I understand how Bobby Ryan and Keith Yandle are feeling.
My first real chance at a job in television came about 17 years ago, at TSN. I was at The Fan, building my resume as a basketball reporter.
The person who interviewed me held a very high position in the company and asked what I wanted to do. Of course, I wanted to be on-air. He told me it would never happen.
"I don't like how your voice raises when you debate," he said. "And, you simply are not good-looking enough to be on TV."
This was before The Score, before Sportsnet. If you wanted to do sports television, TSN was the only show in town. My career in that industry was over before it began.
I couldn't help but remember this after reading the terrific pieces by Kevin Allen and Scott Burnside about the U.S. Olympic selection process
. It's undoubtedly the same way Ryan and Yandle feel now.
They can't phone the Norwegian embassy and say, "Can I switch?" Those guys would give anything to play for Team USA, and were painfully rejected
My situation wasn't known (until now), but what if those words to me ended up in some all-access online feature? I'd get people laughing at how right the executive is, but the majority would clobber him for his heartlessness, just like Brian Burke is getting it now
I feel for Ryan and Yandle, I really do. They did nothing to deserve this and have a free pass to react as they choose. Having your faults laid out in public is painful. You wish they were warned beforehand.
The rest of the reaction is ridiculous. We are like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men
These "access" opportunities are going to end because of the way those of us watching respond to them. There's nothing wrong with looking at the U.S. Olympic roster and saying, "Yeah, I'm not sure about that."
Burke being Burke
Personally, I disagree with leaving both off the team (I admit to a man-crush on Yandle's game).
Burke is Burke. One minute he's a tremendous person. The next you want to hit him with a tire iron. It is impossible to be a reporter and not get into some kind of fight with him. But the people who are part of the selection process are expected to be blunt, honest and passionate in their arguments. That's why they are in the room.
If I was David Poile
, I would demand it. I would expect it.
The world is not always unicorns, dancing fairies and candy canes. Poile and crew have one responsibility: to win a gold medal. They won silver in 2010 and people don't understand backward steps.
If they fail, they'll get crushed. That's the deal and they know it. Those same behind-the-scenes comments are being made by Canada, by Russia, by Sweden. The sports industry is a cut-throat business.
We love that USA Hockey opened its room to reporters. We love HBO 24/7. But our reactions bring about the death of honesty. We complain when hockey people are boring, then we rip them for telling the truth.
Before the world became a smaller place, maybe it was a local columnist or sports radio host braying into an echo-chamber. Now, everyone has a voice. I love Twitter as much as anyone, but when the tsunami starts, it is absolutely unstoppable and unmanageable.
It encourages two things, neither good. The first is a refusal to participate. The second is phoniness, which is far, far worse.
Earlier this week, P.J. Stock and I had a blowup. We yelled at each other for awhile, then went out for dinner and beers. It was over. Like any reporter, I've had battles with players, coaches and executives. I try to say, "If you have a problem, tell me the truth. Don't sugarcoat it."
One of those arguments was very public. Both of us had our say, and the next time we saw each other, it was over.
That's the way it should be.
I don't think anything I've ever heard outside of death in the family ever hurt me as much as the "not good-looking enough" words did. After contemplating facial reconstruction surgery for two hours, I understood what that meant. If I really wanted to fulfill my dream of working at somewhere like Hockey Night in Canada, I needed to strengthen myself.
I had to improve my work so that someone would have no choice but to say, "Well, he may look like a cross between Frankenstein and Doink the Clown, but he can help us."
I'm thankful for what that executive told me. If he didn't tell me what he did, would I be at HNIC? Would I have the drive and determination to get here? Maybe not.
Hopefully, we will look back and see it work out for Ryan and Yandle. They deserve it. No doubt the Flames are going to get roasted by those two guys as long as Burke works for them.
But if the reaction to these awesome all-access reports is that we lose the ability to have honest conversation, that's a massive disappointment. Maybe we don't always like it, but we need it.
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