Pay attention to what you don’t see in our sports coverage

Gender bias in sports media is hiding in plain sight. Every day.

Chances are, however, that you don’t recognize it because you read, see and hear only what’s in front of you, and you fail to contemplate what’s not in front of you.

But pick up a newspaper (if people still do that), go to a mainstream media sports website, or tune your flatscreen to an all-jock TV channel, and if you look and listen closely enough (you won’t have to strain) you’ll notice what’s absent from the coverage.

That’s right, female sports.

Oh, sure, the jock outlets acknowledge activity on the distaff portion of the playground, but it’s extremely sparingly and often done begrudgingly, like a parent allowing a child to stay up an extra hour on a school night. Just don’t do it too often, if you know what’s good for you.

I mean, if an editor were to deliver an inordinate amount of female sports coverage, chances are readers/viewers would be lickety-split with a reminder that “nobody cares” about the girls and women who run, jump, throw, skate and bounce balls.

The only sports that seem to generate close to equitable content are tennis and, in Canada, curling. Oh, there’s also figure skating. For some reason, mainstream news snoops are rather smitten with female fancy skaters, most likely because they tend to be dainty and delicate creatures who smile a lot and perhaps remind them of their sisters or daughters. But that’s only 10 days every four years when the Olympic Games torch is aflame.

Otherwise, sports reporting remains a man’s world run (mostly) by men, talked about (mostly) by men, and written about (mostly) by men.

That was confirmed (once again) earlier this year by TIDES, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which studied, then graded 100 newspapers/websites with a big, fat F for their gender hiring practices. That F doesn’t stand for fantastic, fabulous or fine.

“While women saw slight improvements in 2021, the overall record of the sports media for having women in prominent positions remains terrible,” said Richard Lapchick, Director of the Institute.

Here’s the evidence:

  • 83.3 percent of sports editors were men.
  • 75.8 percent of assistant sports editors were men.
  • 82.2 percent of columnists were men.
  • 85.6 percent of reporters were men.
  • 75.3 percent of copy editors/designers were men.
  • 78.1 percent of web specialists were men.
  • 63.7 percent of upper management were men.

No surprise, therefore, that the huge majority of decision-makers assume the consumer wants (demands?) a steady diet of the big-ticket items, which is to say major men’s professional team sports. So why would they be inclined to force-feed readers/viewers a bag of unsalted peanuts and a glass of soda water when nachos, cheeseburgers, extra-large pizza with double cheese, and pints (tall boys, naturally) are available. Pig out, boys.

All of which explains the numerous studies that historically peg the amount of female-centric content in sports coverage anywhere from 3-to-5 percent. (See: USC/Purdue University.)

The gender bias is blatant and yet subtle.

For example, Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail recently wrote an essay on the Canadian men’s national soccer side giving Mexico the cold shoulder in a frost-bitten, World Cup qualifying skirmish in frigid Edmonton.

“For the first time in our sporting history,” he submitted, “Canada may have an enemy that isn’t Slavic or Scandinavian.”

Say again? I assume “our sporting history” includes women’s hockey, so what part of the Canada-U.S. rivalry in Ponytail Puck does Kelly not understand?

I mean, I realize Donald Trump did a few loopy things while in the White House, but I don’t recall him selling America―lock, stock and the right to bear arms―to a Slavic or Scandinavian nation. The good, ol’ U.S. and A. is still in North American, due south of our Frozen Tundra, and there’s no True North sporting thrust-and-parry that matches the bitterness and intensity of Canada vs. the Yankee Doodle Damsels on a sheet of ice.

But Kelly’s comment is typical of mainstream jock journalism. Unless someone has lit the Olympic Games torch, female sports is a tree falling in the forest and no one has been assigned to see or hear it.

Another example would be the debut of the Toronto Six, a member in good standing of the Premier Hockey Federation (nee National Women’s Hockey League). The Six dropped the puck on the first home assignment in franchise history on Saturday, and whupped the Connecticut Whale in front of a packed York Canlan Ice Arena. Here’s how mainstream media in the Republic of Tranna handled the event:

TSN: 0 coverage on 60-minute highlights show.
Sportsnet: 0 coverage on 60-minute highlights show.
Toronto Sun: 0 words in print edition; 0 words on website.
Toronto Star: 0 words in print edition; 135 words of CP copy on website.

The following day, the unbeaten and first-place Six doubled down with another victory over the Whale, which warranted a 55-word sports brief in the Star and no mention on the TV highlight packages or in the tabloid.

In another daily on another patch of the Frozen Tundra, the Winnipeg Free Press boasts of a robust record on the female sports file, yet the numbers scream, “That’s bogus!”

September 2021
Men’s articles/briefs: 409
Women’s articles/briefs: 29
Editions that included local female sports coverage: 7 of 30.

October 2021
Men’s articles/briefs: 456
Women’s articles/briefs: 32
Editions that included local female sports coverage: 11 of 31.

The Freep toy department is governed by men and its stable of scribes is devoid of females, although that isn’t unusual given that, across the vast land, Jills who write about jocks are as scarce as smiles and belly laughs at a gravesite.

That isn’t apt to change any time soon because, based on the latest TIDES study, change to gender bias on the sports media landscape is moving slower than the globe’s glaciers, and the women don’t have a Greta Thunberg prepared to stand up and raise a big stink about it.

Thus the bias, both blatant and subtle, shall continue unchecked, and the men who make the decisions don’t need to care.

A close encounter with Mr. Cough Up A Lung…things that make me go hmmm…Ellen and Portia in their Alcatraz mansion…NHL teams still spending…at home with TSN…reinventing the sports page…and other things that make me go hmmm

So, I had my second WTF pandemic experience while at the market the other day and, of course, it was unpleasant. With gusts up to ghastly.

Standing in the checkout line, I heard coughing a few feet to my aft. It wasn’t just a controlled, clearing of the throat kind of cough, understand. This was hork-up-a-football kind of stuff. Hack! Hack! Hack!

I turned and observed an unkempt man of substantial girth.

I noted, with an appropriate level of alarm, that he wasn’t covering his mouth and—get this, kids—he had a protective face mask dangling from his freaking neck. Now, I realize those things are optional, but this dude was under the misguided notion that his green mask was a fashion accessory from the Armani COVID-19/2020 Spring Line.

