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Blazers Reverse Course, Will Let Broadcast Team Travel After All
In response to several days of public outcry, the Blazers did the obvious right thing.
Before Dewayne Hankins' interview with Chad Doing and Dwight Jaynes on Monday even started, it was apparent that the Trail Blazers were going to reverse course on the previously reported plan to not travel their broadcast team and have them call road games from a monitor.
In the previous segment on the Rip City Drive program, the two hosts gave a little background about how the interview came together, and revealed that it was the team that actually requested for Hankins to come on the show. When something like this blows up, it's usually the media outlet that makes the request to have the person involved give a comment. That the team proactively offered their president of business operations up for a radio interview, days after Hankins seemed to walk this whole thing back in the email statement he gave me when I reached out for comment last week, told me this was going to be a mea culpa.
And that's exactly what it was.
"I just want to set the record straight on the broadcast piece," Hankins said. "And just say that we've heard you guys in the media, we've heard all the fans. We're always trying to improve, we're always trying to be that next-generation broadcast. … But first and foremost, we're going to put the team on the road. We're going to travel the broadcasters, and we're just excited for our fans to have that experience, for our broadcasters to have that experience. We would never want to do anything that is viewed, as this was, as something that was negative to the fan experience."
So, there's the headline. Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd, Brooke Olzendam, Travis Demers and Michael Holton will be on the road with the Blazers this season, as they should be. And for as deserved as the outcry was over the past week, Hankins and the rest of the decision-makers involved here deserve credit for not only agreeing to talk on the record about this stuff, but for being willing to admit they screwed up and course-correct.
"What I appreciate about living in Portland is, I've worked in other markets where broadcast travel wouldn't make the sports pages," Hankins said during the radio hit. "And here, something like that, because our fans are so passionate, is something that our fans have a strong opinion about. When I started here, we did a lot of research around our brand and talked to a lot of fans, and our fans really feel like they own the team. And that's something I need to remember, especially in this role. Any decision you make that's fan-facing like this, you really have to consider … put an empty seat in the office, and then have the fan be in that seat, and how does this affect the fan? And I think the more we do that, the better the outcome is."
Hankins got a little bit into the "innovations" he had in mind to reinvest the resources from broadcast travel, and some of it is intriguing. He talked about potentially using Second Spectrum to bring deeper statistical analysis into the broadcast, and about leveraging the broadcast team's strong relationships with head coach Chauncey Billups and general manager Joe Cronin to tell deeper stories about the players off the court. All of which sounds great, but that shouldn't have been an either/or proposition with having their broadcasters be able to perform the basic functions of their jobs to the best of their abilities. The entire sports world learned during the pandemic that remote broadcasts can be done, but the vast majority of them aren't good, and the cost savings isn't worth the obvious dropoff in quality and depth.
In the end, Hankins and the Blazers did right by their broadcast talent, and by their fans.