Friday, May 19, 2006

No cheering outside the press box

This is a tough time not to be paying much attention to hockey in Buffalo.

The Sabres are in the midst of making an unexpected run toward the Stanley Cup finals, reaching the conference finals for the first time in seven years. Not bad for a team that was bankrupt a few years ago.

The catch is, I haven't been paying close attention. After many years of covering and watching the team, I've cut back on the amount of time following hockey. Part of that is working the night shift -- you just don't get to see any games on this time schedule. I did go to one of the Flyers-Sabres playoff games, but that was it for the season.

So I'm on a bit of an island when it comes to following the team. But it is hard to notice one thing when standing on the outside -- the amount of cheerleading from the media at this time of year.

Now, I don't like cheering in the press box from sports people, but at least I understand it a bit. Many of the people in the press box are fans of the home team, and have been for years. They get excited over a victory. Sometimes it leaks into coverage, sometimes it doesn't. (By the way the newspaper guys are generally the most objective -- partly because they are more worried about finishing their story. The radio guys, who are the least experienced, often are the least objective.)

But it's the news people that truly are bothersome. Take it from a former PR person in pro sports, there are plenty of news people who think it's really cool to figure out a way to get into a sports press box. They've tried. Those cheerleading feelings really come out a time like this, when story assignments get silly. Sabres in the playoffs? Go to a sports bar and ask patrons what they think of the game. Yeah, you are sure to get some articulate answers to that. Find out what superstitions fans have as they are watching the game. Find out how briskly jerseys are selling. Oh, and refer to the home team as "we." Frequently. Ugh.

I know the community is excited, and that's fine. I know the coverage attracts viewers/readers, and that's the business. Still, there's a difference between telling the story from a Buffalo perspective and openly rooting.

Personally, if I had a choice, I'd rather have my news people rooting for Delphi to stay open.

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