About the Winnipeg Free Press not giving a damn and the Winnipeg Sun being overrun by Postmedia outriders…flag football…Jim Barker’s lid…tell us what you really think, Kate…CFL power rankings…Mario’s pricey biffies…peeing in a bottle…and a chill in Winnipeg’s hottest summer

Three soft-boiled eggs on whole wheat toast and some leftover thoughts for a Monday morning breakfast

I cut my teeth in the rag trade by standing on the lumpy, pock-marked sidelines of local football fields, covering the Sisler Spartans, Churchill Bulldogs, Elmwood Eskimos and other outfits in the Winnipeg High School Football League.

If not at high school grid, I was courtside watching the best local tennis players do their thing on the clay courts of the Winnipeg Canoe Club or Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.

Major Junior/Junior/Senior hockey, kids curling, high school track and field, badminton, junior golf, bowling, figure skating, fastball, gymnastics, Junior baseball, hoops, amateur boxing…you name it, I was there to write about it. And if I wasn’t on site, I was on the Winnipeg Tribune sports desk, doing rewrites or laying out the pages that would prominently feature the games that local people played for no pay.

People continue to play those games today, but the sports sections of the two daily rags in River City have abandoned them. Almost entirely. And that is, indeed, sad and most unfortunate.

I mean, why am I reading about Miguel Angel Jiminez leading the Senior British Open golf tournament and a tie atop the ladies’ Scottish Open leaderboard in the Winnipeg Free Press instead of, say, the Manitoba Junior Baseball League playoffs, which are down to the short strokes and will feature two local outfits, the St. James A’s and Elmwood Giants, in the final?

Why does the Winnipeg Sun devote two full pages to a guy from Vancouver, Adam Zaruba, who’s in the training camp of the Philadelphia Eagles, two full pages to UFC blood-spilling in Calgary, and another two full pages to the Tranna-centric musings of Steve Simmons instead of the MJBL final four?

I know the reason behind the Sun’s dismissal of all local sports outfits that aren’t named Jets, Blue Bombers, Moose or Goldeyes, and I addressed it in January 2016, after parent company Postmedia adopted a centralized sports desk for its member papers:

“Some invisible head sitting behind some invisible desk in some remote outpost of the land now will decide what Winnipeg sports fans want to read. How this serves Pegtown provides serious pause for ponder. I mean, shouldn’t a sports editor be able to reach out and feel the pulse of the people? It’s easy enough to recognize that the Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the big dogs in town and, thus, generate the most talk. But what of lesser players such as the Manitoba Moose, the Winnipeg Goldeyes, the University of Manitoba Bisons, Junior hockey, local tennis, golf, curling, figure skating, etc.? My concern is that they shall be lost in the shuffle.”

The Moose and Goldeyes haven’t been ignored, but the others? Bupkus.

From July 15 until this very morning, the Sun printed 313 stories in 16 sports sections, and the professional-amateur split reads like a Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals scoreline—308-5. That’s a paltry 1.6 per cent of all copy devoted to amateur sports coverage, which has been sacrificed for Postmedia piffle from hither and yon, articles that have scant or zero significance to the River City rabble. Seriously. Steve Simmons taking issue with Kyle Lowry’s silence is something I want or need to read about in a Winnipeg newspaper?

It’s only marginally better at the Freep, where sports columnist Paul Wiecek wrote this at the start of the month: “A confluence of events over the Canada Day long weekend got me thinking about how we as Canadians so dramatically undervalue the contributions our amateur athletes make to this country, while simultaneously just as dramatically overvalue the contributions of our professional athletes.”

That particular column was more a gripe piece about greedy play-for-pay athletes, but the Drab Slab toy department and Wiecek then proved how little they value amateurs. From June 30 until this morning, they ran 614 articles and here’s the pro-amateur split: 558-56, or 9.1 per cent for amateurs. In that same time frame, Wiecek scribbled a dozen essays, 100 per cent aimed at pro athletes and pro sports (hmmm, 12 columns in 31 days…nice work if you can get it).

