The River City Renegade


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The sports media dealing with social/political issues is nothing new

Stick to sports? Why?

Why should jock journalists and opinionists be limited to one-trick pony-ism, writing and gabbing about nothing other than wins and losses, home runs and touchdowns, free throws and three-pointers, and how much air there is in Tom Brady’s balls?

Sam Lacy, Dan Bankhead and Wendell Smith.

I mean, I’m guessing that if Twitter had been around in the 1930s and ’40s, Sam Lacy, Wendell Smith and other black sportswriters might have used their 140-character allotment to say something significant about segregation in baseball. Twitter didn’t exist back then, though. So they used newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Defender and the Baltimore Afro-American as pulpits from which to openly lobby for desegregation.

For example, when Major League Baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis died in 1944, Lacy used his Afro-American platform to scribble this about the appointment of Happy Chandler as MLB commish: “It appears that his choice was the most logical one for the bigoted major league operators, of which there is a heavy majority on hand.”

Similarly, in the chaotic 1960s, when young heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay joined the Nation of Islam and became Cassius X then Muhammad Ali, (white) sports scribes refused to use his Muslim name in their copy (it wasn’t until October 1970, six years after the fact, that the New York Times issued a directive that sportswriters were to call him Muhammad Ali) and they weren’t shy about spicing their prose with biting social commentary re “Clay,” race and religion.

Here are two examples from New York columnist Jimmy Cannon:

The fight racket since its rotten beginnings has been the red light district of sports. But this is the first time it has been turned into an instrument of mass hate…Clay is using it as a weapon of wickedness.”

And…

Jimmy Cannon

I pity Clay and abhor what he represents. In the years of hunger during the Depression, the Communists used famous people the way the Black Muslims are exploiting Clay. This is a sect that deforms the beautiful purpose of religion.”

The noise became amplified, also more threatening and vicious, when the champ refused to step forward for induction into the United States military in 1967.

Red Smith, legendary New York columnist: “Squealing over the possibility that the military may call him up, Cassius makes as sorry a spectacle as those unwashed punks who picket and demonstrate against the war.”

Really? Those protesting the Vietnam War were “unwashed punks?”

Jim Murray, legendary Los Angeles Times columnist, who mocked Ali by calling him Abdul the Bull Bull Ameer: “Cassius Marcellus Clay, one of the greatest heroes in the history of his people, has decided to secede from the Union. He will not disgrace himself by wearing the uniform of the Army of the United States…From the safety of 103 years, he waves his fist at dead slave owners. Down to his last four Cadillacs, the thud of Communist jackboots holds no dread for him. He is in this country but not of it.”

Really? Dead slave owners and Communist jackboots in a sports column?

So, you see, when ESPN anchor Jemele Hill went off on Donald Trump on her personal Twitter account recently, calling the United States president a “white supremacist,” she wasn’t digging a shovel into fresh, unbroken ground. Social/political commentary in print and on air is older than the contract Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first black player in baseball’s major leagues. Do you think the names and words Jesse Owens, Adolph Hitler, Nazis and Aryan supremacy have never appeared in a sportswriter’s copy?

Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star is among the elite wordsmiths in Canadian jock journalism today, but social/political commentary on his Twitter account heavily outweighs the sports content. Why would anyone find that objectionable?

Red Smith

I think it should be a personal decision, based partly on who employs you,” he said as a member of a Sports Illustrated panel. “But if you’re informed—or even just feel strongly about something—and you’re comfortable making your voice heard, then you should be able to say what you think. Sports are great, but they’re not the world. It’s okay to live in the world a little, too.”

On the night of the 2016 American presidential election, with Donald Trump winning the White House, Steve Simmons of Postmedia tweeted: “The saddest night in American history.” That is, of course, a totally illogical comment, especially coming from a non-American, but is he not allowed his emotional, if uninformed, opinion? Does it reflect on Simmons or Postmedia? I would submit the former rather than the latter, and numerous followers suggested he “stick to sports.”

If I have an issue with sports opinionists and their social/political commentary, it’s when they say nothing at all. Or when they’re inconsistent.

