Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Great Quote

I decided that tonight I'll be watching the Sens-Habs game on RDS, since I can't really stand Dean "Oh MY HEAVENS!!" Brown. So they have a pre-game show where they sit down with Guy Carbonneau, the Habs head coach, and the interviewer asks him:

- "Any changes to the lineup tonight, Guy?".

- With a wry smile he answers: "I've put Aaron Downey in the game tonight, since you never know with Neil and McGrattan."

Nice! Let's get it on!

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Pimple, Week 8

Quick everyone, reach for your tissues. If we are to believe the football pundits this weekend, we're supposed to feel much pity for Shawn Merriman following his four game suspension for steroid use. Apparently, Merriman is a "good kid" who's a "team player" and "upstanding citizen".

Ummm, no. Merriman can now be placed on an infamous list that includes Ben Johnson ("Do you Cheetah?"), Jose Canseco and Lyle Alzado. He gets to rub shoulders with Marion Jones, Floyd Landis and Ken Caminiti (newsflash, Shawn, but two of those named have died because of steroid abuse). There is a phone number posted in every NFL locker room; a hotline for players who have doubts about the contents of various supplements. Over the weekend, Merriman's agent confirmed that his client had never made that call, and had never cross-checked the supplements he was using with the list of banned NFL substances. All these circumstances made for some very uncomfortable viewing this weekend, when I was watching him destroy the Rams offensive line. "Now wait a minute here," you say. "How could he have been playing if he was caught juicing?" Ah...great question Doctor Watson. The NFL (and every other pro sports league) allows players to appeal suspensions, and it's mostly used to pick and choose which games they are to miss. Got some tough games coming up? No problem - appeal the suspension and keep playing until you hit a soft patch. These derelicts make a mockery of the rules of the game and bend them to their advantage. And I'm supposed to give this kid the benefit of the doubt? I say let him sit until the league can hear his appeal. Let's see how strong a case he really feels he has.

Red Alert to all Billick haters: your boy gets to crow this week, after lighting up the Saints defence for five touchdowns. This comes in the first game since he fired Jim Fassell as his offensive coordinator and took over play-calling duties. The shameless self-promoter is sure to make the most of this - perhaps another book on his unquestionable genius?

Denver plays Cincinnati on Christmas Eve: don't say I didn't warn you, but this will be a golden opportunity for some producer to put up the "Silver Bells: Mike and Tatum" graphic. On a darker note, and I'm sorry Darrent Williams, but there's no gentler way of putting this: you got sodomized by Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne on Sunday.

My favourite quote of the week came courtesy of the Football Night in America panel. Bob Costas commenting on a Chris Henry touchdown reception says: "...and he can do it too...when he can make bail." This is followed by giggling "ooohs" and "ahhhs from the rest of the panel. Costas then says, laughing "What? He's been arrested like five times since January!" Collinsworth, unable to contain himself, quips: "Not in the past couple of weeks he hasn't!!" That had me in stitches. These guys are good.

And since I'm on a roll with broadcasting compliments, I have to send out some kudos to Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson of Fox. They called the Seahawks and Chiefs beautifully. Insightful, accurate, working off each other, challenging one another on close plays (with sincerity, none of this mock confrontation). I hope they move up the ranks on Fox. Since I like them, that's as likely to happen as the Niners scoring a meaningful touchdown against the Bears in this decade.

Product tag line over which I'm still scratching my head: "Toyota Rav 4: Too intelligent to be categorized." Really? Looks like an SUV to me. Or maybe it's finally becoming uncool to own these death traps, so they prefer to say they don't have a category? And what does "Too intelligent to be categorized" mean? Come again? Is the truck intelligent? Someone please help me out.

My apologies for the short Pimple this week, but that's all I've got, and I refuse to babble for no good reason (some of you may think this was the case anyway!)

Note: It's 31-7 Patriots with 13 minutes to go. It's safe to go to bed right? Right? Maybe I should call Denny Green and ask what he thinks. "They WERE what we THOUGHT they were!!!"

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Soccer Pimp Revisited

A few years ago (by the looks of it, back when I still had room for Michael Landsberg in my life), I wrote this little column for The Voyageurs website (check out their forum: It's the web's premium gathering place for Canadian soccer). I've dusted it off a bit and am offering it to you as a reminder that there are ways for soccer fans to survive in our American-centric sports landscape. Also check out Neate Seager's interesting blog on how he vows to become a soccer fan. I wonder if he was successful?

Survivor's Handbook in a Hostile Soccer Society

Dick Howard, TSN’s venerable soccer analyst, recently appeared on Michael Landsberg’s OTR along with the usual assortment of sportscaster, eye candy and Ignorant Loudmouth. OTR deserves credit for kicking off its show with a question we in the soccer community have been asking for years: “Will soccer ever become part of the mainstream in Canada”?It turns out that Ignorant Loud-Mouth was one of those “soccer sucks” blowhards. You know the type: the guy at the bar or family dinner who feels he has to come down hard on the sport with half-witted arguments, no matter if he’s alone or surrounded by 20 English hooligans. The problem with these Ignorants is that the people who might be prone to enjoy soccer if left to their own thoughts become useless lemmings in the company of Ignorant Loud-Mouth. They nod in fearful agreement to his discourse, which is usually just a regurgitation of something he heard on the Jim Rome Show. Ah, and the radio show analogy is a useful one in this case – these people remind me of the Right-Wing radio people across North America: the Rush Limbaughs, Lowell Greens and Bill O’Reilly’s of the world. It's quasi-impossible to turn these people into soccer fans, but you can at least stand your ground and give observers of the debate food for thought.

With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a quick-reference list of intelligent comebacks to these unsavory opinions, for use by you the reader the next time you encounter Ignorant Loudmouth.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I can’t get into a sport where the players flop and dive all over the place, as if they just got shot. Then they just get right back up like nothing happened.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast:

• You’re correct to say that some players dive, but the majority of the pain you see is genuine. The difference between soccer and other sports is the frequency at which studs are driven into various parts of the players legs. Just imagine I went into the closet and pulled out a soccer/baseball shoe, and drove the stud into your ankle right now. You would probably drop to the ground or hop around on your good foot. After about 10 seconds, the pain would subside and you would be good to go.

• If that's how you really feel about divers, then you'll be restricted to watching golf. Anytime a quarterback or kicker even feels an opposition player close to him after letting go of the ball, he'll go down and roll around, hoping to draw the roughing flag.

• Darcy Tucker.

• Baseball fans know what I’m talking about. Any time you see a runner slide into the 2nd baseman studs up, the next thing you see is that same second basemen rolling around on the ground. Rarely does that player need to be taken out of the game. The only difference is that it happens much less frequently.

Ignorant Loudmouth: Soccer players are sissies. They go down too easy.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast:

• That’s because you’re used to watching North American sports like American football, basketball and hockey where players use their hands. The reason soccer players go down so easy is because they are almost always off-balance – that’s the nature of having to dribble with your feet! When a running back plows into a defensive player he’s got a low centre of gravity because he is hugging the ball and lowering his shoulders. A soccer player doesn’t have that luxury: he has to be light on his feet in order to avoid the countless metal-spiked shoes flying at his ankles. (you can even demonstrate this by asking Ignorant Loudmouth to keep possession of a prop by holding it in his hands while you mock-tackle him, and then repeating with the prop at his feet. You’ll have illustrated your point beautifully!)

Ignorant Loudmouth: The field is too big.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Slightly bigger than an American football field, smaller in square feet to a baseball field.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I only like American sports.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: There is no such thing (unless you count Roller Derby!!).

• Baseball is a modified version of Rounders and Cricket (Britain)
• Football is a modified version of Rugby (Britain)
• Basketball was invented by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith
• Hockey was invented by Canadians
• Golf was invented in Scotland

Ignorant Loudmouth: It can’t hold my attention because there isn’t enough scoring.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Okay, let’s take American football for example. A respectable score in football is around 21-14, which equates to a 3-2 scoreline in soccer (not exactly unheard of). Considering that it takes 2 hours to watch a soccer match, and 3 ½ hours to watch a football match, there’s more scoring in soccer than your beloved football.

