Should the L.A. Kings Beat Writer Be an L.A. Kings Fan?

Surly and I have talked about this topic a few times though we haven’t discussed it for a while – been busy with the whole we are the Stanley Cup Champions thing. Today, I read a comment on Hammond’s site that lifted this ever relevant question from the shelf. You are probably familiar that Rich Hammond does this thing called “Open Forum” and allows readers and fans to post questions that he then answers. It’s a cool idea although, bluntly, I have not yet had a question to ask him about the team or him. One reader who calls himself “jonbb11” asked this. Read it and Rich’s answer:

jonbb11asked: Hey can anyone answer what NHL team Rich actually roots for?

Answer: It’s fascinating how the comments to this question went off in a completely incorrect direction, and then how that incorrect direction became accepted as fact, and then how I got criticized for that incorrect direction. Sadly, I think that’s an increasingly relevant commentary on the way people consume and believe news today, but that’s a different rant. I love hockey and I’m not a Kings fan, nor do I have a favorite team. I love pizza and I don’t exclusively eat Domino’s, either. I’ve been in daily print journalism since 1995 and I’ve covered dozens of teams. I’m not a fan of all of them. That would be rather absurd. I’ve answered this question honestly for five years, the same way, every time, but some people don’t believe it so I’ve stopped arguing for the most part, but I hope this clarifies things.

Rich comes across defensive in his answer and, perhaps, for good reason. This is his job and paycheck on the line and if he says something that angers his employer, it could be the end of his job. That is one of the advantages of truly being independent of the team like Surly and I are – we don’t give a damn about that nor do we have to – we just care that you like what we write, even if you disagree with it, or, at a minimum, it entertains you. But Rich doesn’t have that advantage. He has to “walk a line,” even if he would disagree with that assessment and he has directly.

But what about fandom? What about writing with a passion, fervor or, hell, even outward enthusiasm? That’s at the heart of being a fan. When a die-hard or even a casual fan goes to games, they don’t go and speak in short sentences and a monotone voice about the team’s play. They smile, laugh, yell, scream, chant, occasionally curse (for Surly more than occasionally) and show “emotions” that range from love and elation to grief and depression.

Even our friend Quisp must jump up and down and join in the revelry while knocking out a spread sheet about the Corsi rating of the fan’s enthusiasm in relation to the decibel level of the noise emanating from the arena speakers…and you know what? I would read it because I dig that shit!

And The Royal Half must certainly high-five those around him even though they have yet to see his face…

And Paul must record all of the cheering and chants and put together a compilation on a CD to share with fellow fans because that’s how he rolls!

And Gann Matsuda must remind everyone that he considers himself a journalist and not a blogger…but I digress…

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that, right?

Being an excellent beat writer and being an L.A. Kings fan are not mutually exclusive. One could have a deep passion for the Kings, be a great writer, know the sport of hockey well enough to write about it and still write objectively and professionally, with the appropriate level of verve infused therewith.

“Bobby, you should be the L.A. Kings beat writer!”

I appreciate your love but I wouldn’t take the job…and the L.A. Kings aren’t that non compos mentis.

Back to the question of whether the L.A. Kings beat writer should be an L.A. Kings fan…it’s not mandatory, as we have seen. Rich does an average, sometimes above, job. Surly and I recognize how much potential for greatness, elevating the positive exposure of the team and entertainment the beat writer position has – imagine if Rich could write about the X’s and O’s of hockey, ask questions relevant thereto, educate the casual Kings fans (especially now that many are jumping on the bandwagon) in the process, write pre and post games that are not just numbers but talk about pivotal moments you saw and perhaps didn’t see but factored into the win or loss, get regular and exclusive player interviews apart from the media scrum, use a writing style that is not just spam on toast but entertaining, use wit akin to the L.A. Kings Twitter account to draw in opposing fans of teams before and after game day and so much more…

“Should be an L.A. Kings fan?” If that element includes prose, more than a basic and foundational knowledge about the sport and the charm and personality for the job, yes, the beat writer should be an L.A. Kings fan. But who said that’s what the L.A. Kings would even want? There is a lot of to be said in the business world for “controlling the message.”


