If we are to be judged, it’s likely best that we’re judged by the decisions that we make. However, some people’s decisions, and the process by which they make them, are a little more accessible than others. So, it makes sense that the decisions that these unfortunate people make receive a greater amount of scrutiny than what is typical.
The Toronto Maple Leafs fired General Manager Brian Burke this past week, and while the termination likely has to do with factors beyond the decisions that the head of the team made during his tenure in charge, such matters were only hinted at during a press conference on Saturday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre. There was a moment during the question and answer period though where it appeared as though Burke’s manicured and restrained response to his dismissal might break down. It came on a question from Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV. He asked, “How disappointing is it that you’re not going to be able to stay here and finish the job.”
Burke started with a stock answer, “Well, I think. I think you can make the case …” He paused. Looked away. Looked back at the reporter. “I think I can make the case that ….” Pause. He looked down. Silence. It promised to be a President Bartlett moment, but then, gathered and collected, he resumed, “I think that’s a case that I’ll let the media make.”
There was little doubt that in this moment, Burke’s honesty was being kept in check by either a sense of honor or desire to find another job. Both motivators would play a role in causing one to carefully consider one’s actions. He decided on the restrained approach. Moments later, Burke’s path along the high road took a slight detour.
When asked by Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons if he would run the next U.S. Olympic team, Burke dismissed the question.
After a brief pause, he continued:
The best part about today, Steve, is that I probably don’t ever have to talk to you again. So, you can ask them.
Many, in their autopsy of the press conference, referred to a column that Simmons wrote in the summer of 2011, criticizing Burke for visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan on the day that free agency in the NHL opened, as the root of the former GM’s problem with the reporter. Simmons’s narrow-minded perspective in this case would certainly justify any grudge that Burke had against the columnist, but it extends beyond merely giving idiocy a voice in a single instance.
This past summer, Simmons again moulded the reality of a situation to suit his own agenda, bringing up Burke’s supposed marital problems in a column that unnecessarily gave credence to rumors about the general manager’s personal life. Despite criticism for his unprofessional and oddly personal attacks, Simmons has defended such practices in the past by claiming that he’s merely willing to do things that other reporters aren’t.
I made a point that a lot of people thought and weren’t willing to go forward on. I think that’s something that needed to be done.
It wasn’t. In neither of the instances above did Simmons do anything other than abuse his unfortunate platform with the Toronto Sun to amplify the rumblings of the lowest common denominator of fans.
It’s therefore amusing that Simmons’s brave approach to journalism seemed absent for the several months leading up to Burke’s dismissal when not one column that he wrote hinted at the general manager’s imminent departure from the team. This, despite an article immediately following Burke’s firing, connoting prior knowledge of the inevitability. The day before that column, Simmons wrote about how Burke needed to build the team from the back-end out. The journalistic courage is truly staggering.
On Saturday, Simmons defended himself against Burke’s highlighting of the positive at the press conference with an argument that basically amounted to “this is what happens when you tell it like it is.”
If you do your job the way I try to do it, telling the truth, even when the truth is uncomfortable, you’re going to upset people.
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) January 12, 2013
“Telling it like it is” is code for myopia. It reduces complexities and eliminates nuance to the point of creating a malnourishing pablum of falsehoods that gets spoon-fed into the mouths of the less discerning.
Whether Simmons believes such nonsense himself or not doesn’t really matter. At best, he’s a fool. At worst, he’s a troll who has managed to find success as a journalist through manipulation rather than reporting or commentary. On a day when Burke exhibited decorum and composure in a situation that might have warranted less, his brief expression of disgust may have been the most refreshing moment of his association with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Your NFL Championship Weekend Schedule
After a thrilling weekend of football that saw the Baltimore Ravens/Denver Broncos playoff game peak at more than 40 million viewers in the United States, the schedule is out for the conference championship games on Sunday, January 20th:
3:00: NFC: San Francisco at Atlanta, FOX/CTV (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver, Erin Andrews).
6:30: AFC: Baltimore at New England, CBS/CTV (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Steve Tasker, Solomon Wilcots).
In Canada, a simulcast of the games will also be streamed online by CTV/TSN.
Your Newspaper Advertising In Another Newspaper Of The Week
There are two ways of looking at The Sunday Times taking out a full-page advertisement in The Chicago Tribune to advise Oprah Winfrey as to what questions she should ask of Lance Armstrong in an interview to be taped today, and aired on Thursday: 1) It’s a sickening piece of moral grandstanding attempting to exploit a steroid scandal while acting in a condescending manner to Winfrey and the outlet that actually landed the opportunity to question a man who allegedly lied to the public for several years; or 2) It’s the justified expression of a man and media outlet that was wronged by the cowardly denial of an outlandish liar who won a libel lawsuit against The Sunday Times for essentially printing what has later come to be accepted as the truth.
Like most things that at first examination appear to be dichotomous, the truth is likely found somewhere between the binary states. The full-page ad is a pretty good example of bad taste, but if anyone has won the right for garish expression in light of recent revelations revolving around Armstron’s performance enhancing drug use, it’s David Walsh and The Sunday Times. Part of what makes the collective stance of baseball writers on this issue so revolting is that no one questioned the sport’s steroid era while it was actually happening. Their post hoc outrage becomes even more odious when we consider their complicity in celebrating the accomplishments of the players who were “juicing.”
There’s nothing like that here. Walsh has been outspoken about the means behind Armstrong’s success, even losing a lawsuit that now seems ridiculous because of his willingness to challenge the athlete.
Your Viral Video Of The Week
Your Hockey On Television Schedule Of The Week
After a long and drawn out labor dispute, the National Hockey League is back with a shortened schedule consisting of a number of nationally televised games. For Canada, here is the Hockey Night In Canada schedule via A Rouge Point; and for the United States here is NBC’s planned coverage via the Sports Media blog at TimesUnion.com.
Your Oh Snap Of The Week
On Thursday, the New York Times celebrated the Baseball Writers Association of America’s steady march toward irrelevance with an almost entirely blank front page of the sports section, after the group failed to elect a single player for induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, despite Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens – two of the sports greatest athletes – both being eligible. The response of the writers is due to both players having been implicated with performance enhancing drug use during the latter stages of their career.
Your Coffee Dad Parody Staying Where He Is Of The Week
According to a brief report from Deadspin, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King will be staying with his current company despite the upcoming expiration of his contract with the magazine and website. There were rumors of interest in King’s services from both rival ESPN and upstart NBC Sports.
Your Heartfelt Apology Of The Week
ESPN issued an apology this past week for comments from broadcaster Brent Musburger during the NCAA Football National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame. As the television broadcast fixated on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, Musburger remarked:
Now, when you are a quarterback at Alabama. You see that lovely lady there? That’s A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, OK? Wow, I’ll tell you, you quarterbacks. You get all the good-looking women! Honestly, what a beautiful woman. So, if you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pop.
It was a touch … excessive. ESPN apologized for Musburger’s fawning in a brief press release.
We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad (Webb) and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.
Your Keyboard Warrioring Of The Week: Love That Goku Vs. Brandon McCarthy
@bmccarthy32 watch and learn what? watch you play baseball? and learn there’s such a thing as a sport so boring it makes me want to die?
— love_that_goku (@Love_that_Goku) January 14, 2013
For the full transcript of the back-and-forth, see the tweet that started it all.