Some red cards and yellow cards for you, you and you, and one “Gooooooooal!” for the Fab Four

It occurs to me that in honor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s time for some red cards, some yellow cards and a big salute…

red cardI don’t know who to red card first, Kyle Walters or Mike O’Shea.

I suppose it should be Walters, the chap who, as chief cook and bottle washer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, extended a training camp invitation to Jordan Yantz. He said this was the real deal. Said the former University of Manitoba Bisons quarterback would be granted “every opportunity to win a job.”

“This isn’t a charity case, this isn’t any of that for-the-good-of-the-Canadian-quarterback stuff,” the Bombers GM told scribes.

As if.

This was such an obvious charity case that it probably qualifies as a tax writeoff.

The Bombers had two dress rehearsals in advance of their 2015 Canadian Football League crusade that commences on Saturday night in Yantz’s home town of Regina, and he never took a snap in either game. That’s what passes for “every opportunity” in Bomberland?

Walters gets a red card for the load of BS he dumped on news scavengers, and head coach O’Shea gets a red card for not giving Yantz at least one set of downs.

yellow card2Here’s the ultimate irony for Tiger Woods: By shooting three rounds in the 80s this year on the PGA Tour, including one in the just-concluded U.S. Open, he is now playing just like your basic weekend hacker but he no longer gets to play on weekends.

I’ve tried to think of another athlete of Woods’s stature who has experienced such a harsh, hurried and more inglorious plummet from the summit than His Royal Randiness. No one comes to mind. Yes, the skills of others, such as Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali, eroded over time and it was painful to watch their careers wither before our eyes. But with Tiger…well, this is cliff diving into a cement pond.

red cardOn the subject of vanishing acts, either Michael Sam has been placed in a witness protection program or he’s part of a David Copperfield now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t illusion. I say that because, in a day and age when seemingly everyone (except me) has a phone that is part camera, part tape recorder and part video recorder it’s astonishing that there has not been a peep from Sam since he bugged out of the Montreal Alouettes training camp.

The last confirmed sighting of Sam was almost two weeks ago. Where is TMZ when we need them?

I don’t know who’s been counseling Sam since he came out as gay, but I wouldn’t hire those people to advise me on what time of the day is best to brush my teeth. The Oprah reality thing, the Dancing with the Stars thing, the disappearing act…odd, odd, odd. Once he was out a gay, the advice should have been simple: Just play football, Michael.

gooooooool nuI call up the Winnipeg Free Press sports section and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Ed Tait, Paul Wiecek, Gary Lawless, Tim Campbell, Melissa Martin, Scott Billeck, Jeff Hamilton, Jerrad Peters and Doug Brown. That’s nine local scribes.

I call up the Winnipeg Sun sports section, meanwhile, and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Paul Friesen, Kirk Penton, Ken Wiebe and Ted Wyman (in cameo appearances). That’s four local scribes.

Cripes, man, the Freep can field a complete baseball team while the Sun can barely scrounge up enough guys to enter a bonspiel or have a decent game of poker.

Custer’s 7th Cavalry was the last outfit outnumbered this badly.

So quiz me this: How is it that the Fab Four at the Sun somehow manages to fight the good fight against the Nattering Nine at the Drab Slab? Either one side is punching above its weight or the other side is pulling its punches, because the boys at Team Sun don’t get beat often and they manage to get in some good licks of their own.

Thus, it’s kudos to the Sun.

Still, I’d like to see them add a voice or two to give the section a bit more wallop. A female voice would be a welcome addition, too.

yellow card2Okay, we’ve got the Winnipeg Jets, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets.

We’ve got the Manitoba Moose, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Manitoba Moose.

We’ve got the Winnipeg Goldeyes, named after the baseball outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

Is there no one in River City with an imagination? I mean, seriously. Three professional sports franchises and not an original handle in the bunch?

I know Mark Chipman, co-bankroll of Jets the Sequel, was bullied into naming his club after the dead and buried Jets of yore, but what’s his excuse for the regurgitation of the Moose? As for Sammy Katz and his Goldeyes, I didn’t like the name when he introduced it in 1994 and I don’t like it today. Mention the Goldeyes to me and I assume you’re talking about the St. Louis Cardinals farm team that played out of Winnipeg Stadium in the early 1960s.

So I say thank goodness for Uncle Vince Leah, the legendary sports scribe who named the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

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 of Honour.

The boys on the football beat in Winnipeg are second to none

It occurs to me that…

There is no city in the Great White North with as superb a stable of scribes detailing all things three-down football than River City.

