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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Formidable Superstar, Jim Brown Never Fit Black Or White Stereotypes

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“M***er fuckers be hanging off him. Eight of ‘em be begging Jim, ‘Please, Jim, would you fall down, please? We’re on TV, my kids are watching’.” Richard Pryor  on NFL players trying to tackle Jim Brown in the 1960s. 

The death at 87 of legendary athlete/ film star/ political activist Jim Brown comes just over three months from the death of hockey icon Bobby Hull. Both were alpha males possessed of adonis figures, the essence of vitality in their time. Brown gave up the NFL to become a film star. He went on to champion causes in the black political movement.

Hull went on to sire a HHoF player Brett Hull and work in the cattle industry. He also traded on his stardom. He is still regarded as one of the five most famous Chicago sports figures of all time, up there with Michael Jordan, Dick Butkus, Gayle Sayers and Ernie Banks.

Neither man was without controversy, however. Brown’s name was frequently associated with domestic violence. According to press reports, “On June 9, 1968, Brown, then 32, was booked on suspicion of assault with intent to commit murder against his girlfriend. The arrest occurred when Brown lived in Los Angeles while working as an actor. The woman, a model, was found semiconscious and moaning on a concrete patio 20 feet below the balcony of Brown’s Hollywood apartment.”

There were other incidents with police involvement, many in fact, but you get the drift. Hull, too, had a nasty legacy of domestic assault stemming from incidents involving his first wife. Neither man spent time in jail for the episodes. Hull made some politically insensitive remarks as well.

But, funny thing. When Hull died the Canadian sports press reports dutifully dredged up all his personal business to rebalance the adulation he received in life. As we reported at the time, some people thought that part of his life defined Hull.

But you had to look very hard into the reports of U.S. sports media on Brown’s death this week to find much about his less-attractive side. The praise for his athletic prowess was effusive. Rightly so. But for the liberal sports press that came of age in the 1960s, it was too much to taint Brown’s political legacy by showing his less-flattering past. So they almost universally gave it a pass. In one interview, Bob Costas, the liberal’s liberal in the press box, skirted the issue to dwell on his boyhood memories of Brown.

Wonder why? Those news sources that dared mention it— the New York Times— were lambasted for sullying his reputation with the facts. “It’s the New York Times vs. ESPN for scumbag of the week” is a sampling of the pushback from the sports world.

While playing at Syracuse, Brown was perhaps the greatest lacrosse player in American history before going on to football fame with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. We can still remember, as Richard Pryor did, the sight of No. 32 dragging defenders along behind him as he set rushing and TD records in a 12-game season— records that are still mostly unassailable. He’s a Top Five NFL player all-time. Colts HOF tight end John Mackey summed up Brown’s style. “He told me, ‘Make sure when anyone tackles you he remembers how much it hurts’.” They did. Vividly.

We can also recall the shocking news that Brown was ditching football in 1966 after nine NFL seasons to star in a Hollywood epic, The Dirty Dozen, with Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes and Donald Sutherland. (He intended to return to the Browns but when they wouldn’t let him miss training camp he retired.)  How would he do? We rushed to see the film. Brown was just fine, dragging his fellow cast members after him like NFL players as he took on the Nazis.

He went on to star in 100 Rifles as Hollywood’s first black action star. Other movies followed. When the glamour of films lost its lustre Brown became an icon for the black political movement. He supported Muhammad Ali in his fight to avoid prison for refusing to serve in Viet Nam. He created camps and schools for black children and was a recurring figure at the seminal moments for black empowerment.

But his philosophy was not today’s Marxist #BLM brand. “We’ve got to get off the emotional stuff and do something that will bring about real change,” he said. “We’ve got to have industries and commercial enterprises and build our own sustaining economic base. Then we can face white folks man-to-man and we can deal.” He was not easily intimidated.

In 2018, Brown and Kanye West met with President Donald Trump to discuss the state of America. Criticized by the black community for the meeting, Brown said, ”we can’t ignore that seat and just call names of the person that’s sitting in it”. Brown called Trump “accessible”, and said that the president was not a racist. The Brown obits in liberal media buried those quotes deep in stories.

Still he scared some folks. Files declassified in 2003 showed that the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and several police departments had monitored Brown and the Black Economic Union, attempting to smear the group as a source of Communist and radical Muslim extremism. Hillary Clinton would have been proud.

