Monday, December 19, 2011

Juste gagne, bebe

Saturday's coaching change didn't have an immediate impact for the Canadiens, nor will it matter much in the long-term without an accompanying change in philosophy. Whether it's Randy Cunneyworth or someone of more politically correct linguistic lineage, the Canadiens need someone who can find a way to make the most of each player's skill set within a team context - an approach that'll require the kind of imagination and risk-taking that were completely foreign to Jacques Martin's way of thinking...Francophone media members who actually believe that speaking French should be a prerequisite for coaching the Canadiens should be covering politics, not hockey. It must be tiring to still be fighting the Battle of the Plains of Abraham 252 years after the last shot was fired...Now that they've lost a football game, the Green Bay Packers can focus on defending their Super Bowl championship without the added distraction of pursuing perfection. The real downside is that they've lost their aura of invincibility...Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow wasn't terrible in Denver's first loss in the last seven games, but he got a lesson in poise and maturity from New England's Tom Brady, whose championship pedigree still makes him the standard by which all other NFL quarterbacks are measured, Aaron Rodgers included...House arrest for a month isn't much of a punishment for disgraced baseball home run king Barry Bonds, especially considering he'll do the time at his palatial estate in Beverly Hills. If the judge in his obstruction of justice case really wanted to punish Bonds, she should have sentenced him to 30 days at a crazy cat lady's house.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hysteria is not a substitute for debate

Montreal Gazette hockey writer Pat Hickey's article calling Theoren Fleury a sexual abuse enabler and a hypocrite has been met with the kind of predictable, over-the-top outrage that's come to characterize public debate in Canada.
Without question, Hickey's piece is hugely provocative, but it's an opinion piece, and not only is Hickey entitled to his opinion, he's paid to express it. His article on Fleury is well-written and his argument well-presented, whether you agree with it or not. At least one senior editor had to approve the article, and on a topic as sensitive as child sex abuse, it might have gone all the way to the publisher before Hickey got the green light.
In an industry where newsrooms are increasingly run by spineless yes men who don't hesitate to throw their own people under the bus to protect the sacred brand and please their corporate masters, it's a credit to the Gazette's commitment to editorial autonomy that Hickey was allowed to express a controversial but relevant opinion. The next test for the Gazette is whether it stands by Hickey in the ensuing firestorm, which is already well ablaze, with Fleury himself leading the charge for Hickey's dismissal from the newspaper.
Hickey deserves his employer's support, if only for the sake of journalistic independance and freedom of expression. Otherwise, we've reached a place of zero-tolerance for dissenting opinion, and that's not good for anyone - not even the misguided posers in the vanguard of the thought police.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Habs fans root for failure with told-you-so mentality

Even by the cynical standards of hard-done-by 21st century Montreal Canadiens fans, the reaction to Friday's acquisition of Tomas Kaberle was extraordinarily contemptuous. They complain about the team not shaking things up, and then when the general manager makes a significant trade, they immediately trash it without waiting for events to unfold. Kaberle was a difference-maker in his Canadiens' debut Saturday in New Jersey and still couldn't get his due from a fan base whose bitterness is exceeded only by their sense of entitlement. News flash: the 1970's are over. Stanley Cup parades are no longer a rite of spring - in ANY city. Twenty-nine teams DON'T win the Cup every year. Kaberle's salary cap hit isn't the issue right now. The immediate priority is getting into the playoffs, and the Canadiens have a better shot of making it with Kaberle than they did without him...World figure skating champion Patrick Chan's lament about not being appreciated at home in Canada has some merit, but musing about returning to his ethic roots and representing China is not the way to endear himself to his fellow Canadians...If Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun already knew he had tested positive for steroids when he won the National League MVP Award last month, he did a good job of hiding it. Braun's poise, humility and gratitude betrayed no sign of knowledge that his reputation would shortly be tainted by allegations that are now under appeal, and that his spokesmen insist will be proven false because of extenuating circumstances...Due process will dispense this week with Barry Bonds, who faces sentencing on a conviction of obstruction of justice for refusing to answer questions in front of a grand jury investigating steroid use by professional athletes. Whether or not he goes to prison, one place Bonds won't be going to is the Baseball Hall of Fame - at least not without a ticket.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Loyalty, schmoyalty

Albert Pujols had an opportunity to do something exceedingly rare and noble in professional sports, but like the old grey mare, the road less-travelled ain't what it used to be.
Pujols turned down a reported 200 million dollar offer to effectively remain a St. Louis Cardinal for life, which would have allowed the three-time National League MVP to carve a Cal Ripken-esque legacy as one of only a handful of modern day athletic superstars to spend their entire career with the same team.
Pujols certainly can't be faulted for accepting a reported 10 year, 254 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Angels, and the decision was probably less about the extra 54 million than it was about career and lifestyle considerations. He'll be 32 on Opening Day and will benefit greatly from the American League's designated hitter rule, which gives players of a certain age an opportunity to take a routine break from the wear and tear of playing in the field and still get their every day at bats. On a personal level, as much as St. Louis is a terrific baseball town that had a decade-long love affair with Pujols, there's probably not a Latin American player out there who wouldn't be more in their element living in Southern California versus a Midwest lifestyle.
Baseball players used to spend their entire career with the same team because they had to. Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and most of the rest of the one-team Hall of Famers were virtual slaves to the reserve clause, which tied them to the same team for life, unless that team decided to trade or sell them. Since the reserve clause was struck down in the mid-1970s, the pendulum has swung completely the other way, and players are de facto hired guns who move from one team to the next with little - if any - consideration for the teams and cities they left behind.
It would have been nice to be able to write a commentary about the eternal bond between Pujols, the Cardinals and St. Louis fans, but honour, loyalty and commitment can't be bought - not even for 200 million dollars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unfinished business for Als' Calvillo

I'm not sure why I was surprised when Anthony Calvillo announced he'd be back for another season as quarterback of the Alouettes in 2012, because it makes sense on virtually every level. I guess I was thinking about Calvillo's age - 39 - coupled with both his wife's and his own cancer scares, and how that combination of factors could make focusing on his young family more important than pursuing a football career that's already produced irrefutable Hall of Fame credentials, including three Grey Cup championships and three CFL MVP awards.
But there are other, overriding factors that make coming back the logical choice for Calvillo. One is that despite his age and health setbacks, he's still the standard by which all other CFL quarterbacks are judged. Calvillo led the league in completions, passing yards and touchdown passes in 2011, and had an almost unheard of touchdown to interceptions ratio of 4-1. He was the only reason the Als took Hamilton to overtime in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Beyond his still-formidable skill set and leadership qualities, Calvillo is not one to rest on his laurels, and he hates to lose. Behind the modest and soft-spoken facade is a fierce competitor whose unfailing public grace regardless of circumstance belies a deep abhorrence for defeat. He measures everything in the moment, and by that measure, a first round playoff exit in his most recent game means Anthony Calvillo's work is not done.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The perfect Pack (and other Monday morning musings)

Yesterday's Green Bay-New York NFL game would have made a great Super Bowl, and it might have been the Giants' Super Bowl, because at 6-6 and mired in a four game losing streak, they're becoming increasingly marginal as playoff contenders. The Packers, meanwhile, are still on track for a perfect season, and with Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit remaining on Green Bay's schedule, 16-0 isn't just possible - it's probable. There are some other great teams out there - San Francisco, New Orleans and New England among them - but the Packers are a cut above, thanks mainly to Aaron Rodgers, who's on the verge of carving as rich a legacy in four seasons as Brett Favre forged in 16 years in Green Bay. When character and leadership are taken into account, history might judge Favre as the Packers' third greatest QB, behind Rodgers and Bart Starr...Andrei Markov's surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, has long been considered the go-to guy for athletes with major knee injuries, but in light of Markov's repeated setbacks in his recovery, I'm starting to wondering if Andrews farmed out the Markov surgery to Dr. Doolittle, Dr. John or Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show...It didn't transpire, but had the Canadiens and Kings gone to a shootout Saturday in Los Angeles, my prediction for Jacques Martin's picks were Gill, Budaj and Cole - Bob, not Erik...Jeffrey Loria and David Samson have no shame. A decade after helping to orchestrate the demise of major league baseball in Montreal, the Miami Marlins owners are using revenue-sharing money from other teams to spend like drunken sailors on the free agent market. One can only trust that karma will eventually catch up with reprobates of their ilk, whether in this life or the next...I don't know enough about soccer to say with authority which four countries represent the Group of Death in the draw for Euro 2012, but Italy and Greece in the same foursome would have been a no-brainer for the Group of Debt.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There's no accounting for accountability

