A funny thing happened to sport as we weaved our way through COVID-19. While most games were either postponed, moved or outright cancelled, we found time to take it down the road of political virtue signalling.
When my father was alive, he loved baseball. His team was the club from Cleveland. I heard many stories of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau and the ‘48 World Series Champions while doing chores on the farm. To dad, the Indians was what baseball was all about.
This week, the Indians owners announced that they are bowing to pressure from the virtue signalers and will be changing their name after 105 years.
My dad didn’t have any sense that the name was hurtful or inappropriate. If he was alive today, I’m not sure how he would handle what happened this week. But alas, the fans don’t decide these things do. Even the owners appear to have lost control. The decision on team name revisionism increasingly falls into the prevue of the endless braying of the activists.
No one should feel slighted or uncomfortable. It’s not right and it’s not fair, it’s just what’s happening, and the fans of the teams appear to have little recourse.
The sensitivity crusaders have also come for Canadians teams. The storied Edmonton Eskimos are now nameless thanks to largely white liberal activists acting on behalf of Inuit that they can’t seem to get quite as upset as they are.
These team names were chosen not out of contempt or cruelty. People do not name their own teams after things or people that they hate or look down upon. It’s hard to fathom that there was any offence intended. It is however history, and not remembering the beginnings may lead to more problems down the road.
The Texas Rangers baseball club are the next in line for the activists. At one time in their history, the Lone Star state’s law enforcement agency was a sometimes rather nasty bunch. But in their time and place on the old American frontier, they were the gold standard of policing to many. To the ‘Defund the Police’ crowd, this is heresy. Any glorification or tribute to law enforcement must be torn down like statues.
At least here, they implicitly acknowledge that team names are chosen in tribute, not distain.
The Chicago Blackhawks believed they were honoring the great Sauk Native leader when its team name was selected. They believed it was out of respect for the incredible man and his history. But that isn’t good enough in 2020. For sensitivity’s sake, the usual suspects (white woke liberals) want the Blackhawks name replaced. Can the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs be far behind?
Will the environmentalists demand the end of the Edmonton Oilers? Perhaps the activists can demand the demise of the Ottawa Senators on behalf of Italian-Canadians.
Of course, that’s ridiculous, but where does it all end? Why does something as traditionally non-ideological as sport have to be subject to the latest woke purity tests?
It’s the tip of the iceberg, and maybe team owners are to blame for caving in. Or just maybe sports media. Some of my former colleagues – like political journalists – have a peculiar interest in pouring gas on the fire for their own ends.
One young Canadian sports columnist this year accused many Canadians of underappreciating the plight of black athletes. The fact is that most people are simply be too busy with their own lives to focus on the plight of people earning many times what they do.
The media – both sports and news beats – needs to be a little more cautious with their perception of self-importance. Almost 40 years of broadcasting tells me that there are far more important vocations in this world than those that share their opinions for a living.
Sports are supposed to bring us together. Canadians from all walks of life and sides of the political divide should be able to cheer for the same teams without consideration for ideological concerns. Alas, as progressivism becomes increasing radical, they see no separation between the public and private spheres. To them, “everything is political”.
All this can do is divide us, and ruin the sports that we love.
Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard
MILLIONS: Flames rebuild ready to burn
Roger Millions profiles the changes the Flames have made toward the 2021 season.
When the Calgary Flames fell to the Dallas Stars in last fall’s NHL Bubble Playoff, it became clear GM Brad Treliving was determined that his team would go forth with the motto “less is more”.
The franchise needs to drastically reduce the number of avoidable errors that led to so many goals against them last year. And most importantly, they need to put an immediate stop to the upheaval on the team. And it appears that they have.
What happened to Bill Peters was well documented. The ramifications to the Flames however was barely touched. Whether it was right or wrong while significant, didn’t really tell the whole story. Imagine the shock to the dressing room and the front office when that bomb dropped. No one was left untouched.
