About 49 years from Day One at the Trib…good for Ted Wyman…good reads in the Drab Slab…a TSN WTF moment…CFL power rankings…Serena unhinged…and other things on my mind

It occurs to me

If you’ll permit me a personal note right off the top (and you must, because this is my blog), this morning marks the 49th anniversary of my start in the rag trade.

Yup, it all began in the mail room on the second floor of the Winnipeg Tribune building on Sept. 10, 1969, me an 18-year-old, know-nothing kid fresh out of Miles Madonell Collegiate working at what had always been my newspaper of choice.

After a brief time running incoming and outgoing mail to the various arms of the Trib operation at the corner of Smith and Graham, directly across the street from the main post office, I was shuffled up to the fifth floor, whereupon I became a midnight-to-8 a.m. copy runner and began scribbling non-byline Manitoba Junior Hockey League rewrites in 1970.

Legendary sports columnist and editor Jack Matheson was somehow struck with the notion that I might be a suitable replacement for a departing sports scribe, and my first byline appeared in print on Page 16 of the Trib on June 14, 1971.

It was back-of-the-section, bottom-of-the-page stuff—a short blurb about a Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association financial shortfall of $8,753—nestled between the Assiniboia Downs form chart and horse racing writer Harold Loster’s graded selections. Humble beginnings, indeed.

My first beat was local tennis, which I totally enjoyed. Then high school football, a good place to earn your chops. But Matty had me mostly on hockey, at all levels and all leagues, at home and riding the bus across the frozen tundra with Gerry Brisson, Muzz MacPherson and the Winnipeg Clubs in the Western Canada Hockey League.

Butch Goring

There wasn’t a hockey league I didn’t cover and, in fact, my final writing assignment at the Trib was to pen a sports-front, up-close-and-personal piece on local lad Butch Goring, weaned on the frozen ponds of Windsor Park/St. Vital and a Stanley Cup champion with the New York Islanders. Photog Jon Thordarson and I had visited Butch at his home. Spent more than an hour with him. The article and pics were in the can and good to go as a late-summer feature. Alas, the mucky-mucks at Southam had the bad manners to shut down the joint on what we called Black Wednesday, Aug. 27, 1980, and the Tribune was no more.

But, hey, here I am 49 years later, and old bag of bones still scribbling about shinny, football, curling and athletes in Good Ol’ Hometown, albeit from a distance. Don’t know when or how to stop.

Which means you’re right—there’s definitely something wrong with me. Like, does the term ‘get a life’ mean anything to me?

Apparently not. I might actually make it to 50 years.

Ted Wyman

A tip of the bonnet to Ted Wyman, soon to be the latest inductee to the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour. Ted’s been cranking out the good stuff for 26 years, earning his chops at the Moose Jaw Times Herald and Brandon Sun before bringing his act to Good Ol’ Hometown in 2003. He’s been a steady hand on the wheel of the Winnipeg Sun sports department since 2006.

Really enjoyed Melissa Martin’s piece on Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler in the Winnipeg Free Press last week. Melissa doesn’t stray into the toy department too often, but I always enjoy her take on sports and athletes. She’s my favorite scribe at the Drab Slab.

So I’m sitting in my local watering hole, watching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders duke it out on Saturday afternoon. They were down to the short strokes, with about three minutes remaining and Gang Green clinging to an iffy lead. The end result was very much in the balance. And what does TSN do? It cuts away to the Calgary Stampeders-Edmonton Eskimos skirmish, which had yet to start. You talk about your WTFTSN moments.

Here are this week’s Canadian Football League power rankings…

1. Calgary (9-2): Bo Levi was brilliant; the defence not so much.
2. Saskatchewan (7-4): Four straight Ws.
3. Edmonton (7-5): Got it done vs. Calgary this time.
4. Hamilton (6-5): Wicked offence, wicked QB, wicked Speedy B.
5. Ottawa (6-5): Continue to be a puzzle.
6. Winnipeg (5-7): A bye week just what the doctor ordered.
7. B.C. (4-6): Still say they’re done like dinner.
8. Montreal (3-8): Took the week off.
9. Toronto (3-8): QB woes continue.

Last week in CFL quarterbacking…

It’s about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers: Wow. Just wow.

Still baffled by Serena Williams bringing motherhood into the equation during her epic hissy fit in the women’s final at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. “I have a daughter and I stand what’s right for her!” she shrieked, in full bully mode, at chair umpire Carlos Ramos. That simply does not compute. It makes no sense at all. What did Ramos’s rulings—questionable or not—have to do with Williams’ little girl? Can you say completely unhinged, kids?

Novak Djokovic

For those of you scoring at home, the last eight Grand Slam tennis tournaments have delivered eight different champions on the women’s side and only three on the men’s side. Meanwhile, the same three guys winning everything now—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic—have been winning everything since Wimbledon 2003, when Federer claimed his first Slam title. The scoreboard reads: Big Three 51, Rest of Guys 11. And who are those Rest of Guys? Stan Wawrinka (3), Andy Murray (3), Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro, Marat Safin and Gaston Gaudio. So, 10 champions total. In the same time frame, 24 different women have won Slam tournaments.