There's a new buzzword making the rounds in the National Hockey League. It's "accountability," and it means...nothing.
Kirk Muller was talking about accountability Monday at his first news conference as the new head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, and he might as well have been reciting the Moose Lodge oath of allegiance or whistling Dixie. Bruce Boudreau talked about accountability right up until he was fired Monday as head coach in Washington because the Capitals quit on him. Boudreau's fate was sealed when he held Alexander Ovechkin accountable by benching his best player in the late stages of a tie game earlier this month. Ovechkin paid lip service to accountability at the time but continued to tune out the coach and perform well below his pay scale, and Boudreau paid the price.
Accountability means something in the real world and even to the low level grunts among professional athletes, but the nature of the business is such that players of Ovechkin's status are not accountable. Scott Gomez is another glaring example. If Gomez were held accountable for his shortcomings, he'd be playing on the third line for the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League.
Muller and Boudreau and the rest of the coaching fraternity can talk all they want about accountability, but they should understand that they're the only ones who will ultimately be held accoutable - not just for their own failures, but for the failures of fat cat prima donnas whose God-given ability insulates against accountability, whether or not they're carrying their weight.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Habs fans put "h" in fine "whine"...again

The already overdone persecution complex among Montreal hockey fans became even more exaggerated yesterday when the NHL suspended Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty for three games for a hit on Pittsburgh's Kris Letang this past Saturday at the Bell Center.
How, wonder hard-done-by Habs supporters, can Pacioretty get three games when Boston's Milan Lucic got nothing for running Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller earlier this month, and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara escaped suspension after literally breaking Pacioretty's neck last March? After all, Pacioretty only broke Letang's nose.
Well, here's the thing: none of the three incidents has anything to do with each other. Pacioretty's hit on Letang was a textbook example of what the league has stated it wants to eliminate: a blindside hit to the head. The Lucic and Chara incidents were both different in nature and more open to interpretation, at least among those of us who aren't the Amazing Kreskin or don't claim to be gifted with the power to read the thoughts of others. Also, Pacioretty doesn't get a freebie just because he was once victimized, or because he had the decency to apologize to Letang.
Rather than play the persecution card and trot out the tired old anti-Canadiens conspiracy theory, maybe Montreal fans should take some pride in the fact that Pacioretty saw fit to man up and admit he was in the wrong, which gives him an element of class and dignity that Lucic and Chara sorely lack.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Credit where credit is due (and other Monday morning musings)

As much as it pains their critics, coach Jacques Martin and general manager Pierre Gauthier deserve at least some credit for helping get the injury-riddled Canadiens to the one-quarter mark of the season a game over .500 and well within striking distance of a playoff spot. Gauthier's ability to uncover useful replacement players and Martin's management of the limited resources available to him bode well for the Habs when and if they get back to something resembling full health...The depleted and relatively inexperienced and undersized defence corps gets its toughest test to date tonight at the Bell Center against the Bruins, who've won eight in a row after a slow start and haven't become any smaller or less belligerent...The long-awaited return of Sidney Crosby means at least as much for the NHL as it does for his own team. After it was announced that the Pittsburgh captain will play his first game in close to a year tonight, the Versus network in the US announced it was pulling the plug on the Boston-Montreal game to show the Penguins and Islanders in hopes of doubling hockey ratings on American television from 1.3 to 2.6 - people, not share points...Formula One might be the world's most glamorous sport, but it can't match NASCAR for drama. While Sebastien Vettel clinched the F1 championship with nearly two months left on the F1 calendar, the Sprint Cup title came down to yesterday's season finale in Homestead, Florida, where Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards finished 1-2 in the race and 1-2 in the Chase for the Championship, which went to Stewart on the basis of a tiebreaker after he and Edwards ended the season tied in points...A lot of President's Cup onlookers might have been disappointed, but no one should have been surprised that Tiger Woods and Steve Williams exchanged nothing more than a perfunctory handshake in their first public encounter since Woods fired Williams as his caddy. It's still golf, not roller derby.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tebow of Nazareth

Maybe there is something to this God thing, because there's no logical explanation for how devout Christian Tim Tebow keeps coming up with miracles on the football field.
Tebow has one of the worst ratings among starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but is 4-1 as a starter after leading the Denver Broncos to yet another surreal comeback win. Tebow was entirely ineffective for 54 minutes last night before engineering a late scoring drive that culminated in a 20 yard Tebow touchdown run for a 17-13 victory over the visiting New York Jets. Tebow's latest heroics came four days after an even more improbable Broncos win in Kansas City, where pro football's least conventional quaterback completed two - count 'em, two - passes, but made one of them good for 56 yards and a touchdown, and added a rushing TD of his own.
He has been dismissed as a one-dimensional quarterback with no long-term professional upside and openly ridiculed for his faith in Christianity, but all Tebow has done so far is find ways to win, while sticking steadfastly to the high road despite the mockery and criticism. He was dismissed as a poser for kneeling in prayer after beating Miami in overtime a few weeks ago, but really, what was Tebow doing other than honoring and emulating his Lord and Savoir? I haven't read the New Testament word for word, but I'm pretty sure Jesus never broke into the Riverdance after healing the lepers or did a Sea of Galilee version of the Lambeau Leap after walking on water.
Tim Tebow is - for the time being, at least - a winner, and will always be a Christian gentleman, whose honesty, humility and gratitude are a blueprint for the peace of mind that comes with having faith in a Higher Power, while sparing him the burden of a God complex.
His detractors should be so blessed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Here's Howe (and other Monday morning musings)

If yesterday's CFL Eastern semi-final was Anthony Calvillo's last game - and there's no firm indication that it was - the 39 year old Alouettes quarterback went out in style, even in a losing cause. Passing for 513 yards and three touchdowns, Calvillo did everything in his power to prolong the Als' pursuit of a Grey Cup three-peat. With Montreal and Hamilton combining for 96 points, the respective defensive coordinators might argue with the description of the game as an instant classic, but nobody came to the Big O hoping to see a punting duel, with the possible exception of the close friends and immediate family of the punters...Due process took another beating Saturday at Penn State, where 120 thousand people took part in a prayer service on the assumption that everything that's been alleged in a child sex abuse case is a matter of fact. The mad dash to the moral high ground has already precluded anyone in the case from getting a fair trial...Stand by for the usual bellyaching from Canadiens fans about NHL favoritism towards the Bruins if Boston's Milan Lucic isn't suspended for Saturday's hit on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, and there's no reason Lucic should be suspended. Miller was playing the puck well out of his crease and Lucic didn't deliberately target Miller's head when the two players collided, so the two minute penalty Lucic was assessed for charging is where it should end. And that's coming from a Canadiens fan...Sometimes, it takes someone other than Don Cherry to explain why fighting has a legitimate place in hockey. Mark Howe, a highly-respected, newly-minted member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, says that putting the onus on the referees over letting players police each other is an open invitation to the kind of cheap shots that routinely show up on the nightly highlight reel (see Lucic versus Miller). When Cherry argues the point, he's dismissed as a dinosaur, but coming from Howe it's perfectly credible...Speaking of Howe, did you see his father, Gordie, at Saturday's Hall of Fame festivities? Even at age 83, the elder Howe resembles Mark's slightly older brother more than he looks like his father. Mr. Hockey also looks like he could still break your nose with a well-placed elbow if you tried to cut the line at Tim's.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The rush to judgement at Penn State

Anyone who lives within a hundred miles of Penn State University should exercise extra caution in crossing the street these days, lest they get run roughshod by the stampede to the moral high ground.
Some judicial and journalistic fundamentals have already been trampled in the scandal at Penn State, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The grand jury report accusing former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexually abusing eight young boys and charging two former high-ranking university officials with perjury in an alleged coverup is a damning indictment, but the premature rush to judgement is more than a little unsettling. Media commentators who should know better aren't even bothering to put the charges in their proper legal context anymore. The term "alleged" has become optional, insinuating that the guilt of all parties is a given even though due process has yet to run its course.
What's equally unseemly is that the media crosshairs are fixed more squarely on legendary Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno than they are on the the guy who's actually accused of raping children. There's absolutely no evidence of legal wrongdoing on Paterno's part, but because he's by far the biggest name in the big picture, the scandal has become all about him.
I'm not sure when or how we got to the point where the legacy of a football coach - no matter how iconic - became more of a priority than justice for the victims of a heinous crime, but here we are. Maybe I'M jumping to conclusions, but in this instance, that wouldn't make me any different than anyone else.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gone fishin' (and other Monday morning musings)

Spare me the sob stories about the officiating in the Canadiens' loss in New York Saturday. Aside from the phantom interference call on Michael Blunden, the Canadiens got everything they deserved from the referees. Between a smart game plan with solid execution by the Rangers, at least one goal that Carey Price would probably like back, and four goal posts by the Canadiens, there was a lot more to that hockey game than penalties...Boston's 7-0 blowout of Toronto exposed the Achilles heel that's going to eventually bring the Leafs back to earth. The absence of a proven, quality goaltender is going to be Toronto's undoing, unless general manager Brian Burke uses his blue line depth to trade for help from outside the organization...

