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Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke speaks to reporters during the NHL General Managers' annual fall meeting in Toronto, Ont. Tuesday, November 9, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (Darren Calabrese)
Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke speaks to reporters during the NHL General Managers' annual fall meeting in Toronto, Ont. Tuesday, November 9, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese (Darren Calabrese)

The Usual Suspects

Should the media hold back on Brian Burke? Add to ...

The media like to say: "If you can't take the heat, then don't cash the cheques."

So before people get dewy-eyed about the stresses and strains on NHL vice-president Colin Campbell, stop cashing the NHL's cheques. Then the fourth estate will take out the crying towel. (In Campbell's defence, he's never asked for mercy even if half the media bring up his "awesome burden" at the drop of a three-game suspension.)

But what happens when someone loses a close family member? Should the media leaven their criticism of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, whose son, Brendan, was killed in an automobile accident this year?

With the Maple Leafs floundering, it's hard not to find fault - okay, a lot of fault - with the lack of progress since Burke grabbed the wheel. But The Fan 590's Howard Berger has blogged that Burke's heart doesn't seem in his work since his son's death, a suggestion Burke rejects.

So should media mitigate the barbs? Thursday on Andrew Krystal in the Morning on The Fan in Toronto, Krystal interviewed Todd Kays, co-author of Sports Psychology for Dummies. Krystal confessed he was having a hard time dissing Burke in light of his grief. So what's a talking head supposed to do?

Kays's response was simple. While we must be sensitive to people's grief, the Ohio State University professor said the world moves on. "At some point, life goes back on. That's the sad thing that when somebody dies in our lives, we think the whole world should stop. The reality is, it doesn't."

Having said that, everyone is different in handling grief. Some are shattered, others find solace in their work. Krystal then allowed callers to say whether the media have been too hard on Burke. "There was a lot of sympathy for Burke," Krystal says. "But there were others who said, 'If you can't take the heat. …' In other words, no definite consensus."

Similarly, Bob Gainey lost his daughter, Laura, while working as GM for the Montreal Canadiens in 2006. Mitch Melnick, a host on Montreal's Team 990, recalls a grieving Gainey also seemed preoccupied as he went about his duties.

"I don't recall people holding back criticism," Melnick told Usual Suspects. "I was still critical of the Scott Gomez trade, for instance. But it was not adversarial like so much is today in the media.

"There was an awareness of Gainey's pain and a respect for who he was and what he represented to the franchise. Plus the Canadiens were never in as bad shape as the Leafs are now-- even during the Centennial year when things fell apart. So the criticism was different from what Burke is getting now."

Tellingly, Gainey later admitted that, contrary to his earlier denials, his work had been affected by his daughter's tragedy.

Who Shot JR?

Retired NHLer Jeremy Roenick is going to be a co-host with Krystal twice a week. Which might be stretching the range of the loquacious Roenick. Roenick's already appearing on CBC's Battle of the Blades and NBC's NHL broadcasts, and a little of Jeremy goes a long way. We'll have to see how much oxygen he gets from Krystal, who has a physical reaction any time a guest talks for more than 10 seconds.

Also at The Fan, Globe and Mail columnist Jeff Blair has been given a three-year deal to be host of the 9 a.m. through noon (Eastern) slot. Quite a vote of confidence for someone who's never been a radio host before.

Out of the Woods

Tiger Woods finally seems to be getting good advice. After a disastrous media relaunch this spring, Woods tried again Thursday, going on ESPN radio to put a human face on the man who fell from grace last U.S. Thanksgiving. Woods said all the right things about honesty and trust and caring for his kids.

Time will tell if he's coming out from the shadow of his father, Earl, brilliantly characterized in Tom Callahan's book His Father's Son. While he's busy connecting with fans by radio and Twitter.com, Woods can signal he's fully healed by reconnecting with real family - half-brothers Earl Jr. (Den) and Kevin and half-sister Royce, with whom he has had no contact since becoming famous, Callahan says.

No Turn Unstoned

Finally, hope for all microphone jockeys. CBS is developing a sitcom based on the life of ESPN's Colin Cowherd, a divorced, sarcastic sports-radio host. Not that all his media colleagues think this a fine idea. Says blogger Dan Levy: "You can remember this one moment in time because for the next 20 years, American television is ruined. Just a terrible idea. Next 20 years, you read it here first, folks. Ruined."

 

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