A Snapshot of the Sickness

Cup'pa JoeA few years ago Jason La Canfora was the Washington Capitals’ beat reporter for the Washington Post; for the past couple of years he’s covered the Redskins. That of course is the meat ticket for sportswriters at that paper. I wouldn’t be surprised if it paid more than the Pentagon beat.
Back when La Canfora was on the hockey beat I exchanged email with him, often commending him for the quality of his work. I learned that he held hockey close to his heart, following it closely from his youth in Baltimore.
In the movie ‘Thank You for Smoking,’ Nick Naylor is the chief lobbyist and very public lead spokesperson for Big Tobacco, well remunerated for defending the indefensible. Once a week he lunches with the “MOD Squad” — other self-described “merchants of death,” lobbyists for alcohol and firearms. At various points in the film he’s asked about his ability to deliver the message he daily does, that there’s no link between cigarette smoking and cancer.
“Ninety nine percent of the rationale for the [career] paths we choose is a mortgage . . . We’ve all got a mortgage to pay,” he responds.
Initially I wrote off La Canfora’s hockey sellout as just another move to better manage the mortgage. It almost certainly is. But his Redskins’ file in yesterday’s WaPost offered me another view of that decision.
I’m not sure what La Canfora thinks of the Caps’ rebuild, but I’m reasonably sure that if Ted Leonsis had embarked upon nearly 10 years of playing GM of the Caps and delivered losing seasons with almost unfailing regularity (interrupted only by mediocre ones), and had he remained on the team’s beat, La Canfora would have called on Leonsis on it.
When Ted Leonsis briefly played GM with the Jaromir Jagr deal and it failed, he called himself out and resolved to remove himself, forever, from the hockey personnel side of managing the Caps. These days, I wonder how many Redskins’ fans would like to see that team’s owner do the same thing?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday La Canfora’s lead read:

“For the first time since just before last year’s NFL draft, Washington Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder met with reporters yesterday and praised the direction of the organization, professing his belief that the club has improved significantly this offseason.”

What follows, predictably, is an uncritical reckoning of Synder’s once-a-year pow-wow with the press pack. Imagine if Leonsis had installed George McPhee as a puppet GM, as Snyder did with Charlie Casserly and Marty Schottenheimer (not bothering with a nominal GM since) (at this point, who’s left to fool?), and led last-place finishes the past two seasons and agreed to meet with the press once a year. Think WaPost might have something critical to say about that?
In case you hadn’t noticed, the NFL draft is taking place this weekend, and once again, Synder will play a lead role in whom the Skins will select.
Can you imagine if congressional appropriators for NASA thought themselves qualified to guide rockets?
Rhetorical question: does any Skins’ beat reporter in town have the ability to critique CzarDanny, to call him out on his ego-induced Reign of Error?
This weekend, absent an 11th-hour deal, the 5-11 Redskins under GM Snyder have assured themselves one selection of the first 142 football players drafted. In year eight of the Danny, precisely what charted course is the burgandy and gold following?
More importantly, why am I about the only guy in town asking this?
Denver, like Washington, would have to be described as a football-first kind of town. Orange Crush and all. It was that way before John Elway arrived. In January, while returning from business, I had a stopover there and was perusing a Sunday edition of the Denver Post. The Broncos were still playing football, but I was struck at the balance of coverage of competing sports. I found a sizable stand-alone story of the Denver Pioneers’ hockey game from the night before. Another, comparably sized, for the Colorado College Tigers’ hockey team and its result from Saturday night. The Avs had their own file. There was even a fourth file on hockey, penned by the paper’s hockey columnist Terry Frei. By the time I got to that John Denver’s ‘Rocky Mountain High’ was providing an internal soundtrack for my hockey heart.
I was having a close encounter with balanced, professionalism journalism.
Inadvertently, Jason La Canfora yesterday held up a mirror to his news organization’s wildly warped news values. GM Snyder — simultaneously a profiteer and a parody — has run a once-proud franchise into the standings cellar, deigns to convene with the press once a year, and is rarely if ever held accountable by the media here for his mayhem. But on 15th Street the next morning the above-the-fold beat goes on, fawning in its uncritical deference.
Journalistic malignancy.
At least there are warning labels on cigarette packs.