I cringed and edged toward the checkout counter, whereupon Mr. Cough Up A Lung attempted to cut me off. The gall.

I glared as only a prunish, little old lady in a supermarket checkout queue can glare. (It’s a stern look that strongly suggests you don’t want to get prickly with me, buster.) He backed off, as if I was packing heat, but not without a grunt of disapproval.

“You were in line before him,” the store clerk quietly confirmed scant seconds later.

We both glanced in his direction. He wiped his nose with a bare left hand, and I just about lost the fried ham-and-egg sandwich I’d had for breakfast.

I paid for my goods, hurriedly packaged them and left my cart for an employee, who correctly noted that I seemed edgy. She sprayed the cart with a bottle of disinfectant, then wiped it down, and a thought occurred that I might have her hose me down, as well. Or perhaps have her dial 1-800-COVID-19 and report the cad. But I chose to scurry through the exit instead, like there was an unpaid-for rump roast hidden under my cape.

I squirmed during the entirety of a five-minute trek home, knowing the back of my garments and hair were coated with the oaf’s spittle and phlegm.

I can only hope I got rid of all his creepy-crawlies, but there’s no guarantee.

Like I said, it was a WTF moment.

Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 1: There’s supposed to be approximately six feet of physical distancing between us while we’re out and about during the pandemic. Or, in Canadian measure, the length of a hockey stick. Hmmm. Judging by the closeness of folks I saw on the street, they think it’s the hockey stick Wayne Gretzky used when he was a toddler.

Ellen’s Alcatraz

There are good jokes, there are bad jokes, and there are jokes that fall flatter than any 10 miles of Saskatchewan tundra. Ellen DeGeneres knows all about that, because the TV gab gal did a blah, blah, blah thing from home last week, and not even the laugh track from an Archie Bunker rerun could have saved her.

“Today,” she said, “I am filming this in my living room because it has the best light and sound and all the other rooms in my house are filled with toilet paper.”

I giggled. Then this…

“One thing that I’ve learned from being in quarantine is that people—this is like being in jail, is what it is,” she regretfully continued. “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”

That’s $27 million, 8,188 square feet, six bedrooms and 8.24 oceanside acres worth of jail. In lovely Montecito, Ca. The Crowbar Inn it ain’t. Oh, and Ellen’s cellmate? Why, that would be her her bride, Portia de Rossi, who’s gorgeous and lovely. Such a hardship that must be.

Ellen has yet to offer a mea culpa for the offensive portion of the video, but she, or a convenient flunky, performed a hasty edit and the reference to her personal Alcatraz no longer exists.

Interesting to note that Portia de Rossi, when not working the camera and lighting for the daytime TV diva’s home show, is teaching herself to cook during the lockdown. Main course? Ellen’s Humble Pie, of course.

Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 2: Some cab drivers have refused to transport nurses to and fro. Some banks and pharmacies aren’t allowing nurses to enter their facilities. Some scoundrels have stolen medical equipment from nurses and paramedics. An Asian nurse was hit with an umbrella and spat on. A guy hurled a huge splat of spit on the floor buttons of a Vancouver apartment elevator. Hmmm. You don’t suppose there’s a special corner in hell reserved for those people, do you?

Can you count to 19,027,499, kids? That’s how many American greenbacks National Hockey League outfits committed to just nine greenhorns in the past six days. Leading the way was Dylan Samberg, a runny-nose rearguard whose $3.525-million deal with the Winnipeg Jets included a $92,500 signing bonus. Cole Holts ($92,500), Cameron Crotty ($92,500), Cole Schwindt ($92,500), Alexander Barabanov ($92,500), Mark Kastelic ($80,000) and David Tendeck ($50,000) also were handed bonuses for doing squat. Hey, I don’t blame the kids for the cash grab, but it seems to me that there’s something totally tone deaf, also odious, about NHL teams signing players to six- and seven-figure contracts when half the people in North America are wondering when their next paycheque will arrive.

At home with Rod Smith.

This week in jock journalism…

TSN resurrected its signature SportsCentre, which had been put on the shelf for two weeks because there just wasn’t anything to talk about other than COVID-19 shutting down the playground. Turns out there still wasn’t much to talk about other than COVID-19 shutting down the playground, but Rod Smith gave it his best shot.

Rod anchored the gig from his home and, get this, not once did he grumble about jail, hoarding toilet paper or the number of gay people in the room.

I don’t recall Rod saying who was working the camera, but I’m guessing it wasn’t Portia de Rossi.

Anyway, as mentioned, the show was low on substance and high on vacant blah, blah, blah and, truthfully, the most interesting aspect was our peek-a-boo at the various TSN personalties’ dwellings.

Smith, for example, sat at a desk with a shelving unit as a backdrop. It included: Books, two footballs (one deflated, no doubt autographed by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick), a vintage radio, a vintage camera, a mini Team Canada jersey, a coffee mug, two ceramic beer mugs, and a football team photo.

At home with James Duthie, Dregs. Pierre LeBrun and the Bobfather.

The rest of the roster looked like this:
Mark Masters: Bobble head dolls, books, a world globe, a framed document, a cap.
Frank Seravalli: A pair of skates, a Gritty doll, a typewriter, a hockey helmet, a mini Stanley Cup, books, Canadian and American flags, a mini Liberty Bell.
Gino Reda: A goalie mask, a pic of Gordie Howe, a hockey puck, a golf flag from a Wayne Gretzky tournament, some kind of medal, three books, a big red Maple Leaf, a mini Grey Cup, a trophy.
Darren Dreger: An old fashioned radio microphone, sports books, a bobblehead doll, a framed picture, a Gemini Award.
Bob McKenzie: A glass bowl, a plant, a framed print, three gold candles.
Pierre LeBrun: A pic of 2004 Team Canada from the world championships, a framed pic of Martin Brodeur (I think. It might be Bill Ranford).
James Duthie: French doors, family photos, two tall glass thingies.
Matthew Scianitti: Books, a football, the word “Believe.”
Farhan Lalji: Various framed pics and newspaper clippings.
Dave Naylor: Books.

