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Bruce Dowbiggin

Open Mike: Let My People Speak

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Canadian baseball GOAT Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds turns to Atlanta’s Ossie Albies and asks, ”What do you think about me getting a diamond tooth?”

Albies smiles and says, “Go for it.”

This silly exchange might have just been another throwaway jock remark, except it took place live during the fourth inning of the Cincinnati/ Atlanta home opener last week. Votto was playing first base and Albies has just arrived there with a single. The goofy chit chat was part of ESPN miking Votto live for a half inning.

The technique has never been done during a regular season MLB game. Judging from public reaction, people want to see much more of their favourite sports stars in non-formal interviews. *(Although they could pass on Votto adjusting his protective cup every 30 seconds.)

Votto is that rare athlete who can pull off a conversation in the heat of a close game. The Toronto native is a witty, loquacious guy, and it showed as he shot the breeze in English and Spanish with the ESPN crew (Karl Ravech, David Cone, and Eduardo Pérez) about his “mid-life crisis”, having to be vigilant because his starting pitcher Tyler Mahle doesn’t have a great move to first, his training with a golf pro and assorted other chit-chat.

Not every star is as camera-ready as Votto nor is every sport adaptable to this intimate multi-tasking. But it was hard not to feel that Votto and the ESPN crew were pulling back the shroud on something new. Like movies going from silent to talkies, in-game sports have been almost mute for decades.

Live audio has always been the final frontier of sports broadcasting. Lip reading is the best we could hope for. And here it was; the Votto conversation was akin to hearing The Jazz Singer in 1927. Hard not to imagine the implications— especially for a sport like baseball struggling for relevance with Millenials.

You also got a limited taste of what golf— another sport with a young-demo problem— might be like with wild sound at The Masters this weekend. There were more than the usual “shits” and “fucks” sneaking in to accompany wayward shots. No one tried to apologize for the blue language. But there were also moments where fans were taken inside the action. Scotty Scheffler’s wayward ball-in-the-shrub on No. 18 Saturday showed his caddy talking him out of a risky shot  from the branches.

Billy Horschel supplied plenty of “No, it can’t be short” laments as his ball rolled off the green after landing on the green. Jon Rahm was caught pleading with the gods. While Scheffler’s caddy advised his man to hit a “nipper… pretty basic for you”. What a nipper is was not explained by Jim Nantz.

It was just a thimble-ful of audio but better than the incessant bird-chirping audio bed that plays beneath everything at Augusta National. Or the banal blandishments offered up by the broadcasters on behalf of Augusta National.

Some sports are less adaptable to the in-play audio, of course. Perhaps broadcasters could mike a chatterbox wide receiver in the NFL or a talkative goalie in the NHL. At first it right meet with resistance from the traditionalists, but when athletes see the branding opportunities from being uncensored by the network you could see a very rapid acceptance.

And let’s face it. Fans want to hear the inside action from stars who are normally sealed hermetically by cautions management and ownership. And as we said last September, less from cliché ridden analysts and play-buy-play.

“The public is craving the inside audio scoop, yet these events are carried as if it were still the 1990 Masters. Ditto for almost all team sports outside of the CFL and curling. (Rugby allows audio from referee’s video decisions.)  It’s like watching a silent movie.

The success of Netflix’s F1 documentary series Drive To Survive (now showing its fourth year) is a perfect example of the public’s demand for the inner sanctum of sport. Drive To Survive has plenty of the Nuke LaLoosh blarney from athletes and owners. But it also has enough free-wheeling about the bitchiness between drivers, the headaches of team managers and some of the greatest video from the pits to intrigue even the least serious fans.”

It can also be a revenue source. As we wrote August 2018: “As we’ve suggested for many years now, fans would probably be amenable to paying for a special channel with unlimited audio. Pay a special fee on top of your NHL Centre Ice or NFL Red Zone subscription and get full live audio from games. 

The effect might be like what happened when Hollywood converted from silent to talkies. Instead of scandal they’d have a new generation of viewers interested in their product. You can just see the promotion: “Fans, you’ve have seen their favourite sports stars for years. Now hear them live for the first time.”

Joey Votto just gave them their best advertisement.

 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on 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

Reverse Discrimination: The Bullying Of Caitlin Clark

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“@TheBabylonBee cheekily sums it up. “Caitlin Clark Canonized As Saint After Performing Miracle Of Making Women’s Basketball Watchable.” 

What a month or so it’s been for basketball star Caitlin Clark as she starts her WNBA career with the Indiana Something or Others. She’s had moments of triumph (30 points in a recent game). And a couple of duds. She’s also been roughed up physically with veteran players flagrantly fouling her, going out of their way to intimidate her physically. Initally, no foul was called on Chennedy Carter.

