The River City Renegade


Leave a comment

About the Secretariat of clay court tennis…a delight named Jelena…time for Chevy to get to work…and angry, old Grandpa Simmons is shaking his fist at clouds again

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

Let’s make something perfectly clear: Stan Wawrinka is very, very good and what he does.

Unless your name is Roger Federer, Stan the Man is the best tennis talent ever produced in Switzerland. He is just one successful Wimbledon fortnight short of a career Grand Slam, having already claimed the singles titles at the Australian, French and U.S. Opens. He is ranked No. 3 among all racqueteers on the third rock from the sun.

Yet Rafael Nadal made No. 3 look like No. 303 in the men’s final at the French Open on Sunday in Paris.

It was like watching Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. Seriously, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1? In the championship match of a Grand Slam tournament? We haven’t seen a rout like that since Custer threw down on Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn. Or at least since Rafa paddywhacked Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2008 championship match at Roland Garros.

But that’s what Rafa Nadal does. Put him on a tennis court made of clay and you have Secretariat.

Rafa Nadal

The wedgie Rafa delivered to Wawrinka on Sunday reminded me of something Yogi Berra mused about Sandy Koufax, scant seconds after the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander had whiffed 15 New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series:

I can see how he won 25 games,” said Yogi, the Yankees catcher. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

It’s the same with Rafa Nadal. He’s won the title at Roland Garros 10 times, collecting 79 victories against two losses. How in the name of Philippe Chatrier did he lose twice?

Robin Soderling (2009) and Novak Djokovic (2015) are the only foes to vanquish Rafa on the red clay of Roland Garros, and I have to assume French Open officials demanded that both men pee in a bottle immediately after their matches. I mean, you don’t beat Nadal in Paris unless there’s something funny in your drinking water.

Most people go to Paris for the food, the wine, the art, the culture and the romance. Nadal goes to search and destroy. He’s relentless, ruthless and has the steely-eyed focus of an assassin.

Wawrinka mentioned something about playing Rafa on a clay court being the stiffest challenge in tennis, and evidence supports that notion. Nadal has lost only twice at Roland Garros. In 13 years. He’s 102-2 in best-of-five matches on clay.

But Wawrinka is also selling the Spaniard short. It isn’t just tennis. Playing Rafael Nadal on clay is the greatest challenge in the entirety of sports.

Jelena Ostapenko

There’s hope for the future of women’s tennis, and her name is Jelena Ostapenko, the Latvian lass whose dashing and daring ruled the day at Roland Garros. The winners and unforced errors come in equal number from Ostapenko, but once she brings her service game up to the level of her groundstrokes (she hits her forehead harder than world No. 1 Andy Murray) the 20-year-old will become the face of the ladies’ game the moment Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova take their permanent leave. It isn’t just her substantial game, though. It’s her winning personality. On court, Ostapenko bares her emotions, off court she is the very picture of wide-eyed innocence, often giggling like a schoolgirl and forever smiling. She’s an absolute delight.

While watching the French Open this past fortnight, I found myself wondering this: How did Steffi Graf, Chrissie Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and other legendary ladies’ champions win all those Grand Slam titles without the orgasmic shrieking and grunting that we hear today?

I heard a rumor that the National Hockey League season is over. If that’s true, someone give Kevin Cheveldayoff a nudge and tell the Winnipeg Jets general manager to “wakey, wakey.” It’s time for him to go to work.

I note that Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press has been tabbed for induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Roll of Honour in October. Good choice. Wiecek is the best sports columnist the Drab Slab has featured since Hal Sigurdson signed off in 1996, even when he’s writing about rock climbing.

