I just tweeted this without really thinking about it: I love Ryan Miller, I love the United States, but I admit, part of me really wants Toni Lydman to come home with the gold medal. I did clarify in a later tweet that I'm not really cheering AGAINST the United States - I'm surprised actually at how much I've enjoyed watching them play considering I was not the least bit excited about them coming into the Olympics - but I would be perfectly fine with Finland winning the whole thing.
I'm sure a lot of people don't understand that but here's the simple truth at the center of the issue: I love Ryan Miller. I'm really glad he's a Sabre, I hope he's a Sabre for a long time to come. As I've said before, I'm really proud of what he's done in the Olympics so far. He deserves every bit of attention he's getting. But I love Toni Lydman. If you asked me who was more valuable to the Sabres, of course I'd say Ryan Miller. But if you asked me who I favored more, I'd say Toni Lydman.
I was resigned to the fact going into the Olympics that the Sabres playing on European teams weren't going to get much attention from The Buffalo News, but as far as I can tell, they haven't gotten any at all. I totally understand why Ryan Miller is THE local story. He plays for the United States. He's the face of the Sabres franchise. He's a goalie, and his contributions to the U.S. team have been crystal clear. But I cheer for Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Jochen Hecht, and Andrej Sekera from October to April or May every year. I don't suddenly not care about them at all because they're not American. Tallinder's had an awesome season - completely rejuvenated and an important part of the Sabres success so far - and he was representing his country for the first time in the Olympics. You're telling me there's no story there? Really? Come on.
I've been pretty disappointed with TBN's coverage all the way around. Internet coverage has grown by leaps and bounds just since the last Olympics. It's nearly impossible to make it to the prime-time broadcasts without knowing what's going to happen. By the time the local newspaper hits doorsteps the next morning, readers have read or watched countless interviews with the medalists. It's definitely a different challenge for a newspaper today than it was four years ago.
TBN seemed to have the right idea, setting up an Olympics specific blog and Twitter feed but then they plugged in... Bucky Gleason. Really? Their solution to coverage was to ramp up the online material - a fabulous idea - but they went with the one guy on staff who seems to hate the Internet and the interaction with readers that the Internet brings. Okay then. I mean, listen, I have my issues with Bucky, but I think I'm being pretty objective when I say that he's shown no skill for or interest in blogging and that his Twitter is obviously something he's been forced into doing. I just do not understand that decision at all. Mike Harrington spent 10 or so days covering the World Series (admittedly a smaller event than the Olympics) and cranked out a huge amount of material for the Inside Pitch blog, his Twitter feed, and the newspaper, all of it at a high quality. He's usually entertaining, he throws out information that a lot of journalists might overlook, he includes little photos and videos, and crazily enough, he actually responds to readers. And he works on the hockey beat so it's not like Bucky has a huge advantage over him in regards to relationships with the hockey players involved in the Olympics. So you look at those two guys and you go with Bucky?
I'm sure there's probably some politics involved. Columnists always seem to get gigs like this, and TBN seems to hold Bucky in very high regard. (I don't understand either of those things, by the way. It seems like if you need someone to write a lot of material in a short time you'd go with a beat writer, and I think TBN is highly overvaluing Bucky.) But as someone who reads the paper, it doesn't make any sense at all. From my point-of-view, it seems like a huge mishandling of talent, and I think it's hurt their coverage. Harrington would be blogging and tweeting the heck out of everything as opposed to Bucky who's only personal insight into Ryan Miller's Olympic debut was, "Ryan Miller pitching a shutout through two periods vs switzerland." Thanks, Bucky. That's earth-shattering news considering a large number of us were actually watching the game at the time. He wrote one really good column about how hard it was to describe how beautiful Vancouver is, but even that's a sign of how much he doesn't get - or doesn't care to get - new media. He could have been posting photos of the views and mountains to his blog or Twitter feed for the last week and a half.
I can't imagine that Bucky is too dumb to figure this stuff out so I'm going to assume he just doesn't care. And if that's the case, he should stop getting plum assignments like this, at least when the majority of the coverage is going to be online. I don't know if TBN genuinely doesn't understand the difference between what someone like Harrington (or Keith McShea of the terrific Prep Talk blog) does and what Bucky does or if they just think Bucky's going to magically come around on the whole internet thing if they keep pushing it on him, but either option makes me question how on top of things they are and how dedicated they are to providing me with the best possible coverage.
This is not at all where I intended to go with this when I started, but the bottom line is this: If Harrington were in Vancouver, I'll bet I would have gotten my Henrik Tallinder story. In the end, I think we can all agree that that's really the most important thing.