A Blogging Error of Postseason Inexperience

Seating Chart - Game 1I made a grievous mistake in judgment this week, and it adversely impacted OFB on perhaps this site’s most important day of existence. We worked closely and well with the Capitals’ media staff to try and position ourselves to continue to bring you the feeling of hockey as we feel it from within Verizon Center, but you may have heard: the Capitals this week fielded upwards of 250 requests for press credentials for Friday night. Contrast that with what Tarik yesterday reported being the coverage corps for a Caps’ game around Thanksgiving: about a dozen. In a media environment far less fashionable than Friday night’s, two of us from OFB get credentialed so that we can deliver both words and images/video here, but at week’s start, sensing a very changed hockey culture here, I informed my OFB colleagues that we might be lucky to get just one of us in the Verizon Center press box for Game 1. Turns out, even that forecast was optimistic.

To accommodate so massive a media surge, the Capitals communicated to us their need to create an overflow area for working press — in the media lounge, downstairs, well away from the madness. That may have made for a quieter work environment, but I wanted to work in the madness. Sensing an arrival of a frozen Red Sea perhaps even louder than last week, and wanting to see how red it would be with Philly in town, I wanted to survey and savor it and share my sensory experience with you.

But I also confronted a former daily-journalist-turned-blogger’s dilemma: the men and women who make a living at covering pro sports have an obvious claim to priority access that I don’t. Mr. Leonsis in his new media age vision may not agree, but I made the decision that under such extraordinary access demand burdens, and having been accommodated for two years so uniformly magnificently by the Capitals, I wanted nothing of being headache no. 251 for the club. I could watch the game from home, and blog like others. I rationalized my decision partly on this half-truth of a premise: to the extent that I viewed myself (wrongly) as being shouldered aside by professional old media, that very condition was emblematic of the coverage success I’d sought for the game I cherish in my hometown.

At 6:15 last night, shopping for my playoff game beer and pizza out in the suburbs, believing myself able to transition back to simple, traditional hockey fan with the snap of fingers away from a keyboard, I realized the seriousness of my mistaken judgment. I felt a profound ache at being away from the action, away from working at chronicling it, and it felt awful. Even beer on sale offered no salve.

I should have shoehorned myself into that rink last night, even if I had to try and blog from underneath Abe Pollin’s desk. Rather than adopt the view that this new love affair the press is having with hockey could be an impediment to my coverage calling, I should have embraced it as a fresh challenge. I made a huge mistake. This morning, I owe our readers an apology. At least the good guys got it done!

Initially I lessened my early evening ache a bit by maintaining contact with some friends in the press box via instant message. But then my diminished ache turned to anger. I learned that Friday night’s Washington Post delegation — understandably enlarged — was pork barreled in the press box’s front row with the names of Kornheiser and Wilbon. If I ever get to own a pro hockey team they won’t be allowed in my rink — Friday night was a red-tie party for HockeyWashington, and the two of them have amply demonstrated over years not only disinterest in attending such soir?ɬ©es but ridiculing those who do.

My anger wasn’t directed at their hopping on the hockey media bandwagon — it was that after securing so sought after a set of seats . . . they failed to show up to work the friggin game! Kornheiser may have been cavorting about a luxury box, but he certainly wasn’t working upstairs. His workspace space preserved. Ditto for his partner in the superficial, syntax-challenged, and loud. This is a family blog, and the words I associate with this act of unfathomable arrogance won’t appear here. Maybe they could title their next ESPN podcast, ‘Pardon the Absence.’
Enough about hockey-hating egomaniacs and back-room media matters.

Friday night delivered not just a pulsating, emotionally draining victory over a gritty and skilled opponent but perhaps just as importantly it obliterated any residual concern about the viability of Washington being hockey friendly when it really mattered. A Hockeytown under construction may have a completion date that may have to be bumped up.

The Comcast broadcast went live at 7:00 last night, and at 7:00:30 it was abundantly apparent that the orange-and-blackouts of the past were lodged right there, in history. I don’t quite understand how the Capitals’ sales department managed to make it so pervasively red last night.
But I have Friday night beer leftover for them.

