About cheering for Matt Nichols…bloggers vs. mainstream media…cops putting the cuffs on Kane…a cheeseless Cheesehead…and other stuff 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…

Matt Nichols
Matt Nichols

I don’t mind admitting that I’m root, root, rooting for Matt Nichols to get the job done this week when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haul their sorry butts into Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Hey, I’m not in mainstream jock journalism anymore, so I’m allowed to wave pom-poms and type at the same time now.

Actually, true confession: I always did cheer for certain athletes. Just like every sports scribe then and now. Oh, they’d have us believe that they’re flatliners when it comes to partisanship, but that’s a load of hooey for two reasons: 1) The beat is more enjoyable to work when writing dispatches about a winning outfit, because the to-and-fro with jocks tends to be less adversarial; 2) writers develop a fondness for some players—especially the “good quotes”—so they wish for them to succeed.

They’re just supposed to keep it on the QT and not allow it to leak into their copy, that’s all.

Here in the blogosphere, on the other hand, we’re not bound by that unwritten code. We can lash them or we can laud them based on our biases.

I’m partial to the Bombers. My personal history with them dates back to the beginning of the glory years in the late 1950s; ergo, my preference is that they once again become something other than the free space on the Canadian Football League bingo card. Is Nichols the quarterback to take them where they haven’t been since 1990? One can hope, so one can cheer for him.

Bobby Hull and former bride Joanne
Bobby Hull and former bride Joanne

Interesting to note the difference between how bloggers and mainstream media tackled the announcement that Bobby Hull would be among the first three inductees to the Winnipeg Jets Hall of Fame. Bloggers Mitch Kasprick at Winnipeg Hockey Talk and Cara at Arctic Ice Hockey addressed the matter of Hull’s history of domestic violence head on, whereas mainstream jock journalists didn’t touch it. Cara’s piece spurred a healthy debate among AIH readers and contributors, which makes me wonder what opinionists at the Winnipeg Sun and Winnipeg Free Press were afraid of.

Also interesting are the literary gymnastics that Paul Wiecek has performed on the sports pages of the Freep during the past few months. I hope he didn’t hurt himself. I mean, in mid-April, he was advocating contract extensions for the losing tandem of Bombers general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea. Earlier this month, he advised us that O’Shea was not to be faulted for the local football heroes stumbling out of the gate. And now? It’s all Mikey’s mess. Apparently CEO Wade Miller has held up his end. Ditto Walters. So Mikey has to wear that 1-4 record. I make no secret that I’m a Wiecek fan, but I’m concerned when he goes all Gary Lawless on us.

So I have just one question after seeing that photo of Buffalo cops slapping the bracelets on old friend Evander Kane and charging him with several counts of wrong-doing that involved the physical mistreatment of women: Has Sabres Tim Murray called his counterpart with the Winnipeg Jets, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and asked, “Any possibility of a do-over on that trade, ol’ pal, ol’ buddy?” I feel bad for Murray. I mean, how’s he going to off-load Kane to another National Hockey League outfit now?

Aaron Rodgers the Cheesehead
Aaron Rodgers the Cheesehead

Can this be true? Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, has cut cheese from his diet? The main Cheeshead going cheese free? In Wisconsin? What’s next? Winnipeggers stop eating Sals nips and shopping wholesale?

Okay, if you hadn’t heard of Rosie MacLennon prior to last week, you’re forgiven. Not forgiven, however, is Steve Simmons of Postmedia for his catty and crass comments of Rosie’s selection to carry the Canadian flag at the opening of next month’s Olympic Games in Rio. In the world according to Little Stevie Blunder, a trampolinist has no business leading our athletes into the five-ring circus. He submits that her sport is “more backyard than Olympian.” If I’m reading him right, he’s telling us that if kids can do it in the backyard, then it doesn’t belong in the Olympics. Good thing Walter Gretzky didn’t know about that when he built that backyard hockey rink for his boy Wayne.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 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 in 2015.

 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: How long a leash will Mike O’Shea give Matt Nichols?

As I was saying last week in the wake of another Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ wedgie, Drew (One Hop) Willy would be the first sacrificial lamb placed on the spit because Mike O’Shea had no choice but to fire his starting quarterback.

