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Objectivity: You're Doing it Wrong

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FACT:  Kevin Shattenkirk dives to pass the puck against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on December 23 2010 in Denver Colorado. DATER: Shatty is Superman and was clearly tripped by Cal Clutterbuck while attempting to save the world.
FACT: Kevin Shattenkirk dives to pass the puck against the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on December 23 2010 in Denver Colorado. DATER: Shatty is Superman and was clearly tripped by Cal Clutterbuck while attempting to save the world.

Right off the top, let's be clear. Hockey Wilderness is not an objective source of Wild news and commentary. Read any blog on the SBNation network, and you'll know very quickly. This is a place for fans, by fans. We're Wild fans here at Hockey Wilderness. Plain and simple.

At the same time, we do strive to behave in a professional manner. We don't criticize where it is not due, we don't overly hype the positives, and we use a certain level of objective thought when analyzing what is happening with the team. To show that, we have never had a single post about how cute Mikko is, or a post about this being the worst team in the league with absolutely no chance to win a game all season.

They aren't the Red Wings, and they aren't the Islanders. Right?

However, the world needs sources of objective news, and the world needs sources of non-objective news. We all know everyone in the United States and Canada is entitled to their opinion, and we welcome that opinion to the conversation. Even the most objective person in the world is going to criticize and praise every so often.

It is when the people being paid to be objective can no longer handle that role that we begin to question the validity of their reporting.

Make the jump for a look at a rather interesting post from our good friend Mr. Dater.

I really am not even sure how Mr. Dater continues to carry the label of beat writer. The beat writers I have read from around the league are generally an objective group, reporting the facts, and throwing it a tidbit of opinion every so often. Russo's criticism of David Koci lasted about five sentences. I have never seen a beat writer use a blog or newspaper article to attack one specific player for 16 paragraphs.

The newspaper world generally calls people who do that "columnists" and they get paid for their opinions, right Tom? The validity of their opinion is debatable, and when it comes to hockey, generally based on a small sample size. Their opinion is presented as fact, and many people buy into it because of the bull horn the newspaper lends them.

The opinion guys sell papers. So do the beat writers. What happens when the beat writer can no longer be objective? Let's find out.

On his blog, which is an official blog on the Denver Post's website, our friend Mr. Dater chose not to write about the 3-1 loss, or how the Avs played. Well, to be fair, he did give the Avs two paragraphs at the bottom. No, instead this source for objective, fact based reports on the game used his space to attack a player from the opposing team. 

Four days ago, we wrote about Adrian Dater's inability to quote sources and start rumors surrounding opposing teams which he does not report on. We gave the credit that at least he wasn't writing in his official role as a beat writer. This time, he gets no such pass.

This time, Mr. Dater goes off on Cal Clutterbuck in an official manner, something I have never seen a beat wrtier do in my life. Sixteen paragraphs of criticism based on the small sample size of games Mr. Dater sees Clutterbuck play. I cannot imagine, for a second, reading a Russo's Rants with nothing but attacks on an opposing player. I know Russo has opinions, and we have shared some of them. He would never put them out in his role as the Wild beat writer for the Strib.

Turns out, Russo values his job. Fancy that.

What did Mr. Dater have to say last night? Let's take a look.

Look, I’m going to keep this "professional." Fact is, I don’t care whether the Avalanche wins or loses. Just past that stage in life, folks, where I’m going to care at all about a bunch of guys being paid big money to play a game of "mercenary vs. mercenary." I know a lot of you think I’m either a huge Avalanche homer, or that I’m relentlessly negative about them and hate them somehow. They say you’re doing your job in this business if people on both sides think that.

The use of the dick fingers in the first sentence is nice. Like he is telling us to throw out the idea that he has any professionalism left. He doesn't care if the Avs win or lose. Yeah, right. Go back and read his blog. The nights they win, they are heroes. The nights they lose, they are goats not worthy of oxygen.

For the record, I don't think you are a homer, sir. A homer would admit their bias. You live and die with the successes and failures of the team you cover. That is not being a homer, it is being raging fan. Something the beat writer is not supposed to be. Homers are apologists for their team. You do no such thing. You do however, lack a sense of objectivity about the Avalanche, and that sir, makes you a fan.

Colorado doesn't allow fans in the press box. Interesting they keep the blinders on for you and the only newspaper left in town, yet ban the guys at Mile High Hockey because they are not serious journalists.

Sixteen paragraphs attacking one player, people. That's not objective, it's being ticked off because that player rattled your favorite team. In too many of those paragraphs, Mr. Dater implicitly compares Clutterbuck to players like Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu. Such as this wonderful 'graph:

The bottom bottom line is: Cal Clutterbuck is the type of player who will hit you when you’re not looking. Then, when you want to do something about that, he’s going to duck his head down at the angry paws coming at him, until he can get himself into some kind of rope-a-dope situation, or better yet, the referee comes over and breaks it up.

