Monday, June 17, 2013

Mickelson, muttonchops and other Monday morning musings

If I could have picked my own Father's Day gift, it would have been a barf bag for dealing with the television commentary at the US Open. Zero gravity astronaut training couldn't possibly be any more vomit-inducing than listening to overwrought golf announcers lament "another crushing second place finish" for Phil Mickelson and heap sappy praise on Mickelson for being "gracious in heartbreak and defeat". I can appreciate that Mickelson was disappointed, but treating privileged sportsmen like characters in a Greek tragedy doesn't resonate much beyond the country club gates...Let the festival of second-guessing begin after P.K. Subban won the Norris Trophy in the first season of a two year bridge contract. The I-told-you-so crowd is reveling in the smug assumption that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin now regrets not signing Subban to a long term deal when he could have had him on the relative cheap, but Bergevin's reckoning made sense at the time and it's still the right call. Subban will only be a restricted free agent when his existing contract expires, giving the Canadiens the option of matching other offers or being compensated handsomely with high round draft picks. It also remains to be seen how the free-spirited Subban manages the enhanced accolades, distractions and expectations that come with a Norris Trophy this early in his professional and personal development. Time is still on Bergevin's side, and using it to his advantage is smart business...To my eye, 41 year old Jaromir Jagr was the best player on the ice in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, and if not the best player, certainly the best player who looks like a Civil War general, as first noted by TSN 690's Conor McKenna...So, Lindsey Vonn resents being pigeonholed as Tiger Woods' girlfriend because she's got a life and career of her own. Since when does someone who publicly hitches their wagon to a confessed serial adulterer care what anybody else thinks?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On soccer and turbans: stand by for the humiliation card

The Canadian Soccer Association's decision to suspend Quebec for rebuffing a directive to lift a ban on turbans in youth soccer is an overdue shot across the bow of intolerance and xenophobia, and you don't need a degree in political science to recognize where it's going to go from here.
This is perfect fodder for the very people it's meant to expose. Hardcore nationalists, including the PQ government, will spin it as an attack on Quebec's identity at a time when the government is trying to push through discriminatory legislation under the guise of something called "reasonable accomodation." That Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenny and Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have both praised the CSA for taking a hardline will feed the nationalist fallacy of Quebec-bashing and humiliation, but every fair-minded Quebecer knows that dog don't hunt no more, and when the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth subsides, the difference between right and wrong over excluding children for no good reason other than that they're different will remain abundantly obvious.
In the meantime, how delightfully and deliciously ironic that the Quebec Soccer Federation has been told if it doesn't want to conform, it can go play in its own backyard.

Monday, June 10, 2013

F1 spotlight puts the shine back on Montreal(and other Monday morning musings)

At a time when it's all too easy to get down on Montreal for becoming a corrupt and decaying monument to narrow-minded provincialism, it's gratifying to hear and see the praise still heaped the city by the Formula One entourage, even if they only see it through the prism of thousand dollar champagne bottles for three days out of the year. Perception is everything, and if the perception among the well-heeled and widely-travelled F1 glitterati is that Montreal is a desirable and worthwhile destination, then we're still relevant on the international stage, which brings us to this: the relative pittance that the various levels of government are being asked to contribute to extend the race contract beyond next year will do infinitely more to enhance the city than any number of rigged paving contracts, language inspectors or vote-buying federal grants with no tangible social or economic benefits...They live a charmed life, but no one knows better than Formula 1 drivers that life can be fleeting, and no one is more appreciative of the risks assumed by trackside workers who volunteer their time for the sport they love. Former world champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were among the drivers who went beyond lip service in expressing condolences on social media yesterday after a track worker suffered fatal injuries when he was run over by a crane. Said Alonso, "Today, there is nothing to celebrate"...Watching the French Open tennis finals, I couldn't help but wonder whether Fred Perry grunted like a rutting warthog or Helen Wills Moody shrieked like a howler monkey in heat when they were dominating the sport. Whatever tennis has gained in competition and athleticism in the modern era has been lost in dignity and decorum...Judging from the surge in Twitter props for oft-pilloried Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play announcer Bob Cole during Saturday's double overtime in Chicago, Don Cherry might only be the second most polarizing figure on sports television. Whether the subject is Cole or Cherry, how one viewer's inarticulate blowhard can be another's indispensable legend is a uniquely Canadian dichotomy rivalled only by the country's internal struggle over whether Justin Bieber is a source of national pride or embarrassment...And I think I've finally figured out the right comparable for Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig: he's Roberto Clemente in Bo Jackson's body.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Good for you, Sydney Leroux

That Sunday's Canada-US women's soccer friendly in Toronto was marred by cheap jingoism is beyond dispute. The debate lies in whether the culprit was Canadian-born American striker Sydney Leroux or the significant portion of the partisan crowd who booed Leroux throughout the match and taunted her with chants of "Judas". Passions were further inflamed when Leroux drew a yellow card for flaunting her US jersey crest and sarcastically shushing the crowd after scoring the third goal in a 3-nil win for the Americans.
Under the circumstances, I applaud her reserve. An even more demonstrative reaction on her part would have been entirely understandable. Even before she revealed post-match that she was subjected to racial taunts in her hometown of Vancouver last year, Leroux was the sympathetic figure in this scenario. A dual citizen deciding to represent one country over another is not treason or betrayal. It's a legitimate choice, and judging by the cretinous behavior of Canadian soccer fans, Sydney Leroux chose wisely.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Messier skepticism ill-founded

If it wasn't so maddening, it would be amusing to read, watch and listen to lesser mortals than Mark Messier summarily dismiss Messier as a credible candidate to coach the New York Rangers. We're not talking about brain surgery or splitting the atom here. We're not even talking about repairing a refrigerator, which also requires a degree of professional training. Coaching a hockey team is about leadership above all else, and there's no greater leader in the game's history than Mark Messier. Insulated by capable, experienced assistants, he would be no worse an option than anyone else and a better choice than most...Well, that didn't take long. The ill-conceived coincidental minor penalty call that almost changed the course of the Stanley Cup playoffs is yesterday's news, as the NHL grapples with the aftermath of Matt Cooke face-planting Adam McQuaid into the boards in Game 1 of the Boston-Pittsburgh Eastern Conference final. This time, though, the NHL got it right. Cooke's 5 minute major and game misconduct are justifiable, and so is the league's decision not to suspend him. Call it blaming the victim if you want, but McQuaid saw Cooke coming, knew he was going to get run, and turned his back to the hit anyway. When you deliberately put yourself in harm's way, you're at least partly responsible for the consequences...The Quebec Soccer Federation has shown its true colors - or, more appropriately, true color - and that color is white. Quebec is the only province refusing to abide by a Canadian Soccer Association directive to lift a ban on turbans in youth soccer. The Quebec federation cites safety concerns but doesn't or can't explain how turbans are more dangerous here than they are on soccer fields in the rest of the country. But what do you expect in a province where fear-based ethnic discrimination is official state policy?...My son Charlie had a rugby jamboree yesterday in NDG. No banjo, no fiddle, no homemade alcohol in a moonshine jug and everybody had eyebrows and fingernails. Worst. Jamboree. Ever.