Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Sabres Show Sucks

I'm feeling pretty okay with the loss to Calgary. Yes, Ryan Miller let in a couple of big time softies and yes, it stunk to tie the game back up only to watch it slip away again and no, it doesn't do anything to dissuade the feeling that the Sabres are just a horribly streaky team. But since a number of problems (namely, a ton of shots allowed and some painful turnovers) can be chalked up to a hurting defensive corp, I'm willing to give everyone a little slack this time around.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned some complaints about the Sabres Show and since we had an extra day off here I thought I'd go into a little more detail. When I first heard that the Sabres were looking to expand their web content and start up a weekly magazine show, I was really excited. I've been watching YouTube clips from San Jose's Shark Byte for a couple of seasons now and the idea of that kind of thing with players I actually know and love was really cool. Unfortunately, I don't think it's really panned out.

First up, the one thing I really do appreciate is that the player interviews have mostly stayed away from the guys we see and hear on TV and the radio all the time, Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad being the big four. Goose is the only one in that group to have a feature so far. It's been nice to see a little bit of focus on guys who don't get as much media attention especially some of the European players.

But most of the interviews have been extremely generic and not at all enlightening. The only thing I can think of that I learned that I didn't already know was that Ales Kotalik designs his own hats. Henrik Tallinder played soccer growing up? Toni Lydman listens to really heavy metal? Even though he's a really quiet guy? Seriously, we're going with that as the main thrust of the Toni Lydman interview? Doesn't everyone know that already? Don't we make a big deal about that EVERY SINGLE SEASON? And now we're going to act like it's a huge revelation? Or does the casual fan really not know that?

The interviews have also been almost completely interchangeable. Take "It was really hard moving to another country," combine it with "I always dreamed of playing in the NHL," and, where applicable, add just a dash of "Kids are great, I really like mine a lot" and you get a Sabres Show interview. If you removed the very brief soccer footage from the beginning of Hank's interview, changed family member names and substituted Germany for Sweden, it could've been about Jochen Hecht instead. I realize it can probably be a challenge to come up with something new about players who have been around for a while but come on, that's your job! That's what you're supposed to be doing!

I also think there hasn't been enough player oriented material. Shark Byte does all kinds of little goofy player segments that are really fun and I imagine, not that complicated to shoot. "How Well Do You Know Your Teammate?" is probably my favorite. It's stupid and silly but it's funny and it really allows fans to get a feel for guys' personalities. Or what about some actual hockey segments? Put Kotalik on the ice and have him break down his shootout move. Let Thomas Vanek demonstrate the art of tipping a shot. Explain one of those funky drills that are so much fun to watch even though you have no idea what's going on. Seriously, I'm not watching the Sabres Show to learn how New Era makes a baseball cap. I'm watching it for the Sabres. More Sabres please.

Really there just needs to be more period. A couple of weeks ago they showed the Hank interview during the intermission of one game and the Mike Weber/Ott family piece during the game the following night and boom, everyone had now seen half of that week's show before it was aired on TV or put on the team website. If the Sabres are going to use that material to fill intermissions during road games, there needs to be a ton more material so we're not all watching the same thing over and over and over. I think I could recite Goose's interview for you, I saw it so many times. Do a load of different segments and interviews and make some of them TV only and some of them internet only. Spread the wealth. As it is right now, I never watch the Sabres Show on the website and I'm not sure that was the Sabres' goal.

One of my biggest problems with the Sabres Show however is Maria Genero. Part of this is just personal preference. I hate, hate, hate that sing-songy newscaster style of speaking. I'd rather watch the Buffalo News guys talk at me because while they occasionally stumble or hold the microphone in the wrong place, at least they're talking to me like normal human beings. I feel like an interview should be more of a conversation and Maria's overly serious, everything I'm saying is very important and dramatic, up and down voice pulls me right out of that.

I also feel like she doesn't know anything about hockey. Maybe I'm wrong about that and she's a huge fan but it certainly doesn't come across that way. And while technically I suppose you don't need to know anything about hockey to ask Ales Kotalik about his hats and Toni Lydman about heavy metal, I don't know, for some reason it makes the entire interview ring false for me. Kate writes silly little player things all the time (Kate would be great at Maria's job btw) but they're always based in something that's going on with the team or player at the time (i.e. she knows what she's talking about) and I think that makes them even funnier.

