Sunday, July 3, 2016

The P.K. trade: disappointing but understandable


    One of the most telling tweets in the immediate aftermath of the P.K. Subban trade didn't come from a journalist or a teammate or anyone otherwise involved in the day-to-day machinations of the Montreal Canadiens.  
   It came from a chef.

   David McMillan is the co-owner and public face of what is arguably Montreal's trendiest and most renowned restaurant - Joe Beef (along with upscale sister properties Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon).  He's a star in his own right, and a straight shooter with strong convictions.
   Reading between the lines of his tweet, it's not unreasonable to speculate that the celebrity chef at a favorite haunt of wealthy young hockey players witnessed some behind-the-scenes dynamics that journalists aren't privy to, and garnered some insight from unguarded conversations over several bottles of fine wine.  McMillan's tweet didn't betray anyone's trust, but it reinforced the theory that Subban put himself before the team.  
   And really, what logical reason was there to trade Subban if he hadn't become an untenable presence in the organization?  An immensely talented player entering his prime athletic years should be untouchable.  Add to that his enormous and almost universal popularity among the fan base and the unprecedented commitment to the community in the form of a $10 million dollar fundraising initiative for the Montreal Children's Hospital, and it's unthinkable that the Canadiens would send such a team and community pillar packing.  Unless...
   The racism trope doesn't pass muster in explaining the trade.  I don't doubt for a minute that there's latent racism among some who don't even realize that their dislike for P.K. is rooted in an outdated mentality, but hockey is a business, and an asset of Subban's caliber isn't surrendered on the grounds that he's "uppity".  As much as the notion of the self-confident black man not "knowing his place" no longer applies, neither should behavior detrimental to the greater good be excused or rationalized by playing the race card.
   I was as surprised and disappointed as most Canadiens fans when I heard that Subban was traded.  Shea Weber will be an excellent defenceman and leader for the Habs, but P.K. transcended the game and was part of the fabric of Montreal.  That's what makes it sad.  But as P.K. himself said when he was asked about trade rumours, "where there's smoke, there's fire".  There were smoke signals aplenty that Subban had outworn his welcome, and that whatever his talents and contributions on the ice, they were no longer worth the aggravation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Me 1 Cancer 0

Entry 7 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass"



   "So, Dr. Evil, we meet again" is probably the wrong thing to say to a guy who's about to go wrist deep into your rectal cavity to lube you up for a scoping procedure, and maybe that's why my colorectal surgeon lingered in the area in question longer than seemed necessary to me, but the indignity and discomfort were worth the end result (Get it? End result?)   
   Seven months and change after being diagnosed with a rectal tumour, I appear to be cancer-free.  The tumour is gone, and while the Rear Admiral did a biopsy for confirmation purposes, he seemed confident that the worst is behind me. (Get it?  Behind me?)  There will still be a round of preventive chemotherapy to lessen the chances of the cancer recurring, but what's a little fatigue, hair loss, constipation/diarrhea, mouth sores, sensitivity to cold and numbness in the extremities if it means increasing your odds of holding the Big C at bay?
    Not to tempt fate, but I'm half-expecting the other shoe to drop.  To be handed a provisional clean bill of health well under a year after being diagnosed, with no side effects from radiation or the first round of chemo and no ill effects in general seems too good to be true.  I'm enormously grateful because I've seen first hand how lucky I am compared to other people who are fighting a life and death battle against cancer.  Relatively speaking, I'm winning a skirmish, and I'm not taking credit for any of it.  My recovery is all about the grace of God, support from family and friends and the dedication of health care professionals who provide yeoman's service despite being routinely sabotaged by politicians and bureaucrats.  All I had to do was show up.  
   So it's all good.  God willing, any anal probing from this point on will be strictly recreational, and that ain't happening.  To each their own, but on my highway of life, that's an exit lane only.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

If Social Justice Warriors actually went to war


   Every generation is a product of its time, from the genuinely hard-done-by kids who grew up in the 1930s Depression era and were rewarded for their hardscrabble existence by being shipped off to war in the 1940s, to the pampered, entitled millennials of today. That said, I have no doubt the youth of today would respond to similar challenges with the same courage and determination of their forebears - and maybe just a dash of their own 21st century hypersensitive campus culture. 