Mike O'Shea: End of the line?
Mike O’Shea: End of the line?

So the head coach did that very thing on Sunday.

Quite possibly (more than likely?), the move to flip-flop Willy and Matt Nichols was strongly suggested to the stubborn O’Shea by a voice from above, because he did mention something about “conversation” being part of the decision-making process. He didn’t say whom that tete-a-tete involved, but nothing speaks louder than roughly 9,000 empty seats at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, so club CEO Wade Miller might have whispered a not-so-sweet something in his ear.

That, mind you, is pure speculation.

Maybe Miller wasn’t being a buttinski and O’Shea made this call sans pressure from on high. After all, the much-maligned man might be mule-like, but stubborn isn’t stupid. He doesn’t need to see the wall to read the writing on it that tells him he has arrived at coaching’s cliff edge.

Something had to give. It was Willy. And, yes, this smacks of Hail Mary-ism.

I mean, sideline stewards are loath to turn to their No. 2 QB when No. 1 is in fine physical fettle, and all indications support the notion that Willy is free of any owies that might prevent him from taking the starter’s snaps. Thus, sacrificing Willy’s job to perhaps salvage his own is a nervy gambit by O’Shea. Also necessary. His troops, after all, are 1-4 and, while many gaze upon him as a dead man coaching, there are other culprits responsible for the shoddy start to this Canadian Football League crusade.

Matt Nichols: Behind centre, but for how long?
Matt Nichols: Behind centre, but for how long?

Foremost, at least in the consideration of many among the rabble, is Willy. His numbers suggest he’s doing boffo business, but we know better, don’t we. Much, if not the most generous portion, of his yardage has been collected in garbage time. When it most matters, he flings the football like someone has sucked all the air out of the thing. Or he’s afraid it’ll give him the cooties. Seriously. There are penguins with better hang time than a lot of Willy’s passes.

Which is why the Bombers will have $411,000 worth of QB standing on the sidelines at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Thursday night, and a backup with a losing record attempting to outwit the Eskimos defensive dozen.

Or will they?

Color me skeptical, but I’m not convinced O’Shea will grant Nichols a long leash. After all, the coach knows that if his universe is not unfolding as it should early in the skirmish with the Eskimos, not even a dip into the healing waters of Lourdes will keep him out of the unemployment queue. So, it’s my guess that he’ll turn to Willy faster than Knuckles Irving can say “another two and out for the Bombers.”

Willy got five games. Nichols might get five minutes. If this is to be O’Shea’s last waltz, he’ll finish it with the QB he brought to the dance.

Drew Willy: Down but not necessarily out.
Drew Willy: Down but not necessarily out.

The ginger-haired head coach said nothing of the sort during his brief chin-wag with news scavengers post-practice on Sunday. Not in so many words. But he went to great lengths to emphasize his unwavering faith in ol’ One Hop. Not that anyone expected O’Shea to kick the poor guy when he’s down, but he made it sound very much like he believes beyond all reasonable doubt that this is but a blip in the Willy career arc.

More to the point, I found his answer—or non-answer—to this point-blank question extremely telling: Does Matt Nichols give this team the best chance to win?

This week, absolutely, he gives us a good chance to win. For sure,” O’Shea said.

The answer I had expected to hear was, “Of course he does. That’s why he’ll be starting against the Eskimos. We need a win and he gives us our best shot.” Instead, it was “a good chance” to win rather than “the best” chance to win. Call it splitting hairs, if you like, but what he didn’t say told me more than what he did say.

If Nichols stubs his toe in The Chuck, he’ll be holding a clipboard again. Bet on it.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 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 in 2015.

 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Wade Miller started the train wreck, but he’ll be the last man standing

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

Wade Miller
Wade Miller

Let’s not sugar coat this. Someone has to lose a job. Pronto.

Start with Wade Miller. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers board of directors went all-in on their Chief Executive Officer the day they put his hands on the till in the summer of 2013. It didn’t matter that he had zero experience operating a Canadian Football League outfit. Surely, he couldn’t do more damage than Garth Buchko, right? And, hey, he played the game. Thus it was Miller time in Pegtown.

Alas, Miller’s inexperience surfaced almost immediately, when he hired the wrong guy, who then hired the wrong guy, who then hired the wrong guys.

