Think of that much-overused (and sometimes incorrect) line, "It's not personal. It's business."
Well, the Edmonton Oilers could learn a lot from it. Both Alberta teams, really. It's always seemed like the Flames and the Oil believe the only ones to hire are the ones from their backyard, from their past, or from their families. To hold onto your job as a coach, general manager, or player of either one of the Wild Rose Country's only NHL clubs, you have to have won a Cup in either city.
How else can you explain the firing of now-former general manager Steve Tambellini, especially since Kevin Lowe still holds his position as president of hockey operations?
They replaced Tamby with former Oilers player and coach Craig MacTavish, of course. MacT's been in Edmonton before, and for a long time. He won a few Cups, like, 20 or 30 years ago.
The Oilers knew what they were doing then. They don't anymore.
Just listen to this trade of Q & A between Edmonton Journal columnist John MacKinnon and Lowe from Monday's press conference, courtesy of the EJ:
Kevin Lowe: "We have two types of fans. We have paying customers and we have people that watch the game that we still care about, but certainly the people who go to the games and support, we spend a lot of time talking to them, delivering our message. I would, uh, I think it's safe to say that half the general managers in the National Hockey League would trade their roster for our roster right now. And in terms of the group that messed things up (voice rising) you're talking about the group that had the team one period away from winning the Stanley Cup."
John MacKinnon: "Seven years ago."
Lowe: "And you know the cycle of that. You know we chased the dream a few years for our fanbase. Like a lot of teams do. And then at some point in that time frame we realized that's a bad plan and we made a change. We're finishing year three of that plan. Now you say to me you're getting impatient after three years?"
MacKinnon: "It's not me. It's the fans that are getting impatient."
Lowe: "And lastly (talking loudly now) I'll say that there's one other guy in hockey today that is still working in the game that has won more Stanley Cups than me. So I think I know a little bit about winning, if there's ever a concern."
Have you ever seen a more imposing example of industrial-grade denial? In Lowe's world, dissent does equal disloyalty.
Even in the video above, listen to MacTavish blubber on about how the Oilers are still paying for the five Stanley Cups the Oilers won. He alludes to the cyclical nature of the sport and how you always follow a lot of winning with a little bit of losing.
It's as if the entire management group forgets just how long ago their glory days were. It's been 23 years since the Oilers last won the Stanley Cup. It's been 25 years since Gretzky was last an Oiler. It's been a very long time since either Lowe or MacTavish played in the NHL, and even longer since they were a part of that Oiler dynasty.
If I'm an Oiler fan -- and, I really don't mind them at all -- I got even more worried watching that farce of a press conference today. I've just realized that everyone in charge of my favourite hockey team has as much value as Tim McGraw's character from Friday Night Lights.
Lowe and MacT aren't just getting jobs because of something they did a quarter century ago. They actually believe in themselves because of it.
These guys talk about hockey like daily newspaper columnists talk about print journalism.
This is a team that still has Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff on its books. Lowe has his job seemingly because he's always been an Oiler -- except for all those years when he wasn't, which kind of makes him the Michael Ignatieff of hockey -- even though he no doubt had a hand in or approved in every move Tambellini made as general manager.
Lowe also bobbled two successive offer sheets to then-restricted free agents Dustin Penner and Thomas Vanek. One worked out, and it was a terrible experiment. The second didn't work out, and Lowe got lucky with that one. Without Vanek, the Oilers saved themselves some very vital draft picks and prospects -- draft picks and prospects who are now the only reason this team has a heart beat, even if it's restricted to life support and a hospital bed.
In fact, Lowe's been around for all of Edmonton's recent years, and don't go thinking he's some kind of mad genius because of a flukey playoff run in 2006 (even if he does). I don't see the Canucks bringing back anyone from 1982 -- or 1994 -- and I don't remember the Habs hanging onto Guy Carbonneau for longer than they needed to.
The Flames, for their part, have just stopped turning to anyone with the last name Sutter. They seem to think everyone from Alberta should be a Flame, and they've been playing pre-Lockout hockey ever since the Lockout.
(And, I'm talking about the 2005 lockout.)
Say what you will about the Leafs, the Canucks, the Senators, or the Jets, but at least they seem to draft and sign players because of how well they play hockey, not because of where their birth certificate was issued.
Even the Habs have finally gotten over drafting players just based on whether they're bilingual -- a tactic that hasn't worked out since before Guy LaFleur was a Viagra spokesperson -- and now they're finally in contention for a Stanley Cup. Their captain (Brian Gionta) is American, their best two rookies are British Columbian and the Belarussian-American (Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk) and their goaltender is from a small town in Western Canada (Carey Price).
The Habs have also finally stopped listening to their fans, at last realizing that democracy isn't at its best when it's truly a democracy.
The Oilers and Flames, meanwhile, continue to talk about their futures without any concept of what a future is (although I'll give Calgary a lot of credit for finally trading Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester).
Sure, Edmonton's had some success lately with No. 1 picks like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, and Lowe is no doubt pretty proud of himself ("I think it's safe to say that half the general managers in the National Hockey League would trade their roster for our roster right now").
Of course, they had to finish last -- or second last -- every year to get those picks, and all three of them were consensus Number Ones.
That's not called skill. It's a silver lining.
When this season's over, both Calgary and Edmonton will have gone playoff-less since 2009.
That's not Tambellini's fault. It's Alberta's.
This was originally posted on White Cover...
RIP Roger Ebert. There was nobody better.
What more can you say about someone who's story was summed up so well by his own words?
His own prose. His own opinions. His own critical look at everything, even himself. His fairness. His love for movies, and for their viewers.
His own thumbs, whether they were up or down.
Roger Ebert was a taken-for-granted staple. At least, for most of my life he was. He was well-established before I was born, and his TV shows with Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper were a given to be there for me if I was sick from school, or faking sick from school (and, most of the time, it was the latter). Of course, I never made an intentional attempt to watch it. It was just on, like most of TV.
