About Mike O’Shea’s shelf life…unnecessary roughness on a coach…Evander being a twit…and the new Sammy Semenko in Edmonton

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

Mike O'Shea
Mike O’Shea

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Bombers lose! Bombers lose!

Of course you’ve heard it before. You’ve been hearing it since 1991. And it’s now 26 times that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been on the short end of the scoreboard since Mike O’Shea became sideline steward of the Canadian Football League outfit. Yup, 26 Ls against one dozen Ws his charges have scrounged up.

A .316 success rate means you’re doing boffo business if you’re the leadoff hitter in baseball. Not so much on a football field.

Those 26 losses? They put O’Shea on par with Jeff Reinebold. You do not want to be linked to that name. Reinebold is the gold standard for all that is wrong with a head coach. He was 6-26 before the Bombers much-maligned board of directors told him to turn off his Bob Marley tapes and hop on his Harley and haul his sorry butt out of Dodge.

Therefore, it perhaps strikes some as a minor mystery that the 12-26 O’Shea is still wearing the headset. There can only be one of two reasons: 1) Wade Miller, the CEO whose exhaustive search for a general manager was confined to a short walk down the hallway at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry to hire the man (Kyle Walters) who hired the man, still believes in O’Shea; or 2) the board no longer has an appetite for paying people not to coach.

If it’s the former, then Miller hasn’t been paying attention.

I mean, it’s one thing for the Calgary Stampeders to give the Blue and Gold a wedgie at McMahon Stadium, which they did Friday night, 36-22. That’s been happening seemingly since Peter Liske and Ham Hands Harrison were playing catch in Cowtown. But it’s the way the Bombers went about their business that’s so disturbing. They appeared disinterested. They didn’t warm to the task until all hope had faded, then put up staggeringly good garbage stats and garbage points in garbage time, when their foes were pulling pranks and kibitzing on the sidelines.

Disinterest is down to coaching. Or Walters has recruited the wrong players. Take your pick.

I remember when Mike O’Shea stepped forward as head coach of the Bombers. It was to the hard-diving beat of the Bachman Turner Overdrive classic You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet.

Here’s something that you’re never gonna forget. B-b-b-baby you just ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet.”

Well, b-b-b-baby, some of us have seen all we n-n-need to see.

Coach LaPo needs his playbook from TSN.
Coach LaPo needs his playbook from TSN.

Apparently, the Bombers’ regurgitated offensive co-ordinator, Paul LaPolice, left his playbook behind in the TSN studio. Might be an idea to put a call in to Milt, Matt, Jock and Schultzie, LaPo. Maybe have one of them run it over to you. Sad Sack offence notwithstanding, coach LaPo isn’t going anywhere. He’s the fall-to guy. If and when O’Shea is given his parting gifts, LaPolice gets the headset.

If Duran Carter scored a touchdown against the Bombers, do you think he’d have the balls to walk over to the Winnipeg bench area and try to do to O’Shea what he did to Rick Campbell, head coach of the Ottawa RedBlacks? Not bloody likely. Second question: Why was Campbell on the field when the Montreal Alouettes receiver knocked him on his fanny? If Campbell is where he’s supposed to be, which is to say on the sidelines, nothing happens. Thus, if Carter is suspended, Campbell ought to be fined.

Moving on to the National Hockey League, I note with interest that Evander Kane is in trouble with the law. Again. And it involves women. Again. Tim Murray, who has already suspended his left winger once, is unamused. “It’s not something I like getting up in the morning and reading about, that’s for sure,” the Buffalo Sabres GM says. What part of “bad apple” did Murray not understand when he acquired Kane from the Winnipeg Jets? I don’t know if Kane finds trouble or trouble finds him, but I didn’t think his act would wear thin so soon in Buffalo.

Just wondering: When Milan Lucic says he plans to give the Edmonton McDavids some “swagger,” is he threatening to kill his foes or will he just bust their knee caps if they mess around with Connor McDavid, the NHL’s new ‘it’ guy?

Sammy Semenko
Sammy Semenko

The addition of the hulking Looch to the Edmonton lineup has Wayne Gretzky and Dave (Sammy) Semenko written all over it, right down to sweater No. 27, no doubt still blood-stained from the days when Sammy’s bare knuckles would bust open a few heads. Put Jesse Puljujarvi on the right wing and you’ve got Semenko-Gretzky-Jari Kurri revisited.