Like I said, I understand why the Sun has bottomed out on local amateur coverage. It’s marching to a national drummer. But the Freep has no excuse. It’s an independent paper with a sports section that doesn’t have any less space today than it did in the 1970s, and there’s no less staff. Which means there can only be one reason—they just don’t give a damn.

Speaking of pro sports, I must say, there was some gawdawful officiating on display during the Bombers-Tranna Argonauts skirmish on Friday night at Football Follies Field in Fort Garry, and it greatly benefited the home side. Winnipeg FC still would have beaten the Boatmen sans the generous flag-tossing, but, had the phantom infractions not been called, it might have made for a more compelling match.

The Bombers had a head count of 27,116 on Friday, their largest gathering of this Canadian Football League crusade, but Winnipeg FC is still 2,040 behind last-season’s three-game pace. That’s a dip of at least $57,000 in ticket revenue.

Rod Smith, Jim Barker, Matt Dunigan, Milt Stegall

I like Jim Barker’s input as one of the newbies among TSN’s cast of characters on CFL coverage, but he’s got to do something about his lid. If Barker’s grey-and-black locks aren’t flopping over his right eye, they’re sticking out at the back like he’s got bed head. Very distracting. As for that other newby, Davis Sanchez, if I want to listen to a man butcher the English language I’ll take Chris Walby any day. Bluto has better stories and he’s a lot funnier.

Listening to Kate Beirness of TSN glorify Johnny Manziel before and after the Edmonton Eskimos-Montreal Alouettes grass-grabber on Thursday night, I couldn’t help but wonder this: What does she really think about a guy who beat up his (former) girlfriend? What does she say about the Als quarterback once the camera is turned off? Is she being forced to promote him as the CFL’s shiny, new object?

I’ll say this for Paul Wiecek, he’s the only columnist in Canada who’s had the junk to write that Johnny Manziel’s doesn’t belong in the CFL due to his domestic violence history. If another scribe has spoken out, I missed it. So good on him.

Here are this week’s CFL power rankings…

1. Calgary (6-0): Who’ll stop these guys?
2. Winnipeg (4-3): Feasting on Tranna.
3. Edmonton (4-2): All those penalties (17) won’t cut it against a top-level foe.
4. Saskatchewan (3-3): Has anyone figured out what Chris Jones is trying to do?
5. Ottawa (4-2): Not going to win many games kicking seven field goals.
6. B.C. (2-3): Not convinced Travis Lulay is the answer at QB.
7. Hamilton (2-4): Going…going…gone?
8. Toronto (1-5): Time to try another quarterback.
9. Montreal (1-5): Still awful in either official language.

I note that hockey legend Mario Lemieux is selling his shack in Mont-Tremblant, Que., for a mere $21,999,066 million. It has eight bedrooms and nine washrooms. That’s $2,444,340.66 per biffy, for those of you keeping score at home.

On the subject of bathrooms, tennis great Serena Williams is whinging about men in lab coats continually knocking on her door and demanding that she pee in a bottle. Apparently, the doping sleuths have visited her five times this year. So what’s the big deal? I’ve had to pee in a bottle six times in the past 10 months, and I’m not even a world-ranked tennis player.

Shouldn’t the promotion of Gina Kingsbury to general manager of Canada’s national women’s hockey team warrant more than an ‘oh, by the way’ blurb in the media? It was bottom-of-the back-pages news in the Free Press, and 10 pages deep into the Sun sports section.

And, finally, the silence since a National Hockey League arbitrator awarded Jacob Trouba a $5.5 million contract has been deafening. Nothing from Winnipeg Jets ownership/management. Nothing from the Trouba camp. Kind of puts a chill into Winnipeg’s hottest summer in 30 years.

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About guts, glory and a civil rights icon peddling pickup trucks…warm-and-fuzzy Olympic Games…a fool at Fox News…fools at Postmedia…telling it like it is on NBC…a gay skip for the Brier…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…

Guts, glory…Martin Luther King Jr.

Guts, glory…and Martin Luther King Jr.?

That was my main takeaway from the Super Bowl last Sabbath—the disturbing reality of Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice telling me to run out and purchase a Dodge Ram pickup truck. I mean, when I think of Martin Luther King Jr., I think “I have a dream,” not heavy pay loads with guts and glory. But there was the great civil rights icon/turned huckster, peddling pickups.

