Monday, June 25, 2012

Faster, higher, stronger, chaster(and other Monday morning musings)

The only way the Canadiens could possibly have done better at the 2012 NHL draft is if they were the Buffalo Sabres, who got centers Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons with the 12th and 14th picks of the first round.  Time will tell how general manager Marc Bergevin and scouting director Trevor Timmins fared relative to the rest of the league, but it bodes well that the Canadiens' first three choices - Alex Galchenyuk, Sebastian Collberg and Dalton Thrower - have been favorably compared to Anze Kopitar, Daniel Alfredsson and Kevin Bieska.  Add that kind of potential to a young core that already includes Carey Price, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty and blue chip prospects Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, and it's not a complete stretch to hope for a serious championship run within the next 3-5 years...Not to rain on anyone's parade, but sometimes I wish people were half as excited and proud to be Canadian as they are about the loose affiliation they have with the country their grandparents were born in when it wins a soccer game.  That said, people who know more about soccer than I do tell me that when your next opponent is Germany, it's a good idea to celebrate while you still can...Just when you thought the Formula One season couldn't get any more dramatic, yesterday's incident-filled European Grand Prix in Valencia produced an improbable and emotional win for crowd favorite Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher's first podium finish since 2006.  Whether by coincidence or design, F1 is finally generating parity and competition to keep fans interested beyond the halfway point of the calender...It's an encouraging sign for human rights in the Islamic world that Saudi Arabia is sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, but I don't like their chances in water polo or the high hurdles if they're still forced to wear the burka.

Friday, June 22, 2012

l'affaire McGuire: The Morning Show Strikes Back

It was like the Americans attacking their own fleet at Pearl Harbor yesterday when Pierre McGuire used the Melnick in the Afternoon program on TSN 990 as a platform to disparage the radio station's Morning Show for supposedly misquoting him two days ago.  While it's true that his position on a hypothetical trade between the Oilers and the Canadiens was misrepresented, it was a caller who initially misquoted him, and a clarification was made within minutes and repeated later in the show - both times with the actual clip of Pierre being played for the sake of accuracy and transparency.  So it was surprising, disappointing and ironic that the integrity of the morning program was impugned by the same kind of misrepresentation, completely out of the blue.  It was a deliberate and calculated public broadside from someone who - in theory, at least - is on the same team. 
Is that how Pierre McGuire would have handled a misunderstanding in the Canadiens organization if he'd been hired as general manager - by publicly throwing other members of his organization under the bus on the basis of second hand information for his own satisfaction rather than privately seeking their side of the story?  I wasn't privy to the particulars of the hiring process, but it's probably safe to assume that hypersensitivity and a petty preoccupation with always being right were not as high on the list of qualities that Geoff Molson and Serge Savard were looking for as poise, professionalism, emotional maturity and a thick skin. 
There are myriad reasons why Marc Bergevin was the right choice for the job, and one of them is that he recognizes he has larger responsibilities than constantly obsessing over what other people are saying about him.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vegas can have what happens in Vegas

With due respect to Evgeny Malkin, who was the best player in hockey this season, the Hart Trophy for NHL MVP should have gone to Will Arnett for saving last night's NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Arnett's recurring Brendan Shanahan spoof was the only remotely redeeming feature of a broadcast that was only marginally more refined than a middle school variety show.
Between Nickelback's ill-suited noisemaking and Matthew Perry's overly self-deprecating opening monologue, the show stalled out of the gate and never got off the ground. The "no host" experiment was a flop, as the awards lurched awkwardly from one presenter to the next, interspered with the occasional nod to social media from the obligatory Barbie doll in the predictably revealing evening dress, and off-the-cuff chats between the award winners and Hockey Night in Canada's Kevin Weekes, who does a good enough job as a game analyst but was clearly out of his element as an interviewer.
It didn't have to be that painful, and the resources to make it a more palatable presentaton are right under the league's nose. TSN's James Duthie as host and Hockey Night's Elliott Friedman handling the interviews would have given the awards show the professional polish it lacked from a couple of experienced broadcasters who know how to build and maintain momentum and aren't afraid of a live audience. And how about letting some fans in, rather than packing the place with hockey people who look like they'd rather be anywhere else? A good show needs a good room, and last night's crowd came across like they were sitting shiva, complete with the feeling that the whole thing lasted a week.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The clothes make the man (and other Monday morning musings)

There's a difference between vintage Tiger Woods and the Tiger Woods of old. The fourth round charge to victory at the Memorial earlier this month was vintage Tiger Woods. The Tiger Woods of old would have ridden that momentum all the way through the U.S. Open, instead of falling apart in the final two rounds. Between Tiger's inconsistency and the fierce competition on the PGA Tour - as in different winners in the last 14 majors, including an unprecedented nine straight first time major champions - the smart money says Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories is safe for at least another generation...It's unnerving to watch, read and listen to sports writers and broadcasters with 30 or more years of experience talk about Jerry Sandusky as if he's already been found guilty. That may well be the eventual verdict in the Penn State football sex abuse scandal, but for journalists to publicly declare Sandusky guilty while he's still before the courts is a fundamental breach of their own professional ethics. The universal rush to judgement makes it easy to pile on in the Sandusky case, but even the worst offender has the right to a fair trial...If feel-good sentiment counts for anything, this weekend's series of sold out events to celebrate the 1981 Expos was a small but significant step on the formidable road to bringing professional baseball back to Montreal. That Gary Carter's memory was honored in perpetuity and the reunion raised 20 thousand dollars for cancer research made it worthwhile in any event... Just because he's a phenom doesn't mean there won't bumps along the road to greatness for 19 year old Bryce Harper, who went oh for 7 and struck out five times in Washington's 14 inning loss to the Yankees Saturday. It's a measure of his enormous ability and poise that Harper bounced back and went 2 for 4 yesterday with a double and a single...I'm as much of a stickler for tradition as the next baseball purist, but after watching Phillies manager Charlie Manuel waddle out to the mound looking like he's wrapped in sausage casing, I think it's finally time for the grand old game to get managers out of uniforms and into street clothes. The NFL doesn't force Andy Reid into form-fitting football tights and the NHL doesn't make Ken Hitchcock wear hockey pants during games; baseball should extend the same courtesy for the sake of everyone's dignity.

