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Jets have their identity: unaccountable

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/01/2017 (2194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Steve Lyons: Hello. How’s it going? I know you’ve been a bit under the weather — hope you’re feeling better.

Guess you had a chance to lay around and watch the Jets Monday and Tuesday night — any thoughts on the continuing trend of winning a couple and then promptly losing a few? Although the team actually has only won two of its last eight — not that I’m being critical or anything; wouldn’t want Blake Wheeler to get into a snit that the local media is picking on him and his team.

What’s up with Wheeler? After the Jet’s loss to the Ducks on Monday, he was again bemoaning the local media’s portrayal of the team, pointing out they had played their butts off. I would suggest if the team played its butts off the way they did on Monday more consistently, the line of questioning from the local media would have a different tone to it. Wheeler has been very defensive this season when questioned about the team’s play — at times being downright rude and condescending in his replies. Kind of a jerk really.

It got me to thinking about this team and its history of accountability — or the lack of it to be more precise. When the franchise moved here from Atlanta, the leadership core — led by captain Andrew Ladd — established a protocol with the local media where most of the players were allowed to avoid doing interviews after games. They didn’t feel the need to be accountable and the team did nothing to enforce league rules that require players to be available to the media after games. The biggest culprits were Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom. The media would complain about this policy, but for the most part the concern fell on deaf ears and fans didn’t seem to care — they were just happy to have the team back and weren’t interested in the hard questions at that time anyways.

Availability has improved a bit this season but I would suggest accountability is still a shortcoming of this group of players; perhaps the franchise as a whole. Now, players will say ‘We’re accountable to each other in this room and that’s it.’ No guys, you are accountable to the folks who shell out hard-earned money to come and watch you play on a nightly basis. And here’s a news flash — we are asking those questions after games on their behalf. Personally, I could care less if the Jets win or lose. But, I get enough calls and emails from readers telling me to ask the Jets this and to ask the Jets that. You know what that is? They are holding me — and you bud — accountable to do our jobs.

I don’t always like the calls and letters I get from readers, but I’ll tell you what — I understand they pay my salary and deserve a respectful response. And the last time I checked, I wasn’t getting paid $5.8 million (US by the way) a year to do it.

Paul Wiecek:The Winnipeg Jets don’t do accountability — and it starts right at the top. When was the last time Mark Chipman did a sit down interview with a media outlet in this town that wasn’t paying him for the privilege? And the general manager? Please. Unless you’re a friendly rights-holder or one of those media sycophants in Toronto who make their living stroking NHL general managers, Chevy is unavailable.

So yeah Wheeler is prickly and petulant at the first sign of a tough question. He’s learned from his bosses. I had a couple of run-ins with Wheeler on that disastrous western road swing earlier this month and it’s not a good look on him. He just comes across as childish. The guy’s the captain of a Canadian-based NHL team that is struggling right now — there are going to be tough questions and there is no one in that room more fitting to be asked them than the captain. 

And that would be true of any Canadian team, but I’d argue it is even more so with the Jets, precisely because the owner and general manager refuse to face the music on their own and the rest of the players are basically allowed to decide for themselves whether they feel up to facing the media on any given day. That leaves Wheeler and — to his everlasting credit — Paul Maurice, who stands in there everyday and answers every question respectfully. I don’t like every answer Maurice gives, but he’s a pro.

Look, there’s a lot of blue collar people in this town paying a lot of hard-earned money to support this team and they deserve some honest and meaningful answers about why a $66-million dressing room can’t win three games in a row and is well on its way to missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. My theory? That third game is in their heads at this point. I saw a stat this week — the Jets are 1-17-2 the last two seasons in games in which they had a chance to win three in a row. That’s a joke.

CP Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice speaks to his team during a video review as the team played against the San Jose Sharks during third period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Tuesday, January 24, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

Speaking of not holding this team accountable, I’m not understanding why so many Jets fans were blaming the officiating for Tuesday’s loss to San Jose? Whether that was or wasn’t a slash by Trouba that led to the game-tying penalty shot in the third period is beside the point. The issue is — yet again — that there was an opponent loose behind the Jets defence while they were on a power-play, leaving Trouba no option but to put himself in a position where a savvy opponent could sell a penalty shot. Two home games this week and two short-handed goals against the Jets. That, too, is a joke. And that disallowed Jets ‘goal’ with 17 seconds left that would have tied the game? Byfuglien pitch-forked the San Jose goalie into the net. That goal wasn’t going to stand up, regardless of when the ref did or didn’t blow the whistle.