Categories: L.A. Kings News

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28 replies

  1. I think that brat writers who aren’t fans of the team they cover are able to be more objective.

    • I don’t think they have to be a fan of the team but most of the time you can read Rich’s material and could mistake them for an AP feed. He rarely provides his own analysis or is critical of players or management. He doesn’t have to be a raving Kings fan but it would be nice to get some life in the writing.

  2. Arguably the biggest Kings fan ever is employed by the Kings and has probably been heard by more people than any other individual ever associated with the Club. He has outlasted owners, players, GM’s and many, many coaches. His dedication to his craft and his ability to be objective has rarely come into question. And while the message was undoubtedly ‘controlled’ at times, I have to believe his autonomy is second to none among broadcasters.

    Of course, I’m talking about the one and only Bob Miller. No, not a beat writer, but still a very influential distributor of Kings information…probably the most influential in the course of time. Ok, so to answer the question, sure, why not? I don’t think being a fan or not is paramount in the Kings’s eyes (AEG’s eyes). I think the whole idea of having your own beat writer was (and is) an ongoing experiment and without knowing all the details about how the whole idea even started, I would bet a huge part of it was simply the relationships Rich built over time, regardless of whether or not he was a fan.

    You won’t be surprised to learn that I’m putting together an entire history of ‘the insider’ for KND. Maybe even a CD? Hmmm…

  3. Yes. Some may say Jamie Kompon was “average” at his job, but we let him go (those who said this were obviously not Kings fans, but I digress…). I think it is time to do the same with Rich. Put someone in there who can help continue making this team great, and in my opinion, only a fan of the Kings can do that.

  4. I was naive when I first followed Rich (before I figured he must be a kings fan. When I found out that he wasn’t really a kings fan my whole opinion kind of changed. It wasn’t the same for me. I felt like he was just another journalist covering a story but not really being an expert on that matter. I believe an individual is a truly meaningful employee only when he really likes what he’s doing, enjoys the organization he works for, and is a big believer in the product/service he is working on. I can’t say the same about Rich.

  5. For Kings News and Quotes, I get that from Helene. Rich usually posts the same stuff she does about 2-4 hours later! Also, I don’t care to see what it looks like outside his hotel window in Columbus!

  6. I am a hockey fan 1st, and a Kings fan second. Do I love the Kings? Absolutely, but I also like to follow the entire NHL, even the CHL. I consider myself a hockey junkie, and don’t want to limit myself to just the Kings.
    When an opponent comes to play the Kings, I want to know who on that team is someone I want to get a good look at, see the rookies play and just enjoy watching the 2 teams battle for a win.
    When I watch a game, which is using the teams broadcast team, it can either make or break my decision on keeping the sound up or turning it down.
    There are some great impartial play by play teams, and then there are some way over the top homers who are pathetic.
    Bob Miller and Jim Fox are one of the best in the business, because they aren’t homers, they are fair and impartial.
    Jack Edwards, Paul Stagerwald, John Shorthouse are horrible homers often over exaggerating a play, and just how much better their teams players are, and not giving the opposition any sort of credit.

