touch up for the icing, despite the entire building yelling at him to hurry up and get there (the sound is actually still vivid in my mind). On the ice, that play summed up Vladdy’s entire Islander career.

Off the ice, there is one story that I’ll never forget that tells you everything you need to know about Vladimir Malakhov the person. It was January of 1995, right after the end of the lockout. All of the players were at the rink in Syosset for the first practice back (poor Bob Beers was hit in the face by a puck that night, a sight I unfortunately got to see firsthand), and I was standing just outside the locker room watching the first guys on the ice, when someone started talking behind me, trying to get my attention. He kept calling me “Chris” (I assume that he meant Chris Botta). When I didn’t respond, since my name isn’t Chris, he tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and he looked me in the eye and said “Chris, can you help me with something?” We were both with the team for multiple seasons at that point, and everyone in the room knew me by first and last name for a long time, so I was a little taken aback. He looked at me again and called me “Chris”, but before he could say another word, I stopped him. I then told him point blank “My name is not Chris. You have played here a long time and should know my name. Go find out what it is, and I’ll be more than happy to help you out.” He walked away…and never bothered to ask me for anything again during his time with the team.

During that season, right after he gave up his number 23 so that it could be retired for Bobby Nystrom, he was traded as part of the Pierre Turgeon-Kirk Muller deal (a very overlooked piece of the deal, given everyone else involved, but one reason why that trade is not nearly as bad as everyone still wants to say it was). I don’t think he even cared about the uniform number, since he was hurt at the time, as was often the case. Malakhov never broke away from that image problem after leaving Long Island. He was run out of Montreal after going skiing while out of the lineup with a knee injury. He teased every other team he played for with his talent, but never stuck for very long anywhere because he frustrated everyone he was ever around. It should have been a brilliant, maybe even Hall of Fame, career, but was sabotaged by the lack of interest by the only person who could sabotage things…Vladimir Malakhov.

And that brings me back to Kabanov. I’ve never met the kid. For all I know, the only real similarities between him and Malakhov are their homeland and the last two letters of their last names. The red flags are there, however, and the sirens are going off. Tons of talent, acknowledged by everyone who watches him play, but what looks to be a two cent head.

Either way, let’s hope the Isalnders can figure out a way to get this kid fully committed to hockey, before spending their time and money waiting for that tantalizing talent to show up on a regular basis. Otherwise, it just might be more frustration than it is worth.

Just like the career of Vladimir Malakhov.

Confessions of a Jet Fan

September 21st, 2010

Please don’t tell me these aren’t the Same Old Jets. Because they are.

I’ve been watching this team since I was a kid in the 70s. I can tell you where I was watching Richard Todd get intercepted by Bill Simpson in the Wild Card game. I can tell you where I was for the Mud Bowl. I can tell you where I was when Mark Gastineau was called for roughing the passer against Cleveland.

Any tried and true Jet fan in my age group can recite the same information. And that is why the events of this week around the Jets just smack of Same Old Jets.

After the season opening stinker against the Ravens, Jet fans were euphoric when Gang Green beat the hated Patriots on Sunday. But the pall around the team, despite the on field ups and down, continues to grow. Rex Ryan and the gang can be as positive as they want, but this morning’s arrest of Braylon Edwards for DUI is enough to club a Jet fan into submission.

Let’s look at what we have already this season, just two weeks into things…
–The Darrelle Revis holdout
–The fallout from the Jets’ behavior on “Hark Knocks”
–The preseason injury to Calvin Pace
–The Ines Sainz fiasco
–The season ending (and probably career ending) injury to Kris Jenkins
–The injury to Darrelle Revis
–The Edwards arrest

That is an awful lot of bad things to happen to one team before September has even come to a close. And it is starting to feel like that other shoe is about to drop. The big one this time.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think this team can go a long way. Pace and Revis will be back by the beginning of October, if not earlier. Santonio Holmes’ suspension has two weeks remaining. The Edwards brouhaha will blow over. I’m still going to wear my jersey on game days, and root like hell. But I’ve got that strange feeling that something bigger than all of this is still to come.

Why? Because this team just cannot make things easy. Because karma is a bitch, and many people feel Ryan has some bad karma on its way to bite him in the ass. Because where there is smoke, there is fire, and the Jets organization is billowing smoke.

Because at the end of the day, these are still the Same Old Jets.

