Mistakes

Jonathan Willis
April 10 2009 10:01AM

ron-and-don

I read Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff last night. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a read for quite some time – as often as I disagree with Cherry he’s an entertaining guy, and a guy who worked for everything he has now; when I read about him as a minor league player I see a life much tougher than my own, and for that matter much tougher than the lives of almost all the players these days.

It’s a wide-ranging book, with a stream of consciousness feel, and I’ll probably be referring to it off and on in my posts here. Today I want to refer to it because Cherry said something in it that I understand to some degree, and that I think Brownlee and Gregor would agree with too (more than me, for that matter – they’ve been doing similar work longer and in more places).

Here’s the excerpt:

I was out havin’ a couple of pops with a buddy after the 2008 playoffs and he said, “The playoffs have been over for five days and you’re still gettin’ ripped in the paper for not giving Sidney Crosby credit on ‘Coach’s Corner’ and praising Gary Roberts to the moon. Does it ever get you down? I had to admit when I first started on TV, it really did get me down. As I told you before, my first rip job was from a reporter I admired and he did a real hatchet job on me. It was a beauty. It threw me off so much I really didn’t know if I could go back on TV. But I bit the bullet and went back and did my best. And I found the longer I was on, the more I got ripped, the thicker my hide got. If you’re going to give it out, you’ve got to be able to take it. As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

I’ve made some pretty ugly mistakes here and on my other site, and I’ve taken a beating for it. I’ve also said some things that I still believe, but run against conventional wisdom, and I’ve taken a beating for those too. But it’s fair, because after a while I started to realize that as much as I enjoyed interacting with all the people who comment on the articles, it wasn’t so important what everyone else thought of me as a writer – I needed to be confident in myself, not constantly seeking the approval of others.

Most of Cherry’s book is about his time as a coach or a player, but he does work some Hockey Night in Canada stuff in there too, including a few references to Ron MacLean. There’s one segment near the end that I really loved:

When we walk through the airports, people will holler, “Great show, Don,” and say nothing to [Maclean]. He just laughs. People will ask for my autograph and not his, and my picture and not his. He really sincerely thinks it’s funny. One time, a guy wanted to take a picture of me with his wife. Ron went to step in and the guy hollered, “Get out! You’re ruining the picture!” Ron got the biggest kick out of that. I don’t think I could handle it the way he does but he has so much confidence in himself that it doesn’t bother him.

I don’t particularly enjoy being snubbed, or viewed in a poor light. But at the end of the day, what really matters is having confidence – in not only my work but also in myself- because not only is the crowd fickle but occasionally I’m going to make mistakes.

I don’t write this sort of thing very often because this is an Oilers’ website; I’m supposed to provide my take on the subject, not become the subject myself. Still, it’s been something I’ve wanted to say for some time, and reading Cherry’s account of something similar last night struck a chord with me.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 GSC
April 10 2009, 10:15AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Johnny,

You're going to make a helluva journalist someday (you're already well on your way). I may not always agree with your assessments, but I always end up taking them into consideration. Just as you do, I admire a person who stands by their convictions, doesn't shy away from criticism, and isn't afraid to swallow their pride every now and then and admit they were wrong.

We may not always agree, but I have tremendous respect for you and your insights. For you to take the time to do what you do (without pay, no less!) really demonstrates your passion for the game. I think everyone can agree with me that you're always more than worth our time.

Thanks JW,

GSC.

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#2 Archaeologuy
April 10 2009, 10:21AM
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Willis, you're one heck of a writer, dont let anyone of us anonymous whack jobs get you down. The sheer amount of written word that you contribute on your various projects is astounding. Your arguments are well thought out and supported by as much evidence as you can possibly find. Personally, I appreciate the time that you put into disagreeing with me on whatever it is we dont see eye to eye about. No matter how much I would ever disagree with you on anything I wouldnt look on you in negative light, I respect your insight and abilities too much.

There, now I need to go wrestle a bear or pull a truck with my teeth.