Paul Maurice

Both Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff emerged from hiding to flap gums and wag chins with news snoops and, naturally, the Winnipeg Sun and the Drab Slab dutifully recorded their pearls of wisdom. I didn’t read a word of what the Jets coach and GM had to say, but let me sum it up for you in 21 words: “Yes, we’re disappointed the NHL season was put on pause; yes, we’d like to see the season completed; wash your hands.” Let me know if I’m wrong.

Memo to the boys on the beat: Just because Maurice and Cheveldayoff move their lips, it doesn’t make it news.

On that note, interesting comment from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “Rather than talk about possibilities of completing the season or playoffs, why doesn’t Gary Bettman just say this: When there’s something to announce, we’ll announce it. Until then, we’re staying home and social distancing. The regular peddling of hope comes off as either disingenuous or delusional.” Here’s a better question: Why do the Postmedia papers run a story every time the NHL commish opens his mouth? If what Bettman says is “disingenuous or delusional,” shouldn’t Postmedia stop reporting it?

Sports sections (those that survive COVID-19) have a chance to reinvent themselves with activity in the playground on pause. Rather than ignore the existence of the Internet and continue to churn out the same old, same old copy that’s ancient news by the time it lands on a reader’s doorstep, they can be delivering more of a magazine-style product. Give us some quality deep-dive reads, give us a package of quirky quick-hits, give us some Q&As that delve into social issues, give us off-beat, give us personality and entertainment. Just don’t keep giving us boring.

Got a kick out of this line from Mad Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab: “Sam Katz has worn many hats in his lifetime. Which is why his take on the COVID-19 pandemic—from government response to the short and long-term impact on citizens, communities and even sports clubs—carries plenty of weight.” Oh for gawd’s sake. Sam Katz is relevant like the back of a garbage truck is a salad bar. He has nothing of significance to add to the coronavirus discussion. I spent 30 years in jock journalism and I never met a phonier man than the Winnipeg Goldeyes owner. And that’s saying something, because I covered a lot of boxing.

And, finally, things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 3: Donald Trump, the apprentice president of the U.S., seems to think the COVID-19 pandemic is more about his TV ratings than body counts. Hmmm. If the guy can’t be Time Magazine Man of the Year, he’s a shoo-in for TV Guide Man of the Year.

COVID-19 and the Live and Let Die syndrome

Let’s say I contract COVID-19.

And let’s say I’m in a hospital bed, struggling for what might be my final breath. Someone half my age, also in last-gasp mode, is bedded down in the room next to mine. We both need a ventilator. There’s only one available.

So which of us lives and which of us dies?

Well, a rousing game of rock, scissors, paper to claim dibs on the ventilator is out of the question because, hey, we’re dying and I’m not prepared to squander my final wheeze on a silly schoolyard/pub game. So, what, we leave it up to the medics to decide? Nope. Not moi. I insist that the 35-year-old live on.

Which means, yes, I’m quite prepared to die, and I’d rather spare any doctor the uncomfortable dilemma of making the COVID-19 choice of live and let die.

Death doesn’t frighten me, you see.

Actually, I don’t think anyone truly fears death. The fear is in not living any longer. We fear leaving before we have fulfilled a dream, or before saying what needs to be said, or before counting all of our money. We fear the loss of those external elements that we believe make us who we are. We fear death of self before death itself.

But is death not the ultimate confirmation that we have lived? Without death, there is no complete life.

I’m now in my 70th lap around ol’ Sol, and mortality has dogged me for the past 20 years. It’s what happens when we arrive at a certain station of life and, for me, that was age 50, when the angels began to collect former newspaper colleagues, honorable adversaries and dear friends at an alarming rate.

Gone are Matty and Pick and Witt and Gus and Jon and Shawn and Abby and Robby and Skull and Siggy and Reyn and Shaky and the Baron and Trent and Jeems and Milt and Chester and Cowboy and Bish and Billy P—all 20 of them leaving since the turn of the century, which doesn’t seem that long ago. I admired those people and learned something about journalism from each of them in different ways. What to do, what not to do, how to do it, how not to do it. Some valuable life lessons were tossed into the mix, as well.

And that’s only a partial list of the dearly departed. It doesn’t include the numerous sports figures—Fergy, Baiz, Moosie, Frank McKinnon, Vic Peters, etc.—with whom I once shared space and oxygen. Nor fellow elbow-benders like wee Des, Georgie Boy and Hillbilly John. Again, all gone in the past 20 years.

I don’t dwell on death, but it is a constant for those of my vintage, and never more so than now, with the COVID-19 body count rising each day.

Medics like B.C.’s top doc, Dr. Bonnie Henry, talk about an “ethical framework” that determines who does and who doesn’t get a ventilator if we reach crunch time during the pandemic, but I prefer to take it out of their hands.

If it’s between me and someone with plenty of runway remaining, I’m good to go.

Donald Trump

So, Donald Trump wants to see activity in the playground “very soon,” and the American president believes it will be business as usual for the National Football League in September. “I want fans back in the arenas…whenever we’re ready, I mean, as soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey,” he told news snoops on Saturday. Well, that’s a warm-and-fuzzy sentiment, but also extremely unicorn-ish and full of fairy dust. “Nobody gives a shit (about sports) right now…better to turn hockey rinks into makeshift hospitals or morgues,” says Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Room Physicians. So there.

If Donald Trump refuses to ship 3M protective masks to our Canadian health workers, I say we recall Neil Young, Alex Trebek and the Stanley Cup. But they have to keep Celine Dion, Howie Mandel and Nickelback.

Most of us follow our personal doctors’ advice. I mean, if told to take two aspirin and call ol’ sawbones in the morning, I take two aspirin and make that call. Yet when the finest medical minds in our country advise us what to do (stay the frig home) during the COVID-19 crisis, they are ignored by many among the rabble. I find that to be a most curious bit of business. Even more curious: Why would it take a celebrity athlete, singer or movie star doing a PSA to convince some that the safest place to be right now is behind our own closed doors? Seriously, you’ll listen to, say, Connor McDavid instead of Dr. Theresa Tam? The mind boggles.

