Through my discussions with members of the media here, and with those who cover other teams, the general consensus is that the Washington Capitals are the absolute best in offering access to ‘non-traditional media.’
You could list Japers Rink, Russian Machine Never Breaks, On Frozen Blog, Capitals News Network, The Hockey Writers, HomerMcFanBoy, Capitals Outsider, SBnation DC, Kings of Leonsis, and even me, and you still wouldn’t have the full list of blogs that the Capitals give practice, and game-day access to. That’s an amazing amount!
But as great power requires great responsibility, the ability to leave mama’s basement, (The natural environment for us bloggers.) and spout off from your keypad at Verizon, means that your words, just like the words from the Washington Post, will be noticed.
Now this can be good or bad depending on the outcome. I’ve had Mr. Leonsis link to, and say kind words about an article I did on Capitals merchandise. On the flip side, a Japers Rink commentator once wrote, that ‘his ten-year-old son knows more about hockey then I do.’ after being disgusted with an article of mine, that was placed on JP’s, ‘Morning Links’ section. Fine, but I bet I could take the kid in a fight!
But while facing down the contemptuous scorn of a Japers Rink commentator is tough, it’s Katrina + Hiroshima times ten if ever the seemingly mild-mannered owner of the Caps catches you slipping. And don’t, for a second think that since Ted made his money through the internet, he is willing to go carte blanche on bloggers, a give us a full pass to write anything we want. When Ted vociferously disagrees, he will let not only you, but the whole world know.
We saw an example of that on Wednesday, and it isn’t the first time Ted has had a bone to pick with both traditional and non-traditional media. In fact, it might just be the one trait he shares with Dan Snyder. Although to Leonsis’s eternal credit, he at least won’t sue.
A Look Back: Leonsis vs Local Media
August 2007 – Leonsis vs Steve Czaban/Sports Talk 980
It wasn’t directly about hockey, but everyone knew that it was a lack of hockey coverage, that likely set of the swarm of bee’s in motion, for Leonsis on this complaint.
After listening to the Sports Reporters on 980, prior to attending a game at RFK stadium between D.C. United, and the L.A. Galaxy, Ted blogged that the ‘Reporters’ had mocked both the sport of soccer, and the 47,000 in attendance who wanted to see David Beckham’s first game in D.C. Uncle Ted then picked up on popular criticism of the late afternoon show, writing that the only thing the ‘Sports Reporters’ really paid attention to was the Redskins, a charge he also leveled on 980 as a whole.
According to Leonsis, the lack of Capitals coverage was unfair, both to the market, and to his hockey team, as the Caps paid 980 to air games, yet few on the station ever talked about the team.
This in turn lead to Czaban calling hockey a ‘niche sport’ that not that many people pay attention to, which lead this fight into round 3. Here, Leonsis would lick his chops and score a knockout by writing that based on 980’s recent ratings, not that many people paid attention to them. Bam! Boom goes the dynamite.
Coincidentally or not, in 2008, Capitals games were moved from 980, to 1500.
August 2008 – Leonsis vs Ross McKeon
In attacking a column McKeon pegged for Puck Daddy, that suggested that the Washington Capitals, along with every team in the deep south should be contracted, Leonsis titled his posting ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ Let’s just say that’s an apt description for both the writer, and everyone who agreed with McKeon on this point.
January 2009 – Leonsis vs ESPN 980 (Again!)
This one was not nearly as interesting the last fight between these two combatants, as no one from 980 even responded.
Ted once again complained that his hockey team was being ignored, and that 980, and the ‘Sports Reporters’ in particular were not paying attention to much of anything, beyond the Redskins.
July 2010 – Leonsis vs OnFrozenBlog
Attacking someone for writing something inaccurate is one thing, but shouldn’t an owner have thicker-skin then to attack a blogger for having an opinion?
We think so, and this may be the first case where we think Leonsis clearly went overboard. The author in this case believed that the Capitals, after being unceremoniously bounced in the first round of the playoffs, weren’t being aggressive enough in pursuing free agents.
In terms of opinions, what OFB wrote didn’t exactly resonate on a Che Guevera, Viva la revolucion level. It simply was a well written column, that reached a conclusion that many people, including yours trully agreed with.
Ted responded by pretty much implying that the article was visceral in nature and based on a sudden gut-reaction. He also wrote one of the most gutlessly insular sentences I have read from any business leader in recent memory.
“Haven’t we earned a benefit of the doubt.”
