Welcome to the big day.
Welcome to the big day.
Well, you folks did well this week.
Good ones yesterday, some thought-provoking ones this morning.
Have fun and if you care, we’re around about 1 p.m. for the baseball and an IGBT. See some of you then.
Q: Doug, knowing your love for women's sport, what is it about our culture that refuses to embrace it. Back in my university days, writing for Western's Gazette, I fell in love with basketball watching the women's team. I've never liked soccer, but I enjoyed covering the women's squad as well.
What I find interesting is that people complain about the lack of fundamentals in men's sports. Generally, I find women's sports are more pure and based on the execution of those same fundamentals. So, if the game is there, why do we not follow?
I don't buy the whole "the media doesn't cover it." If there was a market, newspapers and TV would be all over it. So what is it? A cultural thing? Men can't bring themselves to watch women play? Is it a quality issue? Heck, if it was simply a male/female thing, women have us outnumbered, so they have the market.
Or is it because women's sport is undermined by sex? After all, the focus on women's tennis is often more on pulchritude than power strokes. Same with golf, softball, etc. The pretty girl gets the ink, but not for her on-court abilities.
Love to hear your thoughts.
Jay M, London
A: I’m going to say this flat out and take the hits:
I think there are too many small-minded people out there who can’t accept that different doesn’t mean inferior.
It galls me no end to hear people compare men and women’s sports. They aren’t the same but who cares?
I think the media drives it a bit, I do think that some women’s sports organizations pander a bit by promoting looks rather than ability and I think the general public shies away from things not force-fed to them by the mainstream media.
But people need to give women’s sports – and I talk primarily about team sports because that’s what I know best – a chance, especially at the highest level.
Isn’t sports at its very base about competition? And isn’t the best game possible one that’s between two high-quality teams regardless of gender?
An uphill fight, sure. But one worth fighting, I think.
Q: Dear Doug: Continued thanks for keeping us in touch through the dog days (dog year?). Your piece on the total disinterest in the Junior Women (5-0 as I write) points, in part, to the neglect of the major media sources to write about the Canadian national teams (and I may add, Canadians playing the game at the highest non-NBA levels). Why, then, as our preeminent proponent in said media, do you not use your bully pulpit to prod the non-blog readers into appreciating the efforts of these young Canadians? Is it, in part, because of editorial decisions? A deeper question is whether the vast majority of so-called basketball fans only care about the NBA and March Madness?
Frank B, Toronto
A: I wish I had as big a bully pulpit as you think, my friend. Truth is, I try to keep the national team programs out there as much as I can and hope others take notice and tell friends. I think they’re a significant part of what we are.
And I haven’t run into too many issues of “editorial decisions” although I have to admit it’s sometimes a hard sell because other things are happening.
Now, as to the deeper question?
I truly believe too many of us – We? You? – are, and this is cold, sheep. We follow what’s fed to us rather than strike out on our own to find areas or games or sports of interest. It’s easy that way, and I think too many people – myself included – take the easy way too often and become fans of “events” rather than “stories.”
Q: In the pantheon of those who write about sports, what is the scope/focus/responsibility of beat grunts, reporters, columnists, editors?
With the challenges facing print media, are some of those line blurring as people need to wear more hats?
One of the things I found in other news is that there used to be a time when people who covered a certain area got to know it well and were able to separate fact from fiction and substance from the trivial stuff. Now as people are expected to cover more territory they often only have a cursory understanding at best of what they are writing about (e.g. covering a business merger one day, a bill being passed the next, and a major crime the day after). All these stories can have some depth that goes beyond the who, what, when and how, to the why. Do you see this happening in sports?
Richard Y, Kincardine
A: I absolutely do and I am a prime example. I have a wee bit of history writing about baseball but to parachute me in because of staffing issues would seem to be unfair to the readers who expect – and deserve – more context and inside stuff, the kind of information that Griff or Mark Zwolinski can better provide.
The trouble is, staffs have been cut so drastically though buyouts, replaced retirements and other departures that people are being asked to do things out of their normal realm.
