Monday, April 30, 2012
looks like he's on his way to a barn-raising...St. Louis borrowed the Cincinnati Bengals blueprint for team-building at the NFL draft, where the Rams spent the 39th and 65th overall picks on a couple of guys as likely to open the season on probation as they are on the active roster. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson have a lot in common - they're both projected as starters at cornerback, and they've both been tasered for resisting arrest. Jenkins has a particularly colorful background including multiple marijuana arrests and fathering four children by three different women, which if nothing else qualifies him to be an Afghan village elder if the football thing doesn't work out.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
The outburst of racism among Bruins fans on social media after Washington's Joel Ward scored the overtime goal in Game 7 against Boston last night was as ugly as it gets. Twitter was especially awash in attacks and insults the likes of which haven't been liberally tossed around in public since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Alabama.
It's difficult to imagine substantial numbers of baseball, football or basketball fans going on racist rants against black athletes, because those sports are so racially integrated at this point that black players are the stars and difference-makers more often than not. In fact, the pivotal player in a modern-day major league baseball game is almost as likely to be Latin American or Asian as he is to come from a white or African American background. Hockey is still a predominantly white sport with an overwhelmingly white fan base, many of whom are still sporting remnants of the primordial ooze from whence they apparently only recently crawled. And let's not kid ourselves and pretend racism is exclusive to Bruins fans. We've seen enough bananas thrown at black players in other cities to know better.
The good news is that the troglodytes who give everyone else a bad name are relatively small in number, but the lowest common denominator sets the standard for the larger group, and by that measure, the standard for hockey fans everywhere is still appallingly low.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
supposedly unintentional elbow that got reformed pro basketball bad boy Metta World Peace kicked out of yesterday's Lakers-Thunder NBA game, but it brought to mind Marty McSorley's unintentional high stick on Donald Brashear, Earl Jones' unintentional misappropriation of client funds and Germany's unintentional invasion of Poland...Someone stole my son's Philadelphia Eagles hat at his school dance Saturday, but returned it after realizing it was an Eagles hat.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Forty-nine year old Jamie Moyer struck a blow for middle age last night when he became the oldest pitcher in major league history to record a win(or at least the oldest pitcher with a legitimate birth certificate and/or working visa). Moyer's not even half as old as Boston's Fenway Park, but he's getting significantly more respect.
One hundred years after it was built, baseball's most historic existing venue was dissed over the weekend by Tampa Bay designated hitter Luke Scott, who called Fenway a "dump." First of all, a guy who looks like Wolverine from X-Men has no business passing judgement on the asthetics of anything or anyone else. Secondly, just because the place is 100 years old and smells like pee doesn't make it any less of an American cultural shrine. If anything, Fenway Park's marginal dilapidation is what gives it its historic charm relative to newer ballparks that try but fail to duplicate the bygone era atmosphere that permeates Fenway's every irregular corner.
Although Scott's point is that it doesn't have the clubhouse amenities to which modern era baseball players are accustomed, describing Fenway as a dump demonstrates a remarkably shallow sense of history and occasion. It's a personal affront to baseball afficiandos - Red Sox fans or otherwise - who consider a visit to Fenway something akin to a holy pilgrimmage. Presumably, Scott wouldn't go to his great aunt Effie's 100th birthday party and criticize her liver spots instead of lauding the milestone. The old girl might not be the belle of the ball anymore, but she still deserves to be celebrated with the appropriate measure of respect.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Whenever Don Cherry or anyone else old enough to remember Watergate, Beatlemania and the Treaty of Versailles compares the goings-on in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs to "old time hockey," they need to be more specific.
Fighting has long been part of the game, but the blatant disrespect for health and well-being between competitors is a relatively new phenomenon. Rocket Richard once clubbed an opponent over the head with his stick and punched a linesman in the same sequence, Wayne Maki shortened Ted Green's career in what still ranks as the worst stick-swinging incident in NHL history and Dale Hunter will forever be remembered for a brutal cheap shot on Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon scored a series-clinching goal, but incidents of that nature used to occur years apart - not two or three times per playoff series, if not per game. Back in the day, you might have taken an elbow in the chops if you got too much inside Gordie Howe's kitchen, but old-time hockey did not regularly feature blindside head shots, multiple sucker punches, cross-checks to the throat and deliberately slamming an opponent's face into the boards.
