Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grading Mike Chambers

AD, the spotlight's off you today!
Yes, this blog is titled "Grading Dater," and for as long as Adrian Dater is the primary Avalanche beat reporter, it will stay that way. Besides, it's catchy in a way that "Grading the Denver Post" just isn't. However, Dater is not the only writer at the Denver Post who covers the Avalanche; Mike Chambers chimes in from time to time, and because the real goal here is to improve (or failing that, to complain about) the local media coverage of the Avalanche rather than to just rip on Dater all the time, it's time to give AD a break, and take a look at Chambers' work for a while.

I can practically hear Dater's sigh of relief from here!

Terry Frei used to share NHL duties at the Post with Dater, but left the Avs beat before the beginning of this season. I was never clear on who, if either, was the "main" Avs guy, but it seemed that Frei had been gradually stepping back from his hockey duties for a couple years already, leaving Dater to do the bulk of the work as the primary Avs beat writer. I liked Frei's coverage, generally speaking: his writing displayed a deep and insightful knowledge into the game of hockey and the NHL, and he was at all times unbiased and professional (unless you got him talking about Bertuzzi/Moore, for which he seemed to carry a torch for a very, very long time).

Many, in fact, thought he was too unbiased, to the point of being overly negative about the Avalanche... a charge often leveled at Dater as well. Frei, however, never displayed the manic Avs-fan side that Dater does (for example, referring to the players in print by their nicknames, ie. "Hedjie"), which made him appear aloof to many readers, when in fact he was simply doing his job the way it was supposed to be done.

Frei is missed by many, but Mike Chambers has taken the spot as Dater's right-hand man. I have written previously about my appreciation of the way he handles blog entries; in stark contrast to Dater, his blog entries are usually concise and informative, rarely veering into the first-person voice which Dater uses almost exclusively in the blog. Will his expanded role covering the Avs lead to changes in his style?

A few of Chambers' blog entries follow. The first is what I would consider a perfect example of a sports blog: information that doesn't warrant a full article but is still of interest to the fan, passed on without comment. This is typical of the blogs that Chambers has submitted for some time now. Another similar blog from Chambers can be found here... again, nothing more than some simple lineup update-type information for Avs fans, and a brief plug for Dater's podcast thrown in at the end.

The next example today is an appreciation of Ryan O'Reilly, on whom Chambers appears to have a bit of a man-crush. Here, Chambers uses a first-person voice (as well as some too-familiar phrasing, such as calling him a "lad"), to discuss O'Reilly's play in a loss to the Blackhawks, his work ethic, and his disappointment with losing. He starts a lot of his sentences with "I," which is generally a bad sign where objectivity is concerned. Chambers definitely straddles the line here between "admirer" and "fan" with this blog entry.

Lines like "The kid is just a competitor!" seem to indicate that Chambers really, really likes Ryan O'Reilly, which is fine. Many of us really like Ryan O'Reilly, and reporters can have players they enjoy watching, too... but any newspaper writer must tread carefully when expressing his or her personal feelings towards the subject. If this is as far as Chambers takes things on the blog, it should be OK, but this is a bit too close to "Chambers with stars in his eyes" for my taste, and I hope it is not a warning of things to come. Avs fans appreciate O'Reilly just as much as Chambers does, and for good reason... the man works his tail off. This entry would have packed more punch if the fans' admiration, rather than Chambers's, was in the driver's seat.

Have you seen this man? Please contact Mike Chambers.
The final Chambers blog example is another bit on O'Reilly. Here, Chambers is back to his brief-and-informative style, but in this case it's put to kind of a silly use. The focus here is confirming that O'Reilly is actually the mysterious "hooded runner" that Chambers wrote about in his previous blog entry.

O'Reilly exercises... a lot. I think we've got that, and it the whole "hooded runner" thing just seems like Chambers is trying a bit too hard to make a story out of it. Again, is this entry a problem? Considering that most of these blog entries are barely necessary anyway, this isn't a huge issue, and the video of O'Reilly explaining his workouts (and the underlying work ethic they come from) is worth watching. I just hope Chambers doesn't venture into these creative writing exercises too often.

Finally, we take a look at a Chambers post-game writeup, this one the Avs' first home victory over the Kings. Here, Chambers does a good job telling his reader about this game, and includes quotes from Duchene (who got the game-winning goal), Coach Sacco, and Kyle Quincey. Overall, a very good effort, but then again, it's usually easier to write a review of a game when the team wins... the better test will be, what do Chambers' articles look like when the Avalanche lose?

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