Thursday, 25 June 2015

Play By the Rules

"I've come to realize that life is but a game 
and it doesn't matter how you score but how you play 
and although the masses play the host make all the rules"


     The wide and wonderful world of sports has many parallels to what we'll call real life.  If it didn't, I wouldn't have a lot to write about.  Perhaps the most apt allegory is hockey's excellent but imperfect penalty system.  All players have a basic understanding of the rules and generally abide.  They will on occasion, intentionally or not, skirt the rules and if the referee happens to see the infraction, a punishment equal to the crime is doled out and the naughty player forfeits his right to play the game for anywhere from 2 minutes to several games.
   
     The idea being if you break the rules, you gain an unfair advantage.  This is antithetic  to our common ideal of sportsmanship.  The ref, of course, is only human and therefore prone to mistakes and missed calls.  You can't please the hordes of pseudo-savages (sports fans) all the time and occasionally a ref will make what is known as a bullshit call.  Sometimes it is obvious, but often the ruling is obscured by subtleties.

     In "real life", and I use that term as loose as a jock strap, the uniforms looks different but it's pretty much the same rulebook.  Most of us have been taught to play by the rules by our programmers but we will bend and at times break rules.  Tickets of the speeding and parking variety are minor deterrents to keep us in line, but it certainly doesn't prevent all people from speeding or finding imaginative parking methods.

    Some people know the rules and choose to try to get away with what they can.  The mere notion of punishment however, is enough to keep most of us in line.  Years of punishment and rewards through the "education" system see to that.

     The referee, unmistakeable in resplendent zebra stripes is an ostensibly omnipotent impartial agent, doling out justice where ever the rules are broken.  Except that refs miss calls and at times make calls where there are none to make.  Simply put, bullshit calls are routinely made, either because the ref wasn't looking or he had pigeon shit in his eyes.  Crafty players are quite aware of this fact and use it to their advantage.  Some are quite unapologetic about it.

     To think non-athletes share the same mentality is both healthily cynical and realistic.  The long arm of the law is purposefully visible and always has a strong presence in low income, poverty stricken areas with reputations.  Like Parkdale for example.  The crimes committed in areas such as these are fairly straight forward.  Assault, narcotic trafficking, the odd B&E, you get the point.  The verdicts often come quickly and decisively.

     When the criminality moves from the street to the boardroom, it makes the refs job, or rather the law's, much more difficult and adds at least fifty shades of grey to normally black and white issues.  Let's not kid ourselves here folks, the more money you have and the closer your ties to the government, the less likely you are to actually see the inside of the sin bin (prison).  Case in point, if you recall the financial world nearly imploding in 2008 due to a number of factors, no one Wall Street banker did time save for Bernie Madoff and I bet he only went down because he ripped off rich people.  The guilty unpunished pulled off a trillion dollar heist.

     Closer to home, but no less serious, our own governments, provincial and federal, seem content to skate outside the rules whenever they see fit.  Mike Duffy and his personal trainer are on trial for illegal procedure, but I'll be very surprised if the justice system hands him a game misconduct or even a minor penalty.  Ontario's grandmotherly premier keeps playing dirty too, first with signing off on the gas plant scandal and most recently in Sudbury, but play has yet to be whistled down.  Brian Mulroney and his paper bag of money.  I could go on, but you're smart enough to get the point.

     While fear of accumulating PIM's is enough to keep most of us from breaking the rules,  a few rich and powerful elites either know they'll never see a call go against them or the refs are choosing to look the other way.  In either case, we need to take a serious look at how the game is played, because as it stands now, we're going to be killing penalties for some time to come.  C'mon ref, are you blind?





     

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Gym Class Zeros

"Wouldn't you believe it
It's just my luck,
No recess"

     Contemporary Canadian society appears to be slowly splitting into two groups.  One group religiously watches what they eat,, has all sorts of gadgets to analyze, measure and provide digital bio-feedback about their workouts and they tend to share this info with all using the miracle of the Internet.  The other group, plainly put, is a group of fat slobs who need mechanized assistance in crossing the street and can often be found with a tank of oxygen close at hand.  While both groups have their pros and cons to join, this second group, less advertised and visible than the first, is worrying.  Not from a compassionate, sympathetic view point, but in a rather selfish way.  Gimme a break, I am an entitled self-absorbed Millennial after all.  
     
     This group of panting behemoths are, and will continue to be, an enormous strain on our socialized healthcare system.  And while I'll gladly reach into my pockets to help pay for a kid's leukaemia treatment or to help the victims of a late night parkour accident, I'm a little hesitant to do the same for a 350lb porker who doesn't have the good sense to pass on the 20th beer and the third helping of McCain's Deep and Delicious.  With the economy the way it is (read: shitty), I suspect I'm not the only one.  All those artificial hips, knee replacements and diabetic socks aren't going to pay for themselves.  Heck, it's already a strain on the system.

     So rather than spend billions trying to help these geriatric bundles of bad decisions stay alive just long enough to scare the grandkids when they come visit at the hospital, let's spend the money revamping Gym Class.  

     Yes, Gym Class.  Phys-Ed.  Along with lunch and grinding up on grade 9 hotties, at the after school dance, it's most hormone filled boys favourite class.  Too bad it's current state is a joke that sees most kids barely break a sweat, with ball room dancing, Capture the Flag and and other manner of bullshittery instead of true sport.
     
     Let's face it, most kids today can't afford to play competitive sports these days anyway, so why not turn Gym Class from playtime to something you actually have to try at.  Rather than have kids graded on knowing the differences between CFL and NFL rules, why not judge them based on the ability to learn new physical skills.  I can already hear the gasps from the parents of chubby kids saying that isn't fair!  The horror!  Well guess what, it's not fair that a kid can pass a gym class without the ability to run a mile or do 20 push ups either.  Instead of making gym class a session of intellectual masturbation on the rules of doubles badminton, let's encourage actual skill development.  If you had a unit on sprinting, then the fastest kid in the class gets the best mark.  Make passing the class contingent on actually learning a new skill, rather than reading about one.  