Much Ado About Nothing

September 16th, 2010

The sports media seems to be engulfed in two New York based sports stories the last few days that are really non-stories that the media, as usual, has decided to blow completely out of proportion…

–Ines Sainz and the sexual harassment situation that isn’t. Seriously, while I don’t condone what the Jet players and coaches did, and while there is never a good excuse to behave the way they did, and while I agree that Sainz should dress much more appropriately, it has become more and more clear that this has turned into nothing more than an attention-grab by the Mexican reporter. Let’s look at the facts…Dressing in tight and/or skimpy outfits has been Sainz’s claim to fame for years. She has the body to do it, and takes full advantage. The magazine spreads, the measuring of players biceps, all of the stunts are nothing more than ploys to get attention for herself, and her entire career has been nothing more than that. However, her credibility goes right out the window as she does her media tour, when she shows up to discuss the alleged harassment in a blouse that is so low-cut and unbuttoned that it makes her tight jeans at Jet practice seem demure.

Unfortunately, this whole mess has set the “women in the locker room” argument back ten years, and is damaging the credibility of all of those hard-working women reporters that get by on hard work and knowledge, regardless of what they look like. The real shame of it, of course, is that over the last two days, Sainz has gotten more publicity than many more deserving women will get in their careers. That is where the real damage lies. And the sooner we all stop talking about this, the better off we will all be, and the sooner women working in the sports media can get their reputations back.

–Why is anyone making a big deal out of Derek Jeter faking getting hit by a pitch against Tampa Bay on Wednesday? He had the chance to take advantage of a situation, and did it. Every single ballplayer in the majors would have done the same thing given the same opportunity. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t. For those who call him a cheater, simply because he got away with something, I challenge you to defend every catcher that makes a phantom tag, or every middle infielder that turns a double play with an “in the neighborhood” touch of second base, or any other similar play. We are not talking about steroid cheating here. We are talking about something that takes place in the flow of competition, and that is simply part of the game.

If you don’t like it, too bad. This is a story that should not even need to be discussed.

Now, can we move on to more important things? I think I hear Rex Ryan cursing again.

Saving the City Game

September 13th, 2010

I was walking through the airport in Tampa this weekend and, despite college football barely being underway, I noticed the college basketball preview magazines are starting to hit the newsstands.

There was a time where college basketball ruled New York City. St. John’s has always been a part of things, but go back in the sport’s history, its national history, not just New York, and you’ll see teams like NYU and CCNY once were among the elite programs in the game. And inside the city, when those two schools got together, it would sell out Madison Square Garden. Until the last eight years or so, St. John’s was still a big-time player in the game.

Now look at the New York City college basketball landscape and what do you see? A barren wasteland.

As Steve Lavin does his part to try and get St. John’s back into everyone’s consciousness and contending in the Big East, however, the six other teams playing inside the five boroughs continue to plod along, hoping for that one big year to get them into the NCAA Tournament and onto the pages of the city newspapers. Columbia, Fordham, Manhattan, Wagner, St. Francis and LIU all struggle year in and year out to maintain any sort of identity. And while Fordham plays in a major conference (the Atlantic 10), the others are all seemingly content in their current smaller conferences – Manhattan in the MAAC, Wagner, St. Francis and LIU all in the Northeast Conference and Columbia, of course, (happily) in the Ivy League.

I had an idea, though, that it just might be time for, in a time where travel budgets for fans and schools welcome trimming and in a time where city pride remains strong.

It is time for a New York City College Basketball Championship.

Let’s get all seven city teams in the Garden for a three day tournament and crown an annual city champ. It would be done tournament style, with bragging rights going to the winner. What can possibly be bad about that?

As I thought more about the idea, the more it made sense. No hotels, no plane rides. Local games against local competition for everyone. Schedule filling contests with minimal expenses. And most importantly, a more visible recruiting tool to help all seven programs attempt to attract players. Think about it…each school would be able to guarantee recruits the chance to play in Madison Square Garden. If it is a choice between Fordham and another A-10 team, or Manhattan or another MAAC school, that could help lure a better player to play inside the city limits.

Is this a perfect plan? Of course not. But the only issues I see so far are scheduling issues (three NEC teams that already play each other might not want an extra contest against a conference foe, for example). Seven schools means one gets a bye in the first round each year, so automatically give it to the defending champ and settle that piece the easy way. Financially, all seven schools can split both the expenses and the gate with the Garden in some way that would make everyone happy. I’m guessing that part can easily be figured out. But even if the schools lose a little money along the way, the overriding gains in the big picture are worth the money.

