Media Access, COVID-19, and You

We are all mind-numbingly aware of the COVID-19 virus (I’m only going to call it C-19 moving onward) and we know what it’s done to the social landscape of the world. Obviously, sports is put into this and has led to leagues shutting down their locker room access and even possibly playing in front of empty arenas (although the AHL already did that).

My opinion is good. While it might be an overreaction, you rather err on the side of caution rather than have to clean up the mess that comes from not taking the right moves in the first place. Playing catch-up is never fun, especially in a wide-spread illness.

But seeing media people hem and haul about the shutting down of locker rooms and access to players and give a vague threat to the leagues bascially saying, “This better be temporary,” makes me tilt my head. As someone who has pieces of laminated paper saying I’m part of the media, I’ve never once thought that locker room access is needed to have a good story. Hell, at the University of North Dakota games; all the interviews for the masses are done in a scrum style with two or three players and head coach Brad Berry. We all get our stories, we all move along. Brad Schlossman is one of the finest writers in hockey and he rarely gets the locker room access some of these reporters in sports get, but he’s still churning out bangers week after week.

Does that help with some stories and such?? Sure. Is it a necessity?? That’s a hard sell for me. Does it equate to better stories?? I’m sure it does. Ken Rosenthal thinks it does (subscription because innovation). To a point, it can be true because access and having a good standing with the players can lead to things down the line and becoming an insider. Also, the point that it’s making the media members look petty because they’re getting singled out and other groups aren’t.

But, when the Colorado Avalanche have a sign reminding media members not to hug players or sit at stalls seems more to me like writers are mad because they can’t be buddy-buddy with some players. There’s not many other entertainment industries that allow people to be as tight-knit as the sports community. It can be considered both awesome and invasive all in one.

If you’re a good reporter, you’ll find a way to get the story without having to make brunch plans with the top-line guys or deal with the stench of equipment by your nose when you sit down in one of their stalls. People’s story writing abilities aren’t tied to all-access approaches in locker room settings. Yes, it makes a story better…but there’s tons of people out there writing quality stuff without having a fraction of the access or really needing it– but they’re still getting respect from people who enjoy the content they put out– access or not.

If worst comes to worst– everyone is connected. If you have a good relationship with a player now and need access to the room without getting access to the room– you should have their number. Text them, call them, email them– if they’re really your buddy, they’ll find a way to make time for you either in-person or virtually. Does it tell the whole story you’re looking for?? No, because it doesn’t have those subtle nuances of a locker room…but it’s still better than no access at all.

And yet, the story the writers are really missing are the impact around the games. The fans who may have taken a vacation to see a game, but will have to wait because the game was shuddered down to fans. The impact this will have on local businesses on top of the impact of non-gameday happens with this panic. The workers inside the venues who are going to be losing money and might already be on a tight budget as it is.

But no, let’s talk about the locker rooms shutting down. Let’s talk about the lack of access being the reason some can’t create a good story. There’s stories to be had out there that don’t require direct player access. You just have to be good enough to find it.

Trying Not to Loathe Las Vegas

78d196fd-7f15-483e-a896-05b9576bf520-large16x9_201702945803R

We’re two rookie games into the Vegas Golden Knights tenure in the NHL and I think I’m already sick of expansion teams. Maybe social media is to blame and the ideal of blasting the hype out there, but man…the hype is almost too much. Whether it’s the league or the team itself…I’m growing tired.

And now this isn’t about their Twitter “feud” against the LA Kings— but it’s just the whole thing about it being a never ending season of “firsts” for the team and it probably becoming insufferable at some point– if that point hasn’t come for people already. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be doing such things– but at the same time, you have to wonder if the vast majority of people will become sick of it by mid-November.

The first player was cool– Reid Duke, who may only be notable on the team just for being the first player signed. Other things I’ll get is the first goal, first shutout, first win, and so on. However, knowing the climate we’re in where you need the retweets to really show off to possible sponsors– the first hooking call will be mentioned, the first TV timeout will be mentioned, the first time poker chips are thrown onto the ice will be mentioned. It might get old fast. But some people will eat it up. Then you fuel the beast and so it goes on and on because it gets likes, hits, retweets, whatever.

When it comes to creating a brand, I get why the NHL and the Golden Knights are doing what they are doing, but there’s such a thing as overdoing it. I will say I am a crotchety old man when it comes to all of this because I just don’t get how some things get so popular that it’s the guideline to make a name for yourself. There’s putting yourself out there and then there’s just acting a fool. There’s a fine line, of course. There’s committing to a bit and then there’s going to the well one too many times. Maybe it’s the fact there’s been all summer and all this build-up over the last two seasons– but I’m already ready for their first season to be over and done with.

The only poignant debate is whether a new team with a group of players who haven’t played before should have a captain in their first season. When you look up and down that list…yeah, no real leader on there that deserves the respect of the squad off the hop. It’s not like they had someone like who’s won the coveted Mark Messier Leadership Award multiple times on their roster– it’s a team that’ll grow together and shouldn’t have a captain for the first year. If they really feel the need for a captain– why not do a rotating captaincy like the Minnesota Wild had for their first seven seasons??  There’s a debate that actually as plenty to do with merit and something that could be bandied back and forth with people.

Maybe it’ll get better. Maybe, like the team, the social media aspect will be able to find its footing in ethos of NHL social media and not just rip-off what made other teams “successful” when it comes to their own Twitters or Facebooks and not just go to the lowest common denominator. I know who runs VGK’s accounts and he’s a good dude overall and I wish him all the best in what is an interesting time in history and all that jazz. Just don’t fall into the easy trap other areas do because it could come off as desperate if things aren’t going well on the ice.