After yesterday’s show, I hung around the arena and watched the Sabres-Thrashers game. When the new owner, Terry Pegula, met the stars of the French Connection on the ice before the game, I teared up a little. What an incredible, surreal moment that must have been for him. I felt that emotion. I probably would have shed a tear or two had I not just interviewed him about two hours earlier. I remembered, I’m supposed to be objective here.
In the game, when Tyler Myers scored, I stood and yelled. About four hours earlier I repeatedly was calling Myers “clumsy” on the air. I also got excited when Paul Gaustad buried a rebound to give Buffalo the lead for good. I think I cheered some Ryan Miller saves too. When the game was over and the Sabres had won, I was happy.
Is any of this a problem? After all, in my left hand coat pocket was a pass that said (in big block letters) “MEDIA”. This pass got me into the building -- free. And the saying “no cheering in the press box” has been around about as long as sports itself.
Wait! I wasn’t in the press box! I was on the 100 level for a while, and then in a suite. The people around me in both places cheered when good things happened for the Sabres, so I figured if I didn’t do the same I would’ve stood out.
WGR has a suite at the arena. Usually it’s filled with clients who graciously (and might I mention brilliantly) spend advertising dollars on our station. But there also is often one or more “personality” up there. I never think to look and see whether the other on-air guys cheer for stuff. I’m pretty sure they do. Jeremy White was up there with me last night; I think when the Sabres scored goals he was happy about it. (Sorry, Jeremy, if this is betraying a confidence.)
I entered talk radio in 1998 with the understanding that disassociating from my so-called “favorite teams” was necessary and important. No more rooting. I guess sports talk listeners like it when the people they turn to for opinions about sports have no preferences.
Gradually, and thankfully, we figured out that this makes no sense at all.
Are we really all supposed to act in the media like we don’t care whether our teams win? Putting any emotional attachments with teams or fans aside, we should admit that winning teams are good for our business. More people listen when the teams are good. The print media establishment is, I think, way more uptight about this than radio. Those guys are really objective compared with us.
(Hey, anyone looking to buy a 2007 Buffalo News Sabres player pin collection?)
Sometimes I’m in no mood to root for these guys. Highly paid lazy bums don’t turn me on. Criticizing them comes fairly easy to me. Furthermore, the media need to hold teams accountable. Sports teams lie sometimes. Who’s going to call them on it? I had conversations with higher-ups at the Sabres in the summer of 2007 that were so confusing that I’d come away questioning my own intelligence.
Then, along comes Pegula. He sounds like no Buffalo sports owner ever has. Winning a championship is the Sabres’ new “sole reason for existence”. He plans to pour his own money into facilities and amenities, something no other owner here would have even considered doing. This Pegula buzz we’re all feeling has me wanting to call my childhood friends, people who have left the area, to tell them they should move back and be a part of the ride.
I don’t expect Pegula or his new management team to be Abe Lincoln. It’ll be important that if mistakes are made, or games are being played, that they be called on the carpet.
But I do want him to succeed. It’s better for me personally and professionally if he does. Just so you know.