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 XII

Whiskey & Cream for March 15th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:44-9:01: “A different kind of Kryptonian”

Once upon a time there was a civil servant who lived in Canada who dared to question what his government stood for and believed in. An organic on-line crusader of the old school who took a half dozen followers and turned them into tens of thousands of admirers; he unexpectedly began to grow into a national social media celebrity of sorts when it became abundantly obvious that a love of thinly-veiled sarcasm and delicious irony would serve him well in skewering a country’s elites who insisted on manipulating the masses during a pandemic with their corporate doubletalk and penchant for dark and dirty lies.

Neil Waytowich (@WaytowichNeil) is better known as Neil before Zod, a powerful social influencer in Canada on all things related to ideological politics and humanistic philosophy. When it comes to dissecting the truth and exposing hypocrisy in all forms, Neil is a throwback to an era where you were called out for bullshit and forced to pay the piper. He’s a true empiricist living in an era where superstition and conspiracies may run amok like galactic villains, but if they happen to cross the path of this pseudo-Kryptonian while he’s delivering his gospel of truth and fairness, they simply won’t stand a chance.

9:02-19:31: “Introducing the 3HL Tour”

Imagine going to an arena and watching a 3-on-3 hockey tournament. Think about that that for a moment as I’ll let it ferment in hockey-crazed minds across North America and allow you to savour what has been arguably the most important advancement in hockey since Jacques Plante and his revolutionary idea of wearing a protective hockey mask. The NHL turned a page in their history by endorsing a newly proposed format in June of 2015 that heralded a paradigmatic shift in the way the game is enjoyed. It instantly created more space on the ice, more goals scored during overtime, and more thrills and chills in way that’s brought the faithful out of their seats and often to their knees.

Justin Fox (@itsJustinFox) is the CEO and Founder of the 3HL Tour – Ontario’s first ever professional three-on-three hockey league that exists to bring small-town Ontarian communities together through their shard love of Canada’s national sport. Be it in Collingwood or Sarnia, Orangeville or Georgina, Wasaga or Grimsby; this is a form of escapism not seen in many years and one that’s meant to inspire young and old alike in their love of grass roots hockey.

19:32-28:29: “The guardians and destroyers of Dr. Seuss’

As the toxic winds of our cancel culture and penchant for historical literary revisionism grows, who knew that it was time for Dr. Seuss to become the latest victim of our collective existential angst. Who knew that a writer and illustrator of children’s books, someone who identified as a Democrat his entire political life and fought endlessly against the forces of fascism – could also be found guilty of imperfections in his work. And while Theodor Geisel was always heralded as a champion of our collective childhood sensibilities in his prodigious works of cartoon satire and fable story-telling, it’s sad to see how easily his reputation is being politicized between the forces of the offended left and the righteous right.

Brian Bradley (@brianjbradley) is a digital content publisher and podcaster with the Toronto Star. He’s a pleasure to interview; not just because of his intelligent perspectives on freedom of speech and the daunting reality that is modern day racism, but because he genuinely offers reverence where it’s warranted and not because it’s been superimposed by the digital forces of the day.

28:30-33:59: “Rolling with the punches, jabbing with your words”

The pandemic has devastated an industry that once gave hope to many young writers and ambitious university grads looking for a career in sports journalism. But in an era where resiliency and perseverance will become their hammer and sickle, it’s nice to hear about success stories in the form of a former athlete who embraced sports journalism on all fronts; as an accomplished writer, an engaging host and a bona fide media personality.

Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) is the co-host of Hockey Central on the FAN 590 and writes hockey for Sportsnet. For him, the city of Toronto is essentially right on the cusp of a golden era with their hockey, baseball and basketball teams. Never has it become more important to believe in the spirit of their accomplishments, and that has him excited about what the post-pandemic future has in store.

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

Whiskey & Cream Round Table: Toronto Raptors Edition (02-26)

Whiskey & Cream Round Table for February 26th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

Guests: Stephen Burns and Marshall Auerback.

Narratives: Toronto Raptors basketball; Adam Silver’s weaksauce apology to Masai Ujiri, Doug Smith and the tyranny of words when using social media, and why the sport itself is a blessing during dark times.

Duration: 31:47

WARNING: Listener discretion is advised. This podcast contains seriously blunt truths, excessively mature language, ruthlessly candid perspectives, and the kind of intellectual discourse that serves to enlighten, educate and punch through the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode VIII

Whiskey & Cream for January 23rd, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:46-8:30: “There is increased fire here”

It’s still very early in the abbreviated and pandemic-influenced NHL season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are already feeling the weight of fickle fans who scrutinize their every win and loss in much the way you’d cheer for heavyweight fighters exchanging blows. But this year, there’s a bona fide sense of urgency and a real commitment to team defense. Although the Northeast division will undoubtedly make it easier for them to avoid some of the juggernauts of the past such as Boston and Tampa bay, the team is poised to succeed if goaltender Frederik Andersen can do his best to resemble Grant Fuhr rather than Andrew Raycroft. But with all their young and highly coveted talented players, this would seem to be the year that they could find a way to win a single playoff round.

