Thursday, October 30, 2008

I think we saw this one coming...

Sooner or later, somebody in the TSM had to break down completely. Who might have guessed it was the one who was starting to sound like his discussions with "fans" were going on largely in his head?

Now, I haven't read Howard Berger's blog in quite some time, it became pretty clear that he'd lost his way months ago. The vitriol and hostility in the above article isn't actually new, it's just most of Howard's previous articles without the sugar-coating and self-contradiction contained singularly within each. Before Berger's disdain and appreciation of his audience (mostly disdain) was held secure within a shell of something pretending to be news. Like a Kinder Surprise, sometimes we got a shiny moving train, most of the time we got puzzle pieces that formed a picture of a happy bear taking a dump on Southern Ontario.

Now, some news that's recently come to light is Forbes' newest rankings of NHL teams, with the Leafs once again topping out the league in net worth. Despite a third losing season, and promises by management that times were going to get worse instead of better in the foreseeable future, the teams revenues still managed to grow by about 9% over the previous year. That's a fairly incredible statistic, and one that plays a pretty big part in this incident, obviously in that it set off this little tantrum, but also in a more humbling manner. This sort of information coming to light is why I can sympathize with what's happened to Mr. Berger.

If the Leafs are this lucrative then anything relating to them is equally so. The competition among media outlets in this city must be something to behold. I only post about once a week in this blog, partially because I have little to say, but mostly because there's already so many great sources covering pretty much the same subjects, a small few of which can be seen at the right of this screen.

Howard faced the challenge of coming up with content for a much larger audience to digest much faster than that, with much greater competition. Somewhere along the lines he discovered that the Leafs audience would listen to just about anything and respond generally the same way. A way which is, to say the least, not generally very nice or intelligent.

It's a matter of sample size, and the wonders of the internet leave some few of the many comments that bloggers and online journalists recieve open for public viewing. The results are maybe a little disparaging of the education levels in this country. While we often scoff at his portrayal of the bumbling, parroting sheep that are Leafs nation, I can vouch for the fact that these people do actually exist, and probably kept up a pretty good correspondance with the guy.

Steve has gone as far as calling Berger narcissistic which, while likely true, I find to be a little misrepresentative. After all, blogging is at least in some small part narcissistic, as is journalism, as is being a sports fan. Turn that list onto us fans in the Barilkosphere and I'm not sure we'd fare much better.

The hardest part of journalism is keeping yourself professional and composed in front of the masses. Some manage the attention with skill and aplomb, and I have the utmost respect for those people. Still, as we've all seen in various situations, some people given a microphone and an audience can often develop a God/martyr complex. Some people just simply aren't cut out for this sort of thing.

Let's not get away from the point here, this sort of outburst from someone holding a press card with one of the main sports media outlets in Toronto is completely unacceptable. The fact that he (and many others) have gotten away with content similar to this in the past is apalling, especially considering the lack of true content that Leafs fans recieve from these various outlets.

But don't be too mad at Howard. He's come to a pretty big revelation for himself, and the way that we will view future media coverage in this city (countdown to a Cathal Kelly meltdown? Anyone? How about Dave Shoalts?). But Howard, don't take a vacation. Don't carry on. Just move on. There's no shame in not being able to handle the spotlight, but once you've become the king with no clothes you need to realize when your time is up.

I'm not sure if after posting what essentially amounts to hate speech in a company website Howard will still actually have a job in the coming days. If he still does it will just prove to be symptomatic of a media with a complete lack of respect for the majority of Leafs fans. If he still does I will only feel sorrier for the man. The irony that he mentions ivory towers in his first sentence shouldn't be lost.

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