The mysterious disappearance of Paul James
Paul James is arguably one of the better TV soccer commentators in this country. He worked for The Score and most recently for GolTV and established himself as a guy with well-formed opinions and intelligent insights. But James is out of the TV business for now, spending most of his time trying to relaunch his media career while wondering how he ended up on the outside.
Most likely,we'll never know why his television career was interrupted.
James, coach of the York University women's soccer team, says he'd rather not talk about what happened other than to say he wasn't happy with the way he was treated by the digital channel when it let him go before the 2009 Major League Soccer season.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which has purchased GolTV outright, will say only that it informed the highly respected broadcaster that he wasn't part of its plans once it gained control of the channel from Insight Sports. According to MLSE broadcast director Chris Hebb, he had enough staff announcers when GolTV was acquired and James wasn't needed. Other GolTV staffers were retained, however.
But there were troubles involving James and former Toronto FC coach John Carver that may have been part of the story. The troubles go back to last season when Carver lit into a reporter for asking what he thought was a silly question at a press conference.
In his regular GolTV spot, James said that Carver was out of line and that the reporter didn't deserve that kind of treatment. End of story, at least until James was told that Carver wanted an apology.
James decided against it and left a message for Carver explaining the reasons for his decision.
``I wasn't prepared to apologize," James says. ``I hadn't said anything that I need to apologize for."
James heard nothing more until he was told his contract was not being renewed. It's possible this was all a misunderstanding and Carver's dispute with James may not have been an issue.
But, sadly, it's also possible that a coach had a hand in a media outlet's decision-making.
It certainly wouldn't be the first time. TSN announcer Dave Hodge was sacked from Toronto Argonauts broadcasts two decades ago for saying uncomplimentary things about the team's play. A Blue Jays general manager once upbraided an announcer on a team flight for on-air comments perceived to be negative.
This month, a report in the Columbus Dispatch pointed out how team management frequently gave Columbus Blue Jackets announcers directions on what they should and shouldn't say.
That may have been the latest story on team interference, but it sure won't be the last.