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#3 Amber McCormick
April 10 2009, 10:30AM
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I think you're a superstar! I was just saying the other night that the thing I love most about your articles is the way you explain things. Even someone who had no understanding of the NHL could read some of your stuff and 'get it'. I think that's what makes you different from the others. Also, your ability to take both sides into consideration and find a common ground. Perfect example was yesterday with the banter between MattN and Gregor. You were like ON's very own UN!

I love reading your stuff on here and Copper and Blue.

*begins the painstaking challenge of throwing JW a kickass parade*

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#4 me
April 10 2009, 10:39AM
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Jonathan I don't write responses often but your articles are excellent.

Do I always agree with you analysis? No, but even when I do not I come away thinking about what you have said.

Which means you are doing your job. Keep it up.

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#5 Poo Czar
April 10 2009, 10:58AM
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*Hugs Johnny Willis*

You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, Doggonit, people LIKE you!

Hell, even Lowetide said you're the best out there!

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#6 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 11:12AM
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For all of the times I'm certain you have no clue what a day in the life of a working sports writer is like, and despite the times I think the conclusions you draw based on statistics have gaping holes in them, you write with more insight and common sense that a lot of people drawing nice pay cheques in the MSM do.

I expressed that sentiment here when I first joined ON in reference to your other website, and did so before you were here. I say it again.

Despite the moaning coming from this corner when you write something about a subject I don't give a whizz about and it knocks my latest Pulitzer Prize entry down the page, or when the other stats guys you run with start second-guessing my eyesight, I'm convinced you took a wrong turn in your pay-the-bills career path. You should be a writer. You are one.

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#7 jdrevenge
April 10 2009, 11:34AM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

I concur. You're one of the best Willis. You are wise beyond your 16 years!!!

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#8 West Coast Oil
April 10 2009, 11:44AM
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JW looks like we are having a love in for you here. Seriously though the amount of articles you write and the statiscal research involved is astounding! Keep it up. Now if only we can get more fluff pieces from Amber to balance things out more. :)

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#9 David S
April 10 2009, 11:46AM
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Now you've got me worried Jonathan.

Come to think of it, more than once this year I've figured you lost the site with your latest stats post. And your choice of topics has been somewhat confounding on occassion for us readers. I've been wondering what's your plan? Do you even have one? And your fondness for the vets like Gregor and Brownlee is obvious.

Does this post mean Bingofuel is going to have a post-season presser blog post announcing that you've been promoted to ON head of blogger procurement? Only to be followed by a Tweet from Wanye saying "Willis isn't going anywhere!"?

Jonathan, you're a classy, intelligent guy that always gives a good read. I think I'll revoke my FJNF ways. Only thing I can suggest is that you change your sign-off pic. Good god man, you look like a 12 year old.

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#10 Greg MC
April 10 2009, 11:48AM
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"I don’t particularly enjoy being snubbed, or viewed in a poor light. But at the end of the day, what really matters is having confidence – in not only my work but also in myself- because not only is the crowd fickle but occasionally I’m going to make mistakes."

Jonathan, I appreciate your openness and honesty. I feel the same way, you have to be you. Everybody wants to be liked but to have the courage of your convictions makes the person.

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#11 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 11:54AM
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Please, let's all form a circle and join hands for a group hug before Dennis jumps in and I end up locking digits with him.

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#12 Mike
April 10 2009, 12:14PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

before Dennis jumps in and I end up locking lips with him.

Fixed

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#13 Tyler
April 10 2009, 12:22PM
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Despite the moaning coming from this corner when you write something about a subject I don’t give a whizz about and it knocks my latest Pulitzer Prize entry down the page

Ha! I've kind of wondered on occasion when I come here and post order has been switched around. My trick is to have some idea when Dennis is about to post something and hold my post for afterwards.

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#14 GSC
April 10 2009, 12:25PM
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Poo Czar wrote:

*Hugs Johnny Willis* You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and, Doggonit, people LIKE you! Hell, even Lowetide said you’re the best out there!

And that's...okay!