The League response to all this has been tepid refusal to rein in the veterans. NBA commissioner Adam Silver glibly called it a “welcome to the league” moment. (Clark says no hard feelings.) Most of which has played out in front of sellout crowds in a league that has papered more houses than a dry waller. “Confused WNBA Player Asks What This Huge Crowd Of People Is Doing At Game

And now women’s basketball’s young pole star has been left off the U.S. Olympic basketball team for Paris this July. You’d almost think the stars of the WNBA— a secondary sporting league at best propped up by the NBA— resent her being in their midst. That they fear she’ll break up the cozy LGBTQ/ BLM clubhouse they have going on. But we predicted as much in an April column entitled Now Comes The Complicated Part when her college career ended.

“The most interesting reaction may come from the women already in the WNBA. The intrusion of a white, conservative, straight Catholic woman in their midst won’t sit well in a league where women of that description have been made to feel unwelcome in many dressing rooms. She’ll need a tough hide to survive the resentment of other players who see themselves as the stars and Clark as a product of white privilege.”

That resentment has been naked and ugly from many who see themselves eclipsed by Clark’s obvious drawing power— and by their own inability to break the glass ceiling. “As we have written on multiple occasions, women’s sports has been in search of a marketable messiah to change it  from an ESPN liberal hype to mainstream. For too many in the audience— including women— the image of these sports has become too political. As the gender revolt took hold, fans were turned off by the strident lesbian soccer player Megan Rapinoe and WNBA star Britney Griner who turned every game into a referendum on the latest #BLM talking points. 

“There was a resistance to their defiance and the craven submission of corporate voices infatuated by DEI praise. To some, players on opposing hockey terms marrying each other was jarring. But Clark seems to be breaking the mold. The advertising world will beat a path to her door despite the second consecutive defeat in the Women’s Final. She’ll be honoured with woman athlete of the year and more.”

And, apparently, she’ll be resented for it. Days ago stories claimed that a Clark fan harassed Chicago star Carter and other players when they got off their team bus and outside their hotel. Wonder why? Oh yeah, Carter levelled Clark with the cheap shot.) That stirred the pot until it was revealed that— holy Jussi Smollett— it was all made up. (Must be something about Chicago.)

If you needed more evidence that Clark is living rent-free in the brains of these prima donnas, the rebellion by the veterans of the Olympic basketball team tells you all you need to know. It’s a scene reminiscent of the played-out Rapinoe getting a spot on the U.S. National Women’s team in place of a younger player to placate the team’s “equilibrium”.

WNBA star Cheryl Reeve explained the Clark snub. “I’ve never been in the trenches with her. Not even at a USA Basketball camp. Asking a coach to integrate someone she has no history with, at tournament with highest stakes, is a lot. A lot a lot.” Similar noises came from other resentful players. Which is so much twaddle.

First, Team USA hasn’t lost an Olympic match since 1996. So the twelfth spot is hardly a game changer. Second, you could hire Joyce Behar to coach this team, and they wouldn’t lose. Third, Clark has played on USA FIBA teams winning gold in 2017, 2019, and 2021 with MVP honours . She won Nike Elite national championship during high school. Named Iowa Gatorade player of the year twice. She’s got the resumé.

But she doesn’t tick the right cultural boxes for the WNBA players and their political allies. That’s what happens when players coddled by ESPN and the Title IX zealots call the shots. Noted humanist and hooper Barack Obama made lots of noise about women athletes getting equal pay as their due, but he’s gone mute when black stars acted nasty toward a white athlete.

There’s no question that, having made tin gods of the WNBA players for political purposes, few in authority want to check that privilege. “Women’s basketball decision-makers are not dumb,” writes black journalist Jason Whitlock on X to explain the silence. “They’ve been bullied by the BLM-LGBTQIA+Silent P Alphabet Mafia bigots.” Adds Clay Travis, “Women’s basketball hates its fans and doesn’t want to grow their game. That’s the only conclusion you can draw from their treatment of Clark. She would quadruple their (Olympic) viewership by herself. No brainer.”

To say nothing of the USA jerseys she’d sell. But the political water carriers don’t care. They would return the WNBA to what it’s always been, a subsidized pet project for the progressives in media and government. Perhaps the most on-the-nose indicator about the WNBA’s image is that Toronto is getting a team in the league. It’s a non-binary marriage made in progressive heaven.

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

The Phoney Hype For “Canada’s Team” In The Stanley Cup Final

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If you sometimes feel you’re being talked down to by your betters in mass media, there’s probably a reason. You are. From the forced demographics in films and culture to mandatory vaccines and lockdowns, the population are seen as daycare kiddos joined by a rope who must led in the ways of righteousness. Or, to be precise, leftishness.

