International Women’s Day: Where are all the female sports writers in our daily newspapers?

I’ve never wanted to be one of those wrinkled relics who gently rocks on the porch or in the parlor and reminds anyone who cares to listen that everything was “so much better back in the day.”

Back in the day, after all, covers a whole lot of ground and, for me, that’s a retreat to the 1950s, shortly after one war ended, another kicked in and a third, which none of us fully understood, droned on until the 1970s.

We also had the very real threat of nuclear annihilation, the assassinations of three good men, the Ohio National Guard gunning down college kids at Kent State, segregated washrooms/schools/watering taps/lunch counters, and thousands on the streets in protests that began peacefully but often turned violent (“Four dead in Ohio,” sang Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). The young people weren’t in outrage because of something silly, like wearing a mask to the corner store. Their talking points were racism, equal rights and bombs bursting half a world away in Vietnam.

We also had vaccines. Oh, yes, we were required to stand in line at school while a non-smiling nurse jabbed a needle into an arm.

There was nothing kind and gentle and “so much better” about any of that, and even as The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Woodstock et al served as delightful diversions and girls wore flowers in their hair, they couldn’t make the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., bulletproof, nor could they convince the American war machine to lay down arms. They were playing music, not sprinkling stardust.

But there was noise of another kind, too. Good noise.

Women began to raise their voices, first with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, published in February 1963. Unfulfilled housewives took to the notion that there was something for them other than the June Cleaver wife/mother model, something more substantial and rewarding than spending their days vacuuming in pearls and heels, wiping the Beaver’s runny nose and, of course, dutifully putting a hot meal on the dinner table for hubby the moment he arrived home from a demanding day in the real world.

Moreover, women took to the streets, protesting outside the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City in 1968 and figuratively burning their bras by tossing high heels, makeup, mops, pearls and undergarments into the Freedom Trash Can.

Girl power hit the streets in another way in December 1971, when Gloria Steinem’s Ms. magazine arrived at newsstands, and Time magazine, duly noting this wave of fresh female awareness, named American Women its Person of the Year in 1975.

Gloria Steinem, circa 1970s.

“Enough U.S. women have so deliberately taken possession of their lives that the event is spiritually equivalent to the discovery of a new continent,” Lance Morrow wrote in Time.

Cinderella no longer was waiting to be asked to the ball, she asked the man, and some were so bold as to pick up the tab on a dinner date in full view of other patrons, hitherto a social taboo. The female workforce in the United States had doubled from the 1950s, and women on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border began going where few had ventured—to police forces, fire departments, courtrooms, construction sites, boardrooms, the political arena, West Point, etc.

Many took to journalism, at daily newspapers, which were not yet an endangered species, and they didn’t wander solely into the arts, entertainment or society sections. They invaded news and—egads!—the toy department, where gnarly, booze-swilling, stubble-chinned, good-time Charlies held sway.

There had, of course, been female sports scribes on our Frozen Tundra pre-1970s, Bobbie Rosenfeld of the Globe and Mail and Myrtle Cook McGowan of the Montreal Star to name two, but they were rarities, like snowfall in June.

Then it happened. A proliferation. Christie Blatchford joined the Globe and Mail and soon was penning the coveted main sports column. Mary Trueman and Nora McCabe were also on board, the latter described by Sports Illustrated as “an obscure journalist” after she had rattled John McEnroe’s cage to the point whereby the tennis brat expressed an unsolicited interest in her sex life, suggesting she needed to get laid more often.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Sun hired tennis pro Jane O’Hara to write sports, and Alison Gordon signed on at the Toronto Star to tell all about baseball’s Blue Jays.

Rita Mingo

On the home front, Winnipeg Tribune sports editor Jack Matheson had the good sense to hire Peggy Stewart and Rita Mingo, while SE Maurice Smith countered with Barb Huck at the Winnipeg Free Press. Pioneers all. (Oh, we also had a female managing editor at the Trib, the youthful Dona Harvey, who was full of upside.)

And I think of them—and others like Judy Owen, Ashley Prest and Melissa Martin, who came along post-’70s to write sports at the Winnipeg Sun and Freepevery International Women’s Day.

