The River City Renegade


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About bad behaviour in sports…straight guys talking about gay things…sports scribes eating their own…the unlovable Blue Jays…clay-court tennis…and cole slaw on a hamburger?

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

It’s been an interesting and odd past couple of weeks in the sandbox. Let’s recap:

  • Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays was shut down for two Major League Baseball games and instructed to do some serious soul searching after directing a homophobic nasty toward Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte.
  • The National Hockey League lightened Ryan Getzlaf’s pay envelope to the tune of $10,000 after the Anaheim Ducks captain went all potty-mouth and homophobic in a playoff match.
  • Four heterosexual men who, to the best of my knowledge, have not spent a single day of their lives as gay men, gathered around a table in a TSN studio and discussed gay issues as if they harbored special insight into what words do and don’t offend gay people.
  • Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods, much like his golf game, was discovered asleep at the wheel and hauled off to a Florida hoosegow on a DUI charge. Tiger’s mug shot was rather ghastly but, hey, who looks good in the small hours of the morning when they’re hopped up on every pill known to man?

  • Terry Frei, award-winning sports columnist with the Denver Post, was told to leave the building and not return after a tweet in which he expressed his discomfort with a Japanese man, Takuma Sato, winning the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day in the United States. Frei later said we’re free to call him an idiot for his idiotic and racist remark, but he asks that we don’t call him a racist for his idiotic and racist remark.
  • Tennis legend Margaret Court has gone completely off her nut. She described the women’s tour as a lesbian-infested enterprise in which senior players groom vulnerable youngsters to adopt a lesbian lifestyle; she bemoaned the birth of Casey Dellacqua’s second child because she’ll be raised by two mamas and no papas; she insisted that transgender kids are the work of the devil; she compared a phantom LGBT lobby to Adolph Hitler and communism; she accused that same phantom gay lobby as the force behind a move to have her name scrubbed from one of the venues used for the Australian Open. (What is it with old tennis farts? It wasn’t so long ago when Romanian pig Ilie Nastase went off his nut with racist remarks about Serena Williams’ unborn baby—“Let’s see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?” and he made sexist comments about Britain’s top female player Johanna Konta, calling her a “bitch” and asking for her hotel room number.)
  • French tennis player Maxime Hamou, perhaps in an attempt to disprove Court’s theory that everyone in tennis is gay, was kicked out of Roland Garros for forcibly and repeatedly kissing Eurosport reporter Maly Thomas during a live TV interview.

I think that pretty much sums up the seedy side of sports in recent days, and I think we can agree that there’s been a whole lot of ugly going on.

The worst optic for me was the TSN panel on The Reporters with Dave Hodge. I mean, when I think of poor casting, Johnny Depp as Tonto comes to mind. Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. John Wayne as Genghis Khan. Ashton Kutcher as anybody. All bad, bad, bad, bad. But four heterosexual sports guys talking about gay things? The worst.

Heterosexual male sports scribes should be discussing gay issues only if they are gay, if they have spent considerable time in the LGBT community, if they offer a named gay source as a point of reference, if they have felt the sting of a homophobic barb, or if they have had to fight society for the right to marry the partner of their choice.

I doubt Hodge, Michael Farber, Steve Simmons or Dave Feschuk qualify on any count.

Farber suggested the way the Blue Jays and MLB handled the Pillar situation was “admirable.” Well, I’m sure it was to him. But he isn’t gay. Perhaps a gay sports writer might think the punishment for calling an opponent a “faggot” was too namby-pamby.

Trouble is, there are no gay sports scribes in Canada. At least not in the mainstream. If you’re talking about a jock journo at big city daily rags in the True North, there’s a 99.9 per cent probability that he’s a he, he’s white and he’s a confirmed heterosexual. The other 0.1 per cent is female. And probably straight.

Mark Spector

Mark Spector of Sportsnet represents the 99.9 per cent, and he recently wondered why the NHL cannot hear a homophobic slur “the way a gay man would hear the word.” Well duh. It’s because the people who occupy the ivory tower in the NHL are not gay.

Spector’s piece is thoughtful (he actually solicited gay insight from Brock McGillis, a former Ontario Hockey League goaltender who came out post-career) and he asks this question: “Why have the other sports experienced players come out, but not the National Hockey League? Or Canadian Major Junior Hockey?” Spector might pose the same query about his own business. I started in the rag trade in 1969. I worked with gay entertainment writers, gays on news side, gay librarians, gay department heads, but never once a gay male jock journo. You’d think that in the ensuing 48 years there’d have been at least one gay guy scribbling about sports at one of the big-city, mainstream dailies. But no. There have been more sightings of Sasquatch. Why no openly gay sports scribes? Probably the same reason there are no openly gay hockey players—they fear ridicule and don’t want to be thought of as a weaker-than or a lesser-than.

Hey, look who’s back! It’s the two Grumpets, Steve Lyons and Paul Wiecek. They’ve reappeared on the Winnipeg Free Press sports pages, and they did the unthinkable with their return volley: They ate their own. Actually, it was Wiecek who called out Cathal Kelly in a discussion about Tiger Woods’ arrest on a DUI charge. “The normally staid Globe and Mail had a hyperventilating column by Cathal Kelly up on their site already by Monday afternoon, which made the paper and Kelly—who is usually excellent—looking very stupid.” Yowzers. I can’t recall the last time I read one sports scribe dissing one of the brethren like that, but I think JFK was still alive.