Ignorant Loudmouth: The game is so slow. It’s like watching paint dry…

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: …yet you love watching baseball and golf.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I don’t think I could ever get into a game where you don’t know when it will end.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: In fact, a soccer match never goes beyond 2 hours (except in tournaments where extra time and penalty kicks can stretch the match to 3 hours). In basketball, the final 5 minutes can take up to 30 minutes of real time. In baseball, a game could technically go on indefinitely (ever read W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe?).

There are many more criticisms that Ignorant Loudmouth loves to jam down everyone’s throats, and I’m sure this column could go on for countless extra pages. I hope I’ve sufficiently armed you for your next encounter with Ignorant Loudmouth, and that you’ll successfully turn him round with his tail between his legs.


This weekend's soccer on tv:


7:30 am Sheffield United v. Chelsea (stay in bed) (Sportsnet)
10:00 am Liverpool v. Aston Villa (this should be a good match, with star players) (Sportsnet)
11:00 am Watford v Tottenham (Canadian Paul Stalteri plays for Tottenham) (FSW)
12:30 am Newcastle v. Charlton (Sportsnet)
2:30 pm MLS Playoffs: New England Revolution v. Chicago Fire (FSW)


8:00 am West Ham v. Blackburn (Sportsnet)
2:00 pm MLS Playoffs: Houston FC v. Chivas USA (FSW)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

We Care, Already!

Alright, it's time for me to get on my box (taking my box out of the closet, blowing the dust off, placing it in the middle of the room and climbing up).

Fans care about players cheating. Pure and simple. We do. That's a message for you in the media that don't think we care (led by Stephen Brunt in Canada, who loves to go on Bob McCown's show and tell everyone this. Note: I love Stephen Brunt and think he's one of the better sportswriters: he just happens to be on the wrong side of this issue). Every fan I've ever spoken to wants athletes to be clean of illegal substances. We care about stats and their integrity. We care about athletes and their health. We care about the rule book and following it.

It's time to turn the tide of propaganda from the school of thought that teaches that fans don't care as long as they don't know. The consequences of this reversal is that reporters would have to work harder to uncover the facts. They would have to display initiative beyond asking questions like: "What do you think was the turning point of the game?" or "How do you feel after such a big win?". It means journalists will have to develop more cojones when confronting athletes, instead of deferring to them with such reverence.

I've never been in a major sports locker room so I don't know what kind of questions are asked, and if athletes really are so good at spin that it's so difficult to get insightful answers. The only time an athlete will answer tough questions seems to be when a pack mentality forms with members of the press, as if strength in numbers will assure them that they can't all get their press passes revoked. Maybe this is true, but it would appear to me that it's simply a matter of group courage and individual cowardice.

For example, will Tom Verducci run into trouble in the Tigers locker room after writing such an accusatory column about the Kenny Rogers pine tar incident? Something tells me he might get a frostier welcome, but that he'll get just as much access. Does a reporter have to wait until he pays his dues and acquires a pedigree like Verducci has until he can work up the courage to really go in depth with less than rosy issues? Maybe, but if that's the case we're in trouble. If I were a Tigers fan, I'd be embarrassed that one of my players was caught cheating. If it was a Senators player, I'd want him suspended. Am I so unique? Yeah, right.

Sports long ago stopped being a fairy-tale land to which people travelled in order to admire the giants and myth-like figures. That veil was lifted decades ago. What we want is as even a playing field as possible, where athletic ability comes from hard work, talent and genetics, not a syringe or a bottle with green pills. We want regulation sticks and goalie equipment in hockey, balls that haven't been tampered with in baseball and the letter of the law enforced as it is written.

In short, we want fairness and a world to which we can point and say to our kids: "See that? He cheated and got punished. Don't cheat." (getting off my box and placing it neatly back in the closet)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sharks Sighting

A rare shark sighting in this part of the world, courtesy The NHL on TSN. With the World Series in a rain delay, it allowed me to check in on one of the top teams in the West, a privilege usually reserved for our Western compatriots and night owls with the Centre Ice package.

First impressions? These guys are good. They look like the Senators did a few years ago when they were buzzing over and around all the competition. Their transition game is probably the most impressive part of their game: these guys pounce on loose pucks like squirrels on cashews. Kyle McLaren really is impressive, it's like he's worked quite a lot on his finesse game. The guy is huge, but he's got such a sweet poke check, very Bourque-like. Patrick Marleau has also impressed me quite a bit, although I'm sure that wouldn't surprise anyone whose spent any amount of time watching the Sharks. It's 1-1 against the Red Wings in the third as I write, but there's no doubt which team is superior.

As much as I harp on announcers in this space, it's important for me to single out the quality when I see/hear it. Tonight's game is being described to us via Chris Cuthbert, and man is he smooth. The CBC unceremoniously laid this guy off when their alternative was Bob Cole? Cole must have some dirt on CBC executives that they don't want out in the public. How else do you explain it? Glenn Healy isn't nearly as bad when he's nowhere near a Leafs game or talking about player grievances.

Other notes:

  • It's official, Tony Romo replaces Drew Bledsoe as the starter in Dallas. After what I saw Monday night, I can't say this is an upgrade. Looks like a two-horse race in the NFC East (despite what Ital-Dean thinks).
  • Lots of banter on the Leafs-Senators rematch tomorrow. I suppose that's normal since TSN is broadcasting, so it's in their interest to hype it up as much as possible (not that I think they're doing it artificially - not in this case, anyway). I won't patronize you by reporting what Tie Domi thought of last night.
  • Line of the night: Sports Chickie, who is anglo-bilingual, spots an interesting name on the back of a Red Wings player's jersey: Leboa. She quips: "That's French for 'Big C*ck". Oh how I love this girl.

On Cue

As if reacting to the media criticism before the game last night, the Leafs and Sens provided us with the sparks and fireworks that had been deemed missing in their first two meetings. If you're looking for a game to spiral out of control you need one of the teams to embarrass its opposition, and the Senators happily obliged. Feeling their masculinity and hockey skill questioned, the Leafs responded by resorting to the kind of goonery that will surely raise the temperature going into tomorrow night's return engagement.

The Sens will no doubt have an answer to Darcy Tucker's gutless display, when he challenged Patrick Eaves to a fight after having been knocked solidly (and legally) to the ice by the aforementioned Eaves. To Eaves' credit, he refused to back down and took his licks in his first NHL fight. Only Tucker would react in such a fashion, and he must know that payback is coming (Chris Neil basically guaranteed it in an intermission interview).

While the media and message boards were saturated with the Tucker incident, the major incident was still to come. As if Tucker's antics weren't enough to get the Battle of Ontario back to its former emotional levels, Chad Kilger, in reacting to a trip from Christof Schubert, got back up and speared the German defencemen in the nether regions. Strangely, I haven't found any print or internet media that addresses this sickening act. As soon as I saw it I thought: "There's a two-game suspension". Hopefully the league reacts much the way I did.

All this to say that we needn't worry for too long when this rivalry appears to go through a lull. It's just a matter of time before someone reaches for the kerosene.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rekindling a Rivalry

The topic du jour amongst hockey columnists in Ontario seems to be the absence of the usual ill will in the Battle of Ontario. Many of the usual suspects have gone; Domi, Roberts, Havlat, Quinn, Hossa. Daniel Alfredsson and Darcy Tucker seem to be the only holdovers from the "good old days". Perhaps that explains why so many people are playing up the Alfredsson vs. Sundin debates: there just doesn't seem to be much more to talk about.

I'd argue that there is a certain excitement to such a lull in the ebb and flow of the rivalry. Because of its geographical reality, there will always be a rivalry between the Leafs and Senators (such a rivalry that I felt guilty right there naming the Leafs before the Senators!). With such a guarantee in hand, we can look in tonight and in subsequent Sens-Leafs games with a sense of wonder at where the next incident might come from. And really, the sweetest part of any type of memorable sports incident comes when you are watching it live, when you become a true witness. I fondly remember when Alfie pretended to throw his broken stick into the crowd, clearly baiting his friend/nemesis Sundin. Or when Tucker found himself checked into the Ottawa bench and tried to fight the whole team. No true sports fan wants to walk into the office in the morning and hear "Dude, did you see that last night?" and have no idea what happened. If Patrick Eaves takes a run at Andrew Raycroft that incites an on-ice brawl, you want to be a part of it. If Kyle Wellwood throws his broken stick Dany Heatley, drawing blood and a suspension, you want to feel the moment.

