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Did we get that right? No more professional travel for you and entertainment journalists now? Forever?
With your help, we have learned about the financial plight of traditional print media:
Young journalists without apprentice opportunities is a loss. The overall erosion of professional journalism, with reporters experienced able and willing to offer us in-depth reporting, is a HUGE loss – and, writ large, a threat to a vital democratic institution in a Lying Trumpian Age.
So now we face having to travel to NBA cities without your tips. And how will we know which airports to avoid and what cultural sites to visit? And we will have to rely on some faceless wire reporter to tell us what Van Gundy really did during that timeout in Detroit?
I remember listening to ball games when I was a kid and the broadcasters would read the game account on a wire and then reproduce the broadcast using canned crowd sounds and hitting wood to replicate the sound of bat on ball. Will you look in your kitchen, get out the utensils and see what you can do to help us experience the away games?
A: If there was a basketball sound you could make with a spoon against a pot, I might. That’d be a cool throwback.
And I think I have enough stored in memory banks to get through most cities but it is that away-from-game stuff that will be impossible to replicate. And that bothers me a lot.
There’s no indication this is forever but it’s for the foreseeable future.
Q: Dear Mr. Smith,
I just read about The Star cutting travel funds for sports reporters. I can’t imagine how this won’t have a huge impact on reporting -missing that great quote after the game, Valancuinas holding up a numbers sign that might happen at an away game, Kyle and DeMar having fun- it’s really the end of true sports reports that are not “computer generated”, I am sad to say. I have watched it happen for baseball and hockey at certain media outlets already.
It’s even more disturbing to see these major cuts happening with news reporting as well. Society is changing, and losing reporting, investigative, local news, and I include sports, it will all combine to have a negative impact on society overall, I believe. I am very sorry to learn about the changes to your job, and have been thinking about possible ways to continue away game reporting.
Is there any way to have sports reporters for major papers of a certain number of readers or subscriptions travel with the team on their plane? Maybe a combined bill or a negotiated price can be decided, or maybe MLSE will give a reduced rate, because it is in the best interest of MLSE and the Raptors franchise to have as much reporting on the Raptors as possible, I think. It is already clear that US reporters do not cover the team as they do the US based NBA teams. MLSE could agree to sign a “no conflict” form so the reporting can continue to be free from influence, so to speak.
Certainly the playoffs will be an exception? That would be completely nuts, for The Star not to send you for the playoffs?
For me, teaching is changing too. Many online courses take away the in-person communication and interactive learning that people experience with others in a group. Conversation online is often limited to a 50 word comment section. It makes little sense for classes other than Math, I think, but it is happening. One can earn an entire degree online now, so sad.
This really stinks for sports reporting, and I hope that MLSE will get active and partner with sports reporters in Toronto. Maybe you can initiate such a conversation. It would be interesting to know how such a conversation might progress.
Keep up the good work as best you can and keep your readers in the loop.
A: There’s been no 100 per cent confirmation on playoff travel but I can’t imagine not being there. How many of us is totally up in the air, though.
The MLSE issue is interesting but I can’t see it happening. Not only area there too many of us – if you offer it to one, you have to offer it to everyone and they’d run out of room with the dozens and dozens of support staff and broadcasters already on the plane.
Then were would be outlandish hotel costs – they don’t stay at Marriotts – and post-game deadline issues.
Q: The Toronto Star has a strong sports page history and here’s hoping that will continue for many more years. Today’s news cycle is 24 hours; There’s no longer an “offseason” …especially as evidenced by this summer. As a reader I need timely quality information. I love well written and thought out stories that provide context and background. Stories create readership. I am not interested in right holders takes(in most cases) nor am I interested in wire services. I think it is important for the reporter to be on site; build trust with the organization and deliver product that is accurate and timely. I appreciate the unique value you add for your readers and thank you for all you have done. Truly outstanding.
Best wishes redefining your role and the efficiencies needed to do so.
A: Thanks, doctor.
It’s not good and it’s going to be tough but we’ll get it done to the best of our abilities and hope that’s enough.