Given that this often is a copy-cat world, I suppose we ought to brace ourselves for the voices of other dead icons the rise from the other side and serve as product shills in the future. For example…

JFK: “Ask not what your Chevy Silverado pickup can do for you, ask what you can do for your Chevy Silverado pickup.”

Buddha: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment—and, at this present moment, nothing would go better at your Super Bowl party than a family bucket of finger-lickin’ good KFC and a case of cold Bud Light.”

Jeus Christ

Jesus Christ: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me—and trust in Trojan Bareskin lubricated condoms.”

Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world—so imagine yourself encircling the world on a Royal Caribbean International cruise.”

Winston Churchill: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen—and when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”

Mahatma Gandhi: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind—so visit your nearest Pearle Vision location for your prescription lenses and frames.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water—and there’s nothing like a cup of Red Rose tea to soothe the soul after a challenging day at the office, even offices that aren’t oval shaped.”

Amelia Earhart: “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others—and, girls, when I became the first female pilot to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, I had my Stayfree Ultra Thin Overnight panty liners—with wings, of course—to get me through the turbulent times.”

Andy Warhol: “In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes—and when your 15 minutes of fame arrives, you don’t want to show the world your worst side. Use Clearasil to chase away those pesky blackheads and zits.”

Abraham Lincoln: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—but, ladies, if you find your man isn’t equal to the task, have him try Viagra!”

Super Bowl LII Takeaway II: I heard three players and one coach with the Philadelphia Eagles give “all thanks” to God and/or Jesus Christ scant seconds after besting the New England Patriots for the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. And here’s what I was thinking at the time: “If I’m an Eagles fans, I’m not thanking God or Jesus for the win, I’m asking them, “Where the hell have you two dudes been hiding for the last 51 years?”

Left to right: South Korean President Moon Jae-in, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, and Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

I must say, there are so many warm-and-fuzzy stories coming out of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, I can’t watch them without my Teddy bear. Exhibit A would be the debut of the Korean women’s hockey side, which featured a trio of North Koreans in the lineup. I haven’t root, root, rooted so hard for a team to score since 1972. Alas, Korea got the collar, losing 8-zip to Switzerland. But the image of South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s leading lady, Kim Yo-jong, sitting three seats apart—plus more than 200 choreographed North Korean cheerleaders—was poweful stuff.

Either Cassie Campbell-Pascall thinks we’re dense or she’s guilty of extremely bad timing. As the Swiss were putting the finished touches to their victory over Korea, the CBC talking head began prattling on about “parity” in women’s hockey. “If the Koreans can keep it at eight, it shows you just how far the game has come,” she said. “I know it’s an 8-0 game, but it’s not the 15-0 scores, the 18-0 scores that you used to see against these types of teams playing in their first Olympics.” C’mon, Cassie, don’t talk to us like we don’t know a puck from pasta. We’re Canadians. We live on Planet Puckhead. I’ve watched two games thus far: Swiss 8-Korea 0; Canada 5-Russia 0. Shots on goal: Swiss 52-Korea 8; Canada 42-Russia 18. That’s parity like a bag of hockey pucks is a plate of pasta.

John Moody

The Olympic Games aren’t even a week old and we already have a winner in the Complete Ass Clown event. Congratulations to John Moody, executive editor/executive vice president and spewer of vile commentary at Fox News, aka the Faux News Network.

Moody, displaying an astonishing level of ignorance as to the devotion, sacrifice, skill and qualifying process required to become an Olympic athlete, believes Uncle Sam’s reps in PyeongChang, South Korea, are a tad too dark, too gay and too inclusive. Thus, he’s cloaked the United States Olympic Committee in complete contempt, accusing it of operating a make-work-for minorities program masquerading as a sports organization that employs a quota system. You know, gather up any blacks, Asians and gays who can strap a skate, ski or snowboard to their feet and let ’em play! Talent and medal totals be damned!

Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger.’ It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’ If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work,” Moody wrote in an appalling, vicious, hostile op-ed piece.

