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 XV

Whiskey & Cream for April 2nd, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:35-12:21: “Raconteur Troubadour”

It never fails that during times of real trouble, we tend to lose perspective about a great many things that are important to us in life. But what always seems to remain is that aching need to feel inspired that, deep down inside, the human condition comes with a seemingly indomitable spirit and a will to survive, especially when we least expect it. The Paralympian athlete remains one of the better examples what happens when empathy and opportunity mixed with courage and dignity produces just the right kind of story that makes us all proud to be in this together.

Teddy Katz (@ktazt) is a journalist who worked at the CBC for over 20 years and is the owner of Think, Redefined. Crafting inspirational narratives has always been second nature to him, but with the arrival of the pandemic, it has become paramount in his quest to find a balance between right and wrong and good versus evil. His eternal love of storytelling has elevated his consciousness in ways that makes him a truly respected and admired raconteur during the darkest of hours.

12:22-24:19: “In basketball we trust”

Norman Powell of the Toronto Raptors was pretty much everything you could ever ask for in a beloved fan favourite. An anchoring force years in the making, his growth in the spotlight produced a player with the pedigree of a champion, the developed skills of an elite shooting guard, and the demeanor of a pure and absolute winner. So, you can imagine why the decision to trade him to the Portland Trailblazers resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of grief from the faithful. After all, trading an in-his-prime coalescing force that existed in a young nucleus featuring Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet was the kind of decision that left many scratching their heads in anguish and wondering what’s next on the horizon.

Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) is a multi-sports, multi-platform author and basketball insider with Sportsnet for over a decade. Although the Toronto Raptors chose to part ways with such an entrenched fan favourite during the prime of his career, he remains convinced that the cultural reality of the sport in the hands of authentic, brave leaders will be the lasting legacy of an organization that an entire city has come to admire and cherish.

24:20-35:59: “Passing the literary torch”

Modern journalism has been under siege long before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse. As profit-oriented, duopolistic media companies circle the wagons of discontent by downsizing talented employees and removing iconic outlets for sports with an almost slavishly nihilistic attitude, it makes one pine for the days when old-school writers stoked the collective imagination of a city through typed words, memorable interviews, and honest narratives that invited a critical and unbiased look at the remains of the day. But with the relentless rise of digital monetization inside heavily polarized camps of ideologically-bound content publishers, the freedom to enjoy the press has become a struggle for anyone who values critical-thinking and empirical conclusions.

Sean Fitz-Gerald (@SeanFitz_Gerald) is the senior national writer for The Athletic, has appeared in the National Post and the Toronto Star, and was named Canadian sports writer of the year in 2015. Sports journalism has always been embedded in his DNA; his entire family and ancestors resonate with creative and literary ambition that’s fuelled his resolve for the longest time. But on the eve of yet another lockdown in one of the world’s most populated and cosmopolitan cities, he’s convinced that a love of the written word might also be the cure to what ails us most.

36:00-48:41: “King Clancy. Art Ross, and Franke Selke walked into a bar…”

In the struggle to remain relevant and pure during difficult times, the National Hockey League has quietly and surreptitiously achieved a balance where rival leagues have failed. Unlike football and baseball, notorious for their aggressively profit-oriented schemes to keep fans interested and involved at all costs, hockey has endeared itself enormously to those of us who value parity, possibility and potential in a sport. And as the playoffs loom on the horizon, it’s no surprise that between a rising (and powerful) memorabilia market and the arrival of the most talented generation of players ever witnessed – now is the time for every generation to embrace the good ole’ hockey game.

Dr. Mike Commito (@mikecommito) is an author, blogger, and a teacher of Canadian history and all things hockey. The spirit of the game was infused in his soul at a young age, which explains not only his lingering desire to chronicle its history, but also to identify the elements that sets the NHL apart from not only their competitors, but in the hearts and minds of their ravenously loyal fans.

“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.