If, as many have suggested since they swapped sweaters this week, P.K. Subban is a better defenceman than Shea Weber, why is it that Weber was a big minutes defender on two teams that won Olympic gold for Canada and will be given a similar role in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, while Subban isn’t invited to participate?

Interesting troop movements in the toy department at the Winnipeg Free Press. Out is one of my favorite scribes, Melissa Martin, and in is longtime cops-and-robbers guy Mike McIntyre. The Freep sports section really misses the Ed Tait vibe.

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.

About Ed Tait’s defection…poaching Kirk Penton…abuse of female sports scribes…anonymous comments…and the Winnipeg Sun developing CFL executives

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

Ladies and gentleman, from the department of “Things You Thought You’d Never See,” I give you Ed Tait, once believed to be a newspaper lifer and now the official deliverer of glad tidings for those whacky practitioners of pigskin pratfalls—the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Oh, yes, my main man Eddie has gone over to the dark side of the moon. He is now one of them.

Ed Tait
Ed Tait

No more will readers of the Winnipeg Free Press sports section delight in Tait’s superb-yet-quirky brand of reportage, whereby his detailing of the daily tribulations of the Bombers and Winnipeg Jets was thorough, thoughtful and measured, and also often would include colorful descriptives that made reference to male body parts (read: gonads, cojones), passing gas, cans of whup-ass and bubbles of snot.

Tait has departed the rag trade and now is the exalted Director of Content for all things Blue Bombers on the Canadian Football League club’s website, which means, one supposes, that we’ll be reading not so much about cojones, farting, whup-ass and snot bubbles anymore.

It also means the newspaper business has lost a good one. Check that: It has lost one of the best.

I was privileged to have had a front row seat in Eddie’s evolution from pup reporter with hair to the big dog with a chrome dome. And make no mistake, he was the big dog on the Bombers beat, for both the Freep and the Winnipeg Sun, where he got his start just in time to witness the rarest of the rare—a Grey Cup celebration painted in Blue and Gold. That was more than a quarter century, about three dozen starting quarterbacks, one heart transplant (Cal Murphy), one biker head coach (Jeff Reinebold) and a whole lot of Bob Marley tunes ago.

Other than play-by-play voice Bob (Knuckles) Irving, I don’t suppose anyone has been as tuned in to the Bombers as Tait since that last Grey Cup crusade in 1990, so it makes sense that the deep-thinkers in the ivory tower at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry would want him on board to trumpet their message. It can’t hurt to have the city’s top sports scribe/reporter preaching your version of the gridiron gospel, right?

Does this mean that Tait has sold out? Piffle. You will hear not but favorable natterings about Eddie taking his bon mots to the Big Blue side of town.

I’m convinced he’ll still be delivering the good stuff and, quite frankly, with his hands on the wheel, bluebombers.com quickly will become the go-to destination for the inside word on all issues Blue Bombers. For one thing, he’ll have something that none among the mainstream news scavengers has—uninhibited access to coaches and players. And he’ll know what to do with it. Eddie is in a position to unzip some lips, so perhaps now we’ll actually get to know the athletes on a more personal level, rather than be fed nothing but bland, stock-in-trade sound bites.

This is a huge (Eddie would call it ginormous) win for the Bombers and a huge (ginormous) loss for the Freep and newspapers.

Good on you, Eddie.

fish wrapTait’s is the second significant defection from the Free Press toy department in the past seven months. Earlier, of course, columnist Gary Lawless flew the coop for the bright lights of TSN, although his departure left a void that has been filled seamlessly, comfortably and competently mainly by Paul Wiecek, who, by any measurement, is a much better writer and columnist. The loss of Tait is a different head of lettuce, though. Freep sports boss Steve Lyons can put somebody in his place, but nobody can replace Tait. Unless, that is, Lyons were to poach Kirk Penton from the Sun/Postmedia. That’s what I’d be attempting to do. My guess, however, is that the Freep will operate on the cheap and promote from within.

Interesting piece this week by Wiecek about the abuse heaped upon female sports reporters via social media channels like Twitter. It’s disgraceful. It’s also one of the main reasons I now confine my scribbling to my own blog rather than write for other websites. I control the comments on my blog. If someone wishes to challenge my position on an issue, go for it. We’ll have a discussion. But if he (it’s always a he) can’t do it without making crude references to my body parts that rhyme with the words “bits” and “runt” his voice shall not be heard. It should be about what is written, not whether the writer has a penis or vagina.

