There are media cycles, and then there is the Manti Te’o news cycle. Last Thursday, the American media couldn’t get enough of Deadspin’s bizarre scoop on Te’o and his Imaginary Lover. The Notre Dame linebacker was either an extraordinary trickster or the victim of an epic online scam featuring a girlfriend from Stanford who almost dies in a car crash and then does die of cancer.
Te’o became the hottest “get” in journalism with everyone wanting a piece of the enigma who said it never really crossed his mind to attend his beloved’s funeral. Esteemed author and social critic Malcolm Gladwell went on Grantland to opine that Te’o was mixing the myth of Icarus, Knute Rockne and Love Story in a uniquely American stew.
Well, Te’o is now planning to emulate Lance Armstrong’s tell-all with Oprah by sitting down with Katie Couric (another fading TV host looking for a boost) on Thursday. But last week’s Manti maniacs are now calling the whole thing a bore and a fratboy stunt that’s played out its media string.
On Monday’s Pardon The Interruption on TSN, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon could barely stay awake, describing it as a victimless crime. They were joined by a chorus of other American worthies who think it’s not worthy of pursuit.
Wait, a group of 20-somethings (including a Heisman Trophy finalist) scam all the major American media outlets (including PTI’s ESPN) for a year with a phony story and it’s a bore? A victimless crime?
Or is mainstream media putting up the police tape because they look inept and unprofessional after being scammed by some kids in Hawaii? If the sports media in the U.S. think there’s nothing left to this story, that’s a worse call than getting fished in by Te’o in the first place.
BOYCOTTING THE BOYCOTT
Frankly, we here at the Grind are disappointed with Canadian hockey fans. After Toronto won their first game, Maple Leafs’ faithful were comparing Ben Scrivens to Johnny Bower. After losing to Toronto, Montreal was taking back their empties so they can find the money to pay unsigned restricted free agent P.K. Subban.
In Vancouver, they’re in midseason panic after losing their first two games at home. It’s as if that other thing - you know, the Don Fehr distraction - never happened. All the solemn vows of revenge against the “billionaire owners and millionaire players”, now Canadian hockey fans have rolled over like Flipper in a plankton bed.
After NBC’s announcement of record TV ratings on Saturday, Hockey Night In Canada came out with its own big Saturday numbers. Average ratings (+2) for the Toronto/Montreal game were up 16 per cent from the previous regular-season record of 2.85 million set on April 7, 2007. The Winnipeg/Ottawa matinée set a record for an afternoon game, reaching an average of 1.6 million (the previous record was 1.094 million).
Later, 1.47 million watched Anaheim maul Vancouver in the late game, on a par with highest doubleheader game rating last season. Granted, you could draw 2 million for the Habs and Leafs at 2 A.M., but the record rating belies all the brave talk about boycotts from supposedly furious fans.
The fast forgiveness also extends to attendance figures. While some attendance figures are no doubt padded, only the perennially inept New York Islanders, destined for Brooklyn, have drawn an announced crowd under 17,200 so far (Winnipeg, whose MTS Centre seats only 15,004, had a sellout for their opener).
HNIC debuted a few new wrinkles in its coverage on Saturday. Principally it has Don Cherry appearing twice, during both Eastern and Western games. (For his second appearance, Cherry was not sitting, leading to all sorts of Twitter mirth about Cherry being a standup comedian.)
Two thoughts: If there are to be Cherry Bombs, bet on the later appearance when the 79-year-old will be able to operate more spontaneously. The early show is likely to have more structure and preparation and, dare we say, oversight. A tired or inspired Cherry is like a North Korean rocket. It can land anywhere.
The second thought is that HNIC has to be careful about too much Cherry. More Don, like more chocolate, is not better. Leaving his zealots and critics wanting more is crucial to the mystique of Coach’s Corner. Cherry never lacks for opinions, but too many of his harebrained ideas about the Toronto Marlies and Kevin “Bieska” diminish his impact.
Broadcast legend Ralph Mellanby reminds us that the Montreal Expos’ first-on field special guest in 1969 at Jarry Park was St. Louis Cardinals star Stan Musial, who died this weekend at 92. “He’d never been to Canada before,” recalls Mellanby, who was producing the TV broadcast of the Expos/Cards opener for CBC and Radio Canada.
“I told him that we’d met before when I was a farmhand shortstop in the Cardinals’ system. He smiled and said, sure he remembered me. I don’t think he did, but he was such a nice man you wanted to believe him.”
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