Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Twitter wars - the debrief

Aside from being emotionally draining and costing me precious nap time, yesterday's Twitter backlash against my blog on Sochi and gay rights was a fascinating exercise in social media, political correctness and the mindset of  "journalists" in 2013.

The internet in general and Twitter in particular represent the best and the worst of everything. It's at once an invaluable tool for information gathering and instant communication, and a cesspool of hyper-aggressive and all-too-often anonymous trolls whose dialogue is void of the common courtesy supposedly mature adults extend to one another when they have to look each other in the eye. My only regret yesterday was that I allowed myself to be sucked into that pigsty of online puerility. I should have held myself to a higher standard of behavior, both personally and professionally.

When I wrote the blog, I knew there would be a backlash, but that was part of my point. Gay rights is a polarizing issue. What's unnerving is that one side in the debate has decreed that the only opinion anyone has a right to is THEIR opinion, and anyone who doesn't share it unconditionally is shouted down as a bigot and a homophobe. I defy anyone to explain how honest moral misgivings - faith-based or otherwise - automatically translate into fear, hatred and bigotry. That's exactly the kind of sweeping generalization the moral high ground crowd claims to abhor. The great irony is that the same people who preach tolerance are stridently intolerant of dissenting opinion.

Which brings us to the emerging breed of "journalist". Of the dozen or so people who called me out on Twitter yesterday(and who knew a dozen people could create such a din?), all but a couple described themselves as journalists, and most of them are in the early stages of their media careers. Two have fulltime jobs as Montreal Gazette reporters, and they were the only two who engaged me with courtesy and respect. The rest are self-styled social crusaders who do real reporters a disservice by misrepresenting themselves as journalists. Anyone who approaches a current events issue with pre-conceived notions and a fixed social agenda has checked their objectivity at the door and by definition is not a journalist.  It was also telling that they attempted to discredit me by denigrating my day job as a sports talk show host, as if that makes me unqualified to have an opinion on anything other than where the Habs are going to finish this season.  The presumption that they're the only ones intelligent and informed enough to comment on issues that "really matter" speaks volumes about a pomposity born of insecurity, and reaffirms that the only people they're talking to is each other - hardly the skill set required in an industry where success and relevance hinge on connecting with a broader audience.

It's a different media world than the one I came into 35 years ago. I've tried my best to keep up with the changes. One thing that never changes is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. Put a band-aid on it.


I'd also like to thank everyone who stepped up for me - publicly and privately - and especially those who said that they didn't agree with my blog but were unsettled by the smug sanctimoniousness of some of my detractors.  Interestingly, most of the support tweets and e-mails came in after 5pm - when people got home from their jobs.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gay rights in Sochi: good intentions meet a bad idea

It wouldn't be the Olympics without a cause celebre, and the mouvement du jour ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi is gay rights.
LGBT groups are clamoring for an Olympic boycott because of Russia's official ban against what the state defines as homosexual propaganda, including gay pride events and public demonstrations of affection between same sex couples. On the scale of human rights abuses, it doesn't compare to Chinese-occupied Tibet, yet the 2008 Beijing Games were boycott-free, in part because of the lessons learned from 1980, when the western boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow had no discernible effect on the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and only served to provoke Eastern Bloc countries to snub the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Beyond the futility of a boycott, there's this: gay rights have evolved into a political issue in North America, but in many parts of the world it's still a moral issue, and it's no one's place to impose their moral standards on someone else's culture. Russia's anti-gay legislation is repressive by North American standards, but the law has support across the political spectrum in Russia - and it's the law, enacted by members of a supposedly democratically-elected parliament.
Russia will evolve at its own pace. It always has, and always will. In the meantime, calls to boycott all things Russian from vodka to nesting dolls to Olympic Games because Bill can't hold Bob's hand at the Olympic Village in Sochi are as dubious as they are impractical.

Monday, July 15, 2013

We're doomed. Doomed, I tell you(and other Monday musings)

If baby steps count for anything, the Alouettes offence is at least inching in the right direction, based on Friday's loss to Calgary at Molson Stadium. Limited efficiency is an improvement over gross incompetence, even if it's only a marginal improvement. The good news is that defence and special teams, which were last season's problem children, are pulling their weight so far in 2013, so if the offence can get itself sorted out, the Als should be a contender. The challenge lies in sorting it out before they fall too far off the playoff pace, which sooner than later will require a greater length of stride than baby steps...Not quite sure what to make of Impact owner Joey Saputo calling out his team on Twitter after Saturday's 4-nil loss in New York. It resonated with the fans, who were overwhelmingly in Saputo's corner, but it remains to be seen whether the players appreciated their employer putting them on notice on social media...Watching the crowd in San Diego stand and cheer San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum during the 9th inning of his no-hitter against the Padres got me to wondering: is there any other circumstance in sport besides the no-hitter or perfect game bid where fans so readily reverse loyalties and support the visiting team? If there is, I can't think of it...A week after America saluted professional glutton Joey Chestnut for eating 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes, a guy named Zack Hample is basking in national acclaim for setting a world record by catching a baseball dropped 1200 feet from a helicopter. On their own and at face value, hot dog eating contests and helicopter baseball seem innocuous enough, but when they're celebrated as major societal accomplishments, it's bleakly symptomatic of the increasingly imminent collapse of western civilization.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nice poocutter, Grampa

Seventy-seven year old Gary Player is naked in the new issue of ESPN The Magazine, and I blame the internet.
A generation ago, Playboy tried and largely failed to pass itself off as art. Nudity and pornography were widely considered to be one and the same, but that perception has changed dramatically with the proliferation of hardcore porn on the world wide web. When virtually every sexual proclivity, no matter how bizarre, is instantly accessible to anyone with a credit card and a password, a picture of a naked woman or man with their arms or legs strategically crossed becomes a lot less objectionable but no less provocative. ESPN, to its credit, has recognized that change in the social landscape and exploited it with an annual magazine issue called the Body, featuring photo layouts of well-known athletes in various stages of undress. It's actually not a whole lot different from what Playboy used to be for several decades, but in the modern day context, it's much easier to pass off as artistic and tasteful.
Except for Gary Player. Good for him that he's in great shape at 77, but have some dignity, Grandad, and put your pants on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Welcome to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Geraldine, Heaney

If you had asked me before 3pm yesterday who Geraldine Heaney is, I would have guessed a character in a Flip Wilson skit, the actress who played Esther in Sanford and Son or the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland. I now know that Geraldine Heaney is an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which strikes me as enormously ironic, considering her notoriety doesn't extend much beyond her family, friends and closest associates.
This is not an anti-Geraldine Heaney diatribe or an exercise in misogyny, but it needs to be said: the induction of Heaney and of Cammie Granato and Angela James before her while infinitely more deserving candidates are rebuffed time and again is a stain on the Hockey Hall of Fame's reputation. Putting expediency ahead of integrity through a transparent sop to political correctness detracts from the Hall's credibility, which has already suffered from an open door policy that caters to too many borderline candidates. That hockey icons and household names like Paul Henderson, Pat Burns and Eric Lindros are turned away while obscure players from a still-marginal segment of the sport are embraced as honoured members of the Hockey Hall of Fame is an injustice. Worse than that, it's not even a heartfelt gesture as much as it's a paternalistic pat on the head from an old boys network that mistakenly believes that patronizing women contributes to gender equality.