I also feel like there's just a weird vibe between Maria and the players sometimes. I'm treading carefully here because I certainly don't want to suggest that women shouldn't be doing what she's doing because hello, woman writing this blog. I'm all for talented, qualified women in sports journalism. But this particular woman? I dunno. Her Adam Mair interview was... kinda skeevy and while part of that was Mair, the way she handled it didn't help. Or maybe it's just that she hasn't - and as far as I know, doesn't - spend that much time around the players. They're not comfortable with her. I think Shark Byte is helped along immensely by the fact that Sharks color man, Drew Remenda, does most of the player stuff. There's clearly a high level of familiarity and ease between him and the players. Now, I am in NO way suggesting that Harry Neale take over. No, that would merely be another kind of disaster altogether (although probably a much funnier one - I wonder if he would mix up Goose and Pommers even while standing right in front of them). But I'd love to see Rob Ray doing some stupid segments with the players. I think that would lead to a much more natural and relaxed vibe on both sides of the microphone.

So yeah... I think the Sabres Show is a good idea that just hasn't been worked out yet.

(This post is probably completely scattered but I gotta get to work now so I don't have time to make sense of it. Sorry, dudes.)


Cari said...

I agree. The Sabres have taken a step in the right direction, but they're nowhere near where they should be.

I think they need to take a lesson from the Sharks, Blackhawks, and the Canucks, and possibly even the Hurricanes, in subject matter. Also, either get on of the regular TV personalities, or some hot young girl, or maybe have the Sabres themselves do the interviews. A woman in her late 40's doesn't exactly draw the personality out of guys in their 20's, unless she's their mother.

Jill said...


I completely agree. I think M.G. is a wrong fit for the team. And I absolutely agree Ray would make a much better commentary reporter for the Sabres. Look at the one night he asked Ryan a few questions in the locker room after a game... instantly Ryan was completely at ease and started joking around with him and they had to tell each other to be professional. He has already developed that relationship with some of those guys.

I also agree that they need to get more into the humor and personalities. Not even their personal lives. The 10 stupid questions was pretty funny. I would like to see more of that and some player to player interviews would be great.

January 30, 2009 9:25 AM

Anne said...

I wrote this whole comment about how I agreed with you and then blogger ate it.

Basically I hate Maria Genero's accent, love Rob Ray and Drew Remenda and think they should have a younger chick do things, how's Erin Pollina in front of the camera?!

Anne said...

Let me just edit myself. Maria Genero is not old. Not at all. However, I think that we'd get more interesting things out of the guys if they were trying to impress chick their own age.

Anonymous said...

A woman in her late 40's doesn't exactly draw the personality out of guys in their 20's, unless she's their mother.

See, I was going to say the exact opposite. MSG uses Deb Placey to great success for the Rangers and Islanders. I think it helps that she is clearly a hockey fan and knowledgeable about the subject matter. She's actually one of the better hosts available in the tri-state and I think she'd do a bang-up job at it.

One of the things that pisses me off is the tendency of teams to bring in hot young girls in tiny skirts. Hockey does not need cheerleaders. Hockey does not need flighty, uninspired commentary. Hockey down not need ice girls that can't skate and piss off the goaltenders. I love looking at half-naked women as much as the next guy, but it doesn't belong in a hockey arena.

Jaime said...

Your astuteness (I don't think that's a word)always amazes me. I was so ready for some fun, personality, let's get to know our team type of stuff when the Sabres Show first started. Back in the day when we had Empire, they did some really fun interviews/stories with the players. We got to see alittle of the guys personalities off the ice, saw what they did for fun, they joked around with the interviewer. It's part of what helped me fall in love with hockey and our team.

I thought that the Gaustad interview was the best out of the group so far but only because of Goose and not MG. She got handed material to throw him off guard (the fishing stuff) and it made him get out of interview mode. He had to answer questions without knowing what he would say already beforehand. I love your idea of having the guys explain drills or how to do a move on the ice. I can't do the stuff that they do and am basically amazed that anyone can! Teach me!!

Okay this went longer than I wanted but I just love how I was feeling the same thing and you put it out there.

Cari said...

To bowlofpork, I wasn't suggesting that an older woman couldn't get the job done, because, as you brought out, she definitely can. My problem with Genero is much like you alluded to--she doesn't seem to be as big of a fan or as knowledgeable as I would like her to be. I'm just yearning for someone who can talk hockey with the boys, and really make them comfortable. I feel like they look to Genero as their mother's friend, who you really can't be comfortable around.

And I only suggested a young girl because of the Sabres' off-ice shenanigans. I, too, believe cheerleaders have no place in hockey. I can't stand the "Ice Mice" and the like.

Chaz said...

***Clap, clap, clap***

If I watch the Sabres Show it's because the game starts at 7:30 and I thought it started at 7. Why bother, I see everything during the intermissions.

I have caught some of it on-line, but it's because I loved watching Pommer type with 2 fingers. SO, I had to watch it over (and over and over.)