     If you have to study and work hard at calculus or chemistry, then why not also in Phys-Ed?  If you suck at physics, you go get extra help and balance a few more equations.  If you suck at gym and using your body, maybe you need to put in some more work there too.   To learn your multiplication tables it takes repetitive practise, same as nailing a baseline 3 pointer.

    Oh, and one more thing.  Make in mandatory throughout grades K-12, so the pudgy little kids who need it the most aren't allowed to skip it, lest their fragile egos be bruised.  No, not everyone will graduate with the manual dexterity of an Olympic calibre gymnast, but it might go a long way towards adding a certain level of shall we say, physicality to society that is sorely lacking.

     There are many types of intelligence and being able to sit in a desk and do long division is but one.  Implement a tougher, more skills based and competitive gym class, and I bet you dollars to gluten-free vegan donuts we end up spending less on health care in the long term./

     If that system proves successful, maybe it will lead to a work place recess program.  Wouldn't that be some fun?



     
      

      


Sunday, 31 May 2015

Of Some Consequence

"You better think fast
Think fast
'Cause you never know
What's coming around the bend
You better not blink
The consequence is a bigger word than you think
It's bigger than you or me"


Ah, the sweet sounds, sights and smells of June.  The two major denominations of the One True Religion of Sport have dwindled to just a pair of teams each by the time school lets out, their numbers whittled away by the system of Natural Selection, otherwise known as the playoffs.  Lose and you go home, win and you earn yet another chance to prove your worthiness.  
     
     Final exams represent a similar mechanism that shapes young minds in our so called education system.  Pass your tests, ace your exams and you earn the right to continue to the next level.  Flunk your tests, stay up all night partying and forget to study and you'll most likely fail and be forced to re-do a course, a test or even a full year of school.  This process essentially works on the same principle as its sporting cousin, with the best and brightest moving on and the less bright and not so capable being left behind, in order to better themselves for the future.  
     
     Except the system is hardly being implemented as designed.  Rather than being rewarded for their lack of effort and academic mediocrity with litres of red ink and instruction to return to their desks to repeat their failed endeavour until they get it right, legions of dullards are now shuffled through the ranks, lest their fragile pride and self-esteem take a bruise.  I'm not sure where or when everyone started getting automatic passes, regardless of effort, but I know it this thinking has infected the hollowed grounds of academia from the lowly primary grades right up to the dog and pony show of graduate school.
     
     Grade schoolers can barely read the label on a can of soup, but the teachers and parents worry keeping the kids back will cause self-esteem issues, so on you go, you little illiterates.  High schoolers who don't hand in assignments, but due to school policy can't be given a zero and therefore pass and move up the ladder.  A former physics grad student I once knew told me as a teacher's assistant (TA), he was not allowed to mark with red ink because seeing the red was too traumatic for the would-be atom splitters.  I myself was scolded by a dinosaur of a prof for taking too many marks off a written assignment for spelling and grammar, forcing me to assign passing grades to illegible word salads.  Another tale of whoa(!) I've heard was about a student who didn't attend a single lecture all semester long, but as she had a doctor's note, was awarded the credit lest her depression worsen. Call me old fashioned, but I firmly believe you should have to actually show up to pass a course.  
     
     Personal anecdotes aside, the trend is clear and obvious.  The kids today are being taught that there are no negative consequences to their actions.  Everyone passes and gets credit, so why work hard when you can just make a bullshit excuse and get a rule change.  It's problematic, it's real and it's dangerous.  We're conditioning a generation of minds woefully prepared for reality.
     
     Would a hockey coach encourage his star forwards to carry the puck across the blue line, eyes firmly glued on their CCM Tacks?.  No, he wouldn't because the negative repercussion of such an act could be catastrophic.  Ask Eric Lindros or Paul Kariya
    
     Does an offensive coordinator tell his slot backs to run routes over the middle and not to worry about violence-loving middle linebackers and safeties who want to separate his head from his shoulders?  Highly doubt it, buddy.  
     
     By shuffling students though the Education Industrial Complex, we are doing an enormous disservice to all.  Kids are having their egos and self-esteem artificially inflated while simultaneously divorcing their little minds from the concept of negative consequences.  Let's do ourselves a real favour and start failing some people.  
     
     They'll be alright.   




Sunday, 24 May 2015

Squirrelly Bitch

"Hey man you talkin' back to me?
Take him out
You gotta keep 'em separated
Hey man you disrespecting me?
Take him out
You gotta keep 'em separated"

     Some men are fit for civilized society and some men, well, some of us are barely more evolved than knuckle dragging primates.  Being a man myself, I don't think that statement is overly offensive and I also happen to think it's fairly accurate, because I myself wrote it.  I submit this Tuesday's events as Exhibit A.  A for Alpha.

     The sun, she was a-shining and I had just left my favourite Queen West coffee shop, freshly caffeinated and not thinking about too much in particular.  In fact, I can't really recall if I was thinking at all.  I'm walking down the street, headed home to enjoy the afternoon.  Coming up the opposite side walk is a wiry, sunglass wearing semi-degen who proceeds to cross the street at a brisk pace, and as he walks by me (no one around by the way), leans his shoulder out and clips me with a little more force than could be explained as accidental, considering the space around us.  We both took about 2 steps before we turned around to see what was what.

     I was just about to open my yap to say "Sorry bud" or some variation, when he starts verbally assaulting me with some high school level shit talking.  Asking me if I wanted to go, calling me a 4 eyed motherfucker (which made zero sense because we were both wearing sunglasses), eloquent phrases in other words.  The guy just gives me a verbal tirade and says he's having a real bad day and that he wants to kick my ass.  I counter with asking how us fighting would improve his day?  So I just stood there with a half grin on my face, and slowly started to realize what was happening.  He calls me a bunch of other names that are NSFW and says "I hit you, you call the cops, give me a guarantee you don't call the cops."  I respond with another, "Why would we fight over a sidewalk bump?" but he's having none of it.

