Monday, July 26, 2010

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

The supposedly bittersweet spectacle of Andre Dawson going into the baseball Hall of Fame as an Expo is a lot more bitter than it is sweet for Montreal baseball fans. The chronic lamenting six years after the demise of the franchise can be a bit tiring, but it's also a measure of how badly a loyal fan base was betrayed by the deliberate sabotage and subterfuge of Claude Brochu, Jeffrey Loria and Bud Selig.. Meanwhile, if it's any consolation, two Expo Hall of Famers represent two more than the Blue Jays have had inducted in their 34 years-and-counting existence...Talk about living in big brother's shadow: the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes win their home opener in front of a 96th consecutive sellout crowd that included an additional five thousand fans at the newly-expanded Molson Stadium, and more people are still talking about Jaroslav Halak, whom the Canadiens traded five-and-a-half weeks ago. Anyone who didn't know any better would think it was the Habs and not the Als who've given the city two championship parades in the last eight years...If John Daly had a younger, bespectacled Swedish half-brother who also played professional golf, it would be 2010 Canadian Open winner Carl Pettersson, whose blond hair and roly-poly physique make him a dead ringer for Daly. Despite his substantial girth, Pettersson's online PGA profile lists him at 195, apparently heralding the beginning of golf's transition to the metric system.

Friday, July 23, 2010

THE NAME OF THE GAME

Even if he never plays a down of professional football, Colt McCoy will go down in NFL history as having the best name EVER for a quarterback, not to mention a sherriff, a rodeo rider and a would-be matinee idol. McCoy has signed a four year contract with the Cleveland Browns after being drafted out of Texas. Where else would a guy named Colt McCoy come from, and what position would he play other than quarterback? Speed positions are reserved for LaDainians and DeSeans and the line of scrimmage is the domain of Bubbas and Flozells, but Colt McCoy is as good a name for a quarterback as Bubby Brister was a bad one, although for a guy named after a Jewish grandmother, Brister had a pretty good run - 15 seasons split between five NFL teams, and as bad names for pro athletes go, he was marginally better off than St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, retired NFL player Harry Colon, former NHL goalie Ron Tugnutt, and race car driver Dick Trickle. Unlike Colt McCoy, none of those guys has a handle that makes a seamless transition to the big screen if they decide to take up acting - although I think I might have once rented a movie with Harry Colon and Dick Trickle from the room behind the curtain in the back of the video store. I'm Ted (and glad my parents didn't name me Harry ) Bird.

Monday, July 19, 2010

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS - JULY 19/10

Bully for Louis Oosthuizen that he won the British Open, but focusing on an obscure South African whose last name sounds like a noise you make when you sneeze is probably not what ESPN and the BBC had in mind for the final round of golf's oldest major tournament from the game's most fabled venue. Serial adulterer or not, the networks and fans are still cheering for Tiger Woods to be at or near the top of the leaderboard - probably less now for his golf talent than for the spectacle of Woods living out his sordid personal nightmare in the public eye...With all due respect to newly sworn-in Canadian citizen Andrei Markov, his decision to continue representing Russia at international tournaments is a wise one, if only because he's got a much better chance of making the Russian roster than he does of cracking the Canadian lineup...Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber can add the New York Yankees to the Montreal Canadiens and the House of Windsor on his list of the only Western institutions with a true grasp of ceremony. Friday's pre-game tribute to owner George Steinbrenner and long-time Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard, both of whom passed away last week, struck a perfect balance between sorrow and celebration, and was made all the more stirring by its simplicity...It makes for exciting racing and the fans love it, but the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski NASCAR rivalry is going to end in tragedy if cooler heads don't prevail...So, I'm watching highlights of Saturday's Edmonton-Saskatchewan CFL game and a white guy chases a black guy down from behind in the open field to prevent a touchdown. If this keeps up, one of us might even learn to dance.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I KNOW THEY INVENTED THE GAME BUT SCOTLAND IS A DUMB PLACE TO GOLF

You don't have to be a golfer to appreciate that the British Open is steeped in tradition, but it's always struck me as a bit off that one of the sport's most prestigious tournaments is often held on terrain better-suited for tank manoeuvres, or in weather that would test the resolve of the hardiest storm chaser. I tuned in tape-delayed coverage of the 2010 Open last night and saw the usual spectacle of golfers in head-to-toe rain gear standing under umbrellas or hunched against a cold wind and driving rain in front of empty stands at the Old Course in St. Andrews, and wondered how in the name of Sam Snead first round leader Rory McIlroy tied a major championship record with a nine under par 63. Well, it turns out McIlroy was among the fortunate players who teed off early in the day, when the weather was merely gloomy and hadn't yet turned nasty. That kind of unpredictabilty may be part of the Open's charm, but it doesn't exactly make for a level playing field. It's a bit like having NASCAR drivers draw straws at the Daytona 500 to see who gets the 865 horsepower Dodge Charger and who gets the 1970 Ford Country Squire station wagon with wood grain paneling. Far be it from me to mess with golf's heritage, but considering that what's left of the British Empire includes Bermuda and no fewer than five islands or island groups in the Caribbean, it occurs to me that they could hold the event where the sun actually shines without compromising its geographical integrity as the British Open. Just a suggestion from a guy who's not a golf traditionalist but knows a logical alternative who he sees one.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