In the context of a hockey broadcast, Don Cherry's tributes to the military are frequently awash in maudlin cornball, but the double-breasted Canadian Legion blazer and regimental tie combination Cherry wore on Coach's Corner Saturday marked the first time in recent memory that he looked like a distinguished elderly gentleman and not a creepy old carnival barker...Worst hockey analysis ever - Ottawa color commentator Denis Potvin on Senators forward Jesse Winchester: "If you put a fishing rod in his hands, he'll do whatever it takes to catch a fish, and he brings that same attitude to hockey." Fishing as a metaphor for hockey? Sounds like Denis put the wrong mushrooms on his pre-game steak...

(photoshopping by Josie Gold)

So, Kyle Busch deliberately spins Ron Hornaday Jr. into the wall at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race in Texas and gets suspended for the weekend. For the weekend. In most jurisdictions, what Busch did qualifies as assault with a deadly weapon, if not attempted homicide. In NASCAR, it gets you a two day grounding and a stern talking-to...Stranger things have happened, but it's difficult to imagine the slumping, injury-riddled Alouettes turning things around in the playoffs on the heels of three consecutive losses, including Saturday night's 43-1 debacle in BC. Anthony Calvillo might still be the best quarterback in the CFL, but unless he adds blocking, tackling and faith healing to his repertoire between now and next Sunday, the three-peat dream is dead...One thing about Bill Belichick - no matter what the score is, you can always tell he's an asshole.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tweet this

The most contentious element of Winnipeg Blue Bomber Johnny Sears' helmet-to-helmet hit on Toronto quarterback Steven Jyles last Friday isn't the hit itself or the one game suspension the CFL handed Sears yesterday. The infraction and the subsequent suspension and fine are cut-and-dried, done-and-done.
What's dubious is whether the league was acting within its limits of authority when it fined two Toronto players for their comments about the hit on social media. Argos offensive linemen Rob Murphy and Taylor Robertson, both of whom were injured and didn't play in Winnipeg, went on Twitter after the game to say that Sears is fortunate they weren't playing, and that they'll settle the score with him next season. Murphy and Robertson were fined an undisclosed amount by the CFL, and Murphy has indicated (via Twitter, where else?) that he will appeal, as well he should.
Social media is here to stay and like most of the rest of their generation, professional athletes are all over it. Finer legal minds than mine will be required to decide whether an athlete is answerable to his team or league for what he posts on Facebook or Twitter, and Murphy's appeal could go a long way towards determining whether players are liable to censure under the terms of their playing contracts and the collective bargaining agreement.
It would seem to my not-so-refined legal mind that as long as they're not uttering death threats, promoting hatred or dabbling in libel or slander, what anyone says on their personal social media account is their own business.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Christian athletes fair game for mockery (and other Monday morning musings)

Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch says he was only having fun and meant no disrespect when he mocked Denver quarterback Tim Tebow's one-knee prayer after sacking Tebow yesterday, but mockery - by definition - is an act of disrespect. That Tebow is a devout Christian is the only reason Tulloch's gesture wasn't greeted with widespread outrage. Imagine if the Lions had danced the Hora or faced east and prostrated themselves to Allah after sacking a Jewish or Muslim quarterback. They would have been universally condemned for cultural insensitivity and forced to apologize, but mocking Tebow's religion is apparently okay because it's just having a little fun at the expense of a Bible thumper. I'm not offended as a Christian, but I am offended by the double standard...Finishing first in the CFL East is about more than just home field advantage for the Alouettes, who no longer control their own playoff destiny after yesterday's loss to Calgary. In a league whose revenues are a fraction of other major pro sports leagues, a home playoff game at Olympic Stadium can have a substantial impact on the team's bottom line...Along with most of the rest of the Canadiens, goaltender Carey Price lifted his game to another level last week, but two of the biggest saves of the week were made by defencemen. With their goaltender out of position on separate occasions, desperation goalmouth dives by Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges were turning points in back-to-back wins over the Bruins...Besides demonstrating a quick wit, Price proved himself as a student history Thursday when he said of the soft goal he gave up in Boston, "I Bill Buckner-ed it." Buckner's infamous fielding gaffe in the 1986 World Series is not a personal memory for Price, who was born in 1987...While Lars Eller is getting better all the time, it might be a little early to saddle him with a nickname as bold as "The Great Dane," although it does have a better ring to it than "The Much-Improved Dane"...Mike Milbury said one of the dumbest things in recent memory Saturday when he criticized PK Subban's wardrobe on Hockey Night in Canada, saying that Subban's stylish sartorial choices are part of the reason other players don't like him. This from a guy who was wearing a tie that looked like it was knit for him by his Nana.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Things my friend Mark says - Volume 4: A giant sucking sound

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.


When Urologists and Podiatrists are jockeying for position outside a locker room door, you know that the baseball hasn't been good. The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers have stepped on their own dicks so many times in the past week that the putzy and tootsie doctors are fee-splitting.

God, but it has been awful. Terrible errors - mental and physical - have plagued both clubs. Both Managers have been bafflingly erratic, making decisions that border on mild psychosis. And let's not leave out the Umpires, who have been as useless as the bullpen telephones.

"Fall Classic", my ass! The 2011 World Series has been like watching 7 Harlem Globetrotters games in a row - but with the Washington Generals playing both sides. I keep waiting for them to pull out the fake water bucket.

And yet, it's been genuinely fun to watch. This month has proven that horrible baseball can be exciting and memorable. But there's a dangerous flip side to that statement. Excellent baseball can't anymore. It's dull, predictable, way too slow, and getting slower by the year.

Do quarterbacks spend 45 seconds rubbing and spitting on the football before the snap? Do hockey referees keep throwing out new pucks until Henrik Sedin settles on one that he likes? Major League Baseball just can't compete with the barely controlled mayhem and sheer pace of the NHL and NFL (not to mention most MLS post-goal celebrations).

And the athletes themselves - many of them - are an embarrassment to the sport. Pitching mounds are peopled by throwers so fat that they look like PGA castoffs. Put a Rangers uniform on John Daly, and you've pretty much got the picture. Barry White isn't dead; he's in the Yankees starting rotation. (Okay, same thing - but you see my point.)

And it's not just the pitchers that are "big boned" anymore. Throw a tarp over Prince Fielder and he could sleep six. Beer in the locker room? Hell, I'm surprised they don't smoke on the field! What difference would it make?

It's become sadly apparent that for baseball to be entertaining in the 21st Century, it has to really, really, really suck. Job well done, guys.

