What’s The Alternative?

In a very personal article Paul wonders why Panthers do not communicate with The Cat’s Whiskers

I was on a bus the other day and there was a small child on there (they must have been about four or five years old) and they weren’t getting their way. They wanted to go to Subway (this was about 8:20 in the morning) and their mother was trying to make them understand that that wasn’t going to happen as they didn’t have time (the fact that they were already on the bus moving away from the Subway should have been a clue to the kid but, you know…). We had tears, we had a bit of chair kicking and then we had possibly the most irritating noise known to man (or at least every person who has ever had a child of about that age). It was that whiny, I’m not getting my way, type of wail that cuts right through you skin and muscle and grates against every bone of you skeleton. It went on and on until they got off a bus and when they did I thought I’d gone deaf but that silence was pure bliss.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all this. I don’t expect that you’ve got any great interest in my journey to work or the people/situations that I encounter (although there’s probably a whole different blog in it) so what has this got to do with anything? The thing is that sometimes when you write something you have to be careful that it doesn’t sound like you’re whining. It might be something you care a great deal about and that makes it hugely important to you, but that doesn’t mean that you can expect everyone reading it to agree or empathise with you.

With all of that in mind I’m going to finally get to the point of what I’m writing about – clubs and their relationship with, for want of a better phrase, the alternative media. I say for want of a better phrase because I’m not entirely sure what else to call it but I’m talking about fan driven podcasts like The Cats Whiskers, A View From The Bridge, Purple Army Podcast etc. essentially people like me and that, as I hope you can see, is why I don’t want this to sound like I’m whining.

I don’t think that I’m speaking out of turn here when I say that The Cats Whiskers would love to have a similar relationship with the Nottingham Panthers to the one A View From The Bridge enjoy with the Belfast Giants, but we don’t. We’ve asked you in the past what you wanted to see/hear and the replies have always included a large number of requests for player interviews and (when we were on YouTube) game highlights – the two things we couldn’t do. It’s no coincidence that these are the things that ‘Checking It Out’ majors on because it’s what people want. Of course, there’s a fairly strong argument that ‘Checking It Out’ wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Cats Whiskers TV but I’m sure the club would deny it so let’s save that for another day. We do ask for interviews and the club kindly arranged for Rick Strachan to come on the Podcast early last season but that was it. We continued to ask but I don’t think we’ve had a response either positive or negative since.

I think it’s important to stress here that I’m not saying that the club should be doing anything. They’ve almost certainly got a very good reason for not wanting us to interview players. I can’t quite work out what it would be but then again I’m biased aren’t I? It would be nice to at least get an acknowledgement of the email but I’m possibly nit-picking a bit there. All I can see is the benefits of allowing us to talk to them. That “policy” led to us creating what is probably a unique record of the league win in Belfast as we grabbed (not always literally) players for a couple of questions as they headed for Rockies. There’s nothing else like it out there. The same goes for the interview with David Beauregard that we recorded on the Monday after. We asked the club if there was any chance that a player would be available to come down to the recording, it being fairly historic etc, and they said they’d see what they could do. We expected a bit part player if we were lucky so imagine our surprise/wonderment/ecstasy (in the case of my son Sam anyway) when DAB walked in the door.

I don’t think any of the people we’ve interviewed have ever thought we’ve thrown them under the bus as it were. The questions we’ve asked have been considered reasonable and fair because that’s the way we’ve always tried to operate. OK we’ve criticised things in the past but, I hope, we’ve done so in a constructive way. I very much doubt that the players are going to spend much time listening to the rambling thoughts of a small handful of fans anyway. Take the articles I’ve written on here, yes I have been critical at times but I like to think I’ve made suggestions to try and balance out the argument.

You have to wonder what’s changed or, more importantly I suppose, why. Where has this hardening of the attitude from the club come from? Is it because we have criticised things? I have to say I doubt that. I remember that during the first season of The Cats Whiskers my views on whether Bruce Graham or Patrick Galivan should have been sacked first changed on an almost weekly basis and I told the world what I thought. Maybe it’s some particular thing that we’ve done or said. I don’t know what, we’ve recorded and written so much it’s hard to keep track. Maybe it’s none of these things, it probably isn’t. Chances are it’s down to a change of policy or direction within the club. The thing is though that a lack of information can breed paranoia and if the club aren’t telling us anything then we’re going to end up jumping to our own conclusions.

Having said all of that I have to say that there is a fairly large part of me that wants to remain independent. I’ve never wanted anything from The Cat’s Whiskers. I’m not expecting the media of the world to come calling because of what I say or write (which is probably a good thing). I never thought that what we do would see us brought into the fold. I like being able to say or write what I like, in a constructive way, obviously and I’m not sure I’d have the freedom in an “official” capacity. I’m no rebel but I don’t know how I’d feel about toeing the party line all the time, I’m probably a bit too outspoken at times for that.

So where do we go from here? I think, for me, the only answer I can give to that is that we keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t really see any other course of action. The club are pretty unlikely to come calling any time soon so there’s no point changing things to make that more likely and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t want to anyway. I’m also not sure what we would actually change without detracting from what we do. I have to admit that there have been times where I’ve looked at the lack of replies from the club and compared it to how other clubs interact with their fan media and asked myself what the point of keeping going is. I have to admit it can feel disheartening when your email goes unanswered again. On the other hand though, we know that people out there like what we do because they tell us and that’s a good thing. Without the affirmation that people out there are reading/listening and enjoying what you’re doing it can feel like your whistling in the dark so keep the comments, good and bad, coming.

Speaking personally I’ll keep writing regardless of where it appears (I’m not claiming the Cats Whiskers is closing here!) It might sound daft but I don’t write because people might read it, I write because I want to say something. That’s the other thing you have to try and avoid when you’re writing anything – making pretentious sounding statements. I think, or at least hope that I haven’t sounded like that kid on the bus!

You can follow Paul on Twitter @MrBalm

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