The lights were on, the Sabres banner was set up. Pens and paper were ready. The scene was set at the OK Corral and finally everyone would get the answers we have been yearning for. Instead, the spotlight was moved from the answers to the parties involved, all of whom withered under the light.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!
Abuse of power, arrogance, and detachment wrapped in one?
That's exactly what Monday's press conference was about. It was about two frustrated entities letting their own insecurities get the best of them. It just wasn't the finest hour for anyone.
I enjoy drama that doesn't involve me just as much as the next guy, but this was uncomfortable to say the least. Entertaining? Yes. Informative about the Buffalo Sabres future? Not really. Nothing was accomplished except continuing feuds that most readers don't give two shits about.
Press conferences aren't supposed to be soaked in grandstanding discord like that. They are not the presidential debates. I don't care what Jerry Sullivan says about how pressers go in NYC. I've watched my fair share and I can't recall it ever getting that bad between a team spokesperson and reporters. Not between Rex Ryan, Tom Coughlin, Joe Torre or Isiah Thomas. (Note: If Mike Harrington is reading this, show me a YouTube clip that was equivalent to this.)
This press conference was not about getting answers about what went wrong this season. It wasn't about the fans' interests. It was about a pissing match between two gigantic egos trying to settle old scores that still read zero to zero.
Yes, asking about Pegula's whereabouts and pointing out that fans got their letters about a hike in ticket prices on the day of Fan Appreciation Night needed to be done, but both topics took on a life of their own. Did we really need to talk about where Terry was for so long?
Just take that sort of crap outside if you don't get the answer you want. I understand Mike's point in saying there was a lot of hockey involved in the presser, but the problem was that the bickering between both parties overshadowed that to the point that no cared anymore.
The best metaphor I can come up with is if you go out with your wife for dinner and for the entire time you are arguing on the drive there and then continue it when you get to the restaurant. At some point you finally stop and dinner is served and it tastes great. Does it really hit the spot when you've been arguing for the entire time? No. It takes away from it. It ruins dinner.
The discord overshadowed all the hockey answers to the point that no one cared about the team. When Darcy Regier, who is a bumbling GM, looks like Obama in a public speaking sense by comparison to the other parties involved, that's all you need to know.
So where does the frustration come from in the fallout of a press conference?
For starters, I think the Buffalo Sabres have way too much power in our community and at times, their arrogance has blinded them. In any other market where teams compete with other teams for the bottom dollar, ownership couldn't get away with being so cagey. Ted Black pretty much lied to everyone when he said Pegula is available. I don't blame Mike Harrington for getting worked up about that. It is small-time for the Sabres to say things that even ardent supporters know aren't true.
I wouldn't say the Sabres are taking their fans for granted, but I think they are a bit full of themselves in thinking they can go about answering questions whenever they see fit because they are the top bill in this town. They have sold out the arena. They are always in the conversation for what is hot in Buffalo. Sabres hockey can sell prospect scrimmages in July. It is a market that sells itself.
There is no need for PR because they don't worry about other major sports besides the Bills.
That's why the team is stupid enough to send out a letter about price increases while fans are still stewing about how awful the seasons been. That's why the team explained away the price increase with mumbo-jumbo CBA talk.
When you think about it, the Sabres may be the most powerful sports institution in Buffalo. They control two hours of radio programming and about an hour of pregame and postgame programming. That's a lot of power in a media market that is pretty small to begin with.
I think that power is why TBN is just so angry with them, and come off like martyrs when it comes to getting answers. I think the staff is jealous of the access that WGR gets and how firmly the Sabres can control the word coming out of 1 Seymour Knox Plaza.
It also feeds TBN's ego because they get off on being viewed as the bad guys in all of this. They relish the role. They think the Sabres pushing back or the fans accusing them of being bullies means they're doing their job in getting answers.
Maybe they are, but I didn't find any of the answers they got to be very enlightening. The only thing I came away with was that Black is Darcy's equal in the organization which he's pretty much said on the radio multiple times along with the fact that he doesn't make hockey decisions. Because of that, I do think there may be some merit to the idea that Pegula needs to sometimes speak to the media.
However, the whole thing was a bit too heated and contrived for my taste. It felt like a yelling match on Capitol Hill where both sides look like idiots because they think being the loudest means being the most right. Neither entity involved in the press conference belonged in Hockey Heaven.
Stalking Terry Pegula?
Now a lot of this anger has been built seemingly around the owner not being available for comment over the last few months.
TBN (More so) and some parts of WGR have been bitched about how Terry Pegula hasn't been talking to the press. It started last year when the Sabres decided not to do a season-end press conference, which I happen to believe was pretty silly on their part. The majority of franchises conduct these, and I see don't see why the Sabres couldn't do one, too. They did, after all, have a press conference after their playoff run fell short in 2011.
However, what really seemed to rub a lot of people the wrong way was the constant bitching and moaning by TBN about the lack of availability. It was ridiculous, and it got to the point that I started not caring if they ever talked at all. I'll say it one more time for the record:
No one cares about your work problems.
No one cares that TBN's notebooks aren't going to be filled with mindless quotes full of PR-approved cliches. No one cares about what you go through to get the job done or your deadlines. It is no different than when a friend of yours is constantly bending your ear, complaining about their job or relationships. After awhile, you just shut it off and are turned off by it.
I, for one, don't really care to hear from Pegula. This is partly because I like Pegula, which I think is a major reason why some fans didn't care to hear from him. This isn't Tom Golisano, who a lot of fans demanded to hear in public because they wanted him to squirm as they felt he was directly responsible for the demise of the franchise in the summer of 2007.
