A helpful guide to political correctness for 21st century sports scribes and broadcasters

I feel sorry for scribes and broadcasters covering the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.

I mean, they’re working without a net. Political correctness is running at a faster gallop than Usain Bolt and, coupled with a language landscape that has changed dramatically this century, they no longer know what is safe to say and write. That’s why, barely into the second week of the Games, media already have issued more mea culpas than Donald Trump’s apologists. Someone’s ox is always being gored and the jock journalists can’t tell all the special-interest groups without a program.

Well, I like to think of myself as a helpful sort, so I’ve begun to piece together a new, politically correct style guide for the news scavengers in Rio de Janeiro and, indeed, for those here at home, just so they know what no longer is acceptable.

Let’s begin with some time-worn cliches and phrases. Use any of the following and you’re sure to put someone’s knickers in a knot (and, remember, this is just a start)…

politically correct style guidBeggars can’t be choosers: Never use this phrase. It marginalizes the homeless. Most of them choose not to beg, but those who do choose to beg have their reason. You don’t have to agree with the reason—you don’t even have to know the reason—just leave the homeless out of it.

Life is a one-way street: Totally homophobic.

That’s a horse of a different color: Clearly racist. What does it matter what color the horse is?

Life is just a bowl of cherries: This can be perceived as a derogatory comment about a group of women who have yet to lose their virginity.

He’s in the driver’s seat: No, no, no, no, no. Women drive, too, and god forbid if you ever call in to question their ability behind a steering wheel. Nobody is in the driver’s seat. Ever.

They’re behind the 8-ball: Being behind the 8-ball carries a negative connotation. The 8-ball is black. Do the math.

He goes both ways: You might think you’re talking about a football player who plays both offence and defence, but someone is guaranteed to think you’re outing a bisexual athlete. Never out a gay or a bisexual athlete. Especially the men.

They control their own destiny: This will upset the gospel sharks who are convinced that their God controls all things and all people. They will remind you that all things are an act of God. Even game-winning field goals.

It was a clean sweep: Never use this phrase when referencing a women’s team, unless you want to do your own cooking and cleaning when you get home.

It’s a Cinderella story: That suggests it’s all about the shoes. More female-targeted sexism from male journalists.

Boys will be boys: What about Caitlyn Jenner?

He’s a real work horse: You want the people from PETA knocking on your door? Nothing will get them running faster than a suggestion that an animal is being used for anything other than petting. Animals are meant to be layabouts, don’t you know?

Let sleeping dogs lie: Go for it. This will make the PETA people happy. Then, again, it will likely alienate cat lovers, who’ll cry prejudice and insist that their kitties be considered equal-opportunity layabouts.

That’s his bread and butter: Promoting poor eating habits is a no-no. Generous helpings of bread and butter is an okay diet for sports writers, and I’ve seen enough of you scribes to know you’ve made a visit or three to the McDonald’s drive-thru. It’s okay for you to be soft around the middle, but dietitians will have your scalp (which is another phrase one never should use) if you talk up the benefits of bread and butter for athletes.

He’s a meat-and-potatoes guy: Oh, sure, tick off the vegetarians.

They’re feeling each other out: Oh my. What will the children think if they learn that grownups are feeling each other out? They’ll be scarred for life. Either that, or little Johnny will think it gives him license to cop a feel from little Suzie in the schoolyard.

It’s nip-and-tuck: Hey, plastic surgeons are people, too. They don’t want their serious skills to be trivialized into a sports cliche about a close game. They have feelings, even if that botox injection numbs the feeling in your face.

It’s a real barn-burner: Can you say KKK, kids?

That’ll put a few more grey hairs on his head: It’s acceptable to use this phrase when discussing men. There’s nothing wrong with some snow on the mountaintop. It doesn’t mean the coach can no longer think straight. At worst, it means he needs a little dab of Just For Men. If, however, you’re talking about a woman and grey hair, it’s ageism.

His coming-out party: Not a phrase to be used for male athletes. We know there are no openly gay men in any sports league that truly matters to the beer-swilling, belching lumps who sit on bar stools. But mention of a coming-out party tends to make the closeted gays antsy. Numerous gay female athletes have had their sexual coming-out parties, but since men only write about women’s sports once every four years, they probably haven’t noticed all the lesbians.

A pretty Penny: Holy sexism, Batgirl! Don’t even think of going here. Pennys aren’t to be told that they’re pretty. Not at any age. If you have to write about an athlete named Penny, change her name to something that is non-punable so tabloids can’t use it for a cheesy play-on-words.

Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public: Even though it’s been documented that many men (usually bachelors) wash their dirty laundry in those convenient places we call laundromats, radical feminists shall insist that this is yet one more example of sexist stereotyping.

She’s the (insert male athlete’s name) of her sport: Write or say this and you’re on your own, pal. And I shouldn’t have to explain why.

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.


Chelsea Carey’s Scotties championship was a made-in-Manitoba moment

Random thoughts and observations from a couch potato after a week watching the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts from Grande Prairie, Alta….

A commercial that played on TSN during the Scotties was a promo for the province of Manitoba, finishing with the tag line “Canada’s Heart…Beats.”

They might want to change that slogan to: “Manitoba…where lady curlers rock!”

Chelsea Carey
Chelsea Carey

I mean, there have been some lean sporting times in the Keystone Province. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven’t won the Grey Cup this century and the Jets didn’t even exist for the first 10 years of the century (and, much like their football kin, all they do is lose).