Steve Simmons has become the Jose Bautista of sports writing: Tedious, tiresome and time to move on. I mean, it’s one thing for a columnist to be opinionated and rub the rabble the wrong way. That’s a large part of the gig. And Simmons surely has mastered the art of getting up noses with his alphabet farts that appear on sports pages of Postmedia sheets from one flank of the True North to the other. But…the Toronto Sun scribe has grown increasingly nasty and mean-spirited, if not cruel, in his commentary. He is Grandpa Simmons, shaking his fists at clouds and screaming at kids to get the hell off his lawn. A case in point is Simmons’ take on mixed doubles competition in Grand Slam tennis. When our girl Gabriela Dabrowski advanced to the mixed doubles final of the French Open last week, Mark Masters of TSN delivered this tweet: “No Canadian woman has won a mixed doubles grand slam title. Ottawa’s @GabyDabrowski has a chance to change that on Thursday.” To which Simmons responded: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” I’m not sure if that was supposed to be funny, witty or clever, but it was none of the above. It was classless, tacky and totally unnecessary, as were a series of insensitive follow-up tweets belittling Dabrowski’s and partner Rohan Bopanna’s achievement.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Simmons is pooh-poohing yet another event in sports. It’s become his shtick. Last year he was “bothered” by the selection of Rosie MacLennan as Canada’s flag-bearer for the Olympic Games in Rio, because trampoline is “a marginal pursuit” that “seems more backyard and gimmicky that it does Olympian.” He’s also advocated the elimination of women’s hockey at the Olympics, writing: “Women’s hockey is the least competitive, least interesting, least Olympic of all sports in the Winter Games. There should be a cry to end this Olympic charade of imbalance.” And he once told the Ryerson Review of Journalism that “I don’t believe there’s a demand from the public for women’s sports.” I’ll remind you that he writes for a newspaper that’s best known for the tits and ass it displays on Page 3 and, to this day, continues to objectify women with its Sunshine Girl.

Thanks to a study by neuroscientist Tara Swart, we now know what we’ve suspected all along: Journalists’ brains function at a sub-par level. For evidence, see: Simmons, Steve. (See, I can stoop to gratuitous, mean-spirited and nasty comments, too. You know, just like a real sports columnist at a real big-city newspaper.)

Patti Dawn Swansson has been scribbling about Winnipeg sports for 47 years, which means she’s old and probably should think about getting a life.


3 Comments

Red Cards and Yellow Cards to you, you, you and my own self

rooftop riting biz card back sideThe World Cup is in the rear view mirror, but that doesn’t mean we have to put away the red and yellow cards. Matter of fact, I’m going to my pocket because there are some people who need to be carded…

RED CARD: To Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun/Sun Media.

I have often red-carded Little Stevie Blunder because he is, perhaps, the most red-cardable jock journalist in the land. To err is human, but this Sun scribe is never wrong. Just ask him.

I did that very thing once upon a time. Little Stevie had written that the Minnesota Vikings never were champions of the National Football League. I sent him an email, suggesting he might be mistaken.

“The Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, but did they not win the final NFL title prior to the merger with the American Football League?” I inquired. “I’m looking at the official NFL record book as I write, and it lists Minnesota as the 1969 NFL champion. Is the official NFL record book wrong, or are you wrong?”

Well, didn’t that just ruffle his not-so-pretty plummage?

Little Stevie’s response was quite snotty. Basically, he told me I was a ditz who didn’t know pigskin from porcelain and I shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of his high-and-mighty huffing and puffing. Without saying the NFL record book was wrong, he said it was wrong.

So now we have Little Stevie playing loose with history once again, this time in Major League Baseball.

Sitting to the host’s right on TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge this past Sabbath, Little Stevie went into full bluster and told us this about Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers sensational southpaw: “His last eight starts, two no-hitters, five earned runs.”

Kershaw has one no-hitter in his entire career, not two in eight starts.

Normally, a foul of this nature would warrant only a yellow card, but Simmons gets a red card because he’s so arrogant.

pegsunRED CARD: To the Winnipeg Sun.

Why does PegSun run Little Stevie Blunder’s three-dot columns on Sundays? Too much of it is Toronto-centric. In his most-recent piece, Simmons offered 14 opinions on Tranna athletes/issues compared to just one about Winnipeg. Does anyone in River City actually care about the Raptors and the naming of a Scarborough street after Peter Zezel?

Why doesn’t PegSun have one of its own people do the column? Like Paul Friesen. Or a freelancer who’d make the thing more Peg-centric.

RED CARD: To Kevin Klein, grand poobah of MyToba.ca.

I’m sure Klein has some boffo ideas, because the MyToba.ca website is quite good. But his campaign to have Dancing Gabe Langlois inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame is not among his boffo notions. It is, in fact, a really, really dumb idea.