A USOC official was quoted this week expressing pride (what else?) about taking the most diverse U.S. squad ever to the Winter Olympics. That was followed by a, frankly, embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes are on this year’s U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points—or medals—for skin color or sexual orientation.

For the current USOC, a dream team should look more like the general population. So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?”

A list of African-American, Asian and gay athletes as an example of diversity is embarrassing? If Moody ever quits his day job, I’m guessing they’ll find room for him at the Trump White House.

John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes

Second Complete Ass Clown of the Olympics Award goes to (who else?) Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna, who, 38 years into his career, remains too thick to understand the difference between a mean-spirited cheap shot and fair comment. The most recent example of this is his gratuitous broadside at mixed doubles curling. “Mixed curling, which is a fine event on Wednesday nights for husbands and wives at the Club, makes its Olympic debut this morning: and it just feels wrong to me,” he tweets. So he’s telling us that our Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris are faux Olympians. That they don’t belong with the real Olympians. Well, I have an idea. Let’s leave Lawes and Morris in PyeongChang to hopefully collect a curling gold medal and enjoy the experience, and Postmedia can haul Grandpa Simmons’s butt back home. His need to skewer well-intentioned athletes and their endeavours is seemingly addictive, incurable and speaks to a very significant character deficit. It’s a terrible look for a sports columnist with a national profile.

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir

Tough start for the male fancy skaters in the team competition in South Korea. I swear, I haven’t seen that many men fall without being touched since the last Italian soccer game I watched. Tough crowd, too. Especially in the NBC broadcast booth, where former fancy skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski held court. After Nathan Chen completed a flaw-filled performance, Weir went for the jugular, describing the American teen’s spin-stumble-and-ad lib routine as “a disaster. That was the worst short program I’ve ever seen from Nathan Chen.”

By way of comparison, CBC’s Brenda Irving, Carol Lane and Kurt Browning put on the kid’s gloves after our guy, Patrick Chan, hit the deck twice. “Unfortunately for Canadian fans,” said Irving, “not vintage Patrick today.” Browning mentioned Chan’s bravery for returning to a different “landscape” in figure skating and added, “I feel for him right now, tremendously, because I know his heart’s pretty broken.” Lane, meanwhile, served up apologies about a coaching change. How positively Canadian of her.

John Epping

John Moody and Fox News won’t like this—John Epping is going to the Brier next month (March 3-11) in Regina. And he’ll be skipping a team. Not only that, he’s gay. Openly gay. Must be part of some hidden agenda whereby Curling Canada has a “laundry list” that includes a gay quota. Seriously, it’s nice to see Epping finally get the better of nemesis Glenn Howard, who, until last weekend, had used the Peterborough skip as his personal pinata in Ontario for the past decade. Good guy Epping thus becomes the first openly gay man to skip at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

Scotties champs (left to right) Dawn McEwen, Shannon Birchard, Jennifer Jones and Jill Officer.

Once upon a time, Winnipeg newspapers covered curling like no other sheets in the country. It was wall-to-wall. Couldn’t get enough “hurry hard” on the sports pages. Now? You can’t even find curling on the menu of the Sun website. As if that isn’t bad enough, the tabloid was MIA for the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton, allowing Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press to cover the Canadian women’s championship uncontested (she nailed it, of course). It didn’t matter that the field included three—count ’em, three—River City outfits (six-time champ Jennifer Jones, runner-up Kerri Einarson, Team Canada’s Michelle Englot). Some suit at Postmedia decided that the Winnipeg Sun would best be served at a Winnipeg-centric event by a guy (Murray McCormick) from Regina. Sigh.

Given the revelations and developments at the White House last week, does anyone out there still think a woman-beater like Johnny Manziel ought to be making a living in the Canadian Football League? If so, ask yourself this question: “What would my reaction be if my daughter brought Manziel home for dinner?”

 

Cale Makar isn’t a “damned fool”…Steve Simmons is

Editor’s Note: I vowed I wasn’t going to write this blog anymore. I was fini. I mean, it’s not like my voice is essential, or that I expect my views to sway opinion. The sports universe can, and will, unfold as it should with or without my two cents worth. But geez Louise, the media mooks have gotten to me. I can no longer ignore them. So I’m back. Sort of. Kind of. This might be a one-off. But I doubt it.