When gazing across the jock journo landscape today (newspaper division), I don’t see a lot of female staff bylines in our major dailies. There’s Rosie DiManno, who flits between hard-core news and the toy department, and Laura Armstrong at the Star; Rachel Brady writes for what passes as a sports section at the Globe; Kristen Anderson covers hockey for Postmedia Calgary.

Neither of my hometown papers includes a female in its stable of sports scribes.

I wrote about this lack of female sports writing exactly 10 years ago this month (and a few times since), and nothing’s really changed. The boys are still dug in like ticks in a hound dog’s ear. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because newspapers are dying and women don’t see jock journalism as a career path that warrants their attention. Perhaps it’s the “women don’t know sports” stigma/narrative that still has oxygen to this day. Could be they shy away rather than expose themselves to the cesspool of gender-based commentary on Twitter and other social media platforms. But, hey, that doesn’t prevent them from picking up a microphone and talking to a TV camera.

I don’t have the answer. But I do know this: It was “so much better back in the day.”

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.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have become a country song and we don’t have to eat our Brussels sprouts anymore

So I’m flipping through the pages of the Toronto Star this morning, and I come across a short essay by Richie Assaly, who, like so many in the Republic of Tranna, feels like he’s living a country song.

Except his dog didn’t die and mama wasn’t run over by a damned ol’ train the day she got out of prison.

No, the long face and world of hurt is the product of another Toronto Maple Leafs’ pratfall, an annual spring ritual observed from one flank of the tundra to the other and points north.

You’d think the citizenry in the Republic of Tranna would be used to it by now, but this latest Leafs loss—to the dreaded Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup skirmish on Monday night—seems to have brought with it a different and deeper level of grieving.

“A monumental collapse. A tragedy on ice. Rock bottom,” went the Assaly lament. “There’s a distinct chance that the last day of May in 2021 will find its way into the history books as one of the lowest points in Toronto sports history.”

Personally, I think Humpty Harold Ballard asking his coach, Roger Neilson, to wear a paper bag on his head behind the bench ranks lowest on the lame-o-meter, but I guess Assaly uses a different measuring stick.

At any rate, it’s official. The Maple Leafs have become a country song. Three chords and the truth about kicking a tin can up the road for 54 years.

Assaly didn’t stop there, though.

It isn’t just the Leafs’ latest face plant that’s got up his nose. It’s us. You know, those of us who live in The Colonies.

“As a dark cloud of misery descended upon Leaf Nation, hockey fans outside of the GTA were taking part in a joyous display of pettiness—a schadenfreude soirée,” he wrote.

Oh my. Pettiness? Naw. Going “na, na, na, na, na” would be petty.

But we don’t do petty. Oh, sure, some of us snicker behind our hands, the way kids bust a gut when the schoolyard bully falls in a mud puddle, while others cackle in glee with gusts up to rude laughter.

The thing is, that’s part of our DNA.

Humpty Harold Ballard

Assaly doesn’t understand that most of us who work and play in The Colonies need the Leafs to cough up a giant hairball every year for comic relief, otherwise we’d have nothing to do but watch curling ice melt or, in my case on the Wet Coast, watch the rain fall.

Would he deny us our giddiness?

Besides, when you drill to the nub of the matter, it’s not so much the Leafs that we poke fun at. The issue is the ram-it-down-our-throats, 24/7 hype from TSN/Sportsnet, who believe the National Hockey League in Canada consists of the Leafs and six red-headed, freckle-faced step-children they acknowledge only when Auston Matthews isn’t grooming his cheesy upper lip whiskers.

After the Leafs stubbed their toes on Monday night, one of the talking heads on TSN, Glenn Schiiler, informed the nation that, with Matthews and Mitch Marner taking their leave, all the “best players” had been removed from the Stanley Cup tournament, as if the rosters of les Canadiens, the Winnipeg Jets and the six U.S. outfits still chasing the shinny grail are stocked with a bunch of beer-leaguers who still need mom and dad to tie their skate laces.