Thankfully – and I say this with all due modesty – we’re blessed with one of the most capable, senior staffs around and we are all quite adaptable.
And hard-working, I may add. If, for instance, I’m at a baseball game and something big breaks, I know I can reach Griff or Zorro and they’ll either take over or walk me through the things I need to know.
Same goes for someone else if they’re doing the hoops, I’m around if need be.
So I guess the short answer is, yes, it’s an issue but we deal with it as best we can because we’re good.
As for the "focus" I guess that hasn't changed much over the years. The Grunts are supposed to dig out the news and do the day-to-day stuff (they are akin to reporters) while columnists weigh in with opinion. Editors? Well, they're supposed to help guide the entire process.
Q: Hey Doug. I'm sure you heard about the Steelers James Harrison who blasted the commissioner and other respected players in Men's Journal.
As a journalist, if a NBA player comes to just you and goes on a rant like this, do you:
Get excited about such a juicy story and get it to print as soon as possible.
Get "bad cop" Feschuck to speak to this player further, so that he can print another scathing article without sacrificing your good relationship with the player and team.
Keep this to yourself, as you don't want to ruin the players rep and career, and know that the day your story is printed the player will say you took their comments out of context.
Henry D, Toronto
A: I write the story, case closed. And then write the fallout the next day or two. But, trust me, it doesn’t happen very often.
If this is the weekend, must be mail time, right?
Same drill as always, a wee bit today to get your started and more tomorrow although the in-box is a bit empty and could use some stuff.
You’ve got today to do it ‘cause I have a lazy afternoon at the ballyard to multi-task.
Q: Hey Doug, I trust and hope that you are enjoying the summer. I was thinking since this blog has everything from sports, to traveling to food destinations both here and aboard, you should call the "Raptors Blog" to the "Mother Star Daily Blog" maybe until NBA season starts.
My question is if the NBA season is cancelled, what happens with Draft.... (I Keed, I Keed)
Okay seriously do you anything to prepare for an NBA season yourself in terms of traveling, like making your bed uncomfy like in most hotel rooms, staying up late, practice late evening adult beverage consumption...
Enjoy Your Summer
A L, Mississauga
A: Except for the bed part, that’s pretty much how I prepare myself for, say, Monday. Or Tuesday. Or …
Seriously, though, there isn’t a lot of preparation you can do other than looking at the schedule and seeing where you’ll be when. And that means that, usually, the last thing I want to do in a summer is get on an airplane, fly somewhere and stay in a hotel; convincing Super Wife and Super Son that’s not a good way to spend a summer vacation is an entirely different matter some years.
If there is one thing I try to get accomplished, it’s to relatively coast through the middle part of September because once it starts, it’s go, go, go until July.
Q: So Doug, the fallout from Murdoch's cronies and their phone-hacking antics continues. Truly despicable behavior, I'm sure we agree.
That being said, which player or coach, past or present, do you wish you had more access to?
Not through illegal methods of course, just by happening to end up in the next booth for adult beverages, being given unprecedented grunt access to practices and locker rooms, having bionic hearing, the power of invisibility or whatnot.
Jonathan M, Tokyo
A: I think I’d kind of wish I had access to Jalen Rose, actually. Sure, Oak would be on that list by I imagine J lived life to, um, the fullest. Would have been fun to see how he interacted with people when he was out and teammates when no one was around. I (Heart) Jalen.
Q: Hey Doug, another question:
What's your opinion on W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe?" While many know the movie that was based off it - Field of Dreams - I found the book to be quite a good read. Where else can you find a novel that features baseball, ghosts, J.D. Salinger, and a son's relationship with his father, by a Canadian, no less?
Your thoughts on this entry to the sports-fiction library?
Andrew P, Toronto
A: It’s been a very long time since I read any sports fiction but Shoeless Joe would be at the very, very top of my list. Great book by a great writer I once interviewed and found quite interesting.
As I’ve said, I’m not that big a fiction reader but I would highly recommend Kinsella’s Iowa Baseball Confederacy and Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch as a personal Top 3.
We’re going to do something as a group with the Kinsella stuff as soon as I figure out what. Look for it.