    Rich Hammond’ writing content is pretty boring in his articles. The Insider is the equivalent of a presidential press secretary, who’s job is to give the press and the citizens quotes and always try to put a positive spin on anything that might be believed to be negative.
    The Insider gives daily updates on practices, or the view from whatever hotel he or they are staying at. In addition he gives you game day information which include “tonight lines”, healthy scratches, who is playing in goal, injury updates, what player might be a game time decision, and what players their opposition are injured.
    One more occasional update will be for players who have been called up or sent down.
    The Insider also gives post game notes, maybe an interview or more from a player(s) or a coach.
    IMO the information Hammond writes is hardly in depth information. The Insider is more like the guy who does sports on the local TV news station, reading off a teleprompter with little if any first hand experience in the game.
    The regular readers of the Insider always seem to respond with “great stuff Rich”, and then what they feel is a intelligent, and probing question, which Rich may or may not respond to. The reason why he sometimes does not respond to those questions is because all of his followers will usually answer the question feeling as if they are qualified to do so.
    While his coverage of the Kings is pretty anemic, some of the elitist followers will try to bully someone they feel isn’t on their level, by making sure they appear to just know more than anyone else.
    The Insider is like some exclusive club of hockey savants who know it all, and are going to let everyone know it but have never even laced up a pair of skates or played the game at any level.
    I wish the Kings would employ something like Sports Net uses pre-game, between period praise or criticism. Nick Kypreos, Daren Millard, Mike Brophy. These guys don’t hold back and are in no way “homers”. They give credit where credit is due, and will criticize when they feel its justified.
    Unfortunately the Kings have no pre-game show, unless you want to consider the 5 minutes before faceoff a pre-game show. In addition the Kings don’t have much of a post game show, unless they win, and even at that, its not that long.
    Kings talk is probably the most in depth forum for an honest evaluation and critique of the play by the Kings and their opposition. When listeners call in with questions, Nick and Daryl will answer them, even if they aren’t always positive.
    Kings talk also has interviews with players after the games, along with the post game press conference.
    It just to bad Kings Talk, is often very short, and tends to have the same participants calling in.
    I admit it. When I first read Hammonds Kings Insider. He lacked intelligence and imagination. He was missing the spark you look for in a writer. But then I look into Hammonds eyes, he reminded me of my sweet brother, Chio. For those who do not know, Chio is learning disabled and lives in group home.
    Surly giggles
    But Chio loves khao and that’s when I realized, Rich is khao.
    [Scribe whispers to Surly]
    Surly: What’s khao?
    Scribe: Khao is soft white rice in lukewarm water. It has no taste. Befitted to small babies and very old people.
    Richard Hammond went to the Barbazon School of Journalism he might not be a journalist, but he pretends to be one.

  7. Yes I think so. Or at least be able to fake it. I like Rich but his blogs are so boring. I mean who wants to read “Final: 6-1 LA. Kings win the Stanley Cup in 6 games.”? Put some emotion into it.

    I think the Mayor should be the blogger personally. He keeps things professional, but he is a fan. Asks the right questions as well. I mean Matt Barry might be nuts sometimes but at least he’s fun to read. Hammond is like reading a history book. There’s more emotion in the LA Times articles.

  8. Being an excellent beat writer and being an L.A. Kings fan are not mutually exclusive. One could have a deep passion for the Kings, be a great writer, know the sport of hockey well enough to write about it and still write objectively and professionally, with the appropriate level of verve infused therewith….

    I agree with tthis. I am a hockey fan as well as Kings and Flyers fan. I can find a good game on NHL network most nights. I can appreciate the skill of players at varous levels for e they can be a fan of the home team and still be objective when they cover the team. There’s a what they bring despite of the crest they wear. There are writers that do that better than others and there is a fine line between being a fan of the team you cover and a homer, whose writing (or broadcasting) is so far on one side it’s not enjoyable. I like Fox and Miller, enjoyed them all year. Off the top of my head, although I can’t remember their names, the guys who do the play by play for the Dallas Stars were very good and fairly objective. I felt the broadcasting coverage of the Kings was lacking during the playoffs. With all the talented broadcasterrs they could have selected, they came up sthort and too many projected their homerism during play by play.

    I read the Insider, mostly for the post game quotes. Rich’s writing doesn’t have the passion or flavor I enjoy or even the nuances within the game that good students can bring out. But I can get that thru venues elsewhere, thanks to the Internet. I read a lot of hockey and get hockey publications in the mail. I was disappointed that he said he’s not a Kings fan . Given he works for the Kings, that surprised me and also that given the talent that’s available, why they wouldnt’ have someone different.

    • …edit…sorry, something went wrong when I corrected a typo and deleted a bunch of stuff…should have read
      I can appreciate the skill of players at varous levels for what they bring despite the crest they wear. I think it is possible for a writer be a fan of the home team and still be objective when they cover the team.

  9. I don’t think it really matters. He’s just part of the whole Kings deal. At first when I learned that he wasn’t a fan I was a bit taken aback but it really doesn’t matter to me anymore.