Ashley (DeadEye) Jones

On the subject of boggled minds, mine went for a shake, rattle and roll the other day when I happened upon something called Swamp People during a channel surfing expedition. Yowzas. What some folks won’t do for a buck. They get their kicks—and earn a healthy portion of their yearly income—by grabbing guns and hunting alligators in the thick of the Atchafalaya River Basin swamps in Louisiana every September. Not surprisingly, most of the Swamp People are men, but one woman was featured on the show, and I can guarantee you that Ashley (DeadEye) Jones is someone you want on your side when the fur starts to fly. Working solo on an air boat, she tagged three gators and lived to talk about it over some Cajun cooking. Truthfully, I didn’t know people like this even existed, but these ‘gator trolls have been on the History Channel for 11 years.

Tough times continue to hit the rag trade due to COVID-19, and the Winnipeg Free Press has asked workers to take a 12-to-20 per cent whack to their wages. Publisher Bob Cox took the lead, with a 50 per cent slash to his salary, and we can only wonder what newspapers will look like when we break through to the other side of this thing. Many won’t make it.

About two weeks ago, columnist Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna was bragging about a 20-page sports section in the Toronto Sun, at the same time ridiculing the Toronto Star for running just two pages of sports coverage. It was a disturbing and tone-deaf boast. Today, the Sun has shrunk from 20 pages to 12 pages of nothing worth reading, with no section cover. Like the aforementioned Dr. Alan Drummond submits, “Nobody gives a shit (about sports).”

If you’re having trouble coping with self-isolation, consider that this is how many of our seniors live year-round. It might be health/mobility reasons that keep them inside, in might be financial, it might be a lack of motivation to get out and about. Whatever the case, many seniors are out of sight, but that doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. Give a kind thought to our elderly. They’ve earned it.

Nothing but fake news in shrinking sports sections

No one can see the finish line, no one knows where the finish line is, and we are left to wonder what the wide, wide world of sports will look like once squints and medics around the world force COVID-19 to tap out.

That includes the sports sections of our daily news sheets.

Back on the Ides of March, I gave a worrisome nod to the girls and boys on the jock beat, suggesting they’d be running on fumes by now, with little or nothing to write about other than the coronavirus ransacking the playground.

“Truthfully, I’m concerned about today’s jock journos, print division,” I wrote. “They had no desire to quit sports, but sports has quit them. And now they’ll begin to run on fumes. I mean, they’ve already exhausted their main talking point—shutting down was ‘the right thing do do; life is bigger than sports’—so there’s nothing left for them to wax on about until the squints (scientists) have their say, and that might be many, many months from now. Their only hope is for the Olympic Games to proceed, which is a faint and delusional expectation, and I’m sure it’s a shuddering reality for some. I really wonder how many of them will still be there when sports breaks through to the other side (of the coronavirus).”

So here we are, 11 days later, and how is it working out for them so far?

Three words: Running on fumes.

Oh, they’re fighting the good fight, to be sure. Every morning, I call up the two dailies in Good Ol’ Hometown to get an update on the coronavirus scourge, and I also note that the Winnipeg Sun still has a sports section while the Drab Slab continues to make room, albeit limited, for the games people no longer play due to COVID-19.

Today, for example, there are 11 pages of sports in the Sun, and we’ll have to overlook the reality that six of those pages, including an ode to Vince Carter cover, are devoted to athletes and teams from the Republic of Tranna, which makes it the Winnironto Sun more than the Winnipeg Sun. The Free Press, meanwhile, has eliminated its sports section Monday-Friday, and today tucked its four pages of jock jottings (mostly local) in with the funnies, the TV listings, the crossword puzzles and other word games.

Is any of it worth reading? Well, that’s a matter of opinion, of course, but I’m guessing that most among the rabble in Good Ol’ Hometown could get through their day without “reliving the Bautista bat flip” or reliving “the VINSANITY” and taking a “look back at the Vince Carter era with the Raptors.”

That’s what the Sun served up. Like I said, running on fumes.

There wasn’t anything quite so outrageous in the Drab Slab, but last weekend the Freep ran its jock version of War and Peace—a 3,000-plus-word article with thumbnails on every man who laced up a skate and played professional hockey in North America this past winter. Like I said, running on fumes.

It seems to me, though, that the Freep is going about it the right way by shrinking its sports coverage.

I mean, we keep hearing that life is bigger than sports, yet the people at Postmedia apparently didn’t receive the memo. Indeed, one of the chain’s main jock journos, Steve Simmons of the Tranna Sun, delivered this shockingly tone-deaf tweet the other day:

“If you still want to read about sports, you need to keep reading the Toronton Sun. 20 pages today. 14 bylines. Stories about Olympics, NBA, NHL, Leafs, NFL, CFL, horse racing. Our rival today: two pages of sports, two bylines.”

Apparently, Simmons and Donald Trump share a brain.

Seriously, he believes this is about page counts, not body counts? Perhaps the country’s top doc, Dr. Theresa Tam, can include the Toronto Sun-Toronto Star page counts in her next address to the nation. You know, before she bores us with updates on the death toll and tells us how many doctors, nurses and other health-care workers have been ordered into quarantine. (Yes, kids, that’s sarcasm.)

You don’t shame the Toronto Star or the Winnipeg Free Press or the Montreal Gazette because they choose to focus on COVID-19 instead of running installment No. 54,793 in the Tom Brady Saga. You applaud them for it.

Sports isn’t important right now. Ninety-nine per cent of what’s being put on the sports pages these days is fake news that we don’t need, and it isn’t just in the rag trade. TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic are also faking it. Here are some headlines I read in the past 10 days:

  • “How a shortened MLB season could impact Blue Jays?”

  • “Can Toronto survive with so much cap space devoted to four players?”

  • “Top 11 (purely hypothetical) NHL compliance buyout candidates.”

  • “Inside the ’92 ALCS that redefined the Toronto Blue Jays.”

  • “Down Goes Brown: Ranking all 67 hat tricks from the 2019-20 season.”

  • And my personal favorite: “Why did it take so long to postpone Olympics?”

Good grief. Does it really matter that the International Olympic Committee took its sweet time before snuffing out the flame for the Tokyo Games? No. It only matters that they did the right thing.

