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.”

Half a century later, a salute to the many who made my life in the rag trade a trip

Fifty years ago today, at age 20, my byline appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune for the first time.

It was on Page 16 at the back of the sports section, squeezed between Harold Loster’s horse racing copy and next to a Texico ad offering free tickets and 59-cent Winnipeg Whips t-shirts.

It wasn’t the first thing I had written at the Trib, just the first with my name at the top. And, no, I didn’t keep a clipping of the article, although I suppose it would have made for a nice keepsake to store away in a shoebox.

At any rate, I thought I’d mark the occasion with a salute and merci beaucoup to some of the significant others who made my time in the rag trade in Good Ol’ Hometown (mostly) enjoyable.

In hockey: Frank MacKinnon, Bill Addison, George Allard, Aime Allaire, Tim Ryan, Gordie Tumilson, Adam Tarnowski, Gerry Brisson, the Thompson brothers, Kevin McCarthy, Kelly Greenbank, Jerry Rollins, Doug Wilson, Butch Goring, Bob Goring, Bruce Cheatley, Deno Ball, Jimmy Walker, Julie Klymkiw, Spider Mazur, Ed Sweeney, Bones Raleigh, Billy Robinson, Benny Hatskin, Fergy, Marc Cloutier, Teddy Foreman, Teddy Green, Tommy McVie, Sudsy, Ab McDonald, Joe Daley, Silky Sullivan, Muzz MacPherson, the 1973 Portage Terriers, the 1979 Winnipeg Jets, Roscoe, Luke, Scotty Campbell, Rich Preston, Jude Drouin, Pierre Hamel, Bobby Guindon, Billy Lesuk, Billy Bozak, Don Baizley, Barry Shenkarow, Rena Shenkarow, Michael Gobuty, Ulf, Anders, The Shoe, Kent Nilsson, Willy Lindstrom, Suitcase Smith, Ducky, Paul MacLean, Dave Babych, Bosch, Mike Doran, Mike Smith, Gordie Pennell, George Dorman, John Paddock, Dougie Smail, Randy Carlyle, Teemu, Andy Murray, Vladislav Tretyak, Anatoli Segelin, Beaner McBain, the Bandit, Tim Watters, Tom Watt, Mud Murdoch, Goalie Bob, Patty O’Neill, Kenny Fenson, Mike O’Hearn, Murray Harding, Don Binda, Madeline Hanson, Jennifer Hanson, Earl Dawson, George Depres, Jeep Woolley, Don Lewis, Gary Whyte, Brian Gunn, Aggie Kukulowicz, Boris Alexandrov, Viktor Khatulev, Vladimir Tretyak, Barry Bonni, Rudy Pilous, Randy Gilhen, Ray Neufeld, Larry Hillman, Ernie Wakely, Kim Clackson, Dave Christian, Jim Kyte, Igor Kuperman, Ray Mawhinney, Hannu Jarvenpaa, Freddy Olausson, Dave Christian, Bill Christian, Cal Marvin, Mosie, the guys at the media entrance to the Ol’ Barn On Maroons Road.

Cal Murphy

In football: Cal Murphy, Joyce Murphy, Urban Bowman, Troy Westwood, Bob Cameron, Chris Walby, Matt Dunigan, Tom Clements, Bob Molle, Dave Vankoughnet, Rod Hill, Mike Riley, Dee Riley, Kevin O’Donovan, Mike Kelly, Tyrone Jones, Jeff Reinebold, Mad Dog Robson, Brian Dobie, Kas Vidruk, Kenny Ploen, Wade Miller, Brendan Rogers, Paul Bennett, Sean Salisbury, Joe Pop, Elfrid Payton, Bruce Robinson, Larry Smith, Doug Mitchell, Trevor Kennard, Darryl Rogers, Blaise Bryant.

Vic Peters, Dan Carey, Chris Neufeld, Don Rudd.

In curling: Vic Peters, Deb Peters, Dan Carey, Dugie, Moosie Turnbull, Linda Moore, Vic Rauter, Arnold Asham, Jon Mead, little Dugie, Jeff Ryan, Jeff Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk, Steve Gould, Gary Vandenberghe, Bill Carey, Dave Iverson, The Snake, Colleen Jones, Ken Tresoor, Rob Meakin, Keith Fenton, Schmirler the Curler, Hurry Hard Howard, Kevin Martin, Connie Laliberte, Mike Harris, The Wrench, Chris Neufeld, Guy Hemmings, Paul Gowsell, Don Rudd.