And, finally, this from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “I really hope the Maple Leafs pick a captain soon—so everybody can just shut up about it. The captain stuff: Relatively meaningless.” Interesting. In July, Simmons went on Tranna 1050 TSN radio and flapped his gums about the “relatively meaningless” Leafs captaincy for more than seven minutes. But now that he’s had his say on the topic he wants the rest of us to “shut up.” As if.

New look for Toron-D’oh! Maple Leafs…adios Mo Glimcher…the prodigal coach learned from Schultzie…and a worthy inductee for the MSSA Media Roll of Honour

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

Two possibilities for a new Toronto Maple Leafs logo.
Two possibilities for a new Toronto Maple Leafs logo.

So, what do you do when you last participated in a Stanley Cup parade about the same time the Beatles were putting the finishing touches to their landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

You change your clothes.

That, at least, is the whisper from the Republic of Tranna, where the ghost of Humpty Harold Ballard continues to haunt the Maple Leafs, now oh-for-4 1/2 decades and in no danger of sprouting playoff beards at the conclusion of their current crusade. Dang it, though, if the Leafs are going to keep losing (they will), they’re going to look spiffy doing it. Next season, you see, the storied National Hockey League franchise shall celebrate its centennial by freshening up that drab, old, blue-and-white wardrobe that dates back to King Clancy.

Apparently, this won’t be a minor tweak. There’ll be a new uniform. Perhaps an added color. A redesigned, hip logo. Do I hear a name change to reflect their last Stanley Cup title in 1967?

Actually, all I hear is the sound of all those cash registers going ka-ching!

The Winnipeg Jets are closer to the bottom of the NHL’s Western Conference tables (three points) than they are to the playoff line (five points). I knew the local hockey heroes would be tooth-and-nail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament, but I must confess I didn’t see Auston Matthews in their future.

I note that Connor Hellebuyck is now flavor of the month in Jets Nation. You know, just like Michael Hutchinson was at this time last season. The thing is, backup goaltenders are very much like backup quarterbacks in football—they’re often the most popular player on the team. I’m not proposing that Hellebuyck is anything other than the real deal, understand. I’m just saying that the jury will be out on the rookie goalie until he’s gone through the NHL a time or two. Having said that, here’s a prediction: Once incumbent Ondrej Pavelec returns from licking his wounds, Hellebuyck will remain with the Jets and Hutchinson will be demoted to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

So, Mo Glimcher is sacking his bats, is he? Well, good for him. I recall the day when Mo was a complete pain in the ass, begging us at the Winnipeg Tribune to open up some space for whatever rinky-dink sport he happened to be trumpeting at the time. He’d even try to bribe us with various goodies, like donuts. Silly boy. Like, what sports writer/editor is going to let donuts sway him or her? Try beer, Mo. Anyway, Mo is one of the truly good guys in Manitoba jockdom, and he’s earned his day of rest once he leaves his post as executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. Melissa Martin did a terrific piece on him in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Also worth a read is Paul Wiecek’s article about concussions and dementia among former members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Freep sports scribe talked to, among others, Janet Ploen, wife of legendary quarterback Ken, about the ravages of time and the lingering effects of long-ago injuries. It’s compelling stuff and a topic that isn’t going to go away, what with greater awareness of concussions in the Canadian Football League and other major sports organizations.

Paul LaPolice
Paul LaPolice

The prodigal coach has returned and, while head man Mike O’Shea didn’t prepare a fatted calf to celebrate the third coming of the Blue Bombers recycled offensive coordinator, he did one better—he allowed Paul LaPolice to speak. To news scavengers. Question is, was this a one-off? O’Shea, after all, likes to hear the sound of just two gums flapping and one tongue wagging. His. I suppose it doesn’t matter if he gags LaPolice, though. I mean, LaPo will have plenty of opportunity to speak his piece at the press conference when he’s introduced as O’Shea’s replacement as head coach.

Among other things, LaPolice advised news scavengers that, due in part to his analyst’s gig with TSN the past couple of years, he’s a better coach than the guy who was unceremoniously dismissed in his second go-round with the Bombers in 2012. Who knew hanging out with Schultzie could be so enlightening?

Bravo to my good friend Dave Komosky, who will be inducted into the Manitoba Sportwriters & Sportscasters Media Roll of Honour next month. This is a richly deserved and long, long overdue accolade. Davey Boy, as I affectionately call him, has been among Canada’s pre-emminent curling scribes since the early 1970s, when we both learned at the knee of Jack Matheson at the Winnipeg Tribune, and I can only wonder why it took members of the MSSA so long to acknowledge the former Winnipeg Sun and Canwest News Service sports editor’s contribution to jock journalism. Point is, they finally got it right.