This entry was posted in Media, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Print, Tarik El-Bashir, Ted Leonsis, Washington Capitals, Washington Post. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A Blogging Error of Postseason Inexperience

  1. MikeEaglesHealthyScr says:

    Typical Wilbon comments
    Jordan will take Wizbangs to playoffs
    Jeff George should start over Brad Johnson
    For a man that throws the word idiot around a lot……

  2. jpblogger says:

    Great post. Who knows how to deal with the “media bandwagon”? I don’t think you ban them from the rink but I would publish pictures of the two-faced scarfing down free food and drinks with pictures of a half filled press box the previous October.

  3. vt caps fan says:

    While what you did was extremely respectful, I hope you don’t do this again. Mike and Tony are great in PTI but for how wonderfully they cover basketball and football they know NOTHING of hockey and its quite embarrassing. Tony’s decent, and can admit when he’s wrong. Mike insists that he was a hockey fan growing up in Chicago. Mike is also known for being the guy who LOVES the cubs, yet wore a White Sox jersey when they won the series. I don’t care who you are, you don’t celebrate your cross town rivals. This shows Wilbon’s bandwagonism.
    I hope you don’t be the bigger man anymore. You deserve the right to sit and blog EVERY game from the arena. OFB was there the day before Thanksgiving. NOT MANY OTHERS WERE THERE.
    I hope Uncle Ted reads this and takes care of you guys.
    It would be even better if dumb and dumber’s media access was revoked.

  4. It is stunning to me that neither Wilbon nor Kornheiser bothered showing up to their assigned seats. Perhaps it shouldn’t be stunning given their arrogance (and disdain for hockey).
    One would think that *professionals* would not demand two seats for the hottest event in town, then not bother to use the seats. Maybe there’s my second error: assuming Wilbon or Kornheiser would conduct themselves professionally — good job, guys, helping make it clear that you should be forcibly dumped from the Capitals bandwagon . . . then run over by said wagon.

  5. VT – We couldn’t possibly receive more help from Ted than we already have. I appreciate greatly your kind words of support, but the error last night was mine and not the team’s.

  6. Dave Lifton says:

    For MLS Cup and the David Beckham game, we new media types and the less-important overflow outlets were moved to the baseball press box at RFK, which obscured part of the field. It was even worse if you were in the third tier of the box. Thankfully, I wasn’t one of those people, but yeah, it is one of the prices we have to pay when our sports/teams get the recognition they deserve.

  7. I agree with Pucks — Ted Leonsis and the team have been, and continue to be, wonderfully accommodating. Don’t worry: as Ted said recently, they won’t bite the hands that fed them in the lean times.

  8. chanuck says:

    I use to be a big fan of Kornholeio, but his grips about hockey and soccer are getting tiresome.

  9. MulletMan says:

    I will admit that I know nothing about the politics that goes on behind the scenes to even get into the media box.
    That said, I don’t understand why the times and the post would require 11 seats combined. To me it only seems logical that they each get maybe 3 seats and the remaining can sit the game in overflow…or they can do a round-robin event or even draw straws between periods for who gets the seats.

  10. Bloggers where? says:

    The only think I find interesting about this is that there are only two or three bloggers on the chart. I saw the CBC story earlier this year when they covered the bloggers in DC (good piece, youtube it) and the entire press box was filled with them! It seems like the bloggers finally showed their true colors – they are fans first and reporters second. Either that or they only show up when the attention in on them.

  11. EveryGameInSect114 says:

    As a lifelong Wings fan who grew up in HockeyTown, and a new Caps season ticketholder this year (picked a good year to buy the season pass, didn’t I?), I can honestly say OFB is the best, most informed, well written source of hockey news I have seen. We all know the true colors of the Post and their writers. For them its football, basketball, and baseball. They don’t know hockey. They don’t understand hockey. And they don’t care whether you and I and other hockey fans like them or not. So OFB, do what you do. You do it great. and don’t worry about the Post and the national media, and whoever Wilbon and Kornhiser are. They don’t care about hockey. We don’t care about them. Keep focused.

  12. I hope you get in the press box for game 2. I really like your perspective on hockey journalism. (And this is coming from a Rangers fan.)

  13. Paul R says:

    You’re forgiven, pucksandbooks. Remember, no good deed goes unpunished (according to, I think, Dorothy Parker). I understand the media horde jumping on the bandwagon, but Wilbon and Kornheiser? I’m with you–if I owned a hockey team they would not be allowed to park at my rink, much less get in. As far as the Caps go they are the anti-fan. The only sport I care about is Washington Capitals hockey (I don’t even pay much attention to the rest of the NHL) which puts Wilbon and Kornheiser on my list, but not the one for a media pass.
    Thanks for all your great work! I read OFB regularly and enjoy it very much.
    Paul R

  14. Interesting that LaConfora (the former Caps beat writer) had a seat in the press box too. Guess it was a night away from the football team for him.
    I also think it’s odd that WIP had no seats in the press box. I would have expected someone to make the trip down. Do they still broadcast the Flyers’ games?
    And is there a reason Lisa Hillary got two spots?