     He gives me a very aggressive stomp forward, the type of move known by younger brothers and hallway nerds everywhere and I instinctively put my hands up in a defensive fashion, just in case.  I mean, I had just seen Mayweather/Pacquiao not two weeks before.  He doesn't throw and calls me a squirrelly bitch, among other things.  I try to come up with some sort of comeback but it's no use.  A few seconds and cusses later and he keeps walking, as do I, at this point amped up on more than the caffeine.  I managed to say I hoped the rest of his day went better as we parted ways.  

     Minutes later, given time to assess the situation, it becomes clear this guy crossed the street to come at me when there was acres of room for both of us and our egos.  Judging by his dress and demeanour, he was right at home in Parkdale and if you don't know what that means, come to Parkdale sometime and walk around in the middle of the day.  You'll get the point.

     Now I'll be the first to admit I am not a fighter.  Haven't had a bout since Grade 4 and since then I've seemed to be able to side step trouble if it ever popped up.  I am, however, a male and that means I have testosterone and and an overly developed amygdala, which is the part of the brain most responsible for bloody noses and bruised egos.  And I won't lie to you friends, I left the encounter perhaps 90% sure I had done the right thing, but 10% sure I pussied out like a bitch.  That might sound stupid and immature, but its how I felt.  The street offered up a chance to get it on, as they say, and my civilized brain managed to cool the situation before we both ended up in the back of a Crown Vic or worse.  Call it a win by judges decision I suppose.         

     I've always said it's the guys who want to fight on a Tuesday morning that are the ones to worry about, and I believe that even more firmly now.

     Can't help but think I'm a bit of a squirrelly bitch though.





Monday, 18 May 2015

No Fear

"Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before"


     Fear has saturated our bastard American brothers so much that is has seeped in across the border.  Coming in through the news, the telly, the Internet and by word of mouth, it's becoming endemic.

     Took my dear not so old Mom to the Jays game back in April on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I had a real tough time explaining why we had to be searched and sent through a metal detector before finding our seats in the 500's.  My mother's never hurt anyone with anything more than a fly swatter. Is a quick frisk from some minimum wage peon and being herded through a metal detector like steers off to sale really necessary at 21st century Blue Jay games?  Have we drunk that much of the fear Kool-aid?  Of course, America's been steeping in the stuff since the fall of '01 and it's likely their biggest export.  That doesn't mean we have to import it up here.  

     We here in Canadastan always seem to take on American characteristics but in diet form, all the great taste but with fewer calories.  This one item on the menu we need to pass on.  Our masters know how powerful a motivator fear is, hence the crafting of Bill C-51.  First with Y2K, SARS, swine flu and most recently Ebola, our Canadian media is just as guilty of fear peddling as those Fox News and CNN yahoo's, to borrow some slang from Mother.  Now I've flown a fair bit so I no longer think about emptying my pockets and strolling through the Arch of Safety to board a flight, but is it really necessary for an Inter-League game against the Braves?  Some tank-topped bros ahead of us in line didn't seem to mind, though I suspect they had been traquilized with some Bud Lites and were thoroughly distracted by streaming the Raptors playoff game on their phone.  Thanks again for keeping me updated throughout the ordeal, boys.  Appreciated it.   

     The game itself was brief for a 10 inning match and the walk off homer was worth the price of admission, but not all was smiles and fireworks at the Concrete Temple.  The only thing I want to be afraid of at the Dome is dropping a foul ball souvenir and having to live with TSN highlight level regret the rest of my life.  Some one, or some group, pretty high up seems to think Jays fans are so violence prone that we have to be frisked and searched upon entry.  A large part of me wants to think the new security measures are not necessary and over the top, but a smaller, more confused part of me thinks yeah, maybe this is needed due to the overwhelming numbers of would be psychos out there.  Can't be too careful these days.  

     Listen pal, I am fully aware we don't live in a world where we all get along and hold hands and skip through flower filled fields together.  But I would really, really like to think we live in a world, in a city at least, where searching baseball fans on sunny April afternoons is not an option that needs to be exercised in order to maintain peace at professional sporting events.    
     
     I think as a nation we did a tremendous job job ignoring the fear since October 22nd, especially after seeing the wounded giant of America lash out after 9/11.  We used to be less prone to Yankee style hysteria, but now I'm not so sure.

     Mom was more annoyed than paranoid, she even cracked, "At least I left my crochet needles at home".  A good thing she did.   Maybe it's time the No Fear t-shirts of the mid 90's came back into style.  This time we should pay attention.  





Sunday, 10 May 2015

De-Sensitivity Training


"You find me offensive, I find you offensive

For finding me offensive
Hence, if I should draw the line on any fences
If so to what extent
If at any should I go
'Cause it's getting expensive"

      Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, words will really cause people to lose their shit.  I'm not the first wanna-be blogger with a pen and a pad to point out that over the last decade or so, people are becoming more and more offended at seemingly less and less provocation.  Put bluntly, we are becoming more sensitive by the day, with people of all shape, size and colour wailing on about how they have been offended in all forms of media, print, TV, Internet, postcard, Etch-a-sketch.  I don't think I'm being alarmist when I write that the bar to being offended has been lowered so much, you are now at risk of stubbing your toe on it.  
    
     The cries of the offended come from all directions and have a common theme.  Something is said, typed or shown, and by golly some other group takes an offense, which is really being defensive, if you ask me.  Naturally, the offended wishes and often demands that the offensive group be silenced and censored, lest their poor little ears and eyes hear and see something of which they disapprove.  Which is akin to saying we don't like that, so don't say it. Ever. Again.  
     
     Now, don't get me wrong oh Internet warriors of justice, actions and deeds can be and often are offensive.  Acts and deeds that are abhorrent to our not-so-common sense of humanity.  But actual actions and doing deeds are a far cry from words and sounds and symbols.
     