Start with Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press. Best beat writer in the whole land. His accomplice at the Freep, Paul Wiecek, and Kirk Penton over at the Winnipeg Sun complete a menage-a-terrific that keeps readers fully informed of the goings-on of not only the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but the entirety of the Canadian Football League.

I also like Herb Zurkowsky in Montreal and the tandem of Rob Vanstone and Murray McCormick in Regina, but the quality and quantity that Messrs. Tait, Wiecek and Penton churn out is unmatched.

* There were fewer, if any, finer people on the Winnipeg/Manitoba sports scene than Frank McKinnon.

Frank McKinnon
Frank McKinnon

Frank, who passed away at age 80 last week, was the first person I interviewed and quoted in a byline story as a rookie reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune. It was at a Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association annual meeting, and he was gracious, obliging and generous with his time. We spoke often over the ensuing 30 years and the former head of hockey in the province never changed. He always was a delight.

When I reflect on all the truly wonderful people I met during my time in mainstream jock journalism, Frank’s name is at the top of the good-guy list, alongside former player agent Don Baizley and University of Manitoba Bisons football coach Brian Dobie.

* I’m wounded. Crestfallen. And it’s all Gary (La La) Lawless’s doing.

La La, you see, has made an attempt to find a proper place in the pecking order of hockey homebrews for Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks centre who’s three wins away from adding to his collection of Stanley Cup rings. The main mouthpiece in the Freep sports section reckons that legendary goaltender Terry Sawchuk is the pre-eminent Manitoba born-and-bred shinny star. How did he arrive at this conclusion? Well, he claims to have talked to a number of writers and former scribes who cover(ed) the local shinny scene.

Well, I’ve been following hockey in Winnipeg since the 1950s. I’ve been scribbling about it for the past 44 years. Nobody’s been at it longer. Alas, my phone still isn’t ringing, so I assume it still ain’t La La calling. Perhaps I was out or in the shower when his call came. Or maybe he just didn’t call.

This hurts, Gary. You never write or phone anymore. Is it something I wrote?

* If you’re looking for an example of what some sports scribes do when they’re bored with themselves, take a looksee at this Cathal Kelly offering in the Globe and Mail last week.

Cathal Kelly
Cathal Kelly

Kelly piddles on our prairie cousins in Edmonton because…well, because, in the world according to Cathal, Edmonton has the bad manners to not be the Republic of Toronto. Apparently, Edmonton is supposed to behave like the backwater burg Kelly believes it to be and excuse itself from hosting elite sporting events. You know, like the FIFA Women’s World Cup that commenced with Canada’s 1-nil verdict over China on Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in The Chuck.

He cites the 2011 WWC as an example of how things ought to be done. That footy extravaganza was showcased in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, a stately, magnificent structure that, again, in the world according to Cathal, makes Commonwealth seem like a shelter for the homeless.

“It’s actively ugly,” Cathal gripes about Commonwealth. “The field is circled by a track—the perfect bush-league touch that says ‘high school.’ “

Berlin Olympic Stadium, complete with track around soccer pitch.
Berlin Olympic Stadium, complete with track around soccer pitch.

Ah, yes. Nothing says high school quite like a running track around a football pitch. You know, just like the running track that encircles the football pitch in the BERLIN OLYMPIC STADIUM!

We wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a good hissy fit, though, would we, Cathal? You just go right ahead and rant. Stomp your little feet and hold your breath. Perhaps one day your beloved Republic of Toronto will grow up to become a city big enough to host a prestigious event like the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

For now, though, it’s shut out of the soccer circus and I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for the Pan American Games in July. Those would be the same Games that Winnipeg has already hosted. Twice.

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 of Honour.

Michael Sam: There are no gay voices in Canadian sports journalism (print division) to tell the story about a gay football player

And, now, a word about Michael Sam from all the gay sports writers at major daily newspapers in Canada…

Oh. Wait. There are no gay sports writers at the major dailies in Canada.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

At least, there are none that I know of.

So, everything that you have read, or will read, about Michael Sam potentially performing in the Canadian Football League comes from the perspective of white heterosexual males, or, in much smaller numbers, white heterosexual females.

Some of them will care that Sam is gay, only because it gives them a fresh angle to scribble about once the large lads commence to grabbing grass and growling at the Montreal Alouettes training camp this month and next. He’ll make for juicy copy. Others will care because of the social significance of an openly gay man participating in the most macho of professional team sports. Still others will care because they are homophobic (if you believe there aren’t homophobes among the flowers of print jock journalists, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Winnipeg that I’d like to sell you).

Nary a word, however, will be written by a man or woman who actually understands what it’s like to be gay.

