Welcome to the first in a series of personal stories and experiences from the PHN staff. Shelly, Matt and I will be sharing personal anecdotes from our travels and our combined 60 years in this crazy business.
Since the playoffs begin today, I’ll start at the end of last year’s playoffs and the day I turned an entire city against me.
Some of you may remember the infamy I achieved in Nashville during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Some of you might still not like me.
It was me who wrote the Nashville Predators and the Bridgestone Arena augmented the crowd noise story. It was a little blurb at the bottom of an analysis piece on Matt Murray which proved to be spot on (I wrote that Murray needed to steal a game. He one-upped me–he stole two).
Writing about the crowd noise was sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek because I didn’t think it was a big deal. As long as it didn’t affect play, Nashville was free to do whatever they wanted. I thought my little sect of readers might enjoy a behind the scenes tidbit. And, I didn’t think that many people would read it.
Boy, I had no idea what was coming.
The blurb was first noticed by a blogger at a national sports network, who instead of retweeting it or arguing, went into full attack mode. I quickly learned his 50,000 followers didn’t follow him seeking analysis but seemingly to be part of a mob which sought targets (I watched him go after others before that network chopped most writers, a couple of months later).
A few dozen angry responses became a few thousand within an hour. Other large bloggers and the Pittsburgh blogosphere joined the fray, certainly not on my behalf. Even internet writers whom I liked grabbed pitchforks and torches.
A few thousand responses in the first couple hours multiplied. And it didn’t stop for days.
One Nashville TV station put my picture and twitter account on screen. The Nashville sports radio station freely gave out my social media information during shows, and I was told they encouraged listeners to go for it.
I received death threats. Someone hacked my bank account (coincidence)? When I arrived in Nashville, I had to walk around with others, lest someone recognize me. The Predators President publicly called me a “schmuck” and a “moron.” For Game 5, there was a lovely, full garbage bag left on my pressbox seat.
Nashville and that SEC Football born and bred fanbase weren’t messing around.
But, in fairness, I often am a schmuck or moron.
The wave subsided when former Toronto Maple Leafs GM Bill Waters told an NHL Network panel he had it on good authority that indeed the sound was augmented. The claim wasn’t rebroadcast and it certainly wasn’t trumpeted, but enough people heard it.
I didn’t dare follow up with a real story–a move for self-preservation. This was sports, after all, it wasn’t like I was bringing down a President of the United States.
Only a few close friends know the following.
During Game 3 and 4, something seemed off. The broadcast media press box was actually in the stands. Perhaps it was an echo off the cardboard wall behind me or a little noise from the speakers, but something wasn’t right. At one point, the lower bowl was full of people looking at their phones and not making noise, yet the place shook.
After Game 4, an RF technician (radio frequency) also laughed about it. He casually explained to a group of us milling about in the media lounge, “yeah, you can hear the crowd on the new speakers outside.”
And there you have it. Simple as that.
If I had a do-over, I wouldn’t print it. I don’t enjoy being the “heel” or the “bad guy.” Seriously. It would have made a better barstool story than it did a published blurb.
To publish it, I should have gotten the RF techs name, recorded the sound outside, and done all of the “reporterly” things to back up a story. But, honestly, I thought it was a just a little slice for my small audience; it was the equivalent of an off-hand remark for their amusement.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think the hockey world missed an opportunity to bring the game to tens of thousands of impressionable fans. Instead, we focused on the crowd, what they chanted and which country music performers professed to love hockey after several long weeks of fandom.
For Nashville’s sake, I hope the fans stay. It’s a wonderful city. They certainly have a chance to bring Lord Stanley back to the barn this year.
That’s the story of one story I did publish and one I didn’t. Thanks for subscribing!