Ray Rice is pilloried for beating up one woman. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is given a pass on his thick file of repeated domestic violence. (I suppose the arrival of Johnny Manziel to a Canadian Football League outfit will be greeted with literary high fives.) That isn’t merely inexcusable, it’s the abandonment of responsible reporting.

Sports and politics/social activism are bedfellows, and to think otherwise is to live in a Utopian world. Social media has upped the ante, to be sure, but jock journos have always been there to write and talk about it. Usually in more than 140 characters.

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.

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About women in the broadcast booth…more male hangups…top five talking heads…taking a run at the president…double standards…say no to Shapo…and where’s Puck Finn?

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

I don’t know how much time I have left on the mortal coil. Could be a day, could be a decade or more.

Beth Mowins

Whatever the case, I hope I live long enough to experience that epiphanical moment when men—every last oinker of them—can actually follow the plot and realize and accept that they now share the toy box. With women.

I say that because ESPN had the (apparent) bad manners to foist the female play-by-play voice of Beth Mowins on viewers for the back half of the Monday Night Football twinbill and, judging by the outpouring of utter despair and unharnessed hostility from testosterone-fuelled lumps on bar stools and in man caves, you’d swear that U.S. President Donald Trump had just signed and issued an executive order demanding that all males 21 and older be de-nutted.

How dare ESPN! Does the World Wide Leader not realize that a penis is required to properly handle play-by-play in men’s sports? And it’s helpful if you can perform the Star, Spangled Banner by burp-singing and with arm pit farts.

What next, the lumps demand to know? Aliens in the booth? A “tranny” in the booth? Oh wait. One dude suggested Bowins is, in fact, a transgender babe trying to “sound like a guy.” Another lump asked, “Is there any question she’s a muffin muncher?” What’s up with the lesbian chatter, dude? Fanticizing about a menage-a-gridiron with the wife?

A man cave.

Actually, the wife (or girlfriend) is among the reasons the lumps get all frump-faced and go weak in the knees at the sound of a female voice doing football.

There’s a reason their hideouts are called man caves, you see, and I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you. But I will.

Picture this: Some poor sucker absolutely has to, has to, has to escape from the wife/girlfriend and her delicate female issues for a few hours, so he retreats to the man cave, cracks open a beer, rips into a bag of nachos, loosens his belt, burps and settles in to watch the Broncos and Chargers. And what’s the first thing he hears after Hank Jr. cranks out the Monday Night Football theme? A woman. In his ears for the next three hours. Game’s ruined. Night’s ruined. Shoot him now because both his ears are bleeding.

Well, listen up, dudes. You need a break from your wife/girlfriend that badly? I can think of two doors you can walk through: 1) a pub, 2) a divorce court. Take door 1) too often and I guarantee you’ll be walking through door 2) before long.

So suck it up, boys. This is the way of the 21st-century world. Care to join the rest of us?

There were two people in the booth for the Broncos-Chargers skirmish, one woman and one man. One of them was decidedly better than the other. It wasn’t the man, former National Football League coach Rex Ryan.

Danny Gallivan

Another hangup guys have about women behind the microphone for their macho sports is knowledge. Or, more accurately, their lack of knowledge. Apparently, you can’t be informative unless you’ve actually “played the game.” Excuse me? Refresh my memory, boys. How many games was it that Joe Buck played in Major League Baseball or the National Football League? How about Howard Cosell? Vin Scully? Were Danny Gallivan or Foster Hewitt ever on a National Hockey League roster?

My five favorite play-by-play guys…
1. Danny Gallivan: A cannonading drive.
2. Vin Scully: Painted pictures.
3. Don Dunphy: Mr. Boxing.
4. Dizzy Dean: He “slud into third” and “swang at the pitch.”
5. Harry Caray: Cubs win! Cubs win! After Harry died!

It’s about Jemele Hill, the ESPN SportsCenter dinnertime anchor who took to her private Twitter account to label the president of the United States a “white supremacist” and “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime.” You go, girl! Many have cried out for Hill’s ouster, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who, oddly enough, earns a living by telling lies on behalf of the chronic liar who occupies the Oval Office in the White House yet she believes Hill ought to be punted for telling the truth. Or at least the co-anchor’s version of the truth. “(It’s) a fireable offence,” the liar’s liar squawked last week. How so? Because Hill assailed a president who believes it’s okay for wealthy and famous men to grab any woman “by the pussy?” Pure piffle.