If Snyder said this, he would have been brutalized for months on end by the media. What made Mr. Leonsis think he earned that right after the Capitals became the first #1 seed to lose to a #8 seed after being up 3-1? Where is the recent pedigree of playoff success that we can point to in giving the Capitals the benefit of the doubt?
You know who also wanted the benefit of the doubt? Bernie Madoff! Okay, maybe that isn’t a fair comparison, ..but still!
September 2010 – Leonsis vs Damien Cox vs Capitals bloggers
This tussle was much like the the 1993 heavyweight title bout between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield. One came in expecting a great fight between two near legends, and for no extra charge, one also got to see ‘Fan Man’ parachutting down from heights unknown, and then proceeding to get his ass kicked when touching down. It was almost too much for one man to take without requiring severe decompression.
This fight was just like that, as all sides engaged in enough juvenile behavior, to satisfy both Jackass, and a Charlie Sheen bachelor party. We simply had no idea what would occur net.
It all started when Cox wrote a column, that in a nutshell, accused Leonsis of encouraging owners in the post-lockout period, to create financial mischief, and attempt to sign players to front-loaded contracts. Under this newly ‘charged,’ financial environment, Cox then says that Leonsis was able to get away with signing Ovechkin to his 13-year, $124 million dollar contract, a contract that he writes, Bettman would normally not allow.
Leonsis then responded by not only attacking Cox’s argument, writing that Ovechkin’s contract was done in the open and satisfied all league rules, but also Cox on a personal level.
Ted charged that Damien was motivated to attack him, because he did not give him one-on-one access to interview Ovechkin for a behind-the-scenes book he was writing on Alex called, ‘The Ovechkin Project.’ (How you can write a behind-the-scenes book about a guy you don’t have personal access to, I do not know.) For good measure, Ted also said that most of what he read in Cox’s book, didn’t sync with who he knew Alexander Ovechin to be. (Good review of that, ‘Ovechkin Project’ book from Gunaxin, the guys involved in Capitals Outsider.)
After getting attacked on Twitter by many people, including a number of Caps bloggers, Cox then took to claiming that most Caps bloggers were paid lackeys of the organization. He’s of course right! We here at Capitals Examiners will write nicer things about the team, just as soon as Leonsis sends us the check back to cover our Metro expenses from the 2010-11 season!
May 2012 – Leonsis vs Thom Loverro/ESPN 980
In our first basketball related entry on this list, radio personality, and Washington Examiner columnist Thom Loverro wrote that hiring a coach like John Calipari might make the Wizards a less, ‘invisible franchise.’ In response, Leonsis levies a new attack on 980, charging them not with ignoring teams that aren’t named the Redskins, but only with being critical of teams that aren’t named the Redskins. Teddy of course, connects this state of affairs, with the station being owned by one Daniel M. Snyder.
In stunning fashion, because Leonsis is pretty good at these media throw downs, Loverro fired back, and had some absolute haymakers.
Not only does Loverro once again say that the Wizards are indeed invisible, he calls Leonsis the, “Citizen Kane of the internet,” and ends with this knockout: “Anyone who would pretend to want Andray Blatche on your roster shouldn’t be allowed to watch basketball is too stupid to watch basketball.”
Wow, in a major upset, we give the win to Loverro. Meanwhile, between this attack, and his attack on OnFrozenBlog, why has Leonsis developed a sudden case of not being able to handle criticism? As things currently stand, could anyone really argue that the Wizards are not an ‘invisible franchise?’ When a CEO is criticized by his board for not meeting expected profits, it appears to me that most great leaders would attempt to tackle the problem, not the guy who made the statement. It seems like Ted has his priorities mixed.
June 22, 2011 – ‘Jagrgate’ 2011: Leonsis vs The Hockey Writers
I am friends with one of the bloggers involved here, so right of the bat I’ll admit that I might be a little biased here. Still, when you spend most of an article dumping on the idea of Jagr returning to D.C., and clearly label the very idea that he would return, as a rumor, I think you’ve covered your bases pretty well.
That’s exactly what the Hockey Writers did here. Did they do anything egregious here? No, I don’t think so, but I do understand that a lot of rumors shouldn’t see the light of day in print and maybe that’s how Ted felt about this story. A point he didn’t waste a lot of words in wasting.
But hey, even as this is another major overreaction by Leonsis, at least we can be fairly sure Jagr isn’t coming here! That’s at least a win.