MEMO

To: All ranks
From: Supreme Allied Command
Date: June 30, 1944 (D-Day plus 24)

It has come to our attention that since arriving in enemy-occupied territory, some of you have experienced difficulty in making the admittedly jarring transition from the relative comforts of your training bases in the United Kingdom to the soul-shattering horrors of daily life in an active war zone. While circumstances are such that a certain amount of trauma - up to and including sudden, violent death - is inevitable, your superior officers recognize that they are duty-bound to minimize the physical and psychological hardships of constant exposure to deadly combat. To that end, the Allied Expeditionary Force has undertaken several initiatives aimed at ensuring that all troops are exposed to the absolute minimum of terror and carnage, to wit:

SAFE SPACES: also known as foxholes, these rudimentary shelters are designed to provide a modicum of safety and relief from hostile fire on the field of battle. Pinpoint artillery barrages and lethally accurate sniper fire can be insensitive and hurtful, so dig deep and stay close to your safe space at all times. Remember, the enemy does not have your best interests at heart because of cultural differences that help make up the global mosaic that is so vibrant and wonderful when nations and peoples are not trying to wipe each other from the face of the earth. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: these verbal red flags are meant to advise troops of the imminent risk of death or mutilation so that you can get to your safe space before being torn limb from limb. The standard trigger warning for all units is "Incoming!", although "Get your fucking head down!" and "Put out that fucking cigarette!" are also commonplace, especially in units with battle-tested sergeant-majors who've beaten the odds by staying alive for more than one week. If you don't hear a trigger warning, it means you're already dead. 

OFFICER PRIVILEGE: Officer privilege comes in many forms, from superior meals and sleeping quarters to ordering lower ranks to almost certain death from the relative safety of a fortified command post. Officer privilege has existed for as long as there have been armies, and remains a leading cause of resentment and other emotional distress in the enlisted ranks, to which we - the officers - say "Too fucking bad."

For further information, please contact:

Social Justice Command
Allied Expeditionary Force
Some liberated whorehouse in Normandy


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Grow up, Cam


   One of the best tests of a person's character is how they react in adverse circumstances. It's a test Cam Newton failed miserably in the immediate aftermath of Super Bowl 50.
   Newton was all smiles and confidence heading into the game, and why wouldn't he be?  Twenty-four hours removed from being named the NFL's Most Valuable Player for quarterbacking pro football's most potent offence to a league-best record, Newton and the Carolina Panthers were sitting pretty as 5-and-a-half point favorites over Denver.  Not one to shun the limelight in good times, Newton lapped up the accolades and strutted his considerable style in the Super Bowl run-up - even wearing gold cleats with "MVP" emblazoned on them during the pre-game warmup.  That might have been the last straw for karma, which grabbed Newton by the throat at kickoff and didn't let go until the final gun sounded on an utterly humiliating 24-10 loss on the biggest stage in professional sports.

   The subsequent one-man sulkfest was probably the most sullen display since Bill Belichick's next-level brooding after the New York Giants ended New England's bid for a perfect season in Super Bowl 42.  No one expected Newton to come bouncing into the media room sprinkling bon mots like fairy dust, but between his body language and shallow, monosyllabic answers to relevant questions, he made Leonard Cohen look Charo on a three-night molly bender.
   Not everyone thought Newton was out of line for refusing to engage the media in a meaningful way.  There was the predictable race-baiting from the usual social justice warrior suspects claiming Newton was being hated on only because he's black - although that doesn't explain the thoroughly derisive welcome lily white New England quarterback Tom Brady received when past Super Bowl MVPs were introduced before the game - and there are those who say their only expectations from athletes are on the field of play.  Be that as it may, the overwhelming majority of football fans undoubtedly wanted to know what the league MVP had to say after totally shitting the bed in the Super Bowl, and whether or not Newton or anyone else likes it, he has a professional obligation to accommodate them.  Media relations are part of the job description, and Newton was thoroughly and inexcusably unprofessional in the way he handled those obligations.   
   Newton doubled down two days after the Super Bowl, refusing to apologize and trotting out the shopworn "show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser" excuse for behaving like a petulant child.  No one likes to lose, but show me a gracious loser and I'll show you a man ready for the next level of success. Newton clearly learned nothing from a valuable experience.  As long as his attitude remains unchanged, he is unworthy of being called a champion.  
   

