About Sleepy-Eye Joe Mack passing on Mike Reilly…TSN’s continuing love affair with Johnny Rotten…the King of Clay…intrigue in women’s tennis…Secretariat still the greatest…a Capital way to party…the skier and the hockey player…expensive cardboard…and other things on my mind

I cannot survive in a 140- or 280-character world, so here are more tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

It’s Darian Durant’s fault. A pox on his house for taking the money and running to retirement!

No. Wait.

It’s Joe Mack’s fault.

The statute of limitations hasn’t run out on Sleepy-Eye Joe’s stupidity, has it? Nope. So, whenever the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ universe isn’t unfolding as it should, the former general manager and everyone’s favorite whipping boy is still fair game for blame. He’s the reason the Big Blue will begin their 2018 Canadian Football League crusade with a starting quarterback on training wheels.

I mean, think about it.

Mike Reilly

Had Sleepy-Eye Joe reeled in Mike Reilly in 2013, we wouldn’t be talking about Matt Nichols’ wonky wheels and a QB pool that has all the depth of an Archie-Jughead plot line. Well, would we? Reilly, after all, is Marlboro Man rugged, even when he’s wearing one of his funny, little hats. He’s voted annually by his peers as the toughest hombre in the three-down game, and he hasn’t missed a beat due to an owie since the first week of September 2015.

The sad thing is, Mack could have had Reilly for a song.

The sticker price the B.C. Lions listed for Reilly was a swap of second-round picks in the 2013 CFL college draft, plus a second-rounder in ’14. The Edmonton Eskimos were willing to pay it. Mack didn’t even want to kick the tires. Sleepy-Eye Joe remained convinced and confident that Buck Pierce was the answer at quarterback, and his backup plan was putting the legendary Justin Goltz behind centre. Or Max Hall.

As history records, that worked out about as well as New Coke.

To say Pierce was injury prone is to say Bill Gates has a bit of money. When fit enough to actually start a game, they didn’t strap a play chart to Brittle Buck’s left wrist. It was an IV needle. He didn’t survive the first month of the ’13 season, leaving various body parts and what was left of his marbles strewn on the field.

Sleepy-Eye Joe

That QB fiasco, among other things, cost Mack his job generally mismanaging the Bombers, and Pierce finished that season in B.C., from whence he came. He’s now an assistant coach in Pegtown. No word on the whereabouts of Goltz and Hall, but I suspect they’re asking customers if they’d like fries with their Big Macs and Quarter Pounders.

As for Reilly, well, I’m sure you’re familiar with his story after the Eskimos lured him away from the Lions: Grey Cup champion and Grey Cup game most valuable player in ’15; CFL’s most outstanding player in ’17; two-time West Division all-star; one-time league all-star. And, perhaps most significant, Reilly is still with the Eskimos. No drive-thru orders for him. He’ll be barking signals and gutting it out on Thursday night when the Green-and-Gold engage the Bombers in a season-opening frolic at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry.

Reilly remains the ‘what could have been’ and ‘what should have been’ for the Bombers. That’s Sleepy-Eye Joe’s legacy.

Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly

None of the above is meant to disparage Nichols. Hey, he’s a tough dude, too. And he’s a keeper. Trouble is, he’s developed a most curious habit of falling down without being touched. His left leg caved on him in a game last October, and his right leg collapsed in a training session last week. Officially, he’s run out of legs that work properly. This, of course, is where Durant was expected to fit in. The Bombers paid the veteran QB $70,000 up front to serve as a safety net, thus, with Nichols in the repair shop for as few as four weeks and as many as six, it would have been his show. Alas, instead of playing catch with an interesting array of receivers, Durant is at home changing his new-born daughter’s dirty diapers, and the Bombers are unlikely to grovel at the feet of man who jilted them on the eve of training camp and trolled them on Twitter. Would Durant be an upgrade on Alex Ross, Bryan Bennett or Chris Streveler, the three lads who auditioned for the starter’s role on Friday night against the Lions in Vancouver? Naw. When last seen, which is to say with the Montreal Alouettes in 2017, Durant seldom delivered a pass without the football bouncing once or twice before landing at a receiver’s feet. He’s spent.