Brown himself was into unapologetic self-improvement as he showed when he went to Pryor’s hospital room after the comedian set himself alight while freebasing. While others soft pedalled their advice Brown made it clear that Pryor had to kick drugs, and that he would help him do so. (As thanks, Pryor later screwed Brown in a film deal that would have brought him millions.)

Brown was unrepentant when confronted about his past. “I’m no angel,” he told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in 1970. Regarding the assault allegations, he said, “I’ve never been convicted. I’ve just been harassed. I’ve been hit so much I don’t sting any more… I take it and look my accuser in the eye. I don’t look at my shoes when I talk to anybody. I know what I am. I only have to live with myself.”

That he did. The biggest difference between him and Hull was that the critics of the Golden Jet wanted to get tawdry clicks from his life story. With Brown they wanted him to advertise their Woke selves. That’s a huge and crucial difference in this insane world.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

If You Don’t Hear From Me, It’s Because I Don’t Hear From You.

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In his memoir, former BMO CEO Tony Comper recalled the press conference to announce a merger between two Japanese automobile corporations. Everything was going swimmingly until someone at the presser asked how long would it be before the two corporate cultures fully merged?

One of the CEOs replied without hesitation. “Forty-three years.”

Forty-three years? Why forty-three years? he was asked.

“Because that’s how long it will be until the executives who made this deal are all dead.”

Yes, there are stubborn business cultures. But there are also political cultures that persist against all efforts to convince them they are deluded. People find it hard to change their ways— particularly when they’ve defended them publicly for years. The New Left’s ironclad resistance to reason and debate is a feature, not a glitch. How to reach them in a friendly, inclusive manner?

Good luck. The Right’s challenge is thinking these people will respond to shame or being corrected. Can’t be done. Won’t be done. They’re like Japanese soldiers fighting WW II on a deserted island 25 years after armistice. They’ll die repeating the Donald Trump Bleach meme to themselves.

Marines help a Japanese soldier from a dugout on Tinian Island during the Fall of Tinian in World War II. He holds a cigarette the Leathernecks used to coax him out. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

This Gallup poll sheds light on how American (and Canadian) cultures can be blissfully unaware of some huge stories and obsessed by other narratives that fit their mindset. It shows that from 1972-2022 that GOP trust of media has plummeted from 41 percent to under 10 percent, while independents have gone from 53 percent to under 36 percent trust. IOW, their former favourite news sources don’t jive with their everyday reality.

But Democrats in the poll have vaulted from 64 percent to 76 percent in trust of media. Why? One reason probably lies with being told the narratives that please them. That give them comfort. These consumers allow legacy media’s fact checkers to sort out what they should know from “disinformation” without getting their hands dirty with the original story.

How pervasive was the scrubbing? The recent Missouri v. Biden recognized that federal government officials had been interfering with social media companies that digressed from the “accepted” line. An appeals court ordered them to stop. In another case, FBI was bribing reporters and scientists to change their opinions on the origin of the Covid-19 virus, sanitizing stories before they are doled out to the Woke.

“The Science” is supposed to be an ongoing vigorous debate with few settled laws. Yet, most cult scientists refuse debate, preferring to dismiss opponents as conspiracy nuts or— as they did with vaccines— dangers to society. When Al Gore allows himself to be cornered by questions, he rolls his eyes, sighs theatrically and asks his followers how anyone could deny The Science.

Gore’s climate apocalypse culture has morphed within a generation from the few fighting pollution to a global dogma of CO2 poisoning nature . Attempts to talk sense on carbon emission obsession, plastics prohibitions, aversion to the nuclear option, Greta Thunberg beatification have all proven futile in the face of an End Oil Now cult that makes Scientology look like the Boy Scouts.

It was the same for the #RussiaHoax, #FinePeopleHoax, #BleachHoax and now Hillary Clinton’s “real war on truth, facts, and reason”. These liberal road-tested canards persists to this day. Here’s Biden on a rare cogent day this summer repeating the #FinePeople hoax that has been debunked years before. Even the Washington Post has had enough, listing Biden’s Top 100 fabulist claims since becoming POTUS.