I maintain that one need not be gay to write about gay issues, any more than one need be an accomplished actor to opine about the merits of George Clooney’s latest work, or a priest to discuss the pros and cons of the 10 commandments.

It helps, though.

I mean, only a gay person can write the Sam story with an appropriate portion of passion. Only a gay person can relate to the paralyzing fear and anxiety of being outed, or coming out, to friends, family and co-workers. Only a gay person knows the sting of rejection and discrimination based soley on a preference of bedmates. Only a gay person can relate to the catcalls and hate language born of homophobia.

How does one get to the meat of an issue if she or he cannot possibly understand the issue?

I often write about LGBT matters not merely because they are important to me, but because they are me. I live it. Every day. I know what Michael Sam has gone through. What he is going through. What he will go through. It’s all on a different scale and in a different arena, that’s all.

The point is, I can write it from a personal perspective. Nobody in Canada’s mostly white, mostly old-boys club of heterosexual sports scribes can do that vis-a-vis Sam.

Is that important? Absolutely, because it speaks to credibility.

Why do you think we see so many ex-jocks propped up as talking heads on the various panels on televised hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc.? Let go of the notion that some of them (hello P.J. Stock, Glenn Healy, Nick Kypreos, Glen Suitor, Milt Stegall, etc.) can be terribly annoying. They’re there because they’ve been there, done that.

Doug Brown, ex of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, pens a piece in the Winnipeg Free Press not because he’s a gifted wordsmith. In general, the former defensive lineman’s weekly column is an exercise in how many big words he can cram into his alloted space. On occasion, however, he puts major points on the scoreboard because he takes us inside the locker room and into the players’ heads, something only a gridiron gladiator who spent considerable time in the trenches can do.

In the case of Sam, who signed a two-year contract with the Als on Friday, I suspect Brown’s next offering will do that very thing.

Assuming Sam survives the final cut and is with the Larks for a portion, or the entirety, of the 2015 CFL season, the “gay” angle will be beaten to death. Like it or not. And it’s my guess that sports scribes across the nation will offer a favorable slant on the one-time Missouri Tiger defensive end’s personal story.

Unfortunately, their copy will be devoid of passion, insight and first-hand knowledge. In other words, the mountain of Sam stuff you read will be missing everything that writing should be about.

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 of Honour.

Mainstream sports media: Don’t blame them if they don’t get the whole story; blame the system

I don’t think I could work in mainstream sports media today.

Oh, I could write in MSM. I would love to write in MSM again. But I couldn’t work in it. Too many inconveniences. Too much protocol. Too many 140-character bites that say nothing. Too much in-house video. Too many scribes tweeting and texting instead of telling it like it is. Too much thin skin. Too much distance between scribe and subject. Too little respect.

I suppose this might come across as the banal bleatings of an old bag burrowed in a time warp, but that simply isn’t so. Yes, I’m old school. Cripes, man, I’m so old school they should name a wing of the old school after me. That, however, does not mean I’m the anti-Steve Jobs. More to the point, I’m all for the new-fangled gadgetry. It just isn’t for me.

Give me a notebook, a pen, a tape recorder and a keyboard and I’ll get ‘er done, as Matt Dunigan is wont to say.

I find myself in ponder of such matters this day due to a recent pilgrimmage to Winnipeg, which, thankfully, fell shy of living up to its slanderous nickname of Winter-peg. It was warm, welcoming and, much to my delight, several springlike celcius above zero upon my arrival, thank you. That made for rather slushy snow-shoeing, but nary a discouraging word shall be heard during a January thaw.

At any rate, during my three-day escape to good, ol’ Hometown in the middle of nowhere, I had occasion to chin-wag with numerous MSM sports scribes and talking heads, each of whom I hold in great regard. They are talented, clever, humorous, witty and oh…so…cynical. (After one gum-flapping session, I retreated to my hotel room and wondered aloud if I had been as derisive during a three-decade stretch as a jock journalist. The answer, of course, was “yes,” although I like to think my 15 years removed from that biz has served to mellow myself and my musings.)

There is, of course, very good reason why sports scribes are cynical—they work on Planet Pinnochio. That is to say, people are always lying to them. Every minute of every hour of every day, an athlete or coach or manager or team owner is telling a news scavenger a big, fat fib and his/her nose grows longer than a Winnipeg winter. This breeds cynicism and leads to spillage, like mistrust.

Here’s something else that sports scribes are up against: Access that really isn’t access.

