The end of the weekend mail, again
Well, you folks did well this week.
Good ones yesterday, some thought-provoking ones this morning.
Have fun and if you care, we’re around about 1 p.m. for the baseball and an IGBT. See some of you then.
Q: Doug, knowing your love for women's sport, what is it about our culture that refuses to embrace it. Back in my university days, writing for Western's Gazette, I fell in love with basketball watching the women's team. I've never liked soccer, but I enjoyed covering the women's squad as well.
What I find interesting is that people complain about the lack of fundamentals in men's sports. Generally, I find women's sports are more pure and based on the execution of those same fundamentals. So, if the game is there, why do we not follow?
I don't buy the whole "the media doesn't cover it." If there was a market, newspapers and TV would be all over it. So what is it? A cultural thing? Men can't bring themselves to watch women play? Is it a quality issue? Heck, if it was simply a male/female thing, women have us outnumbered, so they have the market.
Or is it because women's sport is undermined by sex? After all, the focus on women's tennis is often more on pulchritude than power strokes. Same with golf, softball, etc. The pretty girl gets the ink, but not for her on-court abilities.
Love to hear your thoughts.
Jay M, London
A: I’m going to say this flat out and take the hits:
I think there are too many small-minded people out there who can’t accept that different doesn’t mean inferior.
It galls me no end to hear people compare men and women’s sports. They aren’t the same but who cares?
I think the media drives it a bit, I do think that some women’s sports organizations pander a bit by promoting looks rather than ability and I think the general public shies away from things not force-fed to them by the mainstream media.
But people need to give women’s sports – and I talk primarily about team sports because that’s what I know best – a chance, especially at the highest level.
Isn’t sports at its very base about competition? And isn’t the best game possible one that’s between two high-quality teams regardless of gender?
An uphill fight, sure. But one worth fighting, I think.
Q: Dear Doug: Continued thanks for keeping us in touch through the dog days (dog year?). Your piece on the total disinterest in the Junior Women (5-0 as I write) points, in part, to the neglect of the major media sources to write about the Canadian national teams (and I may add, Canadians playing the game at the highest non-NBA levels). Why, then, as our preeminent proponent in said media, do you not use your bully pulpit to prod the non-blog readers into appreciating the efforts of these young Canadians? Is it, in part, because of editorial decisions? A deeper question is whether the vast majority of so-called basketball fans only care about the NBA and March Madness?
Frank B, Toronto
A: I wish I had as big a bully pulpit as you think, my friend. Truth is, I try to keep the national team programs out there as much as I can and hope others take notice and tell friends. I think they’re a significant part of what we are.
And I haven’t run into too many issues of “editorial decisions” although I have to admit it’s sometimes a hard sell because other things are happening.
Now, as to the deeper question?
I truly believe too many of us – We? You? – are, and this is cold, sheep. We follow what’s fed to us rather than strike out on our own to find areas or games or sports of interest. It’s easy that way, and I think too many people – myself included – take the easy way too often and become fans of “events” rather than “stories.”
Q: In the pantheon of those who write about sports, what is the scope/focus/responsibility of beat grunts, reporters, columnists, editors?
With the challenges facing print media, are some of those line blurring as people need to wear more hats?
One of the things I found in other news is that there used to be a time when people who covered a certain area got to know it well and were able to separate fact from fiction and substance from the trivial stuff. Now as people are expected to cover more territory they often only have a cursory understanding at best of what they are writing about (e.g. covering a business merger one day, a bill being passed the next, and a major crime the day after). All these stories can have some depth that goes beyond the who, what, when and how, to the why. Do you see this happening in sports?
Richard Y, Kincardine
A: I absolutely do and I am a prime example. I have a wee bit of history writing about baseball but to parachute me in because of staffing issues would seem to be unfair to the readers who expect – and deserve – more context and inside stuff, the kind of information that Griff or Mark Zwolinski can better provide.
The trouble is, staffs have been cut so drastically though buyouts, replaced retirements and other departures that people are being asked to do things out of their normal realm.
Thankfully – and I say this with all due modesty – we’re blessed with one of the most capable, senior staffs around and we are all quite adaptable.
And hard-working, I may add. If, for instance, I’m at a baseball game and something big breaks, I know I can reach Griff or Zorro and they’ll either take over or walk me through the things I need to know.
Same goes for someone else if they’re doing the hoops, I’m around if need be.
So I guess the short answer is, yes, it’s an issue but we deal with it as best we can because we’re good.
As for the "focus" I guess that hasn't changed much over the years. The Grunts are supposed to dig out the news and do the day-to-day stuff (they are akin to reporters) while columnists weigh in with opinion. Editors? Well, they're supposed to help guide the entire process.
