VANCOUVER — Items that may grow up to be columns, Vol. XV, Chapter 4:
(Take deep breath. Check deflector shields. Proceed.)
Having worked amateur and professional dressing rooms for 39 years or so — including some in junior and university where a scrum consisted of the player still in his jockstrap, a lone writer standing in front of him and the equipment guy trying to pack the skates or shoulder pads away from underfoot — I freely admit that upon occasion, hard feelings have occurred.
Among the assorted outbreaks of unpleasantness were being physically removed from the Edmonton Eskimos’ dressing room by Leo Blanchard and Dan Kepley (before coach Hugh Campbell interceded and ordered his players to unhand me), challenged to a fight by Edmonton Oilers chief scout Barry Fraser while attempting to interview Craig MacTavish after a game ... and asked countless times by owly competitors in dressing rooms far and wide: “What do you know about (insert sport’s name here)? Have you ever played the game?”
Which brings us to Duncan Keith vs. TEAM1040’s Karen Thomson.
BATTLE LINES: Now, Keith — the Chicago Blackhawks (and Canadian Olympic team) defenceman — while a terrific player, has a nasty side to him which has revealed itself more than once against the Hawks’ bitter rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. For some reason he seems to have fixated upon the mild-mannered Daniel Sedin, whom he concussed late last season with a vicious open-ice elbow that drew a suspension, and slashed across the back while Sedin was in the act of scoring the Canucks’ clinching goal of a 3-1 win on Monday night.
The slash was pretty evident to all — and its impact was audible as far away as the press box — so it was not out-of-bounds by any means for Thomson to ask, and she asked pretty gently, what was up with that?
The exchange went like this:
DK: “Oh, no. I don’t think there was anything. I think he scored a nice goal. The ref was right there. That’s what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh?”
KT: “Yeah, maybe.”
DK: “The first female …”
KT: “I can’t skate, though.”
DK: “The first female referee. You can’t play probably either, right? But you're thinking the game like you know it? Okay, see ya.”
PREPARE THE GALLOWS: The audio clip, or transcript thereof, immediately had Keith trending on Twitter, and predictably enough, it was his gender reference that got everyone’s attention.
But here’s what I think ought to happen: let it go, ye watchdogs of sexism. Pick your spots for a more important fight.
In each case mentioned at the top — and again on Monday night — emotions were high, and most of the time, it was because the athlete (or team) in question had just lost, and highly competitive people don’t always think very clearly about consequences, let alone political correctness, when fresh from the battlefield.
Keith delayed the interview so that he could put on a shirt; that’s how brief a time had elapsed since he left the ice surface. He was running hot. The question was, while not unreasonable, somewhat provocative. What was he supposed to say: “I really two-handed him. Can’t believe I didn’t get a penalty?”
So he said something he’ll probably have to apologize for. And that should be the end of it. It’s called give-and-take. You have to be able to take it, in our business, if you’re going to give it out. Happens all the time in the testy relationship between media and players.
Thomson, who works hard at her job and does it well, obviously sensed that the issue was being taken places she never intended them to go, and tweeted Tuesday morning: “@KJT1040 Hockey is an emotional game and things are often said in the heat of the moment. I think this is what happened last night. I’ve moved on.”
And so shall we...
EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES: That was the title of a book by former BBC radio host Lynne Truss, which bemoaned the deplorable misuse of punctuation in the U.K. and the United States. (And this was before Twitter.)
It was based upon a joke about a Panda walking into a bar, having a sandwich, drawing a gun and opening fire, and walking out.
Asked why he did it, the Panda tosses a badly-punctuated wildlife book at the bartender, and says: “Look it up.”
Sure enough, the book said the Panda “eats, shoots and leaves.”
So (we’re getting to the point soon), when Liverpool’s Luis Suarez first bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on the arm, undetected, in a marquee English Premier League match Saturday then, unpunished, was still on the field to score the tying goal with the very last touch after an unimaginable 6:34 of time added on, The Guardian’s headline on the story, accompanied by photo evidence of the crime, read: “Eats ... Shoots ... Leaves?”
Suarez has apologized for his “inexcusable behaviour” and is probably going to be suspended by the FA, but Chelsea still loses two points.
Helluva headline, though.
LOVE AT FIRST BITE: Meanwhile, Mike Tyson, who famously bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off and spit it on the canvas in their 1997 heavyweight title fight, heard about the Suarez chomp and decided to follow him on Twitter.
Tyson told radio host David Glenn: "He (Suarez) bit someone, it happens.”
WHAT’S COOKIN’: All right, Ottawa. Now that your team owner’s goofy quasi-investigation into the Zapruder film of the Matt Cooke-Eric Karlsson skate-cut incident has not resulted in proof of malice aforethought ... and now that enforcer Chris Neil has got the obligatory “challenge him to a fight” exercise out of the way, as if that would fix everything ... and now that the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan has seen fit to mention his penis (and testicles) in a Matt Cooke column, can’t we just kind of, you know, grow up and admit the possibility that the Senators’ great young defenceman may have just got cut by a normal, unlucky play in the course of a hockey game?
You’re the nation’s capital. You’re better than this.
OVER THE TOP: Fans have some goofy ideas, but considering how long-suffering the Toronto Maple Leaf faithful have been, now that their heroes have finally made the playoffs, this whole proposal to turn the top of the CN Tower into a giant Budweiser-like flashing goal light whenever (if?) the Leafs score is actually kind of cool.
Add an air-raid siren, and imagine the panic it could cause among all those high-rise condo dwellers where the lakefront used to be.
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