William Houston: Watching a Respected Journalist Ruin His Reputation Post-by-Post

So, I promised myself I wouldn’t write this column.  I felt it wasn’t really my place to write a piece on former Globe & Mail columnist/current blogger William Houston.  I respect the man, and he still brings a lot of relevant news to the table that this website links to, hence he’s giving me news and therefore I owe him a little bit.  He used to be a fantastic writer, and his 1998 series on hockey as a game in crisis is staggeringly brilliant.  Also, back when he was at The Globe & Mail, he was always okay with responding to the occasional e-mail.  For a young guy, that means something.

That said, ever since the whole bruhahaha in which Houston spent burning 1,000 bridges by criticizing James Mirtle and calling Chris Zelkovich unattractive (Which, can we talk about that hair on your own visage, sir?) and battling Pension Plan Puppets the man has continued on and on shifting into what appears to be the collective stereotype of the angry-old-man-who-doesn’t-understand-why-things-aren’t-what-they-used-to-be.  It’s like watching a man step into a quicksand of bitterness and slowly fight it for a while, and then accepting his fate, while asking someone nearby not to try and help and oh, just take all my credibility and legacy as respected journalist and throw that in there too.

Let’s look at some of the material Houston’s put up there since the Mirtle piece, since that’s not really what this is about.  It’s ranged from some legitimate news, to re-posting other people’s articles to prove relevance (which my blog does, but not half of the damn article) to nitpicking about Gary Galley (when Bob Cole deserves at least as much criticism, but got a pass), to linking to news about Tiger Woods that doesn’t matter in the least to anyone reading his blog.

But the one bit where Houston completely loses us came late last week.  Earlier in the week, Houston had written an article on why Greg Millen wasn’t getting any national television work beyond the first round.  It was fine and something I’d even considered myself, and totally relevant.  But then, he responded to a piece Chris Zelkovich also wrote about the story:

I just want to begin by saying what an honour it is to have the MSM — in this case my good friend Chris Zelkovich — matchmy Greg Millen piece and give it the level of coverage it deserves, in this case in the Toronto Star. It’s little moments like these that make being a online dweeb a joy and a privilege.

One minor complaint, though. Chris alludes to Millen’s “dodgy history” with CBC Sports head Scott Moore without explaining what it is. Let me help. Moore was head of production at Rogers Sportsnet when Millen, then employed by Sportsnet,  twice jumped ship, the second time after he had conveniently forgotten to sign a contract.

I didn’t mention the Moore-Millen connection as a possible reason for Millen’s lack of work at the CBC. Being a fair and balanced type who becomes physically ill at the thought of personally attacking someone, I’m loathe to make such accusations.

Well if you didn’t mention it, then why the hell are you complaining about someone else who didn’t?  The reason you gave screamed lazy and was flat-out lamer than Jimmy Carter’s presidency (I try to include a reference or two a man like you can relate to, for reasons you’ll see below).  If you want to complain about someone’s flaws, you’d better damn well hope you hadn’t made the same “mistake” that he did.

Also, seriously, enough with the ridiculously stupid sarcasm about being “an online dweeb” and how you don’t criticize.  You sound like my 5-year old cousin when I taught her what snark was.  When you say things like what you said about Mirtle and Zelkovich, you aren’t allowed to get away with being a fake jackass, because the entire world knows that you’re a real one.

Following that, he made an idiotic takedown of a Toronto radio personality running for office that screams “I haven’t watched television since The Cosby Show premiered”:

Good luck to Rogers Sportsnet’s Sean McCormick, who’s running for a seat on Toronto city council. He may need it. A while back, Sean, who strives to be cool, made a reference to cocaine being a really cool drug. After a voice-over about Texas manager Ron Washington admitting he had taken cocaine, McCormick said, ”Cocaine is a hell of a drug.”

If you’re going to exist on the internet, search up Chappelle’s Show, please?  This article makes it sound like McCormick is a coke addict.  That’s irresponsible.  But then again, largely everything Houston has said in the past few weeks since deciding he was going to dedicate his blog to idiotic, unwarranted criticisms of people who have careers on the upswing.

That’s really what it seems to be about for Houston.  Forgive me for sounding disrespectful, but doesn’t it seem to you that all of the man’s criticisms seem to be aimed at people whose careers are going upwards?  James Mirtle, Gary Galley, Sean McCormick, while defending guys like Bob Cole and Greg Millen?  It just sounds to me like he’s an old establishment guy who is bitter that he’s become just that.

Now, I’m sure if Houston ever reads this, he’ll criticize me to no end about my lack of professionalism and integrity and living in my mothers basement.  But let me offer you my humble advice, Mr. Houston, from an honest-to-God fan: Go back to providing the must-read bits of media news that you used to be my favorite at doing, and give up the irresponsible, borderline libel opinion stuff.  It’s taking a career filled with great moments and articles and flushing it down the drain.

3 Responses to William Houston: Watching a Respected Journalist Ruin His Reputation Post-by-Post

  1. Matt Reitz says:

    Great read Steve…

    The last paragraph really sums it up for me too. Houston’s stuff used to have a completely different tone… and just last week I consciously realized that I’ve been skipping his blog in my reader because of the non-stop negativity. Its not any fall in his writing that’s lost me…. its the change in tone that did it.

    Its too bad really. Either way, thanks for the article… you nailed my thoughts exactly.

  2. Jake says:

    I’ve been following Houston from the Globe to his new blog. I, too, noted a serious downfall with the incident a couple of weeks back after his fishing trip. (I thought fishing was supposed to relax people.)

    Here’s my theory…

    Having to promote your own blog and stand out in the world is a lot harder than writing for a paper that does all the promotion for you.

    Think about it… there are those of us who love the behind-the-scenes stuff that Houston writes about. But in the general scheme of things, it’s a small audience. Houston and others like him don’t so much write about sports, they write about the people who write/report/cover sports. That’s a niche market.

    If you’re a fan doing it, not much pressure. But Houston is still a business, just a solo business. He needs readers. And these recent columns have added to it, even if they’re readers slamming him.

    Recently, it seems Houston has tried a bit too hard to get buzz going with his work. And with no editor, there’s no one to say, “Y’know, you’re going over the line here for no reason.”

    And he seems to have lost sight of what people might care about. Personally, I don’t care for Zelkovich because he complains about the same stuff all the time. But Houston taking shots at his appearance? Give me a break.

    Still, all this (including your article here) is bringing him more attention. For him, that’s a good thing.

  3. Josh says:

    The thing that really kills me about this is that *all the time* during his career, he ran stories with “a source said” or “according to a source with the network”, and now he’s criticizing Mirtle for doing the exact same thing.

    To me, he doesn’t come off like an angry old man yelling at the kids on his lawn, so much as he looks like a guy who’s losing his marbles.

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