I have often wondered why there is a dearth of personality pieces in our sports pages. You know, feature articles to remind us that we’re dealing with people first and athletes second. Time was (sorry, I’m going old school on you again) when we would write about the people who played the games, not simply the score, the goal collectors and division standings. We hadn’t even heard of Corsi or Fenwick. We got to know the players, coaches and managers. I had John Ferguson’s home phone number. And Chris Walby’s. And Cal Murphy’s. I could call them and let them tell fibs day or night.

Well, we don’t read personality pieces because the scribes aren’t granted the time. It isn’t their editors holding them back. It’s the system.

Yes, news scavengers have access to team personnel. Very limited access. Some players actually monitor the number of times they face the press. They document the number of questions. The minutes. Players do it in Winnipeg. They do it in Toronto. They do it in Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton and Montreal and Ottawa. A one-on-one chin-wag is as rare as a Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. It’s all so structured and team dictated now. And if a player doesn’t appreciate the tone of a question, sorry, time’s up. Gotta go. That’s why we’ve seen and read about those unfortunate Phil Kessel-reporter scenarios in the Republic of Tranna.

Why do you think you hear so many dumb questions? It isn’t because the scribes and talking heads are dumb. It’s because they don’t have the time to sink their teeth into meaty subject matter. Hence, you get dumb questions and even dumber answers.

Bottom line: Don’t blame mainstream sports scribes for any absence of what I call “people pieces” in our news sheets. How do you write about people if you can’t get to know them?

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 of Honour.

NHL cancels Heritage Classic in Winnipeg: Here’s why

The top 10 “real reasons” why the National Hockey League has postponed the Heritage Classic game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg:

10. NHL commish Gary Bettman drank Winnipeg tap water during meetings with Jets and Bombers, got nasty case of the runs, refused to negotiate with Jets governor Mark Chipman or Blue Bombers CEO Wade Miller from inside toilet stall.

9. Can’t find 40,000 people who will stop curling long enough to watch an outdoor hockey game.

8. Bombers refuse to change name of Ken Ploen Way to Teemu Trail, Ducky Drive or Jimmy Mann Motorway for the weekend.

7. Dancing Gabe doesn’t do outdoor hockey.

6. Bombers demand the Jets pay territorial penalty for Mick E. Moose invading Buzz and Boomer’s turf.

5. First official mosquito fogging of year in Fort Garry scheduled for same day.

6. Bombers refuse to replace statue of legendary coach Bud Grant with statue of Alpo Suhonen.

3. If held in March, entire city too busy sand-bagging for annual spring flooding.

2. Slurpees freeze at 30-below.

And the No. 1 reason why the Heritage Classic has been postponed: If the Bombers are involved, everybody knows it’s all Joe Mack’s fault.

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 of Honour.

Heritage Classic: Are those big, bad Bombers pooping on Jets’ party?

My, my, my…don’t we have our knickers in a knot. Or, to put it in more seasonal and appropriate terms, our frozen noses are out of joint.

I’m quite uncertain if the citizenry of any other burg in the Great White North would react so angrily to the postponement of a gimmicky game of pond hockey, but the fine folk of Winnipeg have adopted a mob mentality and appear prepared, also poised, to arm themselves with pitch forks and torches and advance on Football Follies Field in Fort Garry.

There, the menacing marauders will find Wade Miller, villain. The Grinch who has stolen their Heritage Classic.

Miller, of course, is Grand Poobah of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a forlorn Canadian Football League outfit that has made an art form of never failing to fail since the last Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. That was in 1990. In each of the ensuing seasons, they’ve popped the top on a fresh crusade, only to conclude it by either watching the Grey Cup game from the comfort of their man caves or falling short in the championship match.

It is, however, one thing for Miller to oversee Cirque du Bombers. It is quite another to impose the whims of his Sad Sack outfit on the Winnipeg Jets and National Hockey League. Apparently, he has some kind of nerve.

Why would anyone think it's too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?
Why would anyone think it’s too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True North Sports & Entertainment, the do-no-wrong entity that owns and operates the Winnipegs, and the NHL desired to host the outdoor Heritage Classic, a joust featuring the Jets and a yet-to-be-identified foe, in mid-December. Sort of an early Christmas gift for Jets Nation. Miller and the Bombers are fully onside with the concept of an outdoors shinny match in their playground. Just not in mid-December. That’s not distant enough from the 2015 Grey Cup game they shall host, Nov. 29 at Football Follies Field. And it’s too close to Santa’s arrival. They’d prefer February or March 2016.

So, the Bombers, True North and the NHL have agreed to scuttle the whole thing. The Jets won’t be playing hockey on a frozen football field come next winter.

And who do you suppose is wearing the black hat? You guessed it. Miller and the Bombers.

