Alexander Burmistrov: Is born-again Burmi the Winnipeg Jets new Fro Lite or Kane Lite?

Quiz yourself this, kids: Would you trade Michael Frolik for Alexander Burmistrov? Even up?

Didn’t think so.

That, however, is essentially what Grand Master Kevin Cheveldayoff did last week. For reasons yet to be clearly defined, the man who generally manages the Winnipeg Jets was unable to convince his most useful forward to remain in River City, thus Frolik shall continue his Jack-of-all-trades career while wearing Calgary Flames adornments.

To compensate for the Fro defection, the Grand Master prepared the fatted calf and welcomed home the prodigal player, Burmistrov, who, when last seen prior to resurfacing at the National Hockey League club’s development camp this past weekend, was acting every bit the petulant, pouting punk and skulking off to Mother Russia.

So that’s your exchange: Frolik out, Burmistrov in.

I have heard it suggested that Burmistrov is Frolik Lite, in that he delivers all those special niceties that the Czech forward provided. He just doesn’t do them as well. I believe that to be an accurate assessment.

But, is Burmistrov actually Fro Lite or is he Kane Lite?

The dearly departed Evander Kane was, of course, a skilled (much of it wasted) player with attitude issues. He played cat-and-mouse with defrocked head coach Claude Noel, challenging his authority on more than one occasion. Although never putting it on public record that he wanted out of Winnipeg, we know he liked Pegtown about as much as Phil Kessel likes media scrums. Eventually, he was shuffled off to Buffalo.

Similarly, Burmistrov and Noel were singing from different sheets in the songbook, thus he skedaddled home for a two-season gig with Ak-Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Now he’s back and what the born-again Burmi brings to the party come October will be among the main storylines as the Winnipegs commence their 2015-16 crusade. If he’s Frolik Lite, it’s all good. If he’s Kane Lite, not so much.

As it is, the former teenage prospect is now a 23-year-old prospect with plenty of upside but a past that fuels skepticism, and the Jets surely harbor a morsel of uncertainty about this migrant young man, otherwise they would have welcomed Burmistrov back to the flock with something more than a two-year contract.

The hope, of course, is that he’s finally got his shite together, meaning he knows head coach Paul Maurice is the boss.

Desperate Hockey Wives: Okay, money aside, we still don’t know the intimate details of Michael Frolik’s defection to the Calgary Flames, thus rumors abound.

One such trickle of gossip suggests his girlfriend, Diana, pulled a Lauren Pronger and forced Frolik to sign anywhere but Winnipeg. The way it is whispered, she developed a considerable distaste for all things River City and, much like Lauren Pronger with hubby Chris and the Edmonton Oilers, she held veto power on where they set up house with daughter Ella.

I have neither heard nor read anything to lend credence to that rumor but, if true, I ask this: So what? Should a wife/girlfriend not have a voice in where she lives?

It seems to me she should have a loud voice.

Sam’s Story a Non-Story? Once upon a time, a lot of football people were strictly Xs, Os and bite-the-head-off-a-live-chicken kind of guys. It would seem that at least one of those dinosaurs still walks among us.

I say that because of a snippet in a Kirk Penton piece last week.

It seems an unidentified Canadian Football League coach or manager pooh-poohs the considerable copy and air time devoted to Michael Sam, whose on-again, off-again career appears to be on again, although it’s expected that the Montreal Alouettes will arrrive in River City for their date with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this Friday sans the only openly gay man to sign a CFL contract.

Michael Sam hasn’t played a down of football north of the border and he has gotten a thousand times more recognition than Randy Chevrier, who won the Tom Pate Award (for oustanding sportsmanship and someone who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and the CFLPA),” Coach/Manager No Name said. “That’s pathetic. You guys (in the media) should be embarrassed.”

Well, no. Here’s what’s pathetic and here’s who should be embarrassed: A football lifer who doesn’t recognize or appreciate the social significance of Sam’s story.

It should never be just about Xs, Os and quarterback sacks. Sam is man-bites-dog copy. Can an openly gay man not only survive but, indeed, succeed in the macho world that is professional football? Is major professional sports in North America still a homophobic hinterland in a day and age when same-sex marriage is legal in Canada and the U.S.? Will Sam pave the way for more gay athletes to come out? That’s why noted sheets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Mail in the U.K. and so many others track the trials and tribulations of the Alouettes would-be rush end.

But what do those papers know about news? They’re pathetic, right coach?

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.

Some red cards and yellow cards for you, you and you, and one “Gooooooooal!” for the Fab Four

It occurs to me that in honor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it’s time for some red cards, some yellow cards and a big salute…

red cardI don’t know who to red card first, Kyle Walters or Mike O’Shea.

I suppose it should be Walters, the chap who, as chief cook and bottle washer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, extended a training camp invitation to Jordan Yantz. He said this was the real deal. Said the former University of Manitoba Bisons quarterback would be granted “every opportunity to win a job.”

“This isn’t a charity case, this isn’t any of that for-the-good-of-the-Canadian-quarterback stuff,” the Bombers GM told scribes.

As if.