     Much of the new found offensivism, if I may coin the term, is rooted in our ever growing sensitivities, and I'm not talking about peanut allergies here folks.  Since when did we all become so gosh darn sensitive about words and symbols?  I'm not too sure on this one, but if I had to venture a guess I'd say it has something to do with how certain words are banned from a young age.  You might be familiar with a few of these words yourself, you bunch of shitbirds.  By sealing off certain words and ideas, we only feed the power they have, heightening their impact.  Perhaps it is time we tore down the artificial walls built up around such words and emptied them of all meaning.  
     
     Maybe this will be a sort of cultural novocaine, numbing our sensitivities and encouraging true freedom of speech, rather than provoking waves of offended cries the minute someone doesn't take too kindly to an idea.  
     
     We need de-sensitivity training.  The polar fucking opposite of what we have now where sensitivities are not only encouraged, but reinforced every step of the way by ensuring everyone is hyper aware of how offensive words and symbols are by banning them at the first inkling of offensiveness.  
     
     Now how about this for a politically incorrect alternative, as soon as kids are old enough to understand, we rationally and calmly explain to them what words mean and that many words only hold the meaning you give them.  No words are out of bounds.  Encourage hurling different word combinations at each other until these words are stripped of any and all meaning and revert merely to the sounds and symbols they truly are.  Imagine, Lennon style, a world without 'bad words'.  If you weren't told words were bad and that you shouldn't say them, would you give them any meaning?  You're a nog-woddler.  What's that you ask?  It's a made up word I just thought of and it has zero meaning.  Now take this word, tell a group of impressionable kids that they should never call anyone that name and two things will happen.  1) They'll immediately start calling each either that name and 2) they'll associate it with negative emotions.  Don't believe me?  Get someone to chew you a new one (one being an asshole, the nerve!) in a language you don't understand, perhaps Arabic or Russian.  Bet you don't bat one eyelash, why?  Because you nog-woddler, you have no meanings attached to the sounds!  And without meaning, you can't be offended anymore than you can be offended at the sound of the wind blowing.  
     
     Listen, I'm not saying sit the kiddies in a circle and have them cuss each other out until the words lose all shock value, but wait, that is what I'm saying.  Maybe then we'd all be a little less sensitive about shit (gasp!).
     
     George Orwell, author of such hits as "1984", the year of my birth coincidentally, anticipated our current state of affairs when he said "First they take the words, then they take the meanings".

     Perhaps the anti-dote to having the list of approved sounds from shrinking is to realize that's all they are, just sounds.  And last I checked, sounds and symbols couldn't hurt anyone.  So maybe we can all agree the next time we think we are offended, to remember that although sticks and stones and RPG's and ICBM's can be very hurtful, words can never break us. 



   



     

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Champ is Here

 "Who wanna get knocked out?
   Who wanna fight Roy Jones?
   Who wanna be next? I'm knockin' your lights out,
   I'm takin' you right out, I'm winning this fight,
   I'm puttin' my belt on, I'm takin' my belt home"  

     A few moons ago, while at a less than top secret G20 leader's meeting, Dear Leader Harper took some direct vocal shots at a well known colleague.  His verbal victim?  None other than Comrade Putin, the West's (and NATO's) current Public Enemy #1.  Somehow, the Right Honourable Stevie Harper summoned the courage and machismo to defiantly scold the Russky Pres and allegedly told him "You need to get out of Ukraine".  Putin was reportedly not impressed, and I bet he wasn't exactly shaking in his galoshes either.

     As the event, which occurred in Australia, was not filmed, we'll never quite know just how things went down.  But this type of Alpha Male behaviour in high level politics does raise some issues, serious or not.  If we were to take away the militaries, the aircraft carriers (America has more than the rest of the world combined) and of course, the nuclear weapons, which country really has the toughest head of state?  Any way you look at it, the current crop of modern day dictators are a far cry from the Ghengis Khans and the Alexander the Greats, notable historical heavy weights.  Of the suit-wearing, platitude spewing bureaucrats, who would take home the belt?  Inquiring minds want to know.

     What if the diplomatic shit talking and sanction inducing chest bumping got out of hand?  How would the G20 leaders fare in a Royal Rumble where they'd have to fend for themselves for a change?  If these men (and women) are in charge of governments, economies and potentially militaries, I for one think it is vitally important to know how they would fare in hand to hand combat. After all, we need to see them test their mettle, not just their skills of bull-shittery.
 
     Let's start with Harpo.  Stephen Harper looks like he'd be OK at sports, provided that sport was wine tasting.  Don't let his supposed fascination with hockey fool you, the only time he's ever dropped the mitts is when he came in from recess.  The man isn't exactly threatening in appearance and you can bet he practised his Ukraine line in front of the mirror to work up his courage.  Leave the heavy lifting to JTF2, Stevie, before you embarrass us further.

    Uncle Barry, whether he's actually from Kenya or not, isn't too much scarier.  Rumour has it he stills hacks the occasional dart, so that lithe runner's body isn't fooling anyone.  He is a southpaw and likes to play basketball, but he strikes me as the type of baller who can't create his own shot and likely needs a screen in order to get open.  Even the mean streets of Chicago didn't harden this grey headed lawyer.  Nah, take away the $600 billion per year Military Industrial cock extension and he just doesn't strike me as being that harmful of a human being.

     British PM Davey Boy Cameron exudes slightly more physicality, but if you look at his pedigree, he's the descendant of royalty, so you know his upbringing wasn't exactly harsh, to say the least.  He seems like the type of guy who would start a fight with his mouth, but probably wind up going home crying with a bloody nose.  Rumour has it he enjoys badminton, but striking a shuttlecock hardly instills fear, unless that's the sort of thing you're into.  Hey, it's a free country.

     Host country Australia's PM, Tony Abbot, used to box while at Oxford, so that pretty much makes him a contender by default.  And just to show I'm an equal opportunity social commentator, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks like she wouldn't take no crap off nobody and likely has a decent overhand purse to the head move to fall back on.