If fans want this Jets team to be held accountable, the first step is for the fans themselves to stop making excuses for this team.

Steve: The NHL refs — and CFL refs as well — are out to get us here in Winnipeg, you know that right?

The local hockey fans have been poking at us this season to start asking tougher questions. Just so the folks at home know; we’ve always tried to ask them; getting them to respond has been nearly impossible.

Hey, who likes to be accountable, but I’ll tell you what — if my boss and the readers of this paper weren’t asking me tough questions on a daily basis, I’d do way less than I already do.

Maybe if Byfuglien was obliged to answer why he threw the puck into the slot of his OWN net, he might stop doing it. Does Buff answer to anyone in that locker-room? Or his coach for that matter?

You always hear about team’s trying to find an identity — unaccountable is an identity, just not a good one.

And speaking of unaccountable, did you see who the Montreal Alouettes named assistant GM today? Joe Mack!! The Crazy Football League is at it again. A day after the Argos fired their GM Jim Barker nearly three months after the season is over.

Paul: Remember when the Als were the class of the league? Yeah, me neither. Although I will say this — Mack had some abilities as a bird dog of U.S. talent, even during his disastrous reign as Bombers GM. If that’s what this AGM job is that Montreal has given him — just find us some talented Americans, leave the rest to us — that actually might work out for both parties. 

The more interesting announcement this morning, I thought, was that the Als have also appointed Catherine Raiche as the team’s other assistant GM. There are every few women in pro sports in front office positions and you’re going to be hearing a lot more about Raiche as media outlets trip over themselves to do features on her. 

The timing is interesting — the Als appoint a woman as assistant GM on the same day that ESPN announces that announcer Brent Musburger is retiring. I grew up with Musburger’s calls, but he had become the very worst part of the old boy’s club that is the announcers booth in North American pro sports. Remember the bowl game back in ’13 when he spent a couple minutes of air time salivating over the Alabama QB’s girlfriend? No joke — I just Googled ‘Musburger salivate’ and Google returned 5,070 results. And then just a couple weeks ago, Musburger got in trouble again during the Sugar Bowl for coming to the defence — on air, no less — of Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon, who broke a woman’s jaw and cheekbone during an argument in 2014. Idiots — Mixon and Musburger. I just searched ‘Musburger apologist.’ Sixteen-thousand results. Time to go.

Bottom line — pro sports takes a step forward when knuckle draggers like Musburger head for the exits and pioneers like Raiche walk in the front door. So, a good day, all things considered.

Steve: Hey! I was emailing with Paul Wiecek — what have you done with him?! 

CP San Jose Sharks defenceman Brent Burns (88) wrestles Winnipeg Jets right wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) to the ice during third period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Tuesday, January 24, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

Just kidding pal. I know you are a lot more enlightened than most folks would think. By the way, I was having dinner in the press box prior to Monday’s game vs the Ducks and someone asked me what was up with that picture of you kissing my cheek in that travel story  we had published on the weekend. ‘Is there something we should know?’ he asked. People are talking.

Tomorrow, marks another return of Tiger Woods. I know, I know — he’s done, get over it. I’m not sure I have felt this previously, but I find myself kind of cheering for the guy these days. He changed the game; changed the way athletes in general prepared for their sport. He sure was good copy for a long time as well. He was one of those guys that you could run a story about him every day and people never seemed to get enough. I can remember only a few of those over my years here: Gretzky, Jordan — Dennis Rodman. That’s right, I said Rodman. There was a time in the late 1990s when he was doing crazy stuff so regularly, you could always count on a good story. He’s one some crazy stuff since as well — um, can you say North Korea and The Apprentice.