The latest cult cleansing is Biden’s patently false denial of any contact with son Hunter Biden’s Shakedown scheme. The denial is awarded first position beside #climateemergency on search engines and nightly newscasts. Famously, 51 former security directors and officials claimed, without evidence, that Hunter’s infamous laptop was Russian disinformation. Case closed, said MSNBC. No wonder so many consumers of legacy media in this echo chamber can blithely claim there is no substance to any of the Hunter stories documented by the competition and chronicled on his own hard drive.

The Canadian equivalent of denial culture came with the magic “cure-all” vaccines. Rather than publicly confront the Truckers Convoy on their refusal to take Covid-19 vaccines (which are now accepted as being flawed ), Trudeau hid in the Rideau Cottage calling truckers “an insult to science”. To make sure they never got a chance to question him he sent the cops after them, arrested them, suspended their civil liberties and finances and subjected them to show trials.

And he was supported by the purchased Canadian media who vilified the protesters— for lack of armed insurrection or rioting— for staying too long in their protest. Many promoted false stories of arson and foreign financing of the convoy. This media Trudeau then tried to reward with Bill C-18— designed to make Meta, Google and other large tech sources pay to prop up failing Canadian media. In response, Meta has blocked all news links in Canada and cancelled existing deals with Canadian news outlets. The blocked links cover both Canadian and foreign news in light of Bill C-18.

And the same newspaper lobby that largely gave him a free pass on declaring a national emergency now wants the $595 million “temporary” bailout to be extended with double the subsidies (seeking government tax credits equal to 35% of labour costs.) The bailout meant to aid transition to digital is now instead a Trudeau lifeline in the Toronto Star’s bankruptcy. In the meantime, writes Michael Geist, “investment in the publishing sector has ground to a halt, Canadians have lost access to news on social media, and small and independent media are particularly hard hit. Avoiding the Canadian outcome is a now a top policy priority in other countries looking at media legislation.”

All this as the federal government prepares an online hate speech law— hate to be defined by themselves.
Many are just hoping that a Liberal loss in the next election will cease the encircling madness. That sanity will prevail. But the Japanese car manufacturers are telling us not to get our hopes too high. Trudeau Nation is quite prepared to got to its grave before ever admitting its copious mistakes.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5


Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Celebrity Owners– Fun, Yes, But The Equity Is Even Better

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In case you hadn’t noticed. Celebrity Sports Ownership is all the rage. When the Ottawa Senators were for sale Ryan Reynolds, Snoop and The Weeknd were all mentioned among the bidders (that eventually went to Montreal businessman Michael Andlauer). LeBron James now holds a minority position with Liverpool FC.

Jay-Z owns part of the Brooklyn Nets, Usher a piece of the Cleveland Cavaliers while Fergie of Black Eyed Peas fame also partly owns the Miami Dolphins. Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony, and tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams are owners of pro sports teams. Famously, Elton John owned Watford FC, although he’s now just an honorary chairman.

And, of course, Reynolds and Rob McElhenney used a documentary TV series that showed their Welsh Wrexham soccer team promoted to the FA’s League Two. What’s the attraction?

Clearly a little PR is always a good thing. But sports team ownership has also become a lucrative equity play. As BMO reports, “The average compound annual growth rate since the last purchase price…  is 15 percent, a meaningful outperformance to the TSX and S&P.  Forbes estimates the Toronto Blue Jays are currently worth US$2.1 billion or roughly C$2.85 billion.

Based on recent sports franchise transactions, expansion fees and annual estimations of franchise values by Forbes Magazine, an $8 billion enterprise value is easily defendable for the Jays’ owners MLSE (who also own the Maple Leafs, Toronto FC and Argonauts).”

It’s the same across the major pro sports leagues. The estimated average franchise value in the NFL since 2013 is $5.1B with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16 percent; in the NBA it is $2.9B with a CAGR of 18 percent. For MLB it is $2.3B with a CAGR of 12 percent; the NHL is $1.0B with a CAGR of 11 percent; while MLS is $0.6B with a CAGR 21%.

But, BMO cautions, owning a sports franchise is considered “an equity investment strategy rather than a cash flow or income play.” In other words, don’t think that ticket sales and hot dogs are going to make you rich. (Although the NHL’s salary cap, which guarantees owners’ profits is a sweet deal.) The key is sports media which is thriving despite the move to cord cutting..

Sports media rights contracts have grown in tandem with franchise valuations. Not to be ignored in the advertising growth and viewer interaction is the bear knowns as legalized sports betting. Betting companies are flooding the airwaves with commercials while bettors tune in to watch how their selections work out. The casinos and online shops have replaced lower-paying traditional advertisers who’ve dropped off.

