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.

Ask them.

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.”

“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

For the full transcript of the back-and-forth, see the tweet that started it all.

Comments (28)

  1. Really like this although I can see you are going to have to walk a fine line between analysis and trolling the media.

    Actually fuck that the media needs to be trolled

  2. If Brian Burke doesn’t challenge Steve Simmons to a fight in a barn, then I just don’t know what to believe anymore.

  3. Please get off your high horse.

    At best, you’re an wise-cracking blogger. At worst, you’re a troll who has managed to find employment as a blogger through mean-spirited and often times ignorant attacks on the work habits of those whose product you rely on for content.

    And how courageous was it of you back in the day to take personal shots at media members — and in one case their wife — while you writing about the Jays? Yeah, that took some real balls.

    Please stick to writing about the games, not the people who cover them. You’re in no position to be passing judgements on the professionalism of others.

    • Butt hurt?

      You know how Steve Simmons Sucks? He’s on TSN. 90% of the people on a TSN Screen suck.

    • Parkes criticized Simmons for a habit of stepping out of line as a journalist. Really, I think there’s value in what Parkes is doing here. Sports writers often pass unchecked and unwarranted judgments on the personal affairs of athletes and other sports personalities. Paying some attention to those writers and occasionally cutting them down to size is something the sports world really needs. The “at best, he’s a fool, at worst he’s a troll…” bit might be Parkes doing a bit of what he so despises, though. I’d say this piece is spot on other than that little bit of ad hominem there.

    • My situation on a high horse gives me a perspective. If you disagree with that perspective, that’s fine. But if you can’t offer genuine criticism based in reason on that perspective, I don’t think this blog is for you. It’s probably just going to frustrate you. It’s okay. Different strokes for different folks.

      I have nothing personal whatsoever against Steve Simmons. In fact, I’d guess he’s a nice guy. Several media members I know speak highly of him as a person. I do not agree with what the manner and style with which he’s written, and I’m writing my criticism of it. This, is part of the purpose of this blog.

      Whose wife did I insult? If this is the case, I regret it. I feel as though writing for DJF was more comedy focus than news or criticism focused, and so there’s some room for not being very serious. Having said that, I fully admit that when I wrote there, I occasionally stepped over the line of good taste, and I regret it.

      • It takes a big man to publicly acknowledge a mistake and I respect that. I’m not going to name the writer in question because it serves no purpose, but trust me when I say it happened and it definitely crossed a line — as a lot of DJF content did.

        So a friendly word to the wise: Be careful with some of the criticism, especially if they question someone’s work ethic or competence. Now that you have a network behind your name, some thin-skinned journos might be tempted to launch a defamation suit.

        And judging by some of what I’ve read they’d have a case. Just ask Damien Cox.

        • DJF Blog started as an informal, fun, comedic blog with a group of friends who share a love for baseball, the odd pint, and maybe some laughs. At this point in time, Parkes was not affiliated with any major sports blogs etc. allowing him some room for some more “troll”-like comments. Have you been on any social networking sites lately? Tell me things don’t get out of hand with your average Joe. Parkes’ widely shared opinion (and perspective from his high horse) and backing with the Score merely allows him to speak to a larger audience, moreso than your average social media user. Power has to be used appropriately, but critiquing the media is what journalism has evolved into. There is a fine line between “trolling” and “critiquing” and I would recommend looking into those slight differences.

          If you can’t accept Parkes’ criticism, then I can honestly suggest you listen to his advice and find yourself at another blog. As he said, “different strokes for different folks.” Fanatico is not for you.

  4. Burke saying those words to Steve Simmons was by far the best thing he did in 4+ years in Toronto.

    For all the reasons you stated, Simmons sucks. Fuck is he brutal.

    Thanks for you perspective.

  5. He may not be a “good” or “bad” person, but the product he presents to the public on paper through his articles in the Sun does his credibility as a journalist a disservice. Constructing a narrative out of thin air isn’t journalism, its creative writing.

    Good on you Parkes for shining a light on those who have goldfish memories.

  6. Great read. Love the new site, quickly becoming a favourite of mine. Parkes the best.

  7. “Simmons do anything other than abuse his unfortunate platform with the Toronto Sun”

    The Toronto Sun is an unfortunate platform. Simmons is merely in the same club as the likes of Sue-Ann Levy and the other members of that “take a swing at others but god forbid anyone swing back” publication.

    • Sue Anne Levy rocks. One of the few journalists out there telling it like it is. So is Simmons (Though I do disagree with his take on Burke going to Kandahar on July 1). Truth is, these journalists rarely come by and when they do we should embrace them for being real, not fake and regurgitative. They are real people and real journalists with no agenda, just seeking the rightful truth. The public owes it.

  8. “After returning from cancer how did you justify putting banned drugs into your body?”

    A Falcon Punch is in order for David Walsh.

  9. Looks like a remark I saw last week is correct – Simmons is the Dan Shaughnessy of Toronto.

  10. Excellent blog. Keep it up.

  11. fuck off Parkes. this blog sucks.

  12. I’ve never been a Steve Simmons fan, nor am I ever likely to be, but in this instance, Brian Burke was his own worst enemy. The simple answer to Simmons’ question would be to say, “I don’t know… next question”… just blow him off as insignificant. Burke’s bitter comment alluding to his disrespect for Simmons was cause for me, and possibly many others, to do a little digging into why he might be so upset with an innocuous question. It was only then that I became morre than superficially aware of Burke’s personal issues, so once again, he brought it on himself.
    As soon as Burke got away from his prepared notes at the media conference, he showed why his narcissism, combined with his inability to put himself above the lowest common denominator, will prevent him from getting another job with the same degree of autonomy he enjoyed when first signed by MLSE. Ask yourself, if you were an owner of a company valued in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars if you would want the face of that franchise to be constantly beating his own drum, as the egomaniacal Burkes does…at war with half of the media, and disdainful of the rest in your company’s market? Or would you prefer someone more skilled at dealing with the day to day public relations aspects of the position in a manner that is advantageous to the company. In any other market in the NHL, Burke would have been fired long before he was in Toronto, where you can’t piss off enough people to leave you with less than a sold out rink.

  13. Steve Simmons acts like his goal is to be the Skip Bayless of Canada.

  14. In his column after the Burke firing Simmons wrote:

    “But that wasn’t why he was fired. He knows that. And he’s not confortable going public with the information — and neither is the new ownership — because it’s hard to explain why someone didn’t like you. It wasn’t just that he swore. It wasn’t just that he enjoyed the occasional beverage. It wasn’t just that public complaints about him have been more and more apparent in recent months. It wasn’t any one of those things: It was all of them. And more.”

    Maybe there’s truth there, I don’t know. But it felt smarmy and trashy to me that Simmons basically insinuated that Burke has an alcohol problem.

  15. Fantastic post. Keep up the good writing, Parkes.

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