But, everybody knew Roger Ebert.
Something about him was more familiar and more popular than his co-hosts. Something about his opinion mattered to you. How great was it when he'd love an under-appreciated movie you also loved when nobody else did?
He was like that. Heat. Crash. Syriana. He thought they should have all won Best Picture, and only one of them did. (It's no surprise, then, that Crash is also perhaps the most hated Best Picture winner of all-time.)
He stood up for films like Somewhere, the Chateau Marmont passion piece from Sofia Coppola. While most folks with a few inches in a newspaper called the film a snooze fest, and they weren't alone, Ebert wrote, "Coppola is a fascinating director. She sees, and we see exactly what she sees."
He defended films he cared about and they often had taken an unnecessary beating from other critics.
Of course, he could be nasty, too. All film critics should, from time to time.
The important thing about Ebert, though, was that he didn't waste his praise on films that didn't deserve it and he didn't crop dust his disgust onto anything he felt was equally opposite.
When I was 21, I had to write a paper on a Czech film by a young Milos Forman for my Political Science class. The movie was called The Fireman's Ball. It's about an elderly community of Czech public servants who are celebrating the retirement of one of their peers. We were supposed to explain how Forman used this collection of clumsy elders to explain the political and social conventions of those who lived -- and were trapped -- behind the Iron Curtain.
We all pulled off decent marks, but we all read Ebert's now-old review first.
"I'm trying to write it like Roger Ebert's review," my buddy Nick said. "But it's too damn good."
Roger Ebert was an honest critic. He was there for the movies.
How many others can say the same? (Myself included.)
At the end, he became as big as the actors and directors he profiled. He was the Trailer before all the trailers. He was the Internet before the web. He was TV when it was still television.
So, I'll say it again, because I really mean it...RIP Roger Ebert. Nobody was better.
This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.
I believe in discovery and technology and innovation and science. My profession -- whether you would call me a journalist or just a human being in the 21st century -- is to question. It's to be skeptical. It's to not believe everything I'm told right away.
I believe this is healthy for all of us, not just myself.
So, on the occasion of the much-covered announcement of a new pope, I'll just come out and say it: I hate the Catholic church.
I don't hate Catholics, of course; but I find it impossible to believe things that we thought of as certainties 2,000 years ago but have since disproven, and I hate the Catholic church itself because its goal seems to be to repress us, oppress and hold us all under its gigantic thumb.
I don't think a talking snake told a naked chick to eat an apple which then corrupted society forever. I don't think Joseph's dad was somehow able to find the resources to knit him a technicolo(u)r dreamcoat in the middle of Ancient Egypt. I don't think Jonah lived inside a whale.
But, most of all, I don't want these stories told as fact. I don't want them institutionalized. I don't want them to be read once and accepted forever.
I don't think Pinocchio lived inside a whale, either. I don't think Hogwarts is real, even though I'd like it to be. I don't think Darth Vader really existed in a galaxy a long time ago and far, far away.
So, where am I going with this?
Well, I'm going straight to the front door of the CBC.
The Corporation is supposed to represent all Canadians and, if you disagree, read its damn mandate. With the resigning of Pope Benedict now in the past -- and with the Catholics having just unveiled their next Palpatine -- the CBC has sucked itself up in the anti-educational turbine that is the Roman Catholic Church.
As with all things religious, they don't question the Church, because to question it would somehow infringe on our right to religion and (probably) our right to free speech. (I don't believe this. I'm just trying to think like an evolution-denying man of the cloth.) They don't dare shine a light on the hypocrisy and the blatant middle finger to common sense that is the Church and all its beliefs and -- worse -- its practices.
The Catholic church has not only committed crimes, but it's also covered them up. I'm not talking about that fluffy "Tobacco companies know they're killing you" stuff. I mean, full-on child sexual abuse. I mean, like, going to Africa and telling the most AIDS-infected continent on the planet that they couldn't use condoms because it wasn't in the Heffe's original plan some 2,000 years ago. (Or, was it a billion years ago? 5,000 years ago? I don't know, I have a hard time keeping track of the Catholic church's most recent revision of history.)
But, for the CBC -- and other news corporations like it -- that's in the past. They turn their hands up and say, "It's not our place."
Right. Lance Armstrong? That jerk was guilty. Let's fry him. The Catholic Church? Can't touch it. Religious freedom.
The CBC is supposed to stand for all of us as Canadians. It's supposed to be a megaphone for the voices of the 35 million or so people in this country, and it's supposed to be different than the United States. It's supposed to reflect our sentiments. It's supposed to have talent. It's supposed to be bold and brave.
That's a tough job, but it has to be.
The CBC is supposed to stand on its own. It should reflect us, but it shouldn't pander to us. It also shouldn't pander to the Catholic church, and it does.
We don't believe the Earth is flat, and we have no problem treating that issue like the case is finally closed. But, the Catholic Church? That archaic, rapidly crumbling tomb of dead ideas with a history of unmatched oppression and violence? Nope. Off limits.
(If it was Scientology, then by all means go nuts. That one is crazy, right?)
Only, this now-concluded quest to find a new Pontiff doesn't sit right with me, or with many Canadians who belong to many communities. And, yes, I'd consider "Non-Religious" to be a community, too.
I got the idea to write this post from a friend of mine, Jesse Brown, who works for YouthCO AIDS Society. He wrote this on Facebook, on Monday night:
"Dear CBC National,
"I'm a 26 year old white male in Vancouver BC and a faithful viewer of The National. The large amount of time you have been consistently spending on the selection of the new Pope and the Catholic Church disturbs me and makes me want to tune out from your news cast -- for good. This is a dark and criminal institution based on the oppression of those it deems unworthy. Its current establishment should be (and is) morally reprehensible to anyone with a critical eye and could be better examined by a reputable news agency such as the CBC.