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Legitimizing the new anti-Semitism


      It's been fully a week since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a Holocaust Remembrance Day statement absent of any specific mention of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, and the only mainstream media mention of the breathtakingly glaring omission was in the conservative-minded Toronto Sun.
   I posted about Trudeau's whitewashing of Jews from the Holocaust on my Facebook page, and was met with a chorus of "What makes the Jews so special?" and "Jews don't have a monopoly on suffering".  The kind of anti-Semitic tripe that used to be spoken privately in whispers is now stated openly and boldly, and the cue is coming from the highest office in the land.
   No one is denying there were other victims, but the overriding agenda of the Holocaust was the extermination of European Jewry.  The industrial scale killing factories built specifically to facilitate the genocide of the Jews also proved to be convenient for dispensing with Soviet prisoners of war, political opponents, gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled and other "undesirables", but the Jews were always at the front of the line at the gas chambers, and their total destruction was the Nazis' priority.  The Holocaust was also the culmination of centuries of Jewish persecution, and became a defining moment in the rich and tragic history of Judaism and a catalyst for the creation of modern day Israel.  It only requires a rudimentary knowledge of history to understand what makes the Jews unique in the context of the Holocaust, and how failing to acknowledge their central place in it is at best woefully ignorant and at worst a deliberate and sinister sop to anti-Jewish interests.  Either - or both - could be true in the case of a Prime Minister lacking in intellectual credentials and with a history of openly pandering to fundamentalist Islam, including normalizing Canadian relations with Iran, which makes state policy of denying the Holocaust and openly clamoring for the destruction of Israel.
   The most disturbing and disappointing element of Trudeau's blunder isn't the free pass he's getting from the mainstream media.  They've been in his pocket all along.  What's unsettling is the dearth of strong reaction from the Jewish community itself.  Among the few Jewish organizations that commented publicly, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it accepted the explanation from the Prime Minister's office that Trudeau's statement was a first draft issued in error, which ranks right up there with the-sun-was-in-my-eyes and my-dog-ate-my-homework as credible excuse-making.  The notion that the PMO would inadvertently release a public statement about something as profound and sensitive as the Holocaust is as ludicrous and insulting as the suggestion that Trudeau "forgot" to mention the Jews.  Meanwhile, the statement remains unchanged on the government's website several days after the "correction".
   Maybe the deafening silence from the Jewish community has something to do with a Jewish tradition for keeping disagreements within the family, or maybe it's a reflection of widespread Jewish support for Trudeau in the bigger political picture.  Either way, I never thought I'd see the day when the 6 million would be thrown under the bus for the sake of social peace and/or political expediency.  That it's happening within the lifetime of some Holocaust survivors and at a time when anti-Semitism is enjoying a resurgence unprecedented since the end of World War Two should be troubling to anyone who's taken the time to learn the lessons of history.

Note to all readers: feedback is encouraged and welcome, but please demonstrate the courage of your convictions by signing your name to them.  There is no credibility in anonymity.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bergevin is no Churchill (and vice-versa)



  When general manager Marc Bergevin stood in front of the assembly of professional second-guessers at the Canadiens practice facility in Brossard last week, I saw and heard Winston Churchill during Britain's darkest hour, after France had fallen and Old Blighty stood alone against the Nazi menace.  Obviously, the stakes are significantly less profound and there's a stark contrast in the cut of their respective jibs - Bergevin would look as ridiculous in a siren suit "onesie" as Winnie would in an electric blue sportcoat and skinny jeans - but there was more than a hint of Churchillian defiance and resolve as Bergevin assumed the burden of responsibility and vowed to stay the course in the face of a defeatist fan and media frenzy.  I thought it was a carefully-crafted battle cry designed to inspire the Canadiens to their finest hour, and I thought it would work.  I thought wrong. 

