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Usual Suspects

Twitterdom remains a minefield for those in the sports world Add to ...

Twitterdom remains a minefield for those in the sports world, especially for writers who should know better. Noted FOX columnist Jason Whitlock is the latest to trip up. Whitlock decided the best way to celebrate the exploits of NBA rookie sensation Jeremy Lin, who is a Californian of Chinese extraction, was to make a stereotyped sexual reference about Lin. Needless to say Whitlock’s attempt at wit fell flat when it was pointed out that he, as a black man, should be more sensitive to such juvenile sexual humour.

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Whitlock, who has long written about racial tensions in sports and society - often in a compelling fashion - apologized. “I suspect Lin makes Asian Americans feel the way I feel when I watch Tiger (Woods) play golf,” Whitlock wrote. I should've realized that Friday night when I watched Lin torch the Lakers. For Asian Americans and a lot of sports fans, his nationally televised 38-point outburst was the equivalent of Tiger's first victory in The Masters. I got caught up in the excitement. I tweeted about what a great story Lin is and how he could rival Tim Tebow.

“I then gave in to another part of my personality — my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It's been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother's Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian.” Keep the day job, Jason. (Lin, meanwhile, seems to have earned a job with the Knicks after torching Toronto Tuesday night.)

Whitlock is fortunate that he apparently hasn’t been suspended or fired by FOX for his gaffe. CNN political contributor Roland Martin, who is also black, was suspended by the network when he let his Twitter muse wander while watching soccer star David Beckham model men’s underwear in a Super Bowl ad. Martin suggested red-blooded men interested in the commercial, which shows Beckham wearing nothing but his gotchies, needed a smack upside the head. Gay and lesbian groups protested, and Martin was sent to the sidelines indefinitely by CNN.

This week, Minnesota Wild prospect Justin Fontaine was suspended for two games for a gay slur he made on Twitter. “My apologies to everyone, it was wrong. Twitter rookie and it came out totally wrong. It was a roommate battle, nothing more. #sorry.” The incidents follow the highly publicized Twitter crashes here in Canada from TSN broadcaster Dave Hodge (and the column meltdown from Gazette freelance columnist Jack Todd).

It’s clear that not everyone understands how the social media site works and that it is being monitored by special interest groups for careless posts. To paraphrase, you may not have an interest in political correctness but political correctness has an interest in you and your tweets.

It’s also interesting that Martin and Whitlock, visible minorities themselves who deal often on the subject of race, are being caught in this fashion. Finally, it’s apparent that not all media or sports organizations react in similar fashion. Martin and Fontaine were suspended or publicly reprimanded, but Whitlock, Hodge and Todd were not.

Earning Their Supper: CBC TV Sports has long had a strong bullpen of talent that we only got to see on weekends or during the Olympics. But the network, which faces significant funding pressures in the near future, is finding a way to parlay the expertise of talents such as Scott Russell, Brenda Irving and others during the weekday regional suppertime news programs. The department, which has long guarded its autonomy and personnel, is providing a packaged sports summary using Russell, Irving and Andi Petrillo to the regional stations that do not have a local sportscaster. (The CBC dumped this long-standing feature on its supper and late-night shows years ago.)

“We don't want 13 markets all recording and reporting on a big game or event (i.e.. all-star games or world championships) as it duplicates resources being used all over CBC,” says Chris Irwin, executive producer of sports content at CBC Sports. “So it is the latest step in evolution of CBC as ‘the content company’ to better use our resources to cover things of wide interest, and to allow local resources to fully focus on the story in their market.”

Irwin points out that CBC’s sportscasts will cover Olympic or amateur sports that don’t always get face time on TSN or Sportsnet casts, which are typically skewed to pro sports. “It covers Canadian in competition in sports that are not always covered by sports channels - lining up with CBC SportsWeekend priorities for amateur coverage.”

Rivals Again: God bless Phil Mickelson. The early PGA Tour season had worse reviews than Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. No star power. All the big names playing in the desert in the Middle East. Tiger Woods nowhere to be found. Then Mickelson schooled Tiger by 11 strokes while playing together in the final of the AT&T Pebble Beach clambake on his way to the title. We now have our narrative. The California kids in a death match at the Masters and on.

CBS’s final round coverage, featuring Mickelson and Woods, earned a 5.1 overnight rating Sunday, up 96 per cent from last year and up 200 per cent from 2010.

We should have foreseen Woods’ epic collapse at Pebble Beach. His celebrity partner was Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo, also noted for spitting out the bit down the stretch.

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