Luke Fox (@lukefoxjukebox) is an NHL writer with Sportsnet in Canada and has published a variety of books on rap music. In covering the team on a national level, he believes that there’s increased fire in the way the team has been constructed under general manager Kyle Dubas, and that by adding players like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Jimmy Vesey, he believes that the team added a measure of toughness, leadership and skill that offers priceless intangibility and fire in a payroll that’s dominated by a nucleus of game-breaking talent short on professional success.

8:50-15:42: “A baseball team is a big company designed to make money”

Most fans of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021 have come to accept the limitations and scope of what their baseball team is all about. After decades of playoff futility and cultural rot, the organization seems to be a shadow of its former championship self. You know, that glorious platinum standard set by the exploits of Carter, Alomar, Molitor and company. But then suddenly and as quickly as it came, the steady development of 80’s talent and the cultivation of a family-oriented brand began to erase itself from the hearts and minds of an entire generation. For awhile there, it look like the sport itself was drifting into irrelevancy through doping, the cheating and the commitment to heartless austerity by billion-dollar corporate owners. Although 2015 brought a mighty reprieve to cynical fandom everywhere, the current front office has been besieged by lingering expectations of competitive play that hasn’t existed for half a decade.

Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) is a writer and multiplatform contributor with Sportsnet. He’s also the co-host of At The Letters podcast where he breaks down this team for a living. For him, the Blue Jays front office of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been transparent with their intentions from the moment they arrived in Toronto, and although most people are turned off by their corporate doubletalk and public relations tone-deafness, it all comes down to a baseball team being a big company finding ways to make a profit. When asked about the recent George Springer signing and his outlook on the team in 2020, his responses were as refreshing as they are candid.

15:55-22:49: “Oh Canada! We stand on guard for thee”

Once upon a time, Canadians were known for the sport of hockey, maple syrup and peacekeeping. But as populism raged across the western world and took most of empathy and compassion with it, a nation respected for centrism and balance finds itself grappling with its identity amidst a global pandemic. It’s not a stretch to think that if things get worse and more people become unemployed and homeless, that this country could find itself facing an existential crisis that strikes to the very core of what it means to be a liberal and conservative.

Asif Hossain (@asifintoronto) is a social influencer and has worked with MLSE, Tennis Canada and the Canadian Olympic committee. His eloquent contempt for political misanthropes and posturing leaders comes from a belief that most Canadians have a generally favourable view of their government and are willing to work together and compromise. Perhaps that’s why it’s so disheartening for him to witness countless examples of elected leaders who continually let us down with their hypocrisy and lies.

23:07-28:51: “The power of a microstory”

Microstories might be better than teletherapy. I know that’s a bold claim coming from someone who isn’t a psychiatrist and hasn’t published a book in his lifetime, but nothing seems to bring me genuine catharsis more than a compelling short story wrapped in the mental shape of a bite-sized piece of chocolate. In a world where doomscrolling has become a tradition and reading a book seems blase, it’s nice to find true escapism through the musings of someone who combines delicious yiddishkeit humour with the cold, steel pragmatic irony of our modern times.

Eric Rosenhek (@TheHek) is the author of Dim Sum Stories, a series of heartfelt microstories available exclusively at arishapiro.ca. For him, the capacity to visualize intriguing narratives cobbled forth in small spaces offers him the chance to channel his stress and anxiety in all the best ways – through the promise of literary escapism where the white noise stops and all you can hear is the sound of your heart beating. Hearing his observations on the pandemic and what keeps him sane reveals a touching look into the mind of someone whose creativity defines the very essence of his soul.

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

Whiskey and Cream: Episode 005

Whiskey & Cream for December 23rd, 2020.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:36-7:35: “A kinder, gentler brand of politics”

It always comes down to the fundamentals, that we’re different from them. That’s how it feels looking at the United States from a distinctly Canadian perspective. The pandemic has caused immeasurable harm to the very fabric of their society in ways that defies the imagination and begs the question: why isn’t more being done to help their citizens during a time when compassion is needed more than ever. And why does their culturally innate suspicion of government and resistance to being told what’s best for them – inevitably finds a way of steering them into the realm of greed, paranoia and conspiracy? Furthermore, one has to wonder if a correlation exist between populist and progressive governments when it comes to empathy in their political leaders?

Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) is a celebrated Canadian lawyer, author and musician who has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. He’s collaborated and interacted with numerous prime ministers and political bigwigs during his time, and when it comes to understanding the true merits of effective governance, his take on the differences between Canada and the United States during this global pandemic is squarely focused at our existential differences and how having trust in government is essentially what separates our two democracies.

