Brock before Clements?

A conversation between sports editor Steve Lyons and columnist Paul Wiecek


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/09/2016 (2339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Paul Wiecek: Hey. I see the Bombers are putting Dieter (don’t call me Ralph) Brock into the team’s Ring of Honour this weekend at the Banjo Bowl.

It’s interesting — I think the intervening decades have people in this town remembering the Brock years in this town a lot more kindly than they actually were. I just remember a whole lot of disappointment when Brock was Winnipeg’s QB and how the team finally won in 1984 only after they traded him away for Tom Clements.

Brock’s numbers were huge, I know, but as far as I’m concerned, my most enduring memory of those years was the night I got a ‘We Want Knight’ chant going in the cheap seats in the north endzone.

Steve Lyons: I found the choice of Brock to be a little odd. Yes, he had those huge numbers and was surely one of the most talented QBs to have ever played here, but as you mention he never won anything.

And let’s not forget the whole zoo comments thing and the somewhat caustic relationship he had with the fans.

Someone was telling me yesterday Brock could throw the football through the uprights from mid-field… on his knees!

I guess he did eventually help the Bombers win a Cup — in landing Clements in the trade and also playing so poorly in the 1984 Grey Cup game as the Ticats’ QB.

Great hair though.

I would have thought Clements before Brock.

Paul Wiecek: The zoo thing. Winnipeggers — and elephants — never forget.

Hey, so how about USA hockey head coach John Tortorella this week, saying he’d bench any player who sat during an anthem. Torts took a lot of heat online for that one — although that seems to be Tortorella’s default condition so I’m sure he’s not losing any sleep over it.

Here’s the thing — I actually agree with him. Sort of. Torts said he’d bench the player because sitting for an anthem like 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did a couple weeks ago is disrespectful to flag and country. I don’t see it that way — our flag means nothing, as far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t mean someone is free to register their protest by sitting through an anthem.

But I’d still bench the player — for disrespecting his team. Team’s don’t work if everyone is letting their free flag fly. It’s the same reason I want to slap CC Sabbathia everytime I see him wearing his ballcap crooked. It’s called a “uniform” because everyone is supposed to wear it one way. That’s part of being on a team.

Want to do your own thing? Take up tennis or golf and you can wear whatever you want, however you want. Same thing with the anthems — sitting through an anthem while all your teammates are standing is off-point, off-message and telling everyone before the puck even drops that you’re putting yourself first.

Me and Torts — two guys with corrosive personalities who think alike. Sort of.

Steve Lyons: You guys have the same goatee-look as well now that I think about it. You should run that take on Torts by him at the World Cup of Hockey. That’s an interview I wouldn’t mind watching, you and Tortorella, ha ha

The anthem thing originally started in baseball during World War I, when patriotism was surely on display at many events. Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t a tradition that time has passed by. Do fans even sing along anymore? Other than the ‘True North!’ bellowing, which is so far from the original intent of having the anthem played.

It seems to cause more controversy than unity. There’s always someone messing up the lyrics; or hijacking the song; or offending some group or another.

And why just sporting events?

Btw, your Yankees are clicking these days — nice sweep of the Jays. They have been playing better and better since dumping all those old guys — A-Rod; Beltran et al.

Speaking of dead weight, the Jays look like they are feeling the pressure of the pennant race; more than a few guys in September slumps.

They might throw beer at babies again in Rogers Centre this weekend.

Paul Wiecek: The Yankees are dead to me until they dig up The Boss and put him back in charge again. That team hasn’t been the same since George died and the kid took over.

But because I love nothing more than watching the Blue Jays suffer, I did make the mistake of watching that Yanks-Jays game on Wednesday night on Sportsnet. I’ve never been more frustrated watching a game.

Sportsnet had the single best baseball announcer in the world (yes, even better than Scully) in Dan Shulman in the booth that night but Shulman couldn’t get in a word because Buck Martinez — the single worst announcer in the game (yes, even worse than Hawk Harrelson) — wouldn’t shut up.