Rick Borland and Judy Peake.

In other sports: Jo and Jack Brown, Rick Borland, Heather Borland, Kathy Hope, Judy Peake, Eleanor O’Gorman, Glen Booth, Jim Matthews, Bob Moffatt, George Kylar, Glen Ziprick, the Campbell sisters, Pierre Lamarche, Rejean Genois, Richard Legendre, Jimmy Boyce, Dale Power, Vicki Berner, Andrea Martin, Susan Stone, Jane O’Hara, Peter Burwash., Tex Burns, Wayne Caplette, Ed Yaremchuk, Peter Piper, Al Sparks, Donny Lalonde, Nicky Furlano, Ralph Racine, Dave Wolf, Teddy Atlas, Terry Hind, Evelyn Hind, Harry Bueckert, Archie and Pal Chawla, Stubby Clapp, Ernie Whitt, Sherman Greenfeld, Todd Fanning, Robbie McMillan, the Eggman, Brian Bochinski, Jim Wright, Sharon Gulyas, Darren Dunn, Julie Krone.

Matty and Cactus Jack.

In the media: Matty, Dave Komosky, Don Delisle, Shakey, Rita, Peggy Stewart, Swampdog, Caveman, Greaser, Gus, Ketch, Sinch, Gibber, Judy O, Freezer, Marten Falcon, Steady Eddie, Friar, Sod, Knuckles, Young Eddie, Peter Young, Joe Pascucci, Barry Moroz, Ernie Nairn, Cactus Jack, Pick, Witt, Homer Connors, Big Jim, Granny, Brian Swain, Jon Thordarson, Dona Harvey, Lyle Sinkewicz, Peter Warren, Kelly Moore, Reyn Davis, Siggy, Al Besson, Tim Campbell, Dallis Beck, Supes, Tom Brennan, Elston, Bruce Penton, Bill Davidson, Hughie Allan, Stew MacPherson, Rod Black, Uncle Vince, Ronnie Lazaruk, Vic Grant, Mitch Zalnasky, Otis, Harold Loster, Ronnie Meyers, Jim Coleman, Larry Tucker, Doug Lunney, Brian Williams, Moe Carter, Smitty, Coconut Willie, Mike Beauregard, Scotty O., Scotty M., Scotty T., Frank Luba, Smiles, Chuckles, Robin Brown, Randy Turner, Steve Lyons, John Cherneski, John Korobanek, Gerry Hart, Frank Chalmers, Big Sinc, Mr. Golf, Rafter Man Petrie, Marcel Gauthier, Harvey Rosen, Clay Man Dreger, Kelly Armstrong, Resby Coutts, John Down.

Of course, there’s been Life After the Rag Trade and, in the 22 years since I walked out of the Winnipeg Sun newsroom, I’ve observed from a distance and written a blog mostly centred on activity in the playgrounds of Good Ol’ Hometown.

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

Many athletes have piqued my curiosity, so here are some people I wish I’d had the chance to cover in person and, more important, have a natter with away from the scrumlords: Dayna Spiring, Chelsea Carey, Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer, Dawn McEwen, Mike McEwen, Jennifer Botterill, Puck Pontiff Mark Chipman, Big Buff, Chris Streveler, Andrew Harris, Mike O’Shea, Bryan Little, Puck Finn, Chevy, Coach Potty Mouth, David Thomson.

And there are news snoops with whom I wish I’d had the opportunity to work alongside: Kirk Penton, Melissa Martin, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Edmonds, Teddy Wyman, Scott Billeck, the Hustler.

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.

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.

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.

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.

About Vietnam and Las Vegas…a president in Puerto Rico…Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys…rude noise on The Voice…learning about Will & Grace…October baseball…and shining in 2019

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

I spent the entirety of my Sunday watching the final six installments of the Lynn Novick/Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War and went to bed emotionally spent and softly weeping.

Such atrocities. Such carnage. Such an unnecessary waste of human life.

