About self-absorbed sports scribes…the Egg Man…Scrounger Thorburn…and other things on my mind

I cannot survive in a 140-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

Paul Wiecek gets it. He really does.

The Winnipeg Free Press sports scribe last week penned a terrific piece on the grind that is covering a National Hockey League team on the road. It is entertaining and full of insight—and he takes a bite out of his own.

Did Oscar Madison have a galloping ego?
Did Oscar Madison have a galloping ego?

“There is a certain measure of what can only be called ‘reflected glory’ that comes with covering the NHL as a reporter—all of which can create a delusional sense of self-importance among the people who cover the league vastly disproportionate to their actual station in life,” he writes.

“Just because you use the player entrance doesn’t mean you’re a player and just because you talk to Blake Wheeler doesn’t mean you’re Blake Wheeler. But move long enough in this world of privileged access—where you are paid to do things others pay to do—and it takes a very grounded person to not let at least some of it go to your head.

“It can be annoying to watch, but mostly it’s just amusing to see it happen to the people around you. The guys who avoid it—and make no mistake, sportswriting is still among the most male-dominated professions in the world—are the guys who get the joke. It’s just hockey, after all. If the sport didn’t exist, the beer companies would have invented it. So get over yourself.”

Sports scribes rarely eat their own. There is some sort of unwritten code whereby it is considered ill-mannered and out of bounds to criticize the ‘other’ guys on the beat. So, Wiecek’s take on his brethren is refreshing. Also spot on, on two counts:

  1. Too many jock journalists are self-absorbed, puffed-up prigs. It’s one of the main reasons I didn’t run with the pack during my three decades in the business—I couldn’t stomach listening to them talk about themselves.
  2. Sportswriting remains very much a male bastion, with precious few female interlopers, even fewer people of color and zero gay voices.

The article is a wonderful read, the best in either Winnipeg daily for quite some time.

Wiecek’s piece on the demands of covering a pro sports team brings to mind not-so-fond memories of collapsing on an airplane at the tail end of a road trip during the Winnipeg Jets’ inaugural season in the NHL. It happened on a flight home from Buffalo. I was wheeled off the plane on a stretcher and taken directly to the hospital. Diagnosis: Extreme fatigue and exhaustion. My employers at the Winnipeg Tribune wouldn’t permit me to return to the fray without a doctor’s note assuring them I was in fine fettle, thus I was on the shelf for close to a month. I know, what a wuss, right? But, hey, trying to keep pace with Friar Nicolson and Sod Keilback was hard work.

The Egg Man, Dan Halldorson

I only interviewed Danny Halldorson once and remember the freckle-faced redhead from Brandon/Shilo as somewhat shy, friendly and not at all self-promoting. So it’s been interesting to read comments from the Egg Man’s peers in the wake of his death last week in Cambridge, Ill. They don’t talk so much about Halldorson’s accomplishments on the Professional Golf Association or Canadian Tour as they do what he gave back to the game. The way some tell it, the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada would not exist today if not for Danny boy, so it would seem that Halldorson’s contribution to the game had been understated until now.

Big tip of the bonnet to Global TV gab guy Joe Pascucci, who, along with Dave Naylor of TSN, goes into the media wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame later this month during Grey Cup week in Winnipeg. I recall doing Jets-related, late-night gigs with Joe when his Global was still CKND. Always enjoyed our chin-wags. Also discovered that he would sit on a phone book so he wouldn’t look so tiny on camera when interrogating Chris Walby of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

If we were to fast-forward life to the year 2020, would the Edmonton McDavids still be in last place and making the first pick in the NHL entry draft? Yes, I realize Connor McJesus is injured, but even with him in the lineup that’s a bottom-feeder outfit. If they get first call at the draft table again next June, it’s time to rearrange the rules whereby there is no more rewarding chronic failure.

angelina jolie
Angelina Jolie: Definitely not my doppelganger.

I fell asleep during Curmudgeon’s Corner last night during Hockey Night in Canada, but before I nodded off I swear I heard Don Cherry proclaim James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs to be the premier puckstopper in the NHL. Yup. Better than Carey Price. Better than Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, Grapes, and Angelina Jolie is my doppelganger.

All hail Chris Thorburn. Often the chosen whipping boy (been there, done that) when the universe is not unfolding as it should in Jets Nation, the fourth-line scrounger had the decisive score—shorthanded, no less—in Winnipeg’s 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie, and it was artful in its grittiness. I’m not sure his play will earn him the warm-and-fuzzies from the rabble over the long haul, but I hope the Scrounger enjoyed his moment in the sun.

I read a lot of newspapers and sports blogs. Nowhere do fans whine about officiating more than in Winnipeg. It’s as if there’s a global conspiracy to prevent River City jock outfits from winning anything more significant than a tiddlywinks title. Just saying.

There were five shutouts in the NHL on Saturday. There were only four shutouts in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday. Hmmm. And people say soccer is a boring sport.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll.


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