February 23, 2018

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Say What?! Wheeler's F-bomb heard across the globe -- well, by one guy anyways

Steve Lyons: Hello. Good Wednesday morning to ya from Winnipeg. Which makes it late Wednesday evening there, right? We'll get this figured out at some point. You've covered plenty of curling in your day and I'm sure you have many memorable moments logged away in that melon of yours: the gold medal win by Lawes and Morris yesterday must now rank up there?

It's so unique for Lawes: most teams and individuals have prepared years — if not decades — for their Oly moment and while she, of course, has been playing the sport for decades, the whole mixed doubles thing with Morris manifests itself only because Rachel Homan wins the trials to represent Canada in women's curling and wasn't then allowed to compete in the mixed double trials. Why was that anyways? I thought it was because there was an overlap of the two at the Games, but the women's event just gets underway today.

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Steve Lyons

Hello. Good Wednesday morning to ya from Winnipeg. Which makes it late Wednesday evening there, right? We'll get this figured out at some point. You've covered plenty of curling in your day and I'm sure you have many memorable moments logged away in that melon of yours: the gold medal win by Lawes and Morris yesterday must now rank up there?

Curling mixed doubles gold medalists Kaitlyn Lawes, left, and John Morris. (Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press)

Curling mixed doubles gold medalists Kaitlyn Lawes, left, and John Morris. (Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press)

It's so unique for Lawes: most teams and individuals have prepared years — if not decades — for their Oly moment and while she, of course, has been playing the sport for decades, the whole mixed doubles thing with Morris manifests itself only because Rachel Homan wins the trials to represent Canada in women's curling and wasn't then allowed to compete in the mixed double trials. Why was that anyways? I thought it was because there was an overlap of the two at the Games, but the women's event just gets underway today.

The victory garnered plenty of attention over there I hear?

Paul Wiecek

The news conference after that gold medal game was the largest assembly of media I've ever seen in curling, by a factor of at least three or four. Maybe 125 people. John Morris walked in the door, took one look at what was staring back at him and said, "Holy shit."

Johnny Mo — calls him like he's sees him. And speaking of athletes not being shy about swearing, how about Blake Wheeler dropping another f-bomb after the win over the Caps? That's the second one out of him in a couple weeks. I knew there was something I liked about that guy.

I've been interviewing Kaitlyn Lawes since she was 12 years old. Her Mom told me once that I was the first reporter ever to interview her. So watching Lawes win gold like that on this stage was kind of cool for me too. The funny thing is I don't think she's grown an inch all the years I've known her. She looked childlike standing out there with Morris. I developed a theory watching those two that if you could liquify her, you could pour two of Kaitlyn Lawes into one of Morris.

Kaitlyn Lawes has been on the curling scene a long time. In this file photo she throws a rock as a junior curler in 2005. (Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)

Kaitlyn Lawes has been on the curling scene a long time. In this file photo she throws a rock as a junior curler in 2005. (Wayne Glowacki / Free Press files)

But make no mistake, she's bad ass. Morris told us he calls her "Mighty Mouse... She's a buck ten and five feet tall but she packs a mighty punch." No kidding — you can get lucky once, I suppose, and land on the right team and get carried to a gold medal. But twice? No one is that lucky. And that is some mighty elite company she is now keeping.

That's an interesting point about Homan. Curling Canada decided that they wanted whoever won the team trials in Ottawa back in December to focus solely on that one event and not get distracted by also trying to qualify and possibly compete over here in mixed doubles too. Talking to the players, most agreed that was probably sound strategy — let's do one thing at a time and do it very well. But not everyone felt that way — both the American mixed doubles players, for instance, are also competing here with their respective men's and women's teams too. Having said that, the Yanks kind of have to make allowances — there's not many curlers in that country who can compete at this level and their curling program needs all the help they can get.

Steve

Yeah, I'm not with you on the Wheeler thing. He can get so defensive at times and then his behaviour towards the assembled media is not — to put it mildly — exemplary. I think I once called it jerk-like.

On Wednesday morning, Brian Munz asked a totally benign question about the Wheeler/ Scheifele line getting back to where it was prior to Scheifele's injury and the captain did everything he could to try and make Munz out like he was a moron for asking the question.

 

 

Then prior to last night's scrum following the game, he has to be all smart-ass like wondering where Munz is before he would answer questions. And then the whole rant about putting the brakes on the 'Cup contender' label and expectations for the team — feeling the pressure much, Blake?