"Political fluff stories such as the selection of a new benevolent pontiff are pathetically benign and leave the audience, many of whom are consistently abused and discredited by this mafia, undermined. As an openly gay man it greatly disturbs me to see over-coverage of this conclave of closeted old sexually repressed men who cover up pedophilia and engage in clandestine sex rings, all while promoting misogyny and repression. An excellent example of their disgusting hypocrisy is the recent photo-op of Pope Benedict XVI blessing Rebecca Kadaga, the politician behind the Ugandan "Kill the Gays" bill.
"Your news cast is tax payer-funded and should speak to the majority of reasonable and progressive thinking Canadians. The CBC is founded on the principal of social equality of opportunity and should present to young people a reflection of Canadian values that uplift and inspire. We could care less whether or not the anti-women, anti-gay hater Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec is in the running for Pope. Shame on him and shame on you for giving him a platform. I respectfully ask that you please reconsider the air time you spend pandering to no one."
To me, the most shocking part of this is that somebody from Vancouver watches The National.
But, really, the CBC needs to take this kind of letter seriously, because Canadians take it seriously.
Canadians like to say they care about gay rights, and I believe the majority really do. This is a first step, but it only matters to a point.
We can no longer accept our Canadian Broadcast Corporation to stand idly by while its news reports itself. They don't need stenographers. They need reporters who have their own minds and their own voices.
They need to go at the Catholic Church like they went at Graham James. To many Canadians, hockey is a religion, and a hockey coach has as much power over his players as a priest does over his choir boys. Power of any kind corrupts most of the time. Religious power corrupts all of the time.
Canada is a 21st century nation, but the CBC needs to become a 21st century network.
This was originally posted on White Cover...
We get it, hockey people (myself included). We know you like to act tougher than your players' dress code suggests. We know everything is a tradition for you. We know we can't tell you what a good ol' Canadian boy would do. Before you can say anything, just know this: we know.
But, please, please, please... Everybody in the NHL, for the love of whatever imaginary friend in the sky you believe in, WEAR A GODDAMN VISOR!
On Tuesday night, young gun defenceman Marc Staal took a blast to the face. The image -- when slowed down, as it has been -- is disturbing, because the puck hits Staal just above his right face and it looks like his face concaves on itself before he falls to the ice in what can only have been an absurd amount of pain chased with fear.
Fear for his future. Fear for the right now.
Take another look:
OK, now, here's what's worse...
In the last two years, several other players have been hit in the eye/forehead/middle of the face (you know, where all the important stuff is?) with a puck.
Two of them aren't playing and their careers are in jeopardy. One of them -- Vancouver's Manny Malhotra -- suffered his injury in March of 2011, then came back and played a full season, and was then shut down after a handful of matches this year.
The other -- Philly's Chris Pronger -- can barely walk around his own house without getting a Jimmy Stewart form of vertigo.
And, let's not forget about Detroit's Steve Yzerman.
All three of those videos are below:
Seriously, how dumb is this?
How many more guys have to have this kind of sh*t happen to them before they put aside their pride and their temporary comfort for their long-term safety and just for common sense in general?
On the Canucks, several guys who watched Malhotra either take that rather light deflection to the face and then have his life ruined are still going rogue.
Kevin Bieksa doesn't wear a visor. Raffi Torres (who now plays for Phoenix) doesn't wear a visor. Andrew Alberts doesn't wear a visor, and both he and Bieksa are defencemen, just like Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Five players on the Canucks who joined after Malhotra's injury -- but were present when his coach and general manager shut him down for the 2013 NHL season -- still don't wear visors: Zach Kassian, Jason Garrison, Tom Sestito, Cam Barker, and Dale Weise.
(Recently dealt Canuck Aaron Volpatti also doesn't wear one.)
Now, visor haters will be quick to point out that a puck to the head is a puck to the head... is a puck to the head.
But, take a look at Philadelphia's Sean Couturier. He was hit in the head by a puck in the fall of 2011. He missed a few games with a concussion, but that's it.
Watch that one right here:
Or, how about a far more gruesome one?
Here's Montreal's Josh Gorges taking a clapper to the face. Pretty brutal, right? Yeah, well, he's far better off than Malhotra, Pronger, or (I'm going to assume) Marc Staal.
The puck hits him in the helmet, but his eyes and his future are intact.
Take a look:
Fact is, visors don't save you from everything. They're not supposed to. But, they can still save your career. They can save you from something far worse.
As we've seen over and over and over, it's the EYES. It's that part of the face right in the front that has been left completely unprotected and open to obliteration.
Watching those videos above of Malhotra, Pronger, and Yzerman, it becomes just so painfully obvious (pun intended) that those are all completely preventable. Those aren't separated shoulders or broken ankles or even concussions. All of those injuries could be written off as occupational hazards.
But, the eye?
No way, man.
If the NHL continues to ignore this massive epidemic, and if its players are still stupid enough to carry on without sich a simple and basic level of protection... well, then I guess it's only their fault, isn't it?
This article was originally posted on White Cover...
It doesn't really matter what happens or how the standings change. For the foreseeable future, the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks are semi-permanently linked (*I'm aware that 'semi-permanently' makes little sense). Every loss for one team is echoed with a win by the other. Each highlight...
Finally somebody said it. Finally somebody defended the innocent actions of Evander Kane, and finally somebody said those words we all knew we'd finally hear a hockey player say, one day. It's just too bad it had to be Kane, himself, who said them.
"I think a good portion of (the criticism of me) is because I'm black and I'm not afraid to say that," the left winger told The Hockey News. (*The story is set to come out on March 4, said The Sporting News.)
He then clarified his statements with a solid one-line just after.
"I don't feel like a victim and I don't want to be perceived as one."
Now, the defenders of the realm will be quick to throw up their arms and roll back their eyes. Oh, please, they'll say. Not everything is a racial issue. Just because he's black doesn't mean that's why he's been criticized.