***

Quiz me this, kids: If a sports writer doesn’t appear to enjoy sports or many of the athletes who play kids’ games, should he be writing about sports and the athletes who play kids’ games?

I agree. He shouldn’t be.

Steve Simmons: Damned fool is in the doghouse again.

So why hasn’t anyone at Postmedia told Steve Simmons it’s time to sack his bats and go quietly into the night? Maybe find a hobby that doesn’t involve character crucifixion. I mean, the Tranna-based opinionist has fallen into a mosh pit of insulting, callous, demeaning, shameful, dismissive, bitter, unnecessary name-calling commentary. He doesn’t offer opinion so much as he delivers nasty. He isn’t a writer. He’s a hit man.

His latest victims are a fledgling, 19-year-old college kid and a group of amateur athletes who hold down daytime jobs and actually lose money in pursuit of sporting achievement and glory.

The college kid is Cale Makar, who, for reasons yet to be disclosed, reportedly declined an invitation to join the Canadian men’s hockey outfit for a few weeks of frolic at next month’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. For this, Simmons, without knowledge of the wherefore and why of Makar’s decision, calls the teenager “a damned fool.” It doesn’t matter if the young defenceman’s determination was based on counsel from his parents, his college leaders or his agent. Apparently a Postmedia columnist knows best. So the kid’s a “damned fool.”

Imagine that. Steve Simmons: Life coach. Who knew? And how utterly objectionable.

But there’s more.

Not satisfied with discrediting a teenager, the Postmedia mouthpiece has also put mixed doubles curling in his crosshairs. Admittedly a quirky event, it debuts as an Olympic discipline in PyeongChang, much to Simmons’ huffy disapproval.

It’s a recreational pursuit,” he harrumphs from his soapbox of sourpuss stirrings.

The winner of the men’s and women’s downhill at PyeongChang will get the same gold medal as the winners in mixed doubles curling. Doesn’t sit well with me,” he adds.

Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris: Steve Simmons doesn’t want them at the Olympics.

Well, excuse our Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris all to hell. The nerve of those two Olympic champions, turning a “recreational pursuit” into an Olympic dream. And, hey, it’ll be such bad manners if they earn the top step on the podium in South Korea and accept gold medals. Can’t have that in the world according to Steve Simmons. Daredevils of the downhill ski slopes are gold-worthy. The curlers? They’re lesser-thans. Give ’em trinkets made of tin foil, right Stevie?

Simmons is such a prig. His commentary is mean in spirit and gratuitous in nature and has become chronic.

Canada wins gold in Olympic hockey: Steve Simmons says get rid of it.

Some examples…

Marcus Stroman: Steve Simmons says he’s an annoying kid.

As for individuals, Kevin Durant is “gutless,” Venus Williams is “92 years old,” Marcus Stroman is an “annoying kid” who needs to “grow up,” Brooke Henderson also needs to “grow up,” John Farrell is a “traitor,” Phil Kessel is petty and “small,” Roger Goodell is a “flim-flam” man, Chad Ochocinco is a “big mouth,” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

None of that is necessary, and the steady outpouring of gratuitous cheap shots should be an embarrassment to Simmons and Postmedia.

But no. He insists on wrapping himself in the robes of the villain scribe, assuming them to be garments of honor in a profession that supposedly values the tell-it-like-it-is posturing of the late Howard Cosell. Well, there’s nothing honorable about Simmons’ contrarian shtick. He doesn’t write with the skill, the cheek, the witty irreverence, the knowledge, or the delicate touch of those who came before him or many of his peers today. He comes at the reader with the sledgehammer of the unpolished practitioner, and it’s become tawdry, tiresome and tedious.

And nobody at Postmedia has noticed this? Damned fools.

