Watchdog Wound Too Tight

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Like Willie Mays stumbling around in the OF for the Mets, or Killer clutching his knee in agony his first game back in the Blue and White, or Insane Clown Posse crediting a Juggalo God for making magnets work on their new single , it's always sad to see the greats go out in a queasy haze of embarrassment.  

The best fade into legendary status, their very presence a reminder of the heights they once scaled. The worst become bitter  and start ranting like Goose Gossage or Jim Rice about how much better things were in their day, that, dammit, they played the game the right way, and hell, if they got back on the mound today, they could still probably hit 90. One of the underappreciated aspects of sports is how well it facilitates this transition - no one puts Espo or Bernie Parent back on NHL ice at 65 to embarrass themselves, no matter how much people love them.

This meritocracy is mostly absent in the non-jock world. In music the Rolling Stones still suck up crowds and cash despite the fact they've now sucked shit for twice as long as they've been good. TNA has let Hogan remake their promotion around a bunch of guys (the nWo, the Nasty Boys) who have hemorrhoids older than 95% of the wrestling audience. In movies, Diane fucking Keaton.

Because journalists don't control their means of production, they have often been shuffled aside in the same fashion as sports stars, if you wait awhile. While a Frank Thomas plays for a couple years after he stops contributing, journalists of a certain stature (paging Allan Fotheringham or Peggy Wente) don't get pushed aside until about 25 years after their sell-by date.  But, eventually, they go away.

However, it seems that now instead of fading away and doing something more worthwhile with their lives, reporters are starting to move into their sons' basements and contributing bitter screeds about how much better things were back in the day before these young whippersnappers with their calculators and whatnot started ruining sports by forcing every single fan to learn calculus.


I know, I know. Right now you're probably wondering "Why are they using the plural here? Why not just write "MURRAY CHASS"?? Well, Murray's got some competition, because Bill Houston - the Unblinking Watchdog, the Agamemnon of the Agate Type - has come back from vacation foaming at the mouth like Old Yeller in the final reel:

  The biggest joke of 2009-10, unfortunately, was the spectacle of James Mirtle attempting to function as a Globe and Mail hockey writer. A statistics wonk with limited journalistic skills, poor James struggled, to say the least.

Mirtle, of course, became Leafs beat writer at roughly the same time Wild Bill exited the Globe. Say it with me kids: CLASSY. Bill goes on to savage Mirtle for a few grafs. While he's right to criticize Mirtle's use of an anonymous source that had since moved on - a frequent and grating device of the Leafs media - it's something Houston utilized scores of times himself during his career.

Besides that, his criticisms are nothing more than baseless, bitter griping about a hack who - in his rookie season - was easily the cream of Leafs mittenstringers. Sure, that's kind of like saying someone is a better sniper than Rickard Wallin, but Mirtle's articles showed a refreshing desire to look at the Leafs and the game from new angles, often using the best of the new statistical work being developed, a welcome departure from the morality plays and retreads on "1967". "it's your fault for caring" and "draft schmaft" that make up the bulk of Leafs coverage.  But Houston didn't stop there. Oh no.

He also wrote this:

I enjoyed the work of Doug MacLean

One more time:

I enjoyed the work of Doug MacLean

A thousand Howard Bergers banging away on a thousand typewriters for a thousand years couldn't come up with something that ridiculous.

Now we know how Marty Jannetty felt.

-A Kim and Godd Joint; Art Direction by Phats Cockstrangla AKA Chemmy


Kim Jorn said:

Lets party like it's 2008 wut wut!

Bllan Aester said:


Peon Daneuf said:

Well, you were certainly right about that "doing something more worthwhile" bit.

Kim Jorn said:

Wait a minute...did we just rip on someone for refusing to gracefully slide into reopening a blog that we shut down with middling fanfare nearly a year ago?

On a related note: When we started this site, Till emailed Mirtle and asked him to link to our little blog. Mirtle refused, because of a comment that we had made about William Houston. The comment in question was actually a joke at our own expense, but Mirtle thought that it crossed the line and chastised us for taking cheap shots at someone who was just doing their job.

What would Alanis say about all this?

mike in boston said:

it's something Houston utilized scores of times himself during his career.

cite the case.

even if you can, from my recollection Houston commented mostly on sports media news, which focuses on ratings and firings and what not. citing anon sources as a way of making a criticism of a sports team and its management is extremely lousy journalism. citing anon sources on contract negotiations is an everyday thing we are all accustomed to. there is a difference which reveals itself if you give the issue more than a passing thought.

CoolJ90 said:

@ mike in boston

I'm not searching around for clips of a writer that I never read while he was employed, but here's a recent link that someone left in the comments section of his other post, where he uses anonymous sources:

looshV said:

What an outstanding article! The Toronto media machine has seemingly lowered itself to a plane which I never new existed. This recent article by Cox which spins the tail of "The Great Manhattan Helicopter Caper" is some of the most irresponsible journalism I have ever laid eyes on. National Enquirer shit.

Bllan Aester said:

Mike in Boston - "Cite the case but errr when you do it'll be totally different because I say so"

Get a clue.

Kim Jorn said:

Alright kids, let's play nice...

I understand what Mike is saying, though disagree that the toy department is somehow held to higher standards than a media critic. Ideally, it sounds nice, but not how it works in practice, where unnamed sources seem to fill the sports pages these days.

The thing with unnamed sources is that it puts the burden on the reader. It's up to the reader to decide whether they trust the reporter/columnist enough to believe that the sources are telling the truth and not just grinding axes. It is, however, the writer's responsibility to build up that trust, and, oddly enough, I respect and trust both Mirtle and Houston because of their work over the years, so I've never really had an issue when either of them cite an unnamed source.

Nats Maslund said:

The anonymous commenter on Houston's post said it all... "You're a fucking idiot. Who are you? I want to fuck your face."

What would have taken me ten paragraphs to say, this guy got out in thirteen words. That is writing.

Sats Mundin said:

Forget about Bill Houston; you guys just come back for good.

Thanks in advance.


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This page contains a single entry by Godd Till published on April 14, 2010 3:15 PM.

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