Q: If there is no NBA what are the chances that you get assigned to cover the pucks?
K J, Toronto
I think they know better and I imagine the kabillion people who do it at our place and are far more knowledgeable than I may not appreciate an interloper. And I’m pretty sure the readers would revolt. Or at least some of them.
Q: Hi Doug! You patted yourself on the back for having had the foresight (or was it luck) to book off from your baseball reporting duties on Wednesday - the day the Jays announced a couple of trades. You identified this as a "veteran move", and I'm intrigued, cause one of the truly great things about becoming a Person Of A Certain Age is that you acquire an appreciation for, if not the ability to actually perform, "veteran moves". So, thinking back, can you share with us one or two of the better ones you've witnessed - either your own or someone else's - that are worthy of our recognition. Thanks!
Lorie P, London
A: Oh, I think oldsters who schedule minor surgery a week or so before training camp in any sport so they miss that drudgery are among the wisest “veteran move” guys I know.
On a personal note, I’m kind of proud of knowing when the best time is to fly to avoid stupid lines (never go to the U.S. from Pearson early Monday morning, for instance) or what hotels to stay at for proximity to, well, to places of interest with stools.
Let's see how a Friday night crowd is.
Oh, dads and their kids, eh?
That was the big topic around the ballyard yesterday with the arrival of Colby Rasmus to join the TOD.
As long as Dad doesn’t really interfere by offering suggestions that run counter to what the kid’s hearing for the bosses at work and the people who pay him, who cares?
I don’t imagine this is going to be a case where the kid runs into the clubhouse in between at-bats to check in at home; nor do I think there’ll be nightly calls back and forth. At least that’s what I get from what I’ve read, heard from Rasmus himself and got from John Farrell, who dropped this one on us pre-game, to many smiles:
“I’m not saying we’re going to give him a uniform and let him sit in the dugout.”
Anyway, kind of struck me as unfamiliar because in my regular life, it’s seldom parents are issues.
It’s wives and friends and what they do is get in a players’ ear with the things like: “Why don’t you get more minutes. The guy should be running more stuff for you. Get yours when you get a chance.”
Moms and dads?
Seldom seen or heard, with one rather notable exception and that’s been well-chronicled. But even Vince’s Mom was just a “presence” rather than a distraction and it was entirely irrelevant to what transpired in the games.
You can safely say pretty much every athlete in every sport has a parent or sibling or a friend or someone who’s giving them advice, helping them through difficult times and just being around.
Doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, I think athletes probably need someone divorced from their organization to talk to often, to air grievances to, to act as sounding board.
So now it’s Kevin Durant who says he’s 50-50 on perhaps going to Europe to play if the NBA lockout drones on into the regular season.
I remain in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode on him, Kobe, Dwight Howard, any of them and I will also say this:
It will have no impact whatsoever on negotiations on a new CBA.
If you think the owners care what the players are doing when the NBA isn’t in business, I think you’re dead wrong.
This isn’t about anything other than filthy rich owners wanting more of the pie and clawing back stuff they have collectively bargained away and if some players want to go play, I can’t see how they’d care.
Mostly because they know in their heart of hearts – and I’m sure you all realize this, too – that the second there’s a settlement, all of these guys will be back quicker than you can say: “$105 per diem, five-star hotels, charter flights and home.”
There was water falling from the sky this morning.
Anyone got an idea what that is?
Oh, right, it’s like a Slug magnet. Gotta get me some raccoon repellent for tonight, I imagine.
Seeing how we’ve been on about women’s basketball a bit this week, I dredged this one out of the mail:
Q: HI Doug. I had asked you this question before, but I don't recall seeing an answer to it. In light of the amazing (and badly under reported) success of the Canadian Women's Basketball team, I was wondering if you had a top 5 list of best female basketball players ever (includes Olympics/World Champs/WNBA etc)
Not sure how you keep finding things for your blog, but it's appreciated.
Sohail G, Colingwood
A: I am only going to guess that you mean Canadians because my depth of knowledge of the international stars kinds of starts and stops with Hortencia from Brazil and the usual American suspects. But I could probably come up with five if I had to.
