About Paul Romanuk’s Where’s Wheeler? gaffe…Brooke Henderson, national treasure…Les Lazaruk’s a beauty guy…Bob Cole is silenced…take me out to the brawl game…god and golf…on bended knee and beating women…he’s sorry but not really…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…

Okay, Paul Romanuk had himself a serious “D’oh!” moment on Friday morning when, in a media scrum, he called out to Blake Wheeler by shouting, “Mark! Mark!”

Paul Romanuk

Major blunder. It shouldn’t happen because, as Paul Wiecek correctly points out in his Winnipeg Free Press column that exposed the incident, Romanuk’s one job is to “tell the players apart.” He’s a play-by-play guy, for cripes sake. He has the call for Wheeler’s Winnipeg Jets in their Stanley Cup skirmish with the Minnesota Wild on Sportsnet.

So, ya, he ought to know. I mean, this isn’t a Where’s Waldo? kind of thing. Wheeler is easily recognized: He’s the guy with a ‘C’ on his Jets jersey and scowl on his face.

But here’s my question for you, dear readers: Did Wiecek cross an ethical line?

That is, should he have used his platform to embarrass the veteran broadcaster in a front page piece guaranteed to attract the attention of the rabble, if not incite them? Isn’t there some sort of unspoken honor-among-thieves code with the sports media?

Apparently not.

Personally, I have no problem with jock journos calling each other out. I’d prefer they do it more often. But where I think Wiecek went wrong, was in using the Romanuk affair as (shocking and damning) anecdotal evidence to prop up his ongoing case that no one east of Falcon Lake and west of Elkhorn gives a damn about Winnipeg and its Jets. Not only does the rest of the country not give a damn, Wiecek submits, they don’t even know who they don’t give a damn about.

“And so it still goes for a team that had the second-best record in the NHL this season, but apparently still needs to pin ‘Hello, My Name Is…’ stickers on its players,” Wiecek writes.

Romanuk’s astonishing gaffe would be the smoking gun in that argument.

Blake Wheeler

But I believe it’s at this point that I’m obliged to point out that, hey, brain farts happen. Wiecek, for example, once referenced the 1991 and 2006 Grey Cup games in Winnipeg, scribbling, “both of those games were played at the downtown stadium.” Oops. Totally wrong. The closest thing River City has had to a downtown football facility, Osborne Stadium, lost an argument to a wrecking ball in 1956. But somehow Wiecek had two Grey Cup matches being contested there, 35 and 50 years after the walls came tumbling down. So there’s that. Last year, meanwhile, he described Wally Buono as a “former” coach, even as Buono stood on the sideline coaching the B.C. Lions. So there’s also that.

None of that excuses Romanuk, but there’s something to be said about pots calling kettles black.

I’ll tell you something else Wiecek and his newly expressed “we” and “us” homerism is wrong about—the Jets and national attention. When I hopped on the Internet surfboard at 2:30 Saturday morning (yes, I’m mobile at that hour), here’s what I discovered on various websites:

Globe and Mail—two Jets stories at the top of the page.
National Post—four Jets-related stories at the top of the page.
Sportsnet—three Jets stories and two videos at the top of the page.
TSN—top of the page story and five of the top six videos.
Toronto Star—one of the five stories at the top of the page.

It was much the same after Game 1 of the Jets-Wild series and, frankly, some might think of that as Jets overkill. But not Wiecek and the Freep. It isn’t enough to satisfy them.

“The rest of the country is still struggling to pay attention to a team—and a city, for that matter—they’ve grown accustomed to ignoring for so long,” he writes.

Oh, pu-leeze. What Wiecek and the Freep are serving up is Fake News 101.

Sorry, but I simply do not understand this desperate, irrational need for the love of outriders. Somehow I thought Winnipeg was comfortable in its own skin since the National Hockey League returned in 2011. It was running with the big dogs again. So, when did River City require the “rest of the country’s” acknowledgement, approval and endorsement? For anything. And what exactly do Wiecek and the Freep expect from “the rest of the country?” A parade? Pep rallies from Tofino to St. John’s? A gold star like the teacher gives to the kid who wins a Grade Three spelling bee?

Look, the story that Pegtown and les Jets are authoring in their Stanley Cup crusade isn’t some zen koan about a tree falling in the forest. It’s happening. In real time. It’s loud enough that anyone with a pair of ears can hear. And the national media are reporting it. In depth.

Using Paul Romanuk’s misstep to suggest there’s nationwide snubbery at play is not only inaccurate and misguided, it’s dishonest and stupid.

Brooke Henderson

Brooke Henderson is a national treasure. There’s no other way to put it. Just 20, she has six victories (including a major) on the Ladies Pofessional Golf Association Tour, her latest success a wire-to-wire romp in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii. She has won in four consecutive seasons. Did I mention she’s only 20? If one of our male golfers had won six times in four seasons before the age of 21, surely there’d be a statue. And Brooke’s always struck me as a delightful, young person, a notion supported by her post-event remarks in Hawaii. “It’s extremely sad, a terrible tragedy what happened up there,” said Henderson, dedicating her victory to victims and survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus accident. “I know it kind of affected my whole country. Everybody really took it kind of personal. For all the survivors that are still fighting through it all and the ones who have passed away, I want to show them that we’re here for them and we’re supporting them. They’re always going to be in our thoughts and prayers.” Beautiful kid, our Brooke, who, I hasten to add, is the same age as some of the kids on that bus.