 

About Marko Dano moving to Glitter Gulch…silence from the Winnipeg Jets…no whining from the Pittsburgh Penguins…Mike O’Shea calling Drew Willy to have him come back…empty seats in the Republic of Tranna…best CFL coach ever…lack of star power in golf…and gays in pro sports board rooms but not in dressing rooms

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

So, Marko Dano’s new mailing address might be Glitter Gulch, and this is a problem for the Winnipeg Jets how?

Seriously, all the teeth-gnashing and angst about which player the Vegas Golden Knights plan to pluck from a Jets roster not good enough to qualify for the recently concluded Stanley Cup tournament is so much ado about nil.

Marko Dano

Does anyone truly believe that the local hockey heroes can’t get along without Marko Dano? Or Michael Hutchinson? Or any of the lads available to Vegas in the National Hockey League expansion draft?

Exposing Dano to the whims of the new kid on the block is not a deal-breaker. If his name is called when the players selected by Vegas are revealed on Wednesday, it will have zero impact on the Jets. Zero. They missed the postseason with Dano, they can miss it without Dano.

Having said that, I don’t get the Jets’ infatuation with Andrew Copp. I see him as a fringe NHLer. A fourth-line forward who shouldn’t get more than 10 minutes of ice a night. If it was a choice to protect Copp or Dano from the Vegas vultures, I’m keeping the latter.

The Dallas Stars need a goaltender, they get one. The Carolina Hurricanes need a goaltender, they get one. The Calgary Flames need a goaltender, they get one. The Montreal Canadiens need scoring, they get some. The Golden Knights need draft picks, they’re collecting them like a squirrel stashing away acorns. The Jets need…well, apparently nothing. Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman and his valet, Kevin Cheveldayoff, will lay claim to a whack of freshly scrubbed teenagers later this month at the NHL entry draft, then hit the snooze button for the rest of the summer (except perhaps to gift Chris Thorburn with a fresh three-year contract).

It’s about Paul Maurice. Remember all that “oh, woe are we” whining about the schedule we heard from the Jets head coach when his outfit was required to play 32 games in 60 days at the start of the 2016-17 crusade? Well, the Pittsburgh Penguins just played 25 games in 61 days. I think we can agree that playoff hockey is a different animal than shinny in October, November and December. It’s much more intense, demanding, draining and flat-out brutal. It’s sort of like dog years, but not quite. That is, I’d say one playoff game is equal to three regular-season assignments, so the Penguins actually played 75 games in 60 days en route to their second successive Stanley Cup title. Yet not once did I hear their head coach, Mike Sullivan, sniveling about the schedule.

Drew Willy

What does Marc Trestman know about quarterbacks that Mike O’Shea doesn’t. Plenty apparently. I mean, it took O’Shea two complete Canadian Football League seasons and five games into a third crusade to realize Drew Willy wasn’t the answer at quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It took Marc Trestman less than one half of one exhibition game to arrive at the same conclusion for his Toronto Argonauts, thus he pink-slipped the former Bombers starting QB on Saturday. You don’t suppose O’Shea has already placed a call to Willy’s agent, do you? Talk about a frightening prospect.

Donald Trump will stop using Twitter before I part with money to watch exhibition football, and it seems that 99.9999 per cent of folks in the Republic of Tranna are of a similar mindset. The announced head count for the Argos’ one dress rehearsal at BMO Field was 5,532. I once saw that many clowns squeeze into a Volkswagen Beetle at the Shrine Circus when I was a kid.

I’ve heard and read a lot of “Don Matthews is the greatest head coach in Canadian Football League history” since the Coach of Many Teams died last week. Well, I beg to differ. I mean, what’s the measuring stick? Total victories? Wally Buono beats him. Winning percentage? Hugh Campbell, John Hufnagel, Marc Trestman, Bud Grant, Ralph Sazio and Buono beat him. CFL titles? Campbell, Buono and Frank Clair have as many, and Campbell did it in six seasons compared to Matthews’ 22. The best head coach ever? I’ll take Hugh Campbell or Bud Grant over The Don any time.