Fortunately for the Flames, Geoff Ward did a good job and was rewarded with a full-time gig. Treliving avoided unneeded time delay and additional questions by making this move. The general manager – while doing a great job – can ill afford another coaching mishap. No team can deal with that and he needs continuity. Like right now.
The passing of former President and CEO Ken King also was a factor. King was larger than life within the organization. John Bean is a fine replacement and his intelligent demeanor will provide a calming influence going forward.
The acquisition of free agent Jacob Markstrom showed the team clearly had enough stop gap measures. Again, a six-year contract with a $6,000,000 AAV means Markstrom will stop the revolving door, removing another key distraction. The Flames hope his outstanding performance as a Canuck will carry over to Calgary. Despite the risk, the move should provide a big reward.
Speaking of the Canucks, defenceman and former foe Christopher Tanev joined the Flames on the blueline. At age 31 – and known for his consistent performance in the defensive zone – he provides balance.
Mark Giordano at age 37 – while still a fine defender and former Norris Trophy winner – now has a stop gap defenceman to help the up-and-coming youth. Hanafin, Andersson, Jusso Valimaki and to a lesser degree Oliver Kylington represent the future. Tanev helps to bridge the gap.
TJ Brodie – a long-time defenceman for the organization – signed as a free agent in Toronto. A brilliant skater and gifted with puck, Brodie will help the Leafs, but his departure may also assist the Flames in another way. Brodie has had a challenging personal life with his wife’s illness and young child. Not to mention last year’s collapse on ice during practice. His health is better and moving closer to his Southern Ontario home will help him. It also clears the deck for younger Flames.
As does the departure of Travis Hamonic, who opted out of the playoffs in the fall. As I mentioned in my Canucks preview, Hamonic’s Calgary exit was not really a surprise. Perhaps another distraction is gone.
Up front, Treliving is starting to add some depth. That effort may help relieve some of the reliance on the tandem of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Both have talent, but the clock is ticking, especially for Gaudreau. Johnny has two years left on his contract paying 6.75 million per year. The suspicion is Gaudreau has been figured out by the league’s defenders. His size and strength forever in question, it now presents him with his greatest challenge. Can he remove those doubts? Was he indeed on the trading block? If so, those questions may be the reason he remains a Flame. I look for Gaudreau to be much improved, although I’m not so certain he remains in Calgary for the long term.
The Flames have some balance on the forward lines. Matthew Tkachuk – almost every team’s public enemy number one – is a born leader. His issue is staying healthy. He needs to show he can perform over a full season.
At 26 years of age, Elias Lindholm has been a steal. His overall game and skill set can be built around. He is going nowhere.
In the end, do the Flames have enough? Provided the new emphasis on goaltending and improved defensive play, the answer is yes. Playoffs and perhaps more than one round are entirely possible. However, if the pucks keep going in their net at the same pace as last year, they could very well be surpassed.
Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard
MILLIONS: The age of the Oilers is about to dawn
Roger Millions writes the Oilers may have just have it takes to go all the way.
At first glance at the Edmonton Oilers training camp roster, you simply have to wonder out loud; ‘isn’t it time?’
They have the most dynamic and gifted player in the game. They have perhaps the second as well. A winning season and a playoff spot has to be inevitable.
Throw in year-two under the watchful eyes of GM Ken Holland and Head Coach Dave Tippett and the post season should be very much a reality. I have all the time in the world for the classy Holland and Tippett. They are solid individuals with outstanding pedigrees. The second season these two will be in charge will vault the Oilers into more than just contention.
It doesn’t hurt to have Connor McDavid. One veteran NHL defenceman I know well described McDavid with the puck as “frightening”. That coming from a former award winner himself. Toss the gaudy statistics aside and concentrate on what McDavid brings to the table, and it’s clear he’s ready to not only dazzle but to win. The million-dollar question remains: does he have the supporting cast to get the job done. For the most part, I believe he does.
