Archive for the ‘Toronto Blue Jays’ Category

Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle Gives Press ConferenceSomething happened when the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Brian Burke on November 29, 2008, that went beyond the change in organizational philosophy that typically accompanies a new front-office regime in professional sports. Burke, whose abilities to articulate are well matched with his impulse to express himself, became the fabled face of the franchise.

The face of the franchise. It’s a funny phrase that’s probably more frequently used by sports talk radio shows than anyone with anything to do with a professional team, but it suggests that fans are prone to assigning someone from the ranks with the role as the representative of the entire club. This isn’t usually a conscious decision, and it’s exceedingly rare for a fan base to anoint a general manager with such a potentially hazardous oil. We’re far more likely to pick a player – someone on the field, court or rink of play – as the person through whom we live out our sports-based fantasies.

However, Burke’s justified extroverted tendencies combined with an exceedingly engaged group of supporters and a roster that – let’s be honest – didn’t have a lot of players with whom fans would naturally choose to identify, placed the head of the Maple Leafs front office in a position which few professional sports executives find themselves. Even after making notable acquisitions to that roster, it was largely thought of as Burke’s team. Even as fans mocked terms like truculence, there was an implicit understanding that Burke was the figurehead most closely identified with the organization that they supported through so many years in the wilderness.

After four more, even as a version of the promised land appeared on the horizon, Burke’s status as president, general manager and face of the franchise ceased to be.

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Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay RaysWhen we talk about the occurrence of tragedy during a sporting event, we’re typically referring to something that isn’t actually tragic. It might be a bullpen blowing a save, a missed shot on an open net, a failed uncontested layup, or a shanked field goal attempt. We use inaccurate terminology as a means of describing the goings on of a sport because it’s a vicarious experience for us. We suspend our understanding of reason for three hours and allow what’s ultimately a distraction from our day-to-day inanities to take over, entertain us and allow others on the field of play to be vessels for living out our own fantasies.

If the language we use to describe this event enters the realm of hyperbole, it’s not merely a coincidence. It’s all part of the charade. It’s part of the ritual we use to fully immerse ourselves into the distraction. This also includes the morbid: he murdered that ball; they’re killing him out there; that crossover left him for dead. The use of such terms seems silly and grotesque when serious incidents awaken us from the suspension of our belief and the distraction that we willingly allow while watching sports.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was hit in the head by a line drive and taken off the field on a stretcher with one out in the second inning of his team’s eventual 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. The last half of that sentence seems very unimportant.

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culliverOn January 29th, five days before a Super Bowl game in which he’d be embarrassingly outwitted by Baltimore Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Cullvier told comedian Artie Lange during an interview that an openly gay football player wouldn’t be welcomed in a National Football League locker room.

I don’t do the gay guys man. I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah can’t be in the locker room man. Nah.

The next day, amid the ensuing media storm, Culliver made an apology, in which he made a questionable differentiation between his mind and his emotions.

The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.

The explanation for his prejudiced remarks was largely mocked at the time, but a month after his team’s Super Bowl loss, Culliver followed through on his commitment to “learn and grow from this experience.” On Monday, the backup cornerback visited The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

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tabler-buck-july-16Last weekend, Rogers Sportsnet executed its plan to broadcast the first Toronto Blue Jays game of their Spring Training schedule. The response from viewers was as overwhelming as the network’s coverage, which included the full fleet of presenters, announcers and on-field reporters. More than 2-million Canadians tuned into the team’s exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at some point during the broadcast, with an average viewership of more than 450,000.

To put that number in context, more people in Canada watched a Spring Training game involving the Blue Jays than they did Game Two of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, averaging 450,000 viewers would be an impressive number for a regular season game between Toronto and Detroit.

Despite a drop off at the end of last season, television ratings for Blue Jays games have been on a consistent rise over the last two seasons. Following this off-season’s roster bolstering, excitement among Canadians for the country’s only Major League product is higher than its been in some time. The addition of marketable players like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes has only served to add momentum to the following that Jose Bautista and Canadian Brett Lawrie garnered last season.

Shortly after the impressive Spring Training debut, Rogers Sportsnet announced that it would be broadcasting five additional Spring Training games on FX Canada. While the cynics among us immediately wondered if Rogers wasn’t once again using the lure of its baseball content to encourage increased subscriptions to additional cable tiers, doubts were quelled by the fact that Rogers cable subscribers would be enjoying a free preview of the network that represents a partnership between majority owner and managing partner, Rogers Media, and minority partner, FX Networks.

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