Story and Photo by Christian J. Stewart, Island Sports News
December 17, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Victoria native Teddy Jenner, a former Victoria Shamrock and National Lacrosse League player and now host of the popular “Off the Crossebar” radio program sat down with ISN recently to discuss life, lacrosse and the power of media in sports today.
Thirty-four year-old Victoria native Teddy Jenner was a successful lacrosse player for the Victoria Shamrocks and for a number of teams in the National Lacrosse League from 2002 to 2007. He has now made a name for himself as one of the top lacrosse and sports analysts around, hosting an extremely popular radio show called “Off The Crossebar” – which debuted May 3, 2011 and airs Tuesday nights on TEAM 1410 in Vancouver – and writing stories for ILIndoor.com where he covers the National Lacrosse League.
Teddy Jenner – AKA “JarJarDinks” and host of “Off The Crossebar” – sat down with ISN recently to talk about life in the sports media world (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
He also recently participated in the Gillette Drafted competition where the winner secured a contract as an on-air personality with Sportsnet, a Canadian sports network. The top 25 entrants took part in a boot camp in Ontario in August that included a variety of challenges, including on air, trivia and physical tests, and a reality show following the competition that aired on Sportsnet 360. Jenner was fortunate enough to make the final group in the competition but finished in the top 6 of a very close competition.
The former Saanich Tiger and Shamrock lacrosse player sat down with ISN’s Scott Harrigan and Christian J. Stewart recently and shared his thoughts on the state of the game today, the media, and life in general.
Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.
“I grew up in the Broadmead area and played minor lacrosse with the Saanich Tigers – I’m a Tiger through and through – and then for the Shamrocks and after that in the National Lacrosse League for six years. After that I worked for my family for a bit and then went to Vancouver for four-and-a-half years where I focused on school and work and getting into business. I started the Off the Crosse Bar show and that took off like nobody’s business. I then got opportunity to come back to Victoria and work for CFAX and while it wasn’t the greatest fit, it allowed me to get more on air experience, and come back home. I still do the radio show and write and that’s where we are now.”
So you are the “go-to” guy for lacrosse? How did that come about?
“Back in my NLL days, even when I was injured or not playing, I would head up into the booth and watch and analyze the games and provide colour commentary for whoever was broadcasting the game. I always enjoyed doing that. I’ve always enjoyed networking and talking with people and while I was still playing , I got hooked up with Paul Tutka, Shaydon Santos, and Colin Doyle, the founders of the Rudeboys Lacrosse web site and asked if I could be Western Lacrosse Association writer for them. They said sure but because I was still playing I had to come up with an alias – JarJarDinks – and as such I was able to speak tongue in cheek about things without anyone really knowing who I was. I started writing and fell in love with it and it just evolved from there. I just enjoy talking with people, getting their ears. and finding out the scoops.”
What’s your opinion on the state of sports media market today?
“It’s a bit of a game. Everyone wants to be the person with the scoop and to get that story out right away, but sometimes when they get it out, the information is incorrect or names are wrong. There seems to be a sacrifice of quality and accuracy in the interest of getting the story out first. Especially young people breaking into the business and the prevalence of social media, where things that used to take you a week to source, verify and report on, now get pushed out to the world in a matter of seconds.”
“I was like that a little bit when I was starting out and it happens in many cases…trades, injuries, teams moving, rumours and speculation. It is important however take five minutes and do the due diligence to verify the source or rumour or get a factual quote from someone before reporting a story that everyone will read and then share very quickly.”
“I think it is also important as a media person to carefully toe the line with athletes, managers, or other sources. In this day and age if you get on people’s good side, they will tell you a bunch of stuff, but if you get on their bad side they’ll clam up.”
Does being born and raised here hinder you as to who you can use for sources, or who or what you can report on?
“No. I have a pretty large circle of contacts having played in the league. I have many friends from lacrosse and I have no hesitation to write something about them or their teams if there is something worth writing about. For example, I am really good friends with Lewis Ratcliff and I had to break the story about his steroid use. The first thing I did was call him and say ‘Let’s talk, let me get your side of story. I am going to write this article about you that will be damning, so let me hear your side.'”
“I am not going to blast the guy, nor am I NOT going to do the story just because of that friendship. As long as I had it confirmed and it was good…sometimes you have to do it. Sometimes people have to understand that I am a reporter and it’s my job to do it. Some people get pissed off and may not like what I say but my argument back is that I’m just trying to do my job. If someone has another side or a counter argument, then I will be happy to sit down with them and hear their points and then write THAT story. “
“It is tough having to write a story about a friend of yours or a guy you’ve played with or grew up with that might be a poor reflection of who he is, how he is, or where his career is going, but if they’ve put themselves in such a position that a story has to be written, then, I’m sorry, but I am going to write the story. But I am obviously going to allow that person the chance to tell me their side of things.”