Maybe I'm being defensive about the local media, but all you have here is a group of folks making one one-hundredth the amount of money that Wheeler makes trying to do their jobs — and I'd suggest the Winnipeg media is hardly a pack of jackals; Munz and him are practically co-workers — and he often finds it necessary to single one out to shame by being condescending and patronizing. 

Last week I asked Mike McIntyre to put together a package making the case for Wheeler as league MVP — you'd be hard pressed to find a guy that's been more important to his team this season than Wheeler — but this chip on his shoulder that creeps in and then is projected on to the local media is so childish.

Players should be fined for using the F-bomb during televised interviews.

Paul Wiecek

Holy shmoly Grampa. Lighten up — don't you have some kids on your lawn to yell at?

So couple of things: Wheeler has singled me out for abuse at least a couple times I can think of. I don't think either instance I particularly deserved it, although one time he did speak for my friends, employer, readers and children when he looked at me and said, 'You know, you're starting to piss me off.' I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit it's a little intimidating having a guy that size and stature in this community using his bully pulpit in the Jets dressing room to give you a hard time. But I'm a big boy and if I took the abuse that gets hurled at me in this job personally, I would have retreated to a corner and started sucking my thumb the day they invented Twitter. You dish it out in this business on a daily basis, so you'd better be able to take it once in awhile too. The fact is I take a lot more abuse from the readers of this newspaper in a single day than all the abuse ever hurled at me by the athletes in this town combined, including Wheeler. Journalism has become the only occupation remaining where workplace harassment is not only condoned, it's actively encouraged in the reader comments section.

As for the vulgarities, I find it refreshing when a professional athlete actually says what he thinks — and says it the way we all talk in our own personal lives. That kind of frank talk is exceedingly rare these days in a professional locker room —- the last thing I'd want to do is discourage it by levying fines. Plus, I've never understood all this pearl-clutching about swearing anyway. One of the things I love about the golden age of TV in which we now live is that people on HBO and Netflix and everywhere but the main networks are finally speaking like real people speak in their real lives.

Steve Lyons

I'm going to suggest there's a lot more people out there than you think who actually don't speak and act the way the people do on the shows you and I watch on HBO and Netlflix. I'm told there are actually shows on Netflix where nobody swears or whacks their neighbour over the head with a shovel.

And there's no place in my world for bullying of any sort — I don't care who you think you are. 

So, Canada is up to 10 medals now — already double digits again. From the start of the Games in 1924 until Albertville in 1992, Canada never won more than seven medals. But since 1994 in Lillehammer when we had 13; the numbers have been going up pretty much every Games. The last three Games have produced 24 (Turin); 26 (Vancouver); and 25 (Sochi). Guess that Own the Podium thing is working huh?

Paul Wiecek

There is an entire generation growing up in Canada who have never known what it was like to freeze your ass off all winter long and still live in a country that sucked at winter sports.

Everyone thinks it's a no-brainer now, but I remember when they were just getting that Own the Podium program off the ground and there were howls of protest about how 'un-Canadian' it was to give more money to some sports than others just because, well, those sports actually had a chance to win medals. We used to flush all kinds of money down the toilet on sports we had no reasonable expectation of success — I'm looking at you ski jumping — instead of targeting the ones we did — hello, curling, hockey, figure skating and speedskating. In the name of democracy, we were basically supporting a handful of people in in our country who had a glorified hobby at the expense of people who genuinely needed just a bit of help to get them over the top.

I don't know anyone who doesn't swear. Seriously. Even my late Mom, who was a saint, swore like a sailor, although only in Polish so it didn't count. Or so she told us.

Steve

You get there's a reason you don't know anyone who doesn't swear, right?

I read a Cathal Kelly column this week about how all this winning of medals has created a situation where we hardly even get excited about them anymore — or at least not the way we used to. I remember the days when any medalist of any sort, in any sport, in any Olympics, would be the main art on A1 of our paper. We of course had Lawes and Morris on our front today, but otherwise that's been it. Our sports fronts this week have had Olys; Jets and Randy's Road Trip.

Did you catch any of what the CFL commissioner had to say on his visit to Winnipeg? He asked for a show of hands from the assembled fans on potentially starting the season three weeks earlier — that's interesting polling.

Just got an email from my financial advisor — it's RSP season ya know. He's a huge Jets fan and had predicted yesterday they would beat the Caps 4-2. He was going to the game, so it was of course wishful thinking. Anyways, he reports that many many folks headed for the exits when Buff took that penalty with just over a minute to go — but, says after the winner the building was as loud as he's ever heard it.

