Yesterday, Tony Kornheiser had Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau on his radio show from 10:15 am - 10:25 am, just before the coach took the ice for his team's 10:30 am practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for their last serious practice before Game One of their first round match against the New York Rangers. 

Mr. Tony talked to Boudreau about everything -- and anything -- but hockey.  And he prefaced the interview that way.

Both sports talk radio stations had crews out at Kettler yesterday, as they do most days.  And there are a couple of folks in there that really know their stuff.  I've appeared with Sky Kerstein on The Fan's HD channel to talk pucks and he has a weekly show Sunday mornings as well, just as one fine example.

But ESPN980 and 106.7 The Fan also sent their "sports" talk personalities out there and from one observer's recount, the jokes and questions being lobbed at the Caps players and coaches were of the variety that were more appropriate for Super Bowl media day, a media created and driven circus so everyone can get their cut of the pie.

Mike Wise, who actually wrote a pretty good column today on the Caps acquisition of Jason Arnott (even if independent media beat him to it several weeks ago), started his interview with Boudreau by asking if the Caps don't advance past the first round is his job on the line?  The first freaking question!

Not to pick on The Washington Post, because beat writer Katie Carrera and former beat writer-turned-sometimes opinion writer Tarik El-Bashir do a good job with their responsibilities. But the Post columnists, the ones that are supposed to add context and critique to the local world of sports, have written a grand total of eight Caps columns since the Winter Classic, compared to 28 about the Redskins and the NFL, 23 about the Nationals and over 30 about college sports (local and national). Shoot, they've written 13 columns about the lousy Wizards!

How's that for depth of coverage?

Talk of the Caps has driven the local sports broadcasts the last couple of nights.  And why not, since no one is paying attention to the NFL draft because of the lockout?  Might as well latch on to the next best story.

It just so happens that next best story is the best team in town.  You know, the one with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the four-time consecutive Southeast Division Champion banners, the best active player on the planet and the winningest regular season record since their head coach took over in the league?

The very same.

All these people know about is choking, goalie controversies (hey, it works for backup quarterbacks!), job security, and funny commercials.  They wouldn't know Matt Hendricks if he walked down the street and kicked their dog.  Not that Hendy would kick anyone's dog.

But they're all here, latching on to the only perennial playoff team in town, at the only time of the year they bother covering them.  Choking?  That's all they know of the Caps cause it's the only time they pay attention to them.

And they'll all be up in the press box, jamming up the locker room post-game, and asking more silly questions out at Kettler the rest of the week.

Am I bitter?  I suppose.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was denied a press credential for the playoffs, as were many of the independent media (or given drastically reduced access) that cover this team on a daily basis, not just during the playoffs or even regular season, but year 'round.  They produce quality, professional, responsible and very often insightful, informative and philanthropic, and yes, sometimes funny copy. 

I never assume access.  I understand the limit of granting access to independent media.  The press box is only so big and if the "pros" need the space, it's perfectly understandable.

But am I disappointed that the access I've had for three-plus seasons, including previous playoffs, was taken away so that media that aren't involved with this team on a daily basis can be part of the party?

Hell yes, I'm disappointed. 

They ignore this team all season long and jump on the bandwagon when it suits them.  And they'll jump off as soon as the next news cycle comes along.  They don't respect their audience because they don't respect or understand the game.  It's just a story to them.

But we'll still be here.  Win or lose.  Triumph or disaster.

I understand them jumping on the bandwagon.  Playoffs sell.  Controversy sells even more.  And until the Caps win the Stanley Cup, they will be the biggest playoff controversy: regular season winners and playoff chokers.  The coach -- and franchise -- that can't win the big one.  That sells copy and drives ratings, maybe even more than winning.

Let's just hope they don't get to write that story this season.

11 comments

  1. Victor // April 13, 2011 at 1:28 PM  

    If you think you're angry now, just wait until you look up at the pressbox during the game and notice Kornheiser and/or Wilbon left the game sometime in the first, if they show up at all. OFB wrote about that happening 2 or 3 seasons ago, if memory serves.

  2. Victor // April 13, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

    Heh. Found it:
    http://www.onfrozenblog.com/2008/04/12/a-blogging-error-of-postseason-inexperience.html

  3. Dave Nichols // April 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM  

    Victor, thanks for the comments. since neither write for the Post anymore, i don't expect either of them there tonight. Wilbon did his piece for ESPN from practice and he got what he wanted done.

