One of the things that bothers me in the playoffs is the increased attention that the playoffs get from newspapers. “What,” you ask? “Don’t you want more attention for the sport you love?” Well, of course I do. But this is the ugly underbelly of the desire for more attention.
Around this time of year, we’ll get journalists from cities all over the country who chime in with their $.02 on their home teams and the sport in general. (Please forgive me; I’m trying my best to avoid the obvious Andy Sutton “expert” joke that is begging to be used here). I’m talking about the guys who spend 11 months out of the year talking about nickel defenses and bullpen depth before they even give a passing thought to their local hockey team. But then all of the sudden, when the playoff roll around, their editors put on assignment and true hockey fans watch some hack spew negativity and/or falsities about the team they’ve watched all season.
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press picks up the Red Wings train at playoff time. Mark Whicker of the OC Register wrote a few Kings articles when it was apparent the Kings were the only team in Southern California making the playoffs. But that’s more content than Bill Plaschke, who only writes about hockey if one of the local teams gets to the Western Finals. These are only a few examples, but a plethora of other writers from coast to coast are guilty of the same. They’ll write articles with an air of haughtiness—which is even more appalling when the few sentences they write are dead wrong.
It’s this time of year that I thank God, Allah, who/whatever for the hockey blogosphere. Because I follow hockey 12 months out of the year, I know where to get my hockey news fix. I know where to get good opinions on the games—and even the bigger issues at hand. Google Reader is my friend (and should be yours too, hint hint).
People talk about the newspaper industry dying because of the internet. Fans aren’t willing to wait until the next morning for their news anymore. Of course there’s truth to that—but when it comes down to it, I’d prefer to read someone who knows what they’re talking about.
I can read an article from Aaron Portzline at the Dispatch’s Puck-Rakers site. If I lived in Columbus, I’d read anything that he had to say in the Columbus Post-Dispatch, as well. He’s a good writer with great insight into the Blue Jackets. The same goes for Mike Heika at the Dallas Morning News for the Dallas Stars, Michael Russo at the Star Tribune for the Minnesota Wild, and other writers scattered throughout NHL cities all over North America. But they are the exceptions, not the rule.
That’s not a blog thing or a newspaper thing. It’s an informed writer thing.
But that’s just the point. Portzline writes about the Blue Jackets all season. He has intimate knowledge of the team and brings insight to questions that die-hard fans want to know. He’s not going to recycle the same 5 headlines about the team and go back to covering the Ohio State Buckeyes—he’s going to dig deep for the stories about the Jackets. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with the team, he’ll find the cause behind the losses. He won’t make a “Ken Hitchcock was too big for the bench” joke and move on. He can ask the players what they think because he has relationships with them. He can give educated opinions and insight because he’s there, not only during the good times, but also the bad.
When I’m traveling and get USA Today delivered to my door, the first thing I do is open it up and look for a Kevin Allen article. When I’m at home, I’m sure to follow his blog, Mucking and Grinding, and listen to his interviews on NHL Live. The man knows what he’s talking about—not because he’s an internet guy or a newspaper. Because he’s a hockey guy.
When it comes down to it, that’s what I want. I want to read hockey stuff from hockey writers. I’m not interested in reading material from guys who don’t care about the subjects they’re writing about. Sometimes they’re forced by their editors and sometimes it’s out of obligation, but in the end it’s painfully clear that their heart isn’t in it. And more often than not, their thoughts are just as misplaced as their hearts.
Is a little consistency too much to ask for? Do you turn to the hockey blogosphere for all things stick and puck, or do you rely on your local sports reporters/writers to deliver?