Shades of '75

Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is still the best baseball game I've ever seen, but that might only be because I didn't actually see last night's sixth game of the 2011 Fall Classic. I was already dead asleep for two hours by the time David Freese won it for the Cardinals with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 11th, but I knew I'd missed something special when I logged on to Twitter first thing this morning and read comments like "This ball game is ridiculous," "I cannot believe this," "This is why baseball is the greatest sport on the planet" and "Move over, Carlton Fisk."
Like Fisk's legendary game-winning home run 37 Octobers ago, Freese's walkoff bomb will be the enduring memory of last night's game, but there was so much more to both games that was or will be all but lost to the sands of time. This morning's vivid images of Freese's game-tying, two-run triple in the bottom of the 9th, Josh Hamilton's two-run homer to put Texas back on top in the 10th and Lance Berkman capping another Cards' rally in the St. Louis half of the 10th will eventually become dusty footnotes like Bernie Carbo's three run homer in the 8th that set the stage for Fisk, George Foster throwing out Denny Doyle at the plate and Dwight Evans robbing Joe Morgan of a go-ahead home run in the 11th in back '75.
Like good scotch, baseball is an acquired taste, and anyone who doesn't have the patience for it can't appreciate that what they perceive as the agonizingly slow pace of the game is exactly what makes it so exciting. When the drama is allowed to build the way it builds in baseball, the emotional payoff is enormous, especially when the stakes are as high as they are in October.
Last night's game will go down as one of the top four or five games in the history of the World Series, and in a sport that's produced more instant classics than any other, that's saying a lot.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Staying up late to pitch in the World Series and other Monday morning musings

Well, no one can accuse the Canadiens of panicking. Petteri Nokelainen and Garrett Stafford for Brock Trotter and a seventh round draft choice is the managerial equivalent of taking a valium when the prescription calls for a liberal dose of stimulants. With fans and media alike calling for drastic measures up to and including the exhumation of the mortal remains of Toe Blake, acquiring a has-been and a never-was for a minor leaguer and a late round pick only invites open disdain and mockery...It's a bit like saying that other than hitting the iceberg, the Titanic had a terrific maiden voyage, but that really was an entertaining hockey game at the Bell Center Saturday, right up until much-reviled former Canadien Mikhail Grabovski came back to haunt the Habs with as nifty an overtime goal as you'll ever see...San Jose's Joe Thornton played his 1000th NHL game in Boston Saturday and was well-received by the same fans who pretty much ran him out of Boston six years ago. It was the kind of reception Mikhail Grabovski should not count on if he happens to play his 1000th NHL game in Montreal. His millionth, maybe, but not his thousandth...So, Texas pitcher Derek Holland can throw a baseball 98 miles an hour but he can't grow a mustache. Rangers manager Ron Washington didn't take Holland out of the game in the 9th inning last night because Holland was tired. He gave him the hook because it was past Holland's bedtime...If the CIA is serious about making the western world a safer place, it should send a copy of yesterday's 6-3 Cleveland-Seattle NFL game to Guantanamo Bay and make the detainees watch it until they spill everything they know about Al-Qaeda. The war on terror would be won by noon tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Things my friend Mark says - Volume 3: No mo' Momo

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.


With the death, today, of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, a mighty torch has been passed.

For over 40 years, Gadhafi held the title of "Ugliest Meaty-Faced Man in the World". It is a coveted honour. After all, anyone can be ugly, but when it came to being truly meaty-faced the Colonel was unchallenged. One cannot view a photo of him without immediately thinking, "This is how Dick Cheney should have looked."

Gadhafi was confident, even arrogant, about his fleshy bad looks. He knew that a really snappy uniform or the finest silk casual wear couldn't detract one iota from his permanently gasp-inducing visage. Forget about his eyes or bone structure. Just the skin itself was at least 12 pounds of badly arranged suet. One imagines that a very young Moammar was taunted on the schoolyards of Tripoli, perhaps laying a groundwork for the sheer viciousness of his future dictatorship.

Still, it cannot be denied that Colonel Gadhafi was a sensitive and tasteful man, with a real flair for the fashion statement. (His long-indulged preference for pillbox hats was known among his dearest friends to be just a touching, boyish homage to Jackie Kennedy.)

But life goes on, and there is now a different, but equally undeniable holder of the title. He needs no introduction. The "Ugliest Meaty-Faced Man in the World" is...

Danke schoen!


P.S. Reports state that Gadhafi was shot in the back of the head. (The bullets refused to go in the front way.)

Jimmy Crack Corn and Bryant Gumbel don't care

And you thought Don Cherry was a loose cannon.
HBO Sports anchor Bryant Gumbel went off on a tirade this week that made Cherry's "pukes and hypocrites" brouhaha look like a pre-nap tantrum during quiet time at nursery school.
In an editorial addressing the basketball lockout, Gumbel likened NBA commissioner David Stern to a modern day plantation owner treating men as if they were his "boys."
This isn't one of those cases where Gumbel can get away with saying that because he's black. Playing the race card is a dubious proposition at the best of times. To characterize highly-paid and pampered pro athletes as slaves just because the majority of the work force is black and the NBA commissioner is white isn't just irresponsible - it's inflammatory.
The disturbing thing is that as a seasoned, award-winning journalist, Gumbel knows better, which means his comments were calculated, although to what end is known only to Gumbel himself. His documented history of controversial, race-related comments bespeaks a shameless, self-seeking publicity hound, but maybe he really fancies himself as some kind of latter day Martin Luther King, Jr., fighting the good fight for civil rights. If that's the case, Gumbel might want to pick a different battlefield than the NBA. Comparing privileged multi-millionaires to slaves minimizes genuine social injustices and undermines the efforts of the legitimate champions of racial equality.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When the reward doesn't justify the risk (and other Monday morning musings)

In the context of sports, the expression "high risk, high reward" doesn't normally imply the risk of death, but the tragic events at yesterday's Indy car race in Las Vegas were a sobering reminder that death lurks on every corner and straightaway. As with every fatality in elite level motorsport, there will be an appropriate mourning period for two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, then it'll be business as usual until the next driver is killed, whether it's next week, next month or next year. It's a measure of the magnitude of the rewards and the addictiveness of speed that racers routinely and willingly risk sudden, violent death, but how do his teammates, peers and rivals explain to Wheldon's widow and two young children that it was worth the risk?...I don't care if Peter, Paul and Mary are playing defence - anytime the Canadiens score five goals, there's no excuse for a goaltender of Carey Price's calibre not parlaying it into two points. By the time the Canadiens and Avalanche got to a shootout Saturday, Price almost looked like he'd given up...Kudos to the Canadiens and Price for supporting Breast Cancer Awareness month and for the subtle touches of pink on Price's goaltending equipment, Price's tastefully low-key presentation could serve as an example for the NFL, where over-the-top pink shoes, socks, towels and even whistles have had the effect of making the cause intrusive...It's only mid-October and the fossilized remains of Bob Cole are already in mid-season form. The marginally coherent Hockey Night in Canada windbag had some real doozies Saturday, announcing that a Colorado penalty when the Avs were already shorthanded was "the first penalty of the game," and calling Colorado's David Jones "Johnson." How do you not get "Jones" right? That's like mispronouncing Smith...Those throwback jerseys the Green Bay Packers were sporting yesterday looked like something a prison team wouild wear, complete with the black numbers inside a yellow circle providing tower guards with a convenient bulls-eye in the event of an escape attempt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Calvillo simply the best (and other Monday morning musings on a Tuesday)

The most impressive thing about Anthony Calvillo is that being pro football's all-time passing leader isn't the most impressive thing about him. Even before being confronted with his wife's illness and a cancer scare of his own, the Alouettes quarterback's athletic aptitude and accomplishments were secondary to his character. Calvillo has always had confidence without arrogance, and been humble without being aloof. As a leader, a role model and a person, the best comparison - and maybe the highest compliment you could pay him - is to call Calvillo the Jean Beliveau of football...Speaking of Beliveau, with all the casualties the Canadiens are suffering and the damaged goods they've had to ship back to other teams, big Jean is now officially back on the Montreal depth chart among forwards. A couple more injuries and it'll be Beliveau on a line with Aaron Palushaj and John Chabot...I don't doubt it was well-intentioned, but Sunday's warm and fuzzy pre-game video tribute to former Winnipeg Jet Rick Rypien, who committed suicide over the summer, struck me as an inappropriate spectacle that risked sending the message to young people with self-destructive tendencies that if you take your own life, you'll be remembered as a hero...Before Toronto's city fathers prematurely clear the decks for a Stanley Cup parade, let them recall that the Leafs started last season 5-0-1 and still managed to finished 10th and miss the playoffs by eight points... It doesn't matter that Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard isn't a goon by nature. If you deliberately smash a guy in the face with your stick, two games is a justifiable suspension, whether Bouchard's agent, Allan Walsh, likes it or not. By the way, Walsh is the same guy who went on Twitter a couple of years ago to complain that Carey Price was getting more playing time than Walsh client Jaroslav Halak, and accentuated his point by comparing their statistics. I guess I don't have to tell you that Walsh hasn't been tweeting any statistical comparisons between Price and Halak lately.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things my friend Mark says - Volume 2

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.

