Why Milbury Has A Job

Last night, I got home from work and turned on the Tony Awards. Yes, that’s right. I rarely watch the Tonys, but there was no hockey on, basketball holds no interest for me, and I am a theater person. It also helped that Neil Patrick Harris was hosting, and Sutton Foster was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (and won!). I was privileged to tour with her 11 years ago, and she is an incredible person. You can find all the Tony award winners here.

But this is a hockey blog, and a deal is a deal. One a day. Here is what I was thinking about.

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Larry Brooks almost completely nails it in his write-up of Mike Milbury’s taunts towards Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Almost 100%.

Listen, we’ve all heard this sad song before from Mike Milbury, the ugly American who apparently thinks it is insightful hockey commentary to mock the manhood and masculinity of Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Of course, Milbury was once coached by Don Cherry, the jingoistic Canadian who has spent decades polluting the air by defaming athletes whose first language is something other than English.

Dead on. It’s the Milbury way, and it has it’s roots in what Don Cherry spews every week on the CBC. Remember he works for NESN, the network Bruins games are broadcast on in Boston. He knows who his audience usually is, and who cuts the checks. He was just doing what he always does, playing to the usual audience.

This is the part that Brooks gets wrong:

So the question is, what on earth is wrong with the North American television network executives who make the decisions to hire these people to spew their ignorance?

Brooks should know where it comes from, and he probably does. It comes from the audience, and it comes from the ratings.

Think back to the regular season, and the intermission reports on NBC. On one side of the table, Mike Milbury. On the other side, America’s other hockey talking head, Pierre McGuire. And the excitement of the day was seeing what one person – usually Milbury – was going to call the other. There wasn’t much analysis that you couldn’t get elsewhere, but it was a grudge match. Two people who deserved the barbs and anger they leveled at each other.

Audiences couldn’t wait. They were practically in ecstasy when the first intermission rolled around. After the back and forth dullness of a Versus intermission, NBC was showing flair and guts by putting on this spectacle. NBC knew exactly what they were doing. They were hiring two people who didn’t mind slinging a little mud while tossing in a little hockey.

Like I said, you could get the same kind of analysis online, from a number of sources. If you’re reading my little blog, you probably already find it on other blogs. What you don’t get is the theatrics. It’s the theatrics that people would tune in for, and it’s the theatrics that people want. They want to see the blowhard talk to the jerk, and on a weekly basis, you got exactly that. Read a blog, listen to a podcast, and you will get many different angles on the topic, many of them more considered, more informed, and more interesting that the few minutes you would get from an NBC intermission report.

But it might not be as titillating. It might not have the drama. And NBC, or any sports broadcasting network, wants you to have a reason to stick around for the few minutes of content they are going to show you between commercials at the breaks. If titillation and drama do the job, hire two guys who kick each other in the groin. It works for America’s Funniest Home Videos, and it will work between periods of an NHL game.

Present that argument to Larry Brooks, and I bet he would agree. People tune in to the Brooks / Tortorella show for the exact same reason.

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For those of you doing the Dead Blog Challenge, a quick note: The important part of the challenge isn’t that you write your best stuff ever. It’s that you write, and that you post. Take pride in the fact that you are posting. That’s something worth crowing about. You guys inspire me to keep going. Thanks.