Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/7/2017 (1161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hello, how is it going? I got a call from a reader recently — he wanted to know why we were still talking about hockey and running so many hockey stories in the paper when it was clearly summer outside.
I explained to him that the NHL had just had its annual draft; the Jets followed that with their annual development camp at the Iceplex; and then free agency saw the team dip into the market, signing goalie Steve Mason and defenceman Dmitry Kulikov.
He reluctantly agreed to the logic, but added: ok, that’s enough until September, right?
Listen, I’d just as soon sit around and talk about baseball all day — autos editor Willy Williamson said to me yesterday that I should be the ‘baseball editor’ — but it seems around here, our readers are mostly drawn to any news about the Jets. Heck, a short web story a few days ago that the team had re-signed Andrew Copp was at the top of the most-read stories for the better part of a day.
The Bombers are 2-1 and play the Lions in a big divisional matchup Friday night in Vancouver; the Goldeyes swept the Saints this week to take a stranglehold on first place in their division; and the Canada Games are about to get going in our city in less than 10 days, but the question in these parts remains — do the folks out there care about anything other than the Jets?
All I know is what I see in my inbox everyday. If I write about the Jets, I'm deluged with people either thanking me for being the only one in town willing to speak the hard truths about the Jets or wishing a lonely death upon me. If I write about the Bombers, the deluge is reduced to a sprinkle of emails running along the same themes. And if I write about any other subject? Crickets.
Too bad, I think. No one's asking me, but maybe my favourite column this year was the piece I did on Alex Honnold, the rock-climber who scaled the legendary Yosemite face, El Capitan, without ropes or, for that matter, a net. I loved that story, but I'm still not sure whether anyone read it except you, me and a tiny handful of outdoors types in town who emailed to thank me for finally giving a tiny bit of exposure to their weird passion.
It's an interesting time in our business. When I started at the Free Press a couple millennia ago, you had no real way of knowing what readers were actually reading. If you really touched a nerve with a story, you might get a few phone calls or you'd run into the editorial page editor and he'd tell you they got a lot of letters about you that week. So there were clues, but there was no real way of knowing for sure what people were actually reading once we'd dropped the paper off on their doorstep.
But nowadays, we get metrics that can tell me to a decimal point exactly how many people clicked on one of my columns and to the second how long on average they read it. I know exactly how many times it was tweeted and emailed and Facebooked and how many people commented on it on the website.
And what those numbers tell me, every day, is that people in this town cannot read enough about the Jets, will tolerate a column on the Bombers and cannot be bothered with any other subject.
So it's an interesting dilemma right? Do we just pander to the clicks, forget about everything else and just give people a daily drumbeat of Jets? If the customer's always right, that seems like what we should be doing. And that's probably what the bean counters in accounting probably wish you and I were doing. But that just doesn't feel right, does it?
You're the boss — you explain it: Why do we cover any subject other than the Jets?
Good question. A couple things come to mind:
Hypothetically, let’s say we have 100 readers — and I sure hope it doesn’t get to that ha ha; 50 of them only want to read about the Jets; 25 of them want to read about the Jets and the Bombers; 15 of them only want to read about curling; and the other 10 have a variety of interests — and the Jets are not one of them. If we don’t give that 10 percent something that interests them, then we are down to 90 readers.
Also, there’s the whole chicken and the egg thing, which I have heard from the amateur folks for years. If we don’t cover it, no interest will be generated. So, if we give it come coverage, more people will be interested and that 10 percent will grow to 15 or 20 percent.
Finally, I think it’s our responsibility as the paper of record in this city; and as good corporate citizens to support — as much as we can — our local athletes and teams.
I just had a discussion with my boss this morning about this. He was ecstatic with the three-page spread we did today on the Canada Games — we listed all the names of the athletes and coaches who will be participating. We’ve decided to go all-in on this event.
Will we get the same reader results if we ran three pages of Jets? Probably not, but I think it’s the right thing to do and I think a good number of our readers expect it and will appreciate it. I get enough calls and emails on a weekly basis from our customers suggesting they would like to see something other than just Jets.
And the boss was really happy this morning — so, that’s a good reason, right?
That's the best reason of all, actually. A happy boss — like a happy wife — is a happy life.
I will just leave you with this. I'm going to write a Canada Games column next week. I'm going to devote some serious time and resources to it — I will familiarize myself with the subject area, talk to some people in and around the Games and try to identify an angle that will make it interesting and relevant to an audience beyond just these kids parents and grandparents.
And I predict, with almost complete confidence, that it will be the worst-read column I write this year.
People say they want to read these stories, just like they say they eat granola for breakfast every morning.
But there's a reason Fruit Loops is the most popular item in the cereal aisle.
I wonder what your worst-read column to date is? Perhaps I’ll check with the data folks.
So, veering away from hockey there are a few interesting stories that have caught my attention over the last few weeks.
The Connor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather four-city promo tour for their fight in August was wild theatre — although two cities would have been enough. If this actually was ad-libbed, then McGregor is certainly quicker than Mayweather.
Some of the verbal jabs thrown down by the MMA champ were pure gold. I have a personal affinity for Irish thugs, so I’m looking for reasons McGregor could beat the boxer despite all the contrary opinions. The best reason he has a chance in my mind, is he’s 29 and Mayweather is 40 — age matters in sports.