Got a kick out of one of the comments that accompanied the Wiecek piece on sexual harassment on social media. A reader wrote: “Anonymous soapboxes are the death of civilized society. I would gladly pay double for my FP subscription if the paper did away with anonymous comments. Remove them altogether, or use real names.” And, naturally, he didn’t use his real name. Unless Graymalkin is his real name.

Say what you will about the Winnipeg Sun, it doesn’t win any National Newspaper Awards but it sure develops top-drawer talent for the CFL. Not only is Ed Tait now the exalted Director of Content for bluebombers.com, but Mike Petrie is entering his fifth season as assistant general manager with the Calgary Stampeders. Both are former Sun sports scribes.

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.

The Bombers like their coach…God does Castillo’s kicking…Tie Domi is an author…the life of Riley…and other things on my mind

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

By most accounts, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers think their head coach, Mike O’Shea, is one swell guy. Great players’ coach. Love playing for him. Believe in him and all that rot.

Jeff Reinebold
Jeff Reinebold

Interesting. That’s what the large lads in pads said about another Big Blue bossman.

Give a listen:

“I thought he was spectacular. To the very last second, 95 per cent of his players would have jumped on a grenade for him.”

“He was charismatic and fun to be around. It was fun for a year and a half. He made it interesting.”

“He made football exciting. I had the best time losing. He made it fun. Every day I looked forward to practice. The guy was something else. I enjoyed playing under him. He added excitement.”

The coach? Jeff Reinebold, who set about the task of almost flushing the franchise down the toilet during his brief, Bob Marley-fueled reign of error as sideline steward of the Canadian Football League club. The players speaking? Troy Westwood, Bob Cameron and Milt Stegall, in that order.

Reinebold’s record was 6-26 before being punted back to his surf board and sunscreen. His clubs failed to qualify for the Grey Cup tournament. O’Shea is 12-24 (7-23 after a 5-1 start in 2014) and, for a second successive season on his watch, the Bombers won’t be participating in the playoff hijinks.

But, hey, everybody likes Mikey.

Has losing become an accepted way of life in Bomberville? I ask that because I see a lot of “Oh, well, stuff happens” body language on the field, and I don’t hear a lot of anger in voices after losses. I mean, here’s what placekicker Sergio Castillo said after flubbing field goal and convert attempts in Winnipeg’s recent loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks: “God knows my misses and my makes already, so those two were going to be misses.” Holy jumpin’ Jesus! The guy gags on two kicks and he’s cool with it because that’s the way his God had it planned? Are you kidding me? Blessed aren’t thou among kickers, Sergio.

For all those who remain convinced that it takes more than a year or two to rebuild a train wreck of a CFL franchise, here are some sobering numbers for you to consider:

cfl stats final

 

There’s one basic reason why the Bombers are unable to do what the Eskimos and RedBlacks have done: The board of directors keeps hiring the wrong people who hire the wrong players.

A quick thought on the Winnipeg Jets’ victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night: Anthony Peluso. Sigh. Yes, I realize he drew a helper on Andrew Copp’s initial National Hockey League goal, but I chalk that up to Blind Squirrel Syndrome. I’m sorry, but the guy belongs in the NHL like I belong in the centrefold of Playboy magazine (does Playboy still have centrefolds?), and that’s the naked truth. (Yes, I agree, that’s a bad pun, but it’s no worse than this headline from the Winnipeg Free Press on Copp’s first tally: Copp arrests goal drought. Groan.)

domi bookTie Domi, author. Who knew? It’s true, though. The former NHL thug, who once dragged his bare knuckles along the ice surface of the old Winnipeg Arena as guard dog for Teemu Selanne, among others, has written a book, Shift Work. According to publishers Simon & Schuster Canada, the former Winnipeg Jets 1.0 ruffian begins a month-long promotional tour of Ontario on Monday and they’re billing it as the “ultimate fan experience.” It includes a 48-foot, double-expandable trailer brimming with memorabilia and “interactive” features, which I believe means Domi will punch out anyone who doesn’t buy his book.