Ronnie Lazaruk

On the subject of beauties, a major tip of the bonnet to old friend Les Lazaruk. Ronnie has come up with a boffo idea to honor Tyler Bieber, the Humboldt play-by-play voice who was among the Fallen 16 on the team bus involved in the fatal crash nine days ago. Now the mouthpiece of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, Ronnie has volunteered to sit in the play-by-play seat for one game during the Broncos 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season, as a tribute to Bieber. No fee. No expenses. He’s suggested other broadcasters do the same, and look who’s on board with the idea—Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, Dave Randorf, Kelly Moore, Rob Faulds, Brian Munz, Jamie Campbell, Roger Millions, Darren Pang and Peter Young, among many other notable voices. It truly is a beautiful thing that Ronnie is doing. No surprise, though. He’s one of the genuinely good guys in the biz. (If you wondering, those of us who worked at the Winnipeg Tribune call him Ronnie because back in the day he had a head of hair just like Ronald McDonald’s.)

Bob Cole

On the matter of hockey broadcasters, you might have noticed that the voice of Bob Cole has been silent during this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament. NHL rights holder in Canada, Rogers, has shut down the 84-year-old. “The decision sure wasn’t mutual,” Cole tells Michael Traikos of Postmedia. “It was right out of the blue. Rogers decided to go with other teams and I have to live with that. But it was their decision—not mine.” Oh, baby! No question Cole has lost a step, but his ouster is sad, nonetheless.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet refers to the Ted Lindsay Award as the “NHLPA vote for MVP.” Not true. The Lindsay trinket goes to the NHL’s “most outstanding player,” as determined by members of the players’ association. If the media can’t get these things right, why are they allowed to vote for seven award winners?

Last Wednesday night in sports: NHL teams toss everything but hand grenades at each other as the Stanley Cup tournament begins. Number of bench-clearing brawls: 0. Major League Baseball teams throw baseballs at each other. Number of bench-clearing brawls: 3. Yet hockey still gets a bad rap for being a goon sport. Go figure.

Yogi Berra-ism of the week comes from Nazem Kadri of the Tranna Maple Leafs, suspended three games for his predatory hit on Boston Bruins Tommy Wingels: “I certainly wasn’t trying to hit him when he was down like that, I just felt like he, uh, I was already committed to the hit.”

Tweet of the week comes from Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, following a media exchange with Jets head coach Paul Maurice:

Media: “If Jack Roslovic was the Beatles and (Mathieu) Perreault was the Rolling Stones, what song would you be humming this morning?”

Maurice: “It’s all Led Zeppelin. It usually is.”

Masters champion Patrick Reed on fighting off challenges from Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler at Augusta last Sunday: “It’s just a way of God basically saying, ‘Let’s see if you have it.'” Question: If God was at Augusta National watching golf last Sunday and helping Reed win an ugly green jacket, who was watching over my church?

Colin Kaepernick

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: The Seattle Seahawks cancel a workout for outcast quarterback Colin Kaepernick because he might take a knee during the national anthem, yet Reuben Foster is still a member of the San Francisco 49ers after punching his girlfriend eight to 10 times, dragging her by the hair and rupturing her eardrum. Foster is charged with felony domestic violence, inflicting great bodily injury, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime, and possession of an assault rifle. He faces up to 11 years in the brig. But, unlike Kaepernick, he’s good to go. So that’s your NFL: Take a knee, go home; beat the hell out of a woman, play on. And they wonder why people aren’t watching anymore.

Today is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball, so it’s worth noting that there were only 63 Blacks on opening-day rosters this year. That’s 8.4 per cent of all players. And for pure irony, consider this: The Kansas City Royals were one of two teams sans a Black player—K.C. is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Mark McGwire tells The Athletic that he could have swatted 70 home runs in the 1998 MLB season without the benefit of steroids. “Yes. Definitely,” the former St. Louis Cardinals slugger says. Right, Mark, and Rosie Ruiz would have finished the 1980 New York Marathon without riding a subway for 26 of the 26.2 miles. And she would have won the 1980 Boston Marathon if she had run all 26.2 miles, not just .2 miles.

Marc Savard, right, on the set with Daren Millard and John Shannon.

When is a mea culpa not an apology? When Steve Simmons delivers it. The Postmedia Tranna columnist last week expressed a callous disregard for Marc Savard’s mental health issues, slamming the freshly minted Sportsnet commentator for failing to make time for media while dealing with post-concussion symptoms. And now? “What I wrote about Savard had nothing to do with concussions or his personal battles. But what I wrote about him was improperly worded and far too harsh. For that, I apologize. For not welcoming new media members who have treated the industry disrespectfully, I don’t apologize.”

