Monday, May 13, 2013
Following an apparent three day bout with temporary insanity, Hockey Canada came to its senses today and added P.K. Subban to the Canadian roster at the World Hockey Championships in Sweden. Just two days ago, general manager Steve Yzerman said he was happy with the existing roster and had no plans to add any more players, which was perceived as a snub against Subban, and why wouldn't it be? What kind of general manager automatically rules out a Norris Trophy finalist who's on record as being ready to represent his country at a moment's notice? Better late than never that he relented on Subban, but Yzerman comes out of this looking disingenuous at best...So, Carey Price claims the public scrutiny that comes with being the goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens is so suffocating that he doesn't even go to the grocery store. Well, there's your problem right there: malnutrition...Meanwhile, Price says he still believes he has the ability to win a Stanley Cup, but that he has to take his game to the next level, which according to my calculations makes him a Carey Price hater...The Hockey Night in Canada studio crew's Toronto favoritism is understandable because the Leafs are their hometown team, but as national broadcasters they're duty-bound to consciously check their bias at the door. Burning Don Cherry's blue and white wig would be a good place to start....One of these days, Gregg Zaun is going to be swallowed whole by his suit, and Jamie Campbell isn't even going to notice.
Monday, May 6, 2013
There's a case to be made either way over whether Ottawa coach Paul MacLean took the low road by calling a time out with 17 seconds left in a 6-1 game, but this much is certain: the timeout was a convenient post-game distraction for the Canadiens and provided collective motivation for a team that showed signs of coming apart at the seams physically and spiritually. Being down 2-1 in the series is obviously motivation enough, but the perception that MacLean was rubbing the Canadiens noses in their own filth gives Montreal coach Michel Therrien an emotional rallying point where none might otherwise have existed...Meanwhile, it occurs to me that the media sniping between coaches over MacLean referring to Raphael Diaz by number rather than name would be a non-issue in NASCAR, where competitors are routinely referred to by their car numbers. If only it were as easy as rolling the 81 and the 74 into the garage and fixing them up good as new for the next race...The handwringing over violent hits in the NHL is well-intentioned, but let's not forget that blunt trauma is an occupational hazard readily accepted by lucratively-compensated employees of a multi-billion dollar industry that markets physical aggression as a virtue. Like it or not, any potential rule change on bodychecking is a business consideration as much as it is a safety issue...April is no time to panic in a six month baseball season, but now that it's May, I strongly urge all Blue Jays fans to embrace rampant hysteria...You can debate the Kentucky Derby's claim to being the most exciting two minutes in sports, but its devotees' wardrobe choices leave no question of it being the largest annual gathering of well-heeled circus clowns, carnival freaks and court jesters.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The reaction to NBA veteran Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay athlete in major North American team sports has been predictable on a couple of levels. Almost universally, Collins is being praised for his courage, and rightly so. The traditionally macho world of male pro sports represents one of the gay community's final frontiers to full social acceptance, and the overwhelmingly positive public reaction to Collins' announcement is testimony to the dramatic change in prevailing attitudes over the past 30 years.
What's also predictable, though, is the summary dismissal of alternative opinion. ESPN writer Chris Broussard, a practising Christian, was widely mocked and ridiculed yesterday for saying he can't support Collins on religious grounds. Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace took a public relations beating for saying on Twitter that with all the beautiful women in the world, he doesn't get why guys want to - in his words - mess with other guys. Wallace didn't say that he's against it or that it's wrong; just that he doesn't understand it. Never mind that science still doesn't understand it and that there's a debate within the gay community itself over whether the lifestyle is preordained or a conscious choice, the reaction to Wallace's relatively innocuous comment was sufficiently hysterical that he was compelled to delete the tweet and issue an apology.