And even to get the Canadians, I needed some help and enlisted the aid of some friends who are more expert than I even to get to three. I’m going back to the halcyon days of Canadian women’s basketball, when they are among the very best teams in the world and these two women – in my opinion – were so far ahead of the curve it was silly.
I can’t tell you how good they were.
So here you go and I’m sure there are others that some Irregulars will come up with over the course of the day:
And I am so bailing or cheating on No. 3 by doing this:
Not sure any, or many, of you have heard of the Edmonton Grads but read and watch this to get up to speed.
Now, I’m going to finish with a story.
(And I may have told it before and if I did, I apologize)
Jim O’Connell is a legendary international/college basketball writer with the Associated Press and a guy who has seen all the greats play often. He is also not one prone to, um, exuberance. Great guy, Jim.
Anyway, he once told he that only one time at an event has he seen an athlete on the street and stopped them to introduce himself and tell them how impressed he was with their skill, drive and style of play.
It was in 1987 at the Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.
Too bad I have to go to Baltimore next weekend to do the baseball.
I hear there’s a guy who needs a looper for the PGA Tour event.
But if I can’t help Tiger, maybe he can get a kid somewhere here.
Best sports comedy ever?
I’d say so.
We’ll take more mail here because there’s always an hour or so to kill sitting around the baseball press box and what better way to kill it than by corresponding with my close personal reader friends after I try to watch the live boxscore of the junior women who get Spain in the world quarter-finals starting at 1:30.
All set for another night?
So, they’re going to talk, it appears.
My Man Sheridan and a couple of others are reporting that the league and players are going to get together Monday to at least try to kickstart some legit negotiations.
(I guess they don’t realize it’s Simcoe Day and some people won’t be working).
Anyway, it is a step in the right direction and they’ve now had a month to sit and ponder where they are and always made sense to me that the first of August would be the time to sit down and chat.
It’s not going to be an easy slog, that’s for sure. While there hasn’t been an awful lot of rhetoric being tossed around – and that’s somewhat promising – you know that at some point in the next week or so, one of Billy Hunter or David Stern are going to lambaste the other side publicly because that seems to be how these kinds of negotiations work.
But it’s the private stuff that no one sees that’s most important. I honestly think both of those guys want to get a deal done in time for the opening of training camp because they have to realize what’s at stake.
The league’s never been more popular globally and to lose even a couple of week would do some serious damage.
But – and this is the thing that has to be hammered home incessantly – there is no real pressure point to get a deal done even in the next six weeks. Just because they’ll meet doesn’t mean they’ll get something done quickly so don’t expect any huge breakthroughs.
There really hasn’t been a huge setback yet. Sure, the league’s locked out but what’s that really matter? No one’s losing anything, it’s not a pay period for the players, the owners are quite happy not to spend money and while some fans may be grumbly, they have to realize this is a dead time every summer anyway.
Now, I have to admit that taking Wednesday night off from the ballyard was a veteran move indeed.
Not only was I able to help coach the Mighty Rockies to glorious playoff-opening victory, the TOD made about a kabillion trades while I was lollygagging.
Tee-hee. Sorry Griff.
Anyway, rather significant moves for the Jays, no?
A guy who play centre field every day (perhaps cutting down on the Outfield Follies that we see every now and then), Bautista and Snider flanking him, Thames as a fourth outfielder to give guys days off and Davis as a speedy guy off the bench? At least that’s my guess, I’ll have to check with Griff when we convene there this afternoon but that makes the most sense unless the GM’s got another deal up his sleeve.
Didn’t quite address the pitching issues but that’s for another day, I suppose.
Griff’s got a good take on hit here, in case you missed it.
Oh yeah, the junior women get Spain in the quarter-finals Friday at 1:30, in case you’re interested.
And if you’re not interested now, not sure you ever will be.
Speaking of the Olympics starting a year less a day from now, saw this somewhere about Paul McCartney being part of the opening and that’s going to be cool, I bet.
I’m not really big on attending the ceremonies, actually; they tend to drone on and on and on. But if there’s a chance something like this might happen, I am so in.