They'll be quick to point out that he's been flagged for a number of off-ice indiscretions and misconducts. They'll tell you he's overreacting. They'll say it's another case of a young player with a big mouth. After all, it's easier to say that than it is to admit the truth, and the truth is not something normally uncovered by sports journalists.
It's odd, though, that people now seem to be more afraid of being politically correct than they are of being racist.
The fact is, hockey is and has always been a whites-only sport. Okay, maybe not whites-only. More, like 95-per cent-white-and-the-rest-just-whatever. Hockey is inherently a white sport, and a white Canadian one, at that. Hockey Night in Canada and its post-20-minute patriotic terrier praise good ol' Canadian boys and the way they play the sport we love.
But, take a minute and think about what the words good ol' Canadian boy mean. What's the image that comes to your mind? Who do you see, and what does he look like?
Sure, it doesn't have the word "white" in it, but neither does the word "Jesus", and I think it's fair to say he's always been depicted as rather pale for someone supposedly born in the Middle East.
Think of the things Kane has been criticized for.
It was rumoured he skipped out of a restaurant bill or two. Okay. So, that's not great and it's nothing to admire, but it's hardly a case for Scotland Yard. Patrick Kane physically assaulted a cab driver in 2008, and I don't remember Chicago ever wondering whether he was a problem for their organization.
And, besides, the Kane/Dine-n-Dash thing was a rumour.
Someone held up a sign suggesting it in another team's rink. That was literally the whole story. Kane laughed about it, and so did the Jets.
Then, Kane was caught in the offseason posting an image of him in Las Vegas flashing two stacks of dollar bills. The photo was taken during the NHL lockout and while many normal people who aren't paid into the millions per year are still struggling to find employment in the wake of the 2008 global economic recession.
Okay, it was a meathead moment. It was a little silly, and it made him look a little immature (which is fair, since Kane is 21 freakin' years old).
But, it wasn't a crime. It was nothing of note. It wasn't a DUI or an assault. It was a personal moment of indulgence and it shouldn't have been aired on social media. Boo hoo.
The fact is, hockey has never had to confront its race issues because, well, it hasn't always had them. Sure, some of us know that Willie O'Ree was the first black player in the NHL, but he's hardly a celebrity in the realm of Jackie Robinson (who broke his barrier 11 years before O'Ree) or even Roberto Clemente.
In fact, O'Ree is barely known.
And, yes, there are only a handful of black players in the league at any given moment -- Joel Ward, Jarome Iginla, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and Devante Smith-Pelley, just to name a few -- but that doesn't mean we're not racist. It just means we're not inclusive.
Canadians have always lived with the false notion that they are morally superior when it comes to race issues than our neighbours to the south. Amistad, a hundred years (and more) of slavery, the Ku Klux Clan, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement? Those are all American things, but it doesn't mean we get to wash our hands clean and call ourselves pure from the womb out.
Our treatment of our aboriginal people (historically and still today) is deplorable. We have a history with the Clan, and we casually try to distance ourselves from phrases like "Komagata Maru" and "Japanese Internment".
And, let's not forget hockey.
In the last year and a half, Wayne Simmonds (a black player for the Philadelphia Flyers) has had a banana thrown at him, and Joel Ward (Washington) and Malcolm Subban (the OHL's Belleville Bulls) have been called the n-word by hateful waves of people on Twitter.
Does this sound like an enlightened country, or like the chorus of "Strange Fruit"?
In the video above, CBC anchor Diana Swain calls the Joel Ward affair a "low for the sport," but is it? It seems like it's status quo.
"I'm not surprised," said Ward's mother, Celia, at the time. "He grew up with it."
As a hockey nation, we also tend to completely dismiss the character and toughness of European players and, specifically, Russian players. (And, yes, French-Canadian players, too.) We call this analysis, but that's not really true. Russian players are treated from their draft day like they have to prove something over and above their Canadian counterparts, or like they have to atone for previous players from Moscow and the surrounding area who were viewed as soft or fragile or Prima Donnas, despite any evidence to the contrary.
Is there really much difference between Henrik Sedin and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? What about Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman? Or, Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf? Gretzky and Kurri?
Let's face it: hockey is an extension of us, and we all still have a lot of work to do.
These are tough times for the soon-to-be-departed Pope Benedict XVI. Not only are people all around the world voluntarily using condoms, but his "effort" to "apologize" to a large number of sexually abused (OK, raped) children went largely scoffed at and he's now retiring at the end of...
I know you're busy, but I couldn't let you go without saying something.
You were always by my side, even when I didn't want you to be. Weighing down my pockets. Making my palms smell like pissed-on copper. When I held you, my mitts got all clammy and ugly. It was like I could taste you just by looking at you, and it always made me cringe. It always gave me that cold tooth feeling I get when I'm force-fed fluoride at the dentist or when I hear chalk streak across a black board.
I always tried to get away from you, but there was no getting rid of you, was there?
You'd always find your way back. Every time I'd accidentally drop you, I'd look at you on the street and on the sidewalk and I'd think to myself, "Somebody else would really need that. You shouldn't waste money." And so, I'd pick you up. I felt guilty, so I kept you. I'd hate it, because I didn't want you, you filthy penny.
But, of course, some sense of I've done good would come over me. Maybe it was this completely idiotic thought that I was doing you a favour. This is ridiculous, of course. You're a freaking coin. But -- much like that Ikea lamp left out in the cold or that pencil I always lose -- I treated you like a human. All of you pennies.
I'd make sure you found good homes. When I had no use for you -- and, really, who had any use for you? -- I'd give you over to the next best thing. Maybe it was one of those charity bins with the coin slot at Tim Horton's or McDonald's. Yeah, if I could help build a Ronald McDonald House in Regina, I knew my pennies were going to the rest place... to the right home.
