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Mike McIntyre | On Sports
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At least I'll always have my media pass
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At least I'll always have my media pass

So close. And yet, so far.

That's 9,499 kilometres, to be precise, according to Google. And that’s the distance between Winnipeg and Beijing, where I was supposed to be headed at the end of this month to cover my first-ever Olympics.

The key word there being “supposed” to. Because, like so much about our world these days, plans change, often in the blink of an eye.

And what was truly going to be a bucket list assignment has been put on pause.

To be honest, feelings are mixed. Sure, there is disappointment about not heading to China to cover all the great Canadian athletes who will be competing on the biggest sporting stage in the world, including plenty of Manitobans.

Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman and Dawn McEwen, along with alternate Lisa Weagle, have a terrific shot at curling gold.

Jennifer Jones, 47, guided her St. Vital team to a 6-5 extra-end victory over Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul in the women’s final of the Canadian Olympic Trials (Curling Canada/ Michael Burns Photo file)

So, too, do Ashton Bell, Kristen Campbell and Jocelyne Larocque in women’s hockey. There could also be some local flavour on the men’s team expected to be announced next week.

Their compelling stories are still going to be told. Just not by me with a front-row seat to all the action. And that’s definitely a bummer, albeit a perfectly understandable one.

It’s simply not a wise decision, in our eyes, to go all that way to cover an event in this current climate and risk getting caught there far beyond the Olympic torch being put out in late February.

China’s COVID-19 rules are, in a word, extreme. And there’s a risk of being left behind for many more weeks should Omicron creep inside what is supposed to be a tightly controlled bubble environment.

In that sense, there’s also a bit of a feeling of relief on my end.

There’s other reasons, too.

China’s appalling human rights record and ongoing atrocities should have anyone leery about heading that way.

There’s also the nature of the Olympic experience itself, which is certainly not going to be normal in any sense of the word. Venues will be mostly empty, and even the competition could be severely watered down with plenty of countries and even individual athletes taking a pass.

The NHL, of course, pulled the plug on sending the best hockey players in the world to China. And now what was to be a three-week break in the regular-season schedule is going to be overflowing with action for yours truly to cover, as the Winnipeg Jets re-scheduled nine postponed games in that span.

Assuming the Winter Games go ahead as planned, I’ll still very much be a spectator. I’ll just be doing it off television from the comfy confines on my own home, rather than up close and personal.

Mike’s official media pass for the Olympics. (Mike McIntyre / Winnipeg Free Press)

At least I got a keepsake out of the whole thing, a lovely Beijing 2022 media pass that was delivered to me a few weeks ago.

And, hey, there’s always next time, right? Paris in 2024 for the Summer Games? Italy in 2026 for the next Winter Olympics?

Sign. Me. Up. Memo to the bosses: Don’t lose my number!

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre, Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre

FIRE ZOOM INTO THE SUN

It would be extremely difficult to try and “cover” the Olympics from half a world away, especially if organizers stick to their currently plans and don’t host Zoom calls for media not in attendance at the venues in Beijing.

To be honest, I have zero problem with that.

Zoom can be fired into the sun, from my perspective. It simply isn’t a positive forum at all for developing unique, compelling stories and building the kind of relationships that are so valuable on any beat, including sports.

A necessary evil? Yes. And we’re back to using it again, albeit temporarily, with the Jets and most other NHL teams right now due to COVID outbreaks.

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But between one or two question limits, an inability to properly follow up, no real back and forth with your subject matter, poor Internet connections, an absurd amount of background noise and all kinds of other petty little things, it offers nothing more than some degree of convenience in the spirit of limiting close contact.

And I can’t wait to see it disappear.

Most importantly, it would be a sign we’re making progress in this seemingly never-ending pandemic. Every day we have to fire up the laptop to do an interview is another vivid reminder of the sorry state of the world. I look forward to finally leaving that behind, for good.

From a purely selfish journalistic perspective, Zoom unfortunately feeds into the pack mentality that we all hate and try to avoid.

Let’s say I have a specific angle I want to ask a player about for a story I’m working on. The only way to do it right now is in full earshot of absolutely everyone else on the call, who not only hears my question, but the answer provided. Which they are free to use, of course. (The soundbites often appearing on social media within seconds.)

In a non-Zoom world, this would be where you get the player one-on-one to the side, not only to build whatever you have in mind, but also connect on a personal basis that simply gets lost through a computer screen.

This is why there is still tremendous value in covering the Jets on the road, which we at the Free Press continue to do. On their last road trip through Vegas, Phoenix and Denver, I got Jets coach Dave Lowry for a one-on-one, and Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon for a great solo chat as well.

Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, left, and center Paul Stastny (25) celebrate after Stastny scored a goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period on Jan. 2 in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt / The Associated Press file)

It led to a pair of quality reads you wouldn’t find anywhere else. As a columnist, I have the added flexibility of opining on anything and everything that crosses my path, whether it’s at a morning skate, a practice, the game itself or simply getting from Point A to Point B.

(And faithful readers of this newsletter can attest to that last point, what with all the talk of robots and Uber drivers and bizarre airplane scenes that filled your email inbox a week ago.)

I’m back on the road next week, flying out to Washington on Monday — my 47th birthday! — as the Jets begin a four-game road trip. Or, more accurately, continue an eight-game road trip that began Jan. 2 in Sin City.

I’ll also make stops in Nashville (where I’ll file this newsletter from next Thursday), Boston and Pittsburgh. Four terrific U.S. cities, and four really strong hockey teams. And, no doubt, plenty more interesting stories to share with you.

No, it’s not Beijing, But it’s a lot closer to home, and a pretty solid Plan B from my perspective.

WHAT I’VE BEEN WORKING ON...


Jets revving up their engines

Motor City first stop of four-straight road games for well-rested club Read More

 

A wing and a prayer

Jets hit hard as Omicron depletes rosters throughout NHL Read More

 

Samberg excited to make NHL debut against Red Wings

You’ll forgive Dylan Samberg if he’s holding his breath right now, hoping a dream is about to become a reality. Read More

 

Keeping Jets home games in Winnipeg the right decision

Desperate times. Meet desperate measures. Read More

 

Jets hit by COVID-19 outbreak

Harkins, DeMelo sidelined, Perfetti sees action Read More

 

Avs bury short-handed Jets 7-1

DENVER — To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. And the Winnipeg Jets were served up a pointed reminder Thursday of just how far they have to go if they wish to reach hockey’s promised land. Read More

 

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