“Most Hated”

“Background. Research. Reliable sources. Contacts. Credibility! Many blogs could be questioned on some or all of those factors.” – Eric Smith

Eric Smith wrote a post on Tuesday for his Fan590 blog in which he states that the results of the recent Q Score survey “are skewed by racial undertones”.

Let’s start with Q Score’s themselves. I swapped some emails with Caryn Portnoy, media relations @ Q Score. In her words:

The results are from Q Scores’ Summer 2010 Performer Q Study, which is based on a nationally representative sample of 1800 respondents six years of age and older.  All demographic groups by age and sex, education and income segments, race and ethnicity are properly represented based on the most recent U.S. Census data.  The results of this study measure the familiarity and likeability of approximately 1750 personalities, which included a subset of 198 sports personalities.”

Pretty straight forward, right? She continues to explain,

“Each respondent is asked to indicate their opinion of each celebrity they are familiar with (based on everything they have seen, read or heard about the celebrity) – the scale ranges from “one of my favorites” to “very good” to “good” to “fair” or a “poor “ rating.  We produce a Positive Q Score to indicate likeability (which is based on the top box rating “one of my favorites”) and a Negative Q Score to indicate dislike (which is based on the “fair” and “poor” ratings)”

To summarize, Q Score takes an exact cross section of America based on the most recent census data and using several demographic groups they ask 1800 people their opinion of 198 athletes on a scale between the high end “One of My favorites” and the low end “Poor”.

Now let’s take a look at Eric Smith’s post.

Question to Caryn Portnoy -  Is your study or was your study ever titled or subtitled or was the term “Most Hated” ever referenced in your materials in reference to negative Q scores received by athletes?

Answer (copied and pasted) “WE DO NOT MEASURE HATRED – that is a term the media have used to INCORRECTLY cite our Negative Q Scores – which measure dislike, not hatred.”

Well this is awkward. Mostly because Smith references the title of his post “Most Hated” 5 times:

“Favre’s sins are nowhere near as bad as Roethlisberger’s but his ongoing saga is ‘hated’ indeed.”

“The Steelers QB appears 8th on the Most Hated list”

“I have no doubt that LeBron is ‘hated’ by many”

“Owens and Ochocinco being included in this list — and appearing so high — is beyond me.  ‘Disliked’ for their bravado and arrogance, sure.  But HATED?  C’mon. “

“That still doesn’t change the fact that this “Most Hated” list could be racially-skewed”

Hatred was never mentioned in the survey.  It wasn’t an option. LeBron James is between ‘one of my favorites’ and ‘I think poorly of him’. That’s the range. That’s it. Further to this, I asked Eric via twitter “does the survey still have racist undertones if people just dislike players as opposed to hating them?”. His answer, “fair question. i don’t know the answer to that.”

I think that Eric read about this survey online, did no fact checking, proceeded to connect “hate” with “racism” and rushed out a post. Oddly, I find myself agreeing with him in that I think it’s highly probable that racist attitudes will have played a part in these results but we’ve come to our conclusions in very different ways. What he’s implying is that, had all of the racists been weeded out as respondents to this survey, the Q Score results would look much different. To that I say, sure, why not? Here’s the thing. The Q survey is an important and well respected marketing survey. This is an evaluation tool that marketers use to measure the public’s perception of celebrities. Remember, the survey measures the opinions of a perfect cross section of America. An 11 year old Hispanic girl from Philadelphia that lives in a home with a combined income of 300k? Check. A 62 year old white grandma on a fixed income in Reno? Check. A 40 year old homosexual African American male in Bismark? Check.  Guess who’s also included in that great melting pot? Racists. And not just the casual ones who tell inappropriate jokes, the real hardcore fuckers too. The ones who burn crosses and read web pages that get you put on FBI watch lists. We know they’re in there somewhere and their opinions matter because they buy just as much Gatorade as you and I do. If brands don’t know which celebrity endorsers the racists like they can’t effectively sell them more Gatorade. Nobody likes racists except for other racists but everyone who’s selling something loves their money.