I awoke 5 1/2 hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, and clicked on my TV. I began weeping again. Another atrocity. More carnage. More unnecessary waste of human life, this time on our side of the world, in Las Vegas.

You wake up in the morning knowing the world will have changed overnight, but you don’t expect this kind of change. Fifty-eight people taken to the morgue. Approximately 500 whisked away to the ER at five different Vegas hospitals. That’s almost 600 people killed or cut down. By a man who, due to silent voices in his head and a disturbing, horrific sense of right and wrong, took a piece of pure Americana—a country music festival—and buried it in pure evil.

The physical toll is shocking, the worst human slaughter in modern-time United States. The emotional fallout is much greater.

Approximately 22,000 innocent, happy concert-goers are victims. Their friends and loved ones are victims. First responders are victims. Doctors and nurses are victims. Jason Aldean, on stage closing the Route 91 Harvest Festival when bullets from high-powered weapons began to rain down from a 32nd-floor room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and other performers are victims.

So the country to the south has been crippled. Again.

The Olympic Mountains

When I look out the main window of my humble home on a clear day, I can see the United States of America. Literally. The Olympic Mountains are off in the distance, standing tall and firm across the Juan de Fuca Strait in Washington state. It’s a peaceful, picture-postcard setting, totally at odds with the chaos, confusion and killings that occur far too often behind them.

It’s easy for us on the north side of those Olympic Mountains to feel smug and say these types of mass murders are “an American thing,” but do we really want to go there? Americans are our neighbors. Our friends. Even if we find them a tad loud and obnoxious when they visit, they’re North American kin.

Besides, it’s not like we’re immune to the depravity of minds that either snap or plot evil in Canada.

It was only nine months ago, remember, when a young man strolled into a Quebec City mosque and opening fired. By the time he walked out of the Islamic Cultural Centre, six people lay slain and another 19 were wounded.

It’s all so sad.

One of four students dead in Ohio.

The Vietnam War documentary, which aired on PBS, is a superb, enlightening and gripping work from Novick and Burns. It is a harsh reminder of the violence that prevailed during the 1960s and early ’70s—it definitely wasn’t all flower power, groovin’ and great rock ‘n’ roll like some Baby Boomers would have you believe—and I’m sure it opened eyes to the shameful deceit, cunning and flat-out criminal activity of people in the White House. The most heart-tugging and tear-inducing segment for me was the sight of students lying on the ground, dead, at Kent State after the Ohio National Guard had gunned them down. Innocent kids, killed by their own government. I can still hear the haunting refrain “four dead in Ohio” in Neil Young’s classic protest song Ohio. Sigh.

Speaking of government, did U.S. President Donald Trump actually tell people in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to “have a good time” and toss them paper towels? Well, yes, he did. Oh my.

Okay, it’s about Tom Petty. My favorite Tom Petty stuff was the stuff he did with Nelson, Otis, Lefty and Lucky, aka the Traveling Wilburys. Now, with Petty’s passing this week, there are only two of the Wilburys left—Lucky (Bob Dylan) and Otis (Jeff Lynne). George Harrison and Roy Orbison had preceded Petty to the big rock concert in the sky. Petty (Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.), Dylan, Lynne, Harrison and Orbison only recorded one album together —Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1—and it’s brilliant. Those boys could really get after it. There’s a second album (I have the both on vinyl), but Orbison had already left us.

The Traveling Wilburys: Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison.

My favorite Traveling Wilburys tunes…

  1. Handle with Care
  2. End of the Line
  3. Rattled
  4. Not Alone Any More
  5. Poor House

Gave The Voice a try last week, but, sorry, I cannot watch if Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson are sitting in two of the four judges’ chairs. They both seem to be of the misguided notion that the show is about them, not the contestants. The hokey Adam Levine-Blake Shelton bromance wore thin about six years ago, but Cyrus and Hudson make the show unbearable. Click.

I’m told Will & Grace are back on TV. Hmmm. I didn’t know they had left. So, because I missed them during their first go-round on the small screen, I thought I’d give the new season’s first episode a look-see. I must say, that was a funny show. And imagine my surprise. There are gay characters. Who knew? Must check it out again. (Sidebar: Debra Messing has gorgeous hair. Love the color, which also happens to be my color.)