I will admit it, Penny. I hated you. Oh, did I hate you.
You weren't even round, were you? No, you were this damn ugly little orangey-brown mess with a sort-of square border. You were the disappointment we always saw when we fumbled to awkwardly pull coins out of our pockets -- whether we were in the Drive Thru, trying to buy bus tickets, or paying for another one of those delicious double doubles at said Horton's coffeeshop. We always wanted dimes or nickels, and we especially wanted quarters. But, no. We always pulled out pennies. Those damn little pennies.
You, Penny. We always pulled out you, even though we had tried so hard to get rid of you.
I will admit, there were times when I thought, "Please. Just go away. Leave me alone. Take the hint and disappear so I don't have to tell you to your face."
And then, the Canadian government decided to wipe you off the face of the earth... like you were as indispensable as the Dodo Bird or a daily newspaper.
At first, I thought it would be great. Sure, my cost of things would go up, because I'd assume vendors and store owners would take this as a nice excuse to round up all their costs to the nearest $0.05. It would be worth it, I thought. I'll be rid of that bi*ch forever. I need to move on, anyway. More nickels. More dimes. And, especially more quarters. Maybe even more bills.
And then, I started thinking...
Without you, Penny, I would lose a friend I always took for granted. Maybe you were comforting me while my mind was somewhere else, like the dog at my feet or the alphabet in my soup.
There were all those times when I'd buy something from a corner store, and the total cost would come to $4.96. I'd tell the guy behind the counter, "Don't worry about it" and I'd leave him with his four cents. But then, when they'd owe me $0.74, they'd toss me two quarters, two dimes, and four goddamn pennies.
Do you remember that?
Boy, I hated you. I really wanted to get rid of you. But, you were actually there with me, weren't you? You and I were alone against those evil, cheap little business owners along the highway who were so gracious to receive and too petty to give back. You needed a friend, and you needed a home, and I certainly couldn't leave you there.
I realize that now.
And so, on Monday, the government will take you back and melt you and fuse you and put you to use in some other way.
Goodbye, Race Horse. Hello, Elmer's.
It'll be like you never existed. Our bills will go unfolded into our pockets and we'll keep our change in our wallets again, because you won't be there to weigh us down or bulk up the crotch in our jeans.
Everyone else will talk about you like a cold they once had and then got rid of, but I'll remember, Penny.
Thank you for your years of service. I will miss you. But, at least my hands won't smell or stick quite as much as they did when you were around....
That's the title of ESPN's Jayston Stark's latest little ditty, detailing how Cooperstown failed to induct anyone on Wednesday for its literally famed annals. (No, not anals. Sicko.) That's right. Zero. Nobody will be going to the Hall of...
I know the NHL is really happy with itself right now, and I can't stand for that.
The lockout may be ending -- pending approval and some seriously important paperwork -- but the NHL still has to answer for the past few months, and the years before that.
The NHL can't hide from the fact that it betrayed millions of its own fans and its product.
The league deserves to pay for the lax approach it took to this lockout, and to its own business. The owners suddenly got all Socialist Obama when they realized they'd signed underwhelming players to intensely overpaid and bloated contracts. One day, they're a ruthless executive. The next day, they're Jamie Dimon begging for more buyout cash in front of Congress.
Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr were eerily similar to nine-year-olds fighting on the playground. They thought they were both right, and nobody else could understand.
The players, meanwhile, launched their greatest-ever assault on fans' intelligence.
They actually tried to swing our emotions by donning jerseys tattooed with "#ThePlayers" on it. They actually released YouTube videos informing us that the owners were locking them out, not the other way around. The players actually tried to handle billions of dollars in revenue with about as much grace as the side of a building handles a cannonball.
The players think like blunt instruments because the players are paid to be blunt instruments.
The owners think like corrupt businessmen because, well, they are corrupt businessmen. Unfortunately for them, however, their jargon is too far above their employees' uneducated minds.
This was a battle of Cheese and Cheddar, and neither one realized how much they had in common. Neither one realized their fans were the ones grading them. Neither one gave each other -- or their viewers -- any modicum of respect.
They didn't learn anything and they won't learn anything because they won't pay for their sins like the rest of us do.
It was a damn shame this had to happen. It's even more of a shame it will happen again when this new agreement inevitably expires.
(This article was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.)
I don't believe Donald Fehr, the executive director for the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA), is that bad. I don't believe Bob Goodenow or Ted Saskin, former NHLPA executive directors, were either. The fact is, these guys work in a field that demands turnover. That's because the players will...
Images and clips from his younger years ran behind him, showing McCartney when he was only 22, or 25, or even 35 years old. One particular one showed him in England -- with a beard and a thick winter coat -- holding his child inside his jacket. There were glimpses...
Listen. We get it, television. You don't want the rest of us to know that you're the next newspaper. We know, Rogers, that you don't want to announce cutbacks or firings. We know times must be tight, and finances must be pinched. We know you're losing money.
Aren't you? If...
Somewhere, somehow -- in some corner of the baseball universe or the baseball-watching universe -- there is somebody who does not understand why everyone loves the Oakland Athletics.
And, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe not everyone does love the Athletics. That would make sense. I'm sure Detroit doesn't love them, or anyone else in California. Jealousy is a funny thing. I'm sure there are San Francisco Giants fans who are sick of hearing about them.
Maybe everyone in orange and black in the Bay Area is saying, "Screw Michael Lewis's book, we won the World Series only two years ago. Where's our movie starring Brad Pitt? Or, you know, somebody younger."
"A's Beat Tigers With 9th-Inning Comeback: Coco Crisp Hits Walk-Off Single" -- Huffington Post Canada (October 10, 2012)
Really, though, if I can go back to naively assuming that the A's are now everyone's favourite team... Moneyball is not the reason. It's not their salary or their ongoing rivalry with the concept of capitalism. That's too easy.