Miller’s “exhaustive” search for the right man to generally manage the Winnipeg Football Club was laughable. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and submit he might have picked up his phone once or twice and made a long-distance call or two, but basically his GM hunt started and ended with a stroll down the hall at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, whereupon he poked his head into Kyle Walters’ office and said, “The job’s yours if you want it,” then retreated to his own bunker.

That was Miller’s idea of a “full search.” Cripes, man, I’d wager he travels further to order a Quarter Pounder and large fries. Seriously, it was the laziest manhunt since O.J. swore he’d find the real killers.

So now the Bombers had a rookie CEO and a rookie GM tasked with the chore of mopping up the mess defrocked general manager Joe Mack had left behind. What better way to accomplish the cleanup than to bring in another greenhorn, right? Enter rookie Mike O’Shea, the filmaholic head coach whose 41-game sideline stewardship has been notable for failure, his quarterback blindness/stubbornness and his penchant for firing every coordinator he’s hired.

I suppose the Greenhorn Three could be forgiven rookie mistakes when they were, in fact, rookies. You know, growing pains and all that rot. But what’s the excuse today?

The Bombers were given yet another wedgie on Thursday night, and simple math indicates that someone ought to be out of work post haste. Their uninspiring, 33-18 loss in a skirmish with the Calgary Stampeders was the fourth of this 2016 crusade, against one success, but that 1-4 log provides just a glimpse of the big picture.

Overall, Walters is 15-38 and O’Shea is 13-28. Even more damning for the head coach is his record since a 5-1 start in 2014: 8-27. That’s positively Reineboldian!

So, where does the buck stop? At Wade Miller’s desk? At Kyle Walters’s desk? In Mike O’Shea’s film room? At offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice’s playbook? At quarterback Drew (One Hop) Willy’s changing stall?

Miller isn’t going anywhere, not as long as the bottom line on the financial statement is written in black ink (mind you, approximately 9,000 unoccupied seats at each of the last two home dates probably provides pause). Similarly, it’s unlikely that either Walters or O’Shea will be dismissed in advance of the Bombers’ next assignment, on Thursday night in Edmonton. LaPolice is safe with his plink-and-plunk offence, if only because O’Shea cannot continue to blame others for his own misgivings.

Which means…that’s right, Drew Willy is the first sacrificial lamb.

I don’t know if someone working at a higher pay scale will have to force his hand, but O’Shea really has no choice but to fire his quarterback. If he goes against the Eskimos with One Hop Willy at the controls, O’Shea is signing his own pink slip. He’s surrendering to the inevitable. And he’ll be next out the door. Followed by Walters.

My prediction: The last man standing will be Wade Miller, the guy who started the train wreck by hiring the wrong guy, who hired the wrong guy, who hired the wrong guys.

Kyle Walters
Kyle Walters

Here are the gory details of the Miller-Walters-O’Shea era compared to their predecessors:

General manager Joe Mack: 21-39
General manager Kyle Walters: 15-38
Head coach Paul LaPolice: 16-28
Head coach Tim Burke: 7-21
Head coach Mike O’Shea: 13-28

Interesting point made by Bombers running back Andrew Harris on the heels of the loss to Calgary. Harris, who was with the B.C. Lions when they stubbed their toes and came out of the gate at 0-5 in 2011, noted that the Leos recovered and hoisted the Grey Cup that November. So, sure, it’s doable. Except the Lions had Wally Buono as a GM, not Kyle Walters. They had Wally Buono as a head coach, not Mike O’Shea. They had a healthy Travis Lulay as a starting quarterback, not One Hop Willy.

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 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 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 in 2015.

 

Goal or coal: Sports Santa has stocking stuffers for jocks and Jills

Okay, Sports Santa, time to do your thing. You know the drill. Make your list, check it twice, tell us who’s been nice, naughty and flat-out nasty this year.

What will it be, goodies or a lump of coal or two in those Christmas stockings?

naughty santaCOAL: Kyle Walters, because he lied. The man who generally mismanages the Winnipeg Blue Bombers insisted that the signing of University of Manitoba Bisons grad Jordan Yantz to a tryout contract was not—repeat, NOT— a publicity stunt.

