Ask the Toronto MSMer Bruce Arthur Part 2


Here is the rest of the Q/A with Bruce Arthur:

Stephen Brunt told a story recently of nearly being spat on by Bo Jackson. Have you ever had an athlete treat you as less than human?

Well, nobody’s nearly spit at me yet. But I’ve only been doing this since 2001.

Has any athlete/GM ever confronted you about something you’ve written?

Oh yeah. There have been animated conversations. Part of the job. Brian Burke hasn’t feuded with me yet, though.

Prediction for the Jays W-L totals this season?

Hmm. 85.

Even though as a columnist you deal with a much broader perspective, how difficult is it with current state of pro sports in Toronto?

It’s a hell of a challenge, writing about losing teams over and over and over again. How do you find new words? How do you make it interesting? People think the media loves it when the local teams lose, but that’s not true. We just don’t want them to be boring, ideally. A contender in this town would be a a fun change. I’ve been here since 2001; the Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays have combined to win four playoff series, and none since 2004. The Raptors have one playoff series win in 16 years, and counting. I’ve had a lot of time to learn how to cover bad teams.

Who has had the biggest impact on your career and what columnists do you routinely read and why?

This could be a loooooonng answer. Biggest impact? Hard to say – so many. I grew up reading Sports Illustrated, and loved Leigh Montville, Rick Reilly (really), Frank Deford, William Nack, S.L. Price, Jack McCallum, Gary Smith, Farber, on and on. I adore the writing of Charlie Pierce, though I’ve never met him. Nowadays, the list is just as long. In no particular order: Dan Wetzel at Yahoo, Cole, Brunt, Jeff MacGregor at ESPN, Dave Feschuk, Mike Grange, Simmons , Iain McIntyre in Vancouver… I could go on and on, and I’m missing people I’ll kick myself for later. Short story, I read a LOT. I could seriously go on for about 15 minutes.

Personally, as mentioned above, I’ve learned a great deal from a lot of great journalists. Roy probably more than anybody, just because we view the business and our families in a very similar way, and he’s done more journalism than just about anybody in the country. Brunt too, and Cam. Nobody figures out this business on their own. The biggest impact might be an ex-girlfriend who once asked if I’d like to write for the UBC student paper, when I was young and aimless. I said yes, gave it a shot, never looked back. Thanks, Richelle. I should send her flowers once a year.

What is your assessment of the state and quality of sports journalism today?

Very broad question, but North America-wide, I think there’s so much great work being done that I can’t keep up with it. Yahoo is amazing, just amazing. SI still has real greatness in it. In Canada there is good stuff, and I think it’s great that Sportsnet is investing in writers, both for the web and the magazine. There are problems, and the sand is shifting, but overall there’s a lot of wonderful material being created out there. And not just in newspapers, either. Not even close.

There has been some damning commentary about ESPN’s holding on to the Fine/Davis tape, what is his view re: passing information possibly germane to a criminal investigation on to the authorities and where does he see the line around the ethics of disclosing athletes’ personal information and what the public needs to know.

I think ESPN was wrong to withhold the tape. It’s a slippery and tricky slope, but if I have to choose between aiding a criminal investigation into kids being abused and sitting on a story — well, I couldn’t sleep at night if I let kids get hurt.

If there was one sports figure he could interview who would it be and why?

Again, Ali. Ideally, Ali back before he was virtually silenced.

You used to be a frequent contributor to Bob McCown’s show. Now you are a frequent contributor to James Cybulski’s show. Is it a strange feeling to be on a show that competes directly with a show that you used to appear on? Were you ever close to officially joining the Rogers/590 family instead of the TSN/1050 family?

Without getting into the process, I loved working with Bob and Steve and the Prime Time crew. It’s a great show, the gold standard, and I miss poking Bob when he gets ornery. But weird? No, not really. Different show, different challenge. Cybulski and Bob Mackowycz are a ton of fun to work with, and I’m really enjoying doing the show, and watching it grow. It’s REALLY fun.

What was your appearance on ESPN’s Around The Horn like? Have they ever asked you to appear again? Or did you feel the need to retire undefeated?

It was fun, and confusing – there are a lot of voices in your ear at once. It’s a tricky show to do from a Canadian perspective, though – so much college basketball and football, which I don’t have time to really follow anymore. Later that day my family and I all contracted something resembling the Norwalk virus, so it wasn’t all good. I still talk to the guy in charge, and future collaboration could happen.

You follow over 1,200 people on Twitter and you have posted over 72,000 tweets. How much time do you spend each week on Twitter? How is it possible to follow that many people effectively? I assume you use many different lists

Long answer: I process it all pretty quickly, I don’t agonize over tweets – I just write what comes to mind — and since it’s my primary news source, I basically live there when I’m on the Internet and not researching specific things. I’m there while I work, or after the rest of the family goes to bed, or on my phone when there’s a quiet moment. (My three kids are all under three years old, so everyone else tends to be asleep early.) I should cut back, though, and I know it. Short answer: I can see the Matrix.

Do you have any limits on what you can write in your columns in that vein? Has anybody at the National Post ever told you to just write about the games and that talking about racism, or homophobia isn’t relevant?

Never. I have the best sports editor in the country in Jim Bray, and I’ve received great support from the big wheels above him, too. It’s one of the reasons that the Post is a great place to work. In fact, ask almost anybody who has left the Post if they ever had more fun in the business. I’ve yet to find anybody who has said yes.