    He’s got his rules on his site for a reason. He’s representing the Kings organization and when new fans come to the website it probably wouldn’t be too cool to see comments with F bombs everywhere. When I went to my first game back in like 1980 or somewhere there I didn’t know shit about hockey. I didn’t even know they changed lines. What the hell was offsides, icing?

    I liken Hammond’s blog to AOL. Remember when the internet was blowing up everyone had AOL. That shitty ass dial up with all that gay shit on there. After a while you learned that the stuff was bullshit and ditched it for faster DSL where you didn’t have to log in to their site and have that annoying “you’ve got mail” thing come up.

    There are regulars on that site and that’s cool to me but thank God for sites like this and JFTC where we’re not on AOL anymore and we know shit about hockey (some might actually play the game now or in the past) and we’re passionate about the Kings. It’s hard for me to stay passionate about this team and keep it clean. I just take Rich’s site for what it is…bland reporting about the team’s whereabouts, injuries and injury statuses, prospects and other random things.

  10. Rich Hammond not a Kings Fan? Then we need a writer who can be objective and also be a fan of the team. Rich needs to go and lets get some quality reporting, commentary and some one who can spell the players names would be a great extra too. There are enough writers who wont acknowledge that L.A. has a hockey team. so instead if negative reporting that maintains the old school that hockey is a violent sport. Lets get some positive reporting that isnt a waste of the readers time.

  11. I think Rich is just as big or small of a Kings fan as he is a hockey fan. But he’s got a good gig going for himself, so that counts for something.

    As for objectivity, well obviously that’s fine and dandy though there’s obviously a big range between a complete homer and someone that supports the Kings but can still criticize (like most of us), but I’d like to see more of the “independence” that Rich promised when he took the job. For example, you can’t for a minute tell me that he doesn’t know a heck of a lot more than he writes about in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline each year. Maybe nobody else is muzzling him, but he’s actually proud of the fact that he doesn’t discuss “rumors.” Give me a frigging break…you’re not Shakespeare dude, tell us what’s happening.

  12. Rich doesn’t bring anything to the table I can’t get elsewhere.

    There is potential for greatness given his job title, but because he is not a fan, I don’t believe he tries to go the extra mile to make it great. That is why his blogs/posts are boring and sound just like how he talks.

    On another note, I’ve been moderated on that site for a year and a half now (or however long since the summer of Doughty happened) because I posted a “Drew Doughty signed with the Kings” joke post, followed a minute later by a jk. Ever since, I can’t get a post approved for at least a couple hours, usually longer, often times never.

    His message board is ugly as shit as well, and he doesn’t take kindly to people suggesting alternate layouts.

    I was hoping with Kompon’s firing that the Kings would get rid of their other weakest link, Rich Hammond. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.

  13. Oh, please. Pandering to your immeasurable masses again, eh? I’m no more or less a Hammond fan than anybody else, but this is just ridiculous. You guys got nothing better to do than to TRY to drag down Hammond (who couldn’t care less about your insecurities)??? He’s a professional journalist who, after many years of dedication to his craft, has earned the right to be in the position that he’s in. (Far more than anybody else that I can think of who deserves that opportunity.) I’m not sure that too many of us really understand this aspect of his situation. So The Fuck What if, in his heart of hearts, he isn’t a true, dyed-in-the-wool, long-suffering “FAN” of the Los Angeles Kings? Big Fucking Deal! Heaven forbid! C’mon already. He gives us a hell of a lot that we wouldn’t have otherwise, right? Isn’t that enough for you? Sheesh! Hate to break it to you, but in some ways, yes, his dick is wayyyyyy bigger than the both of yours combined. And if the Cubs ever win the World Series, he might just have a lesson to teach some of you about what it means to be a true “fan”. It’s not his job to fulfill your fantasy of what the ultimate journalist/fan should amount to and have to offer the rest of us. Let him play his part. You play yours. The rest of us will enjoy the best of both worlds. Right now, you guys seem a little desperate for some attention, but I’m sure you can do better than this.

    • Can’t have it both ways Anne Heche. In one breath you talk shit to those of us who read right through Hammond’s bullshit, yet here you are offering your worthless counter opinion as well.