Welcome to TJMN—The Johnny Manziel Network, formerly known as The Sports Network. Seriously. TSN has gone loopy over Manziel. Last week, following a CFL debut that consisted of nine completed passes and zero points, TSN featured nine—count ’em, nine!—Johnny Rotten videos. One video per completion. Sunday morning, after he was good on a dozen of 20 pass attempts (including a TD toss), there were five more Johnny Rotten videos on the main TSN web page. They also featured something called Johnny Football Watch. All that for a guy who won’t start a game for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats unless Jeremiah Masoli is wounded or implodes.

Winner and still champion on clay, Rafa Nadal.

Can you say undécima, kids? Rafael Nadal can. His 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 paddywhacking of Dominic Thiem in the men’s singles final Sunday was his 11th French Open title, and I can’t think of an athlete—in any sport—who is more dominant than the muscular Rafa on the red clay of Roland Garros. What the Spanish maestro has accomplished in Paris is insane. He’s 86-2. Eighty-freaking-six and two! Nobody goes 86-2. Except the Harlem Globetrotters, and their games are as rigged as a Vegas slot machine. Nadal on clay is a one-off. Never seen anything like him. Never will. (By the way, here’s the answer to the trivia question: Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic are the only two men to have beaten Nadal at Roland Garros.)

Simona Halep

The Big Four in men’s tennis is no more, but the Big Two remains. While Andy Murray is MIA and Djokovic is trying to sort out things in his head, if not other parts of his body, the younger generation of hot-shot racqueteers can’t kick Nadal or Roger Federer to the curb. Each of the 30somethings has won three of the past six Grand Slam championships and, Federer’s allergy to red clay notwithstanding, there’s no sign of surrender in either man. One suspects Wimbledon will be another episode in the Rafa-and-Roger show. All of which means the distaff side of tennis is much more intriguing. Check it out: In the past six GS tournaments, there have been six different champions—Serena Williams, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep. Wimbledon will be another complete crapshoot, even if a healthy Williams joins the field.

Secretariat romping to the wire in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

On the subject of great champions, 45 years to the day that Secretariat completed horse racing’s Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes, Justify romped wire-to-wire at Belmont to become the 13th Triple Crown winner. But let’s provide some perspective. Justify ran the mile and a half in 2:28.18 on Saturday. Secretariat did it in 2:24.0 in 1973. In other words, Secretariat would have beaten Justify by more than 20 lengths. Big Red’s Belmont victory (he won by 31 lengths) remains the single greatest sporting achievement I have witnessed.

Perhaps Damien Cox would prefer it if the Washington Capitals partied like Canadian women.

Starring in the role of grumpy grandpa this week is Toronto Star and Sportsnet gasbag Damien Cox. On the heels of the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup conquest of the Vegas Golden Knights, Alex Ovechkin and the boys have been tooting about in full celebratory mode, carousing and fussing and sharing the moment with the rabble on the streets of D.C. Oh, they’ve also been drinking. How positively scandalous. And that just won’t do in Damien’s delicate, little world. There’s no room for random, unharnessed merriment. Or booze. “Rafael Nadal won his ELEVENTH French Open today,” Cox tweeted in a pious, tsk-tsking tone Sunday morning. “No video yet of him drunkenly rolling around in a public fountain because apparently some believe that’s how champions should behave.” Well, excuuuuuse the Capitals for having fun. I wonder if Damien Cox awakens some mornings and regrets being Damien Cox.

P.K. Subban and Lindsey Vonn

Social Note: It must be spring because sports power couples keep popping up. Not so long ago, noted flinger of footballs Aaron Rodgers and fast-car driver Danica Patrick were observed canoodling in public, and now it’s hockey’s diving diva, P.K. Subban, and Lindsey Vonn, glam gal of the ski slopes and one-time main squeeze of golfer Tiger Woods. Don’t know if going from putters to pucks is a dating step up or a step down for Vonn, but she probably won’t get any late-night calls from P.K. asking for bail money. (For the record, my fave sports power couple is Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe, with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi a close second.)

I note that a Connor McDavid rookie card recently sold at auction for $55,655. That’s a lot of coin for a small hunk of cardboard. But it made me wonder if kids still stick trading cards in the spokes of their bike wheels. Better question: Do kids still ride bikes, or are they too busy texting each other?