I love October baseball, even if I don’t have a cheering interest. Actually, I found myself root, root, rooting for the New York Yankees in their wild-card skirmish with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. I’m not sure what that means. I mean, I’ve always been an ABTY ball fan—anybody but the Yankees. So why was I cheering for them? I think I need to book some time on Dr. Phil’s couch.

If I was still in River City, working in mainstream jock journalism at the Winnipeg Sun, I’d be required to attend a hockey match this very night between the hometown Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs and pretend it’s important. I’m glad I’m no longer in River City working in mainstream journalism.

According to my October horoscope, “2019 will be your time to shine.” Excuse me? 2019? What the hell am I supposed to do until then?

Life is a little less perfect with the loss of Vic Peters

In a perfect world, all athletes would be like Vic Peters—respectful, kind, obliging, generous with time and words, thoughtful, witty, humorous, appreciative, wise and devoted.

Vic Peters

But we know this isn’t a perfect world because Vic Peters is dead, less than a month shy of his 61st birthday.

If you have read, or heard, the large volume of tributes paid to Peters in the few hours since he lost the ultimate argument with cancer on Sunday night, you’ll recognize a theme: Great curler, better person.

That is why Peters’ death must be filed under L, for Life Isn’t Fair.

It certainly isn’t fair to Vic’s bride, Deb, or the children, Kassie, Daley and Elisabeth, who had to say goodbye to their husband and father far too soon. And, although he had battled cancer for the past five years, Peters’ passing seemed so sudden. I mean, there he was in Grande Prairie, Alta., only last month, nervously observing daughter Liz Fyfe throw second stones for Kerri Einarson’s Buffalo girls at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

And now the three-time Manitoba and one-time Canadian men’s curling champion is gone, which saddens me and so many others.

Vic Peters and his family have occupied a special place in my heart since March of 1997 when, scant days after I had returned home from covering the Brier in Calgary, an envelope addressed to me arrived at the Winnipeg Sun newsroom. Inside was a card with two hand-written messages, one from Vic and the other from Deb and the kids.

Vic wrote: “Thanks for the support and sense of humour Brier week. I enjoyed chatting with you all week and appreciate that you seem to understand the game and the emotions of the players.”

Deb wrote: “Just a note of thanks for the wonderful job you did at the Brier. You were an endless support to our family and the friendship you extended to us will be remembered always. Sincerely, Deb, Kassie, Daley & Elisabeth Peters.”

What athlete and what athlete’s family does that? Only two in my experience of 30 years in jock journalism—Vic Peters and family, and Wayne Gretzky.

Sportswriters don’t get into the newspaper business for thanks. It truly is a thankless gig in which you are often viewed with contempt and considered a reptilian-like creature with all the charm of a skunk with raised tail. So, to receive that card from the Peters family was…let’s put it this way: I have just three cherished keepsakes from my journalism career—a thank-you letter from Gretzky, and letter of commendation from former Toronto Sun publisher Doug Creighton, and that card from Vic and Deb.

Upon reflection, Vic Peters is among my personal top four, all-time favorite sports people, in lockstep with hockey boss Frank McKinnon, football coach Brian Dobie and player agent Don Baizley. Dobie is the only member of that quartet still taking in oxygen.

There was so much to admire in Vic. I never once conducted an interview with him…we had conversations. They were always enjoyable, thought-provoking, laugh-filled and, in terms of curling know-how, instructional and educational. He was a great quote. One of the best. Ever.

But that which I liked most about Vic was his “realness.” He was as earthy as garden soil and as genuine as a mother’s smile. With Vic, the needle on the BS metre never moved past zero, and after spending time with him you always felt better about yourself. Not many people can pull that off.

As a curler, you’ll often find the name Peters included in the same sentence as Jeff Stoughton and Kerry Burtnyk, which tells you all you need to know about his game. He stood among the tallest of timber during the 1990s. Oddly enough, it was his loss in the ’97 Brier final that stands foremost in my recollections of Peters on the pebble.