Q: Dear Doug,
I see that there was a celebrity game last night for all star weekend. A number of people – some of whom i have heard, fulfilling their fantasies – and having fun I am sure.
So, let us put you in a celebrity game. What would be the game and who would be your desired teammates and opponents ? Athletic and other pursuits might be accepted. I might imagine that you would consider cell phone reaching at the bar ( first to look at phone pays for round , winning team has to drink shot ) , dodge ball against Star management etc. Perhaps even lede writing – you could have current and past journalists on teams.
All the best to you and your colleagues who do the real work as the tall foreheads figure out how to run the business.
A: I don’t know who for sure but if you put eight or 10 of us long-timers around a U-shaped bar and fed and watered us and let us tell stories that were better than the last one while The People listened and voted, that’d be fun, no?
Q: Hello – question for the mailbag. Seeing the tweet about a player’s favourite emoji brought back fond memories of the funniest reaction ever to a reporter question from a Raptors coach (and I don’t think I even need to remind you that it was Halloween).
Anyway, what were the wildest questions you’ve ever heard and what were the circumstances? If you could provide your answers if asked such questions, that might be amusing. What *is* your favourite emoji?
On a more serious note, I expect to see and hear a lot of talk about gun control. My favourite all-time allstar t-shirt was worn by Steve Nash when he said “shoot baskets not people”. Yours?
So, this is a bit of a mix of combining questions you’ve heard athletes asked and then turning them back on you, the reporter! (even if you didn’t ask the question)
A: Is there a “Tired, Grumpy Old Man, Get Off My Lawn” emoji? That’s my favourite.
At one all-star game, some guy from, I believe, South America, was wandering table to table with a flute or something like that, trying to get players to play it. Wanted to do great harm to that guy.
Best question? Barcelona Olympics, the world’s media meets the Dream Team. Guy, to Karl Malone:
Why is it that some baskets are worth one point, some two and some three?
Malone: “That’s just the way it is, my man.”
And it was Kevin O’Neill, a Halloween day which was also opening day or the home opener. Someone from the team’s own broadcast department asked him post-shootaround, what his favourite costume was.
I thought KO was gonna strangle the guy as he said, “will the ridiculousness ever end?” (And I’m pretty sure there would have been an expletive or three in there)
Q: Hello Doug,
Grabbed coffee this morning and sat down to read a story about speedskating. It was written by Bruce Arthur so I figured it’d be good. And the speedskating part of it was good, really good. But the story had another element that turned it from merely reporting on a race in a rink in South Korea to a universal story of loss and love that touched the heart and stirred the soul. And this poingnant moment became part of the speedskating story because Marlinde Kraaijeveld told her story to Bruce Arthur.
And, again, I contemplated the enormous loss to the readers with the grounding of sports (and entertainment) reporters.
Of course, stories will still be told, and told well. But it’s the moments and the years and the struggles and joys that exist away from the field of play where our best stories are. I saw the race Bruce wrote about. And it was thrilling to watch. But the story Marlinde shared with him is the one I’ll remember.
Thank you, Doug, for all the years and miles and missed connections and awful weather and just general frustration – most important, the times you’ve missed with your family – to travel around North American and beyond to bring us the deeper, richer, more profound stories. You know how much it’s been appreciated.
And not only covering the Raptors, the stories you’ve shared and support you’ve shown our national basketball program (and other amateur athletes) has been considerable. And this is what I’ll miss the most.
This is a bit rambling, and I don’t have a question (Well, you know me, I’m always wondering about something. So,what becomes of all those kabillion Marriott Points and how about a year-long around-the-world cruise. Just you and a hundred or so of your most loyal Irregulars?) but please accept this as a profound thank you.
A: Here’s the thing
Marriott points are like a renewable resource and Super Family has availed themselves of them often so the well isn’t as full as you might think. But they’ve had good trips/weekends/vacations through them.
And, frankly, if I get time off, the last thing I want to do is get on a plane and fly somewhere to stay in a hotel. Those times are what decks and stools and golf courses are made for.
