Prior to the second to last home game this season against the Devils, participants of the Blog Box were invited to a meeting attended by members of the media relations department of the Isles, specifically, Chris Botta and Corey Witt. I remember at the conclusion of the meeting a fellow blogger had asked "do you anticipate any changes to the blog box next year?", to which an answer was wryly returned "we are the Islanders after all." As if to imply, with the Islander organization, you should know to expect the unexpected.
And this past week, the unexpected appeared in the resignation of Islander VP of Media Relations, Chris Botta. I, like my fellow bloggers, was shocked. My shock gradually turned to frustration after reading Greg Logan's blog, which indirectly placed the blame (if that's the right word, I don't know)on VP of Sales Marketing and Operations, Chris Dey, son-in law of owner Charles Wang. Logan was hesitant to argue the connection to Mr. Wang mattered. I'm not.
In an April 14th, 2007 article in the New York Times discussing past accounting irregularities at Computer Associates, Mr. Wang's management style was summarized as follows by a report issued by company's board:
"Mr. Wang created a “culture of fear” at Computer Associates — now called CA — and deliberately put inexperienced executives in senior positions so that he would have more control, according to the report. He discouraged executives from meeting with each other and arbitrarily fired managers or employees who disagreed with him." According to the Times, the report also said “Under Mr. Wang, CA was known as a ‘one-headed’ dragon, and no significant decisions were made without his participation and approval.”
True? I do not know. For the record, Mr. Wang very strongly disagreed with report's findings.
Reading that quote however, gives me pause. I think immediately of Neil Smith. I think then of Garth Snow. I think of Pat LaFontaine. I now think of Chris Botta. I read the quote above, and am haunted by these names.
I do not know Chris Botta. At least on a personal level. But I did observe him on many occasions in the locker room and the surrounding area in the Coliseum. He was always professional. Cool under stressful circumstances, such as after the stomping incident with Chris Simon. He accommodated beat writers with their requests concerning availability of players, and would, for example, make sure a player was there if the Times was writing a special article, perhaps about face washing. He was respectful to members of the Blog Box. He didn't have to be. I recall leaving the locker room after games and him saying "thanks for coming out". Really? Thanking me for coming to an Islander game and enjoying the experience of being in the locker room for post game interviews?
Thank you Chris.
And now, faced with another embarrassing loss of a key member of its personnel, the Islanders no longer have the one guy who could have helped them find the silver lining. That person, 20 years with the organization, is gone.
Will he be the last?