Monday, July 30, 2012

The vilification of Tim Thomas(and other Monday morning musings)

It doesn't take much time on Tim Thomas' Facebook page to realize there's a lot more visceral hatred and sanctimonious piety directed at Thomas than there is in his statement supporting the traditional definition of marriage. Automatically equating support for traditional family values with homophobia is a false and dangerous assumption that's at best disingenuous and at worst a deliberate distortion aimed at whipping up hysteria to push a sociopolitical agenda. Tolerance is a two-way street, and in the debate over what defines a marriage, there's no exclusivity on the moral high ground...If there's even a kernal of truth to reports it'll take 30 million dollars over four years to lock up Shane Doan, the 36 year old unrestricted free agent can save himself the trouble of visiting Montreal this week. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has set a clear course of responsible spending on sensible contracts. With all due respect to Doan, Bergevin is already saddled with enough salary cap deadweight without exacerbating the bloat by overcommitting to yet another veteran whose best years are behind him...It's a measure of the monarchy's waning influence that Queen Elizabeth had to stay up well past midnight to attend Friday's opening ceremony at the London Olympics. Henry VIII would have had the organizers beheaded and married their widows by half-past eight...There's nothing audacious or disrespectful about Lebron James and Kobe Bryant saying the 2012 US Olympic mens' basketball team could beat the 1992 Dream Team. As a rule, elite level athletic champions don't defer to anyone, whether the opponent is real or imagined...Call me insensitive, but every time a world class gymnast does the one-legged windmill before falling off the balance beam, I involuntarily laugh out loud. Such is the comedic power of the pratfall, no matter how majestic the stage...Olympic table tennis players apparently take umbrage when their event is referred to as ping pong. Seems rather presumptuous for a sport that's at its mass appeal zenith on rainy days at summer camp.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Digging up the dead to throw more dirt on them

There are no conclusions in the Freeh Report on the Penn State scandal that the media and public didn't already jump to several months ago. Otherwise responsible journalists led the rush to judgement by abandoning their professional code of ethics and declaring Jerry Sandusky guilty of child sex abuse before Sandusky even went to trial, and demonizing the late Joe Paterno for participating in a cover-up that still hadn't been proven.

So, now that Sandusky's in jail for the rest of his life and Paterno's complicity is documented, we're going through the same exercise in holier-than-thou condemnation that we went through before it was actually justified. I guess people wanted to get their shots in on Paterno while he was still alive and weren't going to let a minor detail like due process stand in the way.

What's equal parts fascinating and predictable is that despite being a peripheral figure whose worst crime was exercising poor judgement in an impossible situation that was not of his own making, Paterno has become an even bigger villain than the actual child rapist. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture, and as the highest-profile name in the case, Paterno is the natural magnet for vilification, because if there's one thing our culture enjoys more than building someone up to demigod status, it's tearing them down again, whether it's for their own good or to make us feel better about ourselves. Well, no amount of abasement, mortification or even forgiveness is going to make any difference now, because Joe Paterno is dead, and his reputation and legacy were destroyed before he died.

Apparently, though, there's nothing like pissing on a dead man's grave for that smug feeling of moral superiority.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The straw that stirs the shit

There's something unsettling about the fallout from Reggie Jackson's comments in Sports Illustrated regarding Alex Rodriguez and the Baseball Hall of Fame. In pondering the legitimacy of A-Rod's statistical legacy in light of his acknowledged use of steroids and questioning the credentials of relatively recent Hall of Fame inductees Gary Carter, Kirby Puckett, Don Sutton, Phil Neikro and Jim Rice, Jackson was weighing in on a legitimate debate that millions of baseball fans engage in on a regular basis, but the reaction from the baseball establishment was over the top. The Yankees, whom Jackson serves as a special advisor, banned him from the team indefinitely for supposedly disparaging Rodriguez, who's done a more than adequate job of soiling his own reputation over the years. Wally Backman, a former Carter teammate with the Mets, called Jackson's comments "a disgrace."

Publicly debating Hall of Fame credentials may have been lacking in tact for someone of Jackson's standing, but who better to take the measure of a ballplayer than a Hall of Famer himself? And with players from the Steroid Era coming up for eligibility en masse, shouldn't it matter what someone who's been around the game for 45 years and earned his way to Cooperstown thinks?

The Yankees, Wally Backman and anyone else are free to disagree with Jackson, but he should be just as free to give an honest opinion on a relevant topic without being subjected to semi-hysterical censure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Habs drop the ball on Big Bird (and other Monday morning musings)