Rich vs. Poor. Blah blah boring. If you want that, go watch Les Mis.
No, the real reason is that this team -- this Athletics Franchise, as a business and a family -- seems to do this every four or five years. If they're lucky, they string two seasons together. Once, three. But, they do it with a different manager and a different cast of contributors (i.e. players) every single time.
It's incredible. The As are baseball's shooting star. Look now, because you may not see them again.
With other teams -- such as the Yankees, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, and Rangers recently -- when they lose, you think, "Well, they could be back next year."
With Oakland, you don't have that luxury. They don't have that luxury. There is no next year for Oakland. Everything they have goes into this one season. Every time they make the playoffs, it's extremely conceivable that it might be the last time you see them for a while.
Every year they lose, you know each one of those guys on the roster feels it in their gut and in their heart, and you can see it on their faces.
It's become a custom now for losing teams to hang their heads after a series loss, in any sport. I remember it, I was sitting there live when the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to Boston in Vancouver. As genuine as it probably is, it always seems like a photo-op.
It always seems like the losing team is expected to do that. You know, to sit in its own dugout or take a knee on their side of the ice and reflect on their loss, and watch the victors celebrate and pour champagne over their high-priced superstars.
With the A's, though, it's not a photo-op. You have the sense that these guys are hard-working, blue collar-type players who will be substitute teaching in San Jose when it's all over.
They're the only team that, when they lose, has to start all over again. They can't just go out and buy their heroes, unless you would have considered the heroics of Coco Crisp or Seth Smith predictable.
If the A's lose, they go home. And, not for 2012 but, like, forever. They were done. The Tigers would have done to Oakland exactly what they did to them in 2006, and exactly what the Red Sox, Twins, and Yankees did before them, from 2001-2003.
Every time Oakland hits the playoffs running, there's a sense of desperation.
And, there's a feeling of loneliness with this team, too. They're not like everyone else. They're not in the fold. They're like the black sheep of the Major Leagues. When they lose, people rip apart their system. They call them foolish for trying to win with things like stats and computers, and research.
Oh, God forbid.
No other team has a leash as short as Oakland's. Or, an expiry date like Oakland's.
Their whole future is riding on every swing and every at-bat.
And so, when you take that desperation into the bottom of the ninth inning, down 3-1 in the game and 2-1 in the series, and you come out of it 20 minutes later with a 4-3 win and a tie...
Boy, that's a miracle. And, it's the result of hard work.
*This was originally posted on White Cover...
Chick-fil-A is starting to remind me of our favourite evil organization moonlighting as a chicken joint -- Los Pollos Hermanos from Breaking Bad.
I hope that link doesn't hurt the Hermanos' reputation. Drugs are a business (at least, on TV). Hatred? That's something else.
On Friday, the puppet...
Okay, so the NFL replacement refs are terrible. Missed calls everywhere. Questionable holding penalties that have decided games. Interceptions called touchdowns. Touchdowns called interceptions. Man, those replacement refs are almost as bad as the regular ones.
Let's be real here: as awful as it's been, it's always been terrible. How many years have you sat on your couch and screamed at the TV because those Foot Locker employees missed an obvious penalty? How many times have you cursed those foolish Zebras, blaming them for your team's 45 championship-less years?
How terrible are referees, in general, and across all sports?
Monday night's touchdown call gave the Seattle Seahawks a win they didn't deserve, despite the fact that they played Green Bay almost even all night long. And, just so nobody is unclear of what I'm trying to say, it was one of the worst calls in NFL history -- if not the worst call. It sent the Green Bay Packers to 1-2, joining the New England Patriots as the best sub-500 teams in NFL history.
It doesn't do us any favours that the Patriots were themselves affected by poor refereeing on Sunday night in their loss to the Ravens, although if New England had won that game, Baltimore would have had as much to be angry about. Those botched calls (and non-calls) went both ways.
But, of course, the Patriots are from Boston, home of the most self-entitled fan base in professional sports. This is the same city that believed the Miami Heat were wrong for forming a Big Three, even if they did the same thing a few years earlier. It's the same city that blamed a big-budget Broadway show called No No Nanette for an 86-year World Series drought.
Boston loves to scapegoat. But, yes, these replacement refs are bad. Like all refs.
How can we pretend that refereeing is some kind of all-inclusive brotherhood? We're suddenly acting like we're all on the same team. One guy posted a Craiglist ad asking for an NFL referee. Sarcastic sports sites like Grantland and Deadspin have only been fanning the flames, because it's easy and the jokes are lazy.
Early Tuesday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker tweeted, "After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs."
Wait, so you're saying Walker is pro-union now?
The rest of us need to realize that refereeing is the human aspect of professional sports, and it's why we watch, painful as it may be. It's always going to upset half the country while the other 50 per cent is overcome with joy. It's polarizing by nature.
We need to remember when a French judge was paid to strip two Canadian figure skaters of a gold medal in 2002. We need to remember how many non-calls there were in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Where was the penalty when Brad Marchand punched Henrik Sedin in the face repeatedly after that whistle? Or, when Tim Thomas threw that body check on him? "That's playoff hockey," they said, even though those calls were all made in the first three rounds of that year's post-season.
And, where was the suspension on Vancouver's Alex Burrows, when he quite obviously bit the fingers of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron in Game one of that Cup final?
What about in 1999, when Brett Hull scored the only illegal overtime goal to ever win a Stanley Cup? The stakes were much bigger than they were between Seattle and Green Bay on Monday, and the call was much worse. It cost Buffalo a championship, and they still have never won one.
It actually permanently changed the rules of hockey, because we all knew how wrong it was. You don't think Buffalo is still a little choked about that one?
What about in 2006, when Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu intercepted Peyton Manning to effectively seal the Steelers' playoff victory over the Colts, only to have it overturned for something called a "football play" and watch the Colts climb back into the game?
Pittsburgh won when Mike Vanderjagt missed a tying field goal, but that atrocious call was made.