Q: Hey Doug. I'm sure you heard about the Steelers James Harrison who blasted the commissioner and other respected players in Men's Journal.
As a journalist, if a NBA player comes to just you and goes on a rant like this, do you:
Get excited about such a juicy story and get it to print as soon as possible.
Get "bad cop" Feschuck to speak to this player further, so that he can print another scathing article without sacrificing your good relationship with the player and team.
Keep this to yourself, as you don't want to ruin the players rep and career, and know that the day your story is printed the player will say you took their comments out of context.
Henry D, Toronto
A: I write the story, case closed. And then write the fallout the next day or two. But, trust me, it doesn’t happen very often.
Q: Hi Doug. If you are looking for summer sporting news besides baseball, you could always try to take in some soccer. Tonight TFC takes on Real Esteli in a CCL match. And TFC is owned by the same group as the Raptors, so there might be some tie-ins there.
Here's a bit of a different question for you - 'mind' sports. What are your top three games to play for developing the mind? My top three would be Go, Chess, and Scrabble, in that order.
Brad B, Ottawa
A: I was watching and writing about the Jays getting drilled Wednesday night, missed the football fixture.
Anyway, I’m not the biggest board game guy in the world but if I had pick three to help me think and learn and stuff like that (and be entertained a bit) I’d probably go with chess, Scrabble and maybe Risk but it’d be hard to leave the various editions of Trivial Pursuit off the list so I’m going with four.
After all, I need some trivia challenges to help fill this melon of mine so I’ve got stuff to put in the blog every day.
Q: Hey Doug. With every loss the SMNT racks up (and its what, 11 in a row now?), there always seems to be an excuse; injuries, travel, fatigue, unfamiliarity, etc.
Is it not fair to say though that every national program has these problems and it’s just the nature of international competition in basketball. How "unfamiliar" is the core of the team with each other really? They've all had a few summers now to play together, not to say they should ooze chemistry but I think it’s becoming a tired excuse.
I don't want to blame the players because I think they've been great examples of the commitment that is needed to be a part of the program. The problem is simply they just are not good enough. Everyone will concede that this group is not the best group we could be sending so when does the pressure and blame start to fall on the coaches and administrators for not putting our best foot forward.
Canada Basketball wants the public to follow and support the program and have created this buffer for themselves by saying "wait until our young crop gets here." Well the young crop should be about ready to step-in and judging by the attendance at camp it doesn't look like the young guys are aching to play for the current regime. What do you think needs to change to ensure that when our SMNT hits the court, its the best reflection of our country's talent?
Nick A, Toronto
A: The blame does indeed lie with the players and those who advise them, especially the young kids.
What needs to change is a true commitment from the best young talent, guys who think – totally incorrectly – that they need to be “seen” at North American events or camps rather than play for Canada have to understand there are benefits to playing internationally.
Until that changes, they might very well be stuck in that good but not good enough rut.
This is not an issue of coaching – Red Auerbach wouldn’t have won a game at the worlds with the injury-ravaged team Canada had in Turkey – because the talent isn’t there. And it isn’t there because these kids are being told by people who have outside interests that it’s not worth it.
Well, it is. And Canada Basketball has to do a better job of showing that; they have improved by leaps and bounds but I guess they have to find a way to do more.
Q: Hi Doug. I have been following the baseball IGBT (usually after the game) and have been quite entertained.
Speaking of entertainment, I'm looking at the massive ticket sales reported yesterday for upcoming NFL games. Somehow I don't see the same passion being there when basketball resumes.
If the lockout causes lost games (let's say to Christmas) how do you think that would impact this market in both sales and just plain old interest in the team?
Kevin M, Maple
A: Oh, I don’t see that same passion for one huge reason: Too many games. NFL fans have, what, eight days to snap up tickets for? That makes them scarce in some markets and causes the kind of rush we saw this week.
On the other hand, if they missed NBA games in this market, I’d fully expect the usual number of fans to come back the minute they were able to. Sure, some might be miffed and maybe it takes a week or so to get to exactly last year’s numbers but fans will come back.
Q: Hi Doug, I appreciate coming to the page to read the daily blog material even when there isn't much NBA news going, it keeps us fiends with something to think about.
My question - Which Raptor has shown the hardest work ethic in Raptor history? (Not just putting on a game face for TV appearances, gym hours etc)
Cary G, Jasper
A: By its very nature that’s a difficult question to answer because most of the “extra” hard work comes privately and those who do it simply to get better don’t like to brag about it.
I am told, however, by people who’ve been around for the last few years that DeMar DeRozan truly does work hard and extra and would be on that list, as would Damon Stoudeamire and Alvin Williams.
Q: Hey Doug, thanks for the work you do.
Two questions, the first, is there an award for reporters that is voted on by readers?