  4. Grant // April 13, 2011 at 1:55 PM  

    Well said, Dave. I look forward to seeing my Caps (on TV - I'm in North Carolina) and reading your commentary throughout the post-season. I've been disappointed as well by the lack of media coverage on the primary home pages. And yet the NFL still grabs headlines? You would think that the major media outlets must have to take a year-long class before being able to report on this strange, foreign sport where grown men merely whack each other with crooked sticks. That was sarcasm - in case it didn't come across as so.

  5. Dave Nichols // April 13, 2011 at 1:59 PM  

    Grant, thanks for the comment. i got your sarcasm :-) i don't want to make this an us v. them thing, because there are some very good NHL writers in the market.

    but the radio guys and some of the others that have a general distain for hockey, yet still jump on the bandwagon despite their lack of respect, get to me.

  6. Billy // April 13, 2011 at 2:57 PM  

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    Thank you sir. It's ridiculous how little respect the sport of hockey gets in the DC mainstream media, especially sports radio. That I think is the key distinction - these "personalities" may recognize that the Caps are a big story come March and April, but they don't respect the sport that they play. These guys should have to take a hockey quiz in order to get credentials - what's the difference between the home and visitor in the rulebook, why would an icing call be washed out if the puck isn't touched, hell, I bet most of them couldn't describe the point of the blue line to offsides calls.

    They don't respect the sport and they don't know the sport, so they focus on "human interest" stories like Boudreau's job status or the history of playoff collapses. It's just infuriating.

  7. Tracy Tran // April 13, 2011 at 3:00 PM  

    I have been a huge fan of Tony Kornheiser and I wasn't that shocked that he didn't talk about hockey that much to Boudreau. If it was the old show, maybe you get 50/50. Also, Wilbon only cares about Chicago and DC being his adopted home.

    Anyway, I think this more about elitism as most columnist will assume the story will stay the same. I'm on the side of the columnists on that one, but you're correct, you still have to do the story because that's their job. I won't be shock if some columnists say they weren't shock about the Caps first round editor wrote a column that this was the Caps magical run.

    What amazed me on the coverage of the Washington Post was more coverage for the Nationals (23-8).

    I also have to wonder about Ted Leonsis since he wrote on the blog that he agrees with Mark Cuban that the team has to be it's own media. I think that's the most worrisome and leaving independent media out of it.

  8. Dave Nichols // April 13, 2011 at 3:07 PM  

    @Billy: a quiz? heh, no way most would pass.

    @Tracy: i generally like Mr. Tony too. but it's condesending to interview the head coach of a hockey team, announce you know nothing about hockey, then interview him for 15 minutes about nothing about hockey. indignant and insulting, if you ask me.

    thank you both for commenting.

  9. Maddy // April 13, 2011 at 5:14 PM  

    I think the bottomline is those regular season accolades don't really matter if they can't get out of the second round of the playoffs. Winning a SE title and even the President's Trophy is nice the first time, by the 4th time, the fans don't really care. The regular season in the NHL(and less so the NBA) is so watered down. The "real season" doesn't begin until the middle of April. Even though this will never happen it be great if the NHL had a baseball playoff format, might make for a more exciting regular season.

  10. Maddy // April 14, 2011 at 4:01 PM  

    I think Ted Leonsis as a "new media" person should have given bloggers more access than they got. But I stand by my statement about the disappointed results in recent years.

  11. Anonymous // April 15, 2011 at 1:54 PM  

    Write/talk about hockey in Washington? Why bother when you can cover the Redskins who might play (poorly!) again in 2013? The lack of coverage doesn't stop with the print media- try finding it on the radio or tv. I know 106.7 has a show on sunday mornings -[awesome! and, okay, the Sports Junkies do try to talk the Caps when they're not promoing something] and other stations have their similar 30 minutes of hockey talk per week. But how many hours are there in a week? Before Ovechkin I felt lucky that the Caps GAMES were even on the radio.


    So, thank YOU, Dave. It is awesome it is that you and your internet colleagues give us all a place to read and participate in dialogue about this great sport and our fantastic Caps, while providing insightful commentary that frankly is far better than anything that Mike Wise will ever write. We'll have to conduct an email campaign to get you a press pass for the second round.

    Keep up the great work.