Terry Ott: Personal Observations in the Wake of Suit

Terry Ott files a follow-up regarding the law suit in Canada and Arland Bruce.  This is his commentary on the coverage of the issue; all information, illustrations, pictures and links are his.



“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle

The irony of the American-based Concussion Blog breaking one of the biggest stories about the Canadian Football League in recent memory when it exclusively revealed the first concussion lawsuit in CFL history, is certainly very rich.

Prior to D-Day, July 16, 2014, much of the Canadian sports media didn’t know too much about concussions, and, well, seemingly, they didn’t wanna know too much. Or, as they also mused in the movie Casino, “ah,why take a chance?”

And of course there is that lovely old Buddhist proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Maybe that’s what most of the big time scribblers and jolly jock-sniffers were up to up here prior to the Bruce legal revelation but since most would not even talk to me, how would I really know?

However, after Andrew Bucholtz of the Yahoo! Canada 55 Yard Line CFL Blog gave the story of the Bruce lawsuit nation-wide coverage mere hours after it first appeared here, the story became a talking point throughout Canada for days as well as shaking the previously comfortably cocooned CFL , who may have been alerted to the Concussion Blog post by a trusty and observant friendly just shortly after it went live from Chicago at 12:32 EDT, on July 16. 

TSN Logo.svgYet TSN (The Sports Network), and the CFL’s exclusive English language Canadian broadcaster, appeared to playing a kind of goal-line defense on this one from the get-go, but especially on July 17, the day after news of the hard charging tort invasion secured a wide beachhead on coast to coast Canadian media.

First, TSN football feature writer and radio and TV personality Dave Naylor interviewed  Bruce’s attorney, Robyn L. Wishart on the TSN national radio network and though he did at first note some of Bruce’s many superb on field
accomplishments, he then conducted the interview in a kind of bang a gong fashion that some thought left little to the imagination about how he felt about the circumstances or even merits of the lawsuit itself.

In other words, he sounded as though he was not too impressed and even sort of talk-radio ambushed Wishart with archived sound clips of Bruce III on the sideline agitating to get back into the game after he had been injured in 2012. Yet anyone who knows anything  about concussive brain injury knows Naylor’s seemingly insinuated premise about Bruce’s actions during that game are factually and demonstratively unsound, to be kind. 

And when Wishart rather innocently asked Naylor in the same interview if he knew what CTE was, well, Mr. Naylor appeared to reply in a quasi condescending manner, as if, don’t worry little lady, of course I know! (Although readers of this space may recall that he invoked an e-mail omerta and sure did not want to talk to your correspondent about CTE and related issues despite multiple, confirmed, attempts last month.)

Plus, I would suspect that Wishart, trained in highly researched  brain injury issues, knows more about CTE and TBI than Naylor ever might want, or even desire to. Not to mention he may have been talking out of his arse, legal-wise.
(He kept referring  to a lawsuit against the “Canadian Football League,” when in fact, legally, it is the member teams.)

Then, several hours later during a CFL pre-game show on the TSN TV network, dutiful Dave duly doubled
down on Bruce and the lawsuit with an almost “gotcha” point of reference regarding Bruce’s actions after his concussion(s) and even after Bruce was out of football.

Here’s a sample:

Naylor – “When they (Montreal Alouettes) cut him (Bruce) in February, he expressed a desire to play this year. So months ago, he was looking for a job. Now, he’s suing the league (and) that’s…a little curious, I guess.”

Panel Host Rod Smith,a solid, veteran TSN cadre, immediately replying  “Ah, very curious, indeed, and I’ll be curious to see how far this goes, if anywhere, from here.”

(Surprisingly, or perhaps not, unsubstantiated allegations about Bruce engaging in near pre-lawsuit filing CFL job hunting, and first reported by one of the CFL TSN reporters in Vancouver during a radio show wherein Wishart was again interviewed, were not exactly announced as such during the TV panel discussion. For more details, see very bottom of this post.)

Well, at least Rod, God bless him, is so curious if not still very cautious! Even though his “anywhere” may end up everywhere for many former CFL players scattered throughout Canada and the United States who are TBI damaged.

