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Friday, 19 July 2013

Sociology, Twitter, & Fan/Media Engagement With Hockey

In this All Habs piece, I do a little sociology lite in an analysis of how fans and media pundits use twitter to chime in and debate NHL coaches. In response to announcements regarding prominent coaches who were given new hockey jobs during or at the end of this past season, I gathered a sample of fan and media comments on Twitter and developed four narratives that express the types of story lines told about hockey coaches. Digital media affects sports and fandom in complex and uneven ways, and this piece shows how hockey fans and media writers use Twitter to bring themselves to have symbolic control and involvement with NHL affairs and developments.  

Coach Opera

By Avi Goldberg

For fans of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most compelling stories of last offseason was the repatriation of Michel Therrien as head coach. Though this development gave an academic colleague and me a surprise opportunity to employ a little humour in a fancy stats lite analysis of Therrien’s potential in his second go around with the club, many of us fans routinely enjoy observing the movement of coaches from one NHL gig to another. And, despite its abbreviated and intensified pace, or maybe because of it, this past season provided a handful of interesting developments to be written into the script of hockey’s ongoing coach opera.

To make some sense of it all, I’ve looked at this past season’s major coaching transactions in conjunction with a half-scientifically gathered sample of comments from the Twitterverse, and I’ve come up with four storylines that fans and hockey media pundits use to talk about NHL coaches. A comparative look at popular coaching storylines reveals a lot about the relationship between the perceived needs of NHL teams and the drama produced and consumed by those who follow the plotlines of their favourite team serials.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.

Sports & Social Inclusion in North America

In this piece, my first as a Contributing Editor for The Barnstormer, I draw a comparison between the the Quebec Soccer Federation's short term ban on wearing turbans in youth soccer with the growing movement to remove the name 'Redskins' from the Washington NFL team. This piece explores how both cases reveal ways that societal institutions have the power to define the meaning and place of symbols or icons that belong to ethnic minorities. In reviewing the cases, considering the harms resulting from the external appropriation of symbols, and assessing the role of the media, the piece shows how sports is both a location for the maintenance of traditional power hierarchies as well as a site in which social hierarchies can be challenged and disrupted. 

Symbols of Control

By Avi Goldberg

There's been a lot of talk in the last several weeks about two issues in sports that may not, at first glance, appear to have much in common. In one instance, Quebecers, and many Canadians, agonized over the case of the Quebec Soccer Federation’s (QSF) policy, now overturned, to prevent Sikh boys from wearing turbans on the pitch in Quebec youth soccer. At the same time, debate has intensified over the question of whether it’s time for the Washington Redskins to respond to mounting pressure to change its name given the pejorative connotations associated with its original selection and current use. I’ve heard no detailed comparisons made between these two situations, but their specific dynamics, consequences, and surrounding media discussions share a narrative about the limits to, and potentials for, social inclusion in North America.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.

Montreal Sports Talk Radio: Sports & Much More!

In this piece, published both on All Habs and on The Barnstormer, I delve deeply into The Kaufman Show, a sports talk radio program on Montreal's TSN 690. In highlighting the backgrounds of the show's creator and host, Dave Kaufman, and Kaufman's co-host, Jay Farrar. the piece explores the dynamics of delivering sports talk that transcends sports with its inclusion of the politics, culture, and social issues that shape sports industries and fan life today. The piece also gives a glimpse into the competitive radio industry in today's digital media environments and reveals the challenges of breaking into sports media.  

The Kaufman Show: Deadlines to Meet

By Avi Goldberg

It’s two hours after a Montreal Canadiens victory and only minutes after midnight in the early morning of what will become opening day for the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Arkells’ song, “Deadlines,” having heightened the collective energy of those present in the studio, Dave Kaufman, host of the The Kaufman Show on TSN 690 radio in Montreal, is interviewing Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shortly after his plane landed in Toronto fresh from spring training.

It’s unclear whether Montreal sports fans can really embrace Major League Baseball, let alone the Toronto Blue Jays, after suffering through the loss of their beloved Expos. Kaufman, a lover of the game, knows the dilemma his listeners are surely living.

When Anthopoulos endorsed a plan for Expos fans to converge at a Blue Jays home game this July by remarking that the Rogers Centre was a great environment compared to the Olympic Stadium, Kaufman delivered a shot on behalf of those whose backs may have gotten up over the not-so-subtle diss delivered by the former Montrealer and Expos employee.

“Another way that the Rogers Centre has it all over the Olympic Stadium, Alex,” Kaufman retorted, “is that there’s no more baseball at the Olympic Stadium.”

The two men shared a hearty laugh, and the GM of the team that was favored by many to play in the World Series understood Kaufman’s move to set the record straight. Toronto has the team, the downtown ballpark, and the resources to build a contender, but none of that strips value from Montreal and the city’s relationship with baseball.

Speaking the truth about sports and life is in The Kaufman Show’s DNA. Dave Kaufman and his co-host, Jay Farrar, wouldn’t think of having it any other way.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety on All Habs here.

You can read The Barnstormer version here.

