Sports­caster’s mem­oir is full of... him­self

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Barry Craig

ANCHORBOY is so full of hot air it should be re­named Fur­nace­man. In his por­ridge of rec­ol­lec­tions as a talk­ing head grow­ing up on Cana­dian sports TV, Jay On­rait gilds the lily so much you’d think he in­vented Easter. And when he doesn’t ex­ag­ger­ate to the ex­treme? Then the story of his climb up the food chain from Boyle, Alta. (pop­u­la­tion 700), is so ba­nal it ri­vals the riv­et­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of a store greeter or a civil ser­vant. At 39, On­rait is well-known to a lot of sports fans in Canada for his zany an­tics and stunts on late-night TSN and is now in Los An­ge­les ap­ply­ing the same at­ten­tion-get­ting comedic shtick on Fox Sports 1. Win­nipeg­gers may re­mem­ber him as the host for two years in the ’90s of The Big Break­fast on the now-de­funct A-Chan­nel. On­rait won Cana­dian TV Gemini award in 2011. But as il­lus­tri­ous as that prize may be, it doesn’t make him a writer, not does it make the chron­i­cle of his vo­ca­tional jour­ney worth read­ing. In this pa­per­back, many of On­rait’s ex­pe­ri­ences sound so im­prob­a­ble he ap­pears to be bend­ing the truth when all it does is spark in­credulity. And what is the truth? Well, on the fly­leaf of the book, seven of the 10 things it says you’ll learn about its au­thor turn out to be so over­stated, sen­sa­tion­al­ism hardly be­gins to de­scribe them. They’re closer to mar­ket­ing than prose. For ex­am­ple, it says that On­rait was en­ter­tained nightly by free live sex shows through univer­sity. Well, the dis­ap­point­ing real­ity is the street he lived on while at school was noth­ing more novel than the stroll for lo­cal hook­ers. Like­wise, it’s hinted they named the Win­nipeg Jets partly be­cause of his op­po­si­tion to any other name, a propo­si­tion in the body of his book he adroitly avoids an­swer­ing by both sup­port­ing and deny­ing it. It’s said he ran a marathon to get a free hockey ticket. Yes, he did run down some streets to get a ticket, but it wasn’t in a marathon. Hockey fans would do the same thing and many have. And then there’s the story of how he ru­ined his un­der­shorts one Christ­mas Eve as an adult. Well, the pedes­trian truth is Christ­mas din­ner didn’t agree with him and he lost con­trol of his bow­els in front of his mother. He dwells on the sub­ject for four pa­thetic pages. Most dis­con­cert­ing, though, is the boast he was sex­u­ally ha­rassed ev­ery day for 10 years by a se­nior cit­i­zen. Turns out, when you get to that part of the book you learn she was noth­ing more than an ec­cen­tric makeup lady he says he’ll miss. This non­sense is like be­ing told some­one’s a mil­lion­aire only to dis­cover all their money is coun­ter­feit. On­rait ob­vi­ously takes the name of his book from the 2004 movie Anchorman, a com­edy some­what lewd, and there­fore a fit­ting par­al­lel to some parts of Anchorboy, in­clud­ing one shock­ing and mis­placed story about a sick­en­ing sex­ual per­ver­sion (not On­rait’s) that would make a vice cop retch. Jay may be the nicest and most in­no­va­tive guy on television, but his tal­ent in prose equals that of a writer of su­per­mar­ket fly­ers. Barry Craig is a re­tired jour­nal­ist

liv­ing in Win­nipeg.

Anchorboy True Tales from the World of Sportscast­ing By Jay On­rait HarperCollins, 284 pages, $20

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