JESSE JACKSON (*yawn*) PLAYS THE RACE CARD

If there's any real leadership in the 21st century American civil rights movement, they'll come down like a ton of bricks on Jesse Jackson for his incendiary take on Lebron James - or more specifically, on Cleveland Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert's reaction to losing James. Gilbert's tirade after James left Cleveland to sign as a free agent with Miami was petty, mean-spirited and worthy of the fine imposed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, but it had nothing to do with runaway slaves, masters or plantations - all loaded terms that the Reverend Jackson used in a predictable, half-baked and reckless attempt to correlate modern sports free agency with the Emancipation Proclamation. He accuses Gilbert of having a "slave master" mentality and of treating James like a "runaway slave." If that's not an affront to the memory of generations of African Americans who suffered and died as captive, forced laborers, I don't know what is. Jackson also cherry picks his facts by invoking the names of Curt Flood and Spencer Haywood, two black athletes who, in Jackson's words, "changed the plantation rules," but he conveniently ignores Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally - two white baseball players who were instrumental in striking down the reserve clause and paving the way for free agency in sports. Dan Gilbert's sour grapes over losing Lebron James were small-minded and unbecoming, but Jesse Jackson's transparent attempt to spin it into a race issue is dangerous and irresponsible, and exposes Jackson as a racist more than it does anyone else.

Monday, July 12, 2010

THE "BEAUTIFUL GAME," YOU SAY?

Every time I hear soccer referred to as the beautiful game, it reminds me of a drunk guy in a bar telling another drunk guy that he just met an hour ago that he's the greatest guy in the world. There may be an element of emotionally if not alcoholically-fuelled sincerity, but there's no credibility. There was nothing "beautiful" about Spain's stultifyingly tedious 1-0 win over the Netherlands in yesterday's World Cup final. It was merely a continuation of a painfully dull tournament that had some terrific feel good elements as an event, but offered nothing in the way of defining moments on the pitch, unless you count brutal officiating among cherished memories...If there's such a thing as a sore winner, Red Bull's Mark Webber was it at the F1 British Grand Prix, where Webber complained bitterly before and after the race about preferential treatment for teammate Sebastien Vettel. What's ironic and more than a little hypocritical is that Webber and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner spent part of the week speculating on team morale at McLaren...Every professional, amateur and aspiring stadium public address announcer lost the ultimate role model yesterday when Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium for more than half a century, passed away at the age of 99. Sheppard was unapologetically old school, and his understated class and consistency will be sorely missed in a profession that's become a breeding ground for shrill and shameless homerism...I'm as moderately pleased as the next Canadian that we've got a rider in the top 10 at the Tour de France, but the downside to that kind of success is that it's only going to encourage the Lance Armstrong wanna-be's who already consider Lakeshore Boulevard and the Lachine Canal bike path their own personal Champs-Elysees...And yes, you heard me right: the score in the World Cup final was 1-nothing, not 1-nil. It might be 1-nil if you're British, but where I grew up and where I live, if one team gets one goal and the other team gets none, the score is 1-nothing, or 1-zero, not 1-nil. Just like Billy Preston didn't sing nil from nil leaves nil, and I don't drink Coke Nil.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS (Yeah, I know, it's Tuesday - I had Monday off)

In a time and a town where winning can afford to play second fiddle to the bottom line, outgoing Canadiens president Pierre Boivin's tenure will go into the books as a resounding success. When Boivin succeeded Ronald Corey in 1999, the Canadiens were mired in mediocrity, both as a hockey team and a business concern. They still blow hot and cold on the ice, but under Boivin's watch the marketing end of the operation has boomed, and he'll hand over the keys to a money-making machine that's firing on all cylinders when he gives way to Geoff Molson at the end of next season...Kahnawake's Dexter Stacey and Derek White made up in moxie what they lacked in momentum at the Canadian Tire NASCAR race in St. Eustache. Dexter didn't quit until his car quit on him and Derek went the distance despite engine and transmission problems. That kind of resolve will stand both racers in good stead when they get their mechanical issues sorted out...In the ultimate good news/bad news scenario, neither Argentine coach Diego Maradonna nor Paraguayan lingerie model Larissa Riquelme will be forced to make good on a promise to run naked through the streets of their respective national capitals if their team won the World Cup. On a consolatory note, soft-core content of Riquelme is as plentiful on the Internet as semi-nude photos of Maradonna are rare...In the spirit of generosity and freedom of choice, I've decided to arbitrarily double the number of men who should be legally allowed to wear Capri pants, from Rafael Nadal to Rafael Nadal and the guy on the horse in the Old Spice commercial.