     We should all be in agreement that if a G20 donnybrook did break out, Vladdy Putin would be the last guy to look over his shoulder to summon his Secret Service Spetznaz or whatever those wacky Russians have.  True, the propaganda machine has portrayed him as a tiger hunting, F1 driving macho man but he was in the KGB and he does have a 6th degree black belt in judo.  This doesn't assure him a victory, but I'm confident Bodog and Proline would give him the best odds.

     We like to pretend we're a civilized, dignified culture, but when the chips are down, men are men and still have primitive monkey brains.  It's what makes us resourceful, but it's also what makes us dangerous when we think we're threatened.  Wouldn't it be nice to know what our heads of state are really like when fear kicks in?  

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Best Policy

"It's alright, there comes a time
Got no patience to search for peace of mind
Layin' low, want to take it slow
No more hiding or disguising truths I've sold"



     We're in that sweet spot of the sporting year, when we're treated to a double header of the playoff variety, with the agony of defeat, and sweet, sweet victory of both hockey and basketball to simultaneously entertain us.  One symptom of the playoffs is that athletes usually crank up the intensity of their play and the post-game, soul-searching honesty.  That is, of course, if they aren't mocking us by parroting meaningless catch phrases, which appears to be 'thing' now.  Anyway.  

     Faced with inevitable Game 7's, elimination and an off-season to ponder what went wrong, no athlete ever understates what is on the line, and to make an excuse becomes sacrilege.  After blowouts or narrow loses, any glistening, towel wrapped demigod, gasping for breath, mans up and takes the blame for their failures and never passes the buck to the coach, the GM, and especially never to teammates.  You'll very rarely hear a goalie complain about a lack offence or see a top scorer blame his team mates for not dishing him the rock more.  You just don't.

     Quite the opposite, really.  Athletes tend to be honest to a fault, particularly when dealing with crushing losses.  "We just didn't get the job done.  We needed to execute better.  We missed some shots that we need to be making".  No double speak to confuse the audience, no changing the outcome so it was a victory on paper, no blaming the playing conditions, the weather or the global economic outlook.  No sir, athletes have a level of honesty after losses that is refreshing as fuck, especially when compared to today's cream puff politicians.  Looking your way, Dalton "I will not run deficits" McGuinty.  

     And it's not just the Liberals, politicians of every party are all a bunch of liars and thieves, and do nothing more than pass the blame around like it's a dose of fucking herpes.  I have never heard a politician, whether they be federal, provincial or municipal, ever step in front of the podium and take the blame for any scandal, any budget overruns, tax hike or deficit increase.  It's never been their fault regardless of whether they tabled the bill, ordered the emails deleted or approved another crony make-work project.

     Nope, never seen a resigning politico teary eyed when leaving office for not getting the job done.  "We really blew it, I dropped the ball on that one, or, we need to do a better job with tax payer's hard earned money".  These are phrases you'll never hear coming out of the mouths of our Wonder bread politicians, who have a tendency to piss on us and then tell us to go out and buy an umbrella.  It's almost like they've practised these phrases in front of the mirror, or their henchmen, so that we, Joe Public, will be confused and turn the channel back to sports.   And I wouldn't blame anyone one bit for doing just that.     

     There is a stark contrast in the honesty that athletes choose during defeat and the vile sewage spit forth by the cornered serpents that politicians become when faced with their own lies, hypocrisies and vast incompetency.  Sport, in all its glorious forms, is far more popular than politics and that is for a variety of reasons.  One such reason is the integrity and honesty that most athletes bring to the fans.  If politicians really want to engage the public in greater numbers, how about they start with some honesty at the microphone.  Maybe when they they start speaking something with even a bit of truth to it, we'll tune in.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Contraction Pains

     "There's those thinking more or less, less is more
     But if less is more, how you keepin' score?

     Means for every point you make your level drops
     Kinda like you're startin' from the top
"


     Our collective appetite for more of everything is bordering on insatiable.  More condos, more bandwidth, more home-runs and more choices.  This attitude has infected everything from fast-food portion sizes to sports franchises.  NHL czar Bettman's latest attempt to re brand hockey and put a team in Vegas could be the dumbest idea since I thought I could re-use coffee grinds to save money.  That plan ended badly and so will putting a hockey team in Sin City.
  
     Vegas thrives on gambling and offers society a badly needed outlet for it's degenerate tendencies.  A hot bed for an NHL expansion team it is not.  No other major league sports team calls Vegas its home and that is likely for a good reason.  People go to Vegas to drink and to gamble and they come back with good stories and less money than when they arrived.  Not to watch pro sports, much less hockey, a sport with a reputation for being a Canadian bush league display of on-ice thuggery in the minds of most Americans who live south of about Lincoln, Nebraska, save for a small pocket of LA.  The Thrashers were a joke, as are the Coyotes, the Hurricanes and the Panthers and anywhere else they have to rinse the Olympia tires free of sand before it goes on the ice.

     Oh no, brothers, expansion is hardly the answer.  More like expansion's reciprocal, contraction.  Axe a few teams and increase the quality of the on-ice product.  No, it wouldn't help with the league's bottom line, but it will help with overall competitiveness.  A couple dozen teams would probably be enough and even then, there would still be 8 teams that wouldn't make the playoffs.  Maybe that would stoke the fires under a few of the league's prima donnas who have a job simply by virtue of rosters needing to be filled. 

     Restrict supply to manage demand, OPEC-style.  In fact, that game plan could be applied elsewhere in society for the greater good.  Why not shutter some of the smaller, shall we say crappier universities in Canada as well?  Tighten up competition for those hallowed diplomas, which are quickly becoming a very expensive gold star.  Yes, contraction of the education system, in order to preserve the quality.  We've got too many uni's with too many seats to fill from the farm team feeder system of high school, and right now a ticket to The Show is just too easy to come by.  And when something is easy to get, its value goes down.  To stop the hemorrhaging of youngsters graduating with eye-ball deep debt and into a bleak job market, why not contract the number of seats by say 20% or 30% and let the market forces take over.  Restrict supply to preserve the value of a degree, because right now a university degree in Canada is roughly equivalent to owning a Toyota Corolla.  Everyone's got one, and it's not really something to boast about.  
  
