Did Gil LeBreton of the Star-Telegram Just Start a Border War?

You'd think if a writer from Texas was going to start a feud with a country that borders the United States, it would be so much easier for him to pick that fight with Mexico. Gil LeBreton of the Star-Telegram obviously thought that was the easy way out, so while covering the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he decided to take some shots at the host country…by comparing them to Nazi Germany.
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↵⇥After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation. ↵⇥

↵⇥Flags were everywhere. The country's national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone's clothing. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation. ↵⇥

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↵⇥But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. ↵⇥

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↵That was his lede. When is this going to stop? Seriously, I can't believe that sportswriters continue to go to the Hitler well for material. If you can stomach getting through the rest of LeBreton's column, his major complaint was that Canadian TV was only showing the Canadians, and that nobody around town was wearing generic "Olympics" t-shirts, instead donned fully in the red and white maple leaf regalia that LeBreton equated to, yes, wearing a swastika. ↵ ↵
↵⇥Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere. ↵⇥One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first. ↵⇥

↵⇥I didn't attend the '36 Olympics, but I've seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere. ↵⇥

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↵⇥No political reference is meant, just an Olympic one. What on earth were the Canadians thinking? ↵⇥

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↵What were Canadians thinking? What were your editors thinking? ↵

↵It turns out, Canadian's were thinking something too, and most of it had to do with how terrible LeBreton's column was. So, this Monday, he churned out an "I'm sorry if you were offended" piece, digging himself deeper in the process. ↵

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↵⇥My intention in Monday morning’s wrap-up column wasn’t to offend Canada, the land of my ancestors, and my hosts of the past three weeks. On the contrary, I was trying to express my disappointment and surprise that, in my opinion, Canadians had failed to grasp the global mandate that being an Olympic host entails. ↵⇥

↵⇥In doing so, I reached for a comparison — and picked one in the 1936 Olympics that unintentionally may have offended the very people whose company I have enjoyed for these past days. ↵⇥

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↵⇥I apologize for offending them. ↵⇥

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↵"I'm sorry if you were offended" is basically worse than no apology at all. How about apologize for offending the intelligence of everyone who read your first column? You can count Canadian blogger Mark Milner – aka thejockocracy – as one of the many who were offended. ↵

↵Milner did an epic Canadian takedown of LeBreton's writing, including linking to eight different examples of Canadian coverage of the tragedy at the luge track when LeBreton wrote that there "were no follow-up stories about investigations, memorials or retributions to the family." Ah, the backbone of American sportswriting: if I didn't see it, it doesn't exist. ↵

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↵Milner goes line by line in very solid FJM-style (with some wording NSFW) and ends with this paragraph, with which you don't have to be Canadian to agree: ↵

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↵⇥No jokes here. Nazi Germany was a horrific regime, perhaps the most so in recorded history. They killed tens of millions in death camps, started a world war, bombed the hell out of the countries they couldn’t invade and were basically as repugnant as they get. Invoking them in an argument is not only simple, it’s misguided and offensive. It only demonstrates how poor of a journalist that Mr. LeBreton is when he couldn’t think of a more apt comparison. By invoking such an argument, he is demonstrating an utter disregard for his profession; he is so lazy that he jumps to the most extreme example there is. ↵
↵Quite hilariously, in LeBreton's "I'll apologize, but please don't fire me" reaction piece, he ends with this (and I am not making this up): ↵
↵⇥Changing trains on the way to the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, I passed a gentleman that I had seen before at that station. He was a street musician and had an electric guitar, but he was dressed elegantly in a white bowtie and dinner jacket. His guitar case was open to collect tips. ↵⇥

↵⇥The gentleman was slowly strumming the Louis Armstrong classic What a Wonderful World. ↵⇥

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↵⇥I gave him all the change I had. ↵⇥

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↵Thank goodness the guy wasn't wearing a Canadian hockey jersey. That could have gotten ugly.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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