“I think too that BECAUSE I was a Shamrock and because I was born and raised here, it gives me a better perspective on the team and allows me to be a bit MORE critical in my coverage if I need to. I want to see that team succeed and if I feel they are not building a proper team, or putting a quality product on the floor, or are not doing what they’re are supposed to be doing, then the heck with it, if it’s something that needs to be said and if people need to know about it, then I am going to write about it. And if team management get’s pissed off, well sorry guys, that’s my job.”
You are really good at covering lacrosse…how does that translate into covering other sports you are not as familiar with?
“Baseball and basketball are not big sports that I am keen on, but as an example, one time in the Gillette show, I had to do a basketball story against another reporter who was well known in the basketball world and we went to Rucker Park in Harlem in New York – a Mecca for street hoops – and my first thoughts were how was I going to compete against this guy, one that all the players knew and gravitated to? How do I make this work?”
“Well I told myself I really don’t need to know anything about basketball, but I can make it a human interest story, so I changed it around to a story about life living in the projects and playing at Rucker Park, and playing in a spot that many NBA players gravitate to in the off season and such.”
“If you don’t know a sport, I think the trick is to find the strength in your weakness and use that to your advantage. My strength is telling stories…I may not know basketball, but I could find something I could tell a story about…So for example in that situation I did a story on how players got nicknames and then another on how one becomes an icon in street hoops. You have to find a way to take what you are really good at and incorporate it into the things that you aren’t so good at. I’m good at telling stories, so that’s what I did.”
Does having played the game help in your media job?
“I think there are three main components that help me do my job. First, sure, having played at a high level gives me some insight into the game that others may not have.”
“Second, having been on the other side of the microphone – having dealt with the media as a player – gives me insight into what their job is and how to go about it. As a player I realized that even though I may have had bad game, they needed to write about that and you had to understand that they were just doing their job, getting their story. Also as an athlete you get to understand that the media needs to be your best friend. Say one bad thing about them and you will either never be interviewed again, or they will blast you.”
“Finally, having played and to some degree being a big fan of the game, I just know what I want to read and thus I write about that. I don’t want to read the same old stat filled story. I’d rather read more of a human interest story or some other interesting story about a player.”
How do you handle things that come across Social Media that are inflammatory or where one player slams or degrades another. Is there a responsibility for media to report on that?
“Social media certainly compounds things, especially when players make derogatory statements, or bash other players or individuals. It used to be things would take weeks to make the rounds, now things go viral in a matter of minutes. In most cases, I try not to get involved in issues like that. But if I do find something that is compelling enough to get involved with, then I’ll call first and find out details…go to source and see if there is a story there. This happens so often that most times it does not need any more fuel on the fire and most of us just let it slide. But if there is a deeper story there, I’ll find out what the details are first before just reporting on it.”
The controversy on the lacrosse cages. Let’s talk about that. At what point do you take up a cause as to a story or to make change?
“I took that up almost immediately as soon as I found out that they were going to make the new cages mandatory for everyone. At the time it wasn’t so much about change, as it was about the lunacy of what was happening. It was a building thing with the Canadian Lacrosse Association where they were making all these changes but for no real apparent reasons, or any reasons that were based on fact or reported issues. So I wrote this piece about the new cage guidelines and then all of a sudden, people from all over began to send me pictures of the injuries they were getting with them, or of how they did not sit and fit properly.”
“It brought the issue to the eyes of the masses…what I did started something, it was a bit of a movement. But on the downside of things, while it raised the issue and brought about change at the senior level, as soon as it did, the issue went away. In this sense, I feel bad, I feel like I failed, because most of the injuries were happening at Junior, Intermediate and minor lacrosse levels, yet they are/were still being forced to use them at those levels.”
What do you want to tell people as to the power of media, the power of having someone they know in the media?
“Trust the media more. People in the sport (players, coaches) need to understand that I’m not trying to make people look bad unless they are going to do it to themselves. I’m just going to tell the story, throw my two cents in where I need to and just tell a good story that will inspire people, make them read more and enjoy the game more.”
Any warnings for parents?
“Stop yelling at your kids. And know that it doesn’t hurt if your kid loses a game 17-2. There’s all this sensitivity these days about not keeping score when the score gets out of hand, or de-emphasizing competition…winning and losing. But what does that teach our kids? You build character as an athlete and as a person by learning from your losses. Ignoring them, or glossing them over does not let kids learn how to lose and build the character and drive to win that comes from that.”
“Also, let your kids experience as many sports as they want. Don’t just stick them in one sport. Let them experience a range and then gravitate to those that they love. If your kid likes playing sports, great put them in sports, but let them diversify.”
Should parents coach their kids?
“I think if they are educated and know the sport, then there is nothing wrong with that. Some parents coach just because their kids are in the game, or because there are no other options, but parents who want to coach need to learn the sport because our kids need to understand and learn the basics, the grass roots about the game, to ensure they can get to the next level. Often times, parent coaches don’t have the will or time to take any coaching courses or training and thus they can’t teach the kids the basics they need to learn.”
“I also think that players who play the game at the higher levels need to give back to the game and get involved and help coach minor lacrosse. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but even if a couple of players can get out once or twice a week, it can make a huge difference.”