North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

On why Mr. LeBreton’s Olympic Memoirs Are Shitty Journalism

with 6 comments

Maybe you’ve read it, maybe you’ve just heard about it. Maybe not.

On the 28th, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a column written by a Gil LeBreton, a 30-year vet of the sports beat.

Well, in all his years, LeBreton thought he had seen it all. He had seen Ali box, had seen Paul Newman race a car… yes, a full career for the paunchy newspaperman.

But then he went to Vancouver to cover the Olympic Games… and, well, let’s let his column speak for itself.

“After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.
Flags were everywhere. The country’s national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone’s clothing.
Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.”

See, Canada? Our feverish show of support to what amounted to the home team really rang home to this columni…

“But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”

What, what? Did he just compare the Vancouver games to one held in Nazi Germany, which you’ll remember, systematically murdered tens of millions of people for no reason at all?

Um yeah. And it wasn’t just flag waving that hurt that sensitive newsman’s heart.

“There is no earthly event that reinforces that notion as well as an Olympic Games. For all of the latter-day Games’ inherent commercialism, that ideal persists. I truly believe that.
It persists, despite the overwhelming chauvinism of the past two weeks.”
They showed us Canadian Games, all right. And in most cases, nothing but Canadian Games.
I’m not talking about TV coverage. I have no idea what Bob Costas and NBC were televising back in the States.”

That’s right, he was offended by Canadian TV.

But from the opening ceremony to Sunday’s closing, from the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili to Sunday’s gold-medal hockey game, on the streets of Vancouver and at the Olympic venues, only a token nod was given to the rest of the world’s athletes.

Which so unfairly gave preferential treatment to Canadian athletes. Not because it was showing support or even to drum up ratings; no it was a case of chauvinism, a direct attack on the poor people around the world, stuck watching Jay Onrait, Vic Rauter and Pierre McGuire.

I was as surprised as I was disappointed.

I’m sorry, Lebreton, that you couldn’t watch more American athletes, what with your media pass and all. I’m sorry you were forced to watch Canadian television that was showing Canadian athletes to a Canadian audience. We should have thought of your feelings.

Had the classic Canadian inferiority complex finally decided to bite back? Or was this a dark consequence of the Own the Podium program?

It actually was a “Dark Consequence”, like when an alien species thought they could use robotics… and became the Borg.

At the Games’ outset, Canada’s obsession with finally winning its first gold medal as a host nation was understandable — quaint, almost.

Hear that Canada? He’s not just offended, he’s also patronizing, too! We can win gold too and become a real country like the US of A!

But that story swiftly swept the luge tragedy off the front pages. There were no follow-up stories about investigations, memorials or retributions to the family.

You’re right, Mr. LeBreton. There weren’t any followups on the accident at all.

Mr. LeBreton then rehashes a list of Americans that won medals, then hits us with another gem:

But a lot happened that didn’t make the front pages of the Vancouver newspapers or find its way into the Canadian TV network’s opening montage.

Again, sorry Mr. LeBreton. Sorry that the Canadian media so callously overlooked Americans and reported instead on Canadians. I can see the mistake now.

But for the most part, the most underappreciated soul at these Olympics was an American or a European on the medals stand.
Yes, every host nation cheers lustily for its native Olympians. But never in my experience to the extent that we saw here, where the rest of the world’s athletes were little more than drink coasters at the party.

So, basically, Mr. LeBreton is offended that Canadians only cheered for team Canada. As opposed to the United States, where they cheer everybody equally.

Chief organizer of the Games, John Furlong, mentioned Kumaritashvili briefly in his Closing Ceremony remarks. But the hosts’ insensitivity had long ago been duly noted.

At a news conference Saturday, for example, someone asked Ken Melamed, mayor of Whistler, where the luge run was located, if the village planned some sort of memorial to the luger from Georgia.
Why, yes, the mayor said, “We have to find a way to acknowledge Nodar… and the Canadian athletes that have done well.”

My old friend, the ellipses. In journalism school, they teach you to use those to bridge two quotes together. You know, to save space. Or clumsily attempt to make a point.

The Vancouver Games’ ticketing policy didn’t help the partisan scene at the venues. To order Olympic tickets through the Vancouver 2010 Web site, a buyer had to have a Canadian address.

Goddamn those Canadians, only selling tickets to Canadian people through a website. We really should have opened ticket sales to people who don’t live in Canada and just hope they show up.

China sold 6.8 million tickets to its 2008 Summer Olympics. Vancouver only made 1.6 million available. The Canadians wanted to “Own the Podium,” but organizers made sure that they owned the grandstands at each venue as well.

See that? Not only are Canadians Nazis, we’re also Communists too! (Never mind that the summer olympics has many many more events and thusly tickets to give. Mr. LeBreton is an expect on these matters.)

There was embracing, all right, but then Canadians have always had the reputation for drinking a lot of beer. The loose marijuana laws only added to the nightly revelry in the downtown streets — which, frankly, seemed to have little to do with the Olympics.

Frankly, this seems to have little to do with your thesis, Mr. Lebreton.

Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.
One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

You know, because generic logo t-shirts are big sellers. Thats why the NBA’s best-selling jersey is Dick Bavetta’s.

I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.

I’m afraid I missed the swastikas at the Vancouver games.

No political reference is meant, just an Olympic one. What on earth were the Canadians thinking?
An Olympic host is supposed to welcome the world. This one was too busy being (their word) “patriotic.”

I forgot, the host country of the Olympics are supposed to be neutral.

No jokes here. Nazi Germany was a horrific regime, perhaps the most so in recorded history. They killed tens of millions in death camps, started a world war, bombed the hell out of the countries they couldn’t invade and were basically as repugnant as they get. Invoking them in an argument is not only simple, it’s misguided and offensive. It only demonstrates how poor of a journalist that Mr. LeBreton is when he couldn’t think of a more apt comparison. By invoking such an argument, he is demonstrating an utter disregard for his profession; he is so lazy that he jumps to the most extreme example there is.

You are a bad writer and a worse journalist, Mr. Lebreton. You should be ashamed of yourself, especially after a piss-poor apology that was written to show how nice of a guy you really are. You should be ashamed, at the very least.

But then, your column shows you’re incapable of it.


Written by M.

March 4, 2010 at 1:42 am

6 Responses

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  1. He’s a sports-writer. It’s not exactly synonymous with “thinker”…or in his case, “human being.”



    March 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm

  2. Thanks! I hope he reads it, but I doubt he’d care enough to bother.


    March 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm

  3. Gil LeBreton’s post-Olympics column trivialized the Holocaust and called sports fans “Nazis” for wearing team jerseys. That pretty much makes LeBreton the worse person in sports.


    March 4, 2010 at 11:37 pm

  4. I agree with stricktmachine – this is easily the best response I have read anywhere to this article. And, lets be honest, I’ve read quite a few responses because I’m as enraged as the next Canadian.

    Very, very nice job.


    March 5, 2010 at 1:08 am

  5. The “paper” he works for has already pulled the free speech card so there’s little chance they will fire him. Best to contact all the advertisers for that rag and inform them what drivel they proudly print.


    March 5, 2010 at 5:05 am

  6. That’s a fair comment. I know some of CTV’s coverage was certainly pushing it – the little movie about hockey where the dad said “Second place isn’t good enough, Third Place and don’t even come home” (or something to that effect). But I think LeBreton went too far with his comparison; you made the point far more succinctly then he did.


    March 7, 2010 at 3:17 am

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