Leon Draisaitl took the strange COVID-19 plagued season by storm a year ago and not only won the scoring title in the regular season, but the Hart Trophy as Most Valuable Player and the Ted Lindsay award as well. If those credentials don’t vault you to the next level in hockey what will?
Throw in free agent Kyle Turris for depth. The reliable and gifted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as very good two-way centre. The youthful Kailer Yamamoto seems ready to blossom as the Oilers have an offensive bag of riches that most teams would drool over.
Sprinkle it Zach Kassian and Jujhar Khaira for size and sandpaper, and I don’t know what more a team could want up front.
The worry remains how the Oilers’ backend will stand up.
Goaltending may be the lone question mark. The experience of 32-year-old Mikko Koskinen and 38-year-old Mike Smith showed flashes of brilliance a year ago. They also showed a propensity for some below average net minding. Somehow, the 56-game shortened regular season will help Koskinen and Smith out. The reduced travel time for these elder statesmen can’t hurt either. Many experts have panned the Oilers chances because of these two – but if healthy – I have to believe they will improve.
The biggest difference for the Oilers may be their defence. Another year older for many of these kids should pay dividends. The loss of injured Oscar Klefbom is certainly a blow to Edmonton, but I have to believe that they have the depth to make up for it.
Darnell Nurse may be on the verge of stardom. I love his nasty streak and his skating ability.
Yet, it’s the potential of Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard that makes me think the Oilers defence will grow in leaps and bounds. Bear – with a new contract – will anchor the team’s power play. And if and when he falters, free agent Tyson Barrie should carry some of the load. Bear is much more than a power play specialist, and being rewarded by Ken Holland to the tune of $ 2 million AAV over two seasons will be added incentive.
Bouchard will be the biggest addition, if not out of training camp, then as quick as possible. His game in Bakersfield in the American Hockey League was far better than most 20-year-old players would produce. This kid, now 21, can supply points, and as the London Knights in junior days gone by can attest, he has leadership qualities. The Oilers have a lot to look forward to with Bouchard, who I think will be an NHL star down the road.
It’s a very glowing review for the Oilers who are on the verge of coming of age. McDavid has been great and patient in his leadership. The disappointing days are coming to an end.
In fact, if they avoid the COVID-19 nastiness and major injury problems, this team will make the playoffs. And after that, with McDavid, anything is possible.
Rogers Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard
WATCH: Sports columnist Roger Millions on the 2021 NHL season
In his first broadcast appearance with the Western Standard, sports columnist Roger Millions talks to Cory Morgan about what to expect in this unique hickey season.
How are teams coping with the COVID-19 restrictions? What are the financial implications? What are gameplay implications?
Roger also speaks to his recent columns where he breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of the Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Canucks this season.
Millions also speaks of the Calgary Flames and what we have to look forward to.
BREAKING: Alberta relaxing some COVID restrictions
WATCH: Police shown beating 64-year-old man in Ontario
MORGAN: Alberta needs less talk, and more action from Kenney
‘My life had value’ – message from Calgary woman who died with pre-existing conditions
MUST-READ: Open letter from a doctor to Jason Kenney
Senior doc says Alberta politicians “playing medicine”, media driving “hysteria”
Sign up for the Western Standard Newsletter
Opinion4 days ago
MORGAN: The media sure shut up fast once Nenshi got caught up in the Snowbird Scandal
News3 days ago
QR77’s Smith steps down from talk radio show
News4 days ago
Barnes tells Kenney to end COVID lockdown
Opinion3 days ago
MORGAN: Smith’s departure a sign of talk radio’s slow death
News4 days ago
EXCLUSIVE: Majority of UCP voters say Kenney must fire snowbird MLAs, 41% of Albertans say he must resign
News2 days ago
Third of Albertans & majority of UCP voters back Western independence, shyer about going it alone
News4 days ago
O’Toole backs call to classify Proud Boys as terrorists
News3 days ago
Poll says majority of Albertans support lockdown, but UCP base wants it ended now