   Back-to-back losses to the dead-last Columbus Blue Jackets heading into the All Star break were hardly reminiscent of RAF heroics in the Battle of Britain, and the time has arrived to run up the white flag on the Canadiens as they are now constituted. Change is needed - not tinkering, but decisive, soul-shaking upheavel of the sort that won't come about by merely changing the coach and/or general manager, which would be the wrong move(s) anyway.  Michel Therrien hasn't lost the room, and summarily dismissing an otherwise successful executive of Bergevin's calibre on the basis of one (admittedly prolonged) slump would smack of panic and stupidity.  
   That leaves one option: a trade.  The Canadiens need offence and they're deep on defence, which is why Nathan Beaulieu's name keeps popping up, especially in rumoured talks between Montreal and Tampa Bay surrounding blue chip prospect Jonathan Drouin.  But whatever Drouin's upside, a still-unproven 20 year old is not the answer to what ails the franchise, and putting that kind of pressure on a French-Canadian kid in Montreal could ruin Drouin for good.
   My Jewel 106.7 morning show co-host, Tom Whelan, is thinking bigger - much bigger.  A passionate Habs fan, Tom admits that he's so fed up that he wouldn't care if PK Subban were traded under the right circumstances.  As unthinkable as that might seem - whether because of Subban's talent or his ties to the community - imagine what he could fetch in return.  Subban straight up for unrestricted free-agent-in-waiting Steven Stamkos isn't an outrageous proposition, if Stamkos could be persuaded to commit long-term to the Canadiens.  And if the Lightning balked at one-for-one, sweeten the pot with a top prospect or a first round draft choice.  I mean, it's Steven fucking Stamkos, for crissakes.
   That's just one of many potential scenarios, and as radical as it sounds, these are desperate times for the Canadiens and half-measures will avail them nothing.  Whatever the move, they have to make it matter and make it now. Carey Price can't save the season if they're already out of the playoff race by the time he comes back from injury.  And at this point, the buck doesn't stop with Bergevin.  It stops with owner Geoff Molson, who couldn't have been happy to see empty seats and hear boos last night at the Bell Center. A tarnished brand is bad for business.  Molson also understands that although the Canadiens are privately-owned, they are a public trust, and inaction in these circumstances is unacceptable.   
   The Hun is at the doorstep.  Bergevin's Churchillian rallying cry failed.  It's time for the King to enter the fray.

Churgevin photoshopping courtesy of the totally awesome Josie Gold of Four Habs Fans fame.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Not PK's finest hour

   The polarizing nature of PK Subban's personality manifested itself yet again on episode 4 of HBO's Road to the Winter Classic 2016, which featured the Montreal defenceman in an expletive-filled dressing room rant in the run-up to the New Year's Day game between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.  
   When I posted the video on my Facebook page and suggested it was a moment PK might have wanted back, the debate that ensued was devoid of middle ground.  Like most ideologically divisive social media threads, it quickly degenerated into the human version of dogs barking at each other unseen through a backyard fence, but the two opposing philosophies were clear: Subban's defenders adhered to the old school "boys will be boys/it's just dressing room stuff/everybody chill out" argument, which is entirely fair and credible, except that PK knew the cameras were in the room and played to them.  That's fair, too, but for a guy who's aggressively trying to cultivate a respectable, family-friendly brand, his approach missed the mark by a country mile.  
   It wasn't the swearing as much as it was the buffoonery that reflected poorly. You can drop f-bombs ad nauseam and still deliver a strong and inspiring message without resorting to embarrassing histrionics.  At a time when the team was struggling, Subban squandered what could have been a defining leadership moment.  The look on team captain Max Pacioretty's face in the video says it all. 
   Montreal is fortunate to have PK Subban - the man and the hockey player. His talent on the ice and generous community spirit are both indisputable. But scrutiny comes with the territory, and no public figure is above it.  The Montreal Canadiens are world renowned and respected for their class and dignity.  As the highest-profile representatives of the organization, it behooves Subban and his teammates to maintain those standards in the public eye at all times.