Yesterday I got called out by one of my former coworkers at Rogers for being/having “sour grapes” because I spent most of opening day being snarky about the Toronto Blue Jays’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
This coworker hypothesized that my “new thing” (since leaving Rogers) was 162 games of ripping (via twitter) on the Jays, and that the sour part producing these rips stemmed from Rogers and I parting ways.
At least that’s what I got out of it. I mean, I’m certainly not sour about being out of baseball, or off the Jays team. I’ve been more productive in my years away from baseball then I ever was in it. Happier, too. I’m left to assume that I’m supposedly sour because I’m no longer covering the team as an employee of the company that owns it.
While that’s a logical narrative—guy leaves company, guy now hates everything about company, guy seeks internet revenge on company—that’s not it. I have a lot of respect for Rogers. They gave me my first big break. There are a lot of great (and underpaid and over worked) people there. I still talk with most of the folks there, and I think they, and all of Toronto for that matter, deserve a winning Jays team that doesn’t make excuses.
I respect you, Big Red, I really do. Also, thanks for the free suits.
No, the simple fact of the matter is I have always been a smart-ass about the Jays (and many teams and players around baseball) and yesterday was no exception. It’s certainly not my new thing, just ask JP Arencibia.
I came into Rogers as part of the baseball push in 2013. The Jays’ big trade that got all that talent from the Marlins, and RA Dickey from the Mets, also ramped up the amount of coverage Rogers wanted to do with the new “Super Jays”. They needed more talking heads. So, after putting up solid numbers as a test project on Baseball Central and making Jerry Howarth happy as a fill in colorman in 2012, I was invited back in a expanded full time position in 2013.
And I did great—their words, not mine—despite our separating.
But, when the Jays flopped and the powers that be started cutting back coverage (they stopped sending reporters on away games they felt inconsequential, stopped keeping Jamie and I around for post game highlight packs on Connected, etc), and then the massive hockey deal came, and zero off season activity failed to rekindled any Jays fire, and new budgets needed to be set…Well, last man in, first man out. Business bein’ business, yall.
Of course, it didn’t help that I was me, the guy who made the Jays’ starting catcher so mad he went to the team president to ask if he’d tell Rogers to shush Zaun and I since we were part of Jays media and supposed to be controllable, and should be told to be more positive about the team.
I was also the guy who, half way through the season, tweeted that the music Rogers Jays coverage was playing on every Blue Jays highlight package—two song choices, Metric’s Stadium Love, and Monster Truck’s Sweet Mountain River—had gotten to a level of annoyance that, when combined with the abysmal Jays season, made me want to leap off the CN Tower.
Twitter followers loved it. Rogers management… not so much. I was back roomed and told never to do that again. I laugh about that now because, when it happened, I was like, “but, it is annoying—you know it, I know it, and they (the fans) know it.”
“Yes, but we spent a lot of money on it and there are powers higher up you made mad.”
Ironically, Rogers was thrilled, and I mean pat-on-the-back, great-work-son, way-to-generate-content, thrilled when the Clay Buchholz stuff lit the world on fire. Me? I was scared out of my !#&$*% mind.
Keith Olbermann had to call me and give me a pep talk because I—wet eared rookie broadcaster—was not prepared to be every news venue’s headline scandal. Death threats were pouring in, my Twitter feed was suddenly the 7th circle of hell, pets heads were falling off… it was crazy.
Keith told me that I should just keep seeing what I see, saying what I believe, and backing it up, and that the truth has a way of sorting itself out. He also said he’d pissed off presidents before, so Clay Buchholz was small potatoes.
Many lessons were learned in year one. First, corporate life is a different animal than a baseball field, or a writer’s office, or a game developer’s cave, or anything else I’d done up to that point. It’s not bad, it’s not sour (though it can be at times), and it’s not an evil machine. It can be a confusing place with a lot of politics, but that’s life in the working world, and doing your job well is just part of surviving in it.
Second, I learned that I am too sarcastic and contrarian for my own good sometimes. I do like to mock and poke fun of not just baseball, but of the whole industry around it. Because, quite honestly, I think it needs it. I think any industry that dresses up a sport to the level of a national religion and makes saints and devils of men based on what kind of numbers they’ve generated in a kid’s game needs a jester in the corner making jokes in the face of its delusional sense of self importance.
Not every fan or every company will be okay with that view, and that’s fine. Frankly, and you’ll know this if you’ve read my latest book, I’ve spent to much of my life trying to be something I’m not. Think me jack-ass, truth-teller, clown, or brave, it’s all opinion on entertainment that is here today and gone tomorrow.
There is one other thing I learned with Rogers, and I imagine it’s true with many companies of its power and size. It’s that major telecommunications companies that own sports teams can tell you that they are being fair and honest concerning their coverage of the product on field, but that sense of fairness comes with an asterisk. As the talent in charge of dispensing that honesty, you can only be truly honest if you’re not replaceable, and you become irreplaceable by learning how to hold your tongue at the right times. It’s an art. There will always be a conflict of interest in the big houses, and the best broadcasters know how to put their true feelings behind their understanding of how the game behind the game really works.
While I’m not with a big corporation at the moment, on some big show connected to a team some place, I am free to be as honest and opinionated as I like. Yesterday, it sounded like this: The Jays watched their star shortstop get hurt, again. Got beat up by the Rays in Tampa, again. Heard their 40 year old Cy Young say his best pitch was still a work in progress, again. And, though it’s admittedly just the first game of the season, feels a lot like 2013 again.
I’ll be on TSN1050 tonight at 6pm to talk more about the Jays and MLB. Tune in.