    Admit it, the talent pool for university is already pretty watered down and things are likely going to get worse, with every politician promising to expand the number of available seats because we're a greedy, hoarding society and we really don't like anything being taken away from us.  If there were fewer universities, it would up the prestige of the remaining ivory towers and force true competition for fewer available seats, instead of admitting every 18 yr old with a hard-on and an OSAP loan.  Parents of course, would wail and gnash their teeth, crying out how their kid is really bright and deserves to be distracted by Facebook while sitting in a 400 seat lecture hall while listening to some prof with a strong accent go on about Useless Knowledge 101.  
     
     Yes, contraction would hurt for a bit, because rather than getting something new, something is taken away.  But is mindless expansion, whether in the NHL or for university students, really helping anyone or is it just a quick fix to make a quick buck?  Where does it end?  An NHL team in every city and a diploma on every wall?  



            

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Major League of Nations

   
      "My boy's gonna play in the Big League, my boy's gonna turn some heads
        My boy's gonna play in the Big League, my boy's gonna knock 'em dead
        Ah, the Big League"
     

     The current state of global geopolitics is not unlike the realm of sport.  You've got bona fide heavyweight champs, team/countries that you shouldn't fuck with, and still others that are punching out of their weight class and a few that appear to be in a rebuilding phase.

     Having a sense of patriotism is also pretty much like cheering for your favourite sports team. Loyalty is cultivated damn near at birth, you proudly wear and display the home teams colours and pride is taken in victories, regardless of the size, and regardless of whether or not you actually contributed.  Even the now old League of Nations logo resembles that of a crappy CFL expansion franchise.  Remember that?  CFL expansion to the US?  Most people don't, because it was a truly awful idea.  I digress.  
   
     Geopolitics to most is about as interesting as picking pepper out of fly shit, so allow me to give you an update in terms that might help you better understand.   
   
     The Western Conference/World has long produced some truly great franchises/teams.  The UK dynasty that lasted nearly 200 years spawned today's undisputed front runner, the US of A.  The US completely dominated the entire 20th century, but ever since fall of '01, can't quite seem to get its act together, either on the road (Iraq '03-??), or at home ('08 Great Financial Crisis, or GFC).  The other, newer, expansion franchise built on the UK model, Canada, was consistently playing better than it could on paper, but recently seems to be losing steam and needs to return to its former style of play. Though Team Canada came through the GFC better than most, it looks increasingly clear they need to make some front office changes, or face a long rebuilding period.  They might have to look outside the franchise for a new GM, but that's just this observer's opinion.
   
     The European conference has been in shambles as of late, ever since they introduced revenue sharing.  A few clubs, Portugal, Italy and Spain are on the verge of relegation, while the Greeks are pretty much toast at this point, barring a trade deadline deal with perennial powerhouse,  zee Germans.  Europe's Northern division has been lead by the ever consistent Norwegians, a cautious but reliable squad that never gets caught playing from behind.  Iceland has really turned things around since '08 and is looking to make a name for themselves.  Pound for pound, they might be the best team in the world, but more on that at a later date.  
   
     Though they've been slowly rebuilding since suffering a collapse in '91, the Russkie's have steadily and until recently, quietly been re-tooling to the point where they nearly resemble the great Soviet teams of the '80's.  They are in the works for a huge deal with the Ukrainians that the League currently has under review.  Don't be surprised if this well coached and gritty team continues to compete for The Title.  I think they have a legitimate shot.  The Red's Pan-Continental rival, China, has been the Cinderella story of the 21st Century so far, shaking off it's Maoist heritage to become the other serious challenger to the American Hegemony.  Their momentum looks to be fading however, so who knows what tricks they'll pull out of their yellow sleeves.  Their arch-rivals, the Japs, have been re-building for two decades now and it is doubtful any surprises will be coming out of Nippon for awhile.
   
     Contrary to popular belief, North Korea is not Best Korea, as that title would have to go to the Non-Commie Dictatorship south of the DMZ.  These "Little Tigers" have been a pleasant surprise as of late.  India, as always, just hasn't played up to potential, though they could really turn it around if they can keep the pesky Paki's at bay and borrow a page or three from the Chinese five year playbook.
   
     The Middle East, the craziest division since the 1948 expansion brought the Jews their very own team, is as chaotic as ever.  Most teams in the division has seen significant front office changes over the past few years.  This Arab spring could also be surprising, with upstart Iran looking to really cement its presence.  Look out for a new division rivalry between the Persians and the Kingdom of Saud, and I also wouldn't rule out a new expansion franchise in Kurdistan once and if the dust ever settles.  Whether that dust contains radioactive fallout, well, that is still up in the air.  
             
     Africa's been the worst division for a long time and everybody knows it.  New franchise South Sudan still looks like a minor league team, as does anywhere that had a breakout of Ebola.  Nigeria looks like they've peaked and are now on the downslide and South Africa, who has long ruled the division, looks like they've hit a rough patch.    
   
     South America, quite frankly, might challenge Africa for the weakest division, with Argentina yet again set to fold unless they can find new ownership.  Smaller teams like Ecuador and Colombia can't quite string together enough wins, and Venezuela will likely remain in the cellar so long as their oil revenues remain low.
   
    The League of Nations is just like any other league.  It has a governing body that usually lacks a clue and is ineffective at actually governing (because of corruption), a few power house franchises that can do whatever they want because they have the money, rivalries that started before we were born and teams that will forever be in the basement.  Welcome to the New World Order, which is really the Old World Order, but with better looking jerseys.  



Sunday, 5 April 2015

Socially Responsible Violence

     "Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
       Cause summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy"
   
     Take a look at the calendar and it'll show we're on the doorstep to the NHL playoffs and that means a couple of things.  Sport journalists all over the nation will be taking easy shots about the Leafs golfing and the rate of hockey fighting will go down drastically.
   