They are seen as self-serving, short-sighted, tinytown thinkers who torpedoed the project for fear that a Heritage Classic scant weeks post-Grey Cup would funnel revenue away from the Bombers’ coffers and into the True North/NHL piggy bank. Joe and Josphine Phan’s entertainment dollar, after all, stretches only so far. They might have to choose one event over the other. Or take out a second mortgage to attend both the Grey Cup game and the Heritage Classic, plus put presents under the tree. Miller doesn’t want to risk it. He figures it’s best he not run with the big dogs. For this, he has been battered fore and aft in comment threads. He didn’t take this much of a beating during his 10 years as a Rudyesque special teams demon for the Bombers.

But, what has actually been lost here? It’s a postponement, not a cancellation. Does it really matter if the Heritage Classic is held in December 2015 or 2016 or ’17 or ’18 or ’19 or ’20?

I could be wrong, but I have a hunch Old Man Winter will make an appearance in Winnipeg, as scheduled, in 2016 and beyond. There will be white stuff on the ground and piled high on street corners and parking lots. There will be sub-zero temperatures. Block heaters will be mandatory. Round tires will go square. Exhaust fumes will fill the air. Ponds will be frozen. And people will be playing outdoor shinny.

The Winnipeg Jets shall be among them. So chill.

In the meantime, my fear is the fallout. That is to say, what price will Miller and the Bombers pay for the delay of the Heritage Classic? People are talking about boycotting the football club. Cancelling season subscriptions. Boycotting the Grey Cup game.

Good grief.

Folks waited 15 years to get an NHL team back in River City, yet they are bent out of shape because they must wait an extra year, minimum, to sit on an outdoor perch that is a telescopic three or four postal codes removed from the ice surface. During winter’s worst bite.

“Damn that Wade Miller,” they yelp! “Who does he think he is to deny Peggers the right to freeze their assets off?”

From where I sit, he’s a guy doing his job.

 

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 of Honour.

Winnipeg Sports: Ondrej Pavelec’s new body and Dave Ritchie’s hall-of-fame induction are both mysteries

Cheat Shots from the Cheap Seats, Vol. 2…

If we are to believe the gospel according to Allan Walsh—and why wouldn’t we, since player agents never lie except when they move their lips?)—Ondrej Pavelec has “totally changed his body.”

What can I say? I just hope he doesn’t have Gump Worsley’s body now.

Actually, when word arrived from Walsh that his client, the worst starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, had “totally changed his body,” I couldn’t shake this image of lipstick on pigs.

I suppose that’s kind of harsh, but I think it’s safe to say that I know more about changing bodies than most. I changed mine “totally” five years ago. Sorry to report that it didn’t transform me into an elite NHL goalie. So unless Pavelec has become Dominik Hasek’s body double, the Winnipeg Jets’ most significant weakness remains their most significant weakness.

SUB-STANDARD STANDARDS: Dave Ritchie in the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame? You’re kidding me, right?

Ritchie wore the headset for five-plus seasons with the Blue Bombers. His clubs had one first-place finish, one appearance in the Grey Cup game (a loss to a vastly inferior Calgary Stampeders outfit) and they were sub-.500 three times. He had a losing record in the playoffs.

If this is what qualifies as a hall-of-fame career, then Doug Berry and Paul LaPolice best prepare their acceptance speeches for next year. I mean, Berry got the Bombers into a Grey Cup game. Ditto LaPolice. They both lost, too.