Your Montreal Canadiens!

In this All Habs piece, I identify 5 major developments that characterized the Montreal Canadiens' lockout-shortened season, the first under the helm of Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien. Of particular interest are my debunking of an unquestioned narrative created about PK Subban in the hockey media and the role of the Boston Bruins, and the city of Boston, in the day-to-day experiences and emotions of Montreal Canadiens fans.

“Brad who?” Waking From the Bad Dream Team

By Avi Goldberg

It can be called the real start of the Marc Bergevin era, and with the Habs returning to the playoffs, fans also feel as though they’ve truly awoken from a bad dream of team mediocrity, buffoonery, and misdirection. True, folks are stressing big time about a losing streak and about Carey Price, but fans are in an infinitely better situation than where they were at this time last year. Then, about the best I could do to find joy in the dying weeks of a dismal campaign was to celebrate the grittiness of late season pickup Brad Staubitz. But, when my All Habs colleague, Robert Rice, responded to this notion by tweeting that he had to ask “Brad who?” upon learning of the tough guy’s acquisition, I felt the chills of the bad dream one more time.

We’ve come a long way!

As we count down the final games before the Habs enter the second season, I’ve compiled a list of five issues that have provoked thought. These things will be discussed and debated by Habs fans in the aftermath of their collective bad dream.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.

What Happend to Hockey Fans After the NHL Lockout?

In this All Habs piece, I used some sociology to assess why the fans, after they expressed so much anger, were so quick to return to hockey after the NHL lockout came to an end. To help me sort this out, I interviewed sociologist Matt Loveland (LeMoyne College) and two mega hockey fans, Roy MacGregor (Globe and Mail) and Bruce Dinsmore (Montreal actor and organizer of a fan boycott against the NHL). This piece helps to show why that mainstream reports of fan disillusionment with the NHL were highly exaggerated.

Reconcilable Differences! The Return of the Fans to the NHL
By Avi Goldberg 

As we roll to the trade deadline of this shortened hockey season, it’s hard to believe that only months ago many of us were cursing the NHL and the players for depriving us of our game. We can easily recall the anger we felt during the lockout, but we may blush as we admit just how easily we let it evaporate when the action returned. Following-up on the effects of the lockout on the fans, I have gone to two known lovers of hockey and to one expert in human behaviour. At the risk of opening old wounds, I use their views to help make sense of how fan bitterness appears to have been forgotten so soon after the lockout came to an end.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.

Digital Media & Hockey Reporting

In this All Habs piece, I respond to some recent mainstream writing that has celebrated the power of new media to allow fans and bloggers to influence both sports leagues and the sports media. To assess this issue in more nuanced way than what has appeared in the mainstream press, I interviewed Elliotte Friedman (CBC), Larry Brooks (New York Post), Darren Dreger (TSN), and Michael Grange (Sportsnet) to get their impressions on how the new media world has affected their hockey reporting and writing and on whether social media allowed hockey fans to influence the NHL and the NHLPA as they worked to end last season's lockout.

Digital Voices: Social Media, Hockey Reporting, and the Fans

By Avi Goldberg

In the ongoing consideration of the effects of social media, one unsolved puzzle is the extent to which digital technologies are changing human communications and interactions. And, with members of the media increasingly relying on Twitter to cover events of all kinds, it’s not surprising that this issue has been addressed in relation to reporting on sports in particular.

Think about the Manti Te’o hoax. Though it sounds alarm bells about the state of contemporary relationships, the fact that it demonstrates digital media’s potential to upend traditional sports journalism has drawn attention as well. Similarly, in a recent Globe and Mail piece on its impact on the hockey lockout, Bruce Dowbiggin argued that social media “emerged [from the lockout] as a powerful voice by defying the [NHL] and traditional media who have long brushed them off.”

In terms of new media and reporting on the world of hockey, are we witnessing fundamental change for the better or merely incremental modifications of that which existed before?

To explore this question, I canvassed the views of a handful of well-known mainstream hockey reporters. Based on their routine work that straddles real and virtual frontiers, the consensus among them is that digital media is promoting a significant evolution in hockey reporting, but not a revolutionary and uniformly positive transformation.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Digesting That NHL Lockout Thing

In this piece, I present my thoughts on a few major dynamics I paid attention to during the suddenly resolved NHL lockout. On the very day I am posting this, hockey fans in Montreal and Canada are anxiously waiting for training camps to open and for the abbreviated 48 game race to the Canada Day Stanley Cup Finals to begin.  


113 Days of What, Exactly? The ‘Catelli’ Lockout

By Avi Goldberg

I know that we’re all sick and tired of the lockout. And, though it won’t be long before hockey fans in Canada get back into the routine of the games, many of us are also somewhat troubled by what we and local businesses and their workers have had to endure over the last 113 days. As we wait for the sides to ratify the new CBA, and for a feverishly short training camp to prepare for a feverishly short season, I’ve reflected and come up with five issues that summarize what I think went down. I will explore some of these issues again in the future but let’s hope that most of them can now be permanently put to rest.

You can continue to read the piece in its entirety here.