2011- James Duthie

James Duthie

James Duthie has met and interviewed countless celebrities and sports figures over his 23-year career. He has played Alex Ovechkin (in a hockey video game and lost); written a couple of books, one with the title, “The  Day I (almost) killed two Gretzkys”. Duthie is known for injecting humour frequently into his work. But really, nothing compares to the time he met Tiger Woods.
An Awkward Moment With Tiger
So you thought Tiger Woods had no sense of humour.  It was at the 2002 Masters. A rain delay on Friday forced officials to finish round two on Saturday.“I was hanging around one of the clubhouses” says Duthie…”(you get  really good access at the Masters)… Elin, Tiger’s girlfriend  at the time, Tiger’s mother and me. We were in the same room and Tiger walked in. They were chatting and I felt a little uncomfortable because I was the only guy in the room, so I went upstairs to the washroom.”  The washroom had three urinals and James chose the middle one. He’s the only one in the washroom when suddenly the door opens and in walks Tiger Woods.
“I had met a lot of athletes by that time and  I didn’t  get too excited or intimidated by athletes but it was Tiger Woods and he was at his peak at that time. I had never interviewed him but he approached the urinal next to me. It’s always a little awkward with men at urinals…there’s a bit of urinal etiquette …you want to acknowledge the person next to you and especially in a small washroom like this with only three urinals. You don’t want to stare over too long and oooh, Tiger’s pulling out the driver  here and I’ve got my putter. So, I see Tiger next to me and I say to myself  ‘what am I going to say?’ It’s Tiger Woods. It’s the Saturday morning of the Masters. So I said, good luck while Tiger was unzipping his pants. Without missing a beat, Tiger chuckled and said, “I should be OK. I do this several times a day.”
Duthie was almost speechless. “Here’s this  guy who is stone cold killer on the golf course, we never saw him smile and here it is, Saturday  morning of the Masters about an hour before  he’s to go out for his  third round and he comes out with this pretty funny line.”
Modestly Duthie explains, “I was your typical failed athlete. I wanted to be a football player and was recruited by a couple of schools. But I was a 5’10”, 155 pound, white defensive back, so I realized I wasn’t going very far in football, so I ended up doing journalism at Carlton and figured covering sports would be the next best thing.
Back in the day when I graduated, TSN was in its infancy … and all the others weren’t going yet, so basically you had mostly the local stations across the country usually with a pair of sportscasters who’d been there forever so there weren’t a lot of jobs available. I was fortunate to get a position in TV news at CJOH in Ottawa so that’s what I ended up doing for the first six years or so of my career.
Sports was what Duthie wanted most to do, although it seemed everybody kept guiding him away from it saying that sports was a dead end street (which as he points out is kind of ironic now).
“The two guys I hung around with the most were Brian Smith and Bill Patterson, the local sportscasters at CJOH. When I finished my news beat, I would always gravitate towards these two who were not only bright guys but two of the best story-tellers you could  imagine. I tagged along with them when I could, still hoping to do sports … but there just weren’t the jobs around so I kept plugging away at news.”
Tragedy struck in 1995. Brian Smith, the highly respected sportscaster in Ottawa, was shot to death by a deranged man as he left the CJOH studios. Duthie was on vacation in Halifax at the time and was  summoned back to Ottawa to fill in — doing the evening sportscast. “It was the saddest day of my life. I got to the station and did the show that night. It was a very sombre sportscast, we basically sat with the news anchors and told stories about Brian. I got through it OK but then I went and sat in the nearest stairwell and broke down and cried for about 15-minutes.”
Duthie joined the CJOH Sports Department but he only stayed for about 18-months before taking a job in Vancouver. He was there less than a year when TSN called and ever since has performed many key roles in sports broadcasting including co-hosting the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 for which he was recognized with a Gemini Award as Best Sportscaster/Anchor. “That was probably the highlight of my career.”
Another career highlight is likely just around the corner as he is scheduled to be the daytime host of the TSN coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
… by Fred Walker