In a satirical way, perhaps the only thing missing from the July 17 pre-game panel barely 3 minute Bruce related gab-fest was Commissioner Cohon on set, clutching an adorable Saskatchewan Rough Rider Gainer The Gopher mascot doll to his wounded breast, with a tear trickling down his cheek as Naylor belted out Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Palpable nonsense, to be sure, so we shall certainly countenance no more of that heretical here, for now.

Of course even in a non-parody way, TSN would or could be expected to stick up for their poor little sister in perhaps the same way that The NFL Network has done for its master in the United States.

However,with apologies to the Bard, to shill or not to shill: that is still the question for Canuck media.

While at the same time it must certainly be acknowledged that despite the Bruce issue, and for the most part, TSN and it’s  announcers and commentators do a good job of covering and promoting the CFL with relatively limited resources when compared to the US networks that carry the NFL, or caress it. 

TSN, one of the better Canadian broadcast outfits, is certainly not a Micky-Mouse operation and this year marks its 30th year in the sports loop. They were the first CFL broadcaster to cover every CFL game played and decided quite early on to push for an end to the old destructive black-out policy. By most accounts, they have mostly done the CFL well.

And one member of the TSN team, former HOF QB Matt Dunigan, featured here in Sneer and Loafing in the CFL last month, as well as someone who actually knows what it’s like to get the old noggin knocked out, really did distinguish himself regarding concussion and the aftermath during this contentious Bruce affair. 

Commenting on a recent, vicious head hit on a Hamilton quarterback that resulted in a severe
concussion, Dunigan said during the TSN CFL game telecast also on July 17 that the hit in question was just
wrong and added “You got to change the culture, change the target zone. He (the concussed QB) is still payin’ for that one.” Yes, and maybe like Matt has experienced himself, unfortunately for the rest of his natural life.

Notwithstanding Dunigan’s refreshing candor and important viewpoint, I mean, gee, it’s (sort of) a free country up here so TSN and Naylor et al can say pretty much say whatever the hell they want, well-informed or not. And get paid handsomely for it, too.  (At least Dunigan made some sense on the overriding issue, saying the hit on the Hamilton QB was not “controversial,” but rather uncalled for, and should be part of the whole debate surely about to engulf the CFL).

Yet on the entire concussion issue in the CFL aren’t some of these TSN guys and others in the media behaving in a near  myopic and Flat Earth Society fashion? On the wrong side of history? At the very least getting up on the wrong side of the bed even if it turns out that Mr. Bruce specifically is not an ideal or even ultimately successful plaintiff? 

Or, do some of them just simply not personally care much for Mr. Bruce who certainly caused a few reckless
ruckuses including making politically incorrect Twitter musings whilst he was in the league but at the same time
lighting  it up and setting records-not really mentioned recently by TSN – but who now finds himself in a not ideal life and health situation and possibly engaging in further erratic or irrantional behavior that could affect his case.

Hello! That’s what people with TBI tend to do!

And it must not be overlooked that essential to the nuts and bolts of the Bruce statement of claim is the CFL’s handling of their own medical evidence on concussion injury and their so-called 2011 Concussion “Initiatives,” which the pleadings claim affected Mr. Bruce’s decision to play in 2012 and 2013, but had nothing to do with the possibly of him resuming play in 2014. In every interview I have heard, or read, Wishart reminds the inquisitor of the above.
Or, as a pop comparison, and as the Who once noted in song, it’s (strictly) a legal matter, baby. A legal matter, now.

(Furthermore, any chance of Bruce now returning to the CFL are about as good as your correspondent being hired by the  league as a charming PR weasel, so we can just simply forget about all that back to the future noise & nonsense.) 

Plus, even non-legal abstractly, would dubious Dave and his kind not have at the very least some empathy for a brain-damaged human being regardless if he was known during his productive and very entertaining playing days for shooting his occasionally misguided mouth and tweets off from time to ill-advised time and for which he paid a considerable price for?

