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Bruce Dowbiggin

From Hall of Fame To Hall of Shame? Shohei Faces Banishment

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Holy Backtrack, Batman. With MLB Opening Day— the North American, not Korean version— days away, the sport’s biggest star is up to the bill of his new L.A. Dodgers cap in gambling controversy. Turns out that interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s closest companion since coming to North America in 2018, has committed “massive theft” and stolen a reported sum of at least $4.5 million to pay off debts to an alleged illegal bookmaker.

At least that is one story. There are others. After the Dodgers’ first of two games in Seoul last week, Mizuhara admitted that his buddy Ohtani had “loaned” him $4.5 million to pay off a gambling debt which has a paper trail to California and possibly Japan. Sooner than you can say Cy Young, Ohtani’s lawyers said, nay, nay… he didn’t lend anything to Ippei, and Ohtani is severing his relationship with him.

(Which is just as well, because the Dodgers were firing Mizuhara already.) Then Mizuhara did a complete reversal, telling ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts, and that Ohtani had not transferred money to a bookmaking operation in California, where there is no legal gambling. About this time someone got to Mizuhara and told him it might be a good idea if he 黙って (Japanese for damare or STFU).

Friday, reports emerged showing large amounts being bet in Japan on games played by Ohtani and his lousy performance in those games. While no one has been able to say the bets were placed by the pitcher or those around him, there are a few games that look highly suspicious. Monday, Ohtani sought to distance himself from his former buddy.

What is undeniable is that payoff money came from Ohtani’s account. And that for almost five years, a gambling addict had complete access to the inner workings of the California Angels dressing room. What injury insights and insider knowledge might Ippei Mizuhara have traded for gambling debts or favours? MLB and the police say they are investigating, but if it can be shown the Ohtani had any betting interest in his own team or other MLB games he will— based on the Joe Jackson and Pete Rose examples— be banned for life from MLB.

Also, are these stories exposing Ohtani about something else? Some believe the allegations may be revenge for Ohtani signing a friendly contract that backloads most of his compensation till after he retires— thereby depriving tax-hungry California of hundreds of millions in taxes.  Finally, why was MLB, which purports to have a security department, caught flat-footed here, and why are they only “gathering information”? Not a good look on any of these fronts for a business already struggling to re-capture lost audience share.

For those who like comedy we can only hope this mess has the entertainment value of the NHL when its greatest star ever was caught gambling with a shady character outside Philly. Okay, Wayne Gretzky never bet on sports , which was then illegal everywhere in North America outside Las Vegas. Never. Perish the thought.

When the Gretzky story broke in 2006 we were informed by people throughout hockey—including many sniffers in the sports media who still have jobs— that it was Wayne’s wife Janet and his pal Rich Tocchet who had the gambling problem. The walls around No. 99 went up quickly to protect him. There was concern about Gretzky’s eligibility to manage the 2006 Olympic mens hockey team.

VANCOUVER, BC – OCTOBER 20: Head coach Wayne Gretzky and assistant coach Rick Tocchet (R) of the Phoenix Coyotes discuss a play during their game against the Vancouver Canucks at General Motors Place on October 20, 2005 in Vancouver, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

For weeks the police and the NHL did a dance around the Gretzkys, placing most of the blame on Tocchet as the point man who financed and placed bets. Much was made of No. 99’s simon-pure record, even though wiretaps later showed his knowledge of the scheme and of Janet’s “involvement”.

Janet, who was taking the heat for hubby, later whined to Chatelaine Magazine. “It’s unfair that Wayne and I have had a great marriage for 20 years and a nice family, and the people in the media could care less if they are trying to cause friction in your marriage, trouble in your family, and make your kids feel a certain way. That was a little hurtful, because it was like, ‘Why? What have we ever done to you?’”

Um, as the wife of a hockey legend, you were, at the very least, dealing with illegal gambling when any such activity at the time was strictly verboten in the NHL and with the cops. That’s what you did. Your marriage had nothing to do with it.

Just to prove that Gretzky is not the type to get involved with the sleaze of gambling he immediately signed up to advertise sports betting as soon as it became legal in 2022. He’s done commercials with Connor McDavid yukking it up over parlays and teasers. He’s the hockey face of legal gambling. But he’s not a gambler.

This story was never going to be told straight in 2006 with Gretzky’s name involved. He’s just too big in Canada to be taken down for a silly betting scheme with a few goombahs in Tony Soprano’s old Jersey neighbourhood. You could tell by the indignation of Team Gretzky in the day that they were calling in their markers… er, discussing the issue with friendly media on burying the story.