Q: No more travel! No more travel and airport stories! No more stories of places to eat and/or enjoy an adult beverage or two! You will be driving Superwife insane Doug. At least they will let you continue to do this blog. It is what completes my day and has for a very long time. Not even travel to California when we are in the NBA finals??? Sheesh!
A: Yeah , the regular morning fare isn’t going to change; it’ll be a challenge some days to make it any good but that’s always been the case.
Being underfoot at Casa Doug may indeed be an issue and I suspect the ever-needy Super Dog 2.0 and I are in for some conflict
Q: You used the acronym on Thursday “NBN”. What’s it mean?
How challenging was it to right the story on the Bulls game without being there and not being able to speak to the players or the coaches. It’s a real shame that the Star feels that this is a necessary cost measure. I thought that sports was a huge driver of Star readership and not covering the home teams on the road I think really sucks.
I know newspapers are having a very tough time and need to find a sustainable model but I am not sure that was the best way to achieve savings.
A: NBN is Nothing But Net, the weekly extended story/NBA notebook that gets done each Thursday. And it’s gonna be hard to keep churning out with the new restrictions.
The Chicago game wasn’t all that hard because there was a logical angle going into the all-star break and nothing really happened in the game. The first time something extraordinary happens in a game and I’m scrambling is going to be really, really, really hard. But, it’s what they pay me the mediocre bucks to do.
Q: Hello Doug: No travel. That is a bummer.
I am for hire at very reasonable rates. LOL.
Here is an idea for you.
It combines the loss of interns, the loss of travel and social networking.
You could open a website and enrol would-be interns in each city that the raptors visit in a year.
Those selected would submit material to the Star after a Raptor game in their hometown.
The Star would commit to give any material used a byline, thus giving the intern some valuable exposure and you and the Star game coverage.
If you are interested I could probably talk my grandson into building the web site.
P.S. The same approach could be used by the Raptors, Leafs and Blue Jays.
A: That seems to be an awful lot of work that I’d be incapable of doing, Plus, I’m holding out that things will change soon and return to normal.
Q: Dear Sir,
I give up Chocolate every year for Lent. I don’t drink or smoke or take drugs so Chocolate is my only physical vice. I have some mental ones. I hope it goes well.
Last night Hassan Whiteside gave Kyle Lowry a little push out of bounds that sent him hard into the stanchion. It was a very Dellavadova type play. The referees didn’t call it. What happens next? Does Kyle mention it to his teammates so they can return the favour in the game. Does the team send a video of it to the office along with a complaint? Does the league in fact review and police dirty play that happens like this? Or does this happen all the time with little elbows and shoves and so Kyle forgets and it gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the game?
Thanks for your ongoing work. Sorry about the loss of travel. That is a bummer. Maybe they can set up skype interviewing for after the games for out of town scribes? I am sure you are not the only newspaper that this is going to happen to.
A: I remember that play well and Kyle’s histrionics after the push – and it sure looked like there was one – made it certain that his teammates would have known. I don’t think any of them would have gone out of their way to do anything right away but if the opportunity presents itself …
Getting post-game quotes is going to be an issue and while I think I have built strong enough relationships with lots of people in the organization and could probably call, I don’t think imposing all the time like that is the best idea.
Q: Hi Doug
Things are looking pretty bleak on Mother Earth these days.
There is a saying – it’s always darkest before dawn.
We are standing at the edge of something amazing.
Hold the thought in your mind that things are going to work out better than you can imagine.
And they will.
Peace and Light to you and the Star family.
A: I appreciate the sentiment.
Q: Good morning Doug
Love the blog. I’m a long time reader since you first put it up many years ago. I have a question that relates to the to recent announcement by The Star this week of not sending reporters on the road with teams anymore. This is a change that is happening in private industry as well. Training sessions and meetings are done via web sessions now and not so much travelling to each others sites. Unless you’re a sales person and need to get in front of the customer the push is toward communicating via a web session and not travelling. The issue the Star is facing is not unique to just your news outlet. All media (TV, former print media) are suffering from the same cut backs and won’t be able to send their reporters on the road.