That Smith and I have both come to the same conclusion in no way lets him off the hook. He’s right, there are racial undertones but they don’t skew anything. Skewing implies that the results are tainted in some way by racist attitudes. While we all (except for the racists) agree that racism is disgusting, it’s a fact that the results are accurate because they include racist attitudes. Sadly, Smith doesn’t actually believe his own rhetoric because later in this piece he contradicts his own lede with:

“That (accurate demographics) still doesn’t change the fact that this “Most Hated” list could be racially-skewed”

Now the list “COULD BE” racial skewed? It took Smith 500 words to go from “Yes the results are racially skewed” to “the list could be racially skewed”. I know that it’s a minor difference in language but that difference speaks volumes.  Furthermore, he casually hints that the Q Score people themselves are in some way crooked.

“I’m a bit bewildered as to how James makes it onto this list if the survey was conducted, as we’re lead to believe, in March 2010.”

As we’re lead to believe? Why would Q Scores make this up? Does Smith have any idea how well respected this company is? How important their data is? How quickly their entire business would implode if marketers knew they were fudging numbers?

“Many, including me, smell something fishy going on here and many of us have theorized that if this survey was conducted in primarily African-American homes or neighbourhoods the results may have been different.”

Yeah, no shit the results would be different if you asked the same questions to a different set of people. What Smith is smelling however is not fish. It’s proven statistical research based on a rock solid methodology and it smells just fine.

In the end, I have no idea why Favre and Big Ben are not in the top 5 and Chad85 and Terrell Owens are. I have no idea why LeBron is up there. I honestly don’t care. There are an infinite number of possibilities as to why the results are what they are and some of these possibilities may have to do with racial biases. It remains, that nobody that participated in this study hates anything. This is a huge distinction.  For Smith to title his post and build his non-existent argument based on the premise that people said they ‘hated’ certain players is a gross miss-representation of the facts. That he’s blindly questioned Q Score’s business based on a hunch is ridiculous. He’s ambushed the Q Survey and held it captive for his own purposes, mostly to stir shit up and create a controversy that can be discussed during his talk radio call in show.

“An internet connection and an opinion can be a dangerous thing.” –Eric Smith

Once again, I agree.

A Note To TrueHoop

I wrote the above tweet this past Friday morning after reading TrueHoop’s First Cup as I do most mornings after I settle in at my desk. I’m not asking for a blanket ban of all things Toronto Sun, just a more careful approach to who TrueHoop links to.

In 2010 there is a whole lot of chatter about how the print industry is going to survive. I certainly don’t have any answers. I know that almost all of what I read on a daily basis comes to me for free. Sure I pay my ISP for a connection but that money doesn’t trickle down. What I do know is that web based publishing has offered me an endless and constantly up to date library of anything and everything I could ever want to read. I’m sure I could spend my entire 8 hour workday, everyday reading valuable, well written NBA articles and some days that’s what I do. Sometimes, the amount of good information is downright overwhelming. There is no difference in the price between the Toronto Sun online and True Hoop. I don’t have to pay to read either. For me the choice is obvious. For others the argument is why not just read both? Go ahead, read The Sun it doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit but that’s not my issue here. Henry is a hell of a writer. He’s constantly hitting his readers with solid, well researched insight. He has top notch contributors. I’m sure he’s busted his ass to get TrueHoop to where it is, possibly the finest collection of daily NBA writing on the planet. Why then is he offering a platform for the uninformed to be heard? Why does he give a voice to those who clearly don’t have an acceptable level of understanding of the NBA?

Offender#1

Two weeks ago Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun wrote a truly uninspired piece about Jose Calderon in which he spouted some fantastically uniformed blather. TrueHoop Networks own Raptors Republic shredded that article with this piece. Please read both and judge for yourselves. On the flip side, had Zicarelli not written this orgasm of idiocy Raptors Republic wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write such a nice rebuttal putting him in his place.

Offender#2

This past Friday’s TrueHoop morning links featured Steve Buffery also of the Toronto Sun. Steve wrote a piece calling out Steve Nash for not participating in the World Championships in which Canada recently participated, crashed and burned. Zero wins five losses and a whole pile of questions. Some called out Leo Rautins as a coach and some defending him pointing to the lack of talent on the roster. Buffery’s point is that Nash trained and traveled hard all summer so why couldn’t he honour his country by playing, even limited minutes for a team that desperately needed veteran leadership, a point guard and some much needed buzz. Beyond this Buffery makes the grandest no-no in Canadian hoops writing by making a hockey comparison to the situation and writes “Now, and this is dangerous territory we’re wading in here (because basketball people absolutely hate when hockey is mentioned when discussing hoops) but…”. But nothing Steve. Just don’t do it.