Jemele Hill

Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press is among the constituents who believes Hill “should be fired” for using her ESPN position to spew political opinion. He calls it “bad journalism.” Hmmm. Twitter is journalism? Who knew? This is also the same guy who, from his sports soap box last month, wrote about “the sight of white supremacists openly marching through the streets of Virginia—they don’t even bother with white hood’s in Donald Trump’s America.” He also opined this: “After all the chaos, craziness and sheer madness of the first seven months of Trump’s presidency, nearly four out of every 10 Americans believe the guy’s doing a hell of a job. Just wow.” Is it just me or does anyone else see a double standard here? As for bad journalism, Wiecek might want to keep that in mind the next time he feels the urge to make an issue of Mike O’Shea’s “goofy shorts” and his “smirk.” Or when he blames the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach for any empty seats at Formerly Football Follies Field in Fort Garry.

Denis Shapovalov

Steve Simmons of Postmedia says Dennis Shapovalov should be in the conversation with Connor McDavid, Joey Votto and Sidney Crosby as Canada’s athlete-of-the-year. Excuse me, but what exactly has Shapavolov won this year? Oh, that’s right, two B-level tennis tournaments. Look, the kid had a great run at the Rogers Cup and the U.S. Open, but let’s not lose sight of the fact he fell short in each event. Shouldn’t we expect our top jock to have won something?

Interesting poll by Postmedia, whereby 25 of the National Hockey League’s top performers were asked to gaze into a crystal ball and forecast the events of the 2017-18 season. In the most-goals category, eight different players were predicted as winners of the Rocket Richard Trophy. None of the eight was named Patrik Laine. Must be that Winnipeg Jets no-respect thing. Go get ’em, Puck Finn!

Terrific piece on Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee O’Shea by young Jeff Hamilton of the Freep. Some funny stuff in there. The kid does top-quality work

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.


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Victoria HarbourCats keeping the Claire Eccles girl-vs-boys story on the down low; gets first start on Sunday

At first blush, I’ll admit that I was skeptical and cynical about the signing of Claire Eccles. It reeked of gimmickry. Sexist gimmickry.

I mean, the girl-vs-boys angle is the simplest sideshow to sell in sports. It’s also one of the media’s favorite chew toys. For evidence, look no further than Billie Jean King, Manon Rheaume, Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie, Mo’ne Davis, Hayley Wickenheiser and Danica Patrick.

Yes, sir, put a Jill in with the jocks and it’s news copy gold. And, hey, it’s a bonus for the marketing wizards if she’s what the lads call a “looker.” (Do you really think Patrick has been showered with all that publicity because she’s made a habit of getting her race car to the finish line ahead of the good, ol’ boys on the top NASCAR circuit? She leads the league in long hair and lipstick, not top-10 finishes.)

Claire Eccles

So what better way for the Victoria HarbourCats to put rumps in the pews of their quaint ballpark than to trot a girl-next-door type out to the pitcher’s mound and have her strike out all those hot-shot college boys from Trumpsylvania? Curiosity seekers are guaranteed to flock to Royal Athletic Park on the edge of downtown Victoria and cheer lustily each time Eccles is beckoned to make the hike to the hill, with the hip-hop beat of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl accompanying her every step. Ka-ching!

Except that isn’t how the Claire Eccles baseball-with-the-boys tale is unfolding.

Oh, sure, there was an avalanche of attention from the Fourth Estate—hither and yon—upon the Surrey southpaw’s arrival in the B.C. capital. ESPN, the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Sportsnet and MSN.com, among many others, eagerly glombed onto the Eccles story at the outset. But a week into the 19-year-old’s West Coast League experience, she has been summoned by head coach Brian McRae exactly once. For a two-inning gig.

If that’s a publicity stunt based on gender, the HarbourCats are failing miserably at Marketing 101.

That’s the point, though. Other than the announcement of Eccles coming on board, the HarbourCats have resisted any urge to play the gender card in an effort to inflate ticket sales. Bravo for them. She’s a baseball player, not a promotional circus act.

