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 004

Whiskey & Cream for December 18th, 2020.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:35-6:51: “A Hill To Die On: The Future of the NHL”

It’s not hard to admire the way Gary Bettman and the NHL handled their season in the face of a global pandemic. Although they lost millions of dollars in playoff revenue, they ultimately succeeded in bringing their sport back to the masses in a way that made the Stanley Cup seem like a holy grail during dark times – and all you had to do was take one look at Victor Hedman’s face after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars to win their second Stanley Cup to really understand what it meant to the players and their fans.

But now there’s trouble in paradise, as is the case with any league that has a profit-oriented group of owners who love real estate development taking on a powerful union of players who won’t back down after the lockout fiasco in 2004. With a healthy league growing in non-traditional markets and hockey related revenues firmly and fairly where they should be, it’s hard to fathom that the NHL could easily shoot themselves in the foot if they aren’t careful.

Luke Armstrong (@armstrongthings) is a Canadian sports blogger and writer whose work has been featured on Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. His recent article entitled “COVID-19’s Impacts on the Future of the NHL” looks deeper at what sort of options exist for the NHL as they enter the daunting reality not trying to ruin a good thing.

7:03-11:55: “The Pandemic Never Ended In July”

It took Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell six weeks to recognize the new President of the United States, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, finally, after nearly 10 months, their Congress is on the verge of putting together bona fide economic stimulus legislation that’s presumably designed to take care of their weakest and most downtrodden citizens.

But considering that 40 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes due to an inability to pay their rent or mortgage, and that millions more are flocking to unemployment insurance and food banks, it’s hard to imagine that the world’s richest country has failed so miserably to help their own taxpayers – especially considering the way Canadians have witnessed their own federal government from the start of the year.

Emily Stewart (@EmilyStewartM) is a business and politics reporter for Vox News, and has been seen on MSN, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, to name but a few. Her recent articles on how the United States government is tackling COVID-19 from an economic perspective reveals a colder and harder reality where the concepts of empathy and fairness of leadership seems harder and harder to find as time goes by.

12:02-16:35: “The Tampa Raptors in the Land of COVID-19”

The Toronto Raptors basketball club will be spending their 2021 season in Tampa, and that means learning about COVID cases from afar and having to endure the physical loss of the only Canadian team playing in one of the worst pandemic outbreak states in the union. But that being said, it’s also a chance for the NBA to prove that their league is a cut above the rest – and that a harmonious relationship between players and ownership has commissioner Adam Silver and company to dream bigger and bolder than ever before.

Josh Weinstein (@joshhweinstein) is the NBA editor for The Score and has written for the Raptors Republic. For him, the team is embarking into uncharted waters with their new digs down south, but he’s optimistic that the league will continue to lead by example and show their fans that the future is bright and worth believing in.

16:48-21:35: “Profit over Practicality”

It’s not a stretch to think that Major League Baseball and the National Football League really blew it when it came to monetizing their seasons. Sure, they wanted to bring back their respective forms of entertainment and escapism, but in the end of just seemed like a stumbling, bumbling mess of execution. The end results were appalling; endless cases of infection, oddly disjointed travel schedules, and a sense of general calamity.

Sam Mendelsohn (@Mendy_Island) is an NFL writer and sports betting analyst for Odds Shark, and he understood early on why baseball and football were choosing profit over practicality when it came to ushering back their limited seasons.

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

Shapiro’s League of Seven: Bring In The Cavalry

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “Bring In The Cavalry” (Episode #04)

League members: Jon Reid and Luke Armstrong
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Recorded: April 1st, 2020 (29:51)

The League takes a closer look into how we as humans are battling cabin fever as it slowly metastasizes into a grim reality of utter boredom and lingering anxiety. We discussed the psychological toll this pandemic has taken on society as a whole and what to do with the prospect of martial law looming on the horizon in countries which consider themselves democratic. Meanwhile, countless authoritarian populist nations are busy making themselves sick with hubris and misanthropic myopia. Need more? Listen in.

Theme: death bed (Powfu, death bed – coffee for your head, 2019)

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