Whiskey & Cream for January 23rd, 2021
Host: Ari Shapiro
0:46-8:30: “There is an increased fire in 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 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 what seems like 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 might win a single playoff round.
Luke Fox (@lukefoxjukebox) is an NHL writer with Sportsnet 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 infused a measure of toughness, leadership and skill that offers priceless intangibility 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 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 looked like the sport itself was drifting into irrelevancy through doping, 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 over 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 their penchant for 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 2021, his responses were as refreshing as they are candid.
15:55-22:49: “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 or a conservative.
Asif Hossain (@asifintoronto) is a highly-respected 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 to find 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.