October 10, 2011


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was at the Buffalo/Philly game on Sunday, and joined the broadcast crew to pay "tribute" to Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. "He really was a legend of the game," old Roger said - without choking. Then the play-by-play guy had the poor taste to ask the Commish whether there might be a new trophy awarded by the NFL in Davis' honor.

If looks could kill.

Goodell mumbled something vague, but it's not difficult to imagine what he really wanted to say.

"Yes, Dan; I'm so glad you asked. I'd like to announce the creation of the 'Al Davis Ultra-Memorial Trophy' - awarded by the league only when we're really happy to hear that some miserable son of a bitch is finally dead. And it won't be easy to win it either. We'll require two separate autopsies from league-appointed physicians to confirm that the corpse hasn't got a twitch left in it.

"And this isn't going to be some lousy annual thing either. Nope, we gotta be genuinely delighted that the fucker's gone. It'll be sort of a 'Deathtime Achievement Award'. For example one obvious future winner of 'The Davis' will be O.J. Simpson (may he rest in peace, soonish). Of course they'll have to bury him face down so we can present it to him properly.

"Is that what you wanted to know, Dan? Huh? Is it?"

Commissioner Goodell was then gently guided back to the champagne brunch that he'd been enjoying.


P.S. If you don't get gravy on your elbows, you weren't really hungry.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bad fashion choices and other Monday morning musings

Only in Montreal does public and media sentiment about the local hockey team fluctuate from confidence to near-panic back to unbridled optimism, all during two weeks of training camp. The bandwagon is overflowing once again after the Canadiens wrapped up the pre-season by steamrolling Tampa Bay 5-1 in Quebec City. A near-flawless dress rehearsal with what was essentially the opening night lineup against a quality opponent puts the insignificance of a 2-6 exhibition record in its proper perspective...If the Alouettes defence is looking for something to build on in what's been a factious season, they need look no further than the goal line stand that preserved Friday's victory in Winnipeg. On and off the field, they'll get more and better results from a united front than they will from backbiting and second guessing each other...It doesn't get much more inappropriate than the last place Baltimore Orioles pouring out of the dugout like they'd just won the World Series after eliminating the Red Sox from playoff contention on the last night of baseball's regular season. Losing 93 games and being out of the pennant race since July calls for something a little more dignified and humble than a season-ending dogpile...Someone needs to tell St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Octavio Dotel that the high socks are not flattering on a man of his age and body type. He's a fanny pack and a pair of sandals away from being a German tourist...Even the best in the sports broadcasting business have off-days. Iconic ESPN host Chris Berman reported yesterday that when NFL teams start the season 3-0, they make the playoffs "seventy cent per six of the time." I'm Bed Tird, K103 Sports.

Friday, September 30, 2011

They're not saying "Budaj" - they're booing

When they signed him on the first day of free agency this summer, Peter Budaj's two year contract with the Canadiens seemed like a steal. A million and change per season for an established NHL goaltender to back up Carey Price is a nifty bit of fiscal management in a salary cap world.
Well, let the second-guessing begin after Budaj turned in back-to-back exhibition performances that had the Canadiens faithful pining for the good old days of Alex Auld, Yann Danis and Red Light Racicot. Budaj has struggled mightily in the pre-season, getting lit up for seven goals against Boston last Sunday before absorbing a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay last night at the Bell Center, where he actually gave up five goals, one of which was negated by an early whistle.
It's only exhibition, but that doesn't disguise the fact that Budaj just hasn't looked good, and considering he's a year shy of 30 and heading into his seventh NHL season, it's not as if his struggles can be ascribed to rookie jitters. Presumably, he won't be this terrible all season, but that we're even having the discussion underscores the critical importance of Price staying healthy and carrying 80 to 90 percent of the load.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You call that a choke?

This is going to come across like one of those "back in my day" rants triggered by early onset dementia, but if that's what it takes to put the Boston Red Sox 2011 collapse into its proper perspective, so be it. To be sure, blowing a nine game lead in less than a month and losing the wild card on the last night of the season is an epic choke, but in history's catalogue of Red Sox catastrophes, it ranks as a distant third at best.
1978: Boston squanders a 14 1/2 game mid-season lead and loses a one game playoff to the hated Yankees on a home run by banjo-hitting Bucky Dent, whose pop fly into the net atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park would have been a routine out in any other ballpark.
1986: the Red Sox are one out away from winning the World Series when Mookie Wilson's weak grounder skips between Bill Buckner's legs and wins Game 6 for the Mets, who go on to take Game 7 and the Series, spawning yet another legend in which a Boston bartender supposedly turns to the inconsolable patrons in his packed establishment and says "The son-of-a-bitches killed our fathers and now they're coming for us."
The Dent and Buckner disasters both prolonged a world championship drought that began in 1918, and that popular superstition claimed was rooted in the team's ill-fated decision to sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The vast majority of the team's fans in 1978 and '86 had lived a lifetime of losing, often in the most improbable, spectacular and heartbreaking fashion. Red Sox Nation today knows nothing of that kind of torment, having won two World Series in the last seven years. For them, anything else is still gravy, which is why they'll get over last night's goings-on and forgive Jonathan Fucking Papelbon a lot quicker and easier than earlier generations recovered from Bill Fucking Buckner and Bucky Fucking Dent.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Faggots and bananas

Awfully decent of New York Ranger Sean Avery to champion the gay pride cause; too bad he did so by tacitly endorsing racism.
The timing of Avery's claim that Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds called him a faggot during an NHL exhibition game two nights ago is more than a little suspect, coming less than a week after someone threw a banana on the ice while Simmonds, who's black, was taking a penalty shot. Simmonds says he doesn't recall dropping the homophobic f-bomb on Avery, but whether he did or not, a lot of things get said in the heat of the moment during hockey games, and it has ever been thus. That doesn't excuse it, but there's no comparison between an overt act of racism openly witnessed by thousands of people and a name-calling incident that was localized to the hockey players within earshot for whom trash talk long ago became the accepted soundtrack of their professional lives. As one of the game's most despised players, Avery has probably been called a lot worse, and his own record of inappropriate comments and sociopathic behavior hardly make him a credible witness against anyone else.
Avery can try all he wants to take the moral high ground, but by calling out Simmonds within days of the banana tossing incident, he's suggesting Simmonds had it coming to him, which is as reprehensible as the act itself, and far more offensive than any amount of name-calling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shanahan kicking ass and taking bank account numbers

Now we can take Brendan Shanahan seriously.
After a series of hard-hitting suspensions against marginal NHL players, the league's new hanging judge lowered the boom on a prominent veteran yesterday, banishing Columbus defenceman James Wisniewski for the remainder of the exhibition schedule and the first eight games of the regular season for a head shot on Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck.
What separates Wisniewski from other players who've been suspended during training camp is the amount he'll forfeit in salary. Taking into account that he just signed a 6 year, 33 million dollar contract with the Blue Jackets and that he's classified as a repeat offender for past transgressions, Wisniewski is out of pocket to the tune of 536,585 dollars.
Critics have been clamoring for the NHL to curb reckless play by hitting the violators where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook - and if there was any doubt about Shanahan's resolve, the magnitude of the fine accompanying Wisniewski's suspension makes clear in no uncertain terms that he means business. You can bet your last 536,585 dollars that the new sherrif in town now has the full attention and respect of every player in the league.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chill out (again)