Got a kick out of good guy Doug Smith’s blog in the Toronto Star. “How can you not hope for the best for a team that’s lost so many vital components already and still manages to soldier on?” Smith asks of the beleaguered Blue Jays. Well, Doug, I’ll give you two names to explain why I cannot root, root, root for the Tranna Nine: Jose and Bautista. He is the most tedious, tiresome man in professional sports.

While watching a McDonald’s commercial during the terrific five-setter between our top tennis guy Milos Raonic and Pablo Carreno Busta at Roland Garros on Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but wonder: Who thought it would be a good idea to put coleslaw on a hamburger? I’m not lovin’ it.

I do love clay-court tennis and its long rallies, though, which might explain why the French Open is my preferred Grand Slam event and my two main men of all time are Bjorn Borg and Rafa Nadal. The Raonic-Carreno Busta match was terrific theatre, with the Spaniard enduring 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 8-6.

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.

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Mike O’Shea: He has no flair for fashion, but does he have to be such a jerk?

Tweets that grew up to be too big for Twitter…

So, let’s see if I’ve got this straight: When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lose a football game, Mike O’Shea cannot supply news scavengers with a definitive answer without first having to “see the film.” He’s Coach Copout. You get more insight from Mount Rushmore.

o'shea2

Coach Copout

Yet, when the Bombers rack up a W, as was the case against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night in the Banjo Bowl, the head coach flaps his gums for six minutes and 40 seconds without once insisting he must “see the film” before delivering the goods. That despite the fact many bad things happened in the Bombers’ 22-7 victory, developments that surely would have had him defaulting to film-speak had they led to a loss.

O’Shea is a reminder of what I disliked most about being in the sports media—dealing with jerks.

Why are so many people hung up on O’Shea’s shoddy taste in fashion? So he’s into T-shirts and hoodies and won’t make the cover of GQ. Big deal. Bill Belichick dresses like some guy who sleeps beside a dumpster, and all he does is take his New England Patriots to the playoffs every year and win more Super Bowl games than any living National Football League coach.

Woman beater and professional fist-fighter Floyd Mayweather roughed up some tomato can on Saturday night to run his career ring record to 49-0, and now he’s leaving boxing. Yup, he insists this was the last time he’ll use his fists to give someone a fat lip. Unless, of course, he decides to punch out a few more women. My guess is that with all the extra time on his hands, Floyd will be heading to a jail to be named later.

oj

O.J. Jailbird

Speaking of jocks in jail, I see where O.J. Simpson lost an appeal for a new trial on the kidnapping and armed robbery raps that earned him nine to 33 years behind bars, so he’ll remain in a Nevada lockup until 2017, at the earliest. No word on whether or not the Juice will resume his search for the real killers if paroled at age 70.

Prior to her ouster at the U.S. Open, a number of pundits were touting Serena Williams as the best athlete on the third rock from the sun. Not just the best tennis player, understand. The best athlete. Man or woman. That is, of course, utter nonsense. How can she be the top jock when she isn’t even the top tennis player? And in the ongoing discussion about Williams’ place in tennis history, distaff division, I’ll still take Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova every time.

That Peter Chiarelli is some kind of kidder. The Edmonton McDavids general manager sat down for a gum-flap with TSN’s Bob McKenzie and suggested fab frosh Connor McDavid will top out at 20 goals and 40 points as a National Hockey League rookie. Ya, and it will only snow once in Edmonton this winter. If McDavid isn’t at least a 60-point guy in his first go-round, we’ll need a federal inquiry.

Apparently, the PGA Tour playoffs are underway. Is anyone aware of this? Is anyone watching? Does anyone actually understand the format? And does it really happen if Tiger Woods isn’t there?

I really wish Steve Yzerman would hurry up and sign Steven Stamkos to a contract extension so scribes in the Republic of Tranna (hello, Damien Cox) could stop writing speculative pieces about the star centre/winger bolting the Tampa Bay Lightning to join the Maple Leafs and achieving “hockey immortality” with a place on Legends Row.

bannister shoesThe track shoes worn by Roger Bannister in May of 1954 when he became the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile have been sold at a Christie’s auction for $412,062.30. It’s believe they are the most expensive pair of shoes not in Caitlyn Jenner’s closet.

It occurs to me that The Reporters on TSN would be a much more entertaining chin-wag if the gab guys weren’t given a heads up on subject matter. Too much of what Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber and Steve Simmons have to say seems scripted. There’s seldom an invigorating thrust-and-parry. Sparks never fly. They’re afraid to offend one another. Hey, I’m not looking for a verbal donnybrook, but some sizzle would be boffo. As it is, they have time to research the topics on host Dave Hodge’s menu, which makes for rather bland banter. Make ’em do it off-the-cuff. Simmons, by the way, has sprounted scruffy chin and upper-lip whiskers, so he no longer looks like a hamster with nerdy glasses. He now looks like a hamster with nerdy glasses and scruffy chin whiskers.

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.