In case you don’t recall check out this story — The 15 Most Outrageous Moments In Dennis Rodman History That Remind Us How Crazy He’s Always Been.

Are there any crazy athletes like that these days? Wonder whatever happened to Sean Avery?

Paul: I was raised in a European home. We kiss everyone: women, kids, men, complete strangers. Canadians are too uptight.

And wow — are we still talking about Tiger Woods? In the interests of dispensing with this subject once and for all, here are some numbers that prove, I think, that the only thing more washed up than Tiger Woods is the sport that he plays:

— The number of people aged 18-30 playing golf is down 35 percent in the last 10 years;

— TaylorMade-Adidas, the world’s biggest maker of golf apparel and equipment and the company that Woods announced this week is now his company of choice after a decades-long run with Nike, reports plummeting sales, down 28 percent in one recent fiscal year.

— More golf courses in the U.S. have closed than opened for 11 straight years. And the number of closures has accelerated every year since 2011. Over 1,000 courses in just the U.S. alone are projected to close in just the next decade;

— TV ratings are in the toilet;

— And, finally, in an age of climate change and water as an increasingly scarce resource, it takes, on average, 88 million gallons of water to keep a single golf course green for a year. In some areas of the U.S., over 25 percent of the local groundwater is now being used exclusively to water golf courses, while the rest of the citizenry is showering every other day to save water.

Golf is dead. The sooner old white guys like you finally accept that, the better off we’ll all be.

Interesting athletes? I like Lebron. He says what he thinks — about his team, his country and the world at large. And unlike Jordan, he doesn’t care if that means he sells fewer sneakers.

Steve: Did we just pay you to do all that research? I was wondering what took you so long to get back to me!

I’m betting all sports — except E-Sports — are down in numbers in people aged 18-30 over the last 10 years.

So, I know you were not watching Adam Hadwin try to win on the PGA Tour on Sunday, but did you watch any of the two NFL games? I hadn’t watched much NFL this season, but decided I would watch the Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots games. I’m always amazed at the precision in the NFL game — the games were not great, but the game itself is so good. Will you watch the Super Bowl? Gotta pick?

The Brady-Bellichick show is kinda tiring, but man you’ve got to give this duo credit for an amazing run. Tough to have a dynasty in today’s sports landscape, but the Pats have been all that.

Paul: Brady, Bellichick and the Patriots generally are everlasting proof that nice guys finish last. They bend every rule — and break the rest — and just keep right on winning, while the rest of the world outside of Massachusetts does a slow boil.

I saw a story once that Bellichick had ‘Ignore The Noise’ painted on the door of the team’s practice facility so that it was the last thing his players saw everyday when they were leaving. That’s great advice — and not just for football players.

I can’t believe Atlanta is in the Super Bowl, so I suppose they could surprise me again. But there’s no way I’d bet money against this Patriots team. I’m looking forward to Roger Goodell having to present the Lombardi Trophy to Brady, the man he suspended for four games this year for fiddling with the footballs. I hope Brady accepts the trophy and then knees Goodell in the nuts.

Who you picking to win the big game? Going with the Redblacks again?

Steve: Sure, I might as well stick with those colors and pick the Falcons. They looked awfully good dismantling the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

Gotta wrap this up and get back to work ha ha

Paul Wiecek / Winnipeg Free Press Wiecek, left, to Steve Lyons. "I love you man!"

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I started today’s exchange with a Hello. I had previously started past Say Whats with a Hey, but a reader sent me a note reminding me what my late mother used to tell me, ‘Hey is for horses.’ Guess, I could have been a jerk and told him where to put his advice. Unfortunately, I don’t have last year’s $5.6 million US to fall back on. Plus — hey, the guy had a good point.

Also, our young Jeff Hamilton called to tell me his Jets story for tomorrow. Turns out the Jets are 1-8 in their last nine one-goal games. And he says they’ve found a different way to lose every one of them. Good teams find different ways to win a few of those games — the Jets are not a good team. Any chance you could ask them what they’re going to do about it?

Paul: I would be happy to put that question to Wheeler for you. But I’m not sure you’re going to like his answer.

steve.lyons@freepress.mb.ca

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

don’t do

AP Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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