Klein made his plea in a May column on MyToba.ca, and asked folks to sign a petition in support. Two months later, he has 157 of his targeted 10,000 signatures.

Take the hint, Kevin: Take the story down from your website.

YELLOW CARD: To Gary (La La) Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Gary La La engaged Dave Reid in one of those staged, to-and-fro chin-wags in which both voices talk loud and, often, at the same time on TSN’s That’s Hockey. Their debate focused on the merits of having either Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets or Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators as the centrepiece of your National Hockey League franchise.

“Leadership?” Gary La La said in summation. “You could slap the C on Jacob Trouba in Winnipeg right now and no one would blink.”

Yo! La La! I’m pretty certain Andrew Ladd would blink as they ripped the C off his sweater.

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

Jets GM Kevin Takethedayoff

YELLOW CARD: To Jets left winger Evander Kane and general manager Kevin (Takethedayoff) Cheveldayoff.

These two need to spend some time on Planet Pinocchio. Here’s why: When Kane arrives at training camp (on time but probably not soon enough for the naysayers), the news scavengers will be circling, They will be hungry. They will be prepared to pick at his bones. This will be their first volley:

“Do you want to be here in Winnipeg, Evander?”

This will be the central theme throughout training exercises—and into the NHL season—unless the polarizing player and the pulseless GM stop talking in circles about Kane’s life expectancy with the Jets.

Kane and Cheveldayoff need to do what most hockey people do—lie. The next time Kane is asked if he’s happy in Pegtown, he must say, “Yes.” When Cheveldayoff is asked if he is attempting to peddle his sometimes petulant player’s posterior to the highest bidder, he must say, “No.”

You and I will know both their noses are growing and their pants are on fire, but their big, fat fibs ought to curb the controversy. We then can move on to more pressing training camp issues. Like the size of Dustin Byfuglien’s girth.

YELLOW CARD: To local newsies for sticking their microphones and notepads under Dale Hawerchuk’s nose to get his take on the Kane situation.

Exactly what did the scavengers expect Ducky to say? That Winnipeg is a cesspool? That Kane should run for the hills?

There’s no suggestion that the Jets legend was anything less than sincere when he endorsed good, ol’ Hometown as a swell place to spend an NHL career, but come on, people. That’s not a fresh slant on a touchy issue. It’s not news. It’s True North propaganda.

YELLOW CARD: To my very own self because of what I scribbled about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for The Huddle Magazine last September.

“Be afraid, kids. Be very afraid. Here’s why. What transpired at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry on Friday night might have been a preview of the 2014 Canadian Football League season.

Keep in mind that your Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be keeping company with B.C., Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan next year, so the 53-17 paddy whacking the B.C. Lions laid on the locals could become the rule rather than the exception.

Scary thought, isn’t it?

I mean, if you’re the bottom feeder in the CFL East Division, what’s going to happen when you’re running with the big dogs in the West Division? Well, here’s a hint: The Bombers are 1-6 vs. West outfits in 2013 and they’ve been outscored 238-145 for a per game average of 34-20. So batten the hatches and hide all the women and children.

Oh, I suppose a lot will change between now and next July. Maybe the Bombers will find a general manager. Maybe they’ll find a head coach who knows where the Xs and Os belong on the offensive side of the football. Maybe they’ll find a quarterback who doesn’t give the ball away like candy on Halloween. Maybe they’ll find some large lads who can pass block. Maybe they’ll find some receivers who don’t have alligator arms in traffic. Maybe they’ll find someone who can kick a field goal.

And maybe I’ll be Miss Grey Cup 2013.”

Well, our football heroes are 3-and-oh and atop the Canadian Football League West Division standings.

D’oh!

(FOOTNOTE: I invite your comments. I do not, however, welcome some of your comments. If you believe what I’ve written is the natterings of a nincompoop and belongs at the bottom of a bird cage, let ‘er rip. Tell me why. I enjoy healthy debate. That can be fun. If, on the other hand, your idea of a critique is to attack/insult me about my gender or sexual orientation, then we aren’t going to get along. Let’s put it this way: It is permissible to question the size of my IQ, but not the size of my boobs. Bottom line: I don’t get paid to write this crap, so play nice, kids.)