The game story doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s too painful. But it has to come out.
“It was … awful,” the story said, trembling while sipping coffee at the Gazette office yesterday. “He just wouldn’t stop. I told him it wouldn’t work, but he just kept pushing. I couldn’t recognize myself at the end.”
The game story, covering the Canadiens’ game against the New York Rangers Saturday at the Bell Centre, knew it was going to be bad when it heard it was being assigned to columnist Dave Stubbs. It had heard the stories, of the run-on sentences, the strained connections with irrelevant facts, the obsessions with long-dead goaltenders nobody knew about when they were alive. “But I wasn’t prepared for what would happen to me that night.”
By the end of the night, Stubbs had taken what should have been a 300-word game story and turned it into a 6,000-word column about… “I don’t even know what the point was,” it said.
“At one point, he compared a video review to the Supreme Court decision over the presidential election in Kenya. He compared a second-period slump with that sinkhole at the Trudeau Airport parking lot. And then he said something about how a speech from the head coach was like the North Koreans declaring war on South Korea. And that was just the stuff I could understand.”
Stu Cowan, Stubbs’s editor at the Gazette, said he saw the warning signs, but didn’t do anything at first. He thought it was the harmless fun that sports writers have trying to turn the daily they-win-they-lose stories into something more interesting. He said he first realized he had a serious problem when Stubbs went on for 350 words about the Canadiens’ record on days when a new pope is chosen. “I knew then that we had to stage an intervention. I just wish we had gotten to him sooner.”
Cowan said the Gazette would cover the cost of treatment for the game story and its family. “It was the least we could do,” he said.
Stubbs was met by friends and colleagues later in the day, who asked him to seek treatment for his problem. At first he said there was nothing wrong, and everyone on Twitter loved what he was doing. But slowly, as the gravity of the situation was explained to him, he broke down, confessed about his grammatically abusive childhood, and said he would check himself in to be treated the next day.
Just after he finished a 14,000-word essay on John Aiken, a goalie who played one game in relief of Jacques Plante in 1958.