Mind you, that might be about to change, because McRae did the chin-wag thing with MSN.com 120 Sports on Tuesday morning and he declared Eccles his starter when the Kitsap BlueJackets come calling for a non-league game this weekend at RAP.

We’re gonna give her a shot, just like we give all the other guys that are here, to compete for innings,” McRae said. “She’s gonna start for us next Sunday and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

That sound you hear is the publicity machine cranking up.

I can’t imagine the pre-game noise being any louder than in July 2010, though. That’s when the Chico Outlaws and their so-called Knuckle Princess paid a visit to Royal Athletic Park. As it turns out, Eri Yoshida’s knuckler didn’t knuckle so well. The Japanese hurler allowed just one hit, but it was a grand slam, and she also walked seven batsmen and hit three others in her 2 1/3 innings of work. The thing is, advance hype attracted 4,753 to the ballpark that night, the largest gathering in Victoria Seals history.

Brian McRae

By contrast, when Eccles emerged from the bullpen last week to become the first female to pitch in the WCL, the head count was approximately 800. (She mopped up in a 9-0 loss to the Wenatchee RedSox and produced this pitching line: 2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 K, 9.00 ERA.)

It’s a safe bet that the HarbourCats Hollaback Girl will be hucking the rawhide in front of an audience three to five times that size on the afternoon of June 18 at the local ballyard.

I think having people like Claire come in and show everybody out there that it’s not a publicity stunt, that she’s getting an opportunity because she has a chance to be successful and help us, I think, in turn, that empowers other girls. I think you may see more and more women trying to play baseball,” said McRae, who clearly sees both the short- and long-term pictures. “Pitching is about the only thing I think, if a woman were to be able to play pro ball, where they could compete with the males, would be on the mound.”

And if Eccles, a University of British Columbia student who also pitches for Canada’s national women’s team, has designs on playing pro baseball?

She’s gotta get a little bit stronger, add some miles-an-hour to her fastball,” said McRae, who played 10 years in Major League Baseball. “We think she could throw 80 miles-an-hour if we cleaned up her mechanics and got her to use her lower body a little bit better. Her fastball tops out about 71, 72 miles-an-hour right now, and her knuckleball is in the mid-60s or so, but we think there’s more there that can get her to throw a little bit harder and be a little bit more effective.”

In the meantime, “It’s been kind of cool having her around.”

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling mostly about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, but she now lives one block from Royal Athletic Park in Victoria and might cross the street to watch Claire Eccles throw a baseball.

 


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About Steve Simmons ‘outing’ two Raptors…apologies to Canada…cheering for Doug Wilson…and the best of tennis

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

bow wow bungalowSo, let me see if I’ve got this straight: DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph are observed strolling through Jack Casino in Cleveland at 2 o’clock in the a.m.; they are in breach of no laws of the land; they are in breach of no code of ethics; they are guilty of no trespasses against team-imposed guidelines. They are, quite simply, two adults talking and walking in retreat to their hotel rooms, in the company, it should be pointed out, of four other adults.

And this is news?

It is if you’re Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun and you are the self-appointed hall monitor of the Toronto Raptors and you believe Carroll and Joseph should be tucked in bed by 2 ayem, not “wandering around in the middle of the night.” After all, Carroll and Joseph were expected to participate in a significant National Basketball Association playoff skirmish in another 18 1/2 hours, which, on the Steve-o-Metre, apparently is not sufficient kip time to be up to the task of subduing the Cleveland LeBrons.

If only they had been in bed by, oh, let’s say 10 p.m., surely the Raptors would have delivered greater resistance against the Cleveland assault. No doubt they’d have fallen by a mere 28 points, rather than 38, on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the final dispute on the Eastern Conference side of the NBA divide.

But wait. In Simmons’ own words, the Carroll-Joseph late-nighter “may have had nothing to do with how or why the Raptors were decimated and embarrassed 116-78.”

I see how it works. The two Raptors weren’t intoxicated, they weren’t raising a ruckus, they didn’t have a woman hanging on each arm, they weren’t playing with guns, and their influence—positive or negative—on what transpired on the hardwood floor of the Quicken Loans Arena could not be measured vis-a-vis their slumber habits. Yet let’s ‘out’ them anyway, thus giving rise to suspicion and perception that Carroll and Joseph are a couple of good-time Charlies or, even worse, a pair of no-goodnicks.

