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November 14, 2007

Even more ridiculous than usual

I'm mostly done wasting my time picking apart idiot sportswriters--too easy, too little time, and ultimately too depressing, because it just never gets better. But today's effort from Damien Cox in today's Toronto Star is something else, I have to say. Let's start at the beginning:

More than four decades ago, legendary Conn Smythe quit the Maple Leafs, claiming the team had decided to put "cash ahead of class" by allowing Muhammad Ali, then better known as Cassius Clay, to fight at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Were Smythe around yesterday, the collective misbehaviour of today's Leaf millionaires would undoubtedly have made him throw up.

Well he might. There were never any pre-game scuffles, such as the one between Darcy Tucker and Sean Avery on Saturday, in Smythe's era--don't bother looking it up; just trust Damien, there weren't. And there certainly weren't any 19-year-olds embarrassing themselves by allowing naked and/or vaguely homoerotic photographs of themselves to leak onto the non-existent internet. Nor did the youngsters of that era commit any non-anachronistic gaffes of equal, let alone greater seriousness that went unpunished--more on that in a minute. Again, trust Damien, he's a professional.

But not wanting Muhammad Ali, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to fight at the Gardens because he wouldn't fight in Vietnam? I'm just not sure that's quite the way, in 2007, to exemplify the classical notion of sporting virtue.

Moving on to the Tucker/Avery affair:

[Y]ou had the team and one of the veterans it counts upon for mature leadership, Darcy Tucker, rapped on the knuckles and fined by the NHL for participating in a truly adolescent scene last Saturday night in the pre-game warm-up with the Rangers.

Try as they might to make it all Sean Avery's fault, the Leafs were, essentially, found equally culpable in the idiotic episode.

Avery was fined $2,500, Tucker $1,000; the Rangers and Leafs were fined ten times that, respectively. Bloody odd way to mete out "essentially equal" punishment, I'd have thought, especially for a league committed to punishing retaliation more than the original offence.

Moving on to Jiri Tlusty's youthful indiscretions, Cox mounts his crazy-ass pulpit and opines thusly:

[I]f this was a team of pride and tradition, Tlusty wouldn't have been in the lineup last night and Leaf ownership wouldn't have been hiding behind a press release.

The youngster would be back in the minors, having disgraced what was once a Canadian institution – a team that once had a member of Parliament in its lineup [Howie Meeker, perhaps the most thoroughly discredited observer of Canadian hockey] – with his amateur porn shots. Ownership, meanwhile, would be vowing to make certain such foolishness never reoccurred.

But not the Leafs. Instead of reprimanding the kid, they sic the lawyers on websites that dare to run the pictures, just as the organization once bullied those who accused Gardens workers of foul crimes.

This from a guy who manages to sleep at night covering a team featuring Mark Bell, who's going to prison at the end of the season. There has to be a way to improve the state of daily sports journalism in this country. There just has to be.

(As an aside, I noted with amusement that on the topic of the photo showing him "tonguing another male," in Cox's inimitable description, Tlusty saw fit to deny to the Star that he was gay. How I wish he'd have said he was. Can you imagine the frantic, sweat-drenched pretzel into which the sports section and editorial muckety-mucks would have turned themselves over that one?)

Posted by Chris Selley at November 14, 2007 11:23 PM

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"If this was a team that had the kind of real tradition it once had under Smythe, rather than fake "The Passion That Unites Us All" propaganda, you could say the team's famous emblem was soiled on this day."

You know, Chris, as soon as I saw this "piece" I figured you'd post something -- for any number of completely justifiable reasons -- as a sane counterbalance. I love his take on what "equally culpable" means.

Posted by: Pauly at November 15, 2007 10:25 PM

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