Broussard and Wallace might not be enlightened by 21st century western world standards, but they have a right to their religious beliefs and personal opinions, as long as they're not hateful or slanderous. On an issue as morally divisive as this one, understanding and acceptance have to work both ways. Otherwise, we're left with intolerance and hypocrisy.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Did I miss something on Coach's Corner Saturday night? Did Don Cherry say that women should go back to making babies, knitting sweaters and baking pies? What I heard him say was that he doesn't believe women reporters should be allowed in men's locker rooms - a quaint and admittedly outdated notion that speaks to a generation that came of age when modesty between the genders still counted for something. The visceral reaction from both mainstream and social media commentators was completely out of proportion to what Cherry said, and that he was the number one trending topic on Twitter inside of five minutes flies in the face of his detractors' claims that Cherry is no longer relevant. They're the ones who make him relevant, by hanging on his every word and hoping beyond hope that he'll say something sufficiently offensive to their politically correct sensibilities that they can wallow unrestrained in their sanctimonious moral outrage. That shallow brand of manufactured piety is a lot more offensive to me than a misguided oldtimer's honest opinion that men and women shouldn't see each other with their bloomers off outside the confines of the marital bedroom...While I understand and appreciate the benefits of the Canadiens winning the Northeast division, opening the playoffs against Ottawa seems like a consolation prize after all the build-up towards a potential first round encounter with Toronto. Besides the marquee appeal of a series between hockey's most storied rivals, there was a rebirth of genuine antipathy between the Leafs and Habs this season, and it was building to a hostile crescendo just in time for the playoffs...You can say Vancouver's Henrik Sedin has a consecutive games played streak, but don't call it an ironman streak. Iron Man doesn't play one 22 second shift and then call it a night just to pad a personal statistic. That would be Tin Man, and we all know his deal.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Were I the type to engage in April 1st falsehoods, I would perpetrate a Tomas Kaberle for Mike Komisarek pre-trade deadline exchange of liabilities between the Canadiens and the Leafs. Such delicious irony: two failed and expensive experiments returning to their original teams. On further examination, though, the idea is only half-crazy. As salary cap hits, the two are a virtual wash. In real dollars, Kaberle is due a million dollars more than Komisarek is owed in the final years of their respective contracts, but the bigger problem is that Kaberele wouldn't be any more useful to the Leafs than he was to the Canadiens. It's too bad, because Komisarek could give Montreal some much-needed depth and physical presence on the back end. He bombed as a top four blueliner in Toronto, but Komisarek is 31, healthy and a consummate professional, and his contract is the only obstacle to an opportunity to reinvent himself as a useful fifth or sixth defenceman...Never let it be said that Sidney Crosby isn't tough. Crosby took a slapshot square in the face Saturday and reacted to a broken jaw and shattered teeth with less drama than most of us display when we stub our toe. If anything, he looked marginally annoyed...Amazingly, Crosby's busted kisser was only the second most horrific injury in sports over the weekend. The broken leg suffered yesterday by Louisville university basketball player Kevin Ware was so grotesque that it prompted teammates to vomit on the bench and reduced grown-ups watching or working courtside to tears...I'm not going to lie to you. I don't know and don't really care about NCAA basketball, which is why I didn't bother making a bracket before the tournament began. Granted, I might not have done any worse than a lot of the so-called experts this year, but there's still no credibility in picking Gonzaga over Saint Louis because I'd rather be a Bulldog than a Billiken. For now and the foreseeable future, my idea of March Madness is going off my meds between St. Patrick's Day and Easter...Gordie Howe turned 85 yesterday and celebrated by elbowing the Easter Bunny in the face.