Yeah, I’m OK with Wagner vs. Columbia in the championship game. It isn’t a marquee matchup right now, but if a tournament like this can be put together properly, any championship game would be a marquee matchup, regardless of who is playing.

Why? Because it would be putting the city back in the city game, where it belongs.

I Hate College Football

August 31st, 2010

With the start of the college football season this week, I have decided to come out and say it. You can call it heresy. You can call me stupid. You can yell that it means I am not a sports fan. Go ahead and say all of that. But read what I have to say first…

I Hate College Football!!!!

Yes, you read that right. I can’t stand it. I don’t watch it unless I have to. I could care less what school is ranked No. 1. I don’t even care who wins the Heisman Trophy. When the Draft rolls around, I couldn’t name more than a handful of potential first round picks. Did I make my feelings clear enough for you?

Now, you may ask the obvious question…Why? Why does this guy that has spent his entire career working in sports, and who was Managing Editor of NCAA.com for over two years, feel this way about one of the most popular sports in the country.

Allow me to explain…

I grew up in a part of the country where there is no major college football. There is no major college football even remotely close to Long Island. The closest schools to where I grew up are Army and Rutgers. And no self respecting Long Islander will EVER root for Rutgers. Sure, Hofstra always had a team (until they dropped it after last season), and now Stony Brook has one. But on Long Island, there was no one to root for.

I did not go to a school that had a football program. Could you imagine if NYU had a football team? “And the Violets take the field!!!” Yeah, right. Going to NYU also meant that I really was no closer to a school that would generate a rooting interest for me, either. Again, there was no one to root for.

I don’t agree with the BCS and voting for a national champion. Yeah, I know I’m just one of millions that believes that (and in the future, when the time is appropriate, I will share my tournament idea…one I came up with a long, long time ago that I have seen copied elsewhere – and I have the date stamps to prove it). Until a real national champion is crowned by earning it on the field, I don’t care. And don’t tell me the BCS winner has “earned” it, especially in years where there are other unbeaten teams. Don’t punish a school like Boise State because none of the powerhouses want to play a road game there. That is plain stupid.

There are too many bowl games. Congrats on your 6-6 year. Here is your berth in the Mediocre Bowl, where you can play another 6-6 team. Come on. Let’s stop rewarding these middle of the road teams with a paycheck. One of the arguments against a tournament is that people feel it will lessen the importance of the regular season. Well, how important can it really be if teams that finish 6-6 are being invited to a postseason game of any sort?

People like to argue that since I have never experienced big time college football, my arguments are baseless. Well, I’ve gone to a USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl. I’ve seen LSU play Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. I’ve even gone to lesser games, like Troy at Georgia Tech. And none of those games left me wanting more. I felt the same way leaving the stadium as I did when I entered it.

Is there anything I do like about it? Sure. The game day experience looks great. The cheerleaders are hot. The mascots are cool. Nothing is better than a great rivalry, and there are tons of those in college football. OK. My list is done.

I hate college football. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. Let the bashing begin.

Jets Might Have Too Many Options

August 28th, 2010

I had my first chance on Friday night to watch the 2010 Jets in personal and, unfortunately, being a big Jets fan, came away a little wary of the upcoming season.

I have been right there at the forefront this summer as one of those with the highest expectations of Gang Green. There were too many top line acquisitions brought in as supplementary pieces not to be. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, Antonio Cromartie and the rest are all perfect additions for a team that finished where the Jets did statistically in 2009. However, after watching the team last night, it dawned on me.

We can talk all we want about the Darrelle Revis holdout (and it is a huge piece of the puzzle). We can talk about the injury Calvin Pace suffered Friday (a big, but not irreplaceable piece). The defense will be fine – with a guy like Rex Ryan in charge, I think that goes without saying. The return of Kris Jenkins in the middle also will be an enormous boost. And with Pace hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Jets finally go out and bring Adalius Thomas in after resisting all summer. No, the defense is just fine.

The offense is another story, though. And that offense will only go as far as one man can take it…Mark Sanchez.

The Jets running game, like the defense, is just fine. The loss of Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca, frankly, are going to be overblown. Shonn Greene is more than fine as an every down back and, in the role of change of pace, third down back, Tomlinson will be able to keep the life in his legs and should be able to stay healthy more than he did in San Diego. The addition of Santonio Holmes after the fifth game of the season will be a boon to the receiving corps. The loss of Faneca might take a while to get used to, but whether it is Matt Slauson or Vladimir Ducasse in that spot, having a Pro Bowler on each side of him will make that transition a whole lot easier.

