Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year, Old Issues

Hello! I'm sure that all of you who live and die by every word of this blog are already well aware, it's been a while since we've added anything to Grading Dater. I wish we could say that this is because the Avalanche newspaper coverage has been excellent and beyond reproach, but the fact of the matter is that I've just been a bit lazy. Watching hockey has been knocked down a few rungs on life's priority ladder of late, which means that reading about hockey is a step or two beneath that, meaning that complaining about reading about hockey has been an even lower priority.

This is not to say, however, that the Denver Post's Avalanche coverage has been all bad and we've simply ignored it. For the most part, it's been tolerable, and often very good. Dater has done a fairly good job lately keeping his player biases quiet and his opinions in the background (even on the blog), and has produced some well-done pieces and game writeups. Although we still get the occasional "the season depends on these next two games" sort of melodramatics, the Dater Downer persona has faded away a bit, in favor of a somewhat more objective viewpoint. Also rarely seen of late is the self-important Dater who that he feels it's his duty to rip the Avs every once in a while, and then pats himself on the back when he refrains from ripping on the Avs. Sure, I've read an article or blog and rolled my eyes a bit, but nothing much lately to really embody the big issues with the Post's coverage and get me to the keyboard with my dander up.  

Mike Chambers continues to be a significant improvement over his colleague, both in apparent understanding and comfort with the game, as well as (his evident man-crush on Ryan Wilson notwithstanding) his overall ability to remove himself from his coverage. As Chambers has seemed lately to be taking more of an even workload with Dater (let's not say that Dater's lost the starting job, we'll call it a 1A/1B "platoon" situation), I've had less and less to write about. You may be surprised, then, to find that the thing that reactivates Grading Dater is not actually written by Dater, but by Chambers.

Varlamov not talking after 6-1 loss at Phoenix

Russian machine never speaks.
This blog entry followed, as indicated, a thorough shellacking of the Avs by the Phoenix Coyotes. This was one of those games where the team didn't look very good at all, and the goalie didn't look any better. This is one thing I've noticed about Varlamov, that he hasn't shown much ability to play a consistently strong game when the team in front of him has sucked, and they've done that often this season. Poor play in front of him seems to rattle him and get him off his game, in a way it might not do to a veteran goalie like Giguere. I think this is primarily an age and experience issue, but it is an issue.

Chambers starts this blog entry by comparing NHL athletes to other, more egocentric athletes from other sports, and then lumps Semyon Varlamov into the second group because he refused an interview request after the game. "This isn't pro football or basketball, Varly," Chambers writes.

He then goes on to write,

Should I give the 23-year-old Russian a break? After all, he’s young and he doesn’t speak English that well, so perhaps he just doesn’t want to say anything if he can’t say something politically correct about his play in the Avs’ 6-1 loss to the Coyotes. 

This is a good point, really, and it demonstrates an understanding on Chambers's part that a guy who just got his ass handed to him may not want to talk about it, to say nothing about talking about it in a language in which he's not fluent. The problem here is that Chambers really should have had this little internal discussion BEFORE he decided to write an entire blog about it... adding it to the entry that he's already submitted doesn't make him seem more understanding of Varlamov's situation, but less.

Unfortunately, he didn't have this talk with himself before writing, he didn't use that objective perspective that reporters are supposed to use... he was irritated and/or insulted by Varlamov in the locker room, and so he decided to embarrass Varlamov in his blog. This blog is really nothing more than Chambers using his bully pulpit to air a personal gripe with Varlamov, and it's unacceptable.

Chambers's job is to cover the Avalanche, and that includes dealing with the players and their personalities, when they're cheerful and accommodating as well as when they're grumpy and rude. I somehow doubt that this is the first time -- or the last -- that Chambers has encountered somebody who declined to be interviewed or was less than helpful to him doing his job... it's pretty much par for the course for a reporter, actually. Varlamov is a human being, and is subject to the same sort of emotions that anybody has... the fact that he's paid a lot of money to play hockey doesn't mean that he has to play along with Mike Chambers's cocky notion that he's entitled to a friendly and engaging interview in any and all situations.

An article or blog entry about Varlamov's play? 100% fair game. A sentence in that article or blog entry about how Varlamov was so upset after the game that he did not speak to reporters? Also fair. But an entire blog entry based on the way the player and the goalie interacted with one another after a game? It comes across as petty and unprofessional. Yes, Varlamov was probably acting unprofessionally when he refused an interview request, but does that give Chambers the right to be equally, if not more, unprofessional by airing his personal feelings about it in the blog?

This is the constant and recurring problem with the All Things Avs blog... it's far too much of the authors and not nearly enough of the Avalanche. Allowing reporters to blog their personal feelings about their jobs and the team they cover creates a dangerous situation ethically that all too few seem able to handle. Dater has been guilty of this misuse of the blog on numerous occasions, and now it seems that Chambers is following his lead. As someone who was growing quite fond of Chambers's coverage, it's a disappointing development to say the least. 

Chambers closed this entry by implying a clear contrast between Varlamov and JS Giguere, who he called "the definition of a class act." After reading this petty, childish, and unprofessional blog entry, I must ask... how exactly would Mike Chambers know what a class act is?


No comments:

Post a Comment