7:44-13:48: “The men and women of science were correct”

Toronto is heading towards a lockdown on Boxing Day, an announcement that sent shockwaves through those living in Ontario and across Canada. A first wave that was met head-on by the conservative government in the province has long been forgotten in the face of a second wave that’s exposed a shocking level of excuses, pivoting and the passing of the coronavirus buck. With Ontario averaging over 28 deaths a day, the sense of urgency has never been greater even if the credibility of the messengers seems minimized by their tendency to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Mary Ormsby (@MaryOrmsby) is one of Canada’s most respected journalists who has covered Olympic games, World Cups, and major professional leagues across North America for over three decades while writing for The Toronto Star. She’s spearheaded features about concussions, women in sports, homelessness and clergy abuse with award-winning features spanning over three decades of investigative journalism. For her, Doug Ford presents two phases – or “faces” as she calls them – that’s tested her limits when it comes to political leadership. Whereas she felt he was the right leader at the right time for the first wave of COVID-19, his foot-dragging disposition and chronic insistence of ignoring the men and women of science who were correct is making her wonder why a lockdown didn’t happen sooner.

13:51-18:22: “Always eliminate the window dressing”

Vaccine-hesitancy has quickly become one of the most controversial terms of the day, and when you eliminate the window dressing, it essentially bogs down to a tempting desire to reach for conspiracies over having the gumption to explore the real truth. Behind masks, behind social distancing, behind a vaccine to help keep us safe and healthy. But in an era where the written word has caused so much harm, are we perhaps underestimating the power of the spoken word?

Adam Corsair (@AdamCorsair) is a professional baseball and basketball podcaster whose literary passion for the Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays makes him an instant favourite here at Whiskey & Cream. His heart may be Canadian, but his family lives in Rhode Island – where faulty information and propaganda remains a daily battle for sweet, lucid sanity. His craft is reflected nicely in the gorgeous tonality and dissonant manner to which he passionately explains his plight in a world where fiction becomes fact in the click of play button.

18:35-22:44: “The Coronavirus Athlete”

Living during a global pandemic as a sports fan means settling for a new reality where your season, playoffs, rules and regulations seem permanently amorphous and subject to change. And that’s left some armchair fans scratching their heads and wondering if an asterisk needs to be deployed as a reminder that these achievements are happening during exceptional times. But as the business side of hockey, baseball, football and basketball continue to forge ahead amidst all this societal doom and gloom, there’s immense solace to be found in the astonishing power of sport and what it can do for a stir-crazy, cabin-fevered audience that can’t leave the house to enjoy Pascal Siakam, Auston Matthews or Bo Bichette.

Jim Lang (@JimLangSports) is Canadian sportscaster, writer and radio host who has covered major sports… For him, escapism is about savouring the real stories of courage and fortitude that exist to help soothe our burgeoning layers of anxiety and depression. That means embracing the notion that things will get better if we support those who train, excel and overachieve in pursuit of sporting excellence. In doing so, he tips his hat to the modern day coronavirus athlete.

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

A conversation with Casey Michel

My conversation with writer, analyst and investigative journalist Casey Michel, whose writings on global corruption, government kleptocracies, western relations and post-Soviet geopolitics have been featured on the BBC, NPR, MSNBC and countless other mainstream news sources. His editorials on nationalism, populism and extremist have also been featured on The Atlantic, The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated.

We discussed: his recent article entitled “The Oathkeepers Are Today’s Blackshirts” featured in The New Republic and the rise of extremism, if he feels that North Americans should be mindful of the burgeoning paramilitary forces that represent ultra-right nationalism, how he’s kept track of historical firsts when it comes to the Donald Trump presidency and how badly it’s undermining democracy in America, the likely scenarios that will unfold during the upcoming November election, his feelings on the shamelessness of an era no longer bound by traditional history and rife with cultural revisionism, which aspect of society should be blamed for the current state of affairs in the White House, if he’s more worried about China or Russia when it comes to the future, and how he wrestles with the dystopian realities confronted on a weekly basis through a steady diet of worthwhile video games and enthusiastic bird-watching.

Don’t forget to follow Casey on social media (@cjcmichel) and check out all his brilliant work at caseymichel.com.

Shapiro’s League of Seven: No man or woman is an island

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “No man or woman is an island” (Episode #03)

League members: Jon Reid and Chris Henderson
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Recorded: March 27th, 2020 (30:32)

Another day, another lockdown.

Most of the western world is losing their respective battles with the coronavirus while other smaller nations continue to impress us with their fortitude, fastidious ways and transparency to their local communities. In lieu of this powerful variance between how different countries have handing this pandemic, it’s abundantly clear that the idealistic notion of cooperative globalism has been reduced to a cynical mantra of everyone for themselves and let’s hope fear and anxiety doesn’t destroy the best laid plans of mankind.

It makes me wonder: what will happen when this period of life is over and is this really an opportunity for humanity’s reboot in the areas of kindness, compassion and empathy while making health care the absolute most important political issue of our time moving forward – or will it be back to business as usual with 2% less humans and significantly less civil rights and freedoms?

Theme: Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce Cockburn, Stealing Fire, 1984)

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s.

Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

-John Donne (1624)

  • Subscribe today to receive the latest podcasts and articles from arishapiro.ca