The Last Word

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sports writers are a lot like hound dogs. They smell alike, and if you beat them down long enough, their heads begin to hang and they become oblivious to the laughter of school children and the melodies of songbirds.

It's part of the deal that, if you do your job properly, athletes, readers, coaches and general managers are going to get mad, and will let you know about it.

Boxing people are probably the worst. When a someone from the world of professional pugilism decides to spew, there are not a lot of mixed metaphors or clever quips involved.

I remember covering a pro boxing show in Niagara Falls a few years ago when a group of "gentleman" from Welland approached me, reamed me out for supposedly dissing a dearly departed coach and threatened, right there in front of a colleague, to perform open heart surgery without an anaesthetic.

"(The coach) was like a father to me. He helped keep me out of jail," one of the gentleman advised me, though in somewhat more colourful language.

"Good for you," I replied, meaning, good for you, that he was like a father to you. NOT, good for you, as in, get lost.

"I should take out my blade and take you out right now, you miserable, little $^#@," the gentleman, mistaking my meaning, continued. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, although my colleague developed a sudden bladder control problem.

Yes, attitude in this business is par for the course.

Still, once in a blue moon it's nice to receive a kind word or a friendly grunt from the people you follow on a regular basis.

Prior to a Raptors game recently, I walked into the interview room at the Air Canada Centre and was greeted by head coach Sam Mitchell with the words: "Look who's here. The Prince of Darkness."

It suddenly dawned on me that Mitchell, who is generally a personable, engaging fellow, had addressed me this season by a number of similar monikers, including "The Evil Doer" and "The Guy Whose Brain is Pickled by Beer."

Why, Sam? I wondered. Why?

Then it dawned on me. Actually, it didn't dawn on me, my colleague Mike Koreen pointed out a peculiar fact. I have covered 15 Raptors regular season games this season and the club's record in those contests is 0-15. The Raps have won seven games, including five on the road, and it was Young Mike, as he is known in the local sports writing fraternity, who documented the action from those happy occasions.

It turns out, I AM the Prince of Darkness.

No wonder nobody wants to see my smiling, alright, smirking, mug around the locker room.

This has to end. Covering the Raptors this season is like spending day after day with 20 ex-wives.

Sam, believe me, I want you guys to win. If only for the fact that it's extremely difficult to come up with relevant questions, defeat after defeat.

But I don't need a shrink to understand that the losing is not my fault. I may be the Prince, but Mitchell's players are the Soldiers of Darkness.

Is it my fault that Jalen Rose has aged 10 years in one season?

Is it my fault that Mitchell, for whatever reason, has no faith in veteran forward Eric Williams?

Is it my fault that Rafael Araujo is playing like Rafael Araujo?

Is it my fault that Rob Babcock traded Vince Carter for the aforementioned Williams, another guy who hardly ever plays (Aaron Williams), a guy who refused to come to Toronto and some draft picks?

I feel beaten down. I want to hear singing birds, the laughter of happy school children. Sam. Tonight. In Indianapolis. Win one for the Prince.

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THE RECORD SAYS IT ALL

Is it a coincidence that when sports reporter Steve Buffery covers the Raptors, they simply don't win? Mike Koreen, Buffery's partner in crime, doesn't seem to have the same luck.

BUFFERY: 0-15

KOREEN: 7-12


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