Menzies: You can pick up your trophy from the trashcan in front of Mirtle's house.
Once upon a time, he was one of us.
If the early Barilkosphere were the old DC hardcore scene, James Mirtle was Ian Mackaye and his blog was Minor Threat. While not a Leafs fan, Mirtle was the figurehead of the scene, an idealistic leader who believed in a new way forward, a smarter way of viewing and talking about hockey, inspiring a belief in all of us that we could do it ourselves without a need for press passes and buffet tables and Steve Simmons.
Sure, he worked for the Globe and Mail even back then, but to tell you the truth, we didn't really believe him. I mean, we never really saw his articles in the paper, and the dude had a decent haircut. "If he's really a reporter, shouldn't he have some Alpha-Getti stains on his shirt" we'd whisper conspiratorially to each other in the hallways of PPP headquarters. "Yeah, and that haircut. No way that dude is a reporter. It's gotta be some awesome Andy Kaufman style performance piece that will pay off any day now."
As we all found out way too late, it wasn't a work.
Now, we should make it clear that this award has nothing to do with the fact that, back in 2007, James Mirtle refused to add Cox Bloc to his blogroll because we made a joke about William Houston. That would be petty and vindictive, and we're only one of those things.
But it is kind of telling.
And a few years later, when Houston repaid Mirtle's slavish devotion to Mittenstringery by shitting all over him on his CHASS-blog and we decided to re-open the defunct Cox Bloc to defend Mirtle from the Watchdog's locking jaw, what did we get in return? No gift basket, no thank you card, no email saying thanks. Not even a can of pop.
The warning signs were there all along. He's from British Columbia. He belonged to something called the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He wouldn't add us to his blogroll. He didn't use curse words when writing about Damien Cox. These are not the actions of a blogger.
We should have known, but in our defence, he didn't really go full-Mittenstringer until 2012.
With so many offences to choose from, it is difficult to pick just one incident that exemplifies the peaks of Mittenstringery that Mirtle scaled in 2012. But, when it comes down to it, there is one standard that we've always held reporters to at Cox Bloc: don't make it personal.
We lost our shit back when Damien Cox lost his shit about Juri NSFW's over-exposure, and we hammered Steve Simmons...when he floated unsubstantiated....rumours about full-release massages...or whatever. We'd shut down the blog by the time Dave Feschuk started combing the Winnipeg phone book for Reimers, or else we probably would have pumped out a few thousand words on the topic.
So, when James Mirtle launched his vicious Twitter attack on Drew MacIntyre after the Maple Leafs signed the journeyman goalie to a minor league deal, we knew we had an early contender for this year's award. But what put him above the worthy competition - the Menzies and the Garriochs of the world - was when he dragged MacIntyre's family into the narrative.
Thoughtlessly shunning a couple struggling bloggers is one thing (and, to repeat, this award probably has nothing to do with Mirtle excluding us from his blogroll), but callously ripping on MacIntyre without regard to how his cousin might feel was just too much. As we watched it all unfold in real time on Twitter, we knew that he had been seduced by the dark side.
Congratulations James. We hope it was worth it. You sold out! You sold out!
If there is one positive from this, it's that it has given us the answer to that age old question of what we would do if we had a time machine. Would we try to stop a war? Assassinate Stalin in 1904? Kidnap JFJ before he could make the Raycroft trade? Hack our way onto Mirtle's blogroll?
None of the above. We'd visit a seven year old Drew MacIntyre and convince him to look into a good hotel and restaurant management certificate program when he gets older, or maybe become a fighter pilot, or even a travel agent. Anything that could save him and his family from the poison pen of James Mirtle, the 2012 Mittenstringer of the Year.