None of us knows what’s on the other side of COVID-19, but it surely won’t look the same as it did going in. Newspapers are slashing salaries. Shutting down. Those that haven’t are laying off staff. Sports scribes are being shuffled to newsside to write about germs.

Will Postmedia still be printing a broadsheet and a tabloid in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton by the time it’s all over? Frankly, I fear the worst. I just hope I’m wrong.

Rachel Homan should be the automatic choice as Canada’s athlete of the year

Sometime in the next week, Canada’s top jock for 2017 will be identified as someone not named Rachel Homan.

And that’s a mistake. Also a shame.

Rachel Homan

I mean, no homebrew has dominated her or his sport this year like Homan. But, hey, she’s a curler and, based on 77 years of snubs, curlers need not apply as our country’s athlete of the year. Which is also a mistake and a shame.

Think about it. In no sport—not even hockey—have us hosers experienced greater global glory than curling. We’ve hurried hard to 52 gold medals (36 men, 16 women) at world championships and another five Olympic gold (three men, two women). That’s a lot of glitter. Like 57 carat worth of glitter.

By way of comparison, we’ve won 36 world puck crowns and 13 Olympic gold. Total: 49. In figure skating, we have 38 world and Olympic titles (men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dancing).

Yet not once since the Lou Marsh Trophy’s inception in 1936 has anyone from the hurry-hard crowd earned a salute as this country’s top jock. There’ve been figure skaters and synchronized swimmers, kayakers and bobsledders, harness racers and weightlifters, speed skaters and jockeys, wrestlers and rowers, auto racers and golfers. But never a curler, despite an unparalleled history of international success that, if you were to include our juniors, totals 86 world championships/Olympics gold.

Thus, were I a betting girl, I’d place a wager on baseball player Joey Votto getting the nod as the Lou Marsh winner this year, because the Cincinnati Reds batsman/first baseman put up some rather gaudy numbers in a team game largely defined by individual numbers that captivate and influence the people (read: mainstream sports media) whose task it is to choose our country’s Jock One.

If my guess is wrong and voters dismiss Votto, then surely the top jock will be Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby, based solely on their body of work during the first six months of the year. McDavid, of course, finished the 2016-17 National Hockey League season as the leading point collector and most valuable player, while Crosby put more pucks in the net than anyone else and captained his Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup title.

Other names have been mentioned for consideration. Like rapidly ascending tennis player Denis Shapovalov, who had an inspiring, one-month gush of success during the late summer but, ultimately, compiled a losing record and failed to win a tournament on the main circuit. There’s also the totally hugable Brooke Henderson, a delightful young woman who twice finished atop the leaderboard on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.

Olympics bound are, left to right, Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle.

But Homan isn’t feeling the love. No one is, or has been, pumping her tires.

And that makes no sense, except that it could be the lords and ladies of the Fourth Estate still look upon curling as jockdom’s red-headed stepchild. They don’t see a legitimate sporting endeavor. They see a social gathering. They don’t see athletes. They see school teachers, accounts and sales reps enjoying a hobby. Or they see beer-swilling, pot-bellied practitioners of the Ed Werenich ilk. Seriously. We deliver our highest athletic hosanna to wrestlers, rowers, kayakers, harness racers and sync swimmers but never a curler who’s won world and Olympic championships? In 77 years?

That isn’t just a snub. It’s giving them the finger. Donald Trump gets more respect from the Little Rocket Man in Pyongyang.

Rachel Homan and her gal pals emerged from the Roar of the Rings on Sunday as our female curling reps at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, so she should be a no-brainer for the Lou Marsh Trophy.

Homan led her team to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, with a 12-2 record. She ran the table at the world championship, going 13-0. She won the season-ending Champions Cup on the Grand Slam of Curling circuit, finishing 6-1. Add to that her record at the just-concluded Olympic Trials in Ottawa, 9-1. Do the math. That’s 40-4. Against the best in the world. Who in sports does that? Serena Williams and Rachel Homan.

Make no mistake, Canada’s 2017 athlete of the year was curling in Ottawa last week…I just wonder if Lou Marsh voters were paying attention.

Captain Canada (Caroline Ouellette), Captain America (Julie Chu) and baby Liv makes it a forward line

First of all, the birth of Liv Chu-Ouellette is a beautiful story that should be celebrated.

Little Liv, who arrived on Nov. 5, is healthy and her parents are full of joy. Nothing else should really matter.

Except, in this case, there’s a delightful sidebar. Like, Liv has two moms, and they’re both very good at hockey. One, Caroline Ouellette, captained Canada during its gold-medal crusade at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and her other mom, Julie Chu, is a former captain of the United States national women’s team who was wearing the Stars ‘n’ Stripes in Russia.

Julie Chu, left, Caroline Ouellette and baby Liv.

That’s right, little Liv’s moms are Captain Canada and Captain America.

Although they’ve butted heads for many years on the international stage—one getting the upper hand at the Olympics and the other at the world championships—both moms are teammates with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Ouellette was preggers with Liv when they won the Clarkson Cup last spring) and both coach the Stingers at Concordia University.

Let us not, however, think of this strictly as a feel-good sports story. It’s a life story, first and foremost, with a hockey backdrop.

The fact we’re discussing and celebrating the birth of a daughter to a same-sex couple is another noteworthy testament to the progress the LGBT collective has made and, even though many people (mainly gospel sharks) pooh-pooh the notion that same-sex parents can raise children properly, evidence from numerous studies endorsed by the American Psychological Association suggest that kids of lesbian couples are as well-adjusted in most critical social areas as their heterosexual peers. Eve and Eve works just as well as Adam and Eve.

Among other things, here’s what the APA has stated:

  • There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armest, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997); On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
  • Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
  • Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).

So there’s that.

This is also another example of the deep chasm that exists between women’s and men’s sports vis-a-vis gays. While any gay male skating in the National Hockey League today remains deeply closeted, two of the world’s premier gay female players are out, proud and having babies, happily presenting daughter Liv to followers on an Instagram account.