Serena Williams

Zero female athletes appeared on the Forbes list of the top 100 money-makers in sports for the first time, but we shouldn’t be surprised. The annual Forbes 100 is based on earnings from June to June, a period of almost total inactivity in 2017-18 for Serena Williams, who slotted in at No. 51 a year ago with total income of $27 million. Her haul this time around was $18M, all via endorsement deals. Maria Sharapova, meanwhile, once was a regular on the Forbes 100, but, after being caught with her hand in the illegal-drug jar, some sponsors abandoned her and she has yet to return to championship form. Sharapova is hardly a pauper, though. Her estimated worth is well in excess of $100 million.

And, finally, an interesting albeit indelicate quote from the elegant Garbine Muguruza, who, after routing the equally elegant Sharapova, 6-2, 6-1, in the French Open, described the five-time Grand Slam champion as “an old-time player.” Ouch. Sharapova just turned 31.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Wade Miller started the train wreck, but he’ll be the last man standing

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

Wade Miller
Wade Miller

Let’s not sugar coat this. Someone has to lose a job. Pronto.

Start with Wade Miller. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers board of directors went all-in on their Chief Executive Officer the day they put his hands on the till in the summer of 2013. It didn’t matter that he had zero experience operating a Canadian Football League outfit. Surely, he couldn’t do more damage than Garth Buchko, right? And, hey, he played the game. Thus it was Miller time in Pegtown.

Alas, Miller’s inexperience surfaced almost immediately, when he hired the wrong guy, who then hired the wrong guy, who then hired the wrong guys.

Miller’s “exhaustive” search for the right man to generally manage the Winnipeg Football Club was laughable. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and submit he might have picked up his phone once or twice and made a long-distance call or two, but basically his GM hunt started and ended with a stroll down the hall at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, whereupon he poked his head into Kyle Walters’ office and said, “The job’s yours if you want it,” then retreated to his own bunker.

That was Miller’s idea of a “full search.” Cripes, man, I’d wager he travels further to order a Quarter Pounder and large fries. Seriously, it was the laziest manhunt since O.J. swore he’d find the real killers.

So now the Bombers had a rookie CEO and a rookie GM tasked with the chore of mopping up the mess defrocked general manager Joe Mack had left behind. What better way to accomplish the cleanup than to bring in another greenhorn, right? Enter rookie Mike O’Shea, the filmaholic head coach whose 41-game sideline stewardship has been notable for failure, his quarterback blindness/stubbornness and his penchant for firing every coordinator he’s hired.

I suppose the Greenhorn Three could be forgiven rookie mistakes when they were, in fact, rookies. You know, growing pains and all that rot. But what’s the excuse today?

The Bombers were given yet another wedgie on Thursday night, and simple math indicates that someone ought to be out of work post haste. Their uninspiring, 33-18 loss in a skirmish with the Calgary Stampeders was the fourth of this 2016 crusade, against one success, but that 1-4 log provides just a glimpse of the big picture.

Overall, Walters is 15-38 and O’Shea is 13-28. Even more damning for the head coach is his record since a 5-1 start in 2014: 8-27. That’s positively Reineboldian!

So, where does the buck stop? At Wade Miller’s desk? At Kyle Walters’s desk? In Mike O’Shea’s film room? At offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice’s playbook? At quarterback Drew (One Hop) Willy’s changing stall?

Miller isn’t going anywhere, not as long as the bottom line on the financial statement is written in black ink (mind you, approximately 9,000 unoccupied seats at each of the last two home dates probably provides pause). Similarly, it’s unlikely that either Walters or O’Shea will be dismissed in advance of the Bombers’ next assignment, on Thursday night in Edmonton. LaPolice is safe with his plink-and-plunk offence, if only because O’Shea cannot continue to blame others for his own misgivings.

Which means…that’s right, Drew Willy is the first sacrificial lamb.

I don’t know if someone working at a higher pay scale will have to force his hand, but O’Shea really has no choice but to fire his quarterback. If he goes against the Eskimos with One Hop Willy at the controls, O’Shea is signing his own pink slip. He’s surrendering to the inevitable. And he’ll be next out the door. Followed by Walters.

My prediction: The last man standing will be Wade Miller, the guy who started the train wreck by hiring the wrong guy, who hired the wrong guy, who hired the wrong guys.