Blake Wheeler and the Jets celebrate Tyler Myers' game-winning goal Tuesday night. The Jets beat the Caps 4-3 in overtime. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Blake Wheeler and the Jets celebrate Tyler Myers' game-winning goal Tuesday night. The Jets beat the Caps 4-3 in overtime. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Paul Wiecek

If Randy Ambrosie is going into the polling business, he should head over to a battered women's shelter and ask them what they think of his decision to allow Johnny Manziel into the league.

There's a lot of things that don't work in the CFL — and that only begins with the league's farce of a domestic violence policy. But one of the few things that does work is the schedule. Talk about fixing what isn't broken.

I've got to be honest, I've sometimes felt over here like I was writing for myself. Maybe it's just because I suck, but I've been hearing mostly crickets in response to my Olympic coverage. And I don't think that's because people are bored of medals — it's because TV has always driven the interest at this event and with the time zone issues over here that just isn't really happening this time. Throw in an NHL boycott and this thing just isn't resonating with Canadians like most Winter Olympics do.

As for the Jets, I told you they'd be fine. That was exactly the kind of gritty, never-say-die kind of win over Washington that can help define a team. It wasn't pretty defensively — oh my God, what are you doing Tyler Myers — but it sure was an exciting finish; oh my God, we love you Tyler Myers. 

Man, they're throwing a lot of pucks at the net right now. Eighty-two shots in their last two games. That's going to win you a lot of games in the long run.

Steve Lyons

On most days, a curling story where a Manitoban wins — Scotties, Brier, whatever — it is the No. 1 read story on our website. Yet yesterday, the Lawes-Morris thing hovered around 3 and 4 — weird. Chatted with the boss about it and he — like you — expressed the idea that the Olys is a TV ‘watching’ event and not a ‘reading about it event.’ So, the key here today is to put something about the Jets and Wheeler in our headline so people will read it right? Or Manziel!

As I was watching the Jets game, I knew you were watching over there — on your iPad right? — and was wondering: how many people on the Korean peninsula do you think were watching the Jets game when you were?

And while we’re on the subject: just read a story about Mr. T’s fascination with watching curling and has been tweeting #curlingiscoolfool — Say What?!

Paul

Watching the Jets game over here was a challenge. TSN blocks its streams outside Canada, but I figured I had that beat by picking up a cheap VPN service this morning that gave me a hookup through Canada. But what I didn't anticipate was that the hookup would be based in Toronto and that still wasn't good enough because the Jets game was only on TSN 3. And so after all that hassle, TSN still blocked me from watching the game, believing I was in the TSN 1 region instead of, well, on the other side of the planet. 

In the end, Ken Wiebe over at the Sun bailed me out and let me use his NHL Gamecenter password. A lot of hassle just to watch a game but I feel like I needed to at least try to keep up with what that team is doing while I'm gone.

Steve

Wow, that’s giving it 110 per cent! You might very well have been the only person in all of Korea watching that game. It might have been easier if you were an actual subscriber to TSN as opposed to the pirate you are lol

What’s up next at the Games? More curling?! Time to spread your wings now.

Paul Wiecek

Time for some hockey. 

The Canadian women's ice hockey team is currently 2-0. (Frank Franklin II / Associated Press files)

The Canadian women's ice hockey team is currently 2-0. (Frank Franklin II / Associated Press files)

Canadian women take on the American women here Thursday morning and then the Canadian men make their debut against the Swiss Thursday night.

That men's tournament is wide open without the NHL here. The Russians — who were everyone's pre-tournament favorites — blew a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 to the Slovaks here Wednesday night. Slovakia scored the game-winner in the third period on the powerplay, with former Jets/Thrashers prospect Ivan Telegin in the box for Russia.

Yes, I called them Russia. The IOC can call them whatever they want, but they're still Russia. And you know what, they lost. The best revenge against that cheating, dope addled regime might be simply letting their underachieving men's hockey team embarrass the country again on the Olympic stage. They should force them to wear the Russian uniforms. 

Disappointment looks very good on Russia. And, also and always, on the Americans, who also blew a 2-0 lead Wednesday night and lost 3-2 in overtime to Slovenia.

Moral of the story: Canada's men's hockey team might be lousy, comparatively speaking. But so is everyone else over here.

Ben Scrivens and Team Canada will make their debut against Switzerland. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press files)

Ben Scrivens and Team Canada will make their debut against Switzerland. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press files)

Steve

All right. I gotta put on some pants now and get to the office.

Talk soon.

steve.lyons@freepress.mb.ca

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Steve Lyons and Paul Wiecek.

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