The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, is supposed to be a national newspaper, but its sports columnist, Cathal Kelly, has written three essays on the Leafs losing in the past week and zero on the Montreal Canadiens, who play on while the Leafs play golf.

It’s one thing for the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun to place their focus on the Leafs and declare them “Kings of the North” before the puck is dropped on the annual spring runoff, but the sports columnist at our national sheet? Wrong.

Richie Assaly and others in The ROT need to know this is why we get giddy when the Leafs soil the sheets every spring.

It’s not that we hate the Leafs. Heck, many among us in The Colonies root, root, root for them and attend games adorned in blue-and-white Leafs livery, with the names Matthews and Marner stitched on the back.

But it’s like Brussels sprouts for most of us. Our parents repeatedly told us “they’re good for you,” except we didn’t want to hear it anymore. We just wanted those little green things to disappear.

Same thing with the Leafs.

They’re gone now, so once the talking heads and our national sports columnist have gone through a suitable mourning period and remove the black armbands, we won’t be fed Brussels sprouts anymore. At least not until autumn, when we’ll be reminded once again that Matthews and Marner are the best thing since Canadian bacon, even as they forever fail to bring home the bacon.

In the meantime, the brown paper bag is once again the official gear of Maple Leafs fans/media, who are singing that same old hurtin’ song, only with a fresh twist.

Doggone it, the girls and boys on the beat are all barking up the same tree

I feel bad for today’s jock journos.

Not bad as in “sorry to hear that your dog just died,” but bad in the sense that the whole COVID thing has forced them into the world of Zoom, whereby they stare at a monitor and interrogate athletes/coaches from a great distance.

It’s a remote scrum and, unfortunately, the girls and boys on the beat collect the same sound bites.

Consider a Zoom chin wag with Paul Stastny the other day. The Winnipeg Jets forward informed news snoops that head coach Paul Maurice had been channeling his inner Winston Churchill, bidding to rally the troops during their most challenging and fretsome stretch of a National Hockey League crusade that had fallen off the rails.

Sir Winnie

“The one thing you guys don’t see is he’s got these Winston Churchill speeches and I don’t even know how he thinks of them,” said Stastny.

That right there, kids, is sound-bite gold.

It isn’t just a quote, it’s a column. You take it and run with it for 700-800 words. You have fun with it. You have the Jets fighting them on the beaches, fighting them on the landing grounds, fighting them on the fields, the hills and the streets. Just like Sir Winnie said of the British when Hitler was lobbing bombs at London during WWII.

Except everyone else can be, and is, doing the same thing.

I read the Stastny sound bite on Twitter, in the Winnipeg Sun, in the Drab Slab and I’m guessing it made the gab shows in Good Ol’ Hometown.

Because of the Zoom world, the one-off quote has gone the way of the 8-track.

But it never used to be that way.

Back in the day, we had post-game/post-practice scrums, but some, like myself, would listen in only because we didn’t want to miss anything significant. We’d jot down a quote or two and then, once the rabble had dispersed, we would pull a player or coach off to the side for a natter on the QT and ask a question that we hoped would lead to a verbal nugget that no one else had.

Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun was adept at that. He’d base an entire column on a sound bite that had escaped all other ears.

I dug up some nuggets that way, as well. Examples:

Ulf Nilsson chasing Valeri Kharlamov.
  • The night the Jets became the first North American club team to paddywhack the Soviet Union national side, I sought Swedish forward Ulf Nilsson for some insight, given that he had two goals and two helpers in the 5-3 victory. I found him on a rubbing table, waiting for trainer Billy Bozak to come along and use his magic fingers to soothe Ulf’s wonky hip.

“I was proud to be a Canadian tonight,” Ulf told me.

It was an astonishing comment. Here was a Swede repeatedly beaten black-and-blue by Canadian-born ruffians who resented his very existence during his fledgling years in the World Hockey Association, yet he was “proud to be a Canadian.” There wasn’t another news snoops within earshot. The quote was mine.

  • At training camp, I slid beside Jets head coach Tommy McVie during a morning scrimmage and we both watched Morris Lukowich burst in from the left wing and snap a shot into the top corner.

