Thu May 21 11:10am EDT
Every NHL city had its "third man" on the local broadcast team: The studio host or off-ice reporter that helps set the scene for the booth. Jim Day was that guy for Fox Sports Net Ohio in its coverage of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That is, until the Blue Jackets decided he was too much of a Debbie Downer (wah wah) to continue appearing on their broadcasts.
According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, the team asked that Day be reassigned by FSN because he failed to follow the happy horse-poop edicts from Blue Jackets management about what not to say on the air:
Sources have told The Dispatch that the Blue Jackets tended to complain weekly -- sometimes more often -- about Day, including a memorable "morning after" teleconference this season when Day dared to use the word "disappointing" to describe a 3-1 deficit in St. Louis on March 28. That's right. The offensive word was "disappointing."
Also, Blue Jackets management remains angry, according to sources, that Day did not conform to the club's request to NOT mention late majority owner John H. McConnell on the night the Blue Jackets clinched a playoff spot, April 8 in Chicago. He also didn't follow along by acknowledging that it took the club eight seasons to make the playoffs.
I spoke with someone at Fox Sports Net Ohio this morning who said that Day is under contract by the network and will continue to work on other coverage. The source said that Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter's assertion that FSN has "decided to let the team hire Day's replacement" is "opinion" rather than the network's current intentions.
Both Hunter and Puck The Media's Steve Lepore lit up the Blue Jackets on this issue, with Lepore writing that "this is flat-out unprofessional for the Blue Jackets to request and, frankly, it's big blow to the credibility of a franchise." To which I say: What the hell did you expect?
Local broadcasters have one job, and it's cheerleading. (As opposed to national media, which should be critical but chooses to cheerlead.) The New Jersey Devils once had an absolutely terrific play-by-play guy named Chris Moore whose sardonic humor made some truly difficult seasons more palatable. But he was an honest guy about the team, and that eventually got him the axe from Lou Lamoriello.
Moore was an employee of the team (if memory serves). Day was not. So as petty as the Blue Jackets were in their editorial controls, it's on Fox Sports Net to stand up to them. And it didn't. Which is a failure of cuckolded mainstream media.
Not all media can be controlled. Portzline rails against "thought policing" from the team ... for a newspaper that partly financed the team's arena. It's not as if free and independent thought dies if a franchise exhibits editorial control over television coverage, which is a giant PR enterprise anyway. From Portzline:
The goal with the Blue Jackets management is to have an entirely controlled broadcasting atmosphere, one in which fans are told everything is great even when everything isn't great. This form of "thought policing" never works. Fans don't want warm milk every night. Worse yet, they don't want to be told that the warm milk they're choking down is actually very, very good, that they're really enjoying it. They know better.
Again, it's local TV. What are the fans expecting, Andy Rooney behind the mic?
If other media are pressured, it's on them to push back. Because a professional sports corporation micro-managing its public image and marketing message isn't something that's ever going to change. In the case of the Blue Jackets, the public disclosure of their petty nature is embarrassing. But is it all that shocking?