     Naturally, this is an argument the bleeding hearts fall back on when trying to make the case for an outright ban on fisticuffs.  See, they cry out in unison, once every game matters the level of fighting drops, so there's no need to fight in the regular 82 game season either.  After careful deliberation and considerable libation, this writer must (dis)respectfully disagree.
   
     Hockey is at times violence on ice, and has a reputation for a reason.  Every NHL roster usually includes one or two savage brutes whose job it is to start (or finish) the odd donny-brook, either to light a fire under a team's collective ass or to dole out some righteous retribution.  If the talent is in danger or if the opposing team takes liberties on a first line sniper, out come the fists.   It is a code that many are pretended to be offended by, but in reality no one ever chose a brouhaha to get another beer or spill some urine.  Cheers for fights are often as loud as cheers for goals.
   
     The men trusted to hand out these beatings are often large and always dangerous and have the ability to hurt more than feelings when tilts break out.  I don't know about you, but I would much rather have these would-be-felons throwing hammers in NHL rinks than to have them out and about in society at large.  We are much better off having these angry and vicious men out in the open, under the intense spotlight of professional sport than cast into society's shadows where their best talents could have them locked behind bars.  If a man wants to carve out a paycheque beating the skulls of other men with his fists, perhaps we all need to indulge him for the greater good.
   
     To those that say there is no place for fighting in hockey, I ask, what better place than in hockey for Alpha-Males to display their physical prowess?  Judging by the reactions from the stands, it's abundantly clear that fans don't cover their eyes and hiss and boo with disapproval either, when these modern day gladiators square up for a round or two of the man dance.
   
     Can you imagine getting into a parking lot dust-up, only to see the likes of a Bob Probert or a Donald Brashear emerge from that car that stole your parking spot?  Or trying to complain to a service representative with a mind-set like Brian McGrattan?  You'd certainly think twice about raising your voice and taking out your daily frustration on them.  Would you really honk your horn in that ever so passive aggressive way if you knew it was Ben Eager who cut you off in traffic?  Neither would I.  Many intellectuals and academics will look at fighting in hockey as something brutish and nasty, but what is worse?  Adult men getting paid to occasionally beat on one another or having these same men on the streets with the same mentality?
   
     We live in violent and savage times, and to pretend sport doesn't reflect that just isn't being honest.  But if a few men want to trade punches for a salary and go sit in a glass box after as punishment, I don't think it's the end of the world.  Now if only more violence could be settled with a few 5 minute majors, then we'd be getting somewhere.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

OK, Blue Jays?

"This town ain't big, this town ain't small, it's a little of both they say.
Our ball club may be minor league, but at least it's triple A"

    It's nearly April, the time of year when beleaguered Leafs fans take a ninety degree turn and devote their full attention to that other Toronto franchise, the once mighty Blue Jays. After the Jays shake off the cobwebs down in Dunedin, in front of geriatric snowbirds, the legions of the faithful will dutifully flock to Toronto's temple of sport, the Stadium Formerly known as the Skydome.

     Torontonians of all races, ethnicity and socio-economic status will no doubt have a glimmer of hope in their collective eyes, as once again the Jays take to the turf for yet another chance at the coveted AL East, and dare I say, October baseball.  Toronto was once the Rome of the baseball world, and the back to back World Series titles proved Canada was no AAA training ground for the proper American teams.  We had real pride in our team and 50,000 devoted worshippers to fill the temple.  The city now has Blue Jays way, and a good story to tell ourselves on those cold winter nights when the Leaf's season becomes to difficult to stomach.  We once had the best team in baseball.  Twice.

      Now, I've been to various ballparks and sports arenas in the US and Canada, and I've seen a level of worship bestowed upon athletes that borders on North Korean-style cult of personality, and one thing that is a common element of these places of worship are the statues.  Bronzed and frozen in time, many arenas and stadiums worth the price of admission have a False Idol out front, praising a hero of yesterday who brought the team and the city glory, honour and most importantly, championship rings.

     If you were an alien from an advanced interstellar civilization, here on Earth to study our worship of athletes, and you put your flying saucer down at say, the Steamwhistle brewery lawn and went for a walk, you'd have zero clue that one man clinched the second and crowning World Series title with a swing of his Lousiville Slugger on a 2 and 2 count in the bottom of the ninth in game 6 versus the Phillies.  That man sent an entire city into an orgiastic frenzy not known since.  No, for some reason that this writer cannot wrap his grey matter around, there is no statue of Joe Carter next to the Rogers Centre.

     Other sports cities immortalize their heroes in their prime, at the height of their powers with a statue in a prominent public area.  Not here in Hog-town.  We've got two story pictures of mediocre hockey players and some post modern versions of what I assume to be baseball bats(?) out front of the ACC, but no where can Joe Carter and his fabulous flat top be seen in pagan idol form.  He achieved a feat only accomplished one other time in recorded history, the rarest of gems, a walk-off home-run to win the World Fucking Series.  And yet no statue.  Yes, #29 hangs in its rightful place of honour on the inside, but what about the outside?  Why is there no Joe Carter statue outside the Dome?  We've a few creepy, vaguely gargoyle-esque faces coming out of the north side, but no Joltin' Joe icon to pay homage to anywhere.  I cannot fathom the reason.  And don't tell me there's no room, some prime real estate exists right outside of gates 5 and 6, where kids walk past and old men could look up and relive that sense of pride and pure ecstasy that only clinching a championship can bring.
 
    Today's generation of Beliebers are running the very real risk of not knowing their cities sports history and that is simply a failure on everyone's part.  It's bad enough I once had to explain to a 19 yr old punk who Kelly Gruber was.  If we are to relive our past sports glory in this city, how about we build a goddamn statue of Joe "Touch 'em All" Carter right out front of the Dome so we can at least remember and nod to ourselves and say, yes, once we were champions.    

  

Monday, 23 March 2015

ISIS needs Intramurals

"Revolution in their minds, the children start to march, against the world in which they have to live, and all the hate that's in their hearts"
     The latest boogey-men conjured up by the powers that be are a somewhat rag-tag band of misfits, who have a penchant for putting distance between heads and shoulders.  ISIS, and their various farm teams, are a symptom of a much larger problem in the Middle East.  That problem seems to be pent up adrenaline and testosterone, with no productive endeavours available to sop it up. 