It was an epic, riveting to-and-fro for the Canadian men’s crown between two of the game’s heavyweights, Peters and Kevin Martin of Alberta, with more than 17,000 raucous and curling-rabid eye witnesses in the Saddledome at Calgary. Martin ruled the day, but the result might have been different had our Manitoba champion not come perilously close to exhausting his time allotment, releasing his final stone a mere dozen seconds before the clock ticked down to 00:00 in a 10-8 loss.

That Brier final stands as the most entertaining, most exhilarating and most exhausting sporting event I ever covered. At the end, I was emotionally spent because, yes, I had wished for Vic and teammates (and their families) to win. I wanted this nice guy to finish first.

That would have been perfect, though. And we know life isn’t perfect, because in a perfect world we’d still have Vic Peters.

To the Canadian sports writer who says Michael Sam is “faking it,” come out, come out whoever you are!

I have known, and I know, a lot of sports writers.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Some of them have galloping egos and, in general terms, their skin is thinner than the margin for error in a Gallup poll. But that’s really the worst I can say about them. In the grand scheme of things, they’re good people. Fun people. Good-time Charlies and Charlenes with quick wits and wry, also self-deprecating, senses of humor that sometimes serve to camouflage the stresses borne of the high demands of their craft.

That’s why it pains me to discover that one among them has completely lost the plot vis-a-vis Michael Sam, the first openly gay man to participate in a Canadian Football League match.

According to a weekend tweet from Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play Project that advocates inclusiveness in sports, he received an email from one of the “prominent” flowers of sports journalism in the True North suggesting Sam’s stated claim of walking out on the Montreal Alouettes due to mental health issues is a bogus bit of business.

“Media coverage of Michael Sam shows just how far society havs (sic) to go not only on LGBT issues but on mental health issues,” Burke tweeted.

“Received one email from a prominent Canadian sports reporter who accused Mike of faking it. Despicable. Pathetic. Revolting.”

Amen to that, brother.

And let’s add arrogant, ignorant, callous, contemptible and extremely mean-spirited to the roll call. It doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test of acceptability.

Unless the reporter in question is gay, he (I assume it’s a he since there are so few prominent sports scribes on the distaff side of press row) cannot even begin to know what manner of monsters prey on Sam’s mind. And if he is gay, he’s closeted, because I know of zero openly homosexual men writing sports in Canada.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no lesbians in significant roles at any of the major daily sports sheets in the country, either. Mainstream jock journalism, as I have written on more than one occasion, is white, straight and largely male. An old boys’ club, if you will.

I’m not certain of the blogosphere. I might be it. I know I’m the sole transgender girl scribbling sports in the Great White North and it’s possible that I’m flying solo as a lesbian, as well.

That, however, doesn’t unlock the door to Sam’s mind for me. Do I have an idea what he’s gone through and what he’s going through? You bet. I’ve been there and done that, not on as grand a scale as the now-departed Alouettes rush end, but for the longest time I was bleeding badly.

People have often asked me why I walked away from mainstream sports media after 30 years, at just 48 years of age. Simple. Same as Sam—mental health issues that I wasn’t prepared to share with anyone, not even my closest friends.

There were reasons why I seldom ran with the pack during road trips. The boys and (very few) girls would gather and have a howling good time at one watering hole or another (usually more than one, actually), but I really couldn’t handle the egos. I didn’t want to listen to more of their self-indulgent war stories and conquests, as humorous as many of them were. I didn’t feel as if I was part of the tribe. I was different. Thus, I would seek a quiet blues or jazz joint and deal with my demons in solitude.

It was such a lonely, confining place to be. At one point toward the end of my career, I experienced a massive meltdown in the Winnipeg Sun newsroom and departed in a flood of tears. I wasn’t seen, nor scarcely heard from, for three weeks. When I returned, I knew it was over. It was when, not if, I made my escape from the business.

And not a single person had a clue that I was crippled by gender identity conflict. Nobody.

So shame on the writer who says Michael Sam is faking it. He doesn’t know squat. He should out himself, but I doubt he has that kind of courage.

Morning musings…46

trans intro

The pics of me appeared on the Winnipeg Sun website in late 2010, the first photos publicized following the completion of my transition in 2009. It was a real uplifting moment for me, but clearly not as “uplifting” as Caitlyn Jenner’s, if you catch my drift.

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