  15. Colin says:

    Man, I felt for you when I read this. Wilbon is a bag of dung. He’s a crybaby and a homer. You probably deserve a press box seat more than him to anything, especially hockey.
    Keep fighting the good fight.

  16. KLB says:

    Where is there beer on sale in the suburbs? If it’s anywhere in Arlington or Alexandria, post this information. I’m tired of paying $16 for a 12-pack of reasonable beer!

  17. I hear ya, KLB. Gas ain’t the only thing heinously overpriced these days. Maybe we oughta try those new mini-kegs during the playoffs — more bang for your beer-drinking buck?

  18. Juan-John says:

    Mini-kegs of Heineken are $19.99 at the local convenience store near Fort Myer in Arlington. I know ‘cuz I bought one last night. 🙂

  19. Juan-John says:

    Oh, and P&B, no apology necessary. Yours is the first hockey source I check, anyway. Nothing’s going to change that. 🙂

  20. Andrea says:

    Jeez, talk about taking one for the team! I guess it’s important that guys from Edmonton have to be on hand as they don’t have a team to cover this Spring.
    Be flattered. Everyone’s excited about the GR8 One. Myself included. And like Leon, I’m a Rangers fan. Card-carrying. But as a hockey fan? I love Alex! And I’m looking forward to the Lundqvist/Ovechkin showdowns for years to come.
    Good luck in your fight and enjoy this sweet sweet spring!

  21. Craig Stone says:

    As one of the people shunned to the press room (I’m at the very bottom of the image posted in your entry), I just want to thank you for writing this up. I have nothing against the media relations staff and don’t fault them at all. They’ve been great to me over the past two seasons, and I recognize the need to accommodate the big names, but it’d be nice if the big names at least had the decency to act on those accommodations and show up.

  22. BDL says:

    Could be worse…at least George Michael didn’t emerge from retirement and take your seat. Had that happened, i think it’s time to drop the gloves.

  23. @ BDL:
    Ha! That’s a terrifying thought — Cryptkeeper George Michael rising up, zombie-like, to the Capitals’ press box to displace an actual hockey writer would be a horrifying sight indeed. When he retired we were very pleased, as I wrote back in March 2007:

  24. BDL says:

    Love the days of GM showing up at Caps playoff games, doing the 6pm liveshot pretending he knew something about the team or even hockey. Good luck finding him in the building during the 2nd period.

  25. Not buying it says:

    What about those of us who couldn’t get tickets to the game? We’re suppose to feel bad for some guys who go to the games for free but weren’t put in the prime seats that they are normally given when there aren’t “real” writers to take those seats? Sorry, I think I’ll pass on being a part of that pity party. I think for next season I’ll start a blog so I can get a seat in the press box and hang out in the locker room.
    And as someone who listens to the Caps podcast, I thought one of those guys on there mentioned one day that there were NO bloggers at the last two games for Hanlon and NO bloggers at the press conference to hire Boudreau.
    I think the bloggers where guy was right about the attention thing.

  26. Gustafsson says:

    @Not buying it,
    Be careful of what you “hear” from someone who calls or writes into a radio show or podcast. I don’t believe that OFB missed a single regular season game as a press box attendee. That includes ALL games under Hanlon. We still covered Friday’s game with locker room interviews as 75% of OFB are season ticket holders.
    “Real” writers? Perhaps you should know that 25% of OFB has degrees in journalism.
    As for the press conference to hire Boudreau, we had less than an hour from the notice via email to the start of the press conference. Keep in mind this was Thanksgiving morning when all four of us were already en route to our respective family celebrations. Had we known that this conference was to take place, you can be sure we would have been there. We were there over the summer for the Nicklas Backstrom press conference. We were there when the Caps visited Children’s Hospital (which I may add, there were no other bloggers OR MAIN STREAM MEDIA).
    Next time, please be a little more aware of the facts before commenting falsehoods.
    And thank you for reading OFB.

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