I think we know what would happen if the respective captains of the Canadian and American men’s entries at the Sochi Olympics—Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise—posted a pic of themselves with their new-born on Instagram or Twitter. That’s right, the Internet would break. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and not even Donald Trump could put it back together again.

At a time when horror stories of sexual harassment and the ongoing hissing contest between two men with nuclear weapons are prevalent, feel-good tales with happily-ever-after endings seem scarce. Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu and baby Liv have given us one.

Bless them.

TSN’s The Reporters: A whole lot of talk but very little sizzle

So, here’s my take on The Reporters with Dave Hodge: It was live TV but not lively TV.

TSN’s The Reporters never was all that it could have been. Or should have been. There seldom was vigorous debate. Hell, there seldom was debate, period. It was four old friends (three this year) having an early-morning spot of tea and toast while engaged in polite discourse on the week’s athletic developments, some of which, but not all, mattered to those of us stuck out in the colonies.

Hey, I’m a strong proponent of politeness, but I always harbored hope that The Reporters would be more like breakfast with beer. You know, some pub-like, in-your-face feistiness. Sans the drunkenness, of course.

Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber, Steve Simmons and Dave Hodge (left to right).

Sports talk TV should be informative, insightful and opinion-driven, to be sure, but also entertaining. Well, you aren’t going to entertain me with bland banter. I require a dollop, or two, of contrary to-and-fro, an ingredient host Dave Hodge and his usual suspects—Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber, Steve Simmons—were incapable of delivering.

Or perhaps they refused to deliver it.

You should know that there is an unwritten code among newspaper sports scribes: You do not eat your own. That is, you do not rip the other guy in print or on air.

Oh, sure, they’ll call sports commentators idiots. They’ll call bloggers idiots. They’ll call followers on social media idiots. But one print scribe calling out another print scribe is as rare as a tweet-free week from Donald Trump. Thus, The Reporters was a mutual admiration society, which would explain the absence of edginess when the Gab Four appeared on our flatscreens each Sunday morning from a TSN studio in the Republic of Tranna.

I doubt that’s the reason TSN has pulled the plug on The Reporters, because there were other elements at play. Like costs. Nobody is willing to work for free. Moving the show to Monday afternoons last year was ill-advised scheduling. They totally lost me and, I suspect, others with that decision. And, this autumn’s switch from a TV studio to a radio booth, complete with table-top microphones, cheapened the product. There was something tacky about it. Finally, it didn’t help that it took techies 11 minutes, or roughly half the show, to detect and correct sound issues (Arthur’s and Simmons’ mics weren’t on) last week, something that clearly PO’d host Hodge.

For me, though, The Reporters‘ great, final failing was the talking heads. If they didn’t become old fast, their show surely did. Like, in the last two years.

While the polished Hodge can still deliver delicious witticisms—ditto Arthur, on occasion—listening to Farber was a chore. Before being cut from the show’s roster this season, his thoughts were ponderous, deliberate and tiresome preachings. He was pong in a Play Station world. Bing Crosby in a Bruno Mars world. Meanwhile, Simmons’ portrayal of Grandpa Simpson forever shouting and shaking his fists at clouds became an insufferable shtick of Trumpish insults and negativity.

I always felt like the dumb kid in that class, the passionate one, the emotional one, the sports nut, the one who interrupted far too often and too loudly,” is Simmons’ self-description.

I’d say that’s spot on, especially the “dumb kid” and “too loudly” components.

I continued to watch The Reporters for two reasons: 1) I seldom found anything better to do at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning; 2) it sometimes provided me with fodder for my River City Renegade sports blog, which I recently retired.

The Reporters was on TSN’s air for 15 seasons. That’s a very good run. It tells me the format clearly works for many viewers. It just stopped working for me.

Maybe I’ll start going to mass on Sunday mornings now.

Sleepless and drunk on world news as the beat goes on

The sirens were loud and objectionable, much like so many newspaper and television opinionists, when they first awakened me just beyond 11 o’clock, about three hours after I had lowered my eye lids on Friday night.

patti dawn swansson

They are wailing again, two and a half hours later, disturbing my sleep for the final time.

This is the worst part of living downtown. The noise. Although I normally find the small hours of the morning a time for peaceful reflection, it is different this night. More sirens. My upper body is in conflict, with pain in my shoulders suggesting I’d participated in a sporting endeavor not so long ago, and I feel hung over, which isn’t possible given that a pint of the nectar last passed my lips on Tuesday, about dinnertime. All I’ve done in the three days and four nights since is research, write and watch TV.

Perhaps I’m drunk on the news, much of which is sour and somewhat scary.

When I was a kid, we feared the Soviet Union, convinced it would lob nuclear bombs in our direction. There was a nut named Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin. He was the boogeyman of my youth. Now it would seem that the boogeyman lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has provided ample evidence for me, and others, to consider that he is off his nut. A crazy man with nuclear codes. No doubt he frightens citizens beyond the boundaries of the United States, perhaps not as much as many of his own people, though.

For the most part, I’d ceased contemplation of nuclear war in the 1970s. Now, with Trump presiding over the 50 United States and territories that include a weather-ravaged Puerto Rico, which he largely ignores, apocalyptic thoughts sprout again as North Korea flexes its military might and the president responds by ratcheting up the rhetoric of war.

If he has surrounded himself with women and men of sane, rational thought and structure, not to worry. Except, as he emphasized this week, his is the only “attitude” that matters. He vows to do “what’s right for the world,” because North Korea is “really a world problem.” I imagine North Koreans see Trump as “really a world problem.”

My mind is in scurry, darting to and fro, from Trump and nuclear warheads to people who like to play with guns…to ruinous, deadly wild fires in California…to ruinous, deadly weather in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico…to a ghastly sexual harassment/assault scandal that has toppled a Hollywood movie mogul…to the hate and hostility being spewed on social media, most notably Twitter. So much chaos and destruction of life, property and hope. So many days of despair.

Nothing can be done about Trump, fire or hurricane weather, and there seems an unwillingness to holster gun play, but women have risen up against sexual predator Harvey Weinstein and those of his ilk. Also Twitter. A 24-hour boycott of the social media platform by many women has spawned a promise from Twitter to be better. Less uninvited, vulgar sexual improprieties. Less hate language. Less violence. Less nudity. Less obscenity. Alas, no mention of zero tolerance.