      You must be riding a Clydesdale because you’re sure on a high horse.

    • In one paragraph you have written more passionately defending Rich than he has written about hockey (positive or negative). He could be easily be mistaken for a combination of staff AP writer and team spokesperson.

    • That was an awesome comment. Raw, emotional and unnecessarily hostile. Dug it. We need more Hammond apologists on this site. Just reading our point of view, with which most of our readers agree, is boring. Nice to have you back. Wish you commented more. Don’t be a stranger.

    • Rich is that you? :P

  14. I liked Alan Malamud. And you two raving lunatics

  15. Rich Hammond served a purpose this season, the same as he does every season he has served at the pleasure of the LA Kings – to bring us the news the organization is willing to let us know. He does that well. I do find it curious though that he would state time and again that he is not a King’s fan, simply an interested observer with an inside scoop and an internet connection, who happens to be employed by the Kings. So is Bob Miller. You think he’s a King’s fan?

    Come to think of it – so was Heidi Androl (the most beautiful woman in the NHL) – you think she was a King’s fan the short while she was with us? (her tears at the parade were proof enough for me). I wonder – if you aren’t 100 percent with the Kings even when they’re cutting you a check, why do we need you when we can get what you offer from Puck Daddy or ESPN or or Surly, Kuklas, or the Jewels? I can get plenty of ‘objective’ news, what’s the point in having one who wears the badge but doesn’t see anything worth committing to in LA?

    Tell me – what are the chances Rich leaves the Kings if the Black Hawks, Nashville, San HOSE, etc., offer him a sweeter deal? Or even the Long Beach Ice Dogs? Seems to me 100%. And I don’t blame him since he’s not a lifer and likely has a family to feed. But the least he could do here is lie to me ’til the summer is over…

    I get it – nobody supposed to believe in anything anymore these days – we’re all anything goes all the time. But I want to believe in something real, and right or wrong – sometimes it’s God damn worth taking a step out in front and defending where you stand…

    Call it crazy, but that’s the reason I was crying in June…

  16. I don’t want to know if a beat writer is a fan. That is not their job. Their job is to give us information, not so much their fan perspective. That’s why sites like Surly & Scribe are so good because they fill that void (and they published a story I wrote about my experiences at Tip-A-King in the early 1990s). Hammond has said he is a fan of hockey and you would have to be in order to cover the sport day in and day out. I was a boxing writer for a bit and I covered many, many different fighters. I was not a fan of most of them. I was and still am a fan of the sport, but my job was to cover the fighters and the fights, not get all excited just because Oscar De La Hoya was in the ring.

    Because of a lack of Kings coverage in Southern California, Kings fans seem to think that anybody associated with the team needs to have a Surly and Scribe level craziness for the team. I am glad that Hammond doesn’t have that. Mike Emrick did a great job in my opinion calling the game, sure I would have preferred Bob Miller, but he was not biased (Pierre McGuire on ehte other hand . . . ). The reason you heard Vin Scully calling the 1988 Dodgers World Series victory was because he was the hired voice by the national network. When the Lakers won, Chick Hearn wasn’t on the national broadcast.

    This whole debate is interesting because it shows the changing landscape in journalism. Hammond is a hired gun for the Kings, and he’ll report what they want, that’s why it is still important to have the Helene Elliott’s of the world. The Internet has democratized things in a way and there is a place for Hammond and for Surly & Scribe. I enjoy both, however I am glad that I don’t have to see pictures of what is outside Surly’s window each morning.

  17. Fuck Hammond up his impartial, filled-with-journalistic-integrity, ass.

    We’re lucky we’re able to watch FoxMiller on TV, dishing out objective analyses and making straight-up calls regardless of which team is doing what. We KNOW those two guys can maintain their detached and unbiased decorum even though they both love the Kings.

    Hammond is a mealy-mouthed, chickenshit, tuchuss-licking schvanss. I’m GLAD he’s not a fan of the Kings.

    (It doesn’t help his case that he’s down on dirty words — which are, of course, mother’s milk to me.)


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