And, finally, this week’s Steve-ism from Steve Simmons: “I’ll never understand the NHL. Playoff series starts tomorrow. Patrice Bergeron not available for 50 or so media members, many of whom just flew into Boston this morning.” The poor dear. Marc Savard wouldn’t take his phone calls and now Bergeron of the Bruins is unavailable. Oh, the humanity.

Ed Tait’s “meh” rouses the rabble…Winnipeg’s downtown football stadium…Hamonic or harmonica…a homophobic heavyweight champ…and other things on my mind

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

grey cupOh, woe is Ed Tait.

Poor guy had the bad manners to “meh” the 103rd Grey Cup game and the many frills that provide the Grand National Drunk with its pulse, and that has roused the rabble. One reader demands to know who peed in Tait’s Corn Flakes. Another suggests he’s been too long in the company of Winnipeg Free Press colleague Paul Wiecek, whose scribblings are often measured by the masses as glass-half-empty musings. Yet another proposes the passing of a collection plate to finance a getaway to a Mexican resort for the two Freep sports scribes, who then could engage in some serious navel gazing and be fitted with a proper pair of rose-tinted glasses.

Well, in the words of Colonel Sherman T. Potter, “Mule muffins!”

I didn’t attend the Peg pigskin party, so I can’t speak to the hijinks around and about good, ol’ Hometown during a Grey Cup week than concluded on Sunday, but I surely watched the Canadian Football League championship skirmish between the Edmonton Don’t Call Them Eskimos and the Ottawa RougeNoir. My take? I’m with Tait—meh.

Let’s face it, that was a rout dressed up as a burning barn. The final score was 26-20 Edmonton, but it was 26-7 Edmonton after the initial six minutes and nine seconds had ticked off the clock. The best Ottawa could do after putting the game’s first 13 points on the tote board was two field goals and a rouge. In 54 minutes of football. So one more time with feeling—meh. (You think if I say “meh” often enough someone will send me on a vacation to a Mexican resort?)

osborne stadiumI cannot imagine what manner of madness existed in Paul Wiecek’s mind when, in referencing the 1991 and 2006 Grey Cup jousts in Winnipeg, he wrote, “both of those games were played at the downtown stadium.” The closest thing to a downtown football facility in River City was Osborne Stadium, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s. It sat across the street from the Leg and lost an argument to a wrecking ball in ’56. Both the ’91 and ’06 CFL title games were, of course, played at Winnipeg Stadium, a more recent victim of the wrecking ball.

I find the banter about bringing Travis Hamonic to the Winnipeg Jets’ blueline somewhat amusing. I mean, I’d hazard a guess that 75 per cent of Jets Nation didn’t know Hamonic from a harmonica before his yearning for a trade was made public last month. To hear it now, though, it’s as if the New York Islanders’ defenceman invented the stretch pass. Should the Jets covet Hamonic? Absolutely. He’d enhance any National Hockey League outfit. But the Jets aren’t going to get him in barter for Dustin Byfuglien, whose game can shift from spectacular to slovenly in a heartbeat. Unless Isles’ general manager Garth Snow has suddenly morphed into Mike Milbury, Hamonic for Byfuglien will never happen.

Paul Maurice. Sigh. Search as I might to find a legitimate reason why Anthony Peluso is gainfully employed by an NHL outfit, I always arrive at one conclusion: Winnipeg Jets head coach PoMo refuses to budge from the horse-and-buggy notion that there must be a cement-head element in his lineup. So don’t blame Peluso for being a slug. Blame Maurice for keeping him around and, worse, inserting his bare knuckles into the lineup.

I note that Forbes magazine has devalued the Winnipeg Jets franchise from $358 million a year ago to $350M today. I’m not sure what accounts for the dip of $8M, but there’s no truth to the rumor that it has something to do with Evander Kane leaving unpaid parking tickets and unpaid bar tabs behind when he bolted for Buffalo and the Sabres.

Tyson Fury, left, took the heavyweight boxing title from Wladimir Klitschko.
Tyson Fury, left, took the heavyweight boxing title from Wladimir Klitschko.

Someone named Tyson Fury is now champion of most of fist fighting’s heavyweight alphabet. Does anyone care that there exists a new king of the boxing ring, or are followers of fistic mayhem still more concerned about Ronda Rousey’s fat lip and bruised ego?

Until he boxed defending champion Wladimir Klischko’s ears on Saturday night in Germany, winning the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight boxing titles by unanimous decision, little was known about Tyson Fury. We have since discovered that he’s a descendent of Irish gypsies, his dad, John, was a bare-knuckle boxer who just got out of jail for gouging a man’s eye out in a brawl at a car auction, and Tyson is 6-feet-9, 258 lb. of raging, Bible-thumping homophobic bleatings. Once fined for calling two foes “gay lovers,” in a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday in the U.K., Fury delivered rants about devil worship and days end, saying, “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedephilia.”

Although Tyson Fury holds four heavyweight title belts, it should be pointed out that he does not own the complete boxing alphabet. Deontay Wilder is the WBC champ. You have to go back to the last century to find the man who could call himself the undisputed heavyweight champion—Lennox Lewis.

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.