They are life's most compelling and enduring mysteries: how was the universe created, are there intelligent beings on other planets, and why don't the Canadiens hire Larry Robinson? More to the point, why do they go out of their way to not hire a nine-time Stanley Cup champion with proven credentials and a stated desire to coach in the city where he's celebrated as a hockey icon? It's the kind of no-brainer that makes you wonder sometimes whether there's intelligent life on this planet...If John McEnroe says Roger Federer is the greatest player who ever stepped on a tennis court, that's good enough for me, but beyond the incredible record of athletic achievement, the dignity and humility with which Federer unfailingly comports himself might make him the greatest champion of all-time, in any sport...Congratulations are in order for Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount for winning the junior girls' championship at Wimbledon, but lest anyone burden her with unfair expectations, it's worth noting that the 18 year old Bouchard is ranked 309th on the women's pro tour, and that among the elite players, Serena Williams won the US Open at 18 and Maria Sharapova won a Wimbledon women's championship at 17. That's not a devaluation of what Bouchard accomplished as much as it's a testament to the enormous competitive challenges at the professional level...Even Jack Todd admits there's no longer any credibility in dismissing Formula One as boring and predictable. Between the consistent race-to-race drama and the see-saw battle atop the standings, 2012 has been the most entertaining season since before Michael Schumacher's heyday. I understand F1 is not everyone's cup of tea, and if you don't like fast cars and beautiful women, that's your business...If disappointing attendance figures at Impact games are a commentary on Saputo Stadium's east end location, how do you explain the Alouettes coming up four thousand short of a sellout for their home opener on a beautiful Friday night downtown? The empty seats at sporting events might have more to do with the economy than anything else. These aren't exactly boom times for the middle class, but the good news is when you use the money you would have spent on tickets to pay the hydro and cable bills, you can still watch the game on TV.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In dog we trust

It's the great American paradox that the western world's leading industrialized nation and only global superpower represents the best and worst of everything, and at no time is that more apparent than on the 4th of July, when festivities commemorating the birth of the Union are highlighted by a hot dog eating contest.
According to Major League Eating - the sanctioning body for all professional eating competitions - the ESPN broadcast of the Nathan's Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest has generated a higher rating than any major league baseball telecast in the U.S. on July 4th.

I'm not making this up.

In keeping with Independance Day tradition, thousands of people gathered in Coney Island, New York yesterday to watch six-time champion Joey Chestnut retain his title by cramming 68 dogs down his gullet in 10 minutes.

How's that for a celebration of the founding fathers' principles, resolve and sacrifice? Do you suppose Thomas Jefferson took a break from writing the Declaration of Independance so he could go over to George Washington's house and see which one of them could eat more of Martha's pies? What are the odds that Betsy Ross got apple sauce on the original star spangled banner because she sewed it together right after competing in a pork chop eating contest at Ye Olde Schweinhaus in Germantown, Pennsylvania?

While there's no direct reference to competitive eating in the US Constitution, the freedoms outlined in the document can be reasonably interpreted to include eating as many hot dogs as you want. Still, that's probably not what the Second Continental Congress had in mind when it approved the Declaration of Independance, although - ironically - John Hancock's signature is smudged with tartar sauce from the 13 Colonies Crab Cakes eating championship.

Okay, that part I made up.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UFA in the Twitter age

Ryan Suter & Zach Parise are in Day 3 of NHL free agency with some wondering why they haven't made a decision on where to play - KILLING US
Zach Parise,Ryan Suter make a decision already!! It's ONLY a game that you will get 80-100 mil to play , been there
Congrats to Zach Parise for giving everyone in the hockey world a serious case of blue-balls.

As so-called "frenzies" go, this year's NHL free agent hullabaloo has been about as compelling and provocative as a Pauline Marois pole dance.
When undrafted journeyman defenceman Jason Garrison signs the most lucrative contract in the first 36 hours of UFA activity, you know we're not dealing with a bumper crop of elite talent, but the internet-driven 24/7 news cycle has blown the process entirely out of proportion.
There was actually a Twitter backlash against Zach Parise when he announced he hasn't made up his mind where he'll sign, as if he somehow owes us a hasty decision just because we've spent the last two days refreshing our browsers every 30 seconds. Any other businessman concluding a deal worth tens of millions of dollars would never be expected to proceed without due diligence, but fans and media alike take Parise to task for not catering to our short attention span and insatiable appetite for instant gratification.
At the risk of turning this into a "back in my day" rant, there was a time not so long ago when we got the news from the morning papers or evening newscasts, and that was good enough. In between, we lived our own lives and didn't obsess over the latest status updates from total strangers. Social media can be a wonderful distraction, but like any other recreational amusement aid, it's best used in moderation.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Habs, Hot Wheels and other Monday morning musings

Slim pickings in unrestricted free agency was probably a best case scenario for Marc Bergevin in his first UFA shopping spree as Canadiens general manager. In the almost complete absence of marquee names, there was minimal fan and media clamoring for Bergevin to target a so-called impact player, and he was able to focus on adding depth and character without breaking the bank. On their own, Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon won't win you the Stanley Cup, but you can't win it without them or players like them...If I were a Torontonian and/or a Leafs fan, I'd be less put out by general manager Brian Burke spending free agent frenzy day at the city's Gay Pride parade than I would with the timing of the parade. It seems more than little presumptuous to upstage Canada Day when you've got an entire summer season to break out the Birkenstock sandals and assless chaps...Watching Spain dismantle Italy in the Euro 2012 final reminded me of the old Soviet Red Army hockey team, in the way they took precision execution to a level that not only defeated but demoralized their opponents. It didn't hurt that Italy had nothing left in the tank after hard-fought wins over England and Germany, while Spain was able to save its best for last...It's early and things can change, but the CFL West served emphatic notice this weekend that it still owns Canadian pro football bragging rights. Not only did all four Eastern Division teams lose their season openers, three of the four - including the Alouettes - were laid out by western opponents who might have resented the pre-season hype about how much better the East was going to be in 2012...The 10 year old boy in me loved the spectacle of two stunt drivers successfully navigating life-sized Hot Wheels cars through a giant orange replica of the Double Loop Dare at the X Games in Los Angeles, but I'd have been even more impressed if they'd done it in a Big Jim Sports Camper.