It's important to remember that when these two teams meet, we are never far away from an explosion. The powder keg is nearby, and the tiniest of incidents could light the fuse, so tune in.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Pimple, Week 7

I come to you tonight live from my living room as I watch Monday Night Football. No, this is not a running diary but don't be surprised if random comments about the game make their into this week's Pimple. It's an appropriate setting as well since I wish to reflect on this year's MNF broadcast, its debut on ESPN.

According to the majority of what I've heard and read, the combination of Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser have not been well-received. As for myself, I'm still not sure. I enjoy Kornheiser in the booth, but he and Theismann have zero chemistry. It seems as though Joe has absolutely no sense of humour and takes everything Kornheiser says at face value, when most of the time he's using that New York sense of humour that made him so popular on Pardon the Interruption. Tirico doesn't make much of an impact - he seems to call a good game, and doesn't get too involved in the banter between Joe and Tony.

I should say that I've never been much of a Theismann fan. However, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was paired with Paul Maguire for so long, who is some village's long lost idiot. The all-time king of "I'm gonna tell you what", I thought he was rubbing off on Theismann in a negative way. Perhaps Theismann is still adjusting to Kornheiser, and perhaps he's so defensive because that's the only recourse he had while sitting next to Maguire for so long. It's still early in their broadcasting partnership, so I think I'll reserve the pounding that Theismann probably deserves for a little later. Perhaps he can lighten up.

Mainly, the problem I have with the current broadcast team is that ESPN conscientiously went out and tried to re-create the formula they believe put MNF on the map; straight man play-by-play caller (Frank Gifford),
former player-turned analyst ("Dandy" Don Meredith), and the controversial know-it-all (Howard Cosell). Mind you, the only thing I know about that MNF team is what I've seen in grainy video clips and from "Monday Night Mayhem", a movie based on the Marc Gunther and Bill Carter novel of the same name, so judge my conclusions with that in mind. It seems to me that the chemistry within that team happened organically, a flukey twist of fate that just clicked. When TV execs believe that they're smart enough to re-create lightning in a bottle, we're in trouble.

Everything about the current sports broadcasting landscape is scripted and formulaic, and then they wonder why none of the combinations seem to hit it off with fans! Meanwhile, the greatest sports-talk show around is Pardon the Interruption with Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. This show grew organically out of the genuine debates these two reporters would have in the Washington Post's news room. You see? A natural occurrence, lightning in a bottle - not some boardroom concoction. Perhaps the answer to Monday Night's football staleness is to have both Kornheiser and Wilbon in the booth.

This, however, is sports broadcasting heresy. Going without a former player or coach in the booth goes against convention, which says that only players and coaches can give proper insight into events unfolding on the field. Going against this unwritten broadcasting rule is a risk the executives of an established sports property would never take. Call it the "New Coke Syndrome". As long as the NFL product continues to rake in millions in advertising dollars, executives at ESPN and other networks will consider the product "ain't broke". And we all know what happens to things that "ain't broke". Therefore, we will continue to suffer through agonizingly condescending comments like "when there's under two minutes to go in a half, the replay has to come down from the booth", which celebrated its billionth utterance this past weekend. As Bruce Mr. Turk would say: "We know, already".

Speaking of Bruce Mr. Turk, he had the best line of the day on Sunday (as well as a Tomas Steen reference - Bruce Mr. Turk was on fire). Sometime during the 3rd quarter of the Dolphins game, I exploded:

- "Why the HELL do I always allow myself to get sucked in by this team? What could possibly compel me to think 'well, it's the Packers, they're sure to win this one' or 'Dolphins vs. Texans, I mean come on, they've got to win that one'. They've shown me nothing to persuade me that they're any good, so why in the world would I keep believing?"

- "See, I don't get why you hate on your team so much," countered Mr. Turk. "It's like you can't get excited about them, and you're just waiting for them to mess up. Yet you keep hoping. Just look at me, Dude. In my mind, my Niners are going 0-16 this year. When they do something positive, it's a celebration."

And then he dropped this gem on me: "Accept it. The Dolphins suck."

Wow, that was the intervention I was waiting for. It's good to know I can count on my closest friends to confront me with The Truth, and force me to come to my senses. Well, at least until next Sunday.

I have a friend and former colleague - we'll call him Ital-Dean - and he's a HUGE Eagles fan. If I can find any solace for my anger towards my team, it's that no matter how depressed I get about the Dolphins, Ital-Dean will find a way to agonize even more about the Eagles. I'm including a glimpse of an email I had waiting for me on Monday morning upon my arrival at work. Now keep in mind that Ital-Dean knows I support the Dolphins, and also knows that his team is far more successful this year than mine:

"I don't expect sympathy...but I hate the Eagles. They
gave games away to the Giants, Saints and Bucs. They have no idea how to close,
or start a game for that matter. They play in the 3rd quarter and that's it. If
I was Jeff Lurie, I would fine each of the player 3/4 of their salaries until
they decide to play 4 full quarters of football. I'm not even kidding, I don't
know if that's allowed by NFLPA standards but I would try. Why would I give
someone a full salary if they are only giving me 1/4 effort? There was a time
when I would say that the better team lost those games but no more.

Next week, they lose at home to the Jags. Write that down!

The only thing they are good for is fantasy points.

McNabb says they are a Superbowl team... they aren't even a
playoff team and should they by some freak chance make the playoffs, don't
deserve to be there."

Then we got on the topic of Nick Saban saying: "I don't know how to coach mess-ups", clearly in reference to his frustration that no matter what he says to the players, they are still making idiotic mistakes. Ital-Dean's take?

Hey I have no problem with that...

I think more coaches should do it, I wish Andy Reid would do it (although I often find myself questioning his choice of play calling). "Professional" (and I use that term
loosely) players are paid to play 4 quarters of football. By buying tickets to
the games, watching games on TV and buying the merchandise I, as a fan, am
paying for their salaries. In return I expect to see my team play 4 quarters of
football and if they don't, bench them, call them out, fine them, whatever

And to think I was getting down on myself for hammering away at the Dolphins. I can certainly sympathize with Ital-Dean.

MNF Game Update: The Drew Bledsoe era is OVER. Tony Romo into the game at halftime. Now we'll see just what Cowboys fans were clammoring f- INTERCEPTION! On his first pass. Ladies and Gentlemen: Tony Romo.

Changing gears: something else I noticed is the unfortunate plight of every team that won a championship pre-merger. Although football has been played in the States for over 80 years, we only acknowledge the winners of the 40 Super Bowls. For example, we consider the Steelers and Cowboys to have won the most football championships with their five respective Super Bowl victories. Take a closer look, however, and you'll see that many teams have won more than five championships, including the Green Bay Packers (11 + 3 Super Bowls), Chicago Bears (8 + 1 Super Bowl), and New York Giants (4 + 2 Super Bowls). It just seems like we're short-changing the players and coaches of those past champions when we only glorify Super Bowl victors.

Non, TA re!

With past legends in mind, I hearken back to last Monday's halftime celebration of former Cardinal great Dan Dierdorf. On the surface, everything about the ceremony was great; a fantastic former player getting recognized on a rare Monday Night performance for his former team, fans giving said player much adulation, former player getting teary-eyed as he gives the crowd a grateful wave. All good, right? Normally, no problem. Here's my beef: these were not his fans. The Arizona crowd never saw Dierdorf play, unless it was on TV, since his playing days were with the ST. LOUIS Cardinals. I acknowledge that this is a conundrum for franchises that have moved. But ask yourself this: wouldn't you feel awkward if the Phoenix Coyotes decided to raise Tomas Steen's jersey to the rafters of Glendale Arena? I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but it does feel a little "off".

You'll notice that one of the themes of this blog is certainly an impatience with the sports television product, as it is presented to us. I will often cite examples of instances where the television personalities will say something that simply make you scratch your head and wonder what planet they're from, or how dumb they think we are. One such example came Sunday afternoon. With eight minutes gone in the game, 1st quarter, the colour analyst for the Green Bay vs. Miami game lets this one fly: "Favre has been under duress for much of the afternoon." Really? We can say "afternoon" to represent two series? Or maybe this gentleman knew something we didn't, and Favre had been under duress in the locker room, or on the team bus to the stadium? If he did, he didn't tell us what it was. Perhaps Brett was ambushed by angry Cajuns because he lets his French name get massacred in the media? Or maybe Aaron Rodgers' mother keeps leaving threatening notes for Brett in his luggage? We'll never know. I realize the analyst's job is not an easy one, there's lots of pressure and the director is usually yelling stuff in your ear, but you have to wonder if a trained journalist could do a better job than these recycled jocks.

