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.