Monday, March 25, 2013
It's a bit of a shame that Canada's most marketable athlete competes in a sport that's fighting for survival. James Hinchcliffe has it all. He's young, good-looking, articulate, charismatic and strikes a perfect balance between humility and fierce pride in his Canadian roots. Unfortunately, he competes in IndyCar racing, where his first career victory yesterday in St. Petersburg, Florida, was won in the giant shadows cast by NASCAR in North America and the globally-dominant Formula One brand. The good news for IndyCar is that Hinchcliffe is exactly the kind of talent the circuit needs on and off the track to get back on the motorsport map...I'm of two minds on the Red Bull brouhaha at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix. Sebastien Vettel didn't win three straight world championships by deferring to anyone, but team orders are team orders, and yesterday wasn't the first time he tangled with teammate Mark Webber. Fire in the belly is one of the hallmarks of a champion, but Vettel's competitive streak crosses the line into selfishness...Three of a possible six points is probably two fewer than the Canadiens had targeted last week in three games with conference bottom feeders. The saving grace is that aside from a first period letdown against Buffalo Tuesday, the effort was there, the Habs stayed true to the system and Carey Price was banana-free, all of which which bodes well ahead of back-to-back road games in Pittsburgh and Boston...Don Cherry's Saturday night get-up (as seen on P.K. Subban's Twitter account) took Cherry's lifetime ode to Liberace to a whole new level. I've heard of guys wearing jeans or even shorts under the anchor desk, but Cherry is the first male television personality I've ever seen rocking the full-on, double-breasted moo moo...Meanwhile, I'm less concerned about P.J. Stock's Dracula collars than I am with running into P.J. in a fog-shrouded cemetery under a full moon at midnight...I defy you to watch Sergio Garcia's shot from eight feet up in a tree at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tell me Darwin was wrong.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
My friend Mark is as funny and articulate as anyone in the blogosphere, but too lazy/humble/indifferent to start his own blog, so he just writes gold and sends it to me. His observations need to be shared, for amusement's sake if not for the betterment of mankind.
So Tiger Woods and Lindsay Va-va-Vonn are as one.
I must say that the popular press is positively slavering in hopes that this romance will come to a colorful and rocky end. It certainly has all the makings. Like most elite athletes, these are two utterly self-centered and actively unpleasant specimens who will remain together for precisely as long as it takes until either grows tiresome or annoying to the other.
I think I told you that my old friend, Alan Richman (whom you last saw at our wedding), has written frequently about the difference between athletes and actors as people. Alan has had 3 very successful careers. He was a top notch sportswriter for the Philadelphia Bulletin, Montreal Star (to cover the 76 Olympics from top to bottom), the Boston Globe and finally the New York Times as their Head Feature Sportswriter. He then moved on to career #2 - personalities. Head Writer for People Magazine, then "Writer at Large" for Esquire and GQ. Career #3 centers on food and wine, and he has won every major available award in those fields - some of them many times over. (Also a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam - Swift Boats. Oprah was at his wedding.)
Anyway, Alan says that he would definitely prefer to interview nearly any actor in the world to interviewing nearly any professional athlete. The reason? With very rare exceptions, actors know exactly how lucky they are. They are accustomed to being told "no" time and time again - even after they've gained a measure of success. Nearly every one of them knows how close they came to a lifetime of frustrated failure and obscurity, and how quickly it could be so again. Top level actors tend to be textured and pleasant people, who are pleased to make themselves available. It's part of success, and there are very few Lindsay Lohans out there. (This applies to actors only; musicians and politicians are specifically excluded from the Richman Rule.)
But elite athletes - from the moment that they show signs of special talent (usually around the age of 8) - become these little cossetted prince-lings and princesses. They don't have to study, they don't have to show respect to anyone, or be well mannered or even obey most laws. Their parents, teachers, coaches, principals, local police and even Judges look the other way, cover up, and make excuses. Those Steubenville, Ohio high school football players are a classic example - and CNN's Candy Crowley and others are taking real heat - as they should be - for lamenting the lot of the poor rapists, who are such fine boys, after all.
Top athletes grow up to be churlish and utterly self-serving. You've had to deal with them. But how could it be otherwise? They're surrounded by sycophants and toadies who egg them on. One former tennis star, notorious for his bad behavior on and off the court, is an obviously intelligent man who has matured nicely (in public) from his bratty youth. He's well into his 50s now and an active philanthropist; but he is still known to be rude, curt, dismissive, and really nasty to strangers and reporters in private.
So I hope that Eldrick and Lindsay have a good time rubbing their pleasure centers together until they grow to hate and betray one another. When Tiger is happy, he plays better golf - which is fun to watch. I hope their relationship lasts past Augusta.
Old Cynical, Accurate Me