Once upon a time—and not so long ago—the first question you’d ask during one of golf’s major tournaments was “What did Tiger shoot?” and you’d expect to hear that Tiger Woods was at, or very near, the top of the leaderboard. The second question would be “What about Phil?” and you’d likely be told that Phil Mickelson was in striking distance of the lead. Those two were the heartbeat of the men’s pro tour. They were the latter-day version of Arnie and Jack. Now? The men’s tour is a mosh pit, with an assortment of players alternating as flavor of the month. It was Rory McIlroy, then Jordan Spieth, then Jason Day, then Dustin Johnson. Trouble is, there isn’t a swashbuckler among them. None has polarizing or riveting appeal. I wouldn’t say the PGA Tour has become a bore, but it ceased being must-see TV about the same time Woods got caught with his pants down and drove his car into a tree.

Quiz me this, kids: Why was the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s a good thing and the Golden State Warriors’ dominance the past few years a bad thing for the National Basketball Association?

Laura Ricketts

The president and chief operating officer of the NBA-champion Warriors, Rick Welts, is openly gay. One of the co-owners and a board member of Major League Baseball’s reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs, Laura Ricketts, is an out lesbian. Two openly gay people in power positions with championship teams and yet gay players are still afraid to come out of hiding. I’d say that tells us all we need to know about the 1950s culture that still exists in the dressing rooms of the top four major sports leagues in North America.

I sometimes subscribe to the old bromide that our mothers often delivered: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’m not going to say anything about the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather dust-up.

Add 3-on-3 hoops to Steve Simmons’ growing list of sports he doesn’t fancy. The Postmedia scribe writes this: “Coming to the next Summer Olympics. Three on three basketball. Honest. With a 12-second shot clock. Games are 10 minutes in length or end when the first team has 21 points. Somebody out there in Olympic land—or many IOC members—have lost their minds.” So, if you’re keeping score at home, Simmons wants 3-on-3 hoops, trampoline and women’s hockey eliminated from the Olympics. And he wants the best tennis players in the world to cease participating in mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. The reality that the Summer Olympics now will include mixed relays in athletics and swimming, as well as mixed competition in triathlon, table tennis, judo and archery must keep him awake at night. I mean, the poor sap might have to write about a female ping pong player if a Canadian does well.

I note that Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps plans to race against a great white shark. Man vs. animal is nothing new, though. Jesse Owens raced thoroughbred horses. Former National Football League receiver Dennis Northcutt raced an ostrich. NFLers Chris Johnson and Devin Hester raced a cheetah. And, of course, numerous men fought Mike Tyson.

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.

 

About the Secretariat of clay court tennis…a delight named Jelena…time for Chevy to get to work…and angry, old Grandpa Simmons is shaking his fist at clouds again

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

Let’s make something perfectly clear: Stan Wawrinka is very, very good and what he does.

Unless your name is Roger Federer, Stan the Man is the best tennis talent ever produced in Switzerland. He is just one successful Wimbledon fortnight short of a career Grand Slam, having already claimed the singles titles at the Australian, French and U.S. Opens. He is ranked No. 3 among all racqueteers on the third rock from the sun.

Yet Rafael Nadal made No. 3 look like No. 303 in the men’s final at the French Open on Sunday in Paris.

It was like watching Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. Seriously, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1? In the championship match of a Grand Slam tournament? We haven’t seen a rout like that since Custer threw down on Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn. Or at least since Rafa paddywhacked Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2008 championship match at Roland Garros.

But that’s what Rafa Nadal does. Put him on a tennis court made of clay and you have Secretariat.

Rafa Nadal

The wedgie Rafa delivered to Wawrinka on Sunday reminded me of something Yogi Berra mused about Sandy Koufax, scant seconds after the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander had whiffed 15 New York Yankees in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series:

I can see how he won 25 games,” said Yogi, the Yankees catcher. “What I don’t understand is how he lost five.”

It’s the same with Rafa Nadal. He’s won the title at Roland Garros 10 times, collecting 79 victories against two losses. How in the name of Philippe Chatrier did he lose twice?

Robin Soderling (2009) and Novak Djokovic (2015) are the only foes to vanquish Rafa on the red clay of Roland Garros, and I have to assume French Open officials demanded that both men pee in a bottle immediately after their matches. I mean, you don’t beat Nadal in Paris unless there’s something funny in your drinking water.

