A couple of months ago, sports columnist Steve Kelley retired from the Seattle Times. He penned a nice final column, closing his last career chapter with a simple, “So long.”
But in a subsequent radio interview, Kelley raised the ire of a few by noting that aside from the fact it was, at age 63, simply time to move on, the endless comments, critiques and mindless blather his opinions generated was reaching a point of nausea.
“The level of discourse has become so inane and nasty. And it’s not just at the Times. It’s ESPN ... everywhere. People, anonymous people, take shots at the story, writers, each other. Whatever you’ve achieved in that story gets drowned out by this chorus of idiots.”
The unsympathetic will argue it’s what we, as journalists, signed up for, and they’re right, to a degree. When your thoughts and beliefs and viewpoints are thrown out there for all to see, you’re bound to piss off one or two people.
But, as I always say, at least they’re reading. When they’re not, you’re in trouble.
Still, it’s hard to stomach sometimes, this new world where we live, one with tweets and chat rooms and blogs, one that leaves doors open so that some 35-year-old male can positively cleave a story and its writer, often with all the tact and courtesy of a rat, and sign off as “Marg.”
Last Monday, I wrote a nice story, I’d like to think, about a St. John’s man who was only about 100 metres away from one of the blasts that rocked the Boston Marathon finish line.
Shawn Stratton was with friends in a restaurant when the bombs went off. He described a scene of confusion and panic and people scrambling to get away, for fear of more explosions.
Most people understood the story and got the point — it was a local person trying to describe a horrific scene and what unfolded.
And then we send in the clowns.
“It’s a good thing there were Newfoundlanders there, otherwise the whole thing would have been a non-story ...” wrote one reader to The Telegram’s website.
“This ‘life coach’ was sounding more upset at having his ‘rush’ at finishing the marathon ruined and missing out on his cup of hot chocolate. In this article I felt no empathy for the victims whatsoever!” another person chimed in.
“The article includes photos of a man with his legs blown off and they interview a runner who had trouble finding a cab,” added a third.
(The photo was actually cropped so as not to show the horrific extent of the man’s wounds, since it would have been too graphic for some readers).
Not that I’m against commentary, or criticism. I’ve been known to throw a dart or two, and I expect and accept the backlash.
But when it arrives via the idiot faction, whose contribution to debate is reduced to inflammatory, lowbrow, daft drivel, well, it grates on the nerves sometimes.
A couple of weeks ago, I reported that Ryane Clowe was headed to the Philadelphia Flyers. I was wrong, of course, as Clowe wound up a New York Ranger, but I’m confident in my source who remains adamant a long-term contract was reached with the Flyers, who had received permission from the San Jose Sharks to speak with Clowe’s agent.
It just so happens the Sharks and Flyers could not agree on an exchange of players (obviously the Flyers were not offering much, as Clowe only cost the Rangers a second- and third-round pick, and a conditional pick).
Any way, I was wrong — bottom line. I’m not the first, and won’t be the last.
But if Twitter is any indication, you wouldn’t know but I’d announced that some folks’ mothers wear army boots.
C’est la vie.
What gets me, I guess, is not necessarily the doltish sect who lob insults and abuse at writers and story subjects, but the process that allows the caustic sneer to be delivered anonymously, hidden behind an alias, like “Moose Antlers from Mount Pearl”.
But, come to think of it, I may as well suck it up. It’s the way things roll these days, and change doesn’t appear forthcoming.
And unlike Steve Kelley, I still have a few years to go. That, by the way, is despite the fact that someone on our web site last week referred to anyone over the age of 40 as fossils.
Anyone who’s been to a ball game knows the odds of catching a foul ball are slim. Which makes Mark Nichols’ recent catch all the more remarkable. The Labrador City native, who is the lead stone on Jeff Stoughton’s curling team — and former longtime third for Brad Gushue — snagged a foul ball at last Monday’s Toronto Blue Jays-Chicago White Sox game at Rogers Centre, the second time Nichols has caught a ball. Thing is, it was only the second time Nichols has been at Rogers Centre. “It’s kind of crazy,” he told the Toronto Sun. “I even went back (Tuesday) night but the streak came to an end.” ... And this, from the Lunatic Fringe Department: there will be suspensions coming from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador regarding abuse of officials. None worst than the case being looked at concerning a coach who supposedly sent out a player to “get” the referee. The player apparently sticked the ref and later fired a puck at him. This occurred, by the way, at the peewee (11-12) level ... And how about the St. John’s peewee coach who not only has a player of the game award, a hard hat or whatever, but a “Dumb-Ass Hat” the player has to don if he/she has a bad game? ... And speaking of hats, hats off to Jerry (Stats) Elliott on another great job on “Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey .... A Trip Down Memory Lane.” It’s the third installment of his book on senior hockey back in the day, and this one is loaded with stories and photos and game recaps from the days of the old Blue Caps and Shamrocks, Stephenville Jets, Corner Brook Royals and Gander Flyers. I like the cover, which has pictures of the old Gander Gardens, Humber Gardens in Corner Brook and Memorial Stadium. Anybody looking for a copy should drop Stats a line email@example.com ... Anybody who thinks winning the Allan Cup is a breeze should check out the Bentley Generals’ lineup. Among those playing for the Generals are former Calder Trophy finalist Trent Hunter, who split the 2011-12 season between the Los Angeles Kings and Manchester Monarchs, Darren Van Impe, who appeared in 411 NHL games, former world junior player and New York Islanders second rounder Jeremy Colliton and Travis Brigley, who enjoyed an eight-year career in the NHL and American league. That said, though, it’s still ludicrous to suggest local senior hockey teams could give the St. John’s IceCaps a game. Certainly, there are some skilled player who could probably play, and that’s where it begins and ends ...
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org