I haven’t heard Kevin Sylvester’s new radio show on WGR550 just yet. That’s exactly why I’m qualified to talk about it here.
The announcement of Sylvester’s weekday show came at the team’s latest gathering of blogging fan-peoples. This is important. It was an announcement filled with good news as far as the television broadcast is concerned. Fans were thrilled, and everyone excitedly tweeted about Rob Ray and wrote about the release with glowing reviews.
Sabres Hockey Hotline started last Monday, and so far fan reaction seems to be mixed about the show itself. Still, it has had some interesting guests for the middle of June. It will most certainly get better in the fall, when games are actually scheduled to take place.
Being produced and hosted by the Sabres organization, Sabres Hockey Hotline is most certainly part of the team’s marketing arm. That’s all well and good, and I’m not particularly worried about whether team-run radio can work in Buffalo (it will); or if dissenting voices will disappear from the media landscape. WGR now owns the radio rights to both the Bills and Sabres. The tenor of the station will change, sure, but smart fans should be capable of noting these shifts and adjusting accordingly. We’re all adults here.
When news of the radio show broke, many fans acutely praised it as the demise of Colin Cowherd in Buffalo. He is, by all accounts, awful. So that’s nice. Stepping away from that, though, the move to a daily Sabres radio show marks a shift in the way the Sabres intend to stand in the media landscape.
Buffalo Sabres hockey is now a daily operation. All seasons are in season. Take a look at the team’s news archive and see for yourself. At least one story every weekday, even if there’s nothing really going on. With the radio and twitter and its writing team, following the Sabres is a full-time job. If you’re willing to apply.
This is the inevitable evolution of sports. There are 365 days in a year, and you can only play on a small fraction of those days. That doesn’t mean you have to wait your turn while the other sports take up the summer months, though. This means that every bit of news, small as it may be, is breaking and a big deal and discussed to death.
Wednesday’s Sabres Hotline broke the news that Rick Jeanneret will call every Sabres regular season game next year. And just like that, the topic of the day was established.
Sports seasons come and go, but fans exist year-round. Technological convergence and a team’s desire to stay in the spotlight are conspiring to make your favorite team newsworthy year-round. It’s nothing new, but it feels like we’re really starting to get to the saturation point this summer.
It’s not just the Sabres in Buffalo, either. The Buffalo Bills twitter feed has taken to live-tweeting minicamps and recently hired a second reporter for its website. On Tuesday, a photo circulated the web via the team’s Facebook page that got fans ready for the Bills’ first game against the New York Jets. In 75 days.
Enthusiasm for sports in this town is always viewed as a good thing. There are only two major sports to follow, and both of them are off during the summer. They’ll gladly battle one another to fill the void, and fans will gladly follow along. This is the evolution of professional sports in a small city.
I’m just not one of those fans. I’ll confess something to you, dear reader: I don’t currently follow the official Sabres twitter account. Sometime after the Malkin Miracle I got tired of the dozens of spam tweets about a Canadian cable company’s fan vote. So I clicked ‘unfollow.’
I’ll tell you what: I haven’t missed a beat with the Sabres offseason. Anything important gets retweeted by other people or covered by beat writers. The information finds its way to me. The rest of the nonsense is left behind. I figure sometime in the fall I’ll click ‘follow’ again and go from there.
This is nothing against the Sabres or the fine people that run the account. I understand what they’re doing and why. Some fans love it, and I’m not here to tell you the Most Perfect way to be a fan. I just know I’m not ready for Sabres overload every day of the year. Not yet. Some people are definitely there, and it’s only proof that the team is going in the right direction with its web presence.
The point is that the media landscape in sports continues to change, and get bigger. Now that the teams themselves are providing their own coverage, fans are given more and more choices about how they consume their information. Call it a glorified press release if you like, but quotes are quotes and news is news. It’s all out there now.
When I say ‘there’ I really mean ‘everywhere.’ The news cycle is inescapable, even if you remove one source from the mix. I knew that going into my unfollowing campaign with the Sabres. I knew they wouldn’t take it personally, and I wasn’t losing anything in the process. The news will always be there, and I will be back.
That’s something to consider when you look at the media landscape in Western New York in general. We’re all getting the same information, and many of us are reading the same things written and recorded by multiple sources. This means there are ways to get around potential roadblocks in coverage with the big teams. There’s always someone else there to pick up the slack.
Every media outlet wants to be No. 1, but I don’t think it much matters right now. There isn’t a large difference between what a newspaper, television station or PR person has to report in the summer months. We won’t see the real results of all this until the ice is ready a few months from now.
That’s when I’ll be following it all again.