“He’s a legitimate quarterback prospect,” Walters told news scavengers. “Jordan is going to come in and compete for a spot on our roster at quarterback. We feel he has shown all the tools needed to play this position at the professional level, and we look forward to watching him compete in camp. This isn’t a charity case.”

Liar, liar. His pants were a three-alarm fire.

Yantz had about as much chance of earning employment with the Canadian Football League club as Walters has of being appointed GM of the Dallas Cowboys. He was given less than a handful of reps at practice and, although dressing for one preseason exercise, head coach Mike O’Shea refused to send him into the fray to take a snap.

COAL: That’ll be three lumps of the black stuff for O’Shea. Actually, make it an entire coal bin. First for gagging his assistant coaches, who are not allowed to speak to news scavengers; second for refusing to deliver an honest evaluation of his players and/or their performance without first having an opportunity to “watch the film;” and third for his role in the Jordan Yantz sham.

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.
Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.

GOAL: Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen, champions of all the land’s lady curlers. The Buffalo Girls won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, no small feat, and how they were overlooked as a team-of-the-year finalist in balloting by the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association is a mystery. Apparently, their continued success in Canadian and Olympic curling has become ho-hum. Shame, that.

GOAL: The Montreal Alouettes, for having the junk to sign Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay man to perform in the CFL.

COAL: Michael Sam. What a wasted opportunity. Rather than make a strong statement for LGBT athletes, he bugged out on the Alouettes not once, but twice. He played one game at rush end, recorded zero sacks and zero tackles, was made to look the fool on one play, then skipped town and, once back in the U.S., he prattled on about the CFL being beneath his talent level.

COAL: Steve Simmons, scant days after the debut of Sam, an openly gay man playing for the Alouettes, the Toronto Sun scribe, whose work oft appears in the Winnipeg Sun, wrote: “In reality, pro football still awaits its first openly gay player.” Apparently, Little Stevie Blunder is much like that tree falling in the forest…it doesn’t happen unless he’s there to see and hear it.

GOAL: Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Winnipeg Jets general manager who proved he actually has a pulse by arranging for Evander Kane’s ticket out of River City. Unloading the underachieving, injury-prone problem child was a master stroke, especially given that Kane was done for the season. We don’t see a whole lot of big trades in the National Hockey League, and many of us didn’t think Chevy had it in him. We were wrong. Unfortunately, he went back into hibernation and hasn’t been seen nor heard from since. Sort of like that tree falling in the forest.

COAL: Cheveldayoff for allowing the very useful Michael Frolik to skate off to Calgary. For zip. Nada. If he does the same with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, say goodnight, Chevy.

COAL: To every professional athlete who hit a woman this year.

Chris Thorburn
Chris Thorburn

GOAL: Chris Thorburn, the much-maligned man who continues to do everything asked of him by the Jets and is now the franchise leader in games played. Too often he is a fourth-liner dressed up as a third-line forward (with gusts up to the first line when head coach Paul Maurice loses his mind) and his very existence on the roster speaks to a disturbing lack of depth, but I admire his stick-to-itness.

GOAL: Bryan Little of the Jets for his understated excellence. No, he wouldn’t be the No. 1 centre on every NHL outfit, but he can play on my team anytime.

COAL: Gary (La La) Lawless, late of the Winnipeg Free Press and now a talking head with TSN. Give him the entire coal bin. While still the loudest voice at the Freep, he sucked up to Blue Bombers management by repeatedly telling readers that it takes more than 1 1/2 or two years to rebuild a broken-down CFL franchise. Hello? Can you say Edmonton Eskimos and Ottawa RedBlacks, Gary? La La also asked the dumbest question of the year, when he wondered aloud if Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was going to “give up,” even though his club was a mere two points removed from a playoff spot with six games yet to be played.

GOAL: Jonathan Toews, a Winnipeg product and class act who captained the Chicago Blackhawks to another Stanley Cup championship.

COAL: Wade Miller, CEO of the Blue Bombers. Because he’s Wade Miller, CEO of the Blue Bombers.

GOAL: Mo Glimcher, grand poobah of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. Mo, one of the truly good guys, will be sacking his bats after 40 years with the MHSAA, giving giving the executive director plenty of spare time to attend Bandy tournaments across the globe.