And that brings us to Sanchez.

I’m on the bandwagon. I am a believer in him. I think he is going to be a star. However, what I saw last night makes me question whether it will be this year or next, or the one after that, before he is. It won’t be that noticeable on first and second down. With that running game, when he throws on that down, it won’t be “expected”, so teams won’t be able to cheat. On third down, however, he scares me.

Go back and watch last night’s game again. There were three third and long plays in particular that raised red flags. On all three, the Jets had what should be their third down team on the field…Jerricho Cothcery, Braylon Edwards and Holmes all at receiver, Dustin Keller at end, Tomlinson either in the backfield or split out as a receiver. Just saying that brings excitement to any Jet fans eyes – three No. 1 receivers, one of the best receiving tight ends in the league and maybe the best pass catching running back in NFL history all on the field at one time. And Sanchez killed all three plays. On the first, he was almost picked off and, if he was, it would have gone back for six. On the second, he threw way behind an open Holmes. On the third, he was picked off and it almost was returned for a TD. And on all three throws, it was Sanchez’s fault.

I’m going to throw a theory out there that is going to sound strange. Is it possible that the Jets have TOO MANY weapons on the field on third down? Hear me out for a second. It was blatantly clear throughout the game, not just on those plays, that Sanchez was always a second or two late in his decision making. I will contend that having five elite options on the field at one time is causing Sanchez to think too much, to take too long to make his decision, and then to telegraph what he is doing when he makes that decision.

Remember last season, when the Jets opted to simplify the offense with the color coded wristband for Sanchez? I am not going to suggest going to that extreme this time around. And with no Holmes for the first four games, it might give Sanchez some time to get accustomed to four options first, before going to five (it remains to be seen how Brad Smith and Laveraneus Coles fit into the equation at the start of the season). But it just looked to me that he was a little overwhelmed with what he was surrounded by last night. With those five guys all in single coverage, someone is going to be open. Maybe more than one guy. But that needs to be recognized earlier than when Sanchez is seeing it. Is he looking, or trying to look, at too many options before making his decision?

I was working in the booth for the Redskins broadcast last night, and posed that question to Joe Theismann, who was the color analyst on the broadcast. He was looking at it from a broader perspective, that the Jets are confused right now about whether they are a running team or a passing team. Having LT on the field for third down can very easily cause that sort of confusion. But I think it is a little more refined than that.

I think this is a rare case of too many options and not enough time for a young quarterback to figure out what to do. And now, there might not be enough time for the Jets to figure out how to adjust that before the season starts.

Let The Bloggers In!

August 26th, 2010

There is much ado about a recent blog entry in the Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy blog written by the blog’s major domo himself, Greg Wyshynski titled “NHL Teams Want Bloggers Banned From Visitors’ Locker Rooms”.

I don’t really have to tell anyone what the entry is about, of course. The title speaks for itself.

As someone who has been on both sides of the credential equation (albeit on the PR side at a time when most people were first learning about what the internet was, let alone blogging), I find it stupid that at this point in time, the question as to whether bloggers should be credentialed media still even exists.

The answer is a resounding YES! Of course, bloggers should be credentialed. There is an enormous caveat to that rule, of course, which I will talk about later. But the bottom line in all of this is that blogs have become an intricate part of the media game in the 21st century. It is that simple, and any organization that is ignoring that fact is being beyond short-sighted. Simply put, they being ignorant.

It pains me to say it, but the realization that the newspaper industry is dying a slow death is being ignored by those who choose to look at the media as simply print, TV and radio. More and more, the emphasis by print media outlets is being placed on their online business. It is not a coincidence that most beat writers and columnists at newspapers contribute more via blog than through print editions. But these writers are only a part of the internet community and, in some cases, are overshadowed by bloggers with just as much, if not more, access to players, coaches and other important sources.

