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.