Watched American Pharoah win the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday at Keeneland in Kentucky, and I must say that I haven’t been as enamored by a horse since Secretariat, who left hoofprints on my heart. Comparisons have been made between the two thoroughbreds, but, really, it’s a fool’s task to rate race horses of one era against another. No horse will ever surpass Secretariat for me, but Pharoah surely belongs in any conversation about the all-time greats.

mike riley2These are not the best of times for old friend Mike Riley, first-year coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. More to the point, not many people are happy in Lincoln, where Big Red loyalists are yelping for Riley’s scalp following the Huskers’ embarrassing 55-45 loss to the woeful Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday. Nebraska is now 3-6 and in grave danger of being on the outside looking in when bowl season in American college football commences. As someone who remembers Riley fondly from his days as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it’s painful to see a good man so maligned.

Truly terrific piece by David Sanderson in the Winnipeg Free Press last week on the Dragon Lady, Val Johnston. The old girl (she’s 70) is still teaching kids in Pegtown how to skate properly, and she’s still wearing the same pair of Wifa skates she had custom made more than 50 years ago. You go, girl!

Is it possible to watch Patrick Kane play hockey and not wonder if he raped a woman this past summer? I found it disturbing to see him in the Chicago Blackhawks lineup when they paid a visit to the Little Hockey House on the Prairie for their joust with the Jets last week. Just saying.

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 Blue Bombers: From Brittle Buck to Wonky Willy, the beat(ing) goes on

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Down goes Willy! Down goes Willy! Down goes Willy!

Drew Willy, of course, always gets up and dusts himself off because, as we are reminded ad nauseum, he’s one tough dude. Trouble is, he doesn’t always finish what he starts. That is, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback too often is seen staggering off to the infirmary while his understudies are left to pick up the broken pieces of another fine mess the offensive line has gotten them into.

Such was the case yet again on Sunday afternoon at Timbits Park in Hamilton, where the Tiger-Cats beat up Willy. Then they beat up Brian Brohm. Then they beat up Robert Marve.

Why, I haven’t seen QBs get beat up like this since…well, since the last quarterback to play behind the Blue and Gold O-line. Guy’s name was Pierce. Buck Pierce. Had more owies than the ER at the Health Sciences Centre. Buck was as brittle as a piece of burnt toast. He doesn’t play football anymore, though. He got out before medics had to put a tag on one of his big toes.

Why do you think the Bombers’ starting pivot gets paid such large coin? His wage isn’t based on merit. Willy’s base salary is $100,000. The other $300,000 is danger pay.

I swear, if I’m Willy, I’m marching into general manager Kyle Walters’ office this morning and demanding to renegotiate. I want to cut a better deal. Except Willy can’t march, can he? At best, he can limp after being chased from the fray in the third quarter of Sunday’s skirmish, a 38-8 paddywhacking by the Ticats, who look to be the finest outfit in the eastern precinct of the Canadian Football League.

How bad was the O-line? The Tabbies had seven sacks in all, five in a laughable first half. Cripes, man, Caitlyn Jenner gets better protection than that from her fleet of hangers-on.

That’s not to say this face plant is all on the hogs up front. The Bombers specialty teams did some toe-stubbing, as well. Like on a punt that was partially blocked, and on a botched kickoff return, both plays leading to Ticat TDs as the home side put the game out of reach with a 21-0 advantage seven minutes in.

It was a good, old fashioned mollywhomping. That, at least, is how Milt Stegal described it in the TSN studio once the damage had reached 31-nada. The Bombers were “getting mollywhomped,” he declared, and I didn’t bother to look up the word “mollywhomped” in the dictionary. But I’m sure there’s a pic of a big, ol’ can of whup-ass beside the definition.

I must say, though, I’ve seen worse. Honest. I have. Hey, when you’ve been watching large lads grab grass and growl for more than half a century, you’ve always seen worse.

There was a playoff game in 1996, for example. It was 31-1 at the half. It was 68-7 at the finish. For the other guys. And that was a playoff game. That shameful exercise on a slick, snow-covered patch of earth at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton cost Cal Murphy the one thing he cherished almost as much as his transplanted heart—his job as head coach of the Bombers.

A 55-10 loss in the Banjo Bowl half a dozen years back wasn’t exactly the Mona Lisa, either. Nor was a 52-0 licking in the 2012 Labor Day Classic.