The problem with Buffery’s article is that he chooses to ignore the history here. Pete Thamel wrote a good article about Jay Triano last week in the New York Times. Twice he brings up Triano’s history with Team Canada:

“Other than Steve Nash, no one epitomizes Canadian basketball more than Triano. He played for the national team for 11 years, seven of them as a captain. At the World University Games in Japan in 1985, he carried the Canadian flag in the opening ceremony.  Triano coached the team from 1998 to 2004, when his firing prompted harsh words from Nash and bad feelings in much of the Canadian basketball community. It is not considered a coincidence that Nash has not suited up for Canada since.”

And further:

“Triano’s firing from the team was ugly, and the move was panned in the Canadian news media. Triano stayed quiet, however, and became further invested in being an N.B.A. coach.”

There have been a handful of articles written in the past few years dealing with the character of Steve Nash. Michael Grange wrote an insightful piece during this years playoffs that included this bit:

“Those that know Nash best saw him eschewing free agency and taking a desert discount as him doing what he’s always done: rewarding loyalty with loyalty, testing his belief that people working together can achieve more than lone agents pursing narrow interests”

I don’t know Steve Nash personally but I do know some Basketball Canada people who would tell you Nash was so soured by the Triano’s firing that he wouldn’t play for Team Canada again. End of story. Nash seems to put teamwork ahead of everything else. I doubt that this commitment ends once he walks beyond the boundaries of the 94 x 50. Teamwork has to exist beyond the court, with his coaches and the organization as a whole whether that be the Phoenix Suns or Basketball Canada. “Rewarding loyalty with loyalty”, meaning that as his coach was sold out he made a silent stand which should speak volumes to Basketball Canada. Fire Jay Triano and you’ve effectively fired Steve Nash. Nash is a golden boy and for a damn good reason and Bufferty’s attempt at casting doubt on his commitment to his country and sport is reckless. I have no issue with tearing down false idols but Steve Nash as far as we know, is beyond reproach. The obvious story here is why does a top 5 world program in USA Basketball have a use for Triano but Canada doesn’t. The story here isn’t Steve Nash, the story here is Canada Basketball and it’s poor decision making and Bufferty has missed the mark entirely.

I don’t want to make this a traditional media versus non-traditional argument because there are piles of newspaper guys that I read who are NBA authorities. However, there are some who just don’t cut it. Some, through no fault of their own have to cover 2 or 3 sports. Some, I’m sure just don’t love the sport they are covering. Some might just think they can slide some sloppy shit past us without anyone noticing. We live in an age where it’s tremendously difficult to fake it for any length of time because there are far too many eyes watching and far too much information available for which to analyze every situation. Sure there is room for error but there isn’t room for laziness.

This is matter of authenticity. The first time I met one of Toronto’s more prominent NBA bloggers, I asked him why he didn’t leverage his company credentials to get better seats to Raptor games. He answered simply, “because I want to be a fan and I can’t do that in press row.” There’s a reason why my twitter feed is still exploding on game nights until ungodly hours, it’s because the writers who really love the NBA are still awake, soaking in every last drop of the west coast games that they can and hoping that they can share some insight with anyone and everyone who’s willing to listen. Maybe Zicarelli and Buffery watch 82 Raptor games a year but that’s just not good enough in this day and age. Maybe it’s good enough for the casual fan but I just don’t think that’s what TrueHoop is about.

Spotlight – Nike ‘Evolution’

I’ve been meaning to post here more often, so to get back into the swing of things here’s something simple.

Neil Blomkamp’s ‘District 9’ came out this week.  I’ve been hearing the folks at Spy Films hype him for years and he’s finally hit it big.  For what it’s worth, Rotten Tomatoes has D-9 at %87.