HUGE thanks to Bruce for taking the time.

So, who do you want next?


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April 5, 2012 6:02 am

Great stuff! Thanks Bruce and TSM.

sam in oshawa
sam in oshawa
April 5, 2012 7:26 am

What am i missing, was that great stuff? Damien Cox has to be next.

April 5, 2012 8:57 am

Sam is that really necessary? If you don’t find these articles interesting…you are on the wrong website.

Nan Young
Nan Young
April 5, 2012 10:17 am

The idiosyncratic Cathal Kelly should be next. As Mike Wilner said recently,
Kelly doesn’t think like other sports writers.

April 5, 2012 11:21 am

“Damien Cox has to be next.”

Please no. I’d rather hear from the junior copy editor at the Sudbury Star.

Rick M.
Rick M.
April 5, 2012 12:23 pm

I give credit to Bruce Arthur for taking time to participate in this Q&A.

Unfortunately I have not been too impressed with him overall as I find him to be quite smug and holier than thou. Whether it’s fair or not, the term ‘champagne socialist’, strikes me as a good description of his persona.

I have not heard him on radio for a while but the last time I did he was complaining about Ron Wilson announcing his contract extension via twitter around Christmas. He essentially argued that it was unfair to the media to announce it during the holidays as it disrupted their personal lives because they had to cover the story. He suggested that Wilson should be more considerate to the media.

I can agree that a coach should be considerate to the media but Arthur’s argument was very petty and weak. It was an smug and obnoxious example of a member of the media trying to impose their ideals on someone else.

Hey Bruce, you are supposed to be a professional, not a child whining about someone being mean to you or disrupting your holidays. It’s part of your job sometimes. If you fancy yourself as having the high moral ground, then act like it. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to conform to your standards.

I realize this is an old story to comment on but felt the point was still valid.


April 5, 2012 1:14 pm

‘champagne socialist’ Hmm, does that sound like someone who writes for the National Post…?

I really don’t understand your criticism of Arthur calling Wilson out for his Christmas tweeting of his contract extention. Clearly, this was a provocative move by Wilson – to further antagonize the media he had already alienated with his smugness and general jerkish behavour over the years. It was a childish move on Wilson’s part because he knew that reporters would have to cover it – during Christmas. It was no skin of his back – Wilson just sent out a smug tweet and sat down in front of the fireplace. He just wanted to stir the shit, and Arthur (and many others) thought it was a petty and unnecessary move, especially when Wilson had actually received the extention weeks before. They were right, imo.

mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
April 5, 2012 2:01 pm

i’m with Curt — the Wilson tweet speaks to the kind of person Wilson is, and the seemingly undying motivation he has to antagonize other professionals in his field. A mostly undiscussed aspect of Wilson’s tweet is that it is highly likely that Burke was complicit in the scheme. I’m sure they discussed how/when to release the information. It speaks to Burke’s character as well.

Rick M.
Rick M.
April 5, 2012 2:37 pm

Curt/Mike – I don’t disagree with your assessments of Wilson or Burke. My main point is that stories do not break when it is convenient for a particular member of the media, or the media at large.

Maybe I’m being too hard on Arthur, but I expect the media to be tough-minded, have some backbone, and deal with inconveniences professionally.
Openly complaining, whining, and expecting a breaking news story to fit one’s own schedule does not impress me. I expect better.


April 5, 2012 2:54 pm

I hear you, Rick. But news rarely breaks at Christmas, unless it’s an earthquake. Wilson created news by announcing something that was decided weeks before, just to be a dink and to stick it to the media that he loathes. That wouldn’t impress me – I expect better.

April 5, 2012 5:10 pm

You also have to consider that the NHL goes dark for Xmas, presumably so that players and staff can have time to spent time with their families etc. And you have Burke’s self-created freezes “to be fair to his players.”

Wilson’s actions would seem to fly in the face of those moves, especially when, as mentioned, it had already been agreed to and was up to Wilson himself when the news was announced.

That’s not quite the same as a member of the press being on-call for real news and having to miss Xmas functions with their family because there was a death or accident or the like.

sam in oshawa
sam in oshawa
April 5, 2012 5:34 pm

@ James, I was very interested in the Q.A. Did not find the answers all that compelling. Safin, great Q. he did not answer it. Move to TSN, would not get into the process of the move. My Q. for him, why his dislike for Tim Tebow and his religious beliefs? I enjoy reading all the posts, i cannot articulate a thought as well as others can, but i try. James look forward to reading all of your future posts.

Ami Angelwings
April 5, 2012 6:07 pm

Yay! Bruce responded to part of my really really long question! 😀

April 6, 2012 9:51 pm

To be honest Sam I generally agree, I wasn’t really satisfied with all the answers either.

I appreciate such a respectful response as well. My thinking is more about how interesting these are overall and what a cool unique feature to have on the site.

So I figure we should show appreciation for the MSMers participating, which they really have no obligation or incentive except doing us a favor:

sam in oshawa
sam in oshawa
April 7, 2012 10:39 am

James, agreed. It is a bit of extra duty for whoever involved, appreciation to all.


[…] to blogs far and wide, including this one. If you haven’t checked it out, here is part 1 and part 2 of a Q&A he did with us a few years back. (You can also check out DAMIAN COX’S IF YOU […]

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