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 and Cream: Episode VII

Whiskey & Cream for January 19th, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:36-13:20: “On the outside and feeling betrayed”

The inauguration is almost upon us and most Americans are waiting with bated breath to usher in what should be a new era in US politics. But as the steam goes out on the Donald Trump presidency and the reality of losing a fair and democratic election sinks in, it isn’t a coincidence that anti-state and anti-law enforcement ideas are flourishing across all states of the union. The movement has taken on a decidedly militant turn across the board specifically because the outgoing administration crafted a brutal and convenient revisionist narrative that Trump supporters are stuck on the outside looking in on an election that was stolen and requires them to defend themselves and their honour. As a result, multiple forms of virulent militant activity ranging from The Oathkeepers to The Proud Boys are finding themselves with the kind of raison d’être that could end up creating a measure of public unrest not seen since the civil rights movement.

Brendan O’Connor (@_grendan) is freelance journalist and the author of Blood Red Lines: How Nativism Fuels The Right. He’s covered right-wing extremism since the end of the Obama administration and believes that overstating the danger of what may come can lead to poor analysis and even worse conclusions. But what he does believe is that what happens next will be a period of turmoil, and that The Biden administration will likely not be defined by healing and reconciliation. In his eyes, there will be a greater and far more spectacular reckoning of political violence in the US for the foreseeable future.

13:21-19:31: “When lightning strikes twice”

Most Canadians don’t realize how special and unique the Tampa Bay Lightning are as a professional NHL franchise, and with the return of hockey for a second season in a pandemic reality, there’s a great deal to be said for an organization which values their fans as much as their profit levels and industry achievements. In a market devoid of hypercritical fans and a vicious media backbite, the Lightning aren’t just winners on the ice – they are bona fide winners off it as well.

Dave Randorf (@DaveRandorf) is the play-by-play commentator for the Tampa Bay Lightning and a celebrated Canadian sports broadcaster. He’s never taken his success for granted and believes that in aligning his future with the Florida-based Stanley Cup champions, he can help fans of hockey feel better about their own personal struggles by enjoying a first class organization which has succeeded in winning the championship twice since the turn of the century. Which, for the record, is twice more than the Toronto Maple Leafs have accomplished since 1967.

19:32-26:21: “Coming back to normal, a little dark and colder”

It’s hard to keep your mind fresh and spirits high when the numbing reality of covid statistics exist to remind you that all is not normal. It makes one really wonder: how much of this can we take without going back to the normal things – you know, the simple things. Like enjoying a breakaway in overtime, an extra innings nailbiter or the last few remaining seconds of an alley-oop, centre court play to win the game in regulation. Having sports back, even under such abnormal conditions, is essentially a return to normalcy that gives us the kind of distraction needed to help absorb the hypocrisy of our times – the fact that politicians and corporate profiteers are treating this time as business as usual.

Tony Ambrogio (@Tony_Ambrogio) is a freelancer with TSN and teaches at the College of Sports Media in Toronto. He’s a highly respected sports journalist who finds himself becoming a colder, darker person when confronted with an endless barrage of pandemic statistics and political hypocrisies which make him pine for the simplicity of hockey, basketball or baseball. Amidst all the vitriol and hate associated with masks and vaccinations, he remains grateful that society can still rely on professional sports to bring us back to a time when arguing at the dinner table and mulling over the latest feats of athleticism were once the norm.

26:23-34:01: “The psychology of pandemic sports betting”

We’ve come a long way from the days when sports betting was frowned upon as a reckless or taboo indulgence. With 19 American states now legalizing the activity, it’s clear the appetite for gambling has reached a whole new level with the pandemic raging throughout the winter. In the first couple of months alone, Table Tennis became the seventh most wagered on sport as people sought to find ways to wager money on competitive spectacles that reminded them of something other than negative media news and gradual societal decay.

Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) is the VP of Digital Content at VISN The Sports Betting Network and has done work with ESPN. For him, the concept of sports betting is all about psychology and economics and shouldn’t be for the faint of heart. In a changing world of easy to use technology and unlimited access, his mantra of making informed decisions and playing within your boundaries is an absolute prerequisite for anyone who is serious turning this pursuit into a money-maker, and that having consistent success relies more on studying and learning the craft well before embarking on it.

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

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