My question; How do you see the leagues respond to this change? Courtside and locker front media scrums aren’t really effective if most of the reporters can’t make it. Do you think the league needs to move to a format, like the playoffs, where all the players/coaches are brought onto a stage that can be broadcast over a webex to reporters in various locations and questions could be forwarded through the team media rep?
A: Having a player or two and a coach come to a post-game podium is something that has been discussed in the past. It might work but there are issue of which players, some may have post-game treatment and rehab schedules they wouldn’t want to break.
And my point has always been it’s not entirely the post-game quotes that matter. It’s being around at shootaround and pre-game and away from post-game scrums where you might pick up a piece of information on a Tuesday that can be used for a larger story on, say, a Saturday. That’s what I’m going to miss.-
Q: Hey Doug
I agree that watching long track speed skating is interesting but what would you say as a play by play person throughout a 14 minute 10k run that wouldn’t be repeating yourself after a couple of laps.
Also, the financial belt has been tightened at mother star. Does that mean less game recaps from your point of view on road games and more wire feeds or will you still offer your input based on what you see on the tv broadcasts? Hey, that might mean more stool time at a hazeltown pub. Perhaps you should do a local meet up and enjoy the games with fans of the team.
A: I can’t imagine doing play by play of a 15-minute race but I had to, stories would be involved.
The plan now is to have a much abbreviate post-game story in the paper and on the web; what it includes is something that we still have to figure out and will depend, mostly, on our abilities as story-tellers.
And I may spend too much time on a stool now to host nights, even though that sounds neat. Even so, there’d be work to be done anyway.
Q: Hi Doug,
First and foremost, as the Raptors played their 1001 games last night, I am sure u were there may be at least 900 plus or so?
Your writing , humour, professionalism is second to none and reading whatever you wrote on paper or the net is a part of my day since as long as I can remember.
Got that from your blog and know your company will suspend air travel for all sports. I don’t know how they will do come playoffs time ( hope they will let u be there just for the playoff run) we really need you to be there to share the insight.
Having said all that, may be a Correspondence on each cities can help you be there? I mean just a guy holding the phone with whatever video conference call function such as FaceTime, Skype Etc. Can actually put you there. I know it is totally different then travelling with the team and Watch the games with your own eyes, but it is what it is right?
I know it’s really hard not to be discouraged by this m, but I sincerely want to send my support and hopefully you can continue doing all the great work you have done in many many years to come.
I am sure you can do it.
On to the questions,
1 I wars in ACC on February 5, sounds like the in game announcer has changed. Sorry I never knew the guy’s name who was there all these years but I think he is good. Is he gone for good or he was just taking a leave of absence?
2. Hypothetically speaking if Carter is back before March 1st. Do you start him over OG? I think OG is the Achilles heel for the starters. He is good but you can only ask for that much from a rookie, right?
3. I believe Lenny Wilkins was the last player/couch on his team( correct me if I am wrong) Steve Kerr handing the whiteboard to their player and everyone made a big buzz out of it. Why no more player do that anymore? Or on a lesser degree, be an assistant coach on the floor? Is any CBA agreement bar it from happening?
4.I think this years all stars game is going to test the idea of a mix conference system as a lot of people calling a 1-16 reseed in the playoffs. Hypothetically should this happen this year, would you want to see that? And does it make it easier/harder for the Raptors to reach the finals? And overall do you support this concept?
A: Thanks for the nice words, much appreciated.
Herbie, the usual PA announcer, was out sick for a couple of games, the guy who does 905ers and TFC games filled in.
I cannot see a way Vince comes back but if he does, it’s in a backup role.
Players have long had input into strategic discussions in timeouts, just not as obvious in the Golden State game; that was nothing really knew. And salary cap rules would preclude any player/coach these days.
I would not ever be in favour of a 1-16 seeding system unless they address the discrepancy in the regular season schedule. And I’ll have more on that in the morning after I digest the Adam Silver media availability from Saturday night
Q: Happy all-star break, Doug.
