Harvey Rosen was a rare breed among jock journos.
Not once did I hear anyone spew a discouraging word about him. Not to his face. Not behind his back. Not in whispered tones. Not at a high volume. Not ever.
And that’s saying something because, as much as sports scribes can be an engaging and mischievous lot of devil-may-care rascals, many also possess a built-in cynicism that lends itself to snide commentary. Some would call it catty.
Harvey didn’t do snide or catty. He did quick wit. He did spoof. He did cornball.
Like when the Winnipeg Jets would be going through a tough patch. They’d be 10 seconds into a 0-0 match and Harvey, sitting next to you in the press box, would lean in and say, “The Jets are giving them all they can handle!” Or this: “It’s still anybody’s game!”
No matter how often Harvey would say it, I always laughed.
Sure it was simple, sophomoric humor, but when did anyone mistake a sports press box for a gathering place for Mensa members? We weren’t up there splitting atoms or trying to poke holes in Einstein’s take on relativity. We were watching hockey or football and engaging in dopey dialogue, like wondering who would win a fight between Andy Warhol and Truman Capote.
Mind you, Harvey could do serious. He was a school teacher, which clearly put him intellecutally a notch or two above most of us press box mooks. But he got his kicks writing sports for The Jewish Post & News and The Canadian Press, and he it did it for more than 40 years, all the while using his dry wit and impish impulses to make those around him giggle.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Harvey is being remembered for all the right reasons now that word of his December death, at age 83, has made its way along the jock journo grapevine. Here’s a small sampling of what former colleagues and friends in the jockosphere are saying:
Bob Irving: “Spent many, many years matching wits and laughs with Harvey Rosen in Winnipeg press boxes. A sweet man who was a delight to be around.”
Mike McIntyre: “Just the absolute sweetest man. I now routinely complain about the loud music and PA noise at Canada Life Centre in his honour!”
Scott Billeck: “RIP to one of the good ones. Harvey, even after he retiree, would send me notes filled with kind words about my writing and lots of encouragement. This one sucks. A lot.”
Peter Young: “One of the kindest men I’ve had the privilege to know. Sat on press box between him and @patticakes1950 for many a Jets and Bombers season in the ’80s and ’90s.”
George Johnson: “Damn. A lovely soul Harvey. So much fun to be around.”
Rita Mingo: “So sorry to hear. Harvey was a fixture when I started my career in Winnipeg, a good guy, always genial.”
Judy Owen: “He had a wonderful, dry sense of humour that kept us reporters in the press box laughing. He was also so complimentary about my work, boosting me up when I would have a bad day. He was such a smart, witty, kind man. He will always, always be fondly remembered by so many of us in the sports community.”
Yes, he was a good, dear man.
The thing about death is that some of them carry a bigger wallop than others. Harvey’s is a big hit. Same as Bob (Doc) Holliday who, like Harv, left us for the great misty beyond in December.
I can’t count the number of days/nights I worked beside Harvey in press boxes on both the Jets’ and Bombers’ sides of Maroons Road back in the day, and I worked alongside Doc at both the Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Sun. But I do know what I liked most about them: They were fun to be around. They made me laugh.
They made my little corner of the world a better place. The memories are strong and good.