If there's one thing we learned last night, it's that we never learn.
The doomsayers weren't in quite the same voice as last year, but there were still scattered boos followed by considerable online panic-mongering over Carey Price getting lit up in the Canadiens' pre-season opener at the Bell Center. Price wasn't available for comment after giving up four goals on 13 shots, but had he faced the media hordes, past experience tells us what he would have said: relax and chill out, because the Stanley Cup isn't won in September. And, of course, he'd be right. Price led NHL goaltenders in wins last season and there are still rocket scientists out there second guessing the Jaroslav Halak trade 15 months later, and they're using last night's goings-on as fuel for their fire.
What's remarkable is that in a city that's supposedly as hockey-savvy as Montreal, the first game of the exhibition schedule is the subject of hockey's version of a coronor's inquest. The proliferation of internet, cable and satellite sports media creates a need for substantially more content than traditional media ever had to produce, so non-events like exhibition openers tend to get over-analyzed. Mostly, though, it's the honest but misguided enthusiasm of a fanatical fan base that inevitably lets the passion of the moment cloud their better judgement, sometimes for a year or more.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Markov's "wonky" knee and other Monday morning musings

If reports of Andrei Markov suffering a setback in his recovery from knee surgery are much ado about nothing - as Markov and the Canadiens suggest - then why so much ado? Well, for one thing, Markov plays in Montreal, where a Canadiens player suffering a hangnail is good for three pages in the Journal and the first 25 minutes on l'Antichambre. Fortunately for all, reporters aren't doctors, and to think that the Canadiens would re-sign Markov to a lucrative free agent contract without medical due diligence is absurd...Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty needs a new agent. With the Kings seemingly poised to make a serious Stanley Cup run, rejecting a 6.8 million dollar a year contract offer and refusing to report to training camp is only going to alienate Doughty's teammates and damage his reputation...Reading Mike Boone's wonderfully-crafted and unfailingly entertaining columns in the Gazette sports section this past week made me wonder why they ever took the guy off sports in the first place. Boone's a better writer than most syndicated columnists, and it's to our benefit that he didn't take his considerable skills to Toronto, like most of the rest of the superior media talent that ever came out of Montreal...The only thing funnier than HBO's Larry Merchant telling Floyd Mayweather that he wished he was 50 years younger so he could kick Mayweather's ass is (K103 morning man) Java Jacobs' observation that if Merchant were 50 years younger, he'd be 93.

Things my friend Mark says, part 1

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.

On sideline Tony
Dear Mr. Burp,

After 4 dismal years, is it not time for Fox Sports to end the Tony Siragusa sideline experiment?

He has never been funny even once (nor insightful nor even mildly interesting). With the exception of about 7 beer swilling idiots in New Jersey, who can stand to even look at the fucker?

And on top of that, Siragusa - "The Luckiest Fat Fuck in the World" - has the gall to be unprepared! When they go to him he looks mildly startled, then he hasn't got a thing planned! He just banters - badly - with the guys in the booth, and looks actively annoyed that he has to wait 30 whole seconds for that all important next bite of cannoli. I'm convinced that he literally drops the food onto the turf two seconds before the red light goes on, then picks it up again right afterward.

Geez, I wish I was him.

Mildly ashamed but adamant,


Postal workers strike in Winnipeg!!!
Dear Ted,

Could there be a more futile gesture than a mail strike in the 21st

"Dear God, how will we communicate?"

It strikes me that regular mail service is something that the government might set up as an emergency measure if something horribly wrong happened to the internet; something on the order of a full scale cyber attack by China.

Picture it - The Prime Minister holds a news conference to announce plans to reestablish communications across the nation. "We have developed an envelope-based messaging system. A person will be able to hand write or type a message on paper, seal it in an envelope, and bring it by hand to a centralized collection depot. It will then be picked up and transported by a fleet of trucks, trains, airplanes, more trucks, the occasional bicycle, and finally by a small army of people on foot who will hand deliver the messages. This method has the disadvantage of being expensive,unsanitary, plagued by theft, utterly prone to human error, and almost comically slow. On the bright side, thousands of otherwise unemployable people will be used as carriers."

Mr. Harper assured Canadians that, "this appalling and makeshift
system will be abandoned as soon as the crisis has ended".

Face it, Ted, when you have to actually lick something before you
can get it moving, times are tough. A saliva-based shipping method!



Beeg Buckets
Dear Bird,

Richard Engel is the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News, and has done brilliant work out of the Middle East for nearly 10 years now. He's great.

The poor man was in the middle of Revolution Square in Cairo in the minutes after the "resignation" of Hosni Mubarak was announced. Now Engel is a complete professional, and was doing terrific, live, on-the-spot reporting. But the airhead MSNBC anchor, Contessa Brewer, kept insisting that he speak to the people in the square right on camera and live mike.

Engel tactfully ignored her at first, pretending not to hear Brewer's idiotic entreaties to interview the rejoicing protesters. But finally, with a pained expression, he turned his microphone into the crowd to ask how they felt. He knew what was coming, and this is what he got....

A 35ish man who clearly had not bathed for some days seized the mike with two hands, and said - almost word for word - the following - - - -

"Mubarak is an ugly man. UGLY!! He has big buckets - BEEG BUCKETS, like a woman," while making the universal two-handed male gesture indicating really, really unpleasantly huge, woggily tits.

Engel tried grimly to wrest control of the microphone (and subject) from the man. Sadly, the fellow was of the sort who feels compelled to repeat himself even more loudly and with still more graphic gestures to make sure that the world had gotten his point. And it must have. I, for one, will never again have Hosni Mubarak cross my mind without thinking about his tits. This is not a major burden, I suppose, but it is one that I would have preferred not to bear.


Friday, September 16, 2011

How stupid do they think we are? (Pretty stupid, apparently)

Sometimes - MOST of the time, in fact - honesty is the best policy, the rare exceptions to the rule including such loaded questions as "Do these jeans make me look fat?" and "Have you ever fantasized about sleeping with my sister?" This week was one of those times for the New England Patriots, but the spin doctors in the team's front office decided to go with another tried and true rule of thumb: never overstimate the intelligence of the American public.
In a remarkable lapse of judgement Tuesday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady - responding to a reporter's question about what message he had for New England fans ahead of this Sunday's game with the visiting San Diego Chargers - said "Start drinking early. Get nice and rowdy - 4:15 game, lots of time to get lubed up." Not a smart thing to say in the prevailing social climate of political correctness, but in the final analysis, it was a bad joke that would have gone away, except that the Patriots vice-president of media relations went into damage control mode and released a statement saying that what Brady meant was "stay hydrated, drink a lot of water, be loud, drink responsibly."
Do they really think we're that dumb? Actually, yes, they do, because when people move out of the real world and into the corporate hierarchy, it's all about perception, even at the expense of common sense. Frankly, I'm more offended that anyone would think I'm that stupid than I am by Brady's bad joke. And so is your sister. (And by that, of course, I mean your sister's intellectual integrity has been compromised by the assumption that she's not sufficiently intuitive to see through a lame exercise in public relations absurdity.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Racism my white, freckly ass

It'll be interesting to see what kind of spin Oracene Price comes up with on this one: a day after Price's thinly-veiled suggestion that her daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, are routinely victimized by racism, Serena was fined two thousand dollars for verbally abusing the chair umpire during Sunday's US Open women's final in New York. That's two thousand out of a 1.4 million dollar payday - not exactly the makings of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy claim. If anything, it's incredibly lenient in light of the fact that under the terms of her probation for her notorious meltdown at the 2009 Open, Williams could have been fined upwards of 175 thousand dollars and suspended from Grand Slam competition for an entire year. Under the circumstances, a paltry two large smacks of favoritism.
The racism card is a red herring that doesn't stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. It's 2011. No one who was born after 1950 and wasn't raised by inbred rednecks in a tar paper shack south of the Mason-Dixon line would refer to Williams as "uppity." A self-entitled prima donna, yes, but a petulant diva is a petulant diva whether she's black, white or pink with purple polka dots. To claim persecution when you're living a life of privilege is an affront to the real victims of discrimination.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cowboys collapse, Serena snaps and other Monday morning musings