Are you going to follow Coach’s advice and do whatever you need to, but make sure you get into the gym and work up a sweat.
At this point in the schedule, have you noticed any affects from the revised scheduling. There are still injuries, but I feel I’ve seen far fewer dog games from the HOTH, and I don’t know if it’s related, but I’ve started checking the standings much earlier this year.
A: I haven’t tracked games lost to injury but I suspect with what seems a great number of longer term injuries that the number will be high.
But I do agree that the one thing the stretched out season has done is make for far fewer games where tired teams simply mailed it in. And that’s a very good thing for competitive balance and the paying customer.
Q: Do you think when Masai and Bobby were doing there planning back in September they said to themselves “Hey we better have enough cap room to pay Fred Van Vleet $ 50 million over 4 years starting in 2018/19?”
Somebody is going to offer it to him. Good problem to have and great on the kid for proving everyone wrong. #HDMH.
A: As an undrafted player on a two-year deal, there’s a limit to what Fred can make next year but, no, I don’t think Bobby and Masai saw this coming at all.
Q: Greetings Mr Smith,
Nothing like starting a day with a shock, although I’m sure my experience pales greatly in comparison with your’s and your colleagues both at the Mothership and all of those from around the league. Our world evolves around us in the manner that it will, with seemingly little concern for the lives effected. For what it is worth I look for your byline (and Kevin’s, Mark’s, Rosie’s and more) primarily because it is you writing the story, as opposed to randomly choosing some other offering. I have absolutely no doubt that you will always hold yourself to the standard that has been your MO for as long as I have followed you (and the others) in The Star.
I guess if anything I will miss most for you the experience that travelling has given you over the years.
In a round-a-bout way perhaps this change will open a few eyes among the populace as to how we are becoming more disconnected as we have become more connected to “technology”, the great homogenizer.
In any event we still have what may well be a very special season unfolding for the HOTH. I will be curious to see how they return from the break, while you have pointed out quite a number of times over the years that professional athletes have an innate extreme belief in themselves, I have to think that the realization of the opportunity ahead of them may not have yet fully crystallized in their heads. Perhaps it still to early to spend much physic time (for them) on the what-ifs, but I don’t believe that they have ever been closer.
Do you sense that the players are starting to imagine the playoffs? Or are they going to continue to maintain the steady pace that they have shown all season?
Truly and honestly,thanks for what you do,
Doug from B-ford
A: The players are absolutely looking to the playoffs and have been, in some small way, been doing it all year It will especially get ramped up about March 1 when they start looking at the standings and imagining matchups.
Q: Good morning Doug – I am sure we all agree that you make our day with your writing and only about the Raptors. I do think the team has surprised a lot of people particularly when Masai stated there would be a cultural change. The change is obvious in the level of play but the harmony amongst the players seems to be as was last year. One would have to think that the team has in place pieces that offset the potential roster change in two or three years down the road. Van Vleet seems to be the second coming of Lowry, Wright has reminded me of DeRozan from day one and as you say could be something else. Poeltl is a lot like JV. Not saying the vets will not be here but the potential for replacements is definitely there. And do not forget OG. Don’t if I misread your comment on travelling but if that is so the level of reporting the game will drop and not because of the writer
A: That’s the best thing about what Masai and Bobby have done, construct a roster that wins big now with some protection for two or three years from now when veterans inevitably move on.
And thanks, but we’ll try our best to keep up some solid level of reporting and writing.
Q: Hi Doug,
I know it is a bit early to ask, but I wanted to know your thoughts on what we could expect from Cleveland in the playoffs after all the trades. I am thinking that if Lebron is healthy and with Kevin Love back from injury – they will be a tough team to beat.
Do you expect Coach Casey to shorten the bench during the playoffs or given that they have been playing a big role lately will they be relied on? Given that Kyle and Demar are logging less minutes – do you expect that to pay dividends come the playoffs?
Thanks as always,
A: It is too early to talk about Cleveland given the need to mesh and figure out the necessary teamwork and few of the new additions have any real playoff experience. But they are better, in my opinion.
