I've said a lot of nice things about the New York Islanders this season. They've given me, and a number of other writers an opportunity to start, or help along their writing careers by letting them have a spot in the press box. They've provided me with access to their players and head coach, something I am eternally grateful for. They have wonderful people who work for them that have been instrumental to my success at two different websites.
That said, you have to call a spade a spade, and you have to call a petty, ridiculous, detrimental decision exactly that. The Islanders this week essentially told Islanderspointblank.com proprietor Chris Botta - a former 20-year employee of the team and as kind and smart a man as you'll find in this game - to take a hike from the building he poured his own lifeblood and sweat into. Their excuse, according to Botta, was that he was becoming part of the story and not just reporting it. This is based on radio interviews Botta did in the wake of Scott Gordon firing.
How could anything Chris Botta said become part of the story? The fact is, in the hockey world and in the New York media world, the Islanders are a complete non-story. WFAN's Mike Francesa did not mention the Islanders firing their head coach once during his daily radio program the day it happened. It was only after Botta - also a writer for NHL Fanhouse who can get credentialed in the 29 other rinks in this league - had his credentials revoked that Francesa deemed the story worth discussing, for nearly 30 minutes, on Thursday. It was the most Francesa's talked Islanders, and maybe hockey, in years, as Chris Russo was always the more hockey-inclined (if at all) partner in Mike and the Mad Dog.
The Islanders should not be revoking Botta's credentials, they should be begging him to come back. Not just for getting on Mike Francesa, or the few other TV and radio shows that gave Botta airtime on Thursday. He has done a better job than almost anyone in the hockey universe to get people to pay attention to a team that has not been worth paying attention to for many, many years. They have not advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in what is now closing in on two decades. They needed a new building two decades ago, too. Fact is, Botta's writing is deserving of a much better team.
So my suggestion to Mr. Botta, a pal of mine in the hockey world who has paved the way for me to have a job like this, is as such: Even if the Islanders do invite you back, tell them thanks, but no thanks.
Miller and Morgan Fired
A lot of people were thrilled recently at the firing of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst Joe Morgan. Less of a pleasant casualty of ESPN's decision to clean house was that Hall of Fame play-by-play man Jon Miller also getting the heave-ho. I'm sure many will regard that as sort of an injustice and that ESPN was hasty with it's decision to completely tear apart it's lead baseball guys (Orel Hersheiser has been retained to work in a new team with Dan Shulman and, potentially, Bobby Valentine) I have to say that, while I like Miller, I agree with the decision.
Unfortunately, when you spend a long time together as a team, you become defined as one entity. It's why John Madden never seemed as potent when not combined with Pat Summerall, and why Sam Rosen sounds off without Joe Micheletti. Miller and Morgan became, outside of San Francisco where Miller worked locally along with other cities, remembered as a duo. I think those two, despite the rightful dislike for Morgan's arrogance, probably deserved to go out together.
Miller is a consummate pro, and has been offered ESPN Radio work added to his Giants games, but he was swallowed whole by the universal loathing for Morgan, and while he deserves another shot down the road, it probably wouldn't be beneficial for him to immediately continue in the Sunday Night Baseball booth as one-third of a cobbled together booth. Better that ESPN have a chance to start fresh and create a new chemistry. Shulman is a terrific play-by-play man, while Hershiser is quickly becoming a pro in the booth. Valentine I'm iffy on, but hey, there isn't a FireBobbyValentine.com just yet. That alone is a plus.