I agree that Rob Ray would be awesome instead of Maria. Why is it they feel they need to throw a woman into the mix? I, also, think it would be interesting to pair Kevin Sylvester up with a fan for each show instead of a professional. (Maybe even a blogger?) We like hockey, we know who they guys are, now let us find out who they really are. It's not like all the interviews need to be in their livingroom, or, ahem, Bedroom. (That last one was for Timmy) I think it would lead to a lot of off the cuff moments and come acrossed as more of a one-on-one conversation then a sit down with Barbara Walters.

Caroline said...

Heather, I completely agree with you when it comes to Maria Genero. She just sounds very insincere and phony. My dad works in advertising and he says that these kind of people talk at you and not to you, if that makes any sense.

Honestly, I've found this in a lot of woman sports reporters, which is strange. You'd think I'd have a bias for them since I myself am a female sports fan. One female reporter I really like is Carrie Milbank, who hosts The Hockey Show. I think she's pretty genuine.

Erin said...

I can't agree more!! I was so excited about the Sabres Show when it first started. I thought we would get cool features like the Flyers had. But it's just been really mediocre. The interviews are boring, the features about the arena are boring, the interviews with various Sabres staff members are boring.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I thought the content of the regular segments during the games last year were more fun, interesting and entertaining. For example, I remember last year they asked all the players what they were giving Lindy as a Christmas present. It was so funny and cute.

I really feel like the Sabres show has kind of sucked all of the fun out of the regular game broadcasts. For whatever reason I feel like there has be less access to the players this year than last year.

Also, I thought we were supposed to get increased web content. It hasn't happened. I blame the Sabres Show for this as well.

Anyways, I'll stop now. Excellent post as usual Heather.

Mark B said...

Most everyone has pointed out the way I feel about MG. Terrible, just terrible. That voice rankles me. I really want to slap her.

Lee Andrew said...

I'm not sure what you expected from "The Sabres Show" with a name like that. Right off the bat you can tell there is not much thought put into the show.

Now the Shark Byte. That's a good name. Good to see the Sharks followed up the best name in professional sports with an equally good name for their show.

Katie said...

As usual, I could not agree more with you, Heather. Your analysis hits on everything that I think is wrong with The Sabres Show.

There aren't enough moments where we really get to see the players just being themselves. The "10 Stupid Questions" segment was one of the only ones I can think of. Maria Genero tries way too hard to be serious in her interviews, and that rubs off on the way the whole segment comes across.

I just don't think it would be that hard to do some other things. Another round of "How well do you know your teammate" (like the one with Peters and Roy) would work fine - there are enough guys who have known each other for a long time. Also, a few years ago, they shadowed two roommates on a road trip (I know one was Mair), and I think this would be a cool segment to have again.

Like a lot of people, I was really looking forward to The Sabres Show when it was announced. Now, I keep waiting for good pieces, but every week the prospect of that happening gets bleaker.

Heather said...

Wow, I really didn't expect this post to get so many comments. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one feeling a little disappointment.

I would like to see more of that and some player to player interviews would be great.

Jill, I always thought it would be kind of fun to interview a couple of players at the same time. Take two guys who are close friends or roommates or regular linemates/defensive partners and interview them together and about each other. They're not playing together as much now but I think a Hank/Toni would be really cute and potentially interesting.

I will agree with Porky that I don't think Maria's age is necessarily the problem. (Though I do love everyone assuming that the Sabres are all horndogs who would prefer a hot chick.) I just think she's not that knowledegable. Or she doesn't present that way. And if she doesn't present that way to me, surely she doesn't present that way to the players. I didn't grow up in the area so I'm not super familiar with her. Does she have any sports background at all?

Jaime, I'm pretty sure astuteness is a word :) And I'd probably agree that the Goose interview has been the best so far.

My dad works in advertising and he says that these kind of people talk at you and not to you, if that makes any sense.

Caroline, I think that makes perfect sense! That's exactly how I feel too. Or that she's talking to me like I'm a 3-year-old with her very slow and careful pronunciation.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I thought the content of the regular segments during the games last year were more fun, interesting and entertaining.

Erin, I hasn't really thought about it but you're right, a lot of it was better last season. And the Lindy's Christmas Present bit is exactly the kind of thing I wish we were getting more of. It would seem like that kind of bit would be easier and cheaper to produce and it's just as entertaining as any of the sit down interviews have been, IMO. And I think the Sabres Show is the increased web content which is why it's so silly that by the time it's on the website, we've seen it on TV a billion times.

Lee, it's funny you bring the names up because while writing this post I realized how lame the Sabres Show is in comparison to Shark Byte. You're right that the lack of imagination probably should've been a hint.

Katie, I really liked that roommate piece you're talking about. Shark Byte did a really cool thing where they basically followed all the people involved in a game day - players, coaching staff, arena staff, journalists - and showed everything that goes on at the arena before, during and after a game. A day on a road trip would be really cool too.

