Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week they discuss the IOC and Russia's policy towards homosexuality, the poor defence of the Toronto Blue Jays, the stellar defence of Los Angeles Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck and the Canadian men's basketball team.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: My thumb is up to the pressure being exerted on the International Olympic Committee and its partners over Russia's violent and despicable oppression of homosexuality in advance of the 2014 Games in Sochi. Russia is sending mixed messages; public support of homosexuality will or won't be allowed, but its policies are abhorrent, either way. Opponents are pushing boycotts, none of which seem likely, though it's a worthy debate. Either way, this has a chance to be a critical moment in the global push for equal rights. The world will be watching, someone will speak up and the IOC and its sponsors will have a small and unlikely chance to prove that their amoral globe-trotting sporting carnival has any morals whatsoever.
Steve Simmons, Sun Media: My thumb is down to the Toronto Blue Jays, and no, I'm not going to squawk about starting pitching this morning. It's about their defence - which has been described by one American League scout as being similar to a slo-pitch softball team. That's not meant as a compliment. I've been watching this team from its infancy and honestly, I can't remember a Jays club as poor defensively as this one. It's one thing to be near the bottom in earned runs given up. It's another thing entirely to marry that with being near the bottom in unearned runs allowed. It's a formula that adds up to a last place finish.
Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press: Thumbs up to the future of Canada's senior men's basketball team which has gone from a witness protection program to one of promise. New GM Steve Nash gave the program buzz and substance all in one make-it-look easy, no-look pass. Not long ago Basketball Canada had difficulty attracting NBA players but now, according to coach Jay Triano, they'll find themselves in a position where they'll be strong enough to cut an NBA player. Nash and Triano can look at their top end talent and see Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Joel Anthony. First overall pick Anthony Bennett and lottery selection Kelly Olynyk and also on the radar as is 2014 projected no. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins. Nash calls this new era the golden age of Basketball in Canada. Fair enough. The fun part starts now as we get to watch and see if they can transform from paper tigers to giant slayers.
Dave Hodge, TSN: Steve talked about shoddy defence by the Toronto Blue Jays -- well, on Friday night, a sensational defensive play by Angels' outfielder J.B. Shuck reminded the Jays how important plays in the field can be--they can be as good as a Jose Bautista homer, if they can rob Jose Bautista of a homer. Undoubtedly this play made Bautista say something stronger than "shucks". The otherwise little-known J.B. Shuck had a long run to the left-field corner -- he had the ball and the wall to deal with, and he had to leap to make the catch, and then he disappeared.... with the ball in his glove. It was one of those plays that made everyone who saw it happen "live" say the same thing in unison -- "Sportscentre highlight." Indeed, it was.