Whiskey and Cream: Episode XXI

Whiskey & Cream for July 14th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:40-10:05: “We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember”

There was a time before the days of pandemic entropy and woe where the celebration of a traditional monotheistic reason to gather at the end of the week and drink wine while surrounded by loving friends and family was considered to be as symbolically celestial as it was psychologically necessary. The Sabbath has always stood the test of Judeo-Christian time in that its very existence is a testament to the need for human socialization and cathartic release. But in an increasingly volatile and beleaguered world where eight-second attention spans mixed with crushing rates of anxiety and despair tend to prioritize the work week, it has become more vital than ever for us to consider why the holy day of rest might be the last bastion in taking a precious moment and remembering why our history, values and identity deserve to be honored with a reason to gather and celebrate life – even when the candles have long dimmed and the future remains uncertain.

Judith Shulevitz is an American journalist, editor and culture critic who has written for The New Republic, New York Times Book Review and The New York Times. When she wrote “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time” over a decade ago and considered the question of what a holy day of rest represents to human culture and our sense of tradition, she unwittingly stumbled upon a powerful narrative that looks at the importance of gathering around the hearth and relishing in the flickering flames of family unity and interpersonal growth that allows us to find solace in a brutally unforgiving world filled with historical revisionism and lonely hearts.

Music: “Paranoid” performed by 4Tune Quarter

10:07-21:41: “Vulgo superiorum suffugit”

It’s hard enough to chart a path towards a successful post-secondary educational journey that ends with the promise of a financially sustainable career let alone identifying which area of life one wishes to become a proverbial subject matter expert capable of garnering respect and self-worth. Gone are the halcyon days of considering a college or university that is as affordable as it is established in its tenured professors, course flexibility and prestigious value. Instead, the United States has led the western world in revealing an inherent crisis in the very nature of how we learn, what we’re taught and where we use our acquired skills and tuition experiences to create a prosperous life amidst all this societal disarray. Until we start unpacking the twin beasts of insurmountably crushing debt caused by over-zealous for-profit public institutions and the increasingly diminished scholastic freedom of speech and critical-thinking on campus, the prospect of a bona fide higher learning education that’s worth pursuing will continue to remain precisely what it’s become: a mug’s game in a fool’s paradise.

Dr. Mike Nietzel is president emeritus at Missouri State University and holds a Ph.D. In clinical psychology. He’s authored and published books on higher education and contributes regularly to Forbes magazine while remaining a champion against the perils of an academic system that’s floundering mightily and absolutely trending in the wrong direction. For him, it’s all about looking at the scales of systemic unfairness and balancing them against a generational reckoning that’s changed the way students and parents look at how higher learning is considered from both a political and existential reality.

Music: “School’s Out” performed by Alice Cooper

21:45-29:18: “A Russian, a Canadian, and an American walk into a hockey rink…”

True to form – and really, this is how it should have ended – the NHL’s best team, The Tampa Bay Lightning, captured their second Stanley Cup in a row thus earning the title of being the best pandemic team in the sport of hockey. And although their victory was sublime and came with major accolades from their peers and fans alike, there’s still the bigger issue of why players like Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy aren’t given their due as not only the best in class, but also the finest talent that the league has to offer considering the decades-long anti-Russian sentiment which permeates to this very day. While fans in Toronto continue to lament a 54-year old tradition of losing and being known as losers, the rest of the league needs to make sure it takes the time, effort and investment of honoring international contributions from athletes whose penchant for winning is reflected in their multicultural roots.

Michael Mazzei is a graduate of the Ryerson journalism program and sportswriter whose work can be found on The Leafs Nation, Maple Leafs Hotstove, CBC and The Fan 590. His passion for the NHL and Canadian hockey has become both a blessing and a curse in a modern culture that rationalizes mediocrity in a manner that’s left him coldly analytical when it comes to the future. Being a Maple Leafs fans for the better part of one’s life will do that, as does accepting the fact that NHL is as flawed a business organization as one can find when it comes to understanding the strange manner in which it often treats their players who aren’t born in North America.