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12 Responses to A Snapshot of the Sickness

  1. false_cause says:

    Charlie Casserly wasn’t a puppet of Snyder. He had been GM since 1989 and resigned shortly after Snyder ruined the team in 1999. Pardon, bought the team in 1999. Once of Dan’s first, biggest mistakes.

  2. Gasp says:

    I am shocked (shocked!) to hear of stenographers posing as journalists in DC.

  3. VT Caps Fan says:

    Danny boy did apologize to Chucky Cass for firing him instead of Norv.
    What a miserable year to be a DC sports fan. ehh (not a happy camper)

  4. maruk says:

    Without treading on previously covered ground….
    What exactly is LaCanfora supposed to say? He is not a columnist. Your favorite newspaper has a few of those, and they have ripped Danny Boy from time to time.
    But even if those fish were shot in a barrel every day, the Skins wouldn’t be “held accountable”, whatever that means. Because for whatever reason, folks continue to gladly give up more and more of their hard-earned to get slapped in the face and kicked in the pants.
    A fascinating and depressing phenomenon to be sure, but I see no reason to drag LaCanfora into it. He’s got a job to do, and even if he did fight your good fight, he’d soon be a beat reporter with no access. Kinda like a blogger.

  5. Michael says:

    Nah — Gibbs is the GM. Snyder’s input is not very different from Jack Kent Cooke’s, he’s just not a goofy eccentric. The pre-Danny 8 years were identical in terms of record as the Danny 8 years.
    He’s a snotty, humorless guy, but Snyder’s an easy and not entirely accurate target. He’ll do whatever it takes to win — to a fault, as it happens. Rather have the perpetually gunshy Abe Pollin?

  6. Caps Nut says:

    Snyder’s firing of Casserly at the first opportunity was the best move he’s made as Redskins owner. His firing of Norv Turner is behind the rehiring of Gibbs as coach only because it took Snyder two seasons to get rid of Turner.
    Casserly’s lack of success in building the Houston franchise and Turner’s career sub-.500 NFL record is proof positive that Snyder was right in getting rid of those guys.

  7. b.oor4 says:

    Whenever you ask a Post reporter why they give so little attention to hockey, the answer, invariably, is that there’s little public interest in the sport. Foolish me. I always believed the sports page was supposed to be just that, a “sports” page not a Redskin’s page or a whatever the public wants page. The Caps are a legitimate professional sports team, yet in this town they are often treated like a high school team. I know they’ll never be the Redskins, but is it too much to expect that they’d be given the same amount of respect given to the Baltimore Orioles? I read a lot of out-of-town papers and I’d be hard-pressed to name another city where the pro hockey team is so poorly covered, and that includes every other team in the Southeast Division. Thank God for blogs like yours.

  8. Roger says:

    I love a good rant in a blog. But here’s my problem with it:
    1. As someone already pointed out. Charlie Casserley wasn’t a puppet GM as you say.
    2. I don’t think Marty was a puppet GM. Look at the moves that were made. Marty had to leave town because Danny “wasn’t having any fun” and wanted the reigns again.
    3. Jason La Canfora isn’t a party organ for the Redskins. He has been called out multiple times by the redskins for his critical articles about them. See http://www.redskins.com/includes/display/printArticle.jsp?id=3141 for one example from when he wrote about the obstructed view seats. IIRC the Post had season tickets removed from them after they were too critical.

  9. I went public earlier than anybody, as far as I know, that the 2007 Skins could be a Team of Destiny.
    Just one problem — I’m female. But with over 50 years experience as a DC sports observor.
    Wanna read the first few columns and tell me I’m wrong so far?
    Do females get a dog in this fight?
    Thanks for listening. Or not.

  10. Thank you for letting me post. It’s a start.

  11. Sorry. Forgot to mention that I don’t give either side a free pass to be stupid. Read my blog and decide for yourself.
    I skewer everybody I think deserves it.

  12. For a list of some of the relevant blog columns, go to my new, all football site
    It’s not public quite yet, but you can type in the URL and get to it in the meantime.
    The blog lady takes no prisoners on either side.
    I’m done for now. Thanks for letting me post.

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