We’ll see what kind of tricks we can come up with this time.
Game’s at 7:07; I’ll be here a few minutes before.
Hey, you guys did great in the mail yesterday. Thanks.
If you want to do more, you know the drill that you can do right here.
Here’s an example:
Q: Oh wise wizard of all that is basketball and now baseball, thanks for the coverage of the junior women. My son was classmates with Kayla Alexandar who was one of the star of the junior women's team 4 years ago. She's having a great career so far at Syracuse.
Now a question. Being a good Christian and knowing that Vengeance is God's not mine, I would never actually do the following but I was certainly tempted to do the following: If I were pitching for the Jays the inning right after Jose Bautista gets beaned, I would plunk the first guy up in the behind. Then while taking careful aim I would pretend to throw over to first based but instead i would drill it hard at the pitcher who just beaned Jose. If I did that, what would be the consequences?
Richard G, Milton
A: Oh, the men in blue would look down on you for (a) throwing at the guy and (b) throwing at another guy and probably ask you to retire for the evening. But it'd be cool.
But the discussion of whether or not the next Orioles hitter should have hit the deck was certainly one that went on in the press box the other night.
I don’t think up 4-0 on an 0-2 pitch that the guy was throwing at Bautista, that’s for sure; it was a pitch that got away. Still, the feeling of some of us oldsters was that, yes, the next guy up for Baltimore should have had to dodge an inside fastball. Just a message, I guess.
France 86, Canada 69.
A bit better, no?
Here’s a brief item courtesy of Canada Basketball.
Hey, anyone hear anything about the Raptors lately?
Nah, me neither.
But that’s not unusual, at all. Even in a non-lockout year, about the only thing that’s going on at this time in the calendar is you hear about a few players trickling back into town for Caribana.
And since I don’t tend to get invited to the same parties they do, it’s hard to find out what’s going on.
Rich Chambers in on a scratchy telephone line from Chile but the sense of accomplishment comes through loud and clear.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am,” the coach of Canada’s under-19 women’s basketball team says.
Chambers had minutes earlier seen Canada beat the United States 64-52 in the final second-round game at the world Under-19 world championships, a victory of historic proportions for the national program.
“In your career you might get four or five teams that you really remember, you don’t get it too often, but this is one of those teams.”
Canada has won six straight games at the world championships – an unprecedented streak for a men’s or women’s team – and now advances to Friday’s single-elimination quarter-finals at the 16-team tournament.
But regardless of what happens from here on out, this has been a run that’s cemented the Canadian women’s program as one that’s on the rise.
“This is a special group of girls,” said Chambers, the head coach of the highly-accomplished University of Victoria Vikings.
“We’ve got a lot of highly-skilled players who’ve been trained and coached well by their clubs and college teams.”
Michelle Plouffe, a 6-3 centre from Edmonton, led Canada with 24 points in the win; Wumi Agubiade, a 6-2 power forward from Pickering, added 15.
Chambers, though, singled out guard Korissa Williams of Amherstburg, as perhaps the player of the game.
“She basically controlled and shut down the best point guard in the United States,” the coach said. “Her performance was unbelievable.”
If there’s been a trademark for this Canadian team, it’s an aggressive and effective halfcourt defence. The young women have held opponents to under 40 per cent shooting in each of their first six games and have been lauded as the best defensive team in the tournament.
“They’ve been really well coached,” said Chambers.
Canada now advances to the knockout round comprising eight teams and their opponent Friday – Thursday is an off-day for the medal round participants – is still to be determined.
“All eight teams (in the quarter-finals) are really equal and anyone could win,” said Chambers. “But they’ll always have this one to remember.”
Interesting question from an Irregular in the IGBT last night about the junior women, who beat Japan yesterday for their fifth win in a row at the worlds.
It had to do with why so few seem excited, or even impressed, with what the young women are doing.
(They finish their second round with a game against the U.S. this afternoon, will finish first or second in their second-round pool and will play a quarter-final on Friday, by the way).
It’s blatantly unfair, as others pointed out; if it was, say, the pucks there’d be people flying down to Chile, the highlights would be all over the television and in the papers and on the radio.