The one undeniable and enduring source of sporting pride has been Toba’s curlers, most notably the women, starting with Jennifer Jones and her Olympic champion gal pals from the St. Vital Curling Club. But now we’ve also got Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson in the mix. The 2014 (Carey), ’15 (Jones) and ’16 (Einarson) queens of Toba curling claimed three of the four playoff perches at the Canadian women’s championship tournament. Never happened before. Not likely to happen again.

Oh, sure, I realize Carey now calls Wild Rose Country home, but that does nothing to disturb the reality that the freshly minted Canadian champion was weaned on the pebbled freezes of Winnipeg.

I like to think of Chelsea as a loaner to Alberta, not a keeper. I want her back one day.

  • You’ll have to excuse me for root, root, rooting for Chelsea Carey to win the Scotties, which she and her Calgary-based outfit did Sunday night. It’s personal. Her dad, Dan, and her Uncle Bill were childhood friends of mine. The former Brier champions lived across the back lane on Chelsea Avenue and I was on Melbourne in East Kildonan. Uncle Bill and I got into a scrape or two, as I recall, but nothing serious.
  • I don’t know if it’s my imagination of not, but it seems to me that the girls at the Scotties have more fun than the guys at the Brier. There’s a lot more laughter.
  • No disrespect to Jenn Hanna and her Ottawa outfit, who seem like lovely, young ladies and clearly earned their place in this field, but a Scotties without the Rachel Homan team is like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods when he was the world’s premier golfer.
  • After watching an interview with the thoughtful Hanna, I realized how much I miss talking to curlers. Of all the athletes I covered during my 30 years in mainstream jock journalism, none were more obliging, accommodating and genuine than curlers.
  • Can’t get enough of Amy Nixon, the Alberta third. She’s a delightful bundle of high-octane energy.
Bryan Mudryk and Cathy Gauthier
Bryan Mudryk and Cathy Gauthier
  • It’s 9:30 a.m., Bryan Mudryk. Do you know what broadcast booth you’re supposed to be in? The TSN announcer, who works so well in concert with Cathy Gauthier (another great Manitoba curler), went to the wrong booth for the opening draw on Thursday morning. Wake up, sleepy head. And maybe hit the pillow a wee bit earlier at night.
  • I really enjoy the self-deprecating humor Mudryk and Gauthier inject into their gab gig.
  • Name a sport, any sport, and you won’t find a better broadcasting crew than TSN’s Vic Rauter, Cheryl Bernard and Russ Howard. There’s a folksy charm to their banter, especially between Vic and Russ, and Howard has perfected the art of being brutally honest without being brutal.
  • I never get tired of watching Jennifer Jones’s final shot to win the 2005 Scotties. It still gives me goose bumps.
  • So nice to see Vic Peters in the house at Revolution Place. Vic, a former Brier champion, is Manitoba second Liz Fyfe’s pop and he tends to stand or wander on his own when his girl is playing, something Gauthier noted when the TSN cameras caught up with him one morning. “There he is with all his friends,” she joked as Vic stood surrounded by unoccupied seats. “I love Vic.” Everybody loves Vic Peters, truly one of the nicest people on this planet.
  • My favorite line from the tournament was delivered by Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell, who was greeted with nothing but silence when talking to her third, Ashley Howard, at a critical juncture in one game. “I was waiting for you to say something,” Campbell said to Howard. “It’s like talking to my husband.” That’s the beauty of live mics on the curlers. It’s so real.
  • Karen Sagle and Brit O'Neill
    Karen Sagle and Brit O’Neill

    Love the ‘do on Ontario third Brit O’Neill. That’s some kind of funky hair.

  • Unless I missed it, it went without mention that O’Neill is one of two openly gay women to participate in the 2016 Scotties. She’s partners with Ontario lead Karen Sagle in life and at the curling rink. If there was a husband-wife combo on a team in the national mixed championship I’m certain it would be worth noting, so why wouldn’t TSN advise viewers that O’Neill and Sagle are a couple?
  • Hey, they freed the nipple! The morning after a minor tempest arose about curling moms having to go off-site to breast feed their wee ones, Scotties organizers arranged for a special breastfeeding area for the curlers at Revolution Place. Nice touch, but there should have been a spot for the moms from the get-go. Talk about boobs. Hopefully, that’s already in the plans for the world women’s championship next month in Swift Current. Must keep those future curling champs well nourished!
  • Speaking of milking it, it’s about Bryan Mudryk and nicknames. If you want to hang a nickname on a lady curler, Bryan, it’s probably not a good idea to include the word “Slasher.” Mudryk took to calling P.E.I. skip Suzanne Birt the “Island Assassin” early in the tournament, and he wondered if the handle would stick. Nope. Not after he mistakenly called her the “Island Slasher.”
  • I felt so sorry for Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell when she missed her final shot, a seemingly routine hit-and-stick, against Alberta on Thursday night. It was so jaw-dropping in its sudden-deathness. I wept for her. Literally.
  • Is anyone a fan of the relegation system at the Scotties? I’m not. Under no circumstances should provinces like B.C. and New Brunswick be required to participate in a pre-tournament mini-tournament to gain entry.
  • If Chelsea Carey and her Alberta team hadn’t won Sunday night’s final against Krista McCarville and her gal pals from Thunder Bay, I would be demanding a Parliamentary inquiry. That isn’t meant as a slight to Northern Ontario, but the girls from Wild Rose Country were the top outfit in the field, from start to finish.

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.