Whiskey and Cream: Episode XVI

Whiskey & Cream for April 7th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:34-11:21: “Peanuts, crackerjacks and COVID-19”

Major League Baseball has returned…and with a mighty vengeance. First, it was all about bringing back a 162-game extravaganza season in the midst of the worst that a pandemic has to offer. Then, it involved confronting the state of Georgia and rescinding an All-Star game promise that’s drawn the ire of Trump loyalists everywhere. And finally, they went along with having the Texas Rangers host their home opener in a brand new billion dollar facility with over 40,000 humans all eating, drinking, and potentially superspreading themselves into baseball oblivion.

Laura Armstrong (@lauraarmy) is a beat writer with the Toronto Star covering the Blue Jays and their seasonal travails. In her eyes, the city of Toronto has much to look forward to when it comes to competitive and worthwhile baseball around these parts. But in welcoming the return of peanuts, crackerjacks and the chance to one day root for the home team in person, she’s also willing to confront certain gruesome realities that simply can’t be ignored – including the profound risks taken by big business in pursuit of pandemic profits.

12:48-17:45: “On fire and passing the generational torch”

Here’s the thing about the subject of voter suppression that seems be getting lost between the battle lines of left versus right: at the end of the day, it’s all about democracy. It’s really as simple and elegant as that. Now, you can go ahead and choose to debate the merits of how and why the United States chooses to tackle the grim reality of gerrymandering and the brutally unfair district demarcation that’s transpired across the union for decades, but in the final analysis it really comes down to empowering people and having them succeed through elected officials who care more about their actual dignity than the almighty dollar.

Aaron Parnas (@AaronParnas) is lawyer, writer, podcaster and social influencer based out of Florida. His work with the MeidasTouch political action committee has galvanized his passion for reaching the largest possible audience when it comes to pursuing his agenda for fairness and justice in modern day America. Stuck between the conservative nature of the Gen-Y demographic and the predisposed liberal tendencies of the average Millennial, his thoughts on the passing of the proverbial torch from one besieged generation to another are as frank as they are indelible.

19:23-25:43: “One shift, one period, one breath at a time”

The NHL is doing many things right in the quest to keep their audiences happy during times of trouble. But a deeper look reveals that all that glitters isn’t necessary gold. Minor league hockey franchises all over North America are folding left, right (and pardon the pun), centre, while recent virus outbreaks like the one that subdued the entire Vancouver Canucks team is a stark reminder that, in some ways, the worst is yet to come. And that means hockey will need to demonstrate the kind of leadership and resolve that’s kept it ahead literally ahead of the game when it comes to running a business for themselves, their players, and most of all: their fans.

Eric Engels (@EricEngels) is a writer, radio host and senior hockey columnist with Rogers Sportsnet. As someone who professionally and personally covers the Montreal Canadiens and has dedicated most of his adult life as an authority on the sport of hockey, his opinion on the manner and method to which Gary Bettman and the league have battled the coronavirus is one balanced equally between a healthy sense of optimism and an idealistic desire to see things improve without sacrificing the integrity of the game he so dearly admires.

26:05-39:28: “And now for something completely different…”

Between Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford, it’s become almost a picture of banality to hear the average Canadian sounding off on the nature of the job that our elected leaders are doing as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. The predictable criticism and fatalistic scorn of traditional red and blue pylons debating their ideological views at a time when some human beings are sleeping in makeshift tent in downtown Vancouver and Toronto is beyond surrealistic; as is the simultaneous realization of having to reconcile a mind-boggling reliance on outsourced and incompetent vaccine rollouts along with dubious lockdown strategies in the struggle to keep our fragile population healthy and safe.

Abhijeet Manay (@AbhijeetMonet) is the deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario. For him, the battle of moving forward from dystopian times has little to do with human ideology and everything to do with our connection to nature. Slowly but surely, the growing trend of citizens more concerned with their children’s future rather than the need for instant gratification is essentially the reason why his party is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds thus begging the question: can the Greens find a way to cut through the hot air of political hypocrisy and evolve into a mobilizing force that can one day offer the country something more than the usual string of false promises and smug excuses?

“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 Round Table: Toronto Blue Jays Edition (03-05)

Whiskey & Cream Round Table for March 5th, 2021.

Host: Ari Shapiro

Guests: Eric Rosenhek, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler & David Morassutti

Narratives: Toronto Blue Jays Baseball; the end of the radio experience courtesy of Rogers, why MLB continues to struggle through the pandemic when it comes to their publicity, and why a great reckoning is at hand if baseball doesn’t get their priorities in order.

Duration: 34:48

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 001

Whiskey & Cream for November 26th, 2020.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:28-5:31
Author and Montreal Expos historian Danny Gallagher (@dannogallagher7) talks about the resurgence of Montreal Expos memorabilia and what seems like a true renaissance of fan interest in the wake of his new book (Always Remember, New Revelations and Old Tales about the Montreal Expos).

6:50-8:01
Podcaster and AMI radio host Cam Jenkins (@NeutralZoneCamJ) offers his thoughts on the pandemic reality affecting disabled fans of spectator sports.

9:30-17:54
Writer and Pension Plan Puppets blogger Omar White (@TicTacTOmar) delivers an eloquent rant in his summation of the madness behind recent Toronto Maples Leafs free agent acquisitions and where this hockey team stands today.

18:42-20:23
Site expert of Editor-In-Leaf and writer James Tanner (@EditorinLeaf) chimes in with a brazen attempt to help digest the identity of this club after the surrealism of the Mike Babcock era and why he thinks fans need to have a more realistic perspective moving forward.

20:24-23:20
Texas Rangers assistant pitching analyst Richard Birfer (@richardbirfs) can’t quit baseball and believes that neither should you.

23:20-28:10
Excerpts from a recent Toronto Raptors round table with members of Shapiro’s League of Seven; lawyer and college basketball player Mick Sloniowksi (@MSloniowski), economist and writer Marshall Auerback (@mauerback) and producer and political consultant Jon Reid (@JReid416).

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

Shapiro’s League of Seven: The Day The Sports World Paused

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “The Day The Sports World Paused” (Episode 01)

League members: Marshall Auerback and Mick Sloniowski
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Record: March 17th, 2020.

Subjects covered:

1. The day the sports world disappeared.
2. Flattening the curve; stay-at-home guidelines and cash reinforcements, debt write-offs – how should the world handle this development?
3. The threat of social media when it comes to the disappearance of toilet paper and key goods.
4. Italy and Iran’s total failure; why South Korea’s mandatory testing policy worked right off the bat.
5. Israel cyber-monitoring; deploying cell phone monitoring technology – is that an Orwellian gateway?

Theme: Coffee and Feels (Satin Jackets, Golden Feel, 2020)

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