So when the discussion turns to "old time hockey," let's be clear that we're talking about physical and emotional intensity that sometimes leads to fights between willing and mutually respectful participants adhering to a time-honored code. Too much of what we've seen in the first round of this year's playoffs isn't old time hockey as much as it's old time aggravated assault.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Brendan Shanahan needs to turn in his badge. In not suspending Shea Weber for a WWE-style head slam on Henrik Zetterberg in the first game of the Detroit-Nashville series, Shanahan tacitly authorized the shameless goonery that's characterized the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Subsequent suspensions for rookies and role players like the Rangers' Carl Hagelin and Ottawa's Matt Carkner legitimize the long-held notion that there are two standards of justice in the NHL - one for perennial All Stars like Weber and another for everyone else. After a promising start as the NHL's chief disciplinarian, Shanahan has proven to be just another toothless watchdog for a league that continues to put star power and cronyism ahead of credibility and fair play...Almost lost in the mindless post-season mayhem is the startling fact that the pre-playoff Stanley Cup co-favorites - Pittsburgh and Vancouver - are both a loss away from being swept in the first round, which opens up all kinds of previously unforeseen possibilities, like a Kings-Panthers or Devils-Coyotes Cup final. I said unforeseen; I didn't say tantalizing...Nico Rosberg's surprise win for Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix continued a welcome 2012 trend towards intrigue on the normally predictable Formula One circuit. Too bad the three races so far this season took place on the other side of the planet, which translates into the middle of the night for North American fans and early morning for the sport's core audience in Europe. It's a testament to F1's global reach of that one of its biggest challenges is keeping everyone in the world happy at the same time...After missing five games because of a cold, legendary 84 year old baseball broadcaster Vin Scully was back behind the microphone this weekend in his 63rd season as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers and archetype for the Freedom 85 retirement plan.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
On the eve of a news conference to kick off former Expo Warren Cromartie's organized campaign promoting the return of professional baseball to Montreal, the obstacles facing Cromartie and his supporters are being underscored by developments at the major league level - specifically, lucrative new contracts for Matt Cain and Joey Votto.
The first question that comes to mind is "Who's Matt Cain?" Well, Cain is a 27 year old righthanded pitcher who's never won more than 14 games in a season, and will be paid 127.5 million dollars by the San Francisco Giants over the next six seasons. Votto you might have heard of. Two seasons removed from winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award, the Toronto born-and-raised slugger has signed a contract extension with Cincinnati reportedly worth 225 million over the next decade.
The Expos total payroll in their final season in Montreal was 43 million dollars. If they couldn't compete economically then, how could they compete now? The fact is they couldn't - not without a deep-pocketed local owner willing to absorb huge personal losses for the sake of a small core of die-hard baseball fans. That's the reality facing Cromartie, and to his credit, he recognizes the reality and is talking in terms of baby steps, suggesting a minor league franchise as the first phase in the rebirth of pro baseball in Montreal.
If passion alone was the only requirement to bring back major league baseball, it would be a done deal on the basis of Cromartie's enthusiasm alone, but it's also going to take money and trust, and more of each than can be amassed overnight.
Monday, April 2, 2012
There's a fine line between glass half full and hopelessly naive, and it's a line Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth crossed some time ago. More often than not, Cunneyworth's post-game comments accentuate the positive, which might carry some currency if the Habs had more than 16 wins in 47 games on Cunneyworth's watch. That he's a lame duck saddled with the "interim" tag doesn't make it any less delusional when Cunneyworth routinely says things like "our heart was in the game" or "the guys deserved better" while his team is leaving points on the ice two-thirds of the time...Despairing Canadiens fans searching for a thread of hope need only look a couple of hundred kilometers down the road to Ottawa, where the Senators clinched a playoff spot yesterday, just a year after finishing 13th in the conference and missing the post-season by 19 points. Like this year's Habs, last year's Sens were hard hit by long-term injuries to key players, and didn't get the most out of the guys who were healthy. This season, they were virtually injury-free and everyone played to their potential...While it raised a lot of money for a good cause, Saturday's three round charity boxing match between Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau probably didn't do anything for Trudeau's credibility as a would-be statesman. I'm no political spin doctor, but it seems to me that following in the footsteps of celebrity washouts like Danny Bonaduce, Jose Canseco and Donny Osmond represents a sharp detour off the road to the Prime Minister's office...Never let it be said that baseball is a young man's game. No fewer than ten players over 40 will be on Opening Day rosters this week, including Toronto shortstop Omar Vizquel, who turns 45 this month, and 49 year old Colorado pitcher Jamie Moyer, who's earned a spot in the Rockies starting rotation after leading the Florida Grapefruit League in gout, erectile dysfunction and early bird specials.