But, my favourite story over the last few weeks has been that of ex-Toronto Blue Jay centerfielder Colby Rasmus, who made a decision to "step away from baseball" and isn’t expected to return to the Tampa Bay Rays this season.
Rasmus has been dealing with a hip injury for some time, but instead of rehabbing like crazy in hopes that he would get back on the field this season, he called it a day and his dad has suggested his son may never return to pro ball.
Colby is more concerned, Tony Rasmus said, "with being able to walk 10 years from now… At this stage of the game, you don’t need the money."
Rasmus is 30; he’d earned about $40 million heading into this season — including $15.8 million with the Astros last season. Hell, who needs it?
I don’t understand why this doesn’t happen more often. Why do athletes keep playing and playing and playing for another several million a year? Is it for more money, or what?
Listen, I love the gig I have but for the most part there’s only one reason I work — the money. If I didn’t need the money, I’m not working.
If I’ve earned $40 million — heck I don’t need anywhere near that — I’m taking at least the rest of the year off.
I was wondering the exact same thing — why do athletes keep playing when everything tells them they should stop? — on Monday night at the Goldeyes game.
Fish centre fielder Reggie Abercrombie is a legitimate former major leaguer who made some decent money in the big leagues and yet there he was in the third inning slamming into the outfield wall trying to track down a fly ball.
Why, I wondered, is someone like that still pounding it out night after night and riding those American Association buses at the age of 37? A lot of guys play independent ball on the off-chance they'll become one of the tiny handful who eventually make it back to a major league organization, but that's not happening for Abercrombie at his age. So again — why?
I got my answer in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the Goldeyes trailing 3-2 and Abercrombie standing at third base, infielder Wes Darvill drilled a walk-off homer over the right field fence to complete the comeback. Abercrombie waited at home for Darvill and the two were mobbed by their teammates, jumping up and down like a couple little kids.
It was one game. In July. In the American Association. But it might as well have been Game 7 of the World Series judging by Abercrombie's reaction.
It was everything that was right about independent ball in that one little moment.
That's why they keep playing.
Yeah, maybe. But also: While I say I would hang em up after making my first $6 million, the chance to make another $6 million might be quite an incentive to keep playing.
So, last season you predicted the Cubbies were finally going to break the curse and win the World Series — who you picking this season? Doesn’t look like the Cubs will repeat. The Dodgers have a .695 winning percentage going into Thursday’s action and look like a lock if Clayton Kershaw shows up in the post-season. Big if though.
I picked the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup — Ovechkin and Holtby are terrible in the playoffs btw — so I’m going to stick with that city and make the Nationals my choice to win the Series — hey, DC could use a parade.
While I appreciate you forgetting I picked the Cubs to repeat in these pages a few months ago, I cannot tell a lie. I'm not totally giving up on Chicago — they're only a game-and-a-half back of Milwaukee, the Quintana pick-up helps and I still love that pitching staff in October, if they get that far.
Both the Dodgers and Astros are putting up crooked numbers on teams right now. That'd make a great Series. First one to 150 runs wins.
But the best story in baseball this week is the Giants potentially re-signing Pablo Sandoval, after the Red Sox released him with $48 million still left on his contract. They're perfect for each other — the Giants are 29 games back and Sandoval is 100 pounds overweight.
For the record, I would happily not play for the Red Sox for one-tenth what they're going to have to pay Sandoval for the rest of his days.
I just checked with the web folks and apparently it's difficult to track back and find your worst-read column. "Nobody ever wants to know that!" was the response.
It was suggested an intriguing headline on your Canada Games column could ensure it is not the low bar of your career.
Interjection from said web folk: I think my suggestion would be more accurately described as "inflammatory" than "intriguing"...
The Bombers return to BC Place Friday night — the site of last year’s semifinal debacle. Another early-season test for the boys in blue and gold. I know it’s still early in the season, but after losing at home to the Stamps a couple of weeks ago, I think Friday’s game is another litmus test to see if this team is going to step up and compete with the big dogs in the Western Conference this year.
The Bombers got the win they needed last week against Toronto. Worst case, they're 2-2 after this week and I think Mike O'Shea would take that after a schedule that saw Winnipeg open against Saskatchewan in the first ever game at New Mosaic Field and then take on Calgary, Toronto and B.C. in succession.
But yeah, nothing good happens for this team until they can demonstrate they can beat not just the teams in the East (and Saskatchewan), but also the teams in the West that will actually challenge for the division title.
The Bombers still haven't beaten Edmonton or Calgary at Investors Group Field — ever. And I love what Wally Buono has put together in B.C. this year. Not too many teams could have their starter go down like Jonathan Jennings did last week and have a former league MVP like Travis Lulay put on a player of the week performance in relief.
The West is really, really good this year.
By the time this is in print, we will know.
Gotta get back to work now — no Jets in tomorrow’s paper, but we’ve got a whack of Bombers; some more Canada Games; some local golf and the British Open; and our weekly report from George Williams out at the Downs. Gotta try to keep everybody happy.
It's a juggling act everyday. Glad I'm not in charge — someone in the front row would get hit with a flaming chainsaw.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.
As a young boy in the 1960s, Steve would plead with his mother to let him watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights. And CFL football. And baseball. And PGA golf. And… well, you get the picture.
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