It is, frankly, laughable that a member of mainstream sports media would bring into question, or tsk-tsk, the nocturnal wanderings of professional athletes, given that there isn’t a jock sniffer alive who, after filing copy on game nights, is in the sack with lights out by the stroke of 12. The nature of their beast is very similar to that of the athletes they write and talk about. They just earn considerably less coin, is all.

So, I’m sorry, but the issue here is not about the sleeping patterns of Carroll and Joseph. The issue is one that mainstream media won’t address, because they tend not to eat their own. To wit: Should Steve Simmons have ‘outed’ the two Raptors?

Well, to use a hoops term, since there was no harm, no foul, the answer is “no.”

Thus, you can mark down Simmons’ column as reason No. 546,592 why professional athletes consider jock journalists lower than Homer Simpson’s IQ.

We won't apologize for the Biebs.

We won’t apologize for the Biebs.

I see where ESPN blowhard Stephen A. Smith has delivered a mea culpa for dissing the Raptors two games into their best-of-seven skirmish with the LeBrons. “I gotta be a man of my word,” he said after Toronto had leveled the series at 2-2, “and just apologize to Canada, all Canadians everywhere.” That’s all well and fine, Stephen. Just don’t expect us to apologize for Celine Dion, Nickelback or Justin Bieber. (As an aside, Stephen: No need to apologize to “all” of us hosers, because, beyond the borders of the Republic of Tranna, few care about the Raptors.)

I’ve always cheered silently for Doug Wilson to succeed as general manager of the San Jose Sharks, because he played for the Winnipeg Clubs in 1973-74 when I worked the Western Canada Hockey League beat for the Winnipeg Tribune. I remember Wilson as a soft-spoken, shy, polite kid. So good on him now that his National Hockey League outfit has advanced to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final of the Stanley Cup tournament.

The most-ballyhooed hockey players outside the NHL have to be teenagers Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner. Matthews and Laine did boffo work at the just-concluded World Hockey Championships in the Republic of Putin, while Marner is killing it with his London Knights at the Memorial Cup tournament in Saudi Alberta. All are worthy of the hosannas, but one thing separates Matthews and Laine from Marner: They were playing against men (mostly), Marner is playing against boys.

Bjorn Borg

Bjorn Borg

Bjorn Borg will always be my favorite tennis player, but Rafael Nadal, searching for his 15th Grand Slam title until a wrist injury shelved him at the French Open, is the best I’ve ever seen. My all-time dream match would be Borg in his prime vs. Nadal in his prime at Roland Garros in Paris. Nadal would win in five sets. I think. Maybe. Dream match No. 2 would be Steffi Graf vs. Serena Williams at Roland Garros. Graf would win in three. Definitely.

I have trouble watching Andy Murray play tennis. I mean, it’s painful. Whether ahead or chasing the match, the Scotsman always looks like a tormented soul straight out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Every time he turns to grab a towel, I expect to see a shiv or arrows in his back.

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 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.

 


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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.

 


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Winnipeg Jets: Here’s what they’re saying out on the street

Ever wonder what others think about our hockey heroes? I do.

That’s why I went on a scouting mission this morning. I wanted to get the word on the street. You know, find out if pundits hither and yon are as gobsmacked as myself by the hypnotic, management-by-paralysis work of Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin the Possum, who, if his thumb-twiddling achieves the desired result, has positioned the Winnipeg Jets to win the Connor McDavid sweeps.

This hunt, it should be pointed out, was inspired by a Ken Wiebe piece that appeared last week in the Winnipeg Sun.

The young sports scribe went about the business of analyzing and assessing the off-season tinkering, overhauling and blow-’em-up-real-good manoeuvring of the seven outfits in the Central Division of the National Hockey League.

Wiebe rated Kevin the Possum’s work as C-, which, if I remember my grade school grading system correctly, is a passing mark. Anything above a D is a pass. Oh, woe is Ken.

