In major league baseball last week, there was a deadline of much significance to those who religiously follow the trials and tribulations of their favourite teams, and it occurred just 24 hours or so after a local deadline that could only be described as a real barn-burner.
But to baseball first: throughout Saturday, there was constant chatter on the television sports channels about the deadline when players could be traded (there are numerous such stations dedicated to pleasing the jock fans, a far cry from a past era when all we seemed to have in Newfoundland was Howie Meeker, the ultimate “import”).
There was even a clock in the corner of one channel last weekend, giving a minute-by-minute countdown to the shut-off time when the millionaire ballplayers could be swapped. If, by the way, these salaries provoke in you a pious indignation, there was an amusing perspective supplied eons ago by none other than Babe Ruth: when told by a reporter that his $100,000- a-year salary (the first of that magnitude) meant he was now making more than the president of the United States, The Babe unashamedly quipped: “I had a better year than he did.”
Nowadays, of course, we’re talking millions, if not billions, being paid to men (for the most part) to play sports, and thus it wasn’t chickenfeed on the table as the fandom of baseball watched the deadline approach to see whether, for example, Toronto’s slugger Jose Bautista was to be shipped south in exchange for a handful of pimply-faced up-and-coming stars.
Well, I thought it was a shame that the blanket coverage of the baseball trades overshadowed a deadline in this part of the world that was smothered in spine-
tingling suspense, a story that should have had at least three or four analysts delivering a steady belt of punditry.
Thousands, after all, were on the edge of their seats, armed with their remote controls, looking for the latest information on this decision for the ages, folks, one that had Earth-shattering repercussions for Newfoundland.
Wait for it…
I’m referring, of course, to the deadline of the previous day, Friday, at 5 p.m., for any desperate soul wishing to lay themselves on the altar of the high priests and priestesses of the once powerful Liberal Party to serve as its head honcho.
It begged for real attention; we should have had live coverage with David Cochrane of the CBC and an out-of-retirement Jim Furlong of NTV news desperately thumbing through their respective Rolodexes for a source who might supply a unique angle.
But, alas, there was none of that.
Yvonne Jones was the only masochist named, and was declared the Liberal Party leader, her “interim” status disappearing at 5 p.m. Not even the odd barn animal cared an iota about Friday’s deadline.
After all, other than the fact that the job pays top dollar (the opposition leader receives an income equivalent to that of a cabinet minister), this is an absolutely thankless position, one in which you frustratingly ply your trade, with only the rare smell of satisfaction, against the most powerful premier this province has had since Smallwood.
And there’s not even the hope, in Jones’ case, of eventually becoming premier herself. Jones obviously earns her bucks, and has brought some smoothness to her rough-around-the-edges media persona.
But even her most ardent fans realize Jones just doesn’t have what it takes to head a government. She’s an effective opposition MHA, and will be rewarded with a prominent cabinet position when her party comes to power.
But before that day, just when the inevitable cracks appear in the Tory armour (there are already a few dents of prominence), there’ll be a white knight ride from the Liberal woods to take over from Jones, and she’ll bow out gracefully, making room for a Danny Williams type, with the gift of the gab, the looks, the pedigree, the charisma, most of it shallow, but the stuff that works in the era of the 30-second clip.
Returning to the sports theme: George Laraque, a former NHLer who broke noses for a living, is now the No. 2 person in the Green Party, a goon in the upper echelons of a peacenik party.
Perhaps Jones could pull off her own trade and bring the former brawler to the Liberal party. Then, if she could nab Newfoundland’s own Darren Langdon, another former NHL goon, her two acquisitions could infiltrate the premier’s recreational hockey league. Then we’d have a few sparks.
Start that deadline clock.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.