Clutterbuck hits people when they're not looking? Maybe those players need to wake up and pay attention to the entire sheet of ice. Ever heard the phrase "keep your head up?" It applies here. Would you like hockey players to send written invitations? "I humbly request the honor of your presence deep in the corner so I may separate you from your skates?"

Not going to happen.

Not to support the NHL's system of discipline, but Clutterbuck has never suspended, and has never even been the subject of a hearing. Big hits are clean and allowed in the NHL. Don't like it? Watch tennis. Until Clutterbuck does something dirty, save it. You don't want to get hit, pay attention.

Mr. Dater then accuses Clutterbuck of trying to hurt someone with his knee, and then says that Clutterbuck wouldn't drop the gloves with Adam Foote. Clutterbuck drew a penalty, which was his job, right? Right. The Wild get a power play, and Clutterbuck is further into the Avs collective head.

That isn't good enough for Mr. Dater. No, he offers us this:

Of course, the linesmen stepped in and broke things up. Anyone want to lay odds against Clutterbuck’s inner mind going anything other than "Phhheeeewwwww" at that moment?

I would give to 5000-to-1, sir, that Clutterbuck was thinking "Yeah, take a swing, Footer. Take the roughing call... come on man, take a swing." From what I know about Clutterbuck, he is more than willing to take a punch, but he would prefer to keep his gloves on and put his team on the power play than go sit for five minutes.

Of course, that would be information you gain from watching a player, and a team, more than six times a year. Add a pinch, just a pinch, of objectivity, and you would understand that.

And a lot of his defenders point out that he leads the league in hits every year, but also has low penalty minutes – which kind of makes my point. He’s trying to artificially jack up his hit total, but doesn’t want to back anything up with a fight or two.

Tough talk from a guy who covers David Koci and covered Darcy Tucker for years. How is Clutterbuck artificially inflating anything? He can't make the official scorer record a hit. He is playing hockey, let the stats guys do what they may.

As for backing it up with a fight or two... he has done so. Not this year, but he will when the time is right. Would I like to see Calutterbuck drop a few more times? Absolutely, but I enjoy a good fight. Clutterbuck's job is not to take the five minute major, but to draw the penalty. Every team has that guy.

Another wonderful tidbit from Mr. Dater:

But, come on, did the Wild forward really talk a lot of smack about the Avalanche tonight, after a December 3-1 victory?

In fact, he did.

Cal Clutterbuck talked smack? WHAT?!?! Next you'll try to tell me Jacques Lemaire is coaching again,or Marian Gaborik has a groin injury. Does Willie Nelson still smoke pot? You're really going to write about Clutterbuck talking smack? That's just plain lazy.

Anything else, Mr. Dater?

Like I said, he’s good at it. But it still doesn’t change that ultimate truth about Cal Clutterbuck: that he doesn’t stand up for himself, that he wants to hit and run and cower. Teammates hate those kinds of guys, because it means their guys are going to be targeted right back since he won’t fight his own battles. These teams will meet again soon, and we’ll see if Cal is clucking as loudly that night.

Yeah, Clutteruck is the most unpopular guy on the team, right? Mr. Dater knows this because of his intense and long lasting relationship with so many players in the Wild locker room. I mean, if Mr. Dater knows that the Wild "would love to be rid of Martin Havlat," he must know if Clutterbuck's teammates like him or not.

My Take

Mr. Dater likes to bill himself as someone who doesn't care if the Avs win or lose. He complains mercilessly on Twitter about the life of a hockey writer and how horrible it is to get paid to write about hockey. He has taken on the role of a blogger, both for the newspaper and for Versus. Yet, he continues to fool himself into thinking that he is just an objective beat writer for the Post.

Do I think Mr. Dater has no right to express his opinion? Absolutely not. I would fight with anyone who says he has no right to do so. I defend anyone's right to express any opinion they want. However, we also need people with an unbiased (or at least mostly unbiased) account of the happenings to give us a basis for the discussion. That is Mr. Dater's job.

His job is not to call out Cal Clutterbuck in print, to call him names, and write about how much his teammates hate him. Unless you (gasp) have sources on the Wild roster that say they hate Clutterbuck, how about you stop with the innuendo and rumors about this team?

The danger of people like Adrian Dater becomes apparent when you try to sort out what happened and what didn't in any given game. It's like watching MSNBC or FOX News and trying to get the truth. Mr. Dater shows no interest in his duties as the Avalanche beat writer. His blog for the Post and for Versus read like someone trying to show just how nonobjective he can be, and trying to secure a job as a columnist.

I look forward to the day the Post actually reports on what happened in the game rather than giving me 16 paragraphs about how much their beat writer dislikes Cal Clutterbuck. I also look forward the Avalanche granting credentials to the folks at Mile High Hockey, since their policy seems to be as biased as Mr. Dater himself.

The bottom line is this: Mr. Dater is an Avalanche fan. So are the people at MHH. I see absolutely no difference between the two any longer. Except that MHH doesn't pretend to be something it isn't.