“Watching that is better than having sex,” Tommy said in his big, baritone voice that sounded like it came from the bottom of an oil drum.

“Geez Tom,” I responded, “that doesn’t say much for your wife.”

“Maybe not, but she didn’t score 60 goals last season.”

No one else had that quote.

Bob Cameron
  • At another training camp in another sport, I went on the prowl for veteran punter Bob Cameron, the senior citizen of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I located him, alone, in a small room. He was tugging at his eyebrows, first the left then the right…then the left then the right.

“What are you doing, Bob?” I asked.

“Checking out my eyebrows,” he replied. “I’ve already got old man eyebrows. I’m not old enough to have old man eyebrows. I have to trim these suckers. I need a pair of scissors. You don’t have any scissors on you, do ya?”

I scribbled a column on Bob’s eyebrows, because only I had that quirky quote.

  • I was writing for the Toronto Sun in 1982 when Jimmy Mann of the Jets sucker punched Paul Gardner, breaking his jaw in two places. Not long after that, the Jets were in the Republic of Tranna for a skirmish with the Maple Leafs, and I was sitting with a gaggle of news snoops about two dozen rows from the ice surface in Maple Leaf Gardens. The Jets were below us, going through the motions of a pre-game skate.

At one point, Jimmy wandered off on his own, stopping at the nearby boards and motioning to me. I withdrew myself from the pack of news snoops, and met him.

“There’s something everyone needs to know,” he said.

“What’s that, Jimmy?” I asked.

“I am not an animal.”

That was the big, bold, shouting headline on the front page of our sports section the next day. Neither the Globe and Mail nor the Toronto Star had that quote, but it was used in follow-up articles.

But again, unlike today’s batch of news snoops who have zero access except via Zoom, we had the advantage of going one-on-one with the athletes/coaches. Hell, we could call them at home. And that, in turn, meant the readers weren’t finding the same old, same old in each of the newspapers or on air.

I’m uncertain how it will shake down once we’re past the pandemic, but it will never be the way it was back in the day.

And that’s why I feel bad for the girls and boys on the beat. Nobody’s dog died, but they’re all barking up the same tree, and that’s most unfortunate.

Let’s talk about this week in jock journalism, with canoodling and crickets and a Chihuahua chase and cop cars and Harry Potter and Generation All Thumbs and boxscores…

My, oh my, the things we learn from the sports pages these days.

I mean, did you know that a chameleon eats approximately 15 live crickets every other day? Did you know that losing a neighbor’s dog can land you in the back seat of a cop car? Did you know that people gather on large fields to run around with broomsticks stuffed between their legs and call it a sport?

True, true and true.

Here’s something else you probably didn’t know: “Morgan Rielly and Tessa Virtue are the pandemic love story we need right now.” That was a headline in the Globe and Mail on Friday. Hmmm. And here I thought what we needed most during the COVID-19 pandemic was toilet paper. Silly me.

Morgan and Tessa

“Who needs Harry and Meghan when we’ve got such an appealing couple?” asks Marty Klinkenberg, a Globe scribe anchored in Edmonton.

He also informs us that the Tranna Maple Leafs defender and the darling of our fancy skaters created “a Canada-wide buzz” when first observed in public together on Jan. 8, at one of those fancy-schmancy functions that only the pretty people get to attend in the Republic of Tranna. Again, silly me. I thought that “buzz” I heard on Jan. 8—and every day since—was my tinnitus, which has reached banshee-level in volume.

Whatever, Tessa and Morgan are the power couple we apparently “need” while people are dying across the country, and I just hope they don’t expect us taxpayers to pick up the tab for their security.

Canoodling of the rich and fabulous aside, since COVID-19 shut down the playground last month, the majority of our jock journalists have been feeding from the same trough of storylines.

To wit:

* Life is bigger than sports.
* (Insert athlete’s name) is disappointed the Olympics have been postponed.
* (Insert athlete’s name) is looking forward to the Olympics next year.
* (Insert athlete’s name) is disappointed the NHL/NBA/MLB season have been put on hold.
* (Insert athlete’s name) is doing (insert activity) to keep busy during the lockdown.
* (Insert athlete’s name) is looking forward to the day sports resumes.
* Why is (insert organization’s name) waiting so long to cancel the season?