Kyle Walters
Kyle Walters

Here are the gory details of the Miller-Walters-O’Shea era compared to their predecessors:

General manager Joe Mack: 21-39
General manager Kyle Walters: 15-38
Head coach Paul LaPolice: 16-28
Head coach Tim Burke: 7-21
Head coach Mike O’Shea: 13-28

Interesting point made by Bombers running back Andrew Harris on the heels of the loss to Calgary. Harris, who was with the B.C. Lions when they stubbed their toes and came out of the gate at 0-5 in 2011, noted that the Leos recovered and hoisted the Grey Cup that November. So, sure, it’s doable. Except the Lions had Wally Buono as a GM, not Kyle Walters. They had Wally Buono as a head coach, not Mike O’Shea. They had a healthy Travis Lulay as a starting quarterback, not One Hop Willy.

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 throwing a No Hoper instead of a Hail Mary…the Winnipeg Blue Bombers firing and hiring coaches…yellow hankies…and BMO field

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

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are trailing the Edmonton Eskimos by four points. They’re scrimmaging on the visitors’ 42-yard stripe. Seven ticks remain on the clock, just enough time to go all-in. Quarterback Drew Willy has no choice but to fling the football into the end zone. He must, he must, he must, he must.

Except he doesn’t. Instead of a Hail Mary, Willy, master of the one-hopper, throws a No Hoper.

Game, set and wedgie No. 3 for the Bombers in a Canadian Football League crusade that is resembling a toboggan ride after just four starts.

It mattered not that Willy’s final delivery in the Bombers’ latest toe-stubber arrived at the wrong address, which is to say it was picked off by Neil King of the Eskimos. It’s important to note that, even had the Winnipeg quarterback’s intended target, Darvin Adams, latched on to the ball, he would have been hauled down shy of the desired destination. He was surrounded by five—count ’em, five—guys wearing green-and-gold linen just inside the 10-yard stripe.

Is that poor quarterbacking? Why toss the ball to a guy who has no chance of scoring? Is it poor coaching? Who calls a last-gasp play that doesn’t send every receiver into the end zone? Is it poor receiving? Why didn’t Adams battle for the ball?

This is the Bomber way, though. This is why the sound track to their 20-16 beatdown by the Eskimos at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry on Thursday night was a chorus of boos, many of them showered upon the deep ball-challenged Willy and others directed at sideline steward Mike O’Shea, who, should there not be an about face in fortune for his band of misfits, might not have much more game film to critique.

Oh, yes, howls for the head coach’s hide shall assume a higher pitch in the coming days.

Let’s play role reversal. Let’s say it was the Eskimos, not the Bombers, with one shot from the 42-yard stripe to win. Does Edmonton QB Mike Reilly hurl the football into the end zone for the decisive points, or does he toss it 10 yards short and hope like hell there’s an interference penalty? I’ll ask a simpler question: Does the Pope wear pointy hats?

I don’t know about you, but every time I watch Reilly beat the Bombers (which is always and, apparently, forever) I can’t help but think of Joe Mack, the much-maligned man who generally mismanaged the local football heroes before he was kicked to the curb in favor of the men who today generally mismanage the Bombers. Mack could have had Reilly for a song. The Eskimos got him for a second-round draft pick instead. Nice job, Joe.

Paul LaPolice
Paul LaPolice

It isn’t about who you fire, it’s about who you hire to replace those you’ve fired. For those of us keeping score at home, here’s what the last round of hiring and firing has done for the Bombers…

General manager Joe Mack (fired):      21-39
General manager Kyle Walters (hired): 15-37

Head coach Paul LaPolice (fired): 16-28
Head coach Time Burke (fired):      7-21
Head coach Mike O’Shea (hired):  13-27

Football is a challenging game, but I say it’s time they took the yellow hankies away from the CFL’s sideline stewards. That is, there are far too many coach’s challenges, so many, in fact, that O’Shea doesn’t know what he can or cannot challenge. He took a delay-of-game penalty for challenging the unchallengeable in the third quarter. I agree, a head coach ought to know the rules. But, remember, this is a coach who doesn’t tell his offensive co-ordinator to tell his quarterback to throw the ball into the end zone when the game hangs in the balance.