Guess there really are three factors at work here, they’re all explainable although that doesn’t make them right.
Women’s sports get short shrift in the media a lot of the time, women’s basketball in particular. It’s wrong, as I say, but most of the decision-makers in the Toronto media are middle-aged men who have some, um, history and favourites that they tend to pay closer attention to. Guys like me have to do a better job hammering home the good stories out there and work harder to get them in and in the week that this team’s been playing, most of us haven’t done a very good job.
It also speaks to the power of television in the consciousness of fans. Not sure there even are highlights available – FIBA’s broadcast arm will be streaming the playoff round, I believe – and if nothing can be shown, in some instances it’s like it never happened.
And, sadly, it’s basketball and there’s still quite a ways for that sport to go. And it’s international basketball and there’s a long way for that sport to go. And it’s junior women’s basketball being played by unfamiliar athletes and there’s a huge way for that to go.
None of this is right, of course. It’s a good story that should probably have been told better over the last few days.
As I’ve said to a couple of bosses over the years, everyone’s going to have the usual fare, giving them more of it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. I think what makes a media outlet stand out is the add-on stuff, educating readers as well as entertaining them and sometimes we do a very good job.
Sometimes we don’t.
Not sure how this is going to play out over the weekend but we’ll do our best to keep them out there for people to learn about.
Oh, and another thing on this team, or the Canada Basketball junior women’s program in particular:
Four years ago they finished fourth in the world, success this time around really shouldn’t catch too many by surprise, they’re building quite a stable of outstanding young women players, this is just another step in the development.
That answer the question?
Hey if you folks at City Hall – well, at least those of you who might be related to the Boss Man – are reading this, this is what she looks like.
You probably could have found out yourself by stopping by your local library branch and checking out a book. Just sayin’.
Now, don’t talk so much.
France 106, Canada 44
But while, no, it’s never, ever a good thing to get drilled by 62 points I’m not sure there should be panic in the streets over the first exhibition game the senior men’s team played.
First game in Europe after travelling. A veteran team that’s been working out for a while getting ready for EuroBasket 2011. A Canadian team that’s not close to the one that will try to qualify for the Olympics later this summer. Lots of things.
No, it’s not good. But it’s certainly not the end of the world, nor necessarily a sign of things to come.
So, football’s back, or so I read, and that means it’s back on TV, and that means theme songs, and that means my somewhat odd mind starts thinking of them and it’s funny but the two best – by far – are the football ones.
Tough question is which is better?
Or this one?
We got Griff involved – surreptitiously, of course – in the IGBT thing last night and he’s providing some helpful info through his tweets.
Makes a guy, seeing as it’s baseball and all, make some crack about us being Tinkers to Evers and all we need is a Chance and everyone goes: “Huh?”
Here you go, this might be the first poem we’ve linked to here.
Anybody get "gonfalon" without a quick Google search?
Didn't think so. Good word, though.
Someone out there has to tell me what useful purpose raccoons serve.
Oh, I know about the food chain and all that crap about things being on earth so there’s an orderly string that’s followed but every single morning I get to the deck to do this labour of love and find half a dozen or so pieces of freshly laid sod turned over at the corners because the little vermin have been gobbling bugs or just toying with me.
Yes, we’ve tried bug spray and anti-raccoon repellent and all number of things.
If they don’t watch out, I’m letting Super Dog deal with them and then they’ll be sorry.
Or maybe they’ll just stare at her, send her scurrying to the comfort of her couch and go on making my life miserable.
Folks, I’m a tad disappointed over here.
Mail’s way, way down which means either you’re all on vacation or there are no more questions to be answered and I’m not sure I believe either of that.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing tomorrow, or even later this morning and my life tends to be a jumble of last-minute decisions about what to do.
But I do know – or hope to know – where I’ll be a year from today to the day.
That’d be in London because today’s one year out from the start of the 2012 Olympics.
Did you know that?
Kind of caught me by surprise, should probably start thinking about it. And counting down the days to when I might get to Olde Cheshire Cheese place again.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).