GOAL: Dan Halldorson passed away in November and the Brandon/Shilo golfer was remembered for his vital role in keeping the pro tour in Canada alive and well.

GOAL: Take a bow Joe Pascucci of Global and Knuckles Irving of CJOB. Joe was inducted into the media wing of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, while Knuckles was awarded the CFL’s Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

Big Buff is no fan of three-on-three shinny.
Big Buff is no fan of three-on-three shinny.

COAL: Dustin Byfuglien dissed the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime format, saying, “It ain’t hockey. It’s stupid.” Yo! Buff! If you weren’t huffing and puffing so badly after three periods, you’d probably enjoy a little pond hockey.

COAL: The Reporters with Dave Hodge on TSN moved from Sunday mornings to Monday afternoon. I can do Sunday mornings, but I don’t do Monday afternoons. Move it back.

GOAL: Old friend Teemu Selanne had his Disney Ducks jersey No. 8 raised to the rafters at the Honda Center in Anaheim early in the year and, during a lengthy speech, the Finnish Flash actually thanked the small people—the cleaning lady and the Zamboni driver. Class act to the end.

COAL: Paul Maurice, head coach of the Jets. See Peluso, Anthony. That’s why.

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 Blue Bombers: The Teflon Triumverate is making Miller time look an awful lot like Mack time

Wade Miller isn’t going anywhere because…well, just because.

Kyle Walters isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller says so.

Mike O’Shea isn’t going anywhere because…well, because Wade Miller told Kyle Walters to say so.

But, hey, when a team sucks as badly today as it did two years ago (to the day) when Miller became the official grand poobah of all things Winnipeg Blue Bombers, somebody has to take the fall. Actually, you can make that somebodies. Plural.

For those of you keeping score at home, what ails the Winnipegs is Joe Mack’s fault. Gary Crowton’s fault. Tim Burke’s fault. Gary Etcheverry’s fault. Pat Tracey’s fault. Marcel Bellefeuille’s fault. There’s possibly some blame to lay at the feet of Buzz and Boomer, as well.

The nasty stuff, meanwhile, fails to stick to the Teflon Triumverate of Miller, Walters and O’Shea, who have taken a 3-15 outfit that failed to qualify for the Canadian Football League playoffs in 2013 and transformed it into a 5-13 outfit that, once again, is on the outside looking in as the Grey Cup tournament commences this weekend.

Nice work if you can get it.

The thing is, the Teflon Triumverate finds itself in the most enviable position of working for mostly non-football-savvy bosses who no longer harbor an appetite for paying people not to work. Thus, there shall be no blood-letting by the board of directors. Not at the moment.

Apparently, the only man willing to wield an axe is O’Shea, the off-with-their-heads head coach.

Once upon a time there was a shop in downtown Winnipeg called the Man with the Axe. It was a discount men’s clothing store. Now it’s where other CFL teams shop for discontinued coaches. I mean, if there is a defining measure (other than wins and losses) of O’Shea’s two-year sideline stewardship, it is his penchant for firing the men he has hired. He’s whacked three co-ordinators in less than a year. Etcheverry, responsible for the defensive dozen, was the first to go last December. Next on the chopping block was special teams CO Tracey, in September. Now offensive CO Bellefeuille is gone, just when I’d finally learned to spell his name without looking it up.

That isn’t a coaching staff O’Shea is operating. It’s a McDonald’s drive-thru.

But, hey, he learned at the knee of the whack master himself, chief executive officer Miller. On his first day on the job as “acting” CEO, Miller whacked much-maligned general manager Joe Mack. On his second day as permanent CEO, he whacked head coach Tim Burke.

Welcome to Whack-a-Mole, Blue Bombers version.

It’s fair, two years after the fact, to assess the workings of Miller as CEO of the once-proud Winnipeg Football Club, and I find myself asking this: Exactly what has he done?

Miller’s first order of business was to hire a general manager and a head coach. He promised an “exhaustive” search for a GM. He would leave no stone on the North American football landscape unturned. As if. All he did was walk down the hall to Walters’ office and say something like, “Yo! Kyle! It’s about that exhaustive search thing I promised our fans. I can’t really be bothered. Too much of a hassle. I know you don’t have any experience, but the job’s yours if you want it. By the way, I’m hungry. Could you whip over to the nearest McDonald’s and get me some burgers?”