New season, same old Dallas Cowboys, starring Tony Romo as football's version of Chief Inspector Clouseau. Romo's history of saving his worst gaffes for the most inopportune times repeated itself last night, as the Dallas quarterback committed two fourth quarter turnovers that set the stage for the New York Jets to rally from 14 points down and beat the Cowboys 27-24. Romo might have a knack for making things happen, but they're not always good things..Speaking of same old, same old, how about Serena Williams bizarre outburst at the US Open women's final in New York? The only thing more inappropriate that Williams' verbal assault on the chair umpire was her mother Oracene's thinly-veiled suggestion that the Williams sisters are routinely discriminated against, as if Serena is penzalized because she's black rather than because she's a petulant diva with an inflated sense of entitlement...Michael Schumacher drew some criticism for his aggressive tactics in yesterday's Formula One Italian Grand Prix, but his ruthless resolve was a reminder that even if Schumacher doesn't have the fastest car anymore, he's no less fierce a competitor...Old habits die hard for Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, who was well-known during his playing days for personally responding to every piece of fan mail, and is curently in the process of individually thanking acquaintances and strangers alike who took the time to send Beliveau best wishes on his 80th birthday. Hockey could use more ambassadors - and the world more people - like Gentleman Jean.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Christmas for Crosby, sans Santa

Sidney Crosby's much-anticipated state of the cerebrum address two days ago was almost completely overshadowed by events in Russia, where virtually an entire hockey team was wiped out in a plane crash. Not that any major developments were missed, because Crosby's news conference was the biggest non-event since Y2K.
The answer to the one question on everyone's mind - the timetable for Crosby's return to the NHL - was that there is no timetable, because there's no firm prognosis for a complete recovery from concussion symptoms plaguing the Pittsburgh Penguins captain since he was blindsided by Washington's David Steckel more than eight months ago. Crosby's doctor, Ted Carrick, only confused the issue when he said it's Christmas for Crosby, leaving reporters wondering whether he meant Crosby would be playing hockey by Christmas. Dr. Carrick had to explain that he only meant Crosby's recovery is like a gift, but considering that it's still not known when or even whether he'll play again, the Christmas reference was a bit of a stretch.
Thanksgiving might represent a more appropriate holiday metaphor. The fact that he's making progress in his recovery and that he can lead a normal and productive life outside of hockey gives Crosby something to be grateful for, but it isn't Christmas 'till the fat man comes down the chimney and leaves a clean bill of health under the tree.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The NHL's half-assed response to tragedy, and karma's a bitch for Tiki Barber

If the National Hockey League's first major statement following the deaths of three players by their own hand this summer is any indication, the league's resolve in assessing and protecting the mental health of its players leaves something to be desired. In a statement released over the Labor Day weekend, the league says "we are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place." That's "whether" concrete steps can be taken, not "what" concrete steps to take. So the NHL has already given itself an out on the issue if it can come up with the right spin on the results of whatever it deems to be a detailed examination of the facts. That's not exactly an iron clad committment to the stated goals of enhancing player welfare and preventing future tragedies...The Alouettes have some serious soul-searching to do at the midway point of the CFL season. The thinking that they're a lock for the playoffs with Anthony Calvillo at quarterback and Marc Trestman as coach only holds up if the rest of the players and coaches do their part, and that's not happening...Blue Jays rookie Brett Lawrie did it again yesterday, lifting Toronto past Boston 1-0 with a walkoff home run in the 11th inning. He's only been in the major leagues a month, but he's already the toast of Toronto and his legend is spreading. Lawrie's only downside is that he strikes out a lot, but so did Reggie Jackson. And Mike Schmidt. And Mickey Mantle...Thirty-six year old former NFL running back-turned-broadcaster Tiki Barber is reportely devastated that no team was interested in facilitating his comeback attempt after four full seasons out of football. I wonder if Barber's as devastated as his wife was when he left her for a 24 year old NBC intern while Mrs. Barber was pregnant with twins.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lord Stanley down!

How many Newfoundlanders does it take to damage the Stanley Cup? Two, apparently: one to win the Cup and bring it to Newfoundland, and the other to build a crappy table not strong enough to support the 35 pound trophy.
Hockey's Holy Grail sustained minor damage yesterday when Michael Ryder placed it on table that subsequently collapsed in Bonavista, Newfoundland, where Ryder was exercising a unique tradition that allows each reigning Stanley Cup champion to take sole possession of the vaunted hardware for a day. As Stanley Cup misadventures go, it was relatively minor. According to popular legend, the Cup has been dropped into a bonfire, left on the side of a road, drop-kicked into the Rideau Canal, spent the night at the bottom of at least two swimming pools and visited numerous strip joints, because that's where hockey players go when they're not playing hockey. It's been used as a dog food bowl, potato chip dish, champagne cup, flower pot, baptismal chalice and for other functions that are best left unmentioned.
The uninitiated might consider that ample evidence that the Cup should be kept under lock and key and out of the clutches of hard-partying hockey players, but its colorful history is a big part of what makes it professional sports' most celebrated trophy. Ultimately, in the annals of Stanley Cup lore, Ryder won't even be on the radar, unless he can get it back long enough to use it as a lobster trap or a still for homemade Newfoundland screech.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Bob Cole blow hard

It's a testament to the power of Hurricane Irene that she forced the postponment of the New York Jets-New York Giants NFL pre-season game from Saturday to tonight. Football is a sport that not only routinely tolerates the elements, but embraces and even celebrates inclement weather. Football lore is rife with weather-related legends, including the Mud Bowl, the Fog Bowl, the Ice Bowl, the Freezer Bowl and the time the snowplow cleared a path for New England placekicker John Smith to kick the winning field goal during a snowstorm in 1982 - a memorable event that could probably could use a catchier name than "the time the snowplow cleared a path for New England placekicker John Smith to kick the winning field goal during a snowstorm in 1982"...Competitors in the LPGA Canadian Open showed at least as much moxie as the goliaths of the gridiron when they played yesterday's fourth round in near tropical-storm conditions at the Hillsdale Golf Club in Mirabel. Tournament organizers minimized the weather's impact by wisely moving start times up by 90 minutes, and grouping the golfers in threesomes instead of twosomes...Baseball, as usual, ran away and hid from the rain, postponing seven games over the weekend, although the Yankees and Orioles managed to play two in Baltimore yesterday, even though the Marlins and Phillies were rained out just an hour up the road in Philadelphia...Congratulations to the new English radio voice of the Montreal Canadiens, John Bartlett, whom Team 900 general manager Wayne Bews says was selected from a surprisingly long list of high quality applicants, which begs the question: with a surplus of capable play-by-play broadcasters out there, why does Hockey Night in Canada insist on inflicting Bob Cole on a hockey-savvy audience that deserves so much better than the Cole's borderline-dementia ramblings. Begone, hapless blowhard, and make way for the two generations behind you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

One person's man-whore is another's eligible bachelor

Well, here's a sign of the times. One of the top headlines in baseball today, alongside Jim Thome returning to Cleveland and the shocking suicide death of former Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan, is that Derek Jeter has broken up with his girlfriend.
Mind you, we're not talking about just another vaccuous airhead that Jeter met in a Manhattan night club. Minka Kelly is an actress of some repute - think cheerleader Lyla Garrity on Friday Night Lights - and was voted Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire magazine in 2010. She is also just the latest in a long line of uber babes who at one time or another have been in the Jeter stable - a list that reportedly including actresses Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson and Jordana Brewster, singer Mariah Carey, Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima and former Miss Universe Lara Dutta, and that's just the A list.
Yet despite going through women the way many people go through shoes - one or two new pairs per season - Jeter hasn't cultivated a public reputation for being a shameless womanizer or skirt chaser. Instead, he's universally described as an "eligible bachelor." Apparently, the difference is in the perceived quality of the women you love and leave. It also doesn't hurt if you play shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jimmy jack this

Driving into work yesterday morning, I suddenly felt a stabbing pain that started in my left eye and shot clean through my head and down to the stem of what's left of my brain. Fortunately, it was nothing more serious than a traditionalist's reaction to hearing a sportscaster describe a home run as a "three run jimmy jack."
I don't know when home runs became jimmy jacks, but it must be in the five to ten years since I pretty much lost day-to-day interest in major league baseball. I do know this: Vin Scully, the dean of baseball broadcasters and the best who ever practiced the craft, would never call a home run a jimmy jack, just as Danny Gallivan would never refer to the puck as "the biscuit" or say that someone went "top shelf, where Daddy keeps the dirty magazines" or "Mommy keeps the anti-depressants." The great ones don't lean on cliches, and if they make something up, they make sure it's something of substance, like Gallivan's Savardian Spinorama or Scully's wonderful desciption of Bob Gibson pitching as though he's doubled-parked.
Memo to aspiring play-by-play announcers: don't imitate the masters, but emulate them. Respect longstanding tradition and stay within the established, time-honored vernacular if you can't do any better than "jimmy jack," which sounds more like a cheap prize in a box of kids' cereal than it does a legitimate home run call by a broadcast professional.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Assessing the future of an important practitioner of the ice hockey profession relative to the concussion symptoms incurred at a prior point in time