Sometimes the massaging is blatant (do Canadian banks really want us to think all their employees are now black?) Sometimes it’s more subtle. Take, for example, the pizza restaurant commercials running incessantly during the NHL playoffs. They take the time to tell you that no Canadian team— repeat after us— has won a Stanley Cup since 1993 (ten points if you guessed Montreal). There are images of screens being crushed, balloons deflating. An unidentified Chris Cuthbert says, “It’s all over folks, the fun has come to an end.”

The dates of recent Final failures roll by showing walls that were punched, plates thrown through TV screen, transistor radios being tossed on the cement. So far accurate. But then Cuthbert pipes up. “Maybe it’s time we try something different?” (In case your hearing is deficient they scroll out “Maybe it’s time we try something different?”)

You’ll never guess their solution. Instead of booing our Canadian rival teams, maybe we should get behind whichever Canadian team makes it this far. “Let’s cheer with the fans we’ve always cheered against.” Pictures show people clinking glasses in camaraderie. (What happened to diversity?) Then the punch line.

“Team Up For The Cup”. This is the sort of pablum notion you get from people who drop in for the Final after spending the winter darning socks or attending NDP rallies. People we know actually believe it’s a government commercial. Even in the age of “Sinbad” Trudeau, this is inauthentic to the nth degree.

It all suggests “You fans are at fault.” A beer-soaked Kumbaya session is all that’s stood between Canada and a Cup since 1993. Of course the focus-group nimrods who think a Carbon Tax will change the weather could not be made to understand that the essence of fandom is 1) Our team wins 2) Your biggest rival loses.  No, with a little Liberal fairy dust we can all join hands behind Edmonton, now in the Final . That’s all it takes. As we say, inauthentic. Like dumping plastic bags for paper bags.

It put us in mind of an exchange we had with the quintessential Chrétien-era Liberal, Sheila Copps, she of the one million Canadian flags without lanyards debacle. In 2007, the Ottawa Senators made it to the Final. Needless to say the home of Canada’s bureaucracy was in heaven. In our 2008 book The Meaning of Puck , we recalled what happened when we suggested in the Calgary Herald that we weren’t going to “Team Up For The Cup”.

Former Liberal MP and Cabinet Minister Sheila Copps

Saying we wouldn’t go all Vimy Ridge for a team with a Trojan ad on their jersey, we asked why we should getting squishy about a team two time zones away. We added some gratuitous shots about Ottawa rolling up the sidewalks by 7 PM and Tulip Festivals. And praised the things we did share. Alberta’s oil money. Honk. Honk.

Before you could say Alfonso Gagliano, Ms. Copps, the pride of Hamilton, fired back in that quaint, understated style she’s known for. Using words like “despot” and a “dictator”, she accused us of using hockey to separate the nation.  Our “diatribe” was “hate-filled” as we mocked “tulips, tourists and the team… Dowbiggin’s message was a lot more dangerous than the separatists”, she railed.

Tulips bloom on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 1, 2009., on the first day of the Canadian Tulip Festival which runs from May 1st to the 18th. Ottawa was gifted 100,000 tulip bulbs in 1945 from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands in appreciation for the help Canada gave in liberating the Netherlands during WWII. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“Gussied up as a sports rant he thinks it’s perfectly okay to trash another part of Canada in the name of hockey.. Sports lynchers with a political agenda commit the worst kind of bigotry. In Western backhand ( note”: we lived our first 45 years in Quebec and Ontario), Dowbigggin excretes the same bile that almost cost our country twice.” Sports lyncher. Wow.

You’re welcome Sheila. Suggesting that “more astute readers may have discerned a touch of sarcasm and mirth in our original piece” we replied that this pro-Canada stand was rich coming from the government whose Sponsorship Scandal tore apart the nation and left their party to trust-fund Justin “the Jester” Trudeau.

“I’m always amused by Quebec parvenus such as Ms. Copps who think a French immersion course and a particularly hot weekend at the Juste Pour Rire festival make them an expert in the culture of La Belle Province… the parlous state of Quebec within Canada speaks to decades of Liberal vigilance on the separatist file.

“In the end it’s hard to tell which is funnier: Ms. Copps’ vitriolic defence of her record as a champion of Confederation or as a sudden covert to the culture of hockey in this country. But then, Ms. Copps, like most Liberals, never were very good at getting a joke.  Maybe because its was about them in the first place.”

Sadly, they don’t make ‘em like Sheila anymore. Now they slap you with a hate crime and take away your financial records. So good luck to Edmonton. We mean you no harm. Your crayon-coloured unis look great. Just don’t come running to the rest of Canada if you sprain your ankle on the Florida Panthers.

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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