BIG props for a Stuart Smalley reference.

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#15 GSC
April 10 2009, 12:26PM
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Somebody turn on Joey McIntyre..."Don't you ever wish you were someone else! When you learn to love yourself, you're better off by far!"

Yep, I went there.

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#16 Chris
April 10 2009, 12:34PM
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Willis, everything you write is GOLD!

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#17 rickithebear
April 10 2009, 12:39PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

For all of the times I’m certain you have no clue what a day in the life of a working sports writer is like,

Something has allways unnerved me about you RB. I look at your picture as an Edmonton MSM and think, "Why aren't you (cue Mars Invaders leaders voice) FAT! FAT! FAT!"

You don't seam like you ever got your brown stripe.

JW: You for quick Result oriented thought. Lowetide for growing up allegory.

Ignore the Sloth Fratelli club.

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#18 GSC
April 10 2009, 12:39PM
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GOLD, Jerry! GOLD!

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#19 yironkel
April 10 2009, 01:30PM
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This is awesome reading the support for Jon, I couldn't agree with you more!! The only thing is be careful not to pump him up to much, it could go all to his head. And we don't want him to turn into a tyrannical dictator on us!! The world would never be the same.

And Jon, please keep up the good work, but stick with your day job, please!!

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#20 Jason Gregor
April 10 2009, 02:09PM
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JW,

Grapes is more insightful than most give him credit for. Sure he is old-school, bombastic and walks a tight rope on being flat out prejudice, but he still shows his human side.

I read the book about six months ago and loved it. It is almost like an autobiography, except it focuses on his playing and broadcasting careers.

You get a thicker skin the longer you go in this business, but at times certain comments/remarks can get to you. It's amazing what complete strangers will write to you in an email, or even on here. Yet 99% would never have the gall to say it to your face.

If you don't believe in yourself, then it is hard to succeed in this business. We all question ourselves from time-to-time, but stay the course and you'll be fine.

What's funny is that you could get ten compliments, yet one person rips you and that is the comment you will focus on. We all do it, but the key is to ensure the negative ones don't affect you any more than the positive ones.

Oh yeah...no way I take Horcoff over Getzlaf by the way..haha

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#21 Jonathan Willis
April 10 2009, 02:34PM
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Thanks, everybody, seriously.

I actually had no intention for this comments section to go in this direction; part of putting up this article now was that I haven't taken a beating here lately and so I didn't think people would feel the need to tell me what a good job I've been doing. Thanks for doing so, but I'm not going anywhere.

Anyhow, like Jason says it's an excellent book (as was "Grapes") and the nice thing about Cherry is that his sincerity really comes through in a way that it often doesn't on Coach's Corner.

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#22 David Staples
April 10 2009, 02:48PM
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Nice post, JW. Most folks who write on the 'Net has to go through this soul-searching, as there's no shortage of Internet spooks using made-up names out there, keen to do some carving of every other writer, hockey player, coach, general manager.

It was an adjustment for me, as well, to write on this medium, as I'd written in a more controlled and accountable environment for 25 years before venturing on the 'Net with my own blog.

I now see that on the 'Net, there really is a different set of rules -- just like everyone says -- but there are ways to adapt.

If people want to make inaccurate and malicious comments, they are free to do that, and, in a way, that's part of the great beauty of the net. They have every opportunity to voice their opinion. They are free. But so am I.

For I have every right not to care about them one little bit.

As my friend Adler says, "Who gives a hoot what anyone else thinks of you?"

Essentially, the only value any of us have here is to put forward our own ideas.

If others don't agree, let them put forth their own brilliant ideas.

Maybe they have better ones. Maybe not.

Of course, you are a real person, so there's more riding on anything you say or is said about you, but that's good for you.

It gives what your comments more weight. For instance, if I'm critiqued by a real person, say Colby Cosh or Tyler Dellow or Rob Tychkowski or Dennis King or Robin Brownlee or that errors vs. points-unfriendly Jonathan Willis, my ears perk up a bit and, very often, I respond, as I put some weight on what they have to say, and because I'm dealing with a real person, the discussion tends to be at least relatively civil and sane -- that's been my experience.

