Blast Radius

Is Steve Paikin the real Polkaroo?

BRIAN BAKER/TOWN CRIER ALSO A BASEBALL FAN: Steve Paikin shows off some Boston Red Sox fan stuff decorating his TVO office.
ALSO A BASEBALL FAN: Steve Paikin shows off some Boston Red Sox fan stuff decorating his TVO office.

There’s a mystery brewing inside my head after chatting with Steve Paikin, the well-known host of the TVO current affairs show The Agenda. One of the public television station’s other most recognizable faces has been Polkaroo, the green kangaroo-type creature from its 1971-93 children’s program Polka Dot Door.

On the show, only one of the two hosts would actually see Polkaroo, while the other conveniently disappeared somewhere off-camera. Could it be…?

Sure, there have been photos taken of Paikin and Polkaroo at the same public events, but is that just a case of subterfuge, much like was done on the show?

Paikin did nothing to scuttle my conspiracy theory. When asked who would win in a one-on-one hockey match, he merely chuckled.

“The first question you have to ask yourself is, are you sure we’re not the same person,” the midtowner said. “Because I don’t think you’ve ever seen the two of us in the same place at the same time.

“So, if I were to answer your question it would confirm that we are two separate people, and I don’t think I’m prepared to acknowledge. You never know. We’re both sort of tall, thin and weird looking.”

Possible aliases aside, the celebrated Canadian journalist is a huge sports fan. He’s penned a book on hockey, The New Game: How Hockey Saved Itself, and plays once a week in Cedarvale. He’s also a lover of baseball.

He may be known as the even-handed moderator from both federal and provincial election debates, but he is a Boston Red Sox fan.

His office at TVO’s Yonge and Eglinton headquarters is decorated with photos of him at Fenway Park, and includes a poster of legendary slugger Ted Williams and a Bosox drawing courtesy of his daughter Giulia. Even his decision to go to Boston University for journalism was based solely on the fact it was the closest school to Fenway.

Of course, that was my opportunity to share that I was a Cincinnati Reds fans, and immediately he remembered the two teams meeting in the 1975 World Series. My Reds beat his Red Sox in seven games.

Now, we both love Toronto Blue Jays, but we uphold our allegiance to these particular Red teams.

Speaking of colours, I did happen to drift the question by Paikin about how he maintains such neutrality while wrangling politicians of the blue, red and orange variety.

His response was simple, and something all journalists should adhere to:

“It’s not like I don’t have any opinions, but you recognize what the job is about,” he said of his role during debates. “My job is not about giving opinions. My job is about making sure the viewer is well-served even handedly, and fairly — hopefully — among competing interests.”

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why he was named an officer of the Order of Canada on May 8.

He plays coy about the nod of distinction, much like his response to the questions about Polkaroo.

“I got up there, and looked at the Governor General [David Johnston] and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here’,” he said, with a laugh. “I did nothing to earn it.”

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