One of those recycled jocks, Troy Aikman, had a shocking moment on Sunday. During the Washington vs. Indianapolis game, Santana Moss took issue with a hard hit laid on him by Colts cornerback Jason David. In retaliation, Moss got up, rushed over to David (who was walking away) and head-butted him in the back of the neck. Aikman's reaction? Giggled like a little girl. Seriously! He started laughing and treating it like "boys will be boys". Two things allowed this happen, in my opinion:

1. Joe Buck, his regular broadcast partner, was not with him this week since he is doing the World Series for Fox. I can only imagine how "shocked" and "appalled" Buck would have been by such a "disgusting act" (actual quotes from Buck on other NFL related occurrences). Never would have Aikman even dared to laugh with Buck in the box with him.

2. Jason David is not a quarterback. Try imagining Aikman's reaction if, say, Shawn Taylor had done the same thing to Peyton Manning. Think he would have giggled and brushed it off?

And that's this week's Pimple.

My First New Jersey Devils Post

One David "Pepper" DeRosa requested a few weeks ago that I stop focusing so much on the Senators and start talking about "winning" hockey teams, you know, like the New Jersey Devils. Well, I aim to please the people, so here it is. The Devils played Saturday night. They played and lost. They played and lost 8-1.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ottawa Turning on Spezza

For years now I've been harping about Jason Spezza's liabilities on the defensive end. In fact, it's triggered some pretty heated arguments betweens friends and colleagues. According to Chris Stevenson, the rest of the city appears to be waking up:

Boos for Spezza

Senators centre Jason Spezza heard it from the crowd at Scotiabank Place tonight when he turned the puck over on a Senators power play, an oft-repeated mistake which this time led to the short-handed winning goal by Colorado’s Brad Richardson.
When Spezza set up Dany Heatley for his first goal of the season (near as I can figure it took Heatley 22 shots before he got his first), both Spezza and Alfredsson were booed when Stuntman Stu announced the assists.
Help me out here, folks: I can’t remember the last time Senators fans booed one of their own. I know Alexei Yashin heard it, but that was because of the all contract stuff. The team has been booed collectively, for sure, but singling out one guy for on-ice performance?
It hasn’t happened often.
I’m not saying Spezza doesn’t deserve it. To make things worse, he turned around and put it right on the stick of an Avalanche player in the third when Ottawa was on the power play and trying to tie it up.
It’s unacceptable. Coach Bryan Murray has tried making his point face-to-face and in the media, but the same mistakes keep getting made. What’s next? Making Spezza a healthy scratch?
Who could argue against that move?

I would be the biggest Spezza fan if he didn't make that costly giveaway in almost every game. Spezza is an electrifying player, someone who creates a buzz in the stadium every time he's on the puck. However, as I've argued before, there's just no getting away from the fact that he can just as equally win us a game as lose us a game.

This is just a hunch, but I get the feeling that Spezza will be the first major Senators player to suit up for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As soon as his current deal in Ottawa expires, he'll be heading straight to the Queen City.

Quiet All the Doubters

You know, I'm pretty sick of hearing about how bad the National League is when compared with the American League. Although I don't care much for the St. Louis Cardinals, and although the Tigers are a better feel-good story, I hope the Cardinals prove all the doubters wrong and win the World Series - emphatically at that.

I've only recently noticed how polarized people are when it comes to the two baseball leagues - seems like you're either an Amercian League or National League Guy. It's like everything else these days; either you're a Democrat or a Republican, a Harper supporter or a Leftist Commie. No chance for anyone out there to be balanced - you don't want to be caught believing in a strong defence but not support the war in Afghanistan, because you'll be painted as a hawkish dove!!

Anyway, that's way off topic. What I mean to say is, why does everyone think it's going to be such a cakewalk for the Tigers? Neate Sager over at Out of Left Field made the case this week that you don't have to win 100 games to win the World Series. Why can't the Cards be this year's '87 Twins?

Perhaps I've simply got a chronic need to support the underdog, but this week's National League bashing got a little out of hand in my view.

Note from Sunday morning: Oh look, it's already swung all the way to the other extreme:

This is big and bold and blunt, but so was what happened Saturday night at Comerica Park. There it was, so here it is: Detroit cannot beat this St. Louis team.

Where's the credibility?

Stop Me Now

I'm talking myself into believing the Dolphins are going to beat the Packers tomorrow. I'm even thinking of laying money down and giving the Packer 5.5. It's time for a reader intervention, and fast. This is a cry for help.

Alright well since you asked, here's what I'm thinking:

  • the Packers are scrambling to find receivers. Since Koren Robinson got suspended last week, the Packers have been desperately searching for someone to replace him. After having no success on the free agent market (was Jerry Rice busy?), they promoted some dude off their practice roster.
  • Ahman Green is still hurt and may not play, while the old standby is a guy even the Houston Texans were eager to offload.
  • There's only so much you can do with Bubba Franks.
  • "The Joey", as my buddy and sometimes Lions fan Serge the Psycho calls him, has been pretty decent for Miami in his two starts.
  • As hard as I've been on my team, they've run into some bad luck this season. They're probably better than their 1-5 record indicates (see, this is where the "talking myself into it" part factors in).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Pimple, Week 6

Yes, I went to bed. After having resisted the urge to turn to my XBox 360 at halftime (20-0 Cardinals), and finally giving in to the Sandman after Rex Grossman's 4th pick late in the 4th quarter (23-10 Cardinals), I went to bed. I wake up this morning and go about my usual routine, turning on my XM radio as I leave my apartment and head to the bus stop. I tune in to XM Sports Nation 143, and hear this:

"Did you go to bed last night? Did you figure the Bears were done? That the undefeated season was toast? If you did, let me be the one to set you straight: Without scoring one offensive touchdown, the Bears rallied from 20-0 down at halftime to beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals 24-23."

And my jaw dropped.

For 3 and a half quarters, the Bears looked nowhere near able to win this game. Matt Leinart was handling himself like the winner he is, and Rex Grossman looked like Neil O'Donnell. Just brutal. Turns out they should have just trotted the defence out on the field every time they had the ball. The Bears became the first team in the 80+ year history of the NFL to come back from a 20 point deficit without scoring an offensive touchdown. That will teach me to stay up and watch the damn game!

A few things from the game did stand out for me. First and foremost, the game story was Matt Leinart. While he needs to work at being effective for four quarters, he is showing every sign of a wonderful career in the NFL. In fact, I can't recall a QB getting off to such a great start. I'm too young to remember Marino's first games, and Peyton Manning was shackled by a terrible team. The closest comparison I can think of without digging into stats and such is Tom Brady. There is a poise there that only the best possess, and Leinart definitely has it. I'm looking forward to watching this story progress. Now if only the Cards had a running game...

I love having players miked during sporting events, even if in most cases we never get any kind of insight. It's usually a collection of whoops and grunts, and some "Way to go guys, keep it up, this is our house" stuff. On top of that I'm always a little skeptical regarding the earnestness of such an exercise, since the player knows he's miked up, we're hearing is what he wants us to hear. What I really yearn for is a time in the future where there is a special "R" rated channel for certain sporting events, where microphones pick the real banter between players, coaches, referees and hecklers - quality family viewing that would be. Anyway, all this to say that I saw and heard something last night that made me re-think the low amount of respect I have for Kurt Warner. My former disdain for Kurt stemmed in large part from his crazy "Cruella De Vil" wife, and his attributing all his success to his Faith. I can't stand athletes who Jesus this and Jesus that.

Last night though, I saw Kurt Warner through the prism of ESPN's "Miked Up". What I saw was a benched Kurt Warner revelling in every Matt Leinart success, a benched Kurt Warner who was doing everything possible to help Matt Leinart be the best he could be. He seemed almost intoxicated by the moment, as if he was reliving his own early successes. When I contrast that to a certain #4 in Green Bay who flat-out refused to take Aaron Rodgers under his wing and show him the ropes, it gives pause for reflection. My view of Favre was dented by that petulant move just as much as I admired Warner for being so self-effacing.