A mark of C- for Kevin the Possum is clearly a hometown score. I’m not accusing Wiebe of being a True North Toady, but his credibility certainly has taken a bit of a hit because giving GM Kevin Cheveldayoff a passing grade is like giving Tiger Woods a gold star for fidelity.

Wiebe submits that the Jets “have improved slightly.” Sorry, but I don’t see it. Which is why I sought outside input. Here’s what they’re saying about the Jets out on the street, kids. (Caution: Offensive opinion if you’re a hard-core fanboy or fangirl.)

Harrison Mooney, Puck Daddy: The more I look at the Winnipeg Jets, the more I’m left to wonder what Kevin Cheveldayoff actually does all day. It’s as though Cheveldayoff doesn’t know trading is an option. He’s been an NHL GM since June 8, 2011. He’s never made a player-for-player trade, ever.

The Tennessean: With the exception of the Winnipeg Jets, every Central team made major improvements in hopes of unseating Pacific Division power Los Angeles, the Stanley Cup champion.”

David M. Wilson, Defending Big D (a Dallas Stars blog): So after finishing seventh in the Central Division, seven points back of a playoff spot, what do the Winnipeg Jets need to step into the sphere of being legitimate contenders? Well. Whatever it is, it’s unlikely they got it over this offseason. No, they didn’t exactly do nothing, but their summer moves are more of the yawn-inducing variety than anything else.”

Allan Muir, SI.com: “Meanwhile in Winnipeg, Cheveldayoff numbly soldiers on with a core that has no idea how to win, a tent-pole star who doesn’t want to be there and arguably the worst starting goalie in the entire league. What does Chevy do this summer? He picks up Mathieu Perreault to replace Olli Jokinen, waffles on the continuing Evander Kane situation and does nothing to support or replace Ondrej Pavelec, despite the availability of an abundance of keepers with starter potential in free agency. But what else to expect from a man whose boldest move in the last three years was swapping Johnny Oduya for a pair of draft picks?”

Scott Burnside, ESPN: Mathieu Perreault? That’s the answer? Hmmm. If the question was, ‘How do we keep our streak of never winning a single playoff game alive?’ then the Jets seem right on track. While every other team in the Central Division has made a step forward, the Jets seem content to maintain the status quo in the hopes that somehow, someway their young players—and there are some good ones like Jacob TroubaMark Scheifele and Blake Wheelerwill miraculously take this team by the throat and guide it into the playoffs. Last season they finished 14 points back of fourth-place Minnesota and seven back of Dallas, which snared the second wild-card spot in the West. No way are they that close now.”

Dan Bradley, On the Forecheck: The Jets are becoming masters at being just good enough to not get a top-3 pick, but not being good enough become relevant. It’s a cycle that’s pretty cruel to the city and its fans (who are some of the best in the league). The fans and media aren’t too fond of Evander Kane. They’re paying Ondrej Pavelec wayyyy too much money when he’s statistically one of the worst in the league. There’s some decent talent here, but unless a trade to bring in some legit scoring happens OR the team is bad enough to tank towards a top-3 pick, the Jets will continue to be a haven for young players looking to join a contender. If players and media think that Nashville hasn’t grown up as a team, I really want to know how they view the Jets. If Nashville just moved out of their parents’ house, the Jets took down their cartoon bird wallpaper and put up vintage airplanes stickers in their bedroom.”

Josh Clark, Blackout Dallas:  Better or worse? There’s absolutely no way around it: the Jets will decline this season. Winnipeg finished last year at 15th in the goals-for department and 21st in the goals-against department. With the rebuild phase imminent and draft picks galore filling their future, they just won’t be able to compete in the tough Central Division full of six playoff caliber teams now. With the current players on the roster, they will be able to straggle along, but will not find a way to punch their ticket to the postseason.”

Hockey Blog in Canada: “The first guy I have to ask about is Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. The Jets have yet to make the playoffs since arriving in Winnipeg, and look like they are going to miss the playoffs again this season. Yes, I can boldly make that prediction in July because I’m not sure what Cheveldayoff is being paid to do on a daily basis.”

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.


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Oh, woe is Canada. We just don’t try hard enough, eh.

Okay, grasshopper, I believe we need to take a Zen timeout. A mindful moment, if you will. Breathing in, say, “Jason Whitlock is an ass clown.” Breathing out, say, “Don Cherry is an ass clown.”

