LeafsTalk on TalkingSports.TV

We had a great debut at Charley Fitzwhiskey’s on Tuesday! Marty York, Josh Rimer, Brian Wilks and I spent the evening talking about the Leafs’ chances for 2013-2014, and we had some pretty amazing guests join us for phone interviews, including Wayne Gretzky, Pat Quinn, Lanny MacDonald and Bill Watters. Here are the segments from Tuesday:

Segment 1 (20:37): Nikki, Marty & Josh discuss the Leafs’ chances, the Phil Kessel extension, and Dion Phaneuf

Segment 2 (5:03): Nikki, Marty & Josh talk to Lanny MacDonald about the Leafs, the Flames, and life in Fort McMurray:

Segment 3 (6:46): Nikki, Josh & Brian talk to former GM & Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn about the Leafs, the Phil Kessel extension, and Pat’s Stanley Cup predictions:

Segment 4 (6:55): The Great One Wayne Gretzky! Nikki, Josh & Brian talk about the Oilers’ young core, the Leafs’ chances, and Wayne’s pick for the Stanley Cup:

Segment 5 (13:45): Nikki, Marty & Josh talk to former Leafs Assistant GM Bill Watters about Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, and the Maple Leafs:

Segment 6 (33:13): Leafs post-game discussion with Nikki, Marty, Josh & Michelle Sturino:

End of one era, start of another

Well, I’ve been delaying this announcement for a while, but I suppose it’s finally time to break the news. Due to a number of reasons, I’m sad to announce the end my online talk show, Sex Brains & Money. It’s been something that’s been on my mind for a while now, but after a very difficult summer, I’ve made the decision not to come back this fall, and to put the show on an indefinite hiatus. There’s always a chance I might re-launch the show at a future date, but right now, I don’t have any plans for any new episodes, and with a number of upcoming changes on the horizon, it’s probably best that I focus on other things for now.

But it’s not all bad news! Those “other things” I mentioned above? They include the new-and-improved version of TalkingSports.TV, with my co-hosts Marty York & Josh Rimer! We’re debuting at our new venue in Woodbridge on Tuesday, October 1st, so come by Charley Fitzwhiskey’s if you’d like to check out the first episode of our fall season! We’ll be doing an NHL preview to launch the 2013-2014 season, and we’ll have guest interviews with people like Wayne Gretzky, Pat Quinn, Bill Watters, and on our Wednesday show, John Leclair and Darryl Sittler! I’m very excited to talk some sports with the guys, and watch the Leafs Season Opener at the bar with a whole bunch of Leafs fans!

Also, after our successful Autism Art Auction last April (which was also the final episode of Sex Brains & Money, though we didn’t know it at the time) the McIntosh Family and I have decided to take our efforts to the next level, and we’ll be launching the Art For Autsim Project in early October. We’ll still be holding the Autism Art Auction next April, albeit at a different venue and on a much larger scale, and we’ll also be expanding our scope to other areas: we’ll be holding benefit concerts, improv nights, and providing other opportunities for people with autism to show off their artisitic talents while raising funds for our Autism Crisis Centre. It’s a cause that’s very close to my own heart, and I’m happy to be putting my efforts towards something I truly believe in.

Lastly, I’m working on one more project that I can’t tell you about just yet, due to its top-secret nature… But I promise you, it’ll be my most risque, titillating project yet! Stay tuned for more details… 😉

Anyways, thank you so much to all the people who have helped make Sex Brains & Money so much fun – the people who joined me for interviews, the production team of David Grossman and Lior Khananev, and the people at the AllTalkTV.com Network who were such a joy to work with. And, of course, all the people who tuned in to watch the different segments and offered feedback on how to make things better. I’ve had a great time doing this and I’m excited for what the future holds! Thanks again. 🙂

Jason Collins’ Courage

In a bold display of personal courage, Jason Collins of the NBA has become the first openly-gay athlete in the four major North American sports. While I respect that this is truly a watershed moment for sports and LGBTQ rights, it would be a great disservice not to acknowledge the many athletes before Collins who have made gains for LGBTQ rights and visibility:

Billie-Jean King. Greg Louganis. Brendan Burke. Martina Navratilova. Mark Tewksbury. Johnny Weir. Orlando Cruz. John Amaechi. Wade Davis. Alan Gendreau. Matthew Mitcham. Esera Tuaolo. Brian Orser. And many, many more.

(This isn’t meant to be a complete list – you can go to wikipedia for that, although I’m sure their list is far from complete either. And yes, I did check that list to fill in my previous paragraph.)

Even though he’s far from the first, Collins’ gesture is important for its context. The four major sports in North America (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) perpetuate the myth that professional sports is the domain of the hyper-masculine, where only the manliest of the manly men can compete. This is why every other sport has long since accepted gay and lesbian athletes, where the big four have not; not only that, but it also seems that women’s sports are miles ahead.

