NESN is Wrong to Let Naoko Funayama Go
This just has been a pretty awful week for Boston Bruins fans and there’s no other way to say it. Between losing the chance to basically repeat the twofer of championships in 1970 and 1972, learning that fan favorite Andrew Ference has to go because of money and worries over the futures of other team players, this is a week Black and Gold faithful would really rather forget. But as they say on the ubiquitous TV infomercials: but wait, there’s more!
Last night, it became known that NESN will not be renewing the contract of rinkside reporter Naoko Funayama for the 2013-14 NHL season due to a network desire for a “different direction”. So, when the doors open on schedule this fall, fans will no longer see her interviewing players after periods or filling us in about what the coaches think going into the third period. There won’t be any more fun behind-the-scenes pictures posted on her Twitter. When there are postgame press conferences, no more Naoko making the players smile when she introduces herself for questions.
Funayama is pretty much universally liked by people inside and outside the Bruins organization. Fellow NESN employee Jack Edwards devoted a lot of time on his Twitter to showing appreciation for her and retweeting people–many of whom are young women like me–who feel inspired by her, some inspired enough to study the business themselves. DJ Bean, a reporter for WEEI radio, said that she was the nicest person he knew, a cool older sister who helped show him the ropes when he was a greenhorn. The Boston Globe‘s Fluto Shinzawa denounced NESN’s decision.
But fans and the media weren’t the only ones upset by this choice. Tyler Seguin even expressed his disappointment on Twitter by tweeting at her with a little sad face emoticon. The players liked her–Zdeno Chara memorably showered her in beer after the Stanley Cup win, then gave her a huge hug. There’s a great picture of her smiling with Brad Marchand. During the playoffs, hearing her introduce herself (often casually, like saying “It’s me,” instead of the formal “I’m so and so from Organization”) for a question often made Bruins at the table grin.
It’s a shame that she’s going for many reasons, including the fact that she’s a female, Asian reporter inside a white male-dominated field, a woman who knows the game in and out and is always professional. The focus when she’s on screen isn’t on her looks, but on what she has to say. I worry about who NESN might tap to replace her, though the fact is that she can’t really truly be replaced.
She hasn’t said anything as of this writing about her future, but it’s interesting how this tweet she wrote about Ference can apply to herself:
Sports can be cruel- give everything to the team, so much to the community, and still you're out. We'll all miss @Ferknuckle. One of a kind.
— Naoko Funayama (@NaokoFunayama) June 26, 2013