Most people go to Paris for the food, the wine, the art, the culture and the romance. Nadal goes to search and destroy. He’s relentless, ruthless and has the steely-eyed focus of an assassin.

Wawrinka mentioned something about playing Rafa on a clay court being the stiffest challenge in tennis, and evidence supports that notion. Nadal has lost only twice at Roland Garros. In 13 years. He’s 102-2 in best-of-five matches on clay.

But Wawrinka is also selling the Spaniard short. It isn’t just tennis. Playing Rafael Nadal on clay is the greatest challenge in the entirety of sports.

Jelena Ostapenko

There’s hope for the future of women’s tennis, and her name is Jelena Ostapenko, the Latvian lass whose dashing and daring ruled the day at Roland Garros. The winners and unforced errors come in equal number from Ostapenko, but once she brings her service game up to the level of her groundstrokes (she hits her forehead harder than world No. 1 Andy Murray) the 20-year-old will become the face of the ladies’ game the moment Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova take their permanent leave. It isn’t just her substantial game, though. It’s her winning personality. On court, Ostapenko bares her emotions, off court she is the very picture of wide-eyed innocence, often giggling like a schoolgirl and forever smiling. She’s an absolute delight.

While watching the French Open this past fortnight, I found myself wondering this: How did Steffi Graf, Chrissie Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and other legendary ladies’ champions win all those Grand Slam titles without the orgasmic shrieking and grunting that we hear today?

I heard a rumor that the National Hockey League season is over. If that’s true, someone give Kevin Cheveldayoff a nudge and tell the Winnipeg Jets general manager to “wakey, wakey.” It’s time for him to go to work.

I note that Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press has been tabbed for induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Roll of Honour in October. Good choice. Wiecek is the best sports columnist the Drab Slab has featured since Hal Sigurdson signed off in 1996, even when he’s writing about rock climbing.

Steve Simmons has become the Jose Bautista of sports writing: Tedious, tiresome and time to move on. I mean, it’s one thing for a columnist to be opinionated and rub the rabble the wrong way. That’s a large part of the gig. And Simmons surely has mastered the art of getting up noses with his alphabet farts that appear on sports pages of Postmedia sheets from one flank of the True North to the other. But…the Toronto Sun scribe has grown increasingly nasty and mean-spirited, if not cruel, in his commentary. He is Grandpa Simmons, shaking his fists at clouds and screaming at kids to get the hell off his lawn. A case in point is Simmons’ take on mixed doubles competition in Grand Slam tennis. When our girl Gabriela Dabrowski advanced to the mixed doubles final of the French Open last week, Mark Masters of TSN delivered this tweet: “No Canadian woman has won a mixed doubles grand slam title. Ottawa’s @GabyDabrowski has a chance to change that on Thursday.” To which Simmons responded: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” I’m not sure if that was supposed to be funny, witty or clever, but it was none of the above. It was classless, tacky and totally unnecessary, as were a series of insensitive follow-up tweets belittling Dabrowski’s and partner Rohan Bopanna’s achievement.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Simmons is pooh-poohing yet another event in sports. It’s become his shtick. Last year he was “bothered” by the selection of Rosie MacLennan as Canada’s flag-bearer for the Olympic Games in Rio, because trampoline is “a marginal pursuit” that “seems more backyard and gimmicky that it does Olympian.” He’s also advocated the elimination of women’s hockey at the Olympics, writing: “Women’s hockey is the least competitive, least interesting, least Olympic of all sports in the Winter Games. There should be a cry to end this Olympic charade of imbalance.” And he once told the Ryerson Review of Journalism that “I don’t believe there’s a demand from the public for women’s sports.” I’ll remind you that he writes for a newspaper that’s best known for the tits and ass it displays on Page 3 and, to this day, continues to objectify women with its Sunshine Girl.

Thanks to a study by neuroscientist Tara Swart, we now know what we’ve suspected all along: Journalists’ brains function at a sub-par level. For evidence, see: Simmons, Steve. (See, I can stoop to gratuitous, mean-spirited and nasty comments, too. You know, just like a real sports columnist at a real big-city newspaper.)

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.