This was such an obvious charity case that it probably qualifies as a tax writeoff.

The Bombers had two dress rehearsals in advance of their 2015 Canadian Football League crusade that commences on Saturday night in Yantz’s home town of Regina, and he never took a snap in either game. That’s what passes for “every opportunity” in Bomberland?

Walters gets a red card for the load of BS he dumped on news scavengers, and head coach O’Shea gets a red card for not giving Yantz at least one set of downs.

yellow card2Here’s the ultimate irony for Tiger Woods: By shooting three rounds in the 80s this year on the PGA Tour, including one in the just-concluded U.S. Open, he is now playing just like your basic weekend hacker but he no longer gets to play on weekends.

I’ve tried to think of another athlete of Woods’s stature who has experienced such a harsh, hurried and more inglorious plummet from the summit than His Royal Randiness. No one comes to mind. Yes, the skills of others, such as Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali, eroded over time and it was painful to watch their careers wither before our eyes. But with Tiger…well, this is cliff diving into a cement pond.

red cardOn the subject of vanishing acts, either Michael Sam has been placed in a witness protection program or he’s part of a David Copperfield now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t illusion. I say that because, in a day and age when seemingly everyone (except me) has a phone that is part camera, part tape recorder and part video recorder it’s astonishing that there has not been a peep from Sam since he bugged out of the Montreal Alouettes training camp.

The last confirmed sighting of Sam was almost two weeks ago. Where is TMZ when we need them?

I don’t know who’s been counseling Sam since he came out as gay, but I wouldn’t hire those people to advise me on what time of the day is best to brush my teeth. The Oprah reality thing, the Dancing with the Stars thing, the disappearing act…odd, odd, odd. Once he was out a gay, the advice should have been simple: Just play football, Michael.

gooooooool nuI call up the Winnipeg Free Press sports section and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Ed Tait, Paul Wiecek, Gary Lawless, Tim Campbell, Melissa Martin, Scott Billeck, Jeff Hamilton, Jerrad Peters and Doug Brown. That’s nine local scribes.

I call up the Winnipeg Sun sports section, meanwhile, and I see these bylines and/or column flags: Paul Friesen, Kirk Penton, Ken Wiebe and Ted Wyman (in cameo appearances). That’s four local scribes.

Cripes, man, the Freep can field a complete baseball team while the Sun can barely scrounge up enough guys to enter a bonspiel or have a decent game of poker.

Custer’s 7th Cavalry was the last outfit outnumbered this badly.

So quiz me this: How is it that the Fab Four at the Sun somehow manages to fight the good fight against the Nattering Nine at the Drab Slab? Either one side is punching above its weight or the other side is pulling its punches, because the boys at Team Sun don’t get beat often and they manage to get in some good licks of their own.

Thus, it’s kudos to the Sun.

Still, I’d like to see them add a voice or two to give the section a bit more wallop. A female voice would be a welcome addition, too.

yellow card2Okay, we’ve got the Winnipeg Jets, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets.

We’ve got the Manitoba Moose, named after the hockey outfit formerly known as the Manitoba Moose.

We’ve got the Winnipeg Goldeyes, named after the baseball outfit formerly known as the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

Is there no one in River City with an imagination? I mean, seriously. Three professional sports franchises and not an original handle in the bunch?

I know Mark Chipman, co-bankroll of Jets the Sequel, was bullied into naming his club after the dead and buried Jets of yore, but what’s his excuse for the regurgitation of the Moose? As for Sammy Katz and his Goldeyes, I didn’t like the name when he introduced it in 1994 and I don’t like it today. Mention the Goldeyes to me and I assume you’re talking about the St. Louis Cardinals farm team that played out of Winnipeg Stadium in the early 1960s.

So I say thank goodness for Uncle Vince Leah, the legendary sports scribe who named the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

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.

Michael Sam: There are no gay voices in Canadian sports journalism (print division) to tell the story about a gay football player

And, now, a word about Michael Sam from all the gay sports writers at major daily newspapers in Canada…

Oh. Wait. There are no gay sports writers at the major dailies in Canada.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

At least, there are none that I know of.

So, everything that you have read, or will read, about Michael Sam potentially performing in the Canadian Football League comes from the perspective of white heterosexual males, or, in much smaller numbers, white heterosexual females.

Some of them will care that Sam is gay, only because it gives them a fresh angle to scribble about once the large lads commence to grabbing grass and growling at the Montreal Alouettes training camp this month and next. He’ll make for juicy copy. Others will care because of the social significance of an openly gay man participating in the most macho of professional team sports. Still others will care because they are homophobic (if you believe there aren’t homophobes among the flowers of print jock journalists, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Winnipeg that I’d like to sell you).

Nary a word, however, will be written by a man or woman who actually understands what it’s like to be gay.

I maintain that one need not be gay to write about gay issues, any more than one need be an accomplished actor to opine about the merits of George Clooney’s latest work, or a priest to discuss the pros and cons of the 10 commandments.

It helps, though.