That beat shall go on as surely as the wailing outside my window.

The sirens. The sirens. They persist. But what is there to be alarmed about? All of this is just the world being the world.

About muzzling the media…cheering for John Farrell to be fired…Mr. Crosby goes to Washington…Rip Van Ditka…presidential word play…the Vice-Puppet takes a hike…and good and bad movies

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

So, ESPN has instructed its SportsCenter dinnertime co-anchor, Jemele Hill, to stand in the corner for two weeks due to her refusal to refrain from using her Twitter account as a political pulpit.

Jemele Hill

Already on notice for labeling Donald Trump a “white supremacist” and the “most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill went off on the U.S. commander-in-chief’s good pal, Dallas Cowboys billionaire bankroll Jerry Jones, who cautioned his employees that there’d be hell to pay if they took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. They either stand or they sit permanently, as in not play. In a series of tweets, Hill submitted that fans objecting to the Jones ultimatum could “boycott his advertisers.”

That, apparently, was in violation of ESPN’s social media policy, thus Hill was considered a repeat offender and shuffled to the corner.

If the Hill tweets are measured as a suspendable offence, what are we to make of other sports opinionists whose take on the U.S. president and his fanatical fixation for protesting jocks is less than flattering?

Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, for example, called Trump “the buffoon in the Oval Office” in a piece condemning the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the White House. Bruce Arthur, a very active political voice on Twitter, wrote in his Toronto Star column that “Trump is a force for white nationalism and white supremacy. You can’t find a middle ground on white supremacy. When you try, there are suddenly very fine people among the KKK and Nazis.” He also described him as an “argle-bargle-belching president” with a “canker-sore ego.” Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, used her Star soap box to blast Trump as “this most odious of commanders-in-chief.” On the night the U.S. citizenry elected Trump the country’s 45th president, Steve Simmons of Postmedia and TSN tweeted: “The saddest night in American history.”

Apparently, opinionists at the Globe, the Star, Postmedia and TSN are more fortunate than Hill. They are not shackled by the inconvenience of censure. Nor should they be. ESPN got it all wrong.

I have two words for the Major League Baseball playoffs: Damn Yankees.

John Farrell

On the matter of unacceptable commentary, surely the aforementioned Steve Simmons crossed over to the dark side when he openly cheered for the dismissal of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell during a segment of TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge on Sunday. Bruce Arthur suggested that Farrell “could get fired it sounds like in Boston,” and Simmons chimed in saying, “Yay.” Should sports scribes and/or talking heads be cheering for people to lose their jobs? I mean, to suggest a player, coach or manager ought to be dismissed due to flawed or faulty performance is part of the gig. That’s analysis and opinion. But for a jock journo in mainstream media to openly root for dismissal, that’s shockingly unprofessional and shameful. Purely and totally shameful.

Sadly, Simmons, who has made a living by being loud, condescending and objectionable, doubled down on his stupidity, offering this on his Twitter account: “Any day that John Farrell loses, gets eliminated and gets tossed out is for my money a good day.” When one follower suggested he get past his ugly fixation with Farrell, whom Simmons has belittled ever since the skipper defected from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Bosox, the Postmedia columnist replied: “Nothing to get over. Guy was given opportunity in Toronto. Lied to management, public. Tried to leave after first year. No respect for that.” No respect because he lied? Everyone in sports lies, including Simmons (see fake Phil Kessel hot dog story). No respect because he switched teams? Again, fake righteousness. Simmons, be advised, secretly and deceitfully negotiated to leave the Calgary Sun for the Calgary Herald while still being paid by the Sun in the early 1980s. Pot meet kettle.

I don’t know about you, but I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins-meet-the-President schmooze at the White House on Tuesday came across as very awkward and uncomfortable. It was almost as if none of the “incredible patriots” really wanted to be there, even as Donald Trump advised the gathering that “everyone wanted to be here today.” The entire scene was creepy and cringe-worthy, including Mario Lemieux’s faux smile, and it was notable that the most notable of all the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, was stuck in the back row. I doubt that was by accident.

Rip Van Ditka

What do you call someone who sleeps through an entire century? Rip Van Ditka. “There has been no oppression (in the United States) in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end, said in a radio interview this week. Jim Crow laws, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. tossed in jail for peaceful protests, police turning fire hoses and German Shepherd dogs on black people, Stonewall, whites-only Major League Baseball, keeping women barefoot and pregnant…didn’t happen. None of it. Rip Van Ditka later qualified his take on history and allowed that, yes, he has witnessed oppression during his 78 years walking the third rock from the sun, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to. He’d already lost the debate.

Found out last weekend that legendary singer Lesley Gore was gay. How’d I miss that? Guess I was sleeping, like Mike Ditka. Whatever, Lesley could have cried at my party anytime. Even if it was Judy’s turn to cry.

I swear, Donald Trump might just be the funniest man alive. In a warped way, of course. I mean, the president of the United States believes he invented the word ‘fake.’ He said so in a chin-wag with one of his Republican toadies, Mike Huckabee, the other day. “The word…I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake,'” the Commander-in-Syntax declared. “I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I’ve never noticed it.” Well, yes, according to Merriam-Webster, folks have been writing about fake this and fake that since it first appeared as an adjective in written form—in 1775. Oddly enough, that’s the same year that ‘burro’—as in donkey—was added to the lexicon. What a coincidence.

Trump’s Vice-Puppet, Mike Pence, ought not be trashed for walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. He has as much right to protest a protest as National Football League players have a right to protest racial/social injustice. The difference, of course, is that one is a phony, staged protest meant to stoke the fires of division and stroke the ego of the man in the White House, while the other is trying to bring about change.

Fact is, Donald Trump has done more than any athlete to promote the protest movement, including the man who started it all, Colin Kaepernick. If the Commander-in-Chaos had keep his lips zipped and not called out any “son of a bitch” who takes a knee, we’d only be hearing crickets today.