Neil directed a great Nike Basketball spot in 2004.  ‘Evolution’ caught my eye as a very simple concept executed in a unique fashion.  All too often we see commercials that don’t actually showcase the product being sold and after all, isn’t that what we should be seeing?  Nike has been brilliant over the years with innovative television advertising but all of the most memorable spots have a star human whereas this spot takes me on a trip down memory lane where the shoe is king of the court.


The Deux Pt. Deux – Everyone Gets A Second Chance

Its easy to rail against large corporations.  Its easy for me to sit back and write a blog and take hard working, mostly faceless executives to task for not catering to or caring about Joe 6 pack.  When I started watching NBA ball in the summer of 1990 Youtube and webcams were just a dream. The internet was still in its infant bulletin board stages and to get your voice heard in what felt like an infinitely larger world probably took a whole pile more effort than it takes today.

With all the brouhaha surrounding the coming American election we should all be reminded that there is one time honored tradition in democratic countries that has always allowed those of us at or above the age of majority to have our voices heard whether we are using a T1 connection or a 60 hours free AOL dial-up cd that came in the mail.  Just about as easily completed as a ranting blog post, the vote requires a piece of government issued ID, a short walk, a pencil and the ability to draw a check mark. Then what?  Bloggers and voters have a very close connection in that they just want to be heard.  Will an audience read and will a leader listen?

In the City of Toronto we have two candidates running to gain a share of my disposable income each month.  Rogers Communications is a behemoth in the Canadian business community, run by tens of thousands of employees, traded daily on major exchanges and valued in the billions of dollars. This is supposed to be the type of faceless company that treats us all with disdain and labels us as just another number.

As an NBA fan and someone who has voted for the Red candidate (Rogers) for the past several years I am disheartened.  Oh dear reader, just as Mark Knopfler whined that he wanted his MTV, I WANT MY NBA but opening night came and went and I was blacked out.  No Cavs, Celtics. No Lakers, Blazers.  Anyone who read my last post knows that there is a new Blue candidate after my heart, one that spoke of change and hope for the future of this desperate NBA fan.  A new candidate that would carry The Deux, YES WE CAN!  I decided to give my guy Ted one last chance.  I wasn’t looking for any promises.  I wasn’t looking for an immediate solution.  All I wanted was to know that my voice was being heard, that Rogers was willing to acknowledge that there are many of us looking for progress and answers.  So I wrote Ted Rogers an email.

From:   Marc@**************.com
Subject: A note from a loyal customer
Date: October 30, 2008 11:42:24 PM EDT (CA)
To:   trogers@rci.rogers.com

Mr. Rogers,

There is a great deal of disappointment and a slow tide of anger quietly building towards your company as I write to you.  The issue at hand is that to this date Rogers Cable has decided to not carry the newly launched TSN2.

I am 31.  My wife and I are both educated professionals who spend $3500 per year with your company and we have been happy to do so.  I work hard.  When I come home 82 times per year I sit down to watch a Toronto Raptor game.  I may not catch all 82 every year because, as you know, there are work meetings and family obligations and errands to run and sometimes I’m just too damn tired.  Never once though have I missed a game because it is being broadcast on a channel that my service provider doesn’t offer.  Not in this day and age.

The disappointment is there.  The anger will come shortly if hometown fans are punished for making the decision to support your company with their loyalty and hard earned dollars only to be blacked out on game day.

in an early October issue of McLean’s, which we subscribe to, you wrote about your 5 easy secrets to success.  I have no doubt that the outlined secrets have been the foundations of your success. Please listen to your own advice and make this happen for us. Make TSN2 apart of the Rogers family. “It’s the customer, stupid”.

Thank you,

Marc J

And what do you know, he wrote me back.

From:   Ted.Rogers@rci.rogers.com
Subject: Re TSN2 and your email to me yesterday
Date: October 31, 2008 4:19:15 PM EDT (CA)
To:   Marc@***************.com

Thank you for your email of yesterday.

TSN has chosen to move some of their programming from TSN to TSN2.  The result of that is that in order to keep the same programming they had, customers would have to subscribe to and pay for an additional channel.  We do not see that as good value for customers as TSN2 is largely a repeat of TSN.  By TSN’s CRTC condition of licence only 10% of the program content on TSN2 can be different from TSN.

