Friday, June 11, 2010

Sports on the Air: Newberg Scores with Kane Story

Cheers to Channel 4 reporter Rich Newberg for his story Thursday about South Buffalo hero Patrick Kane.

Newberg did something in the news story about the Stanley Cup hero that many sports reporters seemed to want to avoid: Address Kane’s problem last August with a cabbie over a fare that made national headlines.

The cab incident damaged Kane’s image before the season locally and nationally to the point that some people may have even been rooting against him as his Chicago Black Hawks sought the Stanley Cup.

Then Kane scored the winning goal in the Hawks’ sixth-game Cup clincher over the Philadelphia, gave some shout outs to his hometown on NBC and CBC and almost all seemed forgiven.

But certainly not forgotten.

Newberg’s balanced piece celebrated Kane’s heroics but also noted “there was that bump in the road” – the cabbie problem with his cousin.

Journalistically, it was the right way to go. Kane even addressed his August problem in an image-repairing, post-championship interview Wednesday without directly explaining it.

It was an important part of the story about a gifted 21-year-old athlete who may have matured and certainly was able to overcome making a foolish young mistake.

I say "may have" matured because by Friday Kane seemed to think the cab ride and another image-damaging incident in which he was caught with his shirt off in a limo ride with three fully-clothed women -- are a big joke now.

Apparently, he wasn't kidding when he told NBC's Pierre McGuire there was "not a chance, not a chance," that he would be on his best behavior at the Chicago parade celebrating the Hawks' first Cup win in 49 years.

“I’ll try to keep my shirt on all summer,” Kane told the crowd at the Chicago celebratory parade Friday. “For all you cab drivers, I love you.”

The light parade comments were a bad public relations move for a player who seemed to realize only two nights before the importance of rebuilding his image.

If there was a flaw in Newberg’s piece, it also was an attempt at humor at the end. The head of the cab company offered Kane a free cab ride anywhere he wants to go when he brings back the Stanley Cup to his hometown for a day.

“I promise you, I won’t lock him inside,” added the cab company owner.

Apparently everyone is a comedian now. But the summer incident in which Kane eventually plead guilty to disorderly conduct really shouldn’t have been a joking matter for anyone.

Besides, I think Kane can afford to give the Cup a limo ride now and can pass up the free cab ride offer.

Of course, some sports reporters and talk show hosts did mention Kane’s August cab adventure after the Cup-clinching goal. Notably, WGR radio’s Mike Schopp addressed it fairly in putting Kane’s year in perspective. Schopp said he celebrated Kane’s and Buffalo’s success and hoped the incident had helped the hockey star mature. It was a good take by the sports host.

With Kane and former Buffalo Sabre Brian Campbell winning the Cup with the Hawks and former Sabre Danny Briere having a terrific series for the Flyers, you might have thought that local ratings for the six-game series would have been through the roof on Channel 2.

However, the six-game series only rated about 10 percent higher here than last year’s Stanley Cup final series won by the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Detroit Red Wings. The six games this year averaged an 8.0 rating on the local NBC affiliate, while last year’s seven-game series averaged a 7.2.

Of course, the Pens game 7 win had the highest rating – a 14.0 – and brought up last year’s average. The Hawks’ Cup-clinching win in game six had a 13.5 rating in Buffalo after you take out the pre-game and post-game shows.

Buffalo was the third-rated market for the finals, behind only Chicago and Philadelphia. Buffalo is one of the rare markets in the country that gets higher ratings for the NHL finals than the NBA finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ win in game 3 of their series with the Boston Celtics Tuesday had a 6.2 rating on Channel 7. The Celts’ win in game 4 Thursday night had a 6.4 rating.

* I’ve always been a fan of ABC and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy on NBA games. But during the finals, analyst Mark Jackson also has been impressive with his ability to make a viewer laugh. During one game, he noted a player had a “Beyonce” move because “he went to the left, to the left” like the lyrics to her popular dance song.

In Thursday’s game, Jackson praised the play of Glen “Big Baby Davis” of the Celtics, noting that he did something babies do after he scored a big basket. Drool. Sure enough, ABC showed a replay of Davis with drool running down the side of his mouth after the basket.

* A shout out to Channel 2 reporter-anchor Ben Hayes, who did a fine job last weekend on the anchor desk. Hayes has a good voice and a good feel for sports and has great potential as a sports anchor at the one station in town with a deep sports bench. If Channel 4 is seriously looking for a third on-air person in sports, it could look no farther than to Hayes if he is available.

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