It’s almost funny how bad Martinez is. Even leaving aside the fact he has the most annoying voice in broadcasting, he’s just wrong constantly. He invents stuff out of thin air and then invents something else an inning later when it’s obvious the first thing he said was just wrong.

And wow, what a homer that guy is. At one point, Martinez talked about how “we had a great road trip to San Diego.” “We” did? Really? I’d love to know what Buck hit that series.

The best-ever baseball broadcast crew in Canada was Dave Van Horne and Duke Snider. It’s been downhill ever since.

Steve Lyons: I watched some of the Sunday night ESPN game between the Mets and the Nationals and it was so nice listening to Shulman, sans Buck and Pat Tabler.

I’m only going to make one argument against your suggestion Martinez is the worst announcer in baseball… Tabler is worse. All he does is repeat what Martinez says. And tries so hard to spin some silver lining. Having said that, home team announcers in general have become such apologists these days.

I tell ya, watching the Mets and Nationals was so enjoyable. I didn’t care who won, there were some nice plays, and the announcers were informative and entertaining. And at no point did I sense any vested interest in who won or lost.

Maybe these home-team broadcasts really think the viewers want everything sugar-coated and positive — I think that’s insulting frankly.

Hope there’s no ‘cheering’ for Sid the Kid and Canada on the World Cup of Hockey broadcasts.

Paul Wiecek: Sadly, Canada has more than its share of homers in the hockey media. I’d argue it’s the problem with sports journalism in this country in general — the overwhelming majority of our colleagues are huge fans.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s good to be enthusiastic about your job. But what I see in some press boxes on a nightly basis transcends that. The worst I ever saw it was for the gold medal hockey game in Salt Lake City in 2002 when the Canadian reporters en masse just decided to stop pretending to be impartial and were on their feet cheering every Canada goal.

I was proud my country won hockey gold that day, but kind of ashamed for my profession.

Although having said that, when I covered curling at the Worlds, it was not uncommon for the European reporters to hug their skips after a game and then take out a notepad and interview them. So there’s that — at least none of our colleagues hugged Joe Sakic that night.

True story from that day: after the game, I was standing at the back of the press conference room talking on my phone to the office and making coverage plans. At one point, I looked over at Freep colleague Randy Turner, who was down there with me for the 2002 Olympics, and asked, ‘How come Gretzky is holding up a loonie?’

Steve Lyons: I do recall a few times cheering in my head for the Bombers to win when I was covering them, so Cal would be easier to deal with after the game. Guess that was one of the many moments in my life when the most important thing was: How is this going to affect me!

Am I to understand you are actually getting your haircut at this very moment? Good gig!

So, Matt Nichols is likely not the QB (I’m going to call him Ralph just for fun) Brock or Tom Clements were, but he has helped guide this team to a five-game winning streak and is looking more and more mature, composed and efficient.

He’s starting to remind me of Tom Burgess and how he performed with that great defence in 1990. Chris Walby once told me Burgess was fearless and a leader the team would go through the wall for. Looks like Nichols has the same effect on this team.

They’ve got the Riders this weekend and the Argos next week. There are no free spots on the bingo card, but these are lesser lights in the league right now.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 24 on the calendar. Game in Calgary vs the Stamps — that will be the true test of what this team is.

Paul Wiecek: My haircuts are taking less and less time as the years go on. Another couple years and these appointments will be over with one snip. Wish I had Ralph Brock’s hair.

Matt Nichols and Tom Burgess are good comparables — two blue-collar guys with big hearts. Reminds me of the racetrack — good breeding is nice, but I always put my money on the horse that is game down the lane.

Think about this for a sec: I’d venture the Bombers would be the favourite in any game right now other than one against Calgary. That would have been unthinkable only a month ago.

Remember Willypeg? Yeah, me neither.

Steve: It’s good you’re cleaning yourself up a bit for the road trip.

Have some fun.

Talk soon, see ya when you get back.

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.


Updated on Saturday, September 10, 2016 9:24 AM CDT: Added to Bomber Report.

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