I would imagine Dwane will stay with what’s worked so well when the playoffs arrive. You may see the backup group play a minute or two fewer but I think they all should play.
I saw in the last mailbag that you mentioned that the in-game blog will not be back. I’m curios as to why?
I found that it was great at making this whole thing feel like a community. For me, it might have been my favorite of all the things you have tried throughout the years.
Thanks for everything you do. I appreciate it a lot.
A: Mostly because the contract with had with the hosting company ran out and wasn’t renewed. It was a fun added-value thing most nights; some nights it was a helluva lot of work and stress for me.
I miss it. But not always. It is not, however, coming back.
Several times a game, we will see a play where when a team wants to call a timeout, the player will walk the ball up past halfcourt, stand at the sideline, then call the timeout. During the time the ball is being walked up the court, often times the team on offence will begin to walk off the court in anticipation of the timeout call. Sometimes, we may even see the team on defense start to relax and begin to walk off the court as well, which is a situration I noticed in this weeks game vs. the Heat. If the player with the ball sees the defence start to relax, what is stopping him from pretending to walk toward the baseline to call the timeout, then at the last minute sprinting toward the basket for an easy layup, catching the defence off their guard? I don’t believe there would be anything illegal about it, since the basket would be scored before the timeout is called. Kind of like the hidden ball trick in baseball, it likely won’t work 99% of the time, but on the off chance it could work, it would be quite a fun deception and perhaps a difference maker in a close game.
A: There’s nothing to preclude a guy with the ball from basically faking a timeout that’s coming and catching the defence wandering off the court. I’ve seen it done every now and then it can be effective. But if your teams getting drilled bad enough that a coach wants a timeout, you better score and then get a stop.
Q: Did I miss it or did nobody mention Dolph Shayes after Kyle’s two handed set shot to end the half vs the Heat. There was the 3 points they won by.
Harry (almost 80)
A: What a great name! And no, no one did. Some of us Of A Certain Vintage should have broken it out.
Q: Good day,
This is more of an inquiry than a question. I was watching the highlights of the game against the Bulls from the 14th, and in the 1st quarter with 3:28 remaining, the Bulls hit a 3 and something caught my eye… A player on the Bulls’ bench (#32 Kris Dunn, after I rewound the tape) decided to make a gun and shooting gesture. Now I’m fully aware of the celebration as a “sharp shooter” but with the NBA’s stance on gun violence so far as to force the Washington Bullets to change their name to what is now the Wizards, will he face some form of discipline?
Chicago itself has a reputation for its gun violence and throw in the horrible events in Florida not even 24 hours later, I would hope that Mr. Dunn (yes through hard work and determination to become an NBA player) but also how lucky he is to be able to play in the league as well.
A: I didn’t see it but it would be something the league might take notice of and, at the very least, was entirely inappropriate given the world we live in.
And it was Abe Pollin who insisted on the Wizards name change, not the league.
Q: A dynamic gentleman is leaving the tough job of keeping us informed on the daily twists and turns of the Jays. I concur with your recent comments on his career -deferring to Tom Cheek on WS I 9th inning, and quietly refusing to use defiling team names. My outstanding memory? I was in an Etobicoke library branch, where I found him sitting, book in hand, but fast asleep! He woke up shortly, looking sheepish, but still had the grace to talk to me about who knows what, it doesn’t matter. What a gentleman! I will miss hearing him call the games.
On to you. I guess you won’t be seeing the Raps in Detroit in a couple of weeks, given the travel cutbacks at The Star. Now where do we go for info on the best watering holes there?
All the best.
Gord from Calgary
A: Yeah not getting to the new arena in Detroit and figuring out what’s around to see and do is brutal. Would hate to go into a Raptors-Pistons first round playoff series blind.
Q: With the All Star break hear a wondering mind wonders if Jonus improved play is changing managements view on trading him this summer? Not withstanding his contract might they try to keep him?
A: They’ll keep him – as they should – unless some tremendous offer comes their way, as they do with every player. But the huge improvement in his play makes him more valuable today than he’s ever been.