Breathing in, Jason Whitlock is an ass-clown. Breathing out, Don Cherry is an ass-clown.

There now, grasshopper. Don’t you feel better accepting the reality that there are ass-clowns on both sides of the vast North American divide?

We’ve long known about Cherry, of course, because the Lord of Loud has been sitting in his Hockey Night in Canada bully pulpit for 30-plus years, repeatedly reminding “you kids out there” that there is only one proper way to play shinny, and that’s the chip, chase and toothless “CANADIAN WAY!”

We have heart. We have soul. And they don’t.

Who are “they?” Everybody else. Especially Russians, who, according to a classic Cherry rant, “suck and they always HAVE SUCKED” and they have “ZERO” heart. So there.

As for those other “they” countries, which apparently includes the province of Quebec, their players wear face shields and have all their teeth. You cannot possibly have heart and soul if you’ve arrived at the National Hockey League level with a full set of tusks. So there.

There are, of course, mobs of hosers who sip Grapes’ Kool-Aid (Cherry-flavored, naturally). The Baron of Bombast has them convinced we win hockey matches because we want to win. Players from the “they” countries don’t want to win.

But whoa, Nellie.

Now we have Jason Whitlock telling us it isn’t so. At least not with our basketball players. Our hosers of the hardwood play hoops like the “they” hockey countries play hockey. Without heart. Without soul. With all their teeth.

Andrew Wiggins is from Canada,” Whitlock, an ESPN columnist of substantial rank, says of the Canadian kid chosen first by the Cleveland Cavliers in the recent National Basketball Association draft. “Canadian athletes…perhaps don’t want it as much as some of the Europeans and certainly the American players.

This is what a lot of NBA people believe, that American-born and even some of the European players that come (over to play in the NBA). They have more intensity, more of a hunger for the game. They’re not as laid back. Look, Canada’s a laid-back place, which is probably a positive thing. There’s positive-ness to not taking basketball and being so intense or being so bottom-line driven as we are here in America where it’s work, work, work, work, work and just go-get-go-get and that’s all we respect. But I’m just telling you, this is the conversation with basketball people: Does he have that ‘dog’ in him? Does he want to be the greatest all the time? Does he know how to give that consistent effort all the time? And they think that’s a question that a lot of players from north of the border have to answer.”

I’d say them’s fighting words, except the last time we fought the Americans it was a rout and we really don’t want or need to burn down the White House again, do we?

I mean, what’s to be gained in going off on Jason Whitlock and his sprawling generalization of the Great White North as a nation of slackers? I suppose I could paint all Americans with a brush that colors them loud, rude and obnoxious, but that would make Donald S. Cherry a closet American. Besides, I know an American who is not loud, rude and obnoxious. With any luck, I’ll meet another one before I’m ashes in an urn, eh.

I must confess I’m not offended by the utterances of Jason Whitlock. There might even be a thimble of truth in what he’s saying. We are a laid-back lot, are we not? We don’t rev our engines over any silly, little thing. It has to be an important issue. Like who owns the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Or why we have scratch-and-sniff $100 bills that smell like maple syrup.

How can our NBA players be expected to concentrate and want to win with such weighty matters preying on their minds?

Little wonder our Steve Nash only won two NBA most valuable player awards. Surely slacker Steve would have brought home more than two measly MVP trinkets had he not been a laid-back Canadian. Mind you, that’s still one more MVP award than either Kobe Bryant or Shaq ever won. But, hey, who’s counting when you’re slagging an entire nation?

Look, Jason Whitlock is a very good writer but also a blowhard. He has described himself as “fat black man” and he often works race into his print rantings. He once tweeted an extremely crude comment about the size of NBA player Jeremy Lin’s penis, then, in a forced, faux mea culpa, claimed his “immature, sophomore comedic nature” was the product of listening to too many Richard Pryor albums when he was a fat black kid.

Oh, isn’t that so American. Blame the black guy. Perhaps Don Cherry can blame the McKenzie Brothers the next time he says something stupid on HNIC. Coo, roo, coo, coo, coo, coo, coo, coo.

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.