So, sure, the goings-on of Sunday afternoon were ugly. This was Tiger Woods golf game ugly. It was Donald Trump hair ugly. It was Jeff Reinebold head coach ugly. But it was far from the ugliest of the ugly. And ugly won’t even begin to describe what the Bombers will look like if Wonky Willy is unable to start another game he won’t finish due to his gimpy right knee.

Mind you, it doesn’t really matter who takes the snaps, does it. He’s a lamb going to slaughter. Make room in the infirmary for Robert Marve or Brian Brohm.

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: These two Jacks were both aces

Matty was a supreme wordsmith who never, ever mailed it in. His copy was pristine and it sang. He was a writer’s writer who worked at his craft.

Media musings and some other stuff…

Nice touch to name the press box at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry in honor of the two Jacks—Matheson and Wells.

Both Jack Matheson, my first sports editor, and Cactus Jack Wells, the lots-of-yuks broadcaster who never met a multi-syllabic name he couldn’t mangle or a day that didn’t turn out nice, were giants of jock journalism, not just in Winnipeg but on a national scale. I wonder, though: Do the names Matty and Cactus Jack carry any weight with the stable of young sports scribes and talking heads who will occupy Two Jacks Press Box going forward?

I hope so, because there are lessons to be learned from both men.

Matty, left, and Cactus Jack.
Matty, left, and Cactus Jack.

Matty, sports columnist at the Winnipeg Tribune, was a supreme wordsmith who never, ever mailed it in. His copy was pristine and it sang. He was a writer’s writer who worked at his craft. Hard. Matty didn’t write every day (his bride Peggy, aka the LGIW, insisted he take vacation once a year), but few wrote as often and as well. Most important, Matty loved his job, because it wasn’t a job to him.

As for Cactus, he went through life with a wink and a nod. He was fun and he had fun. I think that’s what jock journalists can learn most from this broadcasting legend: Take your job seriously, but not yourself.

ODDS ‘N’ SODS: Since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are 4-1 and joint leaders in the western precinct of the Canadian Football League, I guess I should show some respect and stop calling their digs Football Follies Field in Fort Garry. It seems that the Football Follies boarded the same plane out of town as Joe Mack, Gary Crowton and a cast of quarterbacks who now appear to be in witness protection programs…Interesting how things work out. If the Bombers were still in the East Division, they’d already have a playoff spot locked up…This from Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press on July 25: “Don’t be fooled by the (Bombers) 3-1 record. It’s a mirage.” And this tweet from Gary La La exactly one day later: “So I don’t know if the #bombers are for real on the field.” I assume a loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday will reduce the Bombers to “mirage” status again. Last time I saw flip-flops like this, they were on Jeff Reinebold’s feet…How much fun would Cactus Jack be having with the name Lirim Hajrullahu? I think he could handle Lirim without tripping over either syllable, but I’m pretty sure the Bomber kicker’s last name would be Hallelujah or Hoolahoopa or Highroller…Ed Tait continues to do boffo work for the Freep. His piece on former Bombers linebacker and National Football League wannabe Henoc Muamba is first rate…Read Steve Simmons three-dot column in the Winnipeg Sun this morning, and I must say that Little Stevie Blunder sounds like a bitter and angry old man in his rant against fancy stats in hockey. You don’t like fancy stats, Stevie? Well, here’s an unfancy stat for you: The next time you make a statement, put a period at the end of it, not a question mark…Again, I don’t understand why the Sun runs a column by a Toronto-based scribe who basically tells us everything he dislikes in the world. Here’s today’s scoreboard on the Simmons column: Toronto issues 17, Winnipeg issues 0…Is there any rhyme or reason to when sports columnists Paul Friesen (Winnipeg Sun) and Gary Lawless appear in print? The columnist is the most important read in a sports section. Why do we have to guess when they write?…Steven Stamkos says he wants to play hockey where he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Guess that rules out Canada…If I told you I know someone who’s never smoked pot, never had a tattoo and never taken a selfie, what would you say? I agree. I need to get a life.

WORTH REPEATING: When asked by Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post if Winnipeg deserved a second chance with a National Hockey League franchise, Bobby Hull said

“I don’t think they could afford it. It’s not that they don’t deserve one, but I don’t think they have enough fans, enough corporate businesses, to fund a professional franchise of that magnitude.”

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.