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 media: Only half a dozen female sports writers in almost half a century

There are guy things and there are girl things.

Girls, for example, like shoes. Lots of shoes. We collect shoes like Adam Sandler collects bad reviews (does anyone other than 14-year-old boys actually think he’s funny?). Guys, on the other hand, are loath to discard their underwear.

Seriously. I know some guys with gitch older than a Bob Hope joke. Why, just last week, a friend of mine touched on that very topic. She had noticed that her hubby’s boxers were as tattered as Roger Goodell’s reputation, so she went on a shopping safari and, after bagging half a dozen pair of shoes, she made a pit stop in the men’s wear department.

“I bought him two packages of new underwear,” she advised me. “You would have thought I’d bought him tickets to the opera. He grunted something about his underwear being ‘perfectly fine.’ Good gawd! He’s still wearing the same skivvies he had in high school, and that was 50 years ago. I want to burn the bloody things, but I’m afraid I’d be breaking some kind of city ordinance against air pollution. What is it with men and their underwear?”

So, yes, there are guy things and there are girl things. Which is probably a good thing (ratty, old undies notwithstanding).

I am, however, curious about one thing that apparently is not a girl thing but should be a girl thing: sports writing, whether it be in newspapers or blogging.

It has been 45 years since I received my baptism in journalism. In that time, how many female sports scribes did I work with, or against, at the three Winnipeg dailies (Tribune, Free Press, Sun)?

a) 0
b) 5
c) 8
d) 12

The correct answer is b)—five. In close to half a century! Jack Matheson brought Peggy Stewart on board at the Trib during the 1970s and she was followed by Rita Mingo. The Freep, meanwhile, hired Barb Huck in the ’70s and Ashley Prest arrived on the scene in the late 1980s. Judy Owen worked the Blue Bombers beat, among others, for the Sun in the 1990s.

It can be said that, of the five, only Peggy Stewart was out of her element. The others were quality reporters, quality writers, quality people. Three of them—Barb, Ashley and Judy—have been inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Roll of Honor.

So why just a handful of damsels?

I mean, women are cops, firefighters, business leaders, religious leaders, political leaders, education leaders, astronauts, boxers, blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda. Yet, in River City, a Jill writing about jocks is as rare as a full set of natural teeth in an old folks home. Today, there is just Melissa Martin at the Freep.

The scarcity of distaff sports scribes extends to the blogosphere, as well.

I scrolled through five Winnipeg Jets sites and found the grand total of two female names—Cara and my own. We both contribute to Arctic Ice Hockey. There was no evidence of female authorship at Illegal Curve, Jets Nation, Winnipeg Hockey Talk or Winnipeg Whiteout.

I surely can understand a reluctancy on the part of women to join in the blogosphere fun, because it is very much a boys bastion and the lads can get rather raunchy. Also rude, crude and flat-out disgusting.

Once upon a time, for example, I contributed to Bleacher Report, but bailed for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t allowed to write satire (apparently, their readership is quite limited in scope and has difficulty distinguishing hard news from parody; 2) the comments were too often personal attacks about my gender and/or body parts as opposed to the issue at hand. (Go ahead and call me a boob if you like, but my boobs are off limits.)

Why would a woman wish to expose herself (no pun intended) to lewd language and the pitiable come-hithers of mysogynistic trolls?

Sara Orlesky
Sara Orlesky

There is also the issue of cred. Many men still harbor the notion that women don’t, and can’t, know sports. That, of course, is horse-and-buggy thinking, yet it remains a prime example of perception being reality. Many men don’t want a woman feeding them their sports information/opinion unless she looks like Sara Orlesky, who’s very good at what she does. Even at that, apparently it’s more important that Sara Orlesky look like Sara Orlesky than what she has to say.

That’s why Sara and all the women we see on TSN look like they just came in from a Glamour mag or Cosmo photo shoot. (The guys on TSN? Bridge trolls. I mean, have you ever watched The Reporters with Dave Hodge? It’s been suggested that Steve Simmons looks like a hamster with glasses. Nuff said about that.)

A girl doesn’t have to be Cosmo cover-worthy to write sports, though. She doesn’t have to be J.K. Rowling, either. As long as she knows her stuff and has a nice turn of phrase, she can look like Rosie O’Donnell and pull it off.

I have theories to explain why there aren’t more Jills writing about jocks in River City, but I don’t have an answer. Perhaps they aren’t given the opportunity. Perhaps it’s an anti-female bias. Perhaps they don’t want to put up with the BS from a boy-centric readership. Or perhaps they simply have better things to do, like shop for shoes.

I do know this, however: Half a dozen female sports writers in slightly less than half a century and two female bloggers is not a glowing example or endorsement of equality.

rooftop riting biz card back sidePatti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg hockey and the Jets for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of hockey 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 literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C.