But please! How unusual is it for a star football player to run his wacky mouth, be controversial, especially in the wild and wooly CFL? Of course it is not historically uncommon at all and usually guys like Naylor give such athletic and other buffoonery a perfunctory old boy nod, which everyone knows is as good as a wink to a blind horse.

Yet whatever the reason(s) now, it almost – that’s “almost” for you interested party solicitors out there – appeared as if Naylor and host Smith and others were attempting on July 17 to shape the court of public opinion on the Bruce case way before it got anywhere near a real courtroom. And interesting as well, that nary a pesky peep from any of the Bruce-skeptical TSN boys on the additional, named co-defendants, the good doctor Charles Tator, and his trusty weird science sidekick Leo Ezerins, who are also importantly central to the Bruce pleadings.(Leo, CFL Alumni com. director, even has the distinction of being named second in a list of 15 defendants in the lawsuit, just behind the Commish. And it ain’t sequenced alphabetically, FYI.)

Yet if the CFL or TSN or anyone else for that matter believes a friendly television and radio network can successfully assist in the linguistic ligation for the defense of this (first) concussion lawsuit, then I’d reckon them ultimately wrong.

Oh, and just as ominous for the CFL, some current players are  starting to privately talk out of turn about the league’s so-called “initiatives” towards concussion. See, what the happy shinning people sometimes holding CFL hands at TSN and other media don’t usually say is that similar to any employee/employer relationship, the players do not always/ever trust management to do the right thing and that could spell a festering, metastasizing band of malcontents scenario for ownership who in this day and age of social media are frankly nuts if they think they can suppress free speech from anyone, especially anyone like a player with a dog in the hunt. And as well, it is a scenario tailor-made for a bunch of athlete Deep Throats to whisper scandalously in a timely fashion into a now better late than never journos’ open if not still waxy ears.

And when the BC Lions management, according to media reports, tells its players to zip it over Bruce, where is the (publicly stated) outrage from the CFLPA? Just what kind of players “union” is that? An actual relevant one? Boys, have a gander at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1981) under the heading, “Freedom of Expression.”

Yet as far as the Bruce affair goes, and as Sir Winston once observed: “Now this is not the end.It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

And listen, in addition, your correspondent subscribes personally to what Senator George McGovern once said of the late, great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, “he didn’t always have his facts right, but he got the truth better than anyone.” 

Yet just in case I’ve sometime gone terribly fact astray and got the truth horribly wrong about TSN and Dave/Rod and wagons and Gophers and deniers and such, please give an even, reasoned listen below-T Rex glam gettin’ it on and all-and then afterwards discuss calmly and rationally amongst yourselves and make your own measured conclusions:

TSN PodcastCentre

AND, of important note, the TSN Vancouver TEAM 1040 radio outlet incident also on July 17 with host Blake Price’s co-host, Frahan Lalji, a TSN sideline reporter, making serious, but so far unsubstantiated allegations about Bruce seeking employment with the CFL concurrently to the compiling of the lawsuit and Price admittedly describing  the interview as a “firing squad” aimed at interviewee and Bruce lawyer, Robyn Wishart, who did not confirm or deny Lalji’s allegations about Bruce trying to very recently return to the CFL. Again, she urged interested parties to read the claim.

However, if it in fact Lalji’s allegations turn out to be accurate-and if they are they should be duly, officially disclosed; Bruce, and Wishart have got some sticky splainin’ to do which may be hard for the general football following public to swallow even if technically playing or looking to play and suing was possible, if for no other reason than the optics would not look, ah, too good. Even if, again, one of the central tenants of Wishart’s pleadings on behalf of Bruce is he was not necessarily always making rational decisions due to his previous concussion injuries.

But again, as detailed above, this affair will  ultimately be settled in a court or by settlement, not on TV, newspaper, or the Internet. Hopefully, TSN and all other media will at least give Mr. Bruce, and anyone filing after him, a fair hearing.


One thought on “Terry Ott: Personal Observations in the Wake of Suit

  1. phil colwell July 25, 2014 / 12:14

    if he plays again he ruins the respect of many of us older veterans of the CFL who suffered concussions; and suffer the results years later. he is too young for me to believe he is going thru what i am; (I played in the early eighties).

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