Music: “The Sound of Silence” performed by Charlie Melodia

29:20-35:59: “There’s no punishment for bad journalism in the world”

Before the Rachel Nichols controversy jumped the shark and revealed to everyone that high-octane gonzo journalism has become less about the story and more about who’s framing the narratives, ESPN was already in a heap of serious trouble. The network has steadily destroyed whatever credibility was constructed over years of dominant sports media by wading into a litany of controversies encompassing racism, sexism and nepotism at breathtaking levels of banality; just ask Doug Adler or Bob Costas or Maria Taylor how they feel. And although ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro joined the organization to bring forth less politics and more sports into the equation, it’s abundantly clear that they’ve got a long way to go in addressing a culture where substance is devalued in the face of click-bait shenanigans.

Marshall Auerback is a fellow of Economists on Peace and Security who writes for international publications ranging from Muck Rack to American Compass to Forbes magazine. As a seasoned and literary critic of sports teams and narratives, it should come as no surprise that the contempt he holds for a time-honored leader in sports journalism is born elegantly out of the fact that there’s no accountability for bad writing, horrible stories and incorrect takes in a world where polarized views of so-called industry propriety and morality dominate the underlying need for cold, hard transparency.

Music: “Pigeon Lake” performed by Daniel Steidtmann

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XIX

Whiskey & Cream for April 30th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:38-27:49: “Dignity with pride divided by equity”

Imagine having all the talent, vision and ambition in the world – only to have it scuttled by forces you have no control over. In some respects, I’ve just described a typical employee working for a digital media company today. You know, that realm which has been pillaged and exploited by a sad cocktail of corporate ownership, streamlined departments, and profit-oriented motivations. At a time when aspiring wordsmiths and creative minds are trying to find narratives worth writing home about, it seems that the industry has turned almost completely against them when it comes to finding a place where originality and passion are rewarded, rather than marginalized and bought out.

David J. Roth (@david_j_roth) is the co-owner of Defector Media and the co-founder of The Classical. Together with other writers who left Deadspin in 2019, he’s created a media company that’s less about sensationalistic fanfare and more about the search for cold, hard truths, offering him some measure of control in the spiraling wild west that’s full of woke culture, virtue-signalling, moral relativism and historical revisionism. It makes me truly wonder – what keeps him moving in this world today with his dignity and professionalism intact?

27:50-38:15: “It all begins and ends with goaltending”

Let’s not mince words. The New York Rangers went 54 years between winning Stanley Cups that spanned a period of time which began with World War Two and ended with the rise of Nirvana. For a fan of the team, waiting from 1940 to 1994 in order to taste a championship must have seemed purely inconceivable. Which brings us to the city of Toronto, where bleeding blue and white means entering the post-season with visions of grandeur and also a sick sense of deja vu. What was supposed to be a season for Frederik Andersen to redeem himself has become a voyage of reclamation for Jack Campbell. Either way, the fate of the team will depend on if their netminder ends up resembling Ken Dryden instead of Andrew Raycroft. Patrick Roy instead of Vesa Toskala. Dominik Hasek instead of Jonas Gustavsson. I literally could go on forever.

Allan Bester is a former goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although his time in hockey was short and sweet, he remains a true supporter for the integrity and impact of knowing the game between the pipes. For him, if a half-century drought is to end in the midst of a terrible pandemic, it’ll mean having a player between the pipes that’s prepared to put an entire hockey club on his shoulders and never look back.

38:16-54:33: “Secretariat would be proud”

Horse racing and gambling is synonymous for a reason; from the era of classical antiquity to our modernized pandemic reality, the sport has endured through the ages while generating considerable tax revenue – over $100 billion dollars is wagered annually in 53 countries. However, like baseball, it suffers enormously from a having a stewardship that’s less concerned about the state and health of the industry, and more interested in profit-mongering shenanigans. As a result, what was once a spectacle for royalty has been commodified and dismissed by many as being simply backwards or out-of-touch with itself.

Robin Dawson (@RobinOnRacing) started his racing career in 1971 in France and is the author of Last Hurrah: A compelling tale of greed, control, self-preservation…and vindication. For him, a lifetime spent around majestic horses and understanding the kinship between man and beast ultimately inspired him to write his first piece of literary fiction. Although the perception of his industry may have changed over the years, his nostalgia remains a potent force in driving his craft and educating others with his love and affection for a fading equestrian legacy.

54:34-1:03:25: “Two for slashing, Five for dreaming”

How can you not admire what the National Hockey League has done when it comes to handling their second season during this pandemic? What should have been calamitous barriers to travel, gameplay and personnel has resulted in an astonishingly successful season that’s proving to be a huge respite for fans. Seriously, this is front-line escapism when Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay and other juggernauts of major cosmopolitan cities manage to show the faithful that there’s a reason to believe in more than simply misery and woe. And that’s not just a credit to the leadership of the league, but to every person that’s made this season a success given the adversity which existed before them.

Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) is a digital hockey content writer for the Vancouver Canucks, Daily Faceoff and SportsBettingDime. As a social influencer, he loves finding videos and images that make fans forget the raging dystopia outside their windows and instead focus more on the glorious game before them. That’s why he’s committed to using his extensive platform and admiration of the game to make sure that others can revel in a league that clearly stands alone and ready for the playoffs.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XVIII

Whiskey & Cream for April 19th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:34-24:53: “Pragmatic Truths over Ideological Lies”

There are 124 seats in the Ontario legislature comprised of an incredibly unpopular and short-sighted Conservative majority government and a smattering of largely ineffective opposition. This, of course, is left over from the remnants of a slightly less unpopular Liberal regime that led to this tidal wave of populism we’re experiencing today. The Green Party has one of those seats. That’s right, in a province comprised of left-to-right forces scattered around moving, ideologically-wired fenceposts, the one party which is all about saving our children’s future and defending our planet from human exploitation is only just getting started, and it knows it has a long way to go

Mike Schreiner (@MikeSchreiner) is the leader of the Ontario Green Party and the MPP for Guelph. In a province overwhelmed with unscrupulous politicians bent on flexing their dogma in the face of science and nature, he’s a rare breed of leader – one that’s willing to negotiate and compromise at all costs if it means preserving the future of the next generation. Because for him, it’s always and only been about the air we breath, the land we inhabit, and the water we use to cleanse ourselves.

25:01-43:51: “Wake up and smell the Pravda”

The hypocrisy inherent to living in a dreadful era where we use social media to validate ourselves, our ambitions and our dogs and cats is quickly revealing why living in a technocratic age is killing us slowly and not so softly. With every turn in cyberspace, it seems as though the Facebooks and the Twitters and the Instagrams and the TikToks have aligned themselves to bring out the very worst in people by preying on their growing insecurities and lingering fears. In doing so, it’s given birth to a degree of self-determination that’s matched only by the level of self-immolation caused by horribly impressionable human beings who stopped being critical-minded a long time ago and take everything at face value.

Zeynep Yinesy (@zeynepmyenisey) is a luxury travel and lifestyle writer whose work has been featured in Maxim and countless other international publications. Her anti-woke nature reveals a fiery character that’s fed up with all the pandering and posturing caused by social media overreactions. When she was recently banned from Twitter for impersonating herself, it opened the door to understand just how profoundly unfair and all-encompassing big tech had become. In struggling to understand the awesomely unmitigated power of forces that couldn’t possibly know authenticity from fraud much like it struggles with facts versus fiction – it represents a stunning rebuke of supposed free speech guarantees that simply no longer exist or maybe never even existed in the first place.

44:02-1:04:21: “It’s the best game you can name”

Hockey continues to rumble forward like a pre-ordained cultural fact of life that refuses to give in to the reality of the pandemic, and it’s a marvel to watch. As the celebrated trade deadline passed and the fallout from the variant-riddled Vancouver Canucks remains fresh on the minds of NHL fans, players and executives alike, there can be no doubting that pure, wondrous escapism continues to be in great supply for a league that’s weathered the storm of rule revisionism and syntax upgrades in an effort keep the faithful satisfied in their need for genuine competition and personal excitement.

Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) is a hockey author, blogger and podcaster who writes for the Montreal Gazette and Sportsnet. Becoming a father made him appreciate not only what the sport continues to mean in his own personal life, but in why he remains committed to his craft as a way of providing a true distraction for his readers and followers who value direct and no-nonsense expertise. For him, the prospect of witnessing his beloved Montreal Canadiens taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs might just be the glorious tonic needed to get all fans of the sport rallying together through the difficult dog days of a ruthless pandemic summer to come.

1:04:33-1:17:09: “Stormin’ Norman versus the volcano”

For an audiophile enjoying the glory years of Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Felix Potvin, there was nothing quite like tuning in to the post-game talk radio experience around these parts featuring hosts who left an indelible impression with their mighty, unfiltered passion for telling it like it is and not pulling any punches. Sadly, as our broadcast journalism landscape gradually devolved into a virtue-signaling battlefield controlled by penny-pinching corporate executives concerned more with the bottom line rather than industry integrity, a terrible thing happened that left many feeling to marginalized after having devoted most of their lifetime in the field.