For most of the second quarter last night, we had a 4-man booth. Charles Barkley was this week's celebrity guest on MNF, and he was the best so far. I love Chuck even though I can't stand basketball. However, is a 4-man booth really necessary? Bruce Mr. Turk disagrees vehemently with me on this, but I don't even like the 3-man booth. In fact, my favourite commentary is for soccer when there is only one man in the booth. Television never adapted when sports went from radio to TV. In radio, the play-by-play man had to describe everything that was happening, for obvious reasons. In radio, dead air is poison. In television, do we really need to fill up every moment with someone yacking? Does the play-by-play man really need to be telling me what I can see for myself? Just shut up already: when you have something insightful to say, then be my guest. And here I go with my desire for that "R" rated channel with only the sounds of the game to keep enlightened.

One positive improvement on the broadcasting side that I've noticed the past couple of weeks: it seems the networks have figured out how to use make-up in the HD era. Either they've figured it out or they've decided that because of the picture quality they don't need any makeup. I wish someone knew the answer to this. It was quite evident last night that Tirico, Theismann and Kornheiser had little or no makeup. Hurray for that. And is it just me or does TSN's Jennifer Hedger look better in HD? Too bad HD doesn't fix her voice.

One of the greatest things, no, THE greatest thing happening in sports right now is the Saints in New Orleans. What we are witnessing is sports at its best. From Drew Brees' decision to sign with the team, to opening night at the Superdome, to the last-minute FG in what will go down as the game of the year this past week: this is why we watch. Peter King describes the scenes in New Orleans much better than I ever could.

Depending on your point of view, there were some other feel-good stories in the NFL this weekend. People are rejoicing in Tennessee, Tampa and Detroit as their teams are now on a level playing field with Miami (sometimes you have to look REAL hard for the silver lining). For me, it means I lose in Dr Z. survivor pool, where you had to pick the last team to either be undefeated or winless (I had chosen the Titans). The Raiders, Colts and Bears are the only remaining options, and I won't embarrass myself by selecting one. Let's just leave it at that. Along the same lines, I'm hesitating to get on the Saints bandwagon, for fear of jinxing them - I'll just admire from a safe distance.

As undeserving of praise as Steve McNair was going into last weekend's game, it's not fair to pine for Kyle Boller following his exit due to injury. Boller had three seasons in which to stake his claim to the starting job in Raven-land, and he failed to do it. This whole situation speaks to sports fans' fickle attention-span, misplaced loyalties and failed collective memories. It's not just sports fans, either. Change for change's sake appears to be this generation's opium, as can be witnessed by the eagerness to go with the backup in every aspect of our society; from the Liberal leadership race to the Senators' goaltending situation to "new and improved" products, people always seem to be in a hurry to try the alternative. How else do you explain the current party in power in Ottawa? Get better, Steve McNair, and let's keep the clipboard firmly in Kyle Boller's hands.

From one current QB controversy to one from the past: Isn't it nice to see both Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers excel? Here are two guys that handled their head-to-head battle in stride, with class, and both are reaping the rewards. On the flip side of that, it wounds my soul when T.O. has success such as he did Sunday. Watching him celebrate, arms outstretched and looking to the heavens, as if he is some sort of apparition, some sort of saviour, turns my stomach.

Things to look for this week:
  • Rae Carruth signing with the Bengals, to "Get His" against the Panthers
  • Chuckie eating some bird
  • LJ vs. LDT
  • The former Cleveland Browns defence vs. the current Cleveland Browns offence
  • Leinart continuing his ascent to superstardom in the Black Hole (of Raider Wins)
  • Clinton Portis


Monday, October 16, 2006

Bout of Concussion???

I read this gem tonight on the Soccernet front page:

"Carlo Cudicini has targeted a return to action against Portsmouth in the Premiership on Saturday. The Chelsea keeper is recovering well from the bout of concussion he suffered in the closing stages of the 1-0 win over Reading on Saturday. Cudicini had replaced Petr Cech in the opening minute after he had suffered a head injury."

A bout of concussion? They make it sound like he had the flu! I guess the Brits haven't progressed as well as we have concerning the severity of head injuries.

Heatley: "Hey coach, why is Alfie insisting he's from Iqualuit?"

Coach Murray: "Oh, don't worry Dany, he's just fighting a bout of concussion. He'll be good to go in no time. Right Alfie?"

Alfie: "I like butterflies."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Pimple, Week 5

This will be a quick zip through my sporting thoughts of the week, considering I haven't found the time to find a dark corner and write.

Baseball Playoffs:

- Is it normal for me to dislike an athlete as much as I dislike Alex Rodriguez? Is there something wrong with me for wishing him such distress? I may need to seek help, because when I emerged from the woods on Monday and discovered that the Yankees had been bounced by the Tigers, and that A-Rod had been relegated to 8th in the batting order due to his playoff ineptitude, I felt a surge of unbridled joy that is unnatural. Anyone know a shrink I can speak to?

- It seemed as though everyone just rolled over their opponents in the Division Series. The only result I lamented was the Dodgers losing to the Mets.

- Anyone catch that one game in Minnesota where both teams were wearing their 3rd jerseys? For anyone who isn't yet aware, I'm something of a traditionalist when it comes to sports uniforms. I thought having both teams wear their 3rd jerseys looked
awful. Something was definitely "off", especially considering Oakland and Minnesota have some of the nicer jerseys out there. Forest green with grey bottoms, coupled with navy blue and white bottoms - yikes. Contrast those unis to the ones worn by the Tigers and Yankees on Saturday, and you'll know exactly where I'm coming from.

- In a way, I'm sad the Yankees kept the faith with Joe Torre. In which way is that? It would have made George Steinbrenner and the Evil Empire even more loathable. By keeping Torre, the man who has led his team to the playoffs for the past 10 seasons, George seems almost (egads!) sane.

- Some of those Tigers throw hard. 103 mph? Goodness. Even if the gun is generous by a few mph, that's still insanity.


- Can't say I'm surprised at the Sens slow start, but it's the fashion in which they are doing it that disheartens. There seems to be zero emotion out on the ice (except for flashes during last night's game in Montréal).

- Martin Havlat and Marian Hossa have 11 goals between them. Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have two. Yes, it's a cheap shot. No, I will not relent.

- Am I the only one who gets a really good feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I see Guy Carbonneau behind the Habs bench? It just LOOKS right.

- 3 natural hat-tricks in one night. That's the great thing about sports - you never know when you'll see something that's never been done.


- Here's the problem when I don't blog regularly: people beat me to the punch. A few weeks ago, I scribbled down "everybody so eager to annoint McNair King of Baltimore...not so fast". What does McNair do next? Two weeks of near futility, and now everyone is on the "bash McNair" bandwagon. That'll teach me to be consistent.

- I was pondering the continued mediocrity of the Houston Texans, and couldn't help comparing them to the Senators early years. The Senators had 4 terrible seasons to begin their franchise history, while finding a glimmer of hope in season 5 (31 wins, made playoffs). The Texans have had a similarly time in their first 4 seasons. Although I don't see them matching Ottawa's 5th season playoffs appearence, I do see that glimmer of hope for them. The major factor in the Sens turnaround was bringing in a competent Head Coach for the first time, Jacques Martin. This mirrors the Texans acquisition of Gary Kubiak to replace Dom Capers. We've immediately witnessed a turnaround if not in their record, then in the play of perennial underachiever David Carr. I predict this season to be a springboard for the Texans which will lead them to be the dominant team in Texas in the next few years.

- Speaking of Texas football, how 'bout dem Cowboys!? You know, the T.O. Fiasco is exactly what any team deserves for signing him. It is only made sweeter by the fact that it's happening to Jerry Jones and his ego. The sports landscape is filled with these characters who have been so successful in every endeavour that they believe they can do anything, including bringing miscreants to heel. We are witnessing the third and probably final installment of the T.O. Homewreckin' Show. Savour it while you can.

- Admittedly, A-Rod and T.O. are not the same type of characters. Strangely, though, their failures bring about the same type of joy within me. Again, I need to see someone about this.

- With Paul Maguire's departure from the NFL commentator's booth, we have a new King of "I'm gonna tell you what..." His name: Steve Tasker. He is virtually unable to begin a sentence without telling me he's gonna tell me what. Steve, it's not a real sentence, and although I don't expect Nobel Laureates to analyze football games for me, I do expect a certain command of the English language. "I'm gonna tell you what..." grates on me like no other verbal crutch.