In Canada, league or team ownership of broadcast properties is still common. For that reason the real value of those broadcast rights is often opaque. (We had some irritated pushback from Rogers and Bell for writing on this tidy arrangement in the mid 2010s, forcing some limited disclosures). Rogers Sportsnet and TSN own (via MLSE) own a stable of teams in MLB, NHL, CFL and MLS. Good luck finding out what they pay themselves for media rights.

It’s more open in the U.S. Since the New York Yankees pioneered the YES network in 2002— sparking multiple imitators in other markets—the move in the U.S. has been away from outright ownerships of regional sports networks. A number of RSNs in the U.S. are either in bankruptcy or nearing it. Digital and network sources are now absorbing these sources. ESPN, via its owner Disney, is looking to find partners for its many broadcast properties as their bottom line in general has suffered.

Still, ESPN’s legacy business generates revenue and operating income of approximately $12.5 billion and $4.0 billion in 2023. It remains to be seen what new model emerges in the U.S. to answer cord cutting and the death of conventional TV. The NFL’s experiment on Monday, having two MNF games compete on separate networks is one experiment.

In Canada’s monopolistic market, “TSN/RDS penetration rates have declined at a quicker pace than ESPN over the past 10 years. ESPN penetration has dropped from 81 percent of U.S. households in 2013 to 56 percent in 2022, while TSN/RDS penetration has decreased from 89% of Canadian households in 2013 to 49 percent in 2022.

In addition, BMO admits that cord cutting is a thing. “SportsNet subscribers have decreased -23 percent to 5.8 million over the same period. Subscriber and advertising revenues are 60 percent and 40 percent of total revenue, respectively. Since 2017, TSN revenues have increased 13 percent. TSN subscribers have decreased -29 percent to ~7.8 million over the same period.”

But! In the last five years, TSN and SN have increased advertising revenues by 13 percent and 15 percent respectively. The same figure for the top five Canadian non-sports channels (collectively) is six percent. Thank you legalized wagering in Ontario. So who wouldn’t want a piece of this action, especially in Canada?

The red flag in this surging equity market comes in the form of smaller Canadian NHL markets. The Senators sale for $950 suggests a healthy interest in owning, but the Sens sale was also tied into the new LeBreton Flats arena. Ownership or control of a Canadian arena means more than NHL games. It also includes revenue from concerts, rallies, monster-truck events etc.

Even with that can Andlauer produce a winner just two hours from the Montreal Canadiens market? Likewise, the Winnipeg Jets are desperately in need of a larger arena to replace the 15,321 Canada Life Centre. Having Canada’s richest man, David Thomson, as an owner is no guarantee of getting one. And should Thomson tire of being the saviour of a losing Jets hockey property, who in that market has C$1-2B lying around needed to fund the franchise properly?

Likewise, the Calgary Flames. Despite the political press conference this summer about as new agreement the arena that management promised by 2013 has still not seen a shovelful of dirt turned over. The latest gaffe was architect’s drawings for the rink being rejected by the NHL due to inadequate dressing-room space. Start again.

Should the rink not be available till 2025-26 will an evolving ownership group still be interested in shelling out the money to keep the Flames (and Stampeders, Roughnecks and Hitmen) operating in Calgary? And if they don’t, because losing sucks? While energy-rich Calgary has plenty of billionaires, few will want to risk the money needed to keep a competitive team in a small market.

Connor McDavid’s brilliance plasters over the same small-market crack in Edmonton. Yes, they have their new building, but can owner Darryl Katz fund the moves need to keep his stars and build a winner? Vancouver, owned by the Aqulini family, has a larger market base, but with Seattle Kraken just two hours away can they too write the cheques needed to create the first Stanley Cup winner since the Canucks entered the NHL in 1970.

If these Canadian markets do survive longterm it might have to be with foreign ownership. Certainly there is money to be made riding the equity train. But there also no guarantees that those carpetbagger owners might replicate the Montreal Expos and scoot to richer markets.

Sign up today for Not The Public Broadcaster newsletters. Hot takes/ cool slants on sports and current affairs. Have the latest columns delivered to your mail box. Tell your friends to join, too. Always provocative, always independent.  https://share.hsforms.com/16edbhhC3TTKg6jAaRyP7rActsj5


Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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