Norm Rumack (@NormanRumack) is a professional sports journalist known better by Toronto sports enthusiasts of my era as “Stormin Norman Rumack” and is part of the old guard of golden-era radio and television hosts who’ve been rendered largely extinct thanks to big media buying up and owning big sports franchises and treating their employees as nothing more than a content-filling means to a financial corporate end. If you grew up around these parts, you probably know him by the sound of his unique and distinguished voice – one that still resonates and evokes imagery of epic on-ice calls and Saturday night conversations that, for many of us on this side of the pond, will never be forgotten or replaced.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode XIV

Whiskey & Cream for March 27th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:39-9:35: “When a strong minority silences a weak majority”

Oh, the glorious absurdity that remains Israeli politics. And now with their fourth election in two years, the world’s most genuine version of participatory democracy once again finds itself rudderless and at cross purposes. Benjamin Netanyahu remains the quintessential “Teflon” braggadocio incumbent who’s cobbled together a vast network of unholy alliances that not only betray his ideological views, but cements his place as an irredeemable opportunistic force during vulnerable and perilous times.

Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) is a Middle East correspondent with The Economist and the author of How Long Will Israel Survive? The Threat From Within. For him, Israel remains a fascinating study into how the more things change, the more they stay the same. In his recent book, he postulates and laments on the very historical and spiritually existential reality that’s gripped the nation for the better part of multiple generations.

9:35-18:54: “Synonymous with baseball, he reveals only truths”

True admirers of the Toronto Blue Jays have long coveted the history and lore associated with the only baseball franchise in Canada. So when a local favourite sportscaster whose voice had become a staple with the radio broadcast and whose literary prowess established him a trusted authority was unceremoniously let go by the media company that owns the team..the outrage was palpable and fierce.

Mike Wilner (@Wilnerness) is a baseball columnist and podcaster who writes for the Toronto Star. His passion and love for the game is not only entrenched in the hearts and minds of countless fans who have come to appreciate his talents, but is also on display with a measure of humility when he’s recognized as the voice that was synonymous with the team for the better part of two decades.

18:55-27:34: “An explosion of false and misleading narratives”

North Americans recoiled with horror at the site of yet another massing shooting in the United States. This time, it was the turn of Boulder, Colorado – and once again, the familiar narrative of racially motivated violence permeated the media cyber-waves as we steel ourselves to the white noise of conspiratorial conjecture and the relentless spread of social media disinformation.

Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) is a European journalist investigating online disinformation, conspiracy theories, and extremism for the BBC. He’s mortified that not only does social media allow others to chronicle and display chillingly brutal acts of criminality, but that it sets yet another standard of exhibitionist viewing that does nothing more than sensationalize our appetite for violence rather than provide ointment for our grief.

27:35-33:15: “I haven’t seen a winning baseball or hockey team in my lifetime”

It took a mid-season pandemic swoon for the Toronto Maple Leafs to realize their own limitations; that they remain an offensive juggernaut constrained only by the limitations of their goaltending. While Frederik Andersen has yet to win a single playoff round and the feel-good story of Jack Campbell refuses to go away, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the team rides the hottest hand available – especially if that hand has a catchy nickname and is beloved by teammates.

Braydon Holmyard (@BraydonHolmyard) is a sports writer and editor for The Toronto Star. For him, the triumvirate of pro sports teams in the city has opened up endless possibilities for glory and escapism; that’s why he remains vigilant that the local Original Six franchise in particular might make him forget this pandemic altogether.

33:15-40:52: “It’s about unspoken hockey integrity”

When veteran NHL referee Tim Peel was caught articulating his thoughts on camera recently, the mountain of outrage that was generated by the subsequent viral video was as predictable as it was disturbing. Sure, he was scheduled to retire by season’s end and was perfectly positioned to be the sacrificial lamb in this particular controversy, but the heavy-handed, sanctimonious manner in which disciplinarian Colin Campbell and the rest of the league responded to the issue at hand seems to mirror the level of self-righteous overreaction that’s become synonymous with our modern social media culture.

Matt Best is (@bestofmatt) a video producer and podcaster who does work with the Mayo Media Network, Penalty Box Radio and Locked on Predators. His decision to expose evidence over YouTube of a professional league’s unwritten rule that’s frequently manipulated and generally accepted by fans as “a part of the game” ended up creating precisely the kind of quagmire that the NHL was looking to avoid.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

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