The River City Renegade


2 Comments

About clowns in mainstream media…depth in pro tennis…lady star power…budget cuts at TSN…too much Nadal-Federer…great rivalries…sports scribes defecting…and aiming for 50 years

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

Venus Williams

Steve Simmons has secured his position as the biggest assclown in Canadian sports media.

It’s one thing to have an ego higher than the CN Tower and deliver opinion, which the Postmedia columnist and TSN talking head offers in abundance, but Simmons totally lost the plot when he stooped to age shaming on the return of The Reporters with Dave Hodge to TSN’s air Sunday morning.

Discussing the U.S. Open, Simmons said:

Women’s tennis is in a bad way without Serena (Williams). There’s no real star. You’ve had four Grand Slams this year and four different winners. Venus Williams is in a final at Wimbledon and she’s what, 92 years old or something like that?”

Shameful. Also objectionable, rude and insulting in the extreme. It might even have an undercurrent of sexism.

I mean, Simmons had no quarrel with Roger Federer winning Wimbledon in July, scant days before he blew out 36 candles on his birthday cake. It was bravo Roger. Called him the “best ever” before the Swiss maestro rag-dolled Marin Cilic in the final. Thing is, Federer is just one year and two months younger than Venus Williams, who was beaten by Garbine Muguruza in the Wimbledon ladies’ final.

Serena Williams

It’s good for tennis that 37-year-old Venus Williams didn’t win,” he wrote. “To win now would speak badly for the state of women’s tennis.”

But it was okay for a 36-year-old man to win Wimbledon? Interesting logic.

Once he was done age bashing Williams, Simmons—he’s 60, by the way—attacked the depth of the women’s game, comparing it unfavorably to the men’s draw. “There isn’t the depth…you look at men’s tennis, there’s the core at the top and then there’s about 15 deep of really good players,” he stammered. “It doesn’t exist on the women’s side.” Really? Factual evidence supports the notion that Grandpa Simmons is full of the stuff that comes out of the south end of a bull. In the past 48 men’s Grand Slam finals, only three lads not named Nadal, Federer, Murray or Djokovic have won—Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic. They’ve combined for a grand sum of five titles. In 12 flipping years! Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic claimed the other 43. For those of you scoring at home, that’s Big Four 43, Rest of World 5. That’s deep like a thimble.

Grandpa Simmons pooh-poohs the women’s side for delivering four different Grand Slam champions this year, as if that’s a bad thing. Yet he says there’s no depth on tour. Total contradiction. Total clown. You want depth? Sixteen women not named Williams have combined for 30 titles in the past 48 majors. None of the four women who won a Grand Slam this year was a top seed. Serena Williams was the closest, seeded second at the Australian Open. The French and U.S. Open champions, Jelena Ostapenko and Sloane Stephens, were unseeded and ranked world Nos. 47 and 83, respectively. The Wimbledon winner, Muguruza, was seeded 14th and ranked world No. 15. The final four at the U.S. Open—Venus Williams, Madison Keys, CoCo Vandeweghe and Stephens—were world Nos. 9, 16, 22 and 83.

Maria Sharapova

As for “no real star” on the women’s side…excuse me? Apparently Grandpa Simmons missed the memo advising us that Maria Sharapova is back on tour. No female athlete on this planet has more star power than her Royal Blondeness. The bottom line on her bank statement is proof. Had there been a lack of oomph to the women’s tour? You bet. Then Ostapenko happened on the red clay of Roland Garros. She’s a spark plug. Muguruza has style and tremendous appeal. Stephens is a bundle of charisma. Now Sharapova is back, and new mama Serena Williams hopefully will resurface at the Australian Open in January, perhaps with her bambino in tow. I’d pay to watch any of them play. Venus Williams, too. She should be saluted, not scorned, for being so competitive at age 37.

Guess the weekly commute from Montreal to the Republic of Tranna is quite costly, because Michael Farber was cut from the starting lineup on The Reporters due to budget restrictions. I just wish they’d given us a vote on who got culled from the herd.

Rafa and Roger

Grandpa Simmons wasn’t the only scribe donning a clown costume last week. Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail tells us he’s had his fill of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Doesn’t want to see them anymore. “For its own sake, men’s tennis needs to start moving on from its top-two fetish,” he scribbles in a rambling treatise. “And not just as far as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, who are exactly like their better, older peers, only boring. Tennis needs to turn a page, rip the page out, then find a new book. We’ve been at this for a decade and it started to get old when Stephen Harper was still in charge. It’s time to move on from the greatest rivalry in the history of men’s tennis.” Oh, yes, by all means let’s do that. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to see Kevin Anderson in more Grand Slam finals? Good grief. Get a grip, man.

Here’s what Kelly wrote after Roger Federer had won the Australian Open last January: “We now have to confront the real possibility that Federer might never stop being great at tennis. Maybe he’ll just go on forever. Nobody would complain.” And now here he is, eight months later, complaining about Federer seemingly going on forever. Sigh.

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

My five favorite all-time rivalries…
1. Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe: Bjorn was my main man.
2. Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier: Brutal, especially the Thrilla in Manilla.
3. Jack and Arnie: I was a member of Arnie’s Army.
4. Secretariat-Sham: Never saw anything like Secretariat, before or since 1973.
5. Martina Navratilova-Chris Evert: Liked Chrissie until she got engaged to loathsome Jimmy Connors.