Ritchie’s inclusion in the Hall class of 2014 is wrong. Period.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE LA LA: You’re not likely to find critics of the Dave Ritchie honor among the local media. He made their jobs easier with quotes that could be one part acidic, one part home-spun blarney and two parts Yogi Berra. His gift was gab. News scavengers were smitten by Ritchie’s folksy charm. They giggled about his grumpy, old man persona. They were John Boy or Mary Ellen to his Grandpa Walton. So, it’s agreed, he was a hall-of-fame interview. He was not a hall-of-fame coach…So, I’m listening to Craig Button on TSN 1290 and he advises host Rick Ralph that the Jets are “two years behind Anaheim.” Since it was radio, I don’t know if Button said it with a straight face, but, if so, the TSN hockey analyst’s credibility took a serious whack. I mean, the Ducks finished first (116 points) in the Western Conference last season and were a sniff away from ousting the L.A. Kings in the Conference semifinal. They had two of the top five scorers in the NHL, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Does that sound like the Jets to you in two years? Didn’t think so…Belated bravo to Paul Edmonds, freshly minted radio play-by-play voice of the Jets. In the discussion about his appointment, someone actually compared Jets TV voice, Dennis Beyak, to Danny Gallivan. Ya, and I’m Doris Day…I get a kick out of analysis of the Jets. A summer of management by paralysis renders any attempt at analysis an exercise in nothingness. Unless there’s a major surprise at Camp PoMo next month, the Jets are no better or no worse than last season…It’s about those Bombers “signature” uniforms: It’s no longer the Blue and Gold; it’s the Blue and Bird Droppings…I haven’t taken the Ice Bucket Challenge yet. But my building was out of hot water the other day, so does a cold shower count?…I see it’s still the season of silly superlatives with River City scribes. First we had Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press describing Bombers quarterback Drew Willy as “part Joe Montana, part Johnny Unitas, part John Elway.” Now we have Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun labeling the rookie starter as a “growing legend.” I think the Bombers would settle for Willy being part Ken Ploen. You know, the part of him that won Grey Cups. Until then, there are no comparisons to be made to anyone and there is no growing legend…We can stop wondering if GM Kyle Walters made a wise choice when he anointed Mike O’Shea head coach of the Bombers, because La La Lawless assures us that he is the “supreme leader. He’s the right man for this team. And this town. He’s the right coach for this franchise.” If that sounds familiar, it ought to. Gary La La said the very same thing about Jets GM Kevin (The Possum) Cheveldayoff: “We all have our views and opinions on the Jets in this city. Here’s mine: Kevin Cheveldayoff is the right guy for this job, this market and this set of circumstances.”…Love Bomber linebacker Derek Jones’s description of O’Shea: “He’s a big, scary dude.”

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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to 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.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Two Saskatchewan Roughriders fans walk into a bar and…

So, I’m sitting in my local watering hole yesterday, engaged in casual, catch-up conversation with cab driver Mike, when in struts Doug. He is one of the Green People, and it’s the first time I’ve fixed eyes on him since his Saskatchewan Roughriders won the Grey Cup last November. Thus, I am in dread.

“Greetings from the city of champions,” is his opening gambit.

“City of champions?” I say. “You just get in town from Edmonton?”

“No, Regina.”

“Regina? How in the name of Ron Lancaster do you figure Regina is the city of champions?”

“We’re Grey Cup champs. We’ve won four Grey Cups now.”

“Ya, one for each of your teeth.”

Not surprisingly, Doug is attired in all Rider green, but there’s something different, something new. It was his top, a rather foofy looking thing. Kind of like something you’d see on a drag queen.

“That’s an interesting outfit you’re wearing, Doug,” I observe.

“Isn’t it great?” he replies with the hee-haw glow of a prairie bachelor boy heading out on a Sadie Hawkins Day date. “Bought it at the Regina airport on my way out of town. It’s one of the Riders new signature uniforms.”

“Is that so. Whose signature? Ru Paul’s? You look like a refugee from Drag Race.”

And so it went. The banter between Doug and myself always is a to-and-fro of cheap shots and silly insults, most notably as we approach the Day Before Labor Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl, the front and back ends of the annual home-and-home set between my Winnipeg Blue Bombers and his Greenies from Saskatchewan. Not that the rivalry requires additional juice, but interest is amplified this Canadian Football League season because the Big Blue and Gang Green enter the fray in a tug-o-war over third place in the West Division. Each outfit has six victories.

So, in a salute to this exercise in flatland football, I give you my annual salute to Green People…

What are five things you’ll never hear a Roughriders fan say?

1) I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.

2) I thought Graceland was tacky.

3) Too many deer heads on the wall detract from the decor.

4) Trim the fat off that steak.

5) Has anybody seen the sideburns trimmer?

***

Q: How do you keep a Roughriders fan busy?

A: Write ‘Please Turn Over’ on both sides of a piece of paper.

Q: What did the Roughriders fan say to his wife when she gave birth to twins?

A: Okay, cousin Mary, who’s the other father?

Q: What does a Roughriders fan with a job say to a Bombers fan?

A: Would you like fries with that?

Q: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an intelligent Roughriders fan and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they all spot a $100 bill. Who gets it?

A: The old drunk. The other three are mythical creatures.

Q: What do you get when you put the girlfriends of a dozen Roughrider fans in one room?

A: A full set of teeth!

Q: How do you get a former Roughrider away from your front door?

A: Pay for the pizza.