Katebits said...

Heather, I don't know why the Sabres haven't put you in charge of the whole operation yet.

I really hope the Sabres read Top Shelf, because you are SO RIGHT, the Sabres Show is super stinky. I love the Sabres- I read and write about them every single day- and even as keenly interested in the Sabres as I am, I canNOT watch the Sabres Show. As soon as it starts my eyes start to glaze over. It's seriously, seriously boring.

Thanks for saying I'd be good at maria's job and for digging out all those TWC links! (Although, I hate to tell you this, but those aren't "silly little things," those are direct transcripts. :D)

amy said...

I didn't grow up in the area so I'm not super familiar with her. Does she have any sports background at all?

I'm late to the party, but MG doesn't have any sports experience. She's most well known for being an anchor at Channel 7, where she allegedly had a meltdown and then left. She later resurfaced at Channel 2, hosting WNY Living, which was nothing more than Saturday morning infomercials for local companies. She's done a lot of commercials and voiceovers - the DeLacy Ford ads being the most notable.

You can kind of tell that she's not comfortable with the subject matter she's dealing with, which isn't putting the players she's interviewing at ease. It's like she's just going down her list of questions and not really reading the players or probing for follow-up on their answers.

And another thing, the locations for some of the player interviews have been pretty odd. You get someone like Danny Paille interviewed in what looks like a nice room at the Arena, but Goose is interviewed in the bowels of HSBC. Hank is talked to at a soccer complex and Mairsy gets lunch on Chippewa. I have to ask what the producers of the show are thinking with this one.

I'd love to see a "ask the roomie" type feature, but have it done with two players that we wouldn't expect to be roomies, like Ryan and Jochen. That could be an awkwardly fun interview.

Sorry to be so long-winded. The Sabres are on the right track with the show, but just need some assistance to get the program to what it could be. If we on teh internets can see it, why can't the powers that be?

Heather B. said...

Kate, dude, I should totally be in charge. Come on, LQ, I know you're reading this!

And I have no doubt your pieces are direct transcripts no matter how silly they may be! :)

Amy, thanks for the background on Maria. You're right that it doesn't feel like she's having a conversation with the players at all. She's hitting all her questions and moving on. I guess there's a difference between being an effective newscaster and an effective interviewer.

I know the Goose interview was in the bowels of the arena because they were making a connection to him working on set-up crews at a rink as a gosling. Which is proof that I think maybe the producers are way overthinking things. We don't need a lot of fancy things like that. Just give us a good, entertaining segment. If it's boring, it's still going to be boring no matter where it's filmed.

I'm pretty curious to know how the powers that be are feeling about the Sabres Show thus far. Are they happy with it? What kind of ratings is it getting on TV? What kind of hits is it bringing to the website? What kind of feedback, if any, are they getting from fans?

Sorry to be so long-winded.

Oh, Amy. I know you're not new here :P Long-winded is the name of the game here at Top Shelf.

Jay said...

This post was spot-on! When I turned the tv on this morning, MSG was on and Deb Placey was talking and I said to Jill, why can't we get someone like her who actually know about the game?! She directed me to this post and I couldn't agree more! MG is most like the players' Mom's cougar friend which obviously makes them that much less comfortable.

As far as content, the only thing that I would like to add is that I want to see more of them just goofing off. Like the Andrew Peters Odd Jobs video they did awhile back. I love that sort of stuff and you know that some of the newer guys like Stafford would be perfect for something like that.

Heather said...

MG is most like the players' Mom's cougar friend which obviously makes them that much less comfortable.

Jay, for some reason I was hesitant to put such a fine point on it but yes, that's exactly the vibe I get between MG and the players. It's very awkward.

More goofy segments would be awesome. I think this team really has the personality to get into that kind of thing, like you said.

Jennifer said...

I agree that the guys just look like MG makes them really uncomfortable. These guys seem to have such great personalities, the Sabres Show could be SO MUCH MORE!!!

Totally off of the subject, but why are the west coast announcers so complimentary of the Sabres. Don't get me wrong, I love these guys whether they are winning or loosing, but I have heard a couple of announcers refer to the Sabres as consistent. CONSISTENT????? Which team have they been watching this season? Although I will admit that they have been consistently inconsistent.

Sorry, I know that has NOTHING to do with The Sabres Show, but I have just been amazed at how positive the west coast announcers have been about our boys.

Jill said...

Ok the article that was written by Jane Kwiatkowski for the Buffalo News and I am assuming she did the interviewing for the video... perfect. This is what I am looking for... and I am assuming what you all are looking for as well. Then have some witty stuff thrown in once in while for good measure. Yeah? Look out MG...

Heather B. said...

Jill, for now I'll just say, "You read my mind!" I have a post started about that interview already :)