- Bruce Mr. Turk brought up an interesting point while watching one of the games a few weeks ago. The colour commentator (I forget which one) kept telling us something to the effect that "teams who come into this stadium will try and simulate crowd noise in practice all week". Bruce Mr. Turk's response? "We know already! Jeez, can't they talk to us like we've watched a few NFL games in our lifetime?". Bruce Mr. Turk was, as usual, bang on with is observation. I'm sick of being spoken to as if I was the lowest common denominator, as if I was flipping over to football during a commercial break for Desperate Housewives. These guys are supposed to be NFL experts, yet they talk to us like we're either 12 years old or have never watched a game before.

- My Dolphins have replaced Daunte with some guy who used to play for the Detroit Lions. He must have been good, because the Lions are 0-5 without him.


- I am slowly getting very excited with the addition of Toronto FC to Major League Soccer. They have now signed their first player in franchise history, Canadian National Team member and Toronto native
Jim Brennan. The National Soccer Stadium (recently renamed BMO Place) is quickly making its imprint on the Toronto cityscape, and the rumour out there is that by 2010 we might have 3 MLS teams in Canada (Montreal and Vancouver are apparently working overtime to get this done). Could we be on the verge of a new soccer revival in Canada? One can only hope.

- Manchester United are atop the league in England, against all odds considering what Chelsea FC is paying in player salary. What's wrong with the "Special One"? Also, Everton are looking good so far this season. I might have to get up next Saturday and watch some matches!

- Beckham to MLS? This is a constant wive's tale that surfaces every once in a while concerning Mr. Posh. Grant Wahl, however, makes a logical case that the timing is perfect for Beckham to make the jump right now. I'm on the fence concerning the arrival of Beckham to North America. On the one hand it would be great PR for the league. On the other hand, the league has been steadily growing at an organic rate since its inception. Introducing this foreign species to the MLS ecosystem might signal its extinction, à la NASL.

The Joshua Tree

Way back on my old blog, I offered a review of one of the best music albums ever made, U2's "The Joshua Tree". Since I haven't blogged all week, I thought I'd post it here. New posts coming soon!

Has there ever been a better three song combo to kick off an album? Led Zeppelin IV certainly rivals The Joshua Tree in such a venture and I’m sure one of the band’s advocates could make a strong case, but I’ll stick to my guns and nominate U2’s Grammy-winning offering.

The Joshua Tree is held in the highest esteem by most U2 fans and for me only Achtung Baby reaches loftier heights. I was 10 years old when U2 released The Joshua Tree, and it remains an integral part of my childhood. U2 were cool even though they weren’t trying to be. In fact, take a look at the videos from the album’s singles and try to picture them in the same vein as Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Poison at the height of their hair band successes – the barometer of what was “cool” at the time. It’s practically impossible to do, because U2 always marched to the beat of Larry Mullen’s drum. In fact, the videos would probably fit in to the current video landscape without raising an eyebrow.

The album pierced through all the make up and hair of the 80’s to become one of the best-selling albums of the decade. Song-by-song I will take you into The Joshua Tree, beginning of course with the three aforementioned gems, timeless pieces that will be remembered fondly even after U2 decide they’re through with conquering the musical spectrum.

Where the Streets Have No Name

It comes at you as if you’ve awakened at dawn, rays of sunshine racing towards you across the horizon, a fresh slate empowering you to tackle the day however you see fit. These are the images ingrained into my head when I hear the dreamy opening to Where the Streets Have No Name (and this before a single guitar chord is struck).

When The Edge gradually strolls in with that unforgettable delay riff, your spirits are lifted and your batteries are immediately recharged. Many interpretations can be spun from the song’s lyrics, but for me it’s always been a song of hope and a prayer to what can be. At the same time it is also an invitation to your closest love, an invitation to follow you wherever you are going, no matter what:

Where the Streets Have No Name

We’re still building then burning down love

And when I go there, I go there with you…

Some say Bono meant the title as a metaphor for Heaven, but for me it’s an allusion to a destination that hasn’t been plotted.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

A gospel song that took the world by storm upon its release, the subtleness of the ballad was key to its success. Had Bono decided to sing “I’ve yet to find God, but I’ll keep looking”, it wouldn’t have gone over so well. Making it accessible to the masses and allowing it to be interpreted by each individual: therein lies its appeal.

I remember thinking how freakishly long Bono’s finger looked in the video, when he shakes it at the camera. The Las Vegas setting is a reminder that although they may have struck it rich, that’s not what they’re after.

With or Without You

U2 don’t really write love songs. They choose to be honest about the difficulties of love, relaying their experience and digging deep into the issues facing couples. When they do write a song that glorifies love, they seem to always add a caveat. In the case of With or Without You, the message is: “If I’ve won your love, there’s nothing left worth winning. If I lose you, I’ve lost everything.” When Bono utters “With or without you I can’t live”, he’s alluding to that very conundrum where you’ve met someone that should you win, or lose, there is no reason to go on because he/she is everything. Love song indeed.

Someone may correct me on this, but I believe the Edge’s use of a magnet over his guitar - which produces the wail you hear in this song – was a pioneering move. It was certainly the first time I heard it. That wail is such a mood-setter. Along with Adam Clayton’s fantastic baseline and Larry Mullen’s deceptively difficult drum beat, the song arduously plows through the conflicted thoughts of a man enslaved by his feelings for his lover.

A true-to-life characterization of the problems of blissful love – exactly the kind of insight into the human condition we expect from the biggest band in the world.

Bullet the Blue Sky

This song, recorded almost 20 years ago, has continued to feature in U2’s live show even though it was never released as a single. Its staying power can be credited to the song’s powerful anti-American foreign policy message, which keeps gaining relevance with every illegal American incursion and Empire-building move.

The song is rife with military and religious imagery - from Jacob’s story of redemption to the aching description of bombs striking fear into innocent women and children - this song brings us the story of the victims, the aggressor and their relative detachment from one another.

Again, subtlety is the lyrical key. For example, take this quote from the song’s spoken-word verse:

This guy comes up to me
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
Like all the colors of a royal flush
And he's peeling off those dollar bills
Slappin' 'em down
One hundred, two hundred

The message? Money is to be made from the deaths of civilians, and Capitalists are bound to line up. American society is detached from the horrors of its foreign policy, absolving itself of blame and convincing itself that people will run into its arms, as the final verse portrays:

Across the field you see the sky ripped open
See the rain through a gaping wound
pounding on the women and children
who run...
Into the arms...of America

Perhaps that’s what Bono was alluding to when he brought up Jacob’s story of Redemption (Genesis 31:11). Jacob has performed sinful deeds, but he is made Prince of Israel by God. Jacob wrestled the Angel and the Angel was overcome.

Musically, I am drawn to Adam’s two-note bass line. This is most likely the simplest bass performance of any U2 song, but its simplicity mirrors the plodding determination of the people in these victimized countries to resist being overcome – militarily, if Larry’s drumbeat is any indication.

Running to Stand Still

Dublin’s teenage population was ravaged in the early 1980’s by rampant heroin addiction. Seeing first-hand what the drug was doing to the city’s youth, Bono was moved to write a few songs of hope dedicated to this tragedy. Bad from The Unforgettable Fire is the first one, and Running to Stand Still is the second.

An understated song, it is the beautiful story of a young girl looking to break free from this terrible addiction. She realizes that her generation is being eaten alive by this plague, and vows to cleanse herself:

And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was
Lying still
Said I gotta do something
About where we're going

The album version, although powerful in itself, does not do justice to the live performance of the song. Do yourself a favor and find a version of U2’s rendition of this song in Sydney during the Zoo TV tour. I get chills just thinking about it.

Red Hill Mining Town

Thacherism spread like a plague across the British landscape during the 80’s. There wasn’t a worker’s union or a third world country that couldn’t be brought to its knees in the Iron Maiden’s view. Red Hill Mining Town is a capsule of the despair Thatcher brought to small industrial towns during her reign.

The nationwide strikes tore families and communities apart. Men were forced to make a moral stand at the expense of their families having bread on the table. It lead to many people to cross picket lines and be labeled scabs and traitors.

A very painful period in modern British times, this song is a testament to the hardships regular blue-collar people suffered through in order to fight the government’s corporate pandering.