MLB can just hope that it has enough lackeys of its own in the press and friends in the DOJ to keep the Japanese Babe Ruth out of trouble. But the bases are full and the runners will be in motion with the next pitch

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 brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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

OJ Trial: How It Launched Cable News And Destroyed MLK’s Legacy

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It was the launch pad for CNN. The demise of Martin Luther King’s dream and Ground Zero for racial reparations in America. The O.J. Simpson trial in 1994 is now recognized as the end of civility in the United States. And the beginning of DEI.

Simpson, who died last week of cancer at age 76, was the centre of the story and, as we know now, the least of its elements. Any doubts that festered about his capability to commit a brutal murder of his wife and a friend were quashed when Simpson used his liberty to shake down a memorabilia salesman, using a gun and some muscle to get the job done.

He wandered the world before and after the eight-years-plus prison term, a ghost figure shunned and demonized by almost all. His death brought brief mentions of the spectacular career in sports and media he threw away. But Dave Chapelle sums up this pathetic figure in his stand-up.

While the entire murder/ trial/ incarceration tanked O.J.’s reputation forever it was the making of CNN, which— until the trial— had mostly been a channel you watched while killing time in airports. And, by extension, the shocking not guilty decision was the birth of the cable-news phenomenon.

Instead of investigating plane crashes and propping up bloviating politicians CNN discovered the magic of a live courtroom drama featuring one of the most famous men in America, football great and movie punchline O.J. Blowing out the concept of structured programming, CNN dedicated endless consecutive daytime hours to testimony, linked by a cast of legal figures like Roger Cossack, Jeffrey Toobin and Greta Van Susteren parsing the evidence..

When court broke for the day, CNN went full panel, rounding up ex-cops, ambulance-chasing lawyers, California psychos and political hacks to analyze the day’s events like they were John Madden analyzing Peyton Manning. People tantalized by the Bronco chase and the bloody glove couldn’t get enough of Kato Kaelin.

CNN was aided by Simpson’s defence team which trashed the idea of evidence, turning the trial instead into a referendum on the bumbling L.A. police. Soon everyone knew that detective Mark Fuhrman was a stone-cold racist and Phillip Vanatter couldn’t protect evidence if he tried. And don’t get us started on the quivering figure of Judge Lance Ito, who was bulldozed by Simpson’s crack team of Johnnie Cochrane, Alan Dershowitz, Robert Shapiro and Robert Kardashian.

The apogee of the trial was, of course, coarse actor O.J. not being able to put on the glove (if it don’t fit you must acquit). The stunned look on prosecutor Marcia Clark’s face was mint. For the hyper-liberal, mostly black  L.A. jury that was all they needed to cement the not-guilty verdict. CNN reverberated for weeks on the sugar high from the trial.

White America was largely disgusted with the verdict and said so. Prompting CNN to allege a vast right-wing conspiracy that would end in George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Soon, everyone was in on the game of choosing sides, with MSNBC And FOX News Channel going 24/7 on the racial divide in society. Pretty soon, late-night comics morphed into shills for the Left and against Bush and then Trump. Comedy was deader than O.J.’s victims.

Network profits were lucrative, however, as Roger Ailes (FOX News) and the heads of the Big Three TV news departments whipped the vote for their side. Sadly for CNN, abandoning their role as purveyor of O.J. porn for guileless wind therapist for the Obama Left was not a winner with audiences. The rabid radicals disappeared for MSNBC and the centrists just started watching Netflix. From creators of the TV news cycle on the fly, CNN is now a lame version of its old self, a tepid third in the ratings as it seeks to find a new identity.

The other big loser in the O.J. story was the legacy of Martin Luther King. While gormless lefties still repeat his pleas for a colour-blind society, the reality is that, since the OJ decision, black America has decided it can go its own way, thank you, funded by guilty white liberals and reparations from the Civil War.

In June of 2016— two decades after the Trial of the century— a documentary on the trials stirred the passions again. We observed, “King was predicting a land where colour no longer matters. A land where character and steadfastness and achievement are the highest goals. Today, the proud boast of Obama and the progressives is that everything is about colour, not character. Everyone is about check lists of the aggrieved, talking points of the hard-done-by, education camps for liberal guilt. Growth cannot be made unless it’s as the expense of someone else we hate.

Simpson was a man King might have admired in some ways, even if the ESPN producers dismissed him in their zeal to reinforce the grievance culture. O.J. had no time for those who chose to cut themselves off in their culture, who were marinating in their bitterness over racial bigotry. He chose to be measured by something larger than colour.

That he failed is more of a mark on his character than his colour.” So OJ has that going for him as he checks into his suite in Hades.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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 brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Sorry, Justin. Social Media Won’t Give You A Mulroney Epitaph

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The polls suck. His party is restless watching his constant gaffes. His NDP allies are similarly hoping he quits before he brings down their party, too. The public now laughs at his Happy Ways demeanour and lush living on the public dime.