It’s not surprising that there are more female athletes who have come out as lesbians, than there are male athletes who have come out as gay. When Brittany Griner, the 1st overall pick in the recent WNBA Draft, announced she was a lesbian, the world barely shrugged, and went back to ignoring the WNBA as it has for years; but Collins’ announcement has made headlines in every news outlet in North America.

Ultimately, this speaks to the pervasive sexism that still exists in sports, and how we regard sports as a strongly-masculine pursuit. A lesbian athlete who is attracted to women more readily fits the stereotypes we assign to athletes – tough, powerful, strong, etc – all of which are terms we associate with masculinity. Gay men are stereotypically associated with femininity and weakness, rather than masculinity and strength – though the Ancient Greeks would be quick to disagree!

So, this is why Collins’ courage matters so much. He is not simply speaking out against homophobia, but also speaking out against the sexist undertones that encourage homophobia – and as I wrote in my previous article about Yunel Escobar, the line differentiating homophobia from misogyny is very blurry indeed. The underlying message behind homophobia is that the worst thing a man can do is to adopt the behaviours of a woman, which is at the root of all misogynistic sexism.

Even as Collins breaks down this barrier, we must also acknowledge another list that is growing every day – athletes who identify as trans, and transition during or before their athletic career:

Renee Richards. Kye Allums. Michelle Dumaresq. Keelen Godsey. Fallon Fox. Lana Lawless. Kristen Worley. And many, many more.

Again, this list is hardly exhaustive, and in time, will grow longer. More barriers will be broken. More athletes will find compassion and inclusion among their sports and their teams. Eventually, and hopefully, nobody will even care.

Collins’ courage is just one more step in a journey that will force me to change the first line of my article – instead of using the term “gay athlete” to describe players like Collins, we’ll soon be calling them “athletes who happen to be gay”.

Or hopefully, someday, just “athletes.”

Why Don Cherry needs to STFU

So, Don Cherry is wading into the NHL lockout controversy, with some “advice” for the players:

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Twitter reactions to “Yunel Escobar: Where homophobia meets misogyny”

I was genuinely surprised by the number of retweets and responses to my first official blog post! Lots of support and plenty of appreciation, here are some of the best ones, starting with my first reply from Mike Wilner (who I really admire for his infinite patience with irate callers on JaysTalk):

Mike is great, he always makes time for me and other people who tweet him, which makes us feel so much more connected to our favourite team. Thanks for the comments Mike! 🙂

Had a nice discussion with Dirk Hayhurst as well, who I really like for his writing skills and insightful commentary. He correctly pointed out that I had mistakenly used a pic from last year’s hazing, which I soon corrected. He had some kind words to say:

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Yunel Escobar’s Eye Black – Where homophobia meets misogyny

So, those of you who know me know that I’m a huge baseball fan, with leanings towards my hometown team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve always found baseball to be a much more complex sport than the rest; the other sports are pretty much just variations on the same theme. You’ve got two teams, two “nets” (or scoring areas), two sides of the playing area, and some sort of projectile – usually a ball – and you have to get the projectile into the scoring area using whatever rules the sport dictates. Maybe you have to use your hand, or your foot, or another object to direct the projectile into the scoring area, but beyond that, they’re all pretty much the same concept wrapped in different packages.

Baseball is a totally different sport than the rest, and it’s widely acknowledged that hitting a 95-mile-an-hour fastball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. It requires a very different skill set than other sports, and also requires a huge amount of mental toughness, because luck plays a bigger role than it does in any other sport, and you’re constantly having to deal with failure. Even if your batting average is .333 (which is All-Star calibre) that means you’re failing twice as often as you succeed, and it’s incredibly easy to lose confidence when you get stuck in a slump. For these and other reasons, I’ve always been very impressed with baseball, and baseball players in particular – but the actions of my favourite team and one of my favourite players have left me painfully unimpressed in the last two weeks.

In a story that many people already know about, Yunel Escobar was photographed with hand-written words on his eye black, which said “Tu ere Maricon”. This has been variously interpreted to mean anything from “You’re a faggot” to “You’re a sissy” or “You’re a wuss” and former and current baseball players – especially native Spanish speakers – have been lining up to claim that it’s not a big deal, and wasn’t meant as a hateful slur because it’s a common term flung around baseball clubhouses.

The problem with Yunel Escobar’s eye black really doesn’t have anything to do with the specific translation of “Maricon”. A lot of apologia has been floating around suggesting that the term “faggot” isn’t really what he meant, and there might be some truth to that. However, the problem is that the alternative – which is usually translated as “sissy” – really isn’t any better. A closer look at both North American and Latin American constructions of gay men can help us understand that both terms essentially mean the same thing. Continue reading