In God’s Country

“Desert sky, dream beneath the desert sky”

This song is plastered with vivid imagery contrasting Ireland with America. The New World has sung like a siren to the people Ireland for hundreds of years, and this song chronicles the inherent desire to move towards the greener grass. But as experience can attest, the grass is rarely if ever greener, thus:

Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God's country

Trip Through Your Wires

To me, this is the weakest song of the album…which is saying something. A bluesy offering about surrendering yourself to your woman in order for her to lick your wounds. I could be wrong, mind you, since I haven’t spent much time analyzing this one. It has never captured my imagination.

One Tree Hill

This dreamy little tune is loaded with meaning for the band. On the one hand it speaks of corrupt government in Chile, and on the other it is dedicated to a friend to the band who was murdered by a drunk driver. Towards the end of the song, you can feel Bono’s emotion spilling over and coloring the song with heartfelt wails. The Edge’s uses an interesting effect on his guitar, making it sound sandpaperish…


I really love this song. It is dark and brooding, and rightfully so since Bono inhabits the twisted mind of a serial killer for its duration. I’m a sucker for songs with slow buildups culminating in powerful crescendos, and Exit delivers with aplomb. I especially like when Edge’s guitar erupts into a solo, Larry’s cymbals thundering in the background. Best listened to with the lights out, when dark thoughts haunt you.

Mothers of the Disappeared

Chile under Augusto Pinochet was an evil place. People were kidnapped and killed for voicing their displeasure at the dictators authoritarian regime. This song is a tribute to the mothers of these political victims. A hauntingly beautiful song to finish one of the best albums of all time…

Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

In the wind, we hear their laughter
In the rain, we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Pimple, Week 4

The Pimple will be a little shorter this week since I've misplaced my notes on what I wanted to talk about. I'll make up for it with an expanded edition next week.

This has been the best start to a football season I can remember, and it's all because of our new routine. Every Sunday morning, Bruce Mr. Turk drives over from his condo, Sports Chickie and I pile into his car, and we head off to breakfast at The Thirsty Toad. After a hearty breakfast, we head back to my place and watch ESPN Gameday, followed by a day of football. We usually settle on one main match we want to watch (usually Dolphins or Niners), and flip over to secondary games during commercials. It usually turns into a day of bad food (Sports Chickie spoils us with her baking), foul language (we're Dolphins and Niners fans) and sore bodies (my couch is comfy, but recliners would be bliss). I dare say getting into this routine has been our best idea in years.

This past Sunday, however, Sports Chickie was off doing the Run for the Cure (she met her target woohoo!), so it was just Da Boyz (minus Serge the Psycho). We settled in and watched my Dolphins get beat by Mario Williams and the Houston Texans, as well as the Niners get destroyed 41-0 at Arrowhead (somewhere, David DeRosa is dancing). At around 3:27, I turned to Bruce Mr. Turk and said: "This just in: Our teams are not very good". And so this past Sunday marked the realization that in terms of our favourite teams, this season is a wash. Time to identify the positives, trim the fat and look to next year - and time we've got, 12 weeks worth. That's good news for those of you who read this little corner of cyperspace; less Daunte Culpepper and Frank Gore, more Brian Urlacher and Ed Reed.

I'll take up Dr. Z's challenge this week (you'll find in in the Raiders' box) and attempt to pick a winner in his survivor pool. The remaining undefeated teams' schedules look like this:

  • Baltimore faces Denver (2-1) at Mile-High
  • Chicago hosts the Bills (2-2)
  • Indianapolis rolls out the red carpet for Tennessee (0-4), so this one is a double-whammy for Z's pool

The winless teams try to reverse their fortunes like so:

  • Oakland travels to San Francisco (1-3)
  • Tampa are the New Superdome's 2nd visitors (Saints are 3-1)
  • Detroit is in Minnesota (2-2)

Of all these teams, which one will keep a "0" in their record the longest? Undefeated teams are harder to predict, in my opinion, than winless teams. Oakland were able to put up a fight against the Browns, and I think the Browns are better than the Niners so that rules out the Silver and Black. Detroit have been close in a couple of their games against decent teams, so theyr'e out. Tampa are not as bad as their record shows. Tennessee, however, are just plain bad.

As for the undefeated teams I'm obviously leaning toward Indy, in Week 5 at least. Baltimore faces a tough test in Denver, as do the Bears facing the Bills.

Therefore, my pick for the team that will maintain a ZERO in their record the longest is Tennessee. Vince Young faces a long, hard season - he'll be hard-pressed to find a win anywhere. What do you think? Give me your picks in the comment section and we'll glorify the winners when the results are official.

Things to look for this week:

  • prescription bottles falling from the sky in Philadelphia
  • J.P. Losman's happy feet
  • Vegas not taking bets on Indy-Tennessee
  • David Garrard sightings
  • Paris in the desert?
  • Field Goals in the Bay
  • Barking at Mile-High

Enjoy the games.

P.S. Congrats to Kimya and Jason, welcoming Baby Eleyna into the world this week. Yes, Jason is now the father of a baby girl. Serge the Psycho, start briefing your boys.

Sens Fail to Show Up

Yikes, that was oogly. Last night's 6-0 debacle to Toronto confirmed my fears of opening night: the Senators are not psyched about this season. By my count only
three players showed any kind of spark last night; Chris Neil, Patrick Eaves and Mike Fisher. The rest of the squad looked like the Men's National soccer team playing in the 2nd half of a match at Azteca Stadium - any fan of fùtbol can tell you that's not good.

So what's the problem? Conditioning? 9 preseason games in eleven days? Lack of motivation after repeated regular season success followed by dismal playoff performances? Hopefully it's not option C. Fans can afford to have a letdown after such experiences - the players are professionals and have to keep on plugging away or they'll end up just like the Leafs and out of the playoffs.

Am I panicking? Not at all. I refuse to be swept up in the emotion of the regular season's highs and lows anymore. Get to the playoffs, get on a roll, and show me something new (as in: get to the Stanley Cup Final). Everything else is just details.

Ok I don't really buy into the last paragraph I wrote, because I was pretty pissed after the loss last night. But rather than dwell on it, let's look forward to the new-look Sabres Saturday night.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

NHL Cities: Population

A discussion with Bruce Mr. Turk over the viability of Hamilton as an NHL market made me think to come up with this little table.

1. New York Metro(3 teams): 18.7 million (6.2 million per team)
2. Chicago Metro: 9.4 million
3. Washington DC/Baltimore: 8 million
4. Boston Metro: 5.8 million
5. Dallas: 5.8 million
5. Philadelphia Metro: 5.8 million
7. Toronto Metro: 5.4 million
7. Miami Metro: 5.4 million
9. Atlanta Metro: 4.9 million
10. Detroit Metro: 4.5 million
11. Los Angeles/Anaheim (2 teams): 4.2 million (2.1 million per team)
12. Phoenix: 3.8 million
13. Montréal: 3.6 million
14. Minneapolis/Saint-Paul: 3.5 million
15. St. Louis: 2.8 million
16. Pittsburgh Metro: 2.4 million
16. Tampa Bay Area: 2.4 million
18. Denver Metro: 2.3 million
19. Vancouver Metro: 2.2 million
20. San Jose/San Francisco/Oakland: 2 million
21. Columbus Metro: 1.7 million
22. Raleigh-Durham: 1.5 million
23. Nashville: 1.4 million
24. Ottawa: 1.1 million
25. Edmonton Metro: 1 million
25. Calgary Metro: 1 million
26. Buffalo: 282,864

Possible NHL Locations (by population):

1. Seattle Metro: 3.8 million
2. Portland: 2,127,881
3. Québec: 717,600
4. Hamilton: 714,900 (although all of southern Ontario is a potential market)
5. Winnipeg: 706,900

All figures courtesy wikipedia.org

Obviously, a lot more goes into the equation for a viable hockey market than population. However, it's interesting to note that Portland, who has been rumoured in the past to be interested in an NHL team, lords over the Canadian markets in terms of population. Nonetheless, the future home of the Pittsburgh Penguins (should they move), will have more to do with Mr. Balsillie's personal factors than a city's size.

Québec Crackberries?