Like most lawyers, Sidney Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, would make a good politician, if only for his ability to say everything and nothing at the same time.
Responding yesterday to reports that his prize client has suspended his off-season training because of recurring concussion symptoms, Brisson said Crosby "simply adjusted his summer program accordingly to the different needs for the appropriate recovery." That could be innterpreted any number of ways, the most obvious of which is that Crosby still isn't well enough to properly prepare for the opening of training camp next month. Meanwhile, while the future of its best player hangs in the balance, the NHL completely ignored its most pressing problem at last week's much-celebrated research and development camp, where league executives were too busy tinkering with possible rule changes to power plays and overtime to bother with career-threatening concussions. In the the nearly nine months since hockey's most important player became only the latest casualty of a blindside cheap shot, it's become abundantly clear that the NHL's decision-makers have no idea how to handle the problem, so they've chosen to do nothing at all. Or as Pat Brisson might say, they're proceeding in a manner consistent with the existing will within the NHL executive branch to bring the dossier to a satisfactory conclusion without compromising the fundamental integrity of the status quo.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Surrendering to reality (and other Monday morning musings)

Nothing is going to be learned or gained from the untimely passing of Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien until police and surviving friends and family members stop dancing around the details and openly acknowledge that Rypien committed suicide. Reporting his death as "non-suspicious" or lamenting that Rypien "lost his battle" fails to adequately confront the stark and brutal reality of the consequences of unchecked mental illness. We don't need all the morbid minutiae, but sanitized platitudes serve no useful purpose in fostering a broader understanding and acceptance of depression as a potentially deadly disease...The most bizarre moment of another eventful NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve actually occured after the race, when Patrick Carptentier's crew chief, Jerry Baxter, reached inside the 66 number car and pulled driver Steve Wallace's hair, which was slightly more manly than hitting Wallace with his purse but still fell considerably short of the established norms of sportsmanship...I'm loathe to disagree with Gazette hockey writer Red Fisher, who's been covering the Canadiens since before I was born and has forgotten more about hockey than I'll ever know, but when Red refers to the shootout as a gimmick that's got to go, he forgets that we live in an instant gratification society fuelled by gimmicks - or apps, as they're otherwise known...If his performance at the world under-20 championships is anything to go by, Brazil's next one-name soccer superstar is Oscar - a 19 year old phenom who, according to legend, grew up in a garbage can on the mean streets of Rio and dislikes flowers, kittens, ice cream, romantic music and people being nice to one another.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Remembering a legend (and other Monday morning musings)

You're gone.
I didn't listen to the guy because I didn't grow up here, but Ted Tevan's legacy is so strong that someone who only knew him by reputation instantly recognizes his catchphrases. The outpouring of affection online and in the mainstream media following his death Friday is powerful testimony to the impact of a broadcaster whose heyday was 30 years behind him when he passed away. Like the local sponsors he flogged on the air, Ted Tevan was truly a Montreal original...The greatest challenge facing Tiger Woods won't play itself out in the public eye. No matter how badly he falters professionally, Woods has nothing left to prove on the golf course. Where he needs to rehabilitate himself is as a person and especially as a father to his two small children. Of all the advantages his wealth and privilege give him, the most precious resource Tiger Woods has is the time to spend with his children. A better father than I am once told me your children won't remember what you bought them as much as they'll remember what you did with them...Even though most of them went by the wayside earlier than ticket holders for the Rogers Cup semifinals and finals had hoped, at least the world's best tennis players showed up in Montreal, which is a far cry from the days when, by the time the excuses were made and the withdrawals announced, the top seed was a homeless guy named Stinky...Blue Jays rookie and Langley, BC native Brett Lawrie looks like the real deal, not just because of he's hitting .370 with a ridiculous .741 slugging percentage after a week and a half in the major leagues, but because he's doing it at 21 - an age when most players are still honing their craft in the low minors...Awfully decent of New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora to end his holdout and honor the contract that'll pay him more than seven million dollars over the next two seasons. Where does he find the capacity for such self-sacrifice?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Goddam hippies

Well, it was only a matter of time, and frankly, I'm surprised it took this long for a loose coalition of misguided pacifists to take aim at the Winnipeg Jets new logo. The critics say the reborn NHL franchise's choice of a Canadian Forces CF-18 as its emblem alienates fans who are anti-war.
First of all, the self-appointed peaceniks don't have a monopoly on being anti-war. As Don Rickles once said, we all want peace; sometimes we just can't make a deal for it.
Using a military jet as their logo isn't a pro-war statement by the Jets. It's a means of acknowledging Winnipeg's longstanding relationships with the aviation industry and the Royal Canadian Air Force - a branch of the Canadian military steeped in tradition, service, honour and sacrifice. The RCAF were and remain the good guys. It's not like the Jets are paying tribute to Al Qaida, the Luftwaffe or the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Some people need to get a reading or watching the History Channel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quiet, you

Adam Scott did something this week that Tiger Woods should have done a long time ago. He told caddy Steve Williams to shut his pie hole.
Williams was front and center after Scott's win last weekend at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, where Williams celebrated as if he were the one who'd won the tournament. Williams' comments about it being the most satisfying win of his career would have smacked of arrogance were they not so pathetically delusional.
It's understandable that he was happy his guy won and Tiger Woods was a non-factor in Woods' first tournament since he fired Williams, but the post-tournament preening would have reflected poorly on an actual competitor, never mind a glorified baggage handler. Scott seemed less concerned about having his thunder stolen that he did about being associated with a media circus, and he exercised sound judgement in publicly if gently rebuking Williams and reminding him of his place in the PGA pecking order.
Whether Williams is willing to recognize and accept that place after more than a decade of hubris accumulated by riding Tiger Woods' coattails remains to be seen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alex Kovalev: a talented dink

If Alex Kovalev were to be memorialized with a brutally honest epitaph, it might go something like this: "Don't they know who I am, and it's all their fault." Kovalev, who never met a scapegoat or mitigating factor that he wouldn't blame for his own shortcomings, fired some characteristically petty parting shots after completing what was almost certainly his last NHL contract, and going home to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalev's targets in his latest tirade are former Ottawa coach Cory Clouston, whom Kovalev feels didn't coddle him enough during the better part of two seasons with the Senators, and the Ottawa media - a group Kovalev claims knows more about smuggling beer through airport security than they do about hockey.
Typically, he did his bellyaching to a Russian reporter, which is a time-honored Kovalev tactic so that when he gets called out in the North American media, he can claim he was misquoted or that something was lost in the translation.
A bigger and better person would man up and be a little more humble and grateful after getting paid 10 million dollars to average 17 goals and 49 points over two seasons, but like personal fortitude and competitive resolve, humility and gratitude were never part of Alex Kovalev's makeup, which is why - despite his enormous natural ability - he'll always be remembered more for what he didn't do than he will be for what he did.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Of all the Bubbas, he was the Bubbest

Before Bubba Gump, before Bubba Trammell, before Bubba Paris, Bubba Watson and Bubba the Love Sponge, there was Bubba Smith - the Pro Football Hall of Famer who passed away unexpectedly this week at the age of 66.
For an entire generation of football fans, the name Bubba was as synonymous with Bubba Smith as Hacksaw was with Jack Reynolds, Too Tall was with Ed Jones, or Night Train was with Dick Lane. They weren't the only Bubbas, Hacksaws, Too Talls and Night Trains out there, but they owned their respective nicknames because of the enormity of their talent and their larger-than-life personalities.
Somewhere along the line, football got lazy with nicknames, to the point where the default mode today is to go with initials like T.O. and L.T. Chad Ocho Cinco gets points for originality, but changing your last name to your uniform number in Spanish for self-promotional purposes is a far cry from the days when Mean Joe, the Mad Stork, White Shoes, Broadway Joe, Sweetness and the Fridge were earning their aliases by tearing up the gridiron.
So rest in peace, Bubba, knowing that you were the product of a byegone era when nicknames were bestowed with consideration and creativity, and capriciousness was never confused with character.