"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.
Sunday, 29 March 2015
Monday, 23 March 2015
"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
"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.
Sunday, 8 March 2015
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, A nation turns its lonely eyes to you"
The current apathy that Millennials, and to be honest, most of us have towards politics today cannot be overstated. Voter turnout has dropped like a lead balloon over the past few decades and our "leaders" have never been more out of touch with reality and less befitting of the title. In times like these, with the world powers slowly and surely beating the drums of war, central banks offering negative interest rates, global terrorism and Miley Cyrus, we need a steady hand on the wheel. True leaders, not the pencil necked, corporate-speaking intellectuals that go on TV and tell us they have everything under control in Orwellian-doublespeak.
The days of the Dwight D. Eisenhower's and the JFK's are over, with vision and real leadership qualities as rare as a Dodo bird in the capitols of the world. The fact that Americans gleefully voted in Uncle Barry in 2008 signified style over substance politics are now the norm and saw, in this writer's single-malt soaked opinion, the first celebrity president. For someone who's job description might best be described as the most upper of managements, he was woefully inexperienced for the task and, quite frankly, it is showing. The talent pool of corporate puppet J.D's who want nothing more than to live off the taxpayer while padding their resumes for a post-political career of $200k per talk speeches and the even more lucrative world of lobbying has shown to be as deep as a frisbee. Perhaps we need to look to the wide world of sport for battle tested leaders.
If Jesse "I ain't got time to bleed" Ventura and Arnold can be governors of their respective states, I see no reason why Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr cannot be the POTUS. His is without peer in the star factor category, has the stunning good looks to attract voters of both sexes and has reigned supreme over the last 15 years in the NFL. Every Sabbath for the last decade and half, he has lead violent brutes onto the field and in the chess match/ballet that is the NFL, has come out on top far more times than not. His back story of overcoming the depth charts at Michigan to being overlooked by NFL scouts and becoming a 6th round, 199th pick overall has built him a legacy that Joe Sixpack Americans hold as their nation's mythos. Tom Brady could not be more of an American Icon if he tried. His stupidly attractive wife and perpetual striving for sport immortality put him a class occupied by few. His brain is his most finely tuned weapon, trained to make snap decisions in fractions of a second, while simultaneously avoiding being crippled by highly skilled and vicious men who's very pay cheque depend on stopping him from achieving his goal of victory. I see this translating very well into the realm of politics.
He is a strategic mastermind, with the ability to look into the abyss of despair and come away with the all important W. In short, he is vastly more qualified to lead men than most. And lead he does. 4 Super Bowl rings, a near perfect season and the silence of virtually all his critics round out his, shall we say, impressive resume. No stranger to adversity, his surgically repaired knee and easy demeanour at pressers would no doubt make him any political party's top candidate. From lanky 4th string backup to the GOAT, the Oval Office could very well be his destination long after he is unanimously voted into Canton.
If we are to have leaders, let us have real leaders.
If we are to have leaders, let us have real leaders.