     Now, the Middle East is a hot, dusty and dangerous place, and I have been closer to it than I care    to remain.  Its history is both blood and oil soaked, with an unhealthy dash of religious fervour.  Many scholars and intellectuals have wrung their hands over, and apologized for countless acts of terror and  mayhem.  None, in this corn-fed white boy's opinion, have reached the root of the problem. 

     There are too many men, women wearing curtains on their faces, too few jobs, and beatings to encourage memorizing of the Koran.  It really should be no surprise that the Middle East's main export besides crude is violent acts of terrorism, both domestic and international.  Are we in the West responsible for stirring the pot and drawing literal lines in the sand?  Quite likely, but that cluster-fuck of a know is so firmly tangled not even Alexander the Great himself could slash it free.
No, if we are going to diffuse the powder keg over there before somebody gets their mitts on a nuke, we had better find a useful outlet for all that high grade emotion and energy. 

     Sports, and particularly youth sports as we know them, serve as a sort of proxy for war.  Us vs Them, choose sides and a jersey, fight til the death and shake hands when the dust settles.  Many coaches act like they are drill sergeants and the youths they control are the soldiers being prepped for and sent into battle.  Or at least a hotly contested pseudo-battle, regardless of the playing field. 

     Now, the Taliban banned soccer matches in Afghanistan and that closed off one outlet for all that pent up aggression.  Perhaps they should have started intramurals instead.  Let them have sports.  Yes, I know, virtually all nations in the Middle East have national football/soccer teams, but there is something about having your team's feet lashed after a loss that takes all the fun and pride out of it.  Instead of having legions of would-be martyrs idolizing their favourite suicide bombers, let them instead idolize the False Gods of Sport.

     Sports of all kinds, from rugby to wrestling, lacrosse to athletics, should be implemented so the youth of the Middle East have a way to burn off all that energy.  Instead of dropping carpet-bombs, drop soccer balls and copies of Sports Illustrated.  They can practice corner kicks instead of Kalashnikovs.  Encourage MMA, roller hockey, baseball and beach volleyball.  Tap all that pressure with the valve of sport, rather than religion and hate.  I have a feeling they'd love it.  You give a 10 yr old over there a chance to be an athlete instead of a Reaper drone target and I bet they'd jump at the chance.  Got to get 'em young enough though, before all that imam-speak takes a hold.  Girls too, let them play, rough even.  Heck, I bet some of them are pretty decent too. 

     Believe me brothers and sisters, I've seen my share of abandoned churches and schools, built by Western do-gooders, but seldom does a soccer pitch stay empty if there enough people around to have a game.  Let them play and let them play hard.  A happy tired kid having some orange slices after practice is not going to be easily convinced to kill someone.  And I don't know about you, but I'd rather have them worship Messi and Ronaldo rather than martyrs and freedom fighters.

     ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Mujahideen, the differences are lost on most of us Westerners, but one thing is deathly clear.  There is an abundance of energy and anger that is constantly funnelled into less than constructive extra-curriculars.  No, you're not going to get lasting peace in the Middle East anytime soon, but sports always has been, and always will be, a healthy way to release some pent up aggression.  We'll worry about the hooliganism and rioting later, shall we?






    

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Hope Springs Eternal?


"The goalie jumps, and the players bump, and the fans all go insane"

     Spring is here in Toronto.  The snowbanks have begun to melt, uncovering long forgotten cigarette butts and a unreasonable amount of dog shit.  In other NHL cities, hockey fans are gearing up for the playoffs.  On-the-fence fans suddenly become die-hards, and people's allegiances take on a whole new level of insanity.  But not here.  Not in the Centre of the Universe.  This year's demise of the Leafs, perennial also-rans, has taken on a new feel of despair bordering on shame.  In a province that was once the economic engine of the nation, where Maritimer's migrated just to get a decent paying job so their kids could have some bologna to eat, we are left with little hope.  Leafs' fans everywhere are doing some deep soul searching about the Blue and White.  
  It's been about decade since the TML's had a decent playoff run, and in about that amount of time the provincial debt has effectively doubled to just under $300 billion.  This decade of demise has battered the soul of once proud fans from Oshawa to Thunder Bay, to the far reaches of Leaf Nation forgotten by condo-dwelling Toronto Elites.  In other economically battered cities, having a successful sports franchise is paramount to the cities identity, to it's cultural back bone and to it's pride.  Detroit, a bankrupt heap of memories, at least can count of the Red Wings to put some joy into spring.  Not so in Leaf Country.  The Buds have become something of a sideshow, and the bush league sports journalism in this city has not helped one iota.  Fans have, perhaps with good reason, thrown their once beloved jerseys onto the ice as a final act of frustration.
  Your average Leaf's fan likely doesn't give two flying hockey pucks about the state of the province's finances, likely because they are stuck dealing with their own.  The frustration with the Leafs seems to have been equalled by the frustration (and disgust) of Joe Public with Queen's Park.  Scandal after scandal, deficit increase after increase, they've given up on any facade of public accountability, with even the Mounties investigating the OPP in the latest display of Sun-cover worthy corruption.  Scandals have followed this province's government around like a dangerous ex-boyfriend, from E-Health to ORNGE, from gas plants to MARS.  But I digress.        

  In times like these, the province needs a decent hockey team to cushion the blow to the collective psyche, and no Ottawa, the Senators don't count.  At least if we had a successful hockey team it would be a worthwhile distraction to fiscal mess we're in, but that certainly wasn't the case this year.
  If nothing else, Leafs fans are incredibly loyal and eternally optimistic.  According to many of the die-hards, each new hockey season comes with hopes of the Parade down Yonge.  The best case scenario this year would be for them to tank fully completely and land a Messiah in the draft.  If only fixing our province's pathetic government was that easy.  At least hockey fans can hold out hope for next year.  Let's hope somebody turns things around, and soon.