I point everyone in the direction of islanderspointblank.com, run by former Islanders PR honcho Chris Botta. Chris spent twenty years in the Islander organization and, on his departure from the team, started what might be the most in depth team blog on any sport on the internet. While the team sponsored the blog at its outset, it is no longer involved, and Chris now splits his time between this blog and his time with AOL Fan House. However, when it comes to getting news about the Islanders, that is the place any Islander fan goes. Not to Newsday, with its $1 cover price and paid subscription-only internet access (no offense to my many friends at Newsday, but I’m not paying anything to read stories that I can get elsewhere for free). Of course, Chris, while at the Islanders, was also at the forefront of credentialing bloggers, as the organization created the ground breaking “Blog Box”, allowing bloggers a certain level of access not found elsewhere at the time.

That blog is just one example of how a blog, when done right, is more than worthy of placement on the same level of the traditional media outlets. And there are dozens and dozens of examples out there that are just as good. Most don’t break stories, but all are written by people that work just as hard and care a million times more than the writers assigned by some newspapers.

In the blog entry, Wyshynski names two franchises that are at the forefront of the campaign against bloggers. On the surface, it would seem surprising that the two organizations named, the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers, are as disparate as they are. But take a closer look for a minute and it makes sense. The Rangers epitomize franchises that carry an elitist attitude. Every newspaper in the New York metropolitan area assigns a beat writer to them, unlike the Islanders and Devils, which are each largely ignored by at least one area paper. To them, covering the team is a privilege that has to be earned. It doesn’t matter that there are sterling blogs out there like Blueshirt Banter that post more creative articles more often than the papers. As for the Oilers, they are the only game in town, which will cause an organization to believe it can afford to pick and choose who covers them, since said coverage will have no impact on ticket sales or fan adoration. Again, it is a short-sighted notion to think that way, but with no competition, it is a mindset that may never be broken.

NHL teams have enough issues with coverage these days, from minimal attention on ESPN to unending fan apathy that exists among many casual sports fans. With more and more fans getting their news through electronic means, and with blogs becoming more and more viable as news gathering sources, it is time for the sport to be the lead dog in this race, and open their eyes to the real future of journalism. Does that mean credentialing EVERY blog? Of course not. As long as anyone with a computer can write a blog, there will need to be a thorough screening process, to make sure that those being given access truly deserve it. But it is also very easy to weed out the majority of those that need to be excluded simply by reading each blog. And once a team actually opens its eyes to these blogs, they will discover a world of passionate, articulate journalists (notice I didn’t write fans) that are more than worthy of full access, and more worthy than some who already receive that treatment.

Oh yeah, did anyone notice that all of this hubbub is all over a blog entry?

You’ll Get Nothing And Like It

August 25th, 2010

Is it me, or is there a whole lot of nothing in the reporting of many of the big sports stories lately?

From LeBron James to Brett Favre to Darrelle Revis, it seems as though we get “reports” of, well, reports. Sources say this, reports say that, but at the end of the day, no one says anything. Stories are reported on day in and day out, with everyone chiming in on everything from what the ultimate decision of the player will be down to what color toothbrush was used that day and how it indicates which way said player is leaning.

And it is all becoming a waste of time.

Think back to the not too distant past, when the LeBron James saga was in full force. If you believed all of the various “insiders” and what they were saying, then LeBron changed his mind more times during the process than Spalding Smails as he approaches a snack bar. “I’m going to New York. No, I’m staying in Cleveland. No, I’m going to Miami.” And ultimately, the end of the day result was the same thing…

“You’ll get nothing and like it!”

The art of stringing along the media was performed very well by LeBron, despite his egomaniacal announcement at the end of the whole process. The art has been perfected by Brett Favre, though, who has had the media wrapped around his little finger for more off-seasons than any of us care to remember. Seriously, I think we probably knew how many times he went to the toilet each day given all of the detail we got. But these reports were all the same, and none of them told us a single thing.

The game is now underway again with the Darrelle Revis holdout. Once the two sides vowed to take the negotiations inside rather than sniping through the media, the amount of empty reports has gone through the roof. Monster sized numbers are flying around, but that is about the only thing that comes out of any of these reports. Of course, none of those details have changed from the start of the holdout, so the emptiness continues. Now, all we really have are countless conflicting reports from all over the country, some insisting that the sides are close, others saying they aren’t. Either way, no one seems to really know what is going on.

Most of us are not privileged enough to follow these stories from the inside, and rely on our brethren in the media for the updates. We then turn around, share those reports, post them on Twitter and Facebook, tell our friends, and spread around all of the different empty reports. And at the end of the day, we are all telling each other the same thing, despite thinking we are not.

Problem is, we are getting nothing, but don’t like it one bit.