(After that game, Pittsburgh's Joey Porter said that the referees were trying to give Indianapolis the win. The NFL fined him. Because, after all, how dare you question us, the almighty National Football League?)
What about in 2010, when Calvin Johnson caught the ball in the end zone and the Lions won the game? Remember that one? It was called an incomplete pass, because Megatron didn't hold onto it long enough, but anyone exercising humanity's most basic level of common sense knows he caught the ball.
It was just like last night. Anybody with two eyes can see that ball was picked off. They saw Golden Tate get his hands on it, and contest for it, but they saw M.D. Jennings catch it and come down with it. If you asked a five-year-old child who caught it, he would say, "The green and yellow one."
But, in football's odd rule book, the call wasn't technically that terrible. It was a contested ball, and Tate got his hands on it. In that case, when there's a shared catch, the play goes in favour of the offensive player. The referees called it a touchdown on the field, and then went to review it. Then, we'll assume, they watched the replay and decided there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it.
If you're using your brain, it makes no sense. It was an interception, right? When we play catch with our friends, if you get thrown the ball and you prevent it from hitting the ground, then it's a catch. In the NFL, there are always 10 more technical steps. But, if you're using the NFL's brain, it becomes a little cloudy. And, if it's cloudy, you never know what's going to happen.
Besides, this whole referee strike and Roger Goodell's inability to solve the issue shows the NFL doesn't regularly use its brain, anyway.
So, yes, these replacement refs suck. They're missing calls. They're blowing games. They're losing control of each and every match they're in. But, do we really need to pile it on? Do we really need to pretend we were ever satisfied by referees, professional or scabby?
All we're seeing now is a more consistent standard of terribleness. We're just seeing all the bad calls your normal refs were already making, but they're condensed into each and every game.
The groaning is predictable. The griping is easy. We're all getting sucked into a culture of anger. This is a problem that actually exists because of one man, and one man alone, but even that just seems too easy now.
Let's stop pretending we ever cared for referees. Let's stop pretending they were ever good. Sure, they have tough jobs. But, we all do. Get over it, and just admit it... if the Packers wanted to win, they should have scored more points.
This was originally posted on White Cover...
Yunel Escobar has served his three-game suspension for writing a gay slur ("tu ere maricon") on his eye black last Saturday, and will return to the Toronto Blue Jays lineup tonight. Friday.
Wait, didn't that happen, like, yesterday?
We've barely had time to breathe, and now Escobar is returning? Three games. Has it really been that long? Can we even remember back then, to that simpler time?
This is the problem with baseball, and a problem with things like three game suspensions, or even evaluating the severity of suspensions by number of games. Three, in a 162-game season? What was the point? Three games in hockey is a lot. It sends a message. Kind of. Three games in football is an eternity, but -- ironically -- they seem to be the only ones playing the game.
Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but he might have actually handled this properly.
Now, I'm not even sure Escobar is a homophobe. That's a label, and we have no evidence that he deserves to have it sliced into his forehead. He's not a Nazi being hunted down by Brad Pitt. Newt Gingrich is a homophobe. Emmett C. Burns is a homophobe. Chick-Fil-A is an organization of homophobes. Yunel did a homophobic thing, but that doesn't mean he's like them.
Yes, he did a homophobic thing, but it doesn't mean he only paints with one colour. People lie. It doesn't make them all liars.
Escobar wasn't suspended for being a homophobe, he was suspended because of his actions. I don't think he's afraid of gay people, because I have no proof of that. But, I do think he's an idiot, and I do have proof of that. We all do now.
However, if Tuesday's "apology" showed anything, it's that Yunel has no understanding of what he did, and he appears to have no remorse, or care, or sympathy. He seemed to believe that the only thing he did wrong was getting caught. It was a shameful service on Tuesday, and Escobar had this look on his face... like we were wasting his time, like we should apologize to him.
John Farrell looked like he had better things to do. I half-expected him to stand up at the end and say, "So, we done here?"
The Blue Jays players -- many of them -- also appeared to have little understanding of what Escobar did, or why it was wrong. Old man Omar Vizquel -- the Gandalf of the Toronto Blue Jays -- insisted that the word was used a lot amongst Latinos, so it wasn't a big deal.
So, if a word is used a lot and is meant to be a joke, then it's okay? You mean, like "faggot"?
Yunel and his teammates seemed dead-set on convincing us that the word's meaning was lost in translation -- or that it has no meaning -- and that cultural differences between Latin America and North America are to blame for a media circus that's been blown out of proportion.
He acted like innocence is a verdict. Sure, and why don't you just get us to try on the glove, too? He acted like language makes words less homophobic or hateful. But, words are words. They have meaning, and it doesn't change just because you can roll your R's.
But, it's not the culture. Everybody knows what that word maricon means now, because Yunel's arrogance begged us to find out. The Toronto Star has, on several occasions now, brought up that famous boxing story, where one boxer was beaten to death for calling the other boxer a maricon. Everybody knows what it means.
Don't try and pull the wool over our eyes. Don't lie. Because, now, everyone's just insulted that Yunel Escobar thought he was intelligent enough to fool us.
And so, after three games and only a couple of days away from the game, has Yunel Escobar even learned anything? Have the Toronto Blue Jays? Has anybody, or will we just gloss over this and treat Yunel's ignorant and offensive eye black art like it's some harmlessly racist one-liner said by Kenny Powers?
"Oh, it's funny because it's offensive!"
A situation that looked like a ridiculous one-off on Tuesday morning evolved into much more on Tuesday night, when Escobar's apology rang both shallow and hollow. Now, he's back, and we've returned to Saturday.
*This was originally posted on White Cover...
Well, well, Yunel. It looks like the whole, "It's okay, they just get confused when I speak really fast in Spanish" thing doesn't work for eye black.
