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: 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.

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