I mean, only a gay person can write the Sam story with an appropriate portion of passion. Only a gay person can relate to the paralyzing fear and anxiety of being outed, or coming out, to friends, family and co-workers. Only a gay person knows the sting of rejection and discrimination based soley on a preference of bedmates. Only a gay person can relate to the catcalls and hate language born of homophobia.

How does one get to the meat of an issue if she or he cannot possibly understand the issue?

I often write about LGBT matters not merely because they are important to me, but because they are me. I live it. Every day. I know what Michael Sam has gone through. What he is going through. What he will go through. It’s all on a different scale and in a different arena, that’s all.

The point is, I can write it from a personal perspective. Nobody in Canada’s mostly white, mostly old-boys club of heterosexual sports scribes can do that vis-a-vis Sam.

Is that important? Absolutely, because it speaks to credibility.

Why do you think we see so many ex-jocks propped up as talking heads on the various panels on televised hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc.? Let go of the notion that some of them (hello P.J. Stock, Glenn Healy, Nick Kypreos, Glen Suitor, Milt Stegall, etc.) can be terribly annoying. They’re there because they’ve been there, done that.

Doug Brown, ex of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, pens a piece in the Winnipeg Free Press not because he’s a gifted wordsmith. In general, the former defensive lineman’s weekly column is an exercise in how many big words he can cram into his alloted space. On occasion, however, he puts major points on the scoreboard because he takes us inside the locker room and into the players’ heads, something only a gridiron gladiator who spent considerable time in the trenches can do.

In the case of Sam, who signed a two-year contract with the Als on Friday, I suspect Brown’s next offering will do that very thing.

Assuming Sam survives the final cut and is with the Larks for a portion, or the entirety, of the 2015 CFL season, the “gay” angle will be beaten to death. Like it or not. And it’s my guess that sports scribes across the nation will offer a favorable slant on the one-time Missouri Tiger defensive end’s personal story.

Unfortunately, their copy will be devoid of passion, insight and first-hand knowledge. In other words, the mountain of Sam stuff you read will be missing everything that writing should be about.

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.

Canadian Football League: It’s the Great Feast on the East

Neophyte starting quarterback Drew Willy aside, I mostly read and hear what’s wrong with the Bombers. The large lads on the O-line are the convenient targets. Why, they’re the most-maligned group of men this side of those pesky “drunken” skywalk panhandlers that Lorrie Steeves finds so cuddly.

Cheap Shots from the Cheap Seats, Vol. 1…As we head into Week 8 of a CFL season best described as the Great Feast on the East, power rankings are unchanged. The Laval Rouge et Or remain the top football team in Eastern Canada.

SEEING IS MISBELIEVING: It would seem that faith is fragile in some corners of Bombers Nation and there are those who believe our local football heroes to be a five dressed up as a one.

The fickle in fandom see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 5-2 record and their perch atop the West Division tables as lipstick on a pig. An illusion, if you will. After all, this Canadian Football League season has been nothing if not an East Feast, and the Blue and Gold have done little more than bully a bunch of 98-pound weaklings who live on the wrong side of the tracks. Right?

I mean, they beat the Toronto Argonauts. They beat the Ottawa RedBlacks. They beat the Montreal Alouettes. They beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Like, who doesn’t? Everybody steals their lunch money.

So some people remain unimpressed. And unconvinced. They refuse to give the Bombers their due. Neophyte starting quarterback Drew Willy aside, I mostly read and hear what’s wrong with the locals. The large lads on the O-line are the convenient targets. Why, they’re the most-maligned group of men this side of those pesky “drunken” skywalk panhandlers that Lorrie Steeves finds so cuddly.

Well, I’m sorry, but the Winnipegs’ record is not illegitimate or illusory. They need not make any apologies. Yes, they’ve been feeding off the bottom and they’ll be back at the East Feast buffet on Tuesday night in Toronto, so even a win over the Boatmen means they can’t win with the natterbugs of negativity.

Ask yourself this, though: If I had told you during training camp that the Bombers would be 5-2 seven skirmishes into the fray, would you have taken it? Absolutely.

GRABBIN’ GRASS ‘N’ GROWLIN’: What’s the over/under for the Bombers-Argos joust at Rogers Centre on Tuesday? 38,000? 39,000? I’m talking empty seats, not fans…Dave Randorf is gone, but the roles haven’t changed for the CFL on TSN panel. Matt (Git ‘er Done) Dunigan is still the country bumpkin, Chris Schultz is still the class clown and Milt Stegall is still angry. Paul LaPolice is getting more sit-down time with the boys, but I prefer Jock Climie…What’s the deal with that Trivago Guy who appears on camera more than anyone other than James Duthie? The guy needs a shave, he needs to drag a brush through his hair, and he needs a wardrobe consultant. Other than that, he’s ready for a GQ cover shoot…The CFL can change its in-house language all it likes, but to me a three-down football player is either a Canadian or an import, not a national or an international…If the St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam and all other National Foootball League teams pass on the defensive lineman out of Missouri, will one of the nine CFL outfits make room for an openly gay player?…Those Wendy’s commercials on CFL telecasts are getting too dramatic and really, really stupid. Apparently, they haven’t learned that less is more.

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.