And, of course, there’s been a steady stream of retro looks at everything from the Richard Riot to Jesus feeding a gathering of 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two rainbow trout. (Any day now, I expect a TSN Top 10 featuring Christ’s miracles.)

But some among our flowers of jock journalism managed to add a colorful twist or two to the usual hum-drum storylines related to COVID-19 in the past week. And a couple went totally off-script.

For example:

  • Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail told us about taking his neighbor’s dog, Chili, for a walk.

“My new best friend and I were ambling down a formerly busy stretch of King Street in Toronto when I felt a tug on the leash behind me,” he wrote. “I turned to look. And what I was looking at was a collar no longer attached to a dog.”

A Chihuahua chase and a rollicking romp ensued, with Kelly eventually finding himself confined to the back seat of a cop car.

“It’s even tighter in there than I remembered,” he remembered.

I’d like to tell you how the story ends for Cathal and Chili the Chihuahua, but you really should read it for yourself. It’s fun stuff.

  • Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun informed us that Olympic-wannabe swimmer Kelsey Wog is into reptiles, specifically chameleons, those crafty, little lizards that change colors (you know, kind of like Tom Brady going from blue, red, silver and white to red, pewter, black and bay orange). Chameleons fancy insects, so, by Jiminy, cricket shopping is part of Kelsey’s regular routine.

“They probably eat, like, 15 or so every other day,” Wog told Friesen. “We got 200 today. We just go when we run out.”

Just wondering: Is the local Crickets ‘R’ Us store considered an essential service during a pandemic?

  • Terry Jones of Postmedia E-Town wrote about dodge ball and something quirky called Quidditch.

“What I’d give for some good quidditch quotes right now. Or some decent dodgeball data,” he lamented, tongue firmly in cheek.

I had never heard of Quidditch until I read Jonesy’s column, and I’m still not totally convinced it actually exists anywhere other than in J.K. Rowling’s fertile mind. The Harry Potter author apparently fictionalized Quidditch in one of her books, but it’s rumored to be a very real thing, whereby people of otherwise sound logic tuck broomsticks between their legs and scurry about a large pitch attempting to toss balls through hoops. There are chasers, beaters, keepers and seekers, all of whom believe running with a broomstick stuffed between their legs is safer than running with scissors.

I suppose it is, but I’d say this broomstick-between-the-legs business gives new meaning to the term “bust his balls,” except some women also play Quidditch, and I can only wonder why.

  • Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna paralleled current COVID-19 self-isolation to a different time and place.

“In a way, this reminds me of rainy days at our tiny cottage when I was a kid,” he wrote. “You weren’t allowed outside. You didn’t have much inside. You stayed in and watched the rain. There was no television or computers or phones to play with—but somehow the time passed and usually quite pleasantly. We played cards and records and Monopoly and Rummoli and backgammon and Scrabble and Boggle, depending on what age we were. We danced. We sang. We made up songs. We invented games. We played charades. We did jigsaw puzzles. Everything was some kind of competition.”

Hey, maybe there’s a Quidditch board game that today’s Generation Xbox can embrace. Naw, probably not. There’s no joy for Generation All Thumbs unless it includes a joystick or a controller gamepad.

  • Mad Mike McIntyre of the Drab Slab is so saddened by the worldwide jock shutdown that he wrote “a love letter, of sorts, to sports” and counted the many ways he misses activity in the playground.

“I miss pouring through the statistics in various leagues, combing through boxscores and leaders in every category,” went part of his moan. He also misses “being in the press box, Paul Maurice’s daily gab sessions, the roar of the crowd, going to the gym, and getting excited (about a fresh Blue Jays season).”

I’d tell Mad Mike to get a life, but he’s right: Most of us are missing what we consider the good things in our lives. He’s also correct when he tells us that the COVID-19 pandemic “shall pass.”

I just hope I remember where I parked my broomstick when we break through to the other side. Can’t wait to give Quidditch a go. Or not.

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.

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