Mike Silva's Sports Media Watchdog » Blog Archive » Hell Isn’t So Bad Anymore

Hell Isn’t So Bad Anymore



By Mike Silva ~ December 11th, 2012. Filed under: New York Knicks.

On November 28th, 2007 the New York Observer ran this article dubbed “Life in Knicks Hell.” In it, we heard how difficult it was for the members of the media to cover the Knicks and deal with the MSG’s media policies. The Garden was more of a gulag (MSGulag as the Daily News’ Bob Raismann likes to call it), and you got the feeling these journalists were doing a sentence despite committing no crime.

Five years later it’s all fun and games at MSG. It’s early, but this 15-5 squad conjures up fond memories of Pat Riley’s teams early 90s and Red Holtzman’s dynasty. The twenty-point thrashing of the Heat has not only invigorated the fan base, but allowed the fickle New York media to give some backhanded compliments to Garden CEO James Dolan.

First Selena Roberts, she of Alex Rodriguez steroid fame, lauds Dolan for his role in the makeover of the Knicks in her piece “Revenge of the Clown.” In the same piece, she reminds her readers how Dolan has one finger on the panic button, and could blow up a good thing in a moment’s notice. All this during the same week when the same Jim Dolan reached out to save the NHL season, just a year after he was a driving force in ending the NBA lockout. If there ever was a template for a backhanded compliment, Roberts’ piece is it.

Then yesterday there is a love piece from notorious Dolan critic Frank Isola of the Daily News. Isola is the same individual that insinuated that Mr. Dolan tried to run him over in his limo a few years ago. Isola praises Dolan for the offseason makeover, specifically bringing in Raymond Felton and letting Jeremy Lin go to Houston. What’s funny is Isola said just a few months earlier the Lin decision was more personal than business on the part of Dolan. I guess a few early season wins changes things, especially when the thesis of your writing appears to be littered with personal agendas.

Isola was the center of the New York Observer piece. He was the one that told stories of being excluded from press releases and breaking news by the Garden PR department. He is also the same guy that spends a majority of his time writing agenda-fueled columns for the News, and trolling Knicks’ fans about Isiah Thomas. Read Isola and you would think Isiah is wearing a grim reaper costume while hiding in the rafters of MSG.

Maybe the real problem is the Garden went from a Laissez-faire process with the media to corporate and strategic. This quote from the Observer piece should tip you off to what really angers the media about Dolan’s MSG:

Mr. Isola now looks back wistfully on 2000, a year in which the Knicks were defending Eastern Conference Champions and once again bound for the conference finals. “One time, [former Knicks president] Dave Checketts came out to Vancouver and took the media out on a boat, and it was catered. Walt Clyde Frazier came, and so did all the media people who were traveling. As we were on it, a bald eagle flew right over the ship,” he said, breaking into an enormous smile.

“On the same trip,” he continued, “I went jogging with Barry Watkins from Marina del Rey to Santa Monica, and then back. At night we all hung out together and watched the Final Four.”

That relationship is one that doesn’t exist in sports anymore. It’s one that probably shouldn’t, considering the writers’ job is to provide the readers (aka customers) with objective analysis. Getting too close to the subject always clouds one’s vision. I do realize, however, that news is a business, and without partnerships of convenience a beat writer can’t do their job. Anyone in the industry that preaches journalism ethics or denies it is flat out being disingenuous. Obtaining that type of relationship at the Garden appears to be much harder the last decade. It also makes the job of a beat writer that much more difficult. See where I am going with this?

Because many of the writers mentioned in that ‘07 piece grew up in a different media/team environment, it’s possible they were having difficulty transitioning to the new order of media. When you start to look at Jim Dolan, the person, is he any worse than George Steinbrenner? Last I looked Dolan never conspired against his players or made illegal campaign contributions. Yes, I know you are going to bring up the whole sexual harassment scandal, but I still think Dolan’s biggest fault is blind loyalty to people that don’t deserve it. That is not necessarily a crime, just a character flaw.

Even if former GM Donnie Walsh- the real game changer in this Knicks turnaround- was forced upon Dolan, it wouldn’t be the first time a league has to slap a team on the wrist and save it from themselves. Steinbrenner’s suspension is what many believe to be the key component to the Yankees’ run of success the last 17 years. George was also as vilified as much or more than Dolan during the 1980s. Many erased that chapter of Steinbrenner history after his death in 2010.

So I ask the question again:  is like covering the Knicks really hell? It was so bad that all the key contributors to that piece still are involved with the Knicks and NBA. One, Alan Hahn, actually works for Dolan’s MSG Network.

***

For the record, I have never covered a game at MSG. I do, however, know a couple of reporters that have spent time there. They describe the team as being highly organized in their approach to granting access to the players. Unlike baseball, where reporters stand around the clubhouse for hours doing nothing, everyone is given access to the players in a systematic fashion. It’s organized and logical, and appears to put everyone on an even playing field. What a concept! Even those that aren’t part of the mainstream media are given credentials by MSG. I can’t say this about my experience dealing with Major League Baseball.  From my vantage point, I rather deal with the Knicks than one of the 30 MLB clubs any day of the week.

If the Garden catalogs conversations and “bugs” employees as Roberts’ claims, it wouldn’t be any different than what fans are facing in our modern corporate culture. Power and control is at the center of most organizations in a world that has become the Wild West thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. The Knicks are trying to control the message and build a brand just like any Fortune 500 CEO that frequents those courtside seats. How many of you reading this piece feel completely at ease saying or doing whatever you want in your place of work?

In a town that has seen every ownership group and executive get vilified, it appears that Dolan is finally getting a second chance. Maybe if things continue he will become a modern-day George Steinbrenner.

Winning has a way of making people in this town rewrite history.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com
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