Longtime hockey scribe Eric Duhatschek has defected from the Globe and Mail to The Athletic Calgary, part of an expanding online sports venture that features some top-level writing talent. Pierre LeBrun, Michael Russo, James Mirtle and Craig Custance are among the ever-growing stable of scribes at The Athletic, which now has franchises in each of Canada’s National Hockey League cities. No word on who’s covering the Jets and Blue Bombers in Winnipeg, but Mirtle, the man putting it all together, says she or he is on the way.

I walked into a newsroom for the first time 48 years ago yesterday. My hope was to stay at the Winnipeg Tribune for 50 years. Neither of us made it. The Trib went toes up in my 11th year and I felt obliged to bail from the rag trade after 30 years. To the day. None of the people with whom I worked at the beginning—running mail and copy to the various departments inside the old building at the corner of Smith and Graham—remain in the newspaper business. Five of the sports guys—Jack Matheson, Uncle Vince Leah, Gus Collins and freelancers Harold Loster and Ron Meyers—are dead. The very nice man who took a chance and hired a scrawny, 18-year-old kid fresh out of Miles Macdonell Collegiate on Sept. 10, 1969, Don Delisle, left us 10 years ago this month. I’m not sure how and why I’m still here, but I believe I shall continue to crank out the crap for a bit longer. Might still make it to 50 years. Or maybe just five more days. We’ll see.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling mostly about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.

Advertisements


4 Comments

Will Blake Wheeler want to hang around if the Winnipeg Jets can’t win?

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

Blake Wheeler

Blake Wheeler

So, you’re Blake Wheeler, sitting in the Winnipeg Jets changing chamber.

You look around. You see all those freshly scrubbed faces, with less fuzz than a well-used tennis ball. You have arrived at your peak years as a National Hockey League worker. You are at your most productive, on the scoresheet and in team-related intangibles. But you remind yourself that there’ll be 30 candles on your next birthday cake, in August. More than anything, you want to win. Alas, you cannot win, not with team ownership/management operating the NHL’s equivalent of a day-care centre.

Given that you are contracted to wear Jets linen until 2019, you might feel trapped. So, do you get on the blower to your agent and demand he get you the hell out of Dodge? Or do you buy into this youth build and play the part of the loyal foot soldier? After all, you might be wearing the ‘C’ on your Jets jersey next autumn. Unless, of course, the deep-thinkers in the Secret Society that is True North Sports & Entertainment anoint one of the sprigs, such as Mark Scheifele or Jacob Trouba, team captain.

It’s a tough call.

I don’t know Blake Wheeler, but I do know professional athletes, and what they want most is to succeed. That’s why you won’t see players, as a group, tanking. Ownership and management tank (hello Mark Chipman and Kevin Cheveldayoff), but players do not tank.

So I can’t help but wonder what Wheeler is thinking these days, as opposed to three years ago.

For me it was virtually a no-brainer,” the Jets power forward told news scavengers after putting his signature on a six-year contract in July 2013. “I sat down with my agent in April or May and we had the discussion. I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘This is where I want to be.’ I believe in people like Mark Chipman and Chevy, what everyone stands for and especially my teammates. I have believed since I got here that we have what it takes to get to the next level, so this is just part of that process. I truly believe that great things are in store for this group.”

Much of that group in which he expressed faith has been dispatched hither and yon, including his longtime stablemate, captain Andrew Ladd. The next level remains the next level. There have been no great things. And he has already heard his head coach, Paul Maurice, advise one and all that the Jets’ growing pains will not be short-term.

Which means, by the time these young Jets resemble anything close to a competitive outfit, Wheeler will be leaning into his long-in-tooth years.

All of which begs the question: Does he really want to play the role of Daddy Day Care, or does he want an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup?

Interesting read from Paul Wiecek, who uses his column in the Winnipeg Free Press to lament the lack of access scribes are given to pro jocks, notably those in the employ of the Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Among other things, he notes that the Jets have two people who “cover” the club for the team website, thus they don’t require the media to deliver the message. But he describes their dispatches as “mostly pap.” I’ve got news for Wiecek: With the exception of Freep freelancer Scott Campbell, I’ve been reading nothing but “mostly pap” from the beat guys at the Free Press and Winnipeg Sun for the past month. Limited access means there are less boring, cookie-cutter quotes, but it shouldn’t prevent scribes from delivering strong critical analysis and opinion. That’s why blogs are so popular. So boo freaking hoo.

What's not to like about Winnipeg?

What’s not to like about Winnipeg?

Oh, woe is Winnipeg. In a recent Postmedia poll of NHL players, River City was voted the worst and least favorite Canadian burg to visit. Then there was Craig Custance of ESPN advising us of his findings from a poll whereby he asked 10 player agents which locales pop up most frequently on no-trade lists. You guessed it, Good Ol’ Hometown is second, behind only Edmonton. Okay, I get it that no one wants to go to Edmonton, but Winnipeg? I mean, what’s not to like about a town where it’s snowing and the wind chill is minus-20 two weeks into spring?

Why are so many people in Jets Nation convinced there would be serious interest in Michael Hutchinson on the trade market? Other than a couple of terrific months at the beginning of last season, he’s provided no indication that he’s a No. 1 goaltender at the NHL level. He’ll be a career backup at best.

If Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t the most annoying player in the NHL, will someone please tell me who is. Kadri is the new Rat. He’s no Ken Linseman, but he’s out-ratting Brad Marchand, who apparently decided to spend most of his time scoring goals for the Boston Bruins rather than annoying foes this season.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 in 2015.