TSN reported last night, and the Globe and Mail confirmed this morning, that Peterborough billionaire (these exist??) Jim Balsillie is to become the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fans is Canada have a knee-jerk reaction when an NHL team is bought by a Canadian to think "Will he move the team to Canada?", with Québec, Winnipeg and Hamilton inevitably being debated as the best destination.

These three cities are the only ones in Canada, at the moment, that could support an NHL team. In my opinion Hamilton is the best business destination for the team, while Québec and Winnipeg tug at the heartstrings because of the nature of their departure from Canada in the 90's.

From the sounds of the G&M article, it appears Jim Balsillie is exactly the type of owner the NHL needs right now - a hockey-mad billionaire that wants to win. There are definite similatities with Mark Cuban, who also was rumoured to be interested in the Pens. Mind you, if relocating to Canada is in his plans, he's bound to have a run in with NHL brass. On top of that, should he want to call Hamilton home, he'll have to fight a turf war with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, as well as the Buffalo Sabres ownership group.

We also can't forget about Pittsburgh in this equation, since it figures to be the biggest player on this stage. With a billion dollars, Balsillie could easily get a desperately needed new arena built, along with all the bells whistles he might fancy. That option is also there for Québec, but he would be expected to move into existing facilities in Hamilton or Winnipeg. Staying in Pittsburgh will receive the full court press from Gary Bettman and the NHL - losing an American market in a sports-crazy town such as Pittsburgh will not be kindly viewed.

My preference? I'm honestly torn between Québec and Pittsburgh. Although keeping Pittsburgh in the discussion may seem strange, I gravitate towards it for purely nostalgic reasons. Wiping out the team that Mario played for his entire career would seem wrong somehow, like how parents must feel when they finally leave the home in which they brought up their kids. Hockey hasn't been the same since it lost the Québec Nordiques, and a renewal of the Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry would rekindle a passion in the province of Québec that's gone completely missing.

Winnipeg, in my opinion, does not have a large enough market for the NHL. Hamilton would be a great move for Balsillie, if he can pull it off. Having another team in the Battle of Ontario would surely be welcome (or would the Toronto-Ottawa rivalry be diminished somehow?). I just don't think it will be possible to elbow MLSE out of the way, and Buffalo might become endangered if Hamilton sets up shop on its doorstep.

In any case, this purchase is superb for hockey, unless Balsillie is some nut job like Islanders owner Charles Wong. Here's hoping he's got more Cuban than Wong in him.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sens Opener: Running Diary

19:02: Night kicks off with a montage of kids, normal people and hockey players saying: "I want to win the Stanley Cup", highlighted by an 86 year-old who says he's been waiting his whole life to win the Stanley Cup - must be a Leafs fan.

19:06: Tough start to Tie Domi's second career. He had 2 sentences, stumbling and bumbling his way through them. That's what happens when you've never learned to read.

19:07: First mention of Hasek leaving the Sens in the offseason. Tears are shed by Sports Chickie. She loved him, calling him "My Playboy" for the way he flails about on the ice trying to stop the puck. I don't know what that says about me.

19:08: First commercial of the new NHL season is a repeat from last year - Molson's "What a Feeling." Can't expect an American company to go all out for hockey, I guess.

19:15: Live look-in on the Hurricanes Stanley Cup banner ceremony. Banner begins to go up.

19:17: I swear the banner is still rising to the rafters, with canned thunder sounds over top Queen's "We are the Champions". Can we just wipe out the 2005-06 season from the history books? Would anyone question this 20 years down the road? Can't we tell our kids the lockout lasted 2 seasons? Please?

19:23: Pierre McGuire just downplayed how bad the Leafs will be this season. I think he's scared of Domi.

19:27: Gord Miller, in a pre-taped studio appearance, tells us the game is available in HD and 5.1 surround "The way it was meant to be seen and heard". Welcome to the 21st century, TSN.

19:30: THE SCOTTISH ARE INVADING!!!!! No, wait, my bad, it's the 48th Highlanders, and their god-awful noise, ummm, I mean, bagpipes.

19:33: Must be embarassing for Tomas Kaberle to be carded every time the team goes out to strippers. Seriously, does he qualify to play, considering Canada's strict child labour laws?

19:36: The ACC P.A. guy sounds like he should be narrating a Disney movie. "Little did Simba know, Nala was searching far and wide to find him. Much like your beloved Maple Leafs search for their Stanley Cup."

19:44: Now moving on to part 2 of 2 in Leaf player commemorations (zzzzz). Estimated time of puck drop: 21:34. Is Fox Baseball producing this or something? Where's Joe Buck? Seems like a waste of TSN's 37 panelists.

19:54: Sports Chickie just called Marting Gerber "Baby Food". Here we go.

19:54: Puck drops, it's GAME TIME.

19:55: Kaberle a game time scratch, late for his curfew.

19:57: It just registered: Dean McAmmond is an Ottawa Senator. *shudder*

20:00: This looks fantastic in HD. Wow. Bob McKenzie? Not so wow in HD.

20:05: First penalty of the game, to the Leafs for interference. Ron MacLean whines to whoever has to suffer his presence tonight.

20:06: Third appearance of Molson's "What a Feeling" commercial. Another example of a good commercial wasted through saturation.

20:16: Dave Randorf Career Arc:

2000: Anchor for Sydney Olympics
2001-2005: CFL play-by-play
2006: TSN Hockey sideline reporter
2007: TSN Poker Tour analyst
2008-2011: Guy who shines Pierre McGuire's dome

20:22: TSN goes with a Bruce Mr. Turk favourite, bar-across-the-top ticker. Bruce Mr. Turk will be happy.

20:27: With 3:47 left in the 1st period, we get our first "Go Leafs Go" chant. Yeah, the Leafs fans are soooo stoked for this season.

20:31: 1-0 Ottawa. Exhale. Let it be known that one Patrick Eaves scored the first goal of the Senators' Stanley Cup winning season (ahem, ahem...).

20:35: Make sure you check out James Duthie's hilarious blog about his yoga vacation. Thanks to Bruce Mr. Turk for the heads up.

20:53: ACC customers haven't changed one bit: we're 2 minutes into the second period and all the seats behind the players' benches are EMPTY. No wonder the building seems empty - it is. All its patrons are on the concourse swinging business deals or attending to more important matters.

21:02: It's not the regular-season domination of old, but at the halfway point I give the Sens a slight edge. Patrick Eaves looking real good - the TSN crew seem flat-out giddy about him.

21:07: Chris Neil off to as good a start as last season. 2-0 Ottawa!

21:11: No sooner have I called the Sens out do they go up by 3. Same old, same old.

21:13: Charity penalty shot call for Sundin...and...

21:14: ...controversy as the referee says no goal before the puck squeaks into the Sens net. Ref goes upstairs and reverses his call. Leafs will not be shut out this season.

21:27: In the "giveaway" sweepstakes this evening, McCabe leads Spezza 2-0. As bad as he is defensively, he'll end up a Norris Trophy candidate because of his points tally. What a disgrace.

21:30: After two periods, I have to say I'm enjoying the "Baby Food" Gerber era in Ottawa. He seems technically sound and he's made some key saves tonight. Maybe it won't be so hard for Sports Chickie to forget about her "playboy".

21:34: I don't know how I feel about this new NHL promotion campaign, the ones who's tagline is "...here to remind us the season has started". Yikes, I can't help but feel this if for fans in the U.S. who have no idea the season is getting underway because OLN has the games and the other networks have abandoned doing hockey highlights. You shouldn't have to remind us the season is here. It's started at the same time since the turn of the century - the 20th century! The Forsberg one was funnier than the Cheechoo one. Hopefully they'll post them on Youtube soon.

21:57: Ok, I am so going to regret saying this, but here goes: Tie Domi is already a decent analyst. His willingness to rule against the Leafs on a couple of issues was impressive. I'll reserve a final judgement, but so far it's not as bad as I thought. Shoot me now.

22:00 For some odd reason, everytime Michael Peca touches the puck, the Sports Chickie says "Peca, the taco monkey!".

22:10: When Bates Battaglia is out on your #1 powerplay unit, you've got a problem. The Toronto implosion is going to be so much fun to watch.

22:13: This definitely does not feel like the Battle of Ontario. There seems to be little animosity between the teams and the Sens, despite being ahead, seem almost lackadaisical.

22:25: Nail in the coffin: Alfredsson empty-net goal. Same old story in the Battle of Ontario (regular-season edition). Thank you and good night!