Nothing Miller has done on the football side (we won’t talk about the Heritage Classic hockey or stadium fiascos) has worked. Not Walters. Not O’Shea. The Teflon Triumverate is 12-24 in two crusades. Thus, it’s perhaps appropriate to revisit something he said shortly after his anointment as CEO.

“I’m not afraid to prove myself and let my results speak for myself,” he said. “That’s my calling card…so we’re going to bring it.”

All he’s brought is more misery for Bombers Nation.

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 Blue Bombers: Will Mike O’Shea fire the special teams coach this week?

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

Well, it’s obvious what Mike O’Shea has to do now, isn’t it? Right. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach has to fire his special teams coach. Punt the bum. Pronto. Just like he did in making a sacrificial lamb of previous special teams coach Pat Tracey.

Except O’Shea is his own special teams coach now. Talk about job security.

Sigh.

I don’t know what was more disturbing Sunday afternoon, watching Stefan Logan skedaddle through the Bombers’ kick coverage like a jack rabbit hopped up on Red Bull (273 yards, one touchdown) or the reality that the Montreal Alouettes now hold down a playoff position—in the West Division. In giving the Bombers a good an proper paddywhacking, 35-14 at Percival Molson Stadium, the Larks lurched ahead of Canadian Football League turtles in B.C. and, of course, Winnipeg. An eastern team in the western playoffs would not be cool. Definitely not cool.

walters
Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters.

Could Kyle Walters’ and Wade Miller’s friend in the Winnipeg media (you know who you are, Gary Lawless) please explain to us one more time why it must take more than two years to turn around a moribund CFL outfit? The Ottawa RedBlacks were an expansion franchise a year ago. They finished their maiden season at 2-16. Today they are 7-4, sniffing at first place in the East Division. Why do Bombers CEO Miller and GM Walters require more time than their counterparts in Bytown?

Big improvements at the Little Hockey House on the Prairie. They’ve added 278 premium seats, meaning they now can accommodate 15,282 sets of eyeballs for Winnipeg Jets games. Not only that, these are swivel chairs. How convenient. Whenever goaltender Ondrej Pavelec coughs up a hair ball, you can simply turn your back on him.

I see where cops made a big drug raid in Quincy, Mass., about 12 miles southeast of Fenway Park in Boston. They discovered oxycodone pills, money-counting machines, police scanners and $9,000 in cash. Oh, ya, and a 2004 Red Sox World Series ring was part of the ill-gotten loot, confirming that you really do have to be on drugs to cheer for the Bosox.

Evander Kane
Evander Kane

Well, look who’s talking tall again. It’s old friend Evander Kane. It was right about this time a year ago when the now-former Jets problem child was flapping his gums about scoring 50 goals in the 2014-15 National Hockey League season. Never happened. Now he’s popping off again, saying, “Maybe I want to score 40 or 50” with his new team in Buffalo. I’m guessing the Sabres would settle for 25-30 goals, and they’ll be absolutely delighted if he doesn’t leave his clothes lying around in the dressing room.

When Patrick Kane read a prepared statement the other day claiming he had “done nothing wrong,” why was I thinking of Richard Nixon? Well, it’s because Tricky Dick kept telling us that he was “not a crook.” We all know how that turned out, don’t we? I don’t know if Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks resident bad boy, raped a women this summer, but I found his presser to be offensive in the extreme and wondered why the the Hawks trotted him out for news scavengers. Bad move, bad taste.

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun is somewhat miffed because the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be making room on their charter flights for team broadcasters. Oh, those poor boys. They’ll have to fly commercial and mingle with all those pesky brats who squawk during an entire flight. When will people like Simmons learn that, on the Give-a-Damn meter, the public simply doesn’t give a damn about media woes like seating arrangements on an airplane or the cost for a pre-game meal in Chicago? I mean, Boo flipping hoo.

Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky

So, Wayne Gretzky has weighed in on the federal election. The Great One is backing the Grate One, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Great One advises us that the Grate One has been “wonderful to the whole country” and “an unreal prime minister.” I’ve always liked Gretzky, but ex-hockey players who live in the United States and cannot cast a ballot in Canada shouldn’t be telling us how to vote.

Just wondering, but does Ronda Rousey scare men? She surely seems scary. But any talk of the UFC diva and fist-fighter Floyd Mayweather climbing into the octagon together is reckless and irrational gibberish. I mean, everybody knows Mayweather only hits women who won’t fight back.

Wow, NASA has named a patch of Mars after Winnipeg. Yup, there’s now a Winnipeg, Mars. In related news, just to be safe, 725 players in the National Hockey League immediately added Winnipeg, Mars, to their list of won’t-go-there destinations in the no-trade clauses of their contracts.

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.

Mainstream sports media: Don’t blame them if they don’t get the whole story; blame the system

I don’t think I could work in mainstream sports media today.

Oh, I could write in MSM. I would love to write in MSM again. But I couldn’t work in it. Too many inconveniences. Too much protocol. Too many 140-character bites that say nothing. Too much in-house video. Too many scribes tweeting and texting instead of telling it like it is. Too much thin skin. Too much distance between scribe and subject. Too little respect.

I suppose this might come across as the banal bleatings of an old bag burrowed in a time warp, but that simply isn’t so. Yes, I’m old school. Cripes, man, I’m so old school they should name a wing of the old school after me. That, however, does not mean I’m the anti-Steve Jobs. More to the point, I’m all for the new-fangled gadgetry. It just isn’t for me.

Give me a notebook, a pen, a tape recorder and a keyboard and I’ll get ‘er done, as Matt Dunigan is wont to say.

I find myself in ponder of such matters this day due to a recent pilgrimmage to Winnipeg, which, thankfully, fell shy of living up to its slanderous nickname of Winter-peg. It was warm, welcoming and, much to my delight, several springlike celcius above zero upon my arrival, thank you. That made for rather slushy snow-shoeing, but nary a discouraging word shall be heard during a January thaw.

At any rate, during my three-day escape to good, ol’ Hometown in the middle of nowhere, I had occasion to chin-wag with numerous MSM sports scribes and talking heads, each of whom I hold in great regard. They are talented, clever, humorous, witty and oh…so…cynical. (After one gum-flapping session, I retreated to my hotel room and wondered aloud if I had been as derisive during a three-decade stretch as a jock journalist. The answer, of course, was “yes,” although I like to think my 15 years removed from that biz has served to mellow myself and my musings.)

There is, of course, very good reason why sports scribes are cynical—they work on Planet Pinnochio. That is to say, people are always lying to them. Every minute of every hour of every day, an athlete or coach or manager or team owner is telling a news scavenger a big, fat fib and his/her nose grows longer than a Winnipeg winter. This breeds cynicism and leads to spillage, like mistrust.

Here’s something else that sports scribes are up against: Access that really isn’t access.

I have often wondered why there is a dearth of personality pieces in our sports pages. You know, feature articles to remind us that we’re dealing with people first and athletes second. Time was (sorry, I’m going old school on you again) when we would write about the people who played the games, not simply the score, the goal collectors and division standings. We hadn’t even heard of Corsi or Fenwick. We got to know the players, coaches and managers. I had John Ferguson’s home phone number. And Chris Walby’s. And Cal Murphy’s. I could call them and let them tell fibs day or night.

Well, we don’t read personality pieces because the scribes aren’t granted the time. It isn’t their editors holding them back. It’s the system.

Yes, news scavengers have access to team personnel. Very limited access. Some players actually monitor the number of times they face the press. They document the number of questions. The minutes. Players do it in Winnipeg. They do it in Toronto. They do it in Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton and Montreal and Ottawa. A one-on-one chin-wag is as rare as a Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. It’s all so structured and team dictated now. And if a player doesn’t appreciate the tone of a question, sorry, time’s up. Gotta go. That’s why we’ve seen and read about those unfortunate Phil Kessel-reporter scenarios in the Republic of Tranna.

Why do you think you hear so many dumb questions? It isn’t because the scribes and talking heads are dumb. It’s because they don’t have the time to sink their teeth into meaty subject matter. Hence, you get dumb questions and even dumber answers.