But if I'm attacked by someone else with a made up name, and the attack is over-the-top, as they sometimes are, I laugh and move on.

It's a positive trend for posters and bloggers to move in the direction of using their real names. It leads to accountability (both legal and with the larger community) and and it cuts down on 90 per cent of the weird, goofy and nasty stuff that happens now and then on the 'Net.

Now, it's fun to post under a made-up name. It's fun to be anonymous, not have that pressure, not have the boss know you're posting, all those things. For most people, that's perfectly fine, and it's the standard of the 'Net. But it's one standard of the print world I hang on to, as it has real value . . .

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#23 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 02:53PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I haven’t taken a beating here lately

Jeezez H. That is that mugshot from Grade 9?

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#24 yironkel
April 10 2009, 02:57PM
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Hey wait a minute, that doesn't look like Jonathan. Jon put your real picture up, but something where you look a little older. Maybe something with facial hair would be good.

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#25 Phil
April 10 2009, 02:58PM
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I'm jealous.

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#26 Word
April 10 2009, 03:10PM
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Hey JW,

Unlike everyone else, I'm not gonna jump in on the love-in and try to cup your balls with one hand while typing with the other.

All I'll say is that I quote your statistical analysis to people on a regular basis in an attempt to make myself sounds smarter (no, I don't give you the credit), and when you wrote that planet smasher several months ago detailing your derailment from being a MacTavish supporter to questioning his decisions, I went through the same change of heart in the 29 minutes it took me to read it (so I can't read good... shut up).

That's an especially ringing endorsement when you consider that only weeks earlier my cousin and I nearly got into a fistfight 'cause I was defending MacTavish.

... Speaking of which, can you right a statistically persuasive apology letter to my cousin for me?

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#27 Word
April 10 2009, 03:11PM
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Word wrote:

… Speaking of which, can you right a statistically persuasive apology letter to my cousin for me?

Or "write" it. You're the word-thingy guy.

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#28 Phil
April 10 2009, 03:16PM
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Oh and I'll add I don't agree with some of what you have to say on occasion, but for the most part I really enjoy reading your posts/reports.

The best of both worlds can be had by you Jon, both Math & Writing.

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#29 bingofuel
April 10 2009, 03:41PM
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@ David Staples: Fine, David. My really name is Edgar Allan Poe. I wrote a bunch of poems you've never heard of. My first love was always hockey, even though it was invented in 1875, about 26 years after I died.

Quoth MacTavish: "Never more!"

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#30 Robin Brownlee
April 10 2009, 04:05PM
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Word wrote:

I’m not gonna jump in on the love-in and try to cup your balls with one hand while typing with the other.

Awkwardly, but you just did.

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#31 Word
April 10 2009, 04:42PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Word wrote: I’m not gonna jump in on the love-in and try to cup your balls with one hand while typing with the other. Awkwardly, but you just did.

I used both hands and typed with my toes. I'm a generous lover.

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#32 RossCreek
April 10 2009, 04:55PM
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Sounds like MacT's season may NOT be over. Sources indicate he's on the shortlist to be named Canada's coach at the yearly World Championship (otherwise known as the Oilers playoffs). One step closer to being named an assistant for the Olympic team? Maybe.

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#33 Archaeologuy
April 10 2009, 05:43PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Sounds like MacT’s season may NOT be over. Sources indicate he’s on the shortlist to be named Canada’s coach at the yearly World Championship

This by the powers that be who couldnt even convince the Canadian Olympic Comitee to file the papers needed to keep their own Logo. Maybe MacT's name was included because he's available so often.

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#34 Dennis
April 11 2009, 12:47PM
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RB: i don't think I've ever questioned your eyesight:) and I'm not going to say anything else considering it's Easter:)

Gregor: I would have no problem ribbing you in person about Rick Rypien and numerous other things you are wrong about:)

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