***

  • Did you hear about the Riders fan who died during the fan club’s annual pie-eating contest? The cow kicked him in the head.
  • The only difference between Bigfoot and a knowledgeable Riders fan is that Bigfoot has been spotted.
  • The reason Roughriders fans smell so bad is so blind people can hate them, too.
  • Did you hear about the Roughrider terrorist who tried to blow up the Bombers’ team bus? He burned his lips on the tailpipe.
  • How can you tell if a Roughriders fan is a married man? There’s tobacco juice running down both doors of his pickup.
  • What are the vital statistics of Miss Saskatchewan Roughrider? 36-24-26…and the other leg is the same.
  • How do you get Miss Roughrider out of your dorm room? Grease her hips and push.
  • What do Roughrider fans use as birth control? Their personalities.
  • How many Roughrider fans does it take to eat an armadillo? Two. One to do the eating, and one to watch for cars.
  • How did the Roughrider fan die from drinking milk? The cow fell on him.
  • Why do Roughrider fans like smart women? Opposites attract.
  • What’s the definition of mass confusion? Father’s day in Regina.
  • Why do seagulls fly upside down over Regina? There’s nothing below worth crapping on.
  • Did you hear that the Premier’s home in Saskatchewan burned down? Almost took out the whole trailer park!
  • As I was walking home from work last week I noticed a Saskatchewan Roughriders season-ticket nailed to a tree. I thought to myself ‘I’m having that!’ ’cause you can never have enough nails, can you?
  • What do you do if Darian Durant throws a grenade at you? Pull the pin and throw it back.
  • Do you know why the Roughriders are like Chinese food? Because you beat ‘em once and half an hour later you want to play ‘em again.
  • What do the Roughriders and the Pope have in common? They can both make 30,000 people stand up and scream, “Jesus Christ, man!”
  • What’s the difference between the Riders defensive backfield and a bikini? At least the bikini can cover something.
  • How many Roughrider jokes are there on this page? Only two. The rest are true stories.

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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to 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.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Green is the new Blue, so take a deep breath

Escaping the past isn’t so simple when a group of greenhorns is pushing the buttons and pulling the strings. Keep in mind that GM Kyle Walters is still on training wheels. We don’t know if he’s the right man for the job. Ditto head coach Mike O’Shea. QB Drew Willy has less than a dozen starts on his resume. There’s mounting evidence to suggest tailback Nic Grigsby might have made the wrong decision when he chose football over baseball.

Let me begin by saying I didn’t expect the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to qualify for the playoffs. I still don’t. I believed it to be too daunting a task. I still do.

Let’s remember—how could we ever forget?—that the local football heroes had waged an historically inept campaign just a year ago, failing 15 times in 18 assignments, and they entered the 2014 fray with the most obvious facelift since Joan Rivers surfaced with a mug as plastic as a Canadian $5 bill.

The Bombers didn’t undergo a minor procedure by Drs. Nip and Tuck, you understand. They went for the deluxe package. They showed up for business this Canadian Football League crusade with a rookie CEO. A rookie general manager. A rookie head coach. A rookie starting quarterback. A rookie tailback. A rookie running backs coach. A rookie…oh, let’s just say the Bombers have more green people than a 1960s sci-fi novel.

Green became the new Blue.

It isn’t easy being green. Especially when you’re trying to run with the big dogs in the West Division. And now the greening of the Blue has come to roost. The Bombers have lost their past two skirmishes and the pie-in-the-sky of a 5-1 start is falling. From facelift to face plant.

A lot of us saw this coming. I’m not saying the Bombers’ early-season success was fraudulent. A win is a win is a win and worth two points every time. Each was earned. And not to be devalued.

The thing is, escaping the past isn’t so simple when a group of greenhorns is pushing the buttons and pulling the strings. Keep in mind that GM Kyle Walters is still on training wheels. We don’t know if he’s the right man for the job. Ditto head coach Mike O’Shea. QB Drew Willy has less than a dozen starts on his resume. There’s mounting evidence to suggest tailback Nic Grigsby might have made the wrong decision when he chose football over baseball.

Then there’s Buck Pierce, running backs coach. I’m still not convinced his appointment was a wise hire. Seems to me it was more of a reward for being beat up while playing quarterback behind a train wreck of an offensive line. But, hey, I almost forgot that we don’t criticize Pierce. Not in River City. Buck has a lifetime Get Our of Jail Free card. So it isn’t his fault that the Bombers’ ground game has as much traction as Gord Steeves’s mayoral campaign.

You want to point accusatory fingers? Aim them at the O-linemen. The large lads are to blame. For everything. Well aren’t they? I mean, they can’t run block, they can’t pass block. And when, pray tell, are they going to clear a path so it’s safe for women and children to use the skywalks?