The second, I read somewhere that the coaching staff was really high on Alabi, so much so that Colangelo may not be looking for a centre as hard as we think. Is there a high percentage chance that Alabi may be a starting centre or even one of the top 3 bigs on the Raptors?
Once again, thank you for the blog and understanding that some of us are irregulars and others are irrational.
R.A. M, Charlottetown
A: If you read it, you didn’t read it from anyone recently because the Raptors can’t have any contact with Alabi because of the month-old lockout and you also didn’t read it from anyone around the team because we all know that he’s so, so, so raw coaches were afraid he’d hurt a teammate in practice with his over-exuberance.
Starting centre? It is to laugh.
Top 3 bigs? If he is, it’s the worst summer of Bryan’s career.
Look, he’s a young, raw – extremely raw – second-round draft pick. If he’s dressed opening night and not on the inactive list, I’ll be shocked.
Q: Oh master of the blog and IGBT, and rising techo wizard, what do you make of all the letting go of people with the Lakers, and the resulting ranting? I know a few teams have been trimming payroll (the real tragedy of the lockout), but some of the Laker staff have been with them 20 or more years, and it wasn't admin people.
Scott M, Ilderton
A: No, it wasn’t administrative or support staff at all; there were people on the training and basketball staff who were let go. And while, yes, it stinks, I imagine it might have something to do with wanting an entirely new start in the post-Phil Jackson era. Sometimes a new broom does indeed sweep clean.
The HOTH benefited, though, with the hiring of director sports sciences Alex McKechnie, which is quite a coup.
Q: Greetings, have been pondering the question asked this week regarding the relative obscurity that our U19 girls toil under. I am sure anyone who has any personal connection to the team will follow their exploits to whatever degree they can and be rewarded by being witness to an extraordinary sporting accomplishment. Yet for those not so connected, the interest isn't generated to the point of demand for any and all content relating to the girls' odyssey. It is quite unfortunate that interest in a particular game, tournament, team or individual seems to be tied directly to the stage that they are performing upon. I can only imagine the media coverage if the U19's were competing at a Canadian Summer Olympics, as an example. I find it kind of sad that real drama, excitement and displays of human courage and determination gets barely noticed in our world of hundreds of TV channels, channels that for a large part feed us horrifyingly inane pap. I guess, to get to an end with this, how do you balance what you truly might want to report on versus the need to continue to feed the machine that draws the most attention?
As always thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: I guess the answer to the question is:
I have no idea.
We – I – don’t do a good enough job at all in finding compelling stories rather than simply covering the stuff everyone else does. I guess there’s a bit of a fear factor – “what if the other guy gets something?” – that pervades our industry and it’s a bit sad but it is reality.
The balance you find comes from doing stuff outside of your regular job, as time consuming as it can be, and hoping you can do it more often. Worried, of course, that you might miss something.
Q: Not sure where I was looking the other day, but came across a piece on a documentary being completed about Compton and how it has changed for the better over the years. Not knowing a thing about "less or more desirable" aspects to this or other notorious towns, I always assumed that players from Compton have had a "tough" childhood. This was my first thought about DeMar. So I guess my question is, in your opinion who were/are some Raptors that had a challenging childhood being raised in tough neighbourhoods?
Craig W, Belleville
A: I guess everything’s relative and what some might consider tough circumstances or bad neighbourhoods might have been perfectly fine in a family full of love and support regardless of the financial circumstances or number of parents involved in a kid’s upbringing.
So, to be honest, I don’t know the answer to your question. I remember a fine Mighty colleague once doing a nice piece on Eric Williams and his background, which might have been the toughest of any Raptor ever. He was from Newark and life wasn’t a bowl of cherries at all.
But as for others or those more contemporary, nothing really sticks out and most I’ve talked to only speak glowingly of their family situations.
Q: Hey Doug, you're doing a great job with this blog and keeping us entertained for the summer! Keep it up! Since your asking for mail, I'm going to give you some. I was wondering if you knew how an average NBA basketball player spends his money. It just seems like a lot of players want to head overseas to play just so that they could 'feed their families'. It just makes no sense to me how they can make millions every year and not have enough to spend without playing for a year. Thanks,
Ray F, Toronto
A: All I know about their spending habits for sure is that they don’t tend to buy expensive trinkets and shiny objects for the folks who write about them.
Seriously, though, I think the vast majority of NBAers are quite financially sensible and have been well aware that it could be a long time between paycheques. Of course, there are some well-chronicled exceptions but the sheer numbers suggest more financial prudence than not.
I also don’t think you’re going to see “a lot” of players head overseas; if 20 go, that’s about of about 450 players in the league and even with my stinky math skills, that’s a very low percentage.