What really is there to say about Escobar's three-game suspension? He's been suspended. Well, I'd certainly hope so. It's hard to even describe...
It's obviously hard to do. At the beginning, you'll just be faking it, like when the girl you always loved but who continually played with your heart finally tells you she doesn't love you, and you have to move on. You'll wince and wait until you get in the shower to cry, but you'll put on a brave face.
It seems unnatural, especially for those above the 49th and the ones in the only state they see as being just like them, Minnesota. You can't help but care, or be heartbroken, or watch that Molson commercial from 2004 over and over and over... and over.
But, if you want to make it through this, and if you want to fix the problem, you have to do it. You have to stop caring.
The real story here is that -- just like that girl all of us guys know, with the long black hair, the brown eyes, and the smile that doesn't stop glowing (yes, I just described my type) -- the NHL doesn't care about you. It says it does, because you support it. You buy its tickets. You keep its lights on, even if you're just watching TV.
But, like any politician who tells you they care about you and you only, they don't. And, it's not the NHL's fault, or your politician's fault. It's actually your fault, if you fail to see it. If you think they care about you, you only have yourself to blame.
We're all selfish, and the NHL -- as a corporate body made up of real human bodies -- is no different. Oh, we may think we're not, but we are. That's why we hate picking our younger brother up from his high school party at 2 a.m. and it's why we don't work for free, whether we make $20,000 a year or $5 million. Greed is greed, no matter how big the purse.
Our biggest fault, though, is believing that the NHL and hockey are the same. They aren't. Hockey's a game, and the NHL is its symbolic corporation. It's no different than differentiating between Kleenex and tissues.
So, as long as we continue to report on it or write about it (*yes, I realize that's what I'm doing right now), it will continue to wave its finger in our face. As long as we care, we keep it relevant. And, if the NHL isn't relevant, the lockout will end.
Gary Bettman does want hockey to come back. He just wants it to come back on his terms, or the terms of the owners he represents.
The players do want hockey to come back. They just want it to come back on their terms.
It's a Mexican standoff like the ones we're used to, only there's no burrito and nobody has to draw their gun from its holster if they don't want to.
That's because the owners haven't made their fortunes solely off their teams, and the players can go to Russia, or Germany, or Sweden, or wherever they want. They can rehab lingering injuries and recover from off season surgeries. And, if you're in Montreal, you can apparently almost still get paid, but not really.
They don't need this, they just don't want to appear weak. It's why Michael killed Fredo, and it's why the NHL is killing its product.
The more hate you reserve for either (and any) side, the more they'll drag this out.
Have you ever seen a playground fight? There's always two kids -- boys, of course -- who are getting cheered on by every other sprite near the monkey bars. The ground is concrete. Hard. The lunchroom monitor decides to let this one go a little, because if he or she (but, normally a she) breaks it up, the kids will only want it to happen more.
But, as soon as the audience walks away, it's done. It's over. They don't want to fight anymore, whether they've thrown no punches or 20.
It's why the full-of-himself high school quarterback can't use that on his resume. Once the crowd stops watching, the selfish stop benefitting.
How else do you explain this lockout, anyway? In 2005, there were a multitude of issues and contentions. The NHL wanted a salary cap imposed, which the player didn't want to accept (they caved, obviously). That was a major issue that has since reshaped the game and changed its on-ice product. It's revolutionized the competitive gap between big market teams and broke ones. It's why the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils were two of the final four in 2012, while baseball has to produce books like Moneyball to explain the miracle seasons that happen every six years in Oakland.
The last lockout allowed fringe franchises like Carolina and Edmonton to reach the Stanley Cup Final in the league's first year back in operation.
But, this time? It seems like they're just striking because it's the thing to do. Even the owners' demands seem like they're going for a fourth plate on Thanksgiving, while the players seem scared to death of being fooled or played by their daddies.
Of all four NHL lockouts in the past 21 years, this one seems the laziest. This just seems like it's been a long summer and your kid doesn't want to wake up before 8 a.m. for the first time in two months. This lockout is the snooze button on a season that was coming too fast, especially since it's clear negotiations didn't "start" until the 11th hour, or not at all.
And so, when that girl finally calls you back -- when she's finally tumbled in the weeds and her boat's been beaten down by life's whitecaps -- what will you say? Will you take her back with open arms? Will you laugh in her face?
Who knows? But, I'm not waiting by the phone.
Call him the Finnish Fashion. It's clear he likes Teemu Selanne -- and why wouldn't he? -- but he gives more than enough credit and screen time to (those blonde dicks from Sweden like) Daniel Alfredsson, the Sedin Twins, and even (that overrated nobody from an overrated country) Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr. Do we really want this to be their last hurrah? Do we really want to lose another year?
Janne Makkonen, a YouTube maestro and editing wunderkind who first rose to semi-relative obscurity (no, really, that's okay on the Internet) with last year's video, "Our Way Of Life", and who splices together the best of CBC's montages and Sportsnet's not-used-enough in-game footage, has released his newest tour de force, titled "NHL - Together We Can".
It's been out for three days. It's got, like, 300,000 views. It's not KONY, but it's pretty damn viral.
It's fantastic. It's hair-raising. It's better than the best. You have to even wonder whether Makkonen is really Finnish, because his ability of knowing every little moment that matters to Canadians and even Americans is spot-on. His use of Peter Finch's speech from Network (which is, like, 40x better than Jeff Daniels's Sorkin-penned, trace-like diatribe from the opening scene of The Newsroom) is brilliant, as is his ending jaunt through the best moments of the last 20 years.
Yzerman's slapshot over Jon Casey's shoulder. Alex Burrows's slaying of the Blackhawks. Stanley Cup-winning goals from Jason Arnott, Brett Hull, and Patrick Kane.
It's all there, and laid bare.
Congratulations, Janne Makkonen, and thank you for finally taking side with the one thing we all really care about: hockey.
This was originally posted on White Cover...