It seems inevitable that Justin Trudeau is at the end of his runway as prime minister of Canada. If the polls are right, he could experience one of the greatest electoral repudiations when the federal election finally happens. Just as he replaced the dour technician Stephen Harper, Trudeau will be dismissed by the public, seen as yesterday’s man.

In desperation Trudeau has tried labelling his nemesis Pierre Poilievre as a Trump wannabe, a divisive alt-right force who would reverse the generous graft he’d bestowed on Canadians. His paid media have picked up the theme calling Poilievre’s strategy “shameful”, “cynical” and his “scorched-earth approach” is “contributing to a breakdown in overall faith in the system”. You go with that.

What makes them mad are Poilievre’s insouciant takedowns of Liberal hacks and media flacks, best epitomized by the apple-eating destruction of a lazy B.C. journalist out for a cheap score to raise his profile. A host of self-appointed press figures lost their minds. “You are not supposed to treat interviewers this way!” Since that moment, Poilievre has repeated the formula on cabinet ministers and played-out press figures.

Leaving Liberals and their wind therapists in the press to wonder what will be Skippy’s legacy in ten or fifteen years if he can’t control the messaging? Most look at the recent funeral for Brian Mulroney and the forgiving attitude from his former enemies toward Mulroney. Indeed, those who watched Wayne Gretzky and others eulogize the 18th PM of Canada as a statesman assume that this charity will eventually be extended to Trudeau.

Sure, Justin told the UN his citizens are genocidal, installed felons to cabinet posts, applauded Nazis in Parliament  and showered his pals with graft. But wasn’t Mulroney also found counting bribe money from paper bags in a hotel room? Surely the charity shown to Mulroney will also be extended to Trudeau in the fullness of time?

It would be if the media/ government apparatus that existed in the Mulroney 1980s were the ones writing the epitaphs. “Let bygones be bygones”. But this fantasy scenario misses the collapse in authority suffered by that media/ government apparatus the past decade. A collapse Poilievre has duly noted.

While they rail against Poilievre’s dismissive attitude toward them, the Conservative leader understands the new dynamic where voters— especially the young— get their information from social media, not the scrum theatre of the past, engineered by politicians and the people who followed them. If Poilievre appears dismissive of their game it’s because he knows they’re irrelevant to him.

This outrage from the Family Compact comes from people like the self-obsessed MSNBC staff who whined like babies at the thought of a GOP voice on their shows. An attitude parroted by their Canadian cousins fed money by the ruling class. No wonder Trudeau is rushing through laws to censor the internet. X hates him, and he knows it.

After years of toeing the line, however, influential journalists are suddenly recognizing the damage done by their obsessions— and the peril in which  their business finds itself. NPR Senior business editor Uri Berliner shocked many with his confession that Trump-obsessed NPR “lost its way when it started telling listeners how to think.

“Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population”. A segment so deranged by Trump’s election in 2016 that it fed phoney stories about Russiagate and Hunter Biden’s son’s laptop to its audience over Trump’s term. NPR’s managing editor for news dismissed revelations over Hunter spilling the beans on Dad: “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.” We know now this senior journalist helped bury a generational story.

Getting it deliberately wrong is bad enough, continued Berliner,. “What’s worse is to pretend it never happened, to move on with no mea culpas, no self-reflection. Especially when you expect high standards of transparency from public figures and institutions, but don’t practice those standards yourself. That’s what shatters trust and engenders cynicism about the media.”

As Berliner suggests, a population that understands the massive Covid deception is now dumping the news sources they long trusted. Hollywood, too, is reaping the whirlwind in cables cut from the nightly Colbert Chorus of Insanity. A worried NY Times has tried a limited mea culpa on overselling the pandemic (one of their reporters claimed in 2022 that Covid had “racist” roots), but the stain of its irresponsible censoring of any critics endures.

In Canada, no one at CBC, CTV, the Globe & Mail or the Toronto Star is even remotely close to owning up to their role in creating panic over Covid. (One prominent reporter received the Order of Canada for his support for lockdowns, vaccines). They have ceased reprinting Trudeaupian propaganda on the virus and the vaccines. But the silence on their enthusiastic support for closing of schools, the isolation of the dying and the firing of those reluctant to try untested vaccines speaks louder than any mealy-mouthed correction.

So the next time the prime minister and his media pals try to portray the earnest— sometimes plodding— messaging of Poilievre as a new Dark Age, consider the source. And then move into the future. Because it won’t be written anymore by the people who assume their infallibility.

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 brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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