We continue to be in discussions with CTV concerning TSN2.  While I cannot get into the details of those discussions, I will say that we would like to launch TSN2 but in a way that is customer friendly and makes sense from a value perspective.

We have not yet reached that point but continue to try and get there.

Thank you for writing.

Ted Rogers

First things first.  I’m not so naive as to think that Ted himself actually wrote this email.  I’m sure he has an assistant who deals with this sort of nuisance.  However, I am now willing to to give my candidate one more chance.

BTW, we wish Mr. Rogers all the best.

To be continued…

The Deux and Why I’m Switching Cable Providers

Oh glorious October.  Yes the leaves are changing and the nights are growing cold.  Patios across this fair city are preparing to close.  The days are shorter and my reasons for leaving the warm and cozy confines of home are become fewer and farther between.  Humble reader, let this not be a tale of woe!  These are times of wonder and delight because sports are everywhere. October is the crossroads of the sporting calendar where MLB meets NFL, NHL and NBA.  These 4 kings of the castle meet and push prime time viewing to new highs smashing tired comedies and impossible reality shows aside as they mark their territory. For your writer, October is a month in which NBA fantasy leagues sprout and preseason rumors abound.  Teams begin training camps in far flung locales to impress upon smaller markets that their big city buddies truly do care about their rural neighbors, and a lucky few board their luxury charters to jet across the Atlantic for whirl-winded European tours to further build the great global NBA brand.  On Tuesday, October 28th the NBA season tips off, ending an off-season of team building and training and beginning 8 months of championship dreams and fantasy embarrassment.  Three or 4 nights a week, fans will gather around their flat panels to watch Canada’s team scrap it out.

The 2008 – 2009 season brings some changes on the television side of the business for the Raptors.  Gone are the windbag tendencies of Chuck Swirsky, who accepted an off-season offer from the Chicago Bulls to lead their radio team.  While I absolutely agree that Swirsky has a face made for radio I question his true reasons for leaving his beloved Raptors and his recently adopted home but that is neither here nor there. Something larger and more sinister than Swirsky is at work here and if you are a Toronto Raptor fan that lives in Canada, consider reading on.

In August of 2008 CTV Globe Media, which owns %80 of TSN (the other %20 is owned by ESPN) made a decision to launch a new sister network of TSN to be called TSN2.  The Deux as I will refer to it from here on out was apparently launched to afford TSN the ability to make further inroads to sports like hockey, curling and basketball and avoid commitment conflicts by shuffling events from one channel to the other.  So you’re thinking wow!, great!, grand! more live sporting events to help me pass this mind numbing winter! and at first hearing of this plan I agreed, what a great idea!  Now, as far as I can remember, the Raptors have never had a single dedicated broadcast partner.  No one lone Canadian broadcaster has in 11 years had the fortitude to step up and roll the dice by offering to show all 82 games.  TSN, CBC, The Score, Rogers Sportsnet(s), Headline Sports and NBA Raptors TV have all in the past shared the duties.  For reasons that I cannot confirm as I am not privy to the behind the scenes happenings during negotiations for broadcast rights, this years broadcasters will be The Score, CBC, TSN and The Deux.  This is bad for two reasons.  Firstly, anything that gives Rod Black more face time with NBA fans is a very bad thing.  Secondly and most importantly, The Deux is not available to Rogers Cable customers and won’t be for the foreseeable future.  This means that if you are one of the approximately 2.5 million Rogers Cable subscribers in Canada and you happen to be a Raptor fan you’ll need to find a buddy who has Bell or one of the smaller regional cable providers who has signed up to carry The Deux.  Did I mention that TSN will carry upwards of 70 games this year of which at least 40 will be Raptor games and its expected that a pile of those will end up on The Deux?

The questions now are many.  Why would TSN put any games on The Deux?  From what I can gather it’s only because they want to cause a rift between Rogers and their customers in hopes that if enough people complain they will be forced to give in and pick up the station.  Why wouldn’t Rogers want to carry The Deux? The answer that comes from people in the know is that Rogers doesn’t see the cost benefit in upgrading their network to carry another HD channel. Couldn’t TSN transfer games at will from The Deux to TSN if they find viewship down? I don’t think there is anything stopping them from doing this.  Where does this leave me?  I’m switching to Bell.