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.