Meanwhile, it’s about the defensive dozen. It’s said that D guru Gary Etcheverry has 20 different schemes to baffle and befuddle enemy forces. Unfortunately, none of the 20 is designed to stop the run. That’s because the Bombers have a group of linebackers who weigh less than a T-bone steak on Chris Walby’s dinner plate. They look like refugees from Smurf Village.

Combine it all and you have considerable gnashing of the teeth in Bombers Nation.

Well, allow me to provide a pinch of perspective before the lads re-enter the fracas when the Montreal Alouettes pay a visit to Green Acres Field in Fort Garry on Aug. 22:

  • You wanted a new CEO. You got one.
  • You wanted a new general manager. You got one.
  • You wanted a new head coach. You got one.
  • You wanted a new starting quarterback. You got one.

In other words, you got exactly what you wanted. You just didn’t necessarily get who you wanted.

In the end, I’m guessing it’ll prove to be too much green and not enough grey and the rookies won’t turn last season’s sow’s ear into this season’s silk purse. But I’m willing to give the greenies more than eight games to find their footing. To sort things out.

They had a terrific start. They’ve stumbled. Hey, stuff happens.

But it’s not the kind of stuff that went down last year. And the year before. That was Cirque du Bombers. It was Barnum, Bailey and the Big Blue. They spent two seasons trying to see how many clowns they could stuff in a Volkswagen.

I’d say the clown act is over. I mean, the Bombers now actually have a head coach who wanted the job. Apparently he still does want the job. What a concept.

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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to 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.

Canadian Football League: It’s the Great Feast on the East

Neophyte starting quarterback Drew Willy aside, I mostly read and hear what’s wrong with the Bombers. The large lads on the O-line are the convenient targets. Why, they’re the most-maligned group of men this side of those pesky “drunken” skywalk panhandlers that Lorrie Steeves finds so cuddly.

Cheap Shots from the Cheap Seats, Vol. 1…As we head into Week 8 of a CFL season best described as the Great Feast on the East, power rankings are unchanged. The Laval Rouge et Or remain the top football team in Eastern Canada.

SEEING IS MISBELIEVING: It would seem that faith is fragile in some corners of Bombers Nation and there are those who believe our local football heroes to be a five dressed up as a one.

The fickle in fandom see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 5-2 record and their perch atop the West Division tables as lipstick on a pig. An illusion, if you will. After all, this Canadian Football League season has been nothing if not an East Feast, and the Blue and Gold have done little more than bully a bunch of 98-pound weaklings who live on the wrong side of the tracks. Right?

I mean, they beat the Toronto Argonauts. They beat the Ottawa RedBlacks. They beat the Montreal Alouettes. They beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Like, who doesn’t? Everybody steals their lunch money.

So some people remain unimpressed. And unconvinced. They refuse to give the Bombers their due. Neophyte starting quarterback Drew Willy aside, I mostly read and hear what’s wrong with the locals. The large lads on the O-line are the convenient targets. Why, they’re the most-maligned group of men this side of those pesky “drunken” skywalk panhandlers that Lorrie Steeves finds so cuddly.

Well, I’m sorry, but the Winnipegs’ record is not illegitimate or illusory. They need not make any apologies. Yes, they’ve been feeding off the bottom and they’ll be back at the East Feast buffet on Tuesday night in Toronto, so even a win over the Boatmen means they can’t win with the natterbugs of negativity.

Ask yourself this, though: If I had told you during training camp that the Bombers would be 5-2 seven skirmishes into the fray, would you have taken it? Absolutely.

GRABBIN’ GRASS ‘N’ GROWLIN’: What’s the over/under for the Bombers-Argos joust at Rogers Centre on Tuesday? 38,000? 39,000? I’m talking empty seats, not fans…Dave Randorf is gone, but the roles haven’t changed for the CFL on TSN panel. Matt (Git ‘er Done) Dunigan is still the country bumpkin, Chris Schultz is still the class clown and Milt Stegall is still angry. Paul LaPolice is getting more sit-down time with the boys, but I prefer Jock Climie…What’s the deal with that Trivago Guy who appears on camera more than anyone other than James Duthie? The guy needs a shave, he needs to drag a brush through his hair, and he needs a wardrobe consultant. Other than that, he’s ready for a GQ cover shoot…The CFL can change its in-house language all it likes, but to me a three-down football player is either a Canadian or an import, not a national or an international…If the St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam and all other National Foootball League teams pass on the defensive lineman out of Missouri, will one of the nine CFL outfits make room for an openly gay player?…Those Wendy’s commercials on CFL telecasts are getting too dramatic and really, really stupid. Apparently, they haven’t learned that less is more.

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, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she doesn’t know when to 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.