With the Bombers saluting legendary QB Kenny Ploen by adding his name to the Ring of Honour at halftime, I couldn’t help but wonder if any among the current crop of local football heroes might one day see his name added to the collection of greats, which now includes just Ploen and Chris Walby but shall be nine strong by season’s end. Couldn’t think of a soul. Especially not One Hop Willy.

Noting Ploen’s induction to the Roll of Honour, a friend observed, “They sure don’t make quarterbacks like they used to.” To which I replied, “Not true. They do make quarterbacks like they used to. It’s just that none of them play for the Bombers.”

Just wondering: Was BMO Field in the Republic of Tranna half empty or half full when the Argonauts fell flat against the Ottawa RedBlacks on Wednesday night? Officially, the head count was 12,373. But I swear I’ve seen more circus clowns crawl out of a Volkswagen. Just saying.

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.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: The Teflon Triumverate is making Miller time look an awful lot like Mack time

Wade Miller isn’t going anywhere because…well, just because.

Kyle Walters isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller says so.

Mike O’Shea isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller told Kyle Walters to say so.

But, hey, when a team sucks as badly today as it did two years ago (to the day) when Miller became the official grand poobah of all things Winnipeg Blue Bombers, somebody has to take the fall. Actually, you can make that somebodies. Plural.

For those of you keeping score at home, what ails the Winnipegs is Joe Mack’s fault. Gary Crowton’s fault. Tim Burke’s fault. Gary Etcheverry’s fault. Pat Tracey’s fault. Marcel Bellefeuille’s fault. There’s possibly some blame to lay at the feet of Buzz and Boomer, as well.

The nasty stuff, meanwhile, fails to stick to the Teflon Triumverate of Miller, Walters and O’Shea, who have taken a 3-15 outfit that failed to qualify for the Canadian Football League playoffs in 2013 and transformed it into a 5-13 outfit that, once again, is on the outside looking in as the Grey Cup tournament commences this weekend.

Nice work if you can get it.

The thing is, the Teflon Triumverate finds itself in the most enviable position of working for mostly non-football-savvy bosses who no longer harbor an appetite for paying people not to work. Thus, there shall be no blood-letting by the board of directors. Not at the moment.

Apparently, the only man willing to wield an axe is O’Shea, the off-with-their-heads head coach.

Once upon a time there was a shop in downtown Winnipeg called the Man with the Axe. It was a discount men’s clothing store. Now it’s where other CFL teams shop for discontinued coaches. I mean, if there is a defining measure (other than wins and losses) of O’Shea’s two-year sideline stewardship, it is his penchant for firing the men he has hired. He’s whacked three co-ordinators in less than a year. Etcheverry, responsible for the defensive dozen, was the first to go last December. Next on the chopping block was special teams CO Tracey, in September. Now offensive CO Bellefeuille is gone, just when I’d finally learned to spell his name without looking it up.

That isn’t a coaching staff O’Shea is operating. It’s a McDonald’s drive-thru.

But, hey, he learned at the knee of the whack master himself, chief executive officer Miller. On his first day on the job as “acting” CEO, Miller whacked much-maligned general manager Joe Mack. On his second day as permanent CEO, he whacked head coach Tim Burke.

Welcome to Whack-a-Mole, Blue Bombers version.

It’s fair, two years after the fact, to assess the workings of Miller as CEO of the once-proud Winnipeg Football Club, and I find myself asking this: Exactly what has he done?

Miller’s first order of business was to hire a general manager and a head coach. He promised an “exhaustive” search for a GM. He would leave no stone on the North American football landscape unturned. As if. All he did was walk down the hall to Walters’ office and say something like, “Yo! Kyle! It’s about that exhaustive search thing I promised our fans. I can’t really be bothered. Too much of a hassle. I know you don’t have any experience, but the job’s yours if you want it. By the way, I’m hungry. Could you whip over to the nearest McDonald’s and get me some burgers?”

Nothing Miller has done on the football side (we won’t talk about the Heritage Classic hockey or stadium fiascos) has worked. Not Walters. Not O’Shea. The Teflon Triumverate is 12-24 in two crusades. Thus, it’s perhaps appropriate to revisit something he said shortly after his anointment as CEO.

“I’m not afraid to prove myself and let my results speak for myself,” he said. “That’s my calling card…so we’re going to bring it.”

All he’s brought is more misery for Bombers Nation.

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: 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.