I used to call myself the Last Bastion.
And perhaps I was – there until the bitter end, the day the Daily News closed down after 99 years. At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do, or whether I’d even be able to stay in Rupert. Things worked out – I stayed, and then a nice surprise arrived in my lap (or should I say laptop) – Muskeg News.
And then that Bastion ended too. Funny. I used to joke about the curse of the Chicago Cubs, or for anyone, for that matter, who happens to call Cleveland home (and don’t even get me started about the Canucks). But now, I can’t help wondering … is it me?
One thing I looked forward to every week at the Daily News was writing my sports column. It was the one time during the week I didn’t have to go 100 per cent local, although even occasionally in my column, I would remain local, sometimes even, controversial (Hockeyville anyone?). But when Muskeg started soaking my veins, the creative juices were nixed. Sort of. Oh yeah I could write a feature, and go all-magazine-like (or novella, as is the case of my last story regarding McMillan), but I was restricted to the boundaries of Kaien Island.
Only once was I allowed the freedom of writing a column, and that was in celebration of Santa.
And then all of a sudden, with yet another tombstone invading my screen-saver, Muskeg gives in, and allows me one final column. About anything sporty. Anything? But why bother? How can I predict something, or anything, when 48 hours from now, I may never write another sports story again?
Never you say? Yeah, never. Sportswriting is dead. Newspapers are almost Jurassic-like, and their sports sections (with the odd exception) are printed more out of spite than out of necessity. And unless you read the Province every day (but really, is that LOCAL sports? Nope, of course not), what newspaper actually gives a darn about sports anymore?
But over the past year, I have heard one common refrain from the average Rupertite – they miss local sports coverage. Clubs like the swim club, skating club, curling club, you name it – they feel like they’re invisible these days, and they struggle to get the word out about what they’re doing. It is tough, I understand that – it’s not just Rupert where this is occurring.
Yet, for a year with Muskeg, I was able to at least keep the beat alive. It wasn’t the wall-to-wall coverage the Daily News was able to deliver (and I’m talking about the entire history of the paper, not just my tenure there) when it came to local sports, but at least it was something. Rupert still had a pulse.
But what now? What will happen when endless Rainmaker teams (both male and female) start racking up provincial basketball banners left and right, now that we only have one high school? And what about other banners? I think a provincial banner could come as early as this November, with senior girls volleyball – fine Muskeg, there’s a prediction.
Want another? Our track and field team finally rips it up and takes the title away from Smithers, something that just hasn’t happened, ever (or at least not in recent memory). Or how about this: with one high school, the Rainmakers rugby team continues to strengthen, which eventually translates into a tournament victory for the Seaman.
Or how about this one? Somebody from the Rupert Rapids Club (I’m not singling anyone out, because this prediction could have multiple names attached to it) wins a medal at nationals. Check that – several medals. Meanwhile, our own Adrian Liu is off to the Olympics in London. I don’t know if he can duplicate the heroics of Hazelton’s Carol Hyunh from 2008, but a medal is possible for him too.
But it always comes back to basketball doesn’t it? And now that we have one high school, the Rainmakers will be on everyone’s radar, and somebody from here will one day head off and play Division I basketball in the NCAA. NBA? That dream is a lot closer thanks to the success of Steve Nash, and I would love to see that too. That dream may be a little tough.
And yet, what about the NHL? Wouldn’t that be ironic, a Rupertite making it to the dance? But there are two Rupertites who have outside shots at it as we speak – Devin Oakes and Frank Slubowski. I watched both of these players when they were dominating the ice at the peewee level, and it hasn’t stopped them yet.
As for major league sports’ predictions that Muskeg would finally allow in this final waltz, well, the Canucks will win the Cup before I die. I plan to live to the age of 80. That gives them…never mind. In all honesty, their best shot to win it is this year. The Northwest division is awful, and Detroit is fading. Boston won’t be as good this year, so if the ‘Nucks are ever going to hoist the Cup, 2012 has to be it (and it would be fitting, since the Mayans have always predicted the end of the world will come in 2012. So while we’re at it, maybe I should predict the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl, and the Chicago Cubs win the 2012 World Series … nah. I’m not that crazy).
But here’s a prediction for you, speaking of the end of the world: remember that crazy religious zealot Camping? In 1994, he predicted the end of the world. The end never came. Then, the Canucks proceeded to lose Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals and the city rioted. But then, the B.C. Lions, in a year that nobody expected them to do it, won the Grey Cup on home turf – the last time any team, CFL or NFL, won the big prize in their home park.
Hm, sense a theme here? Camping, May 2011, predicts the end of the world. Doesn’t happen. Canucks then lose Game 7, and the city riots. The Lions then start the season 1-6, and … yup, you guessed it. Grey Cup is in Van-City this November, and the Lions will be hoisting it.
Other predictions? The Blue Jays pull an American League “one-off” and win the pennant in 2012. In retaliation, both the Yankees and Red Sox then sign all of their free agents during the 2012 off-season (see Tampa Bay, circa 2010). Meanwhile, teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City continue to suck, and we won’t even mention those lovable Cubbies (besides, we did earlier, didn’t we?)
The NBA lock-out ends just in time to sneak a 50-game season in, and once again, Lebron chokes in the playoffs, this time to Oklahoma, against Kevin Durant who actually did the un-Lebron thing, and re-signed with the team that drafted him.
In football, the prophesy of Rich Jerstad (watch my Channel 10 show, North Coast Sports Talk, if you don’t know what I’m talking about – I know, shameless plug) comes true, as 6-10 wins the awful NFC West, and then, that team (likely Arizona) wins its first playoff game. But Green Bay repeats as Super Bowl champs (sorry Detroit and Buffalo fans).
Meanwhile, on the local front (hey I had to bring it all back eventually) the Rampage barely scrape by into the post-season, but pull off a first-round upset before succumbing in the second round.
As for yours truly? He sadly pushes his pen aside, and hopes his TV show grows enough in popularity that one day, maybe five years from now, he will once again get to write a sports column. Or maybe, by some strange miracle, the print media suddenly undergoes a Camping-like revelation and realizes that wait a minute – local sports coverage does matter! – and Witwicki can be happy again.
After all, like I said, I am the Last Bastion. Right?
~Written by Patrick “Last Bastion” Witwicki