For Pegula, I'm just not interested in hearing what he has to say because he hardly adds anything of substance. I don't mean to be flippant, but he's kind of aloof and he just comes off as being too nervous and awkward in a public setting. (See: His weird off color joke to the masses at the Harbor Center ceremony about Ted Black and Byron Brown and asking about "the last time the Pats won the Stanley Cup"). Just not everyone can command a room and he sure as hell can't.
Not only that, but Pegula is not going to add any sort of substance to questions about Lindy's firing and the goal of the franchise. It is going to be all those lame answers that we've heard from before. "It was tough. Team was struggling. We love him. Blah, blah, blah"
However, this isn't about me. This isn't about Twitter or bloggers. Sometimes, we get caught up in the Twitter bubble in not realizing that there is another world out there of people who want to hear from the owner.
Yes, they exist and whether or not all of the bloggers are in unison about him not having to answer questions, which seems to be the consensus, doesn't mean we are a focus group….Because we aren't.
This isn't about us, this is about everyone else and if the smallest or stupidest voice wants answers, they should be heard. There are people who want answers and to me, a good press corp. consists of the ones who listen to all fans and ask questions those fans want asked. And for that, if the mountain won't come to Abraham then Abraham has to goto the mountain.
So, all bets are off when it comes to asking him hockey related questions about the team. In a way, had Pegula just answered questions before, none of this would have happened during his ceremony. Just pick up the phone and grant a 5-minute interview to Harrington, Bucky, Howard Simon or whoever. He owns the team and there are just obligations he should fulfill because of that.
He doesn't have to come out after every winning or losing streak, but if the consensus is that the hierarchy above Darcy made the call to have Lindy fired, maybe that's why people want to hear from him. If the players, coaches and GMs need to face questions and they are millionaires, why can't the owner?
The biggest problem is that I feel some fans are caught up in what Pegula is doing for the city with the waterfront and there's a sense that we can't separate Pegula the businessman and Pegula the hockey owner. It isn't a straw man argument, as there are people on my Twitter feed who I respect go on about how they would rather have the city turn around on his dime than the team bring home a Stanley Cup. That's totally fine and I agree.
However, it shouldn't absolve him into not answering questions about the hockey team and why Darcy Regier is still employed here. This is about how the region wants to be loved and whenever it seems like someone loves us back, we will stand by their side. Also, we don't wanna piss the guy off.
Also, Don't give me the "Ted Black is the mouthpiece of the organization" because quite frankly, he's already indicated he has no say in what the team looks like on the ice. He's Russ Brandon before Brandon took the keys away from Ralph Wilson. Frankly, I don't really understand why he's out there taking bullets for the team when…
A) He can't fire Darcy.
B) He can't do anything about the hockey team.
This is odd because Team presidents normally aren't in charge of just one side of a hockey organization. It is normally both, hence the term "team president" and not president of a sub-division.
If Black was someone who made decisions that had to do with the hockey team above Pegula (Think Tom Donahoe being team president and GM under Ralph Wilson), then I can see why the mouthpiece argument makes sense. It doesn't here.
MSM still doesn't get it
Now, before a MS person pops the champagne in thinking I'm on your side, it once again circles back to this not being about you and the difficulties of your job in order to track down Pegula. I don't think most of your antagonists would have a problem with you asking questions to him in a public setting if you didn't complain so loudly about how he was ducking. This happens like 20 times a week for crap sakes on Twitter.
Give it a rest. Bitch to your co-workers, your wife, the dogs, better yet, call Mike Gilbert and swear to him over the phone or show up to the arena on an off day to ask to speak to Terry.
Yes, I can already see a reporter saying that's unprofessional and this isn't a movie where journalists sit on lawns to stakeout a home to ask questions. However, bitching everyday and carrying it into a presser is just as unprofessional and over-the-top as a press conference scene from one of the Rocky movies.
Bottom line: Just leave us out of your work problems because you have overused your bitching privileges.
The constant bitching can easily be construed for having a vendetta than actually getting the story. It is pet-peeve of mine that I see way too many times in sports writing and broadcasting.
I saw it when portions of the media made a huge deal about Mario Williams having a refrigerator before week one of the season, which I think was due in large part because he didn't speak on Mondays. Trust me, reporters have the minds of elephants when it comes to being shunned. They remember all of this and unfortunately a lot of their emotions of being pissed off can bleed into their takes. And that's sad.
Sure, you aren't the only ones in the media across the country who complain about access, but you can't make it into a daily squabble, especially when the sports press corp. is made up of only like 15 people, not 50 like in NYC. Although the sports scene between both cities is much smaller, the passion for the genre is just as big. So, the sports pundit's message carries louder because there aren't as many of you.
Oh, and let's stop with how NYC has 60 Jerry Sullivans yelling at the masses and acting like hardcore journalists with whiskey in their bellies and a card in their hats that they say "Scoop". Why follow that?
Why stoop to the low standards of a Skip Bayless, Around the Horn or The New York Post? Pretty sure if I asked 99% of the media in Buffalo about those entities, they'd say they are low-rent, blow-hards. Yet, you'd think they were following their path in trying to attain their level of success off the building blocks of hate. It is like doing steroids when you know it is bad, but screw it, if they are getting rich off it, why can't we?
Tuesday's press conference was the epitome of this past Sabres season. It was terrible and had little to do with hockey and just another way to yell about stuff that felt contrived and useless.
The last three months has been fricken awful and I'm not even talking about the actual hockey team. From the silly arguments about booing…to faceoffs being important… to the media's treatment of the Sabres… there were just too many silly things we argued about.
I thought last year was an anomaly in mindless debates (Remember the goalie controversy? Injuries fact of life? Fans being too quiet at the F'N Center? Lucic beheading Ryan Miller? Miller not being focused because of his wife?), but I was wrong.
Sadly It seems like when the Sabres are at their worst, so are we. Maybe there really is a losing disease in these parts.