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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Business or Pressure?


LaRaque's blog was corralled by the Canadiens.

Montreal Canadians tough guy Georges LaRaque had been penning an insightful, well-written blog this season for Sportsnet in Canada. Like most athlete blogs, it was rarely updated, but when he did write LaRaque's work was top-notch.

Perhaps it was too good.

At the beginning of his latest entry, LaRaque said it would be his final one, citing a Canadiens team rule to be fair to all media entities that ask for their players to blog. Say no to one, say no to all.

"It's unfortunate but it is a team rule that Canadiens players are not allowed to do blogs simply because of the many requests our team gets and it would be unfair to all the other people asking us for similar projects," he writes. "As you can imagine, when you're a French-Canadian playing in Montréal you get a lot of requests so I agree with the team's decision because this makes it fair for everyone."

Makes sense. But was there more to it? Had this been an issue of censorship? His latest entry touched on the code of fighting in the league and racism he's been on the receiving end of—his entries have been anything but vanilla. Or was this just a move to transport LaRaque scribing to the Canadiens' site, a move to have the team disseminate the media to the fans, instead of another outlet?

"It's hard to know without having a conversation with them," ESPN The Magazine senior writer E.J. Hradek said. "There's a lot of reasons why they might do that. They know who he is, they know that he's a player and he's (blogging), you never know what's going to be said. I'm not sure."

Greg Wyshynski, editor of Yahoo's Puck Daddy, sees it a bit differently:

"Pretty hard to buy the excuse," he e-mails. "If that had been a weekly interview with Sportsnet, published in a blog format from reporter's notes, what do they say, 'No more insightful long-form interviews with our players?'"

"But more to the point: Is this just a problem with media favoritism? Would Laraque have been barred from having his own blog on his own Web site? Because Jeremy Roenick has one and Chris Pronger has one. You almost hope it's something about the hassle of media favoritism and not an attempt to silence him. Because he's not the first NHL player to speak (or write) eloquently about fighting or battling racism."

There's been a clear trend on team and league Web sites recently to control their own media. Duke basketball just created a new site featuring blogs from their players and a whole other host of bells and whistles. In Chicago, longtime Chicago Tribune NBA writer Sam Smith is now writing exclusively for Bulls.com. Those are just two of many examples.

The NHL, Wyshynski says, has seen a clear benefit from this shift: "This trend of official site-generated content has really opened up a new world for hockey fans," he e-mails. "The media in many markets has cut back hockey coverage to a fraction of that of other sports and a fraction of what the real demand would dictate. So teams are delivering interviews, blogs, video and highlights that fans wouldn't otherwise receive from local media. Sure, it's basically state-controlled digital media; but it's still bringing fans closer to the team and its players."

Hradek sees the business side of it, as well, and points to the league releasing Jarkko Ruutu's recent suspension on NHL.com as an example.

"From a business standpoint or being objective, it's smart by them," he said. "The same can be said for the team, if they're trying to create more revenue streams, to make more reasons for people to go to their Web site."

Smart indeed. But at what price?

Elsewhere …

Terrell Owens has joined the Yardbarker team. In his first entry, he briefly addressed ESPN commentator Cris Carter's comments about him, in which Carter said: "If I got a gun I got one bullet in it, I shoot T.O. right now. Right on the spot."

TO only had this to say: "All I know is, if I'd been the one who had said that about him, what would everyone have thought?"

Short, simple, and to the point. Probably true as well: It would have been sensationalized a bit more if the roles had been reversed. But in this case, it's actually Carter who says what he feels here. Give us more, TO!

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The sports blogosphere has been all over Bill Romanowski for wanting to coach the Denver Broncos for, um, obvious reasons. Bill took some time out on his blog the other day to state his case:

"After all the hype, being on the AP wire, and having a long talk with Mr. Bowlen, I have presented him with 30 pages outlining my visions of building a football dynasty," he writes "You never know. Realistically, I'm probably not the typical head coach candidate for him, but maybe a strong candidate as a performance coordinator. With someone as innovative and as 'out-of-the-box' type of a thinker as Mr. Bowlen, I won't rule out the possibilities. He's the type of guy who did Ironmans in the 80's, before Triathalons were popular. He's the kind of guy that would potentially implement a type of program such as the one I suggested."

An admitted steroid user coming in as a "performance coordinator"? We're not holding our breath.

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Odds and Ends

Kevin Slowey is recommending books (complete with pictures!) … Tommy Lasorda congratulates Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice on their Hall of Fame elections … So is Curt SchillingAcie Law is sticking up for Charles BarkleyRudy Frenanadez wants your All-Star votes