Bottom line: Don’t blame mainstream sports scribes for any absence of what I call “people pieces” in our news sheets. How do you write about people if you can’t get to know them?

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.

Heritage Classic: Are those big, bad Bombers pooping on Jets’ party?

My, my, my…don’t we have our knickers in a knot. Or, to put it in more seasonal and appropriate terms, our frozen noses are out of joint.

I’m quite uncertain if the citizenry of any other burg in the Great White North would react so angrily to the postponement of a gimmicky game of pond hockey, but the fine folk of Winnipeg have adopted a mob mentality and appear prepared, also poised, to arm themselves with pitch forks and torches and advance on Football Follies Field in Fort Garry.

There, the menacing marauders will find Wade Miller, villain. The Grinch who has stolen their Heritage Classic.

Miller, of course, is Grand Poobah of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a forlorn Canadian Football League outfit that has made an art form of never failing to fail since the last Grey Cup parade on the downtown streets of River City. That was in 1990. In each of the ensuing seasons, they’ve popped the top on a fresh crusade, only to conclude it by either watching the Grey Cup game from the comfort of their man caves or falling short in the championship match.

It is, however, one thing for Miller to oversee Cirque du Bombers. It is quite another to impose the whims of his Sad Sack outfit on the Winnipeg Jets and National Hockey League. Apparently, he has some kind of nerve.

Why would anyone think it's too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?
Why would anyone think it’s too cold for an outdoor NHL game in Winnipeg during the winter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

True North Sports & Entertainment, the do-no-wrong entity that owns and operates the Winnipegs, and the NHL desired to host the outdoor Heritage Classic, a joust featuring the Jets and a yet-to-be-identified foe, in mid-December. Sort of an early Christmas gift for Jets Nation. Miller and the Bombers are fully onside with the concept of an outdoors shinny match in their playground. Just not in mid-December. That’s not distant enough from the 2015 Grey Cup game they shall host, Nov. 29 at Football Follies Field. And it’s too close to Santa’s arrival. They’d prefer February or March 2016.

So, the Bombers, True North and the NHL have agreed to scuttle the whole thing. The Jets won’t be playing hockey on a frozen football field come next winter.

And who do you suppose is wearing the black hat? You guessed it. Miller and the Bombers.

They are seen as self-serving, short-sighted, tinytown thinkers who torpedoed the project for fear that a Heritage Classic scant weeks post-Grey Cup would funnel revenue away from the Bombers’ coffers and into the True North/NHL piggy bank. Joe and Josphine Phan’s entertainment dollar, after all, stretches only so far. They might have to choose one event over the other. Or take out a second mortgage to attend both the Grey Cup game and the Heritage Classic, plus put presents under the tree. Miller doesn’t want to risk it. He figures it’s best he not run with the big dogs. For this, he has been battered fore and aft in comment threads. He didn’t take this much of a beating during his 10 years as a Rudyesque special teams demon for the Bombers.

But, what has actually been lost here? It’s a postponement, not a cancellation. Does it really matter if the Heritage Classic is held in December 2015 or 2016 or ’17 or ’18 or ’19 or ’20?

I could be wrong, but I have a hunch Old Man Winter will make an appearance in Winnipeg, as scheduled, in 2016 and beyond. There will be white stuff on the ground and piled high on street corners and parking lots. There will be sub-zero temperatures. Block heaters will be mandatory. Round tires will go square. Exhaust fumes will fill the air. Ponds will be frozen. And people will be playing outdoor shinny.

The Winnipeg Jets shall be among them. So chill.

In the meantime, my fear is the fallout. That is to say, what price will Miller and the Bombers pay for the delay of the Heritage Classic? People are talking about boycotting the football club. Cancelling season subscriptions. Boycotting the Grey Cup game.

Good grief.

Folks waited 15 years to get an NHL team back in River City, yet they are bent out of shape because they must wait an extra year, minimum, to sit on an outdoor perch that is a telescopic three or four postal codes removed from the ice surface. During winter’s worst bite.

“Damn that Wade Miller,” they yelp! “Who does he think he is to deny Peggers the right to freeze their assets off?”

From where I sit, he’s a guy doing his job.

 

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.