There is something on my mind tonight – as there is on most nights – this night it relates to fans and their relationship with the media.
This is a strange place for me to be because my initial relationship with the, so-called, traditional media was, at best strained and at worst non-existent. Some members of that traditional media were harsher in their treatment of me than others.
This was difficult for me to accept at first because I am, by nature, someone who likes to keep the peace. To have strangers ridicule me for writing something that they did not like – for whatever reason – was difficult. One member of the media caught my attention more than any other. John Canzano.
My disdain in the early stages of my writing career was not hidden, nor was it intended to be. I even once started a blog with the sole purpose of calling out anything he said or did that I felt was inaccurate. But a funny thing happened on the six-year path that has led me to this point; I gained a different perspective on the role media plays.
This is just a strange quirk, a bit of a conundrum. I started my professional writing career writing fan-centric articles. I mean, let’s face it, the reason I started the original “Other Side of Duck” blog was to tell a story that I thought no one else was telling. I took a lot of joy in the accomplishment of shedding a different light on one story. But that story soon faded away and there really has not been much ‘deep digging’ necessary.
Nonetheless, I was called out on the radio in 2011 for one of my conversations. And that is when my own relationship with traditional media changed. I had a good relationship with some, like Ken Goe and Rob Moseley, but that relationship with Canzano was me harboring the same ill-will toward him as seemingly every Duck, Beaver, Blazer, Pilot, Timbers or Vikings fan in the state.
What did I do? I emailed him and told him that if he had a problem with me, be a man and call me.
We sat and he drank a cup of coffee while I drank water. We talked about many things. Life. How his daughter was threatened, how his family has had to deal with anger and vitriol over his commentary. Over time, as I took some time to study the concept of journalism, I began to see this world in which I was traveling a bit differently.
I don’t pretend to have any answers and John Canzano does not need me to defend him. He is a big boy and can handle himself just fine. Like all of us, he is another flawed human being. But as I read some of the words directed at him, it is almost humorous the bubble in which we tend to live.
Let me be a bit more specific. I don’t watch the Trail Blazers; they lost me a l-o-n-g time ago and have done nothing to bring me back as a fan. I don’t really miss watching the NBA despite my long tenure as a devoted Blazers fan. When I read John’s column about the Blazers, it stood out to me as true. John did not insult any of the players, he did not pretend to say he knew about locker room dysfunction. He said that there was a problem with the Corporate Culture at the Moda Center. He was right.
What strikes me here is the hypocrisy of his critics. They call him a hack for this story, and then pile on about ESPN and their ‘broken culture.’ Um, if Canzano cannot make a judgment about the Blazers culture without having spent time in the locker room, how on earth can his critics make judgments about ESPN without having worked there?
This is the hard truth about sports; we don’t like to hear those things about “our” team that we don’t like. Don’t tell us they cheat; don’t tell us that they are doing things wrong – until they are the worst team in the league and then don’t tell us what good people they are. See a trend? Essentially, a columnist’s job is to tell us those things we don’t necessarily want to hear.
John Canzano may not win many popularity contests, but here is a news flash, he is an excellent writer. He has won nine AP Sorts Editors awards in four different categories; he was named the best sports columnist among large-circulation newspapers in 2008. He has twice been named the National Sports Columnist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists. In short, he is an accomplished columnist. What does that mean? He writes things that strike a chord. With fans, that chord will almost always be the opposite of what they want to hear.
I am not here to tell anyone to like or dislike a columnist. That is your choice. At the end of the day, though, we probably ought to be honest with ourselves about why we harbor such disdain. A deep look in that good-old metaphorical mirror might lead us to some philosophical epiphany about what it is that makes us feel such animosity for a stranger.
Like I said, John Canzano does not need me to defend him. I see him sometimes. I say hello. I guess I am no longer an ‘internet gangster’ and I really never was. I stood up for the truth and I stood up for my own character. The rest of what he and I do are just pounding out letters on a keyboard. We get paid to say the things that keep our readers engaged. Neither of us is Grantland Rice.
Life goes on and the world does not end.