Monday, June 11, 2012

City shines despite the riff-raff (and other Monday morning musings)

Lewis Hamilton took the checkered flag, but the big winners at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix were Formula One, its fans and the city. The race itself went off without a hitch, and no harm was done to any F1 party-goers who had the good sense not to mingle with the unwashed rabble for the sake of a photo op. If anything, Montreal proved a worthy host to a world class event, thanks to the heroic efforts of police and private security and the civilized conduct of the vast majority of Montrealers who don't share the hard-done-by sentiments of students and anarchists...We're finally getting the Stanley Cup championship series most of us expected, but not in the fashion that anyone expected it to unfold. Game 6 tonight in Los Angeles represents a journey into the unknown, as it marks the first time in these playoffs that the Kings will face anything remotely representing adversity...Lebron James' critics can reserve the right to call him out if he tanks in the NBA final, but right now, he deserves nothing but the utmost respect for the way he stepped up against Boston...I didn't watch the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley fight, but I didn't have to see it to know the decision in Bradley's favor was a disgrace. The consensus is beyond overwhelming, and the perception of professional boxing as a mob-controlled farce has taken ever-firmer root...It doesn't get any smaller-minded than the suggestion that Maria Sharapova's career Grand Slam is somehow diminished by the absence of quality competition. Sharapova's contemporaries on the women's tennis tour have included the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin. Where are the shortcuts? I don't care if Union Rags won it running backwards with Magilla Gorilla as a jockey, the injury withdrawal of would-be Triple Crown winner I'll Have Another from the Belmont Stakes made it a non-event. No one remembers who won the Belmont unless they also won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. As for I'll Have Another, at last report he was a 4-5 favorite to be the binding adhesive in my son's Secondary 1 geography project.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Clowns and cretins

I was embarrassed at what went on in downtown Montreal last night - not embarrassed BY the protestors, but embarrassed FOR them.

With the city's most pretigious international event as a backdrop to get their message out, the best student demonstrators and their loose coalition of anti-establishment allies could muster was a combined total of about a thousand people, split between several hundred half or fully-naked student marchers who paraded their assets through the downtown core, and a lesser number of anarchist riff-raff who demonstrated outside a Canadian Grand Prix gala fundraiser in Little Burgundy before trying to crash the Formula One party on Crescent Street. They were relatively easy pickings for a strong police presence that rightfully kept the demonstrators contained and away from a substantially greater number of people exercising THEIR right to indulge in their passion, pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy and raise money for the Ste. Justine and Sacre Coeur hospitals.

It's the height of irony when students and the anti-capitalist crowd rage against F1 revellers as the "crass elite." It doesn't get much more crass than marching down the street with Big Jim and the Twins swinging in the breeze, or the profanity-laced website set up by the anarchist group that caused most of the trouble last night (whose spokesman, by the way, was stuck for an answer when asked what they proposed as an alternative to the existing political and economic system).

The demonstrators succeeded in getting their message out, alright, and that message is this: "We are a fringe element of immature, leaderless rabble with a chip on our shoulder, awash in self-righteous entitlement but bereft of ideas or credibility. And check out my tits."

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's barfarrific!! (and other Monday morning musings)

With two wins in a little more than two months, Tiger Woods has re-established himself as a player to be reckoned with on the PGA Tour, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Following yesterday's impressive comeback win at the Memorial, Woods is already being touted as the early favorite for the US Open by some of the same fortune tellers who pegged him to win the Masters, where he finished tied for 40th two weeks after taking the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods is still one of the best, but he has yet to recapture the consistency that made him the dominant force on the Tour...If he wasn't already part of the playoff MVP discussion, Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty is surely among the frontrunners after logging 32-plus minutes of playing time and scoring one of the prettiest goals of the playoffs in Saturday's 2-1 overtime win in New Jersey for a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final. It speaks to the Kings' depth, balance and collective resolve that Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner are all legitimate Conn Smythe Trophy candidates, and that any of them would be happy to see a teammate win it as long as they all win the Stanley Cup...In a meandering, egg-headed defence of Ron MacLean's ill-advised 9/11 analogy earlier in the playoffs, Montreal sociology professor Avi Goldberg demonstrated in Saturday's Gazette how completely out of touch academia can be with the real world. MacLean wasn't writing a thesis when he put hockey players in the same company as emergency response personnel in the worst terrorist attack in history. He was hosting a prime time network broadcast, and his comments were as insensitive and cockamamie as Professor Goldberg's article was harebrained and pretentious...Throwing up is not a staple of supper hour sportscasts, so it was more than a little jarring Friday when TV viewers were subjected to not one but TWO images of athletes losing their lunch: Richard Gasquet barking at the ants on court at the French Open, and a draft prospect projectile vomiting off the exercise bike at the NHL combine. There are websites for people who want to watch stuff like that; I can do without it on my television...Stand by to suspend one of the fundamental rules of English grammar when Euro 2012 gets underway this Friday. Ironically, English announcers are the worst offenders when they pluralize the singular by saying "England win" or "Italy lose," not unlike the Quebec automotive enthusiast who has one cars and two truck.