My normal routine on Sundays is to lay my little, ol’ body on the loveseat and watch movies. Four of them minimum. Well, I made the mistake of choosing Failure to Launch to lead off my flick-a-thon this past Sabbath. It’s a film featuring Matthew McConaughey. I lasted less than an hour. It’s a stupid film. First of all, Terry Bradshaw is in it and he basically plays his real life buffoon self, which is stupid. Also playing himself is McConaughey, who seemingly plays himself in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, which is also stupid. I enjoy a good romantic comedy—Billy Crystal and Debra Winger were terrific in Forget Paris, and Crystal and Meg Ryan were absolute delights in When Harry Met Sally—but there ought to be a law against the kind of stupid you see in Failure to Launch and McConaughey’s one-trick-pony acting. I switched channels and watched four people on CNN engage in a rousing, 15-minute exercise in Trump bashing. It was actually funnier than the film.

My faith in quality film-making was restored shortly thereafter by I’ll Cry Tomorrow, an intense, gripping biopic about singer Lillian Roth. Susan Hayward is absolutely brilliant in the lead role. Up next was Dances with Wolves, a different kind of western that, whether historically accurate or not, was extremely entertaining. And that’s saying something, because I’m not a Kevin Costner fan. Closing the show was Must Love Dogs (love Diane Lane), which more than made up for Failure to Launch.

Mr. Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins go to Washington and call on President Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House…

I’m very pleased to have the Pittsburgh Penguins here at the White House, which, by the way, is a dump. A real dump. Really run down. Bad. But I’m very pleased to have the Penguins here anyway. This is a great team. Great team. Skate beautifully. Shoot beautifully. Truly wonderful at hockey.

And look how many of them are here! There’s never been this many hockey players in the White House at one time. There’s at least twice as many here today as there were to see Obama last year. Maybe more. Great turnout. Biggest crowd ever. They stretch all the way to the East Wing. Did you know that half of the Penguins stayed home last year? That’s true. They stayed home. Not this year, though. They wanted to meet Trump.

You know what I like best about hockey players? You know what I like best? They aren’t sons of bitches. And you know what athletes who aren’t sons of bitches don’t do? They don’t take a knee. They stand for our great flag and our great country and our great military and our beautiful national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner is a beautiful song. Gorgeous song. Isn’t it a gorgeous song? Why would anyone want to disrespect that?

I understand one hockey player raised a fist during the anthem the other night. That’s right. Raised a fist. That’s not as bad as taking a knee, but they should still fire the son of a bitch! Fire him. Get him outta here! That’s what my great friend Jerry Jones would do. He’d fire his ass. Jerry gets it. He knows Trump is right. If that hockey player—and I don’t know his name, but I can guess his skin color—continues to disrespect the anthem and the flag, I’ll have to send Vice-Puppet Mike Pence to the next game to stage a protest walkout. It’ll cost the taxpayers a ton of money—a couple hundred grand at least—but you can’t put a price tag on our beautiful flag. No price tag.

But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that, because hockey players aren’t like football and basketball players. They’re happy to be here. Just look at all those smiling faces. So many of them. Great crowd. Record turnout. They love their Trump. That’s why Melania and I are so delighted to welcome them.

And, by the way, I want to set the record straight on something: Melania is the First Lady, not Ivana. I don’t know what Ivana was thinking when she called herself the First Lady on NBC. Fake news! She was my first wife, but she isn’t the First Lady. Is Marla gonna want to be First Lady, too? Everybody wants to be Trump’s First Lady. It’s amazing. Amazing. Crazy. But there can only be one First Lady, and everyone knows it’s my daughter Ivanka.

Who’s the real First Lady, Ivan or Melania or Ivanka?

I don’t think they have a First Lady in hockey, do they? Probably not. It’s a man’s game. They still allow hitting, not like the NFL. The NFL’s not the same game anymore. Hit someone and it’s 15 yards! Penalty. Can’t touch anyone. Flag football. Hockey’s not like that. Full of tough hombres. I watched a game once and couldn’t believe it. So tough…so tough. Couldn’t believe it. Tough hombres.

I was talking to the team captain, Sidney Crosby. He comes from a small town on the east coast of Canada. Very small town. Smaller than my hands. I shook his hand and you know what he said to me? He said, ‘My oh my, President Trump, what big hands you have.’ That’s what he said. What big hands I have. Big hands. Biggest hands he’s ever seen. So all that stuff that the evil media has been writing and saying about my hands, fake news!

The media’s so unfair to me. And they’re unfair to the Penguins, too. Especially Sidney Crosby. So many in the fake media have been critical of him for coming to visit Melania and I at the White House. So unfair. I told Sid the Kid—by the way, that nickname Sid the Kid…I think it’s the greatest nickname I’ve ever come up with for an athlete. I guess other people have used it over the years, but I never noticed it. Never heard it. I named the Broad Street Bullies, too. I named lots of them. Most of ’em. The Great Gretzky. Named him. The Rocket. Named him. The Finnish Flash. Trump named him. Because Trump knows hockey. Not many people know this, but did you know that no NHL team has ever won the Stanley Cup with a Mexican on the roster. True. No Mexicans. My name is on the Stanley Cup—it’s the biggest type face—but no Mexicans. None. And that’s one of the ways we can make America great again…by keeping Mexicans out of hockey.

This has been a great day for the Penguins. Special day. Especially for Evgeni Malkin—he’s the first Russian to come to the White House who we haven’t had to hide. Gino knows I’m a friend. You know that, right Gino? Sure he does. All the Russians know I’m a friend. I’m the reason they don’t have to defect anymore to come over here and make millions of our beautiful American dollars. I ended the Cold War. Stopped it. Ordered them to bust down the Berlin Wall. Told them to ‘tear down this wall.’ Famous quote of mine. Look it up. True friend of the Russians. All immigrants, really. There are very fine people on both sides of the ocean. I married two of them.

I’d like to stay and spend more time with Gino, but I’ve got a tee time with my very good friend Bob Corker. We’re gonna golf and discuss day care. So I’ve got to scoot. Melania and I want to thank the Penguins and let them know that there are some nice parting gifts for them on the way out. They’re beautiful, soft towels. Gorgeous towels. I brought them home from my trip to Puerto Rico. Fabulous towels. Best towels for sopping up a hurricane.”

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