The feature on Gregg Zaun at ESPN.com kind of touches on some personal and professional frustrations.
For starters, it was the second time in about a week a U.S. publication had a profile on a Jay that you're probably unlikely to read in a Canadian newspaper any time soon. Please don't take that as a slam. Yours truly is guiltier than most of failing to change that across the past decade. Bear in mind, though, there's the layers of senior editors and publishers who care more about catering to functioning illiterates* than chewing on the old Dan Jenkins adage, "The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter."
Most importantly, there's what people are willing to share. Americans, since they're so big on celebrity and redemption, are very much into the whole idea of a public confessional, while Canadians favour stiff-upper-lip stoicism and not wanting anyone to know your business, since we all know each other, right?
Not only that, but the sports writing culture in Canada has always been geared toward being shallow. Taking sports seriously, putting it in a larger context, is just too, too American. So the horizon becomes the doors of a hockey arena. It's as if you couldn't expect a Canadian to write about sports the way the best U.S. writers do, unless their name is Stephen Brunt -- and he's just as rooted in the Brit all-things-considered approach, besides.
That's why, as previously noted, there is no Canadian equivalent to Will Leitch. It never changes. A fellow writer who went to journalism school in the late '70s telling this story. Around that time, The Globe and Mail wanted a young sports columnist since dour dispatches of who won and who scored had become passe (although, three decades on, you can still pick up a the sports section of a daily in a small city -- the Brantford Expositor, to give a random example -- and find the same old tired story).
What did they do? Instead of trying to find out if there was a Canadian version of Rick Telander, they got an American, Allen Abel. It never changes.
Anyway, there is a levelling effect that comes with reading about Zaunie's time in a bottle. In 2004, when he'd just been released by the Expos, Zaunie was not much different from a certain sports editor at a small-town daily who was also "wasted way too many nights at the bar."
Now one of those guys is making more than $3 million a year. Perhaps there is hope yet.
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