Monday, April 30, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
I was watching something on T.V last week that got me thinking about rivalries. Now I would love to say that what I was watching was the Red Sox-Yankees series last weekend. But that wasn't it.
It was Star Trek.
I know what you're thinking but it's true. I wouldn't lie to you (at least not that you know of). And if I was going to make something up, don't you think it would have been something other than Star Trek?
My story goes like this: One day last week, over my lunch hour, I found myself watching Star Trek, as I almost always do at lunch (this is the original series people, none of that Next Generation crap. One word: Shatner). And the episode in which Captain Kirk first encounters Khan Noonieh Singh is on. The epic struggle between Kirk and Khan gets me thinking about what other great rivalries, sporting or otherwise, we've seen over the years.
So here is the list of what my two co-conspirators and I came up with. This is by no means a definitive list and they are in no particular order.
But let's start with the match up that got this whole thing started...
Found drifting in the S.S Botany Bay by Captain Kirk and crew, Khan and his band of super-humans outsmarted and out muscled the Enterprise crew and gained control of the ship. If not for a double-cross that saved Kirk's life, Khan would surely have been the future ruler of the Universe. But it was not to be, Round 1 to Kirk.
The rivalry would be renewed many years later as Khan escaped exile on Seti Alpha 5 (no, I did not have to look that up), hijacked a starship and hunted Kirk down for vengeance.
I won't ruin Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for you but suffice it to say that Round 2 went to Kirk as well. Although only because Mr. Spock sacrificed himself to save the ship and crew - "That was hell of a thing when Spock died" (Seinfeld fans know what I'm talking about here).
Why This is a Great Rivalry
First of all, William Shatner vs. Ricardo Montalban - it doesn't get much better than that. This one had it all - decades of pent up hatred, stolen space cruisers, vengeance, and wrath - lots of wrath.
This little piece of video should provide you with a pretty good idea of what this rivalry was all about:
This rivalry has less to do with interstellar warfare and is more about civic pride. With two cities of about the same size in Alberta, there was always going to be competition between the two, whether it be football or bull riding. But the rivalry is really about hockey (it's Canada, what else were you expecting). The Flames and Oilers comprise what is known in hockey circles as "The Battle of Alberta." When your games have their own nickname, you know you've got a real rivalry. While games between the two teams have cooled off a little in recent years, it's still a pretty big deal.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
When a game is more than just a game - when it's about civic, national or religious pride - it's a rivalry. And these two cities do not like each other and generally equate civic superiority with victories on the ice. During the years 1984-1990, one of these two teams represented the Campbell Conference in the Stanly Cup: Edmonton in 84, 85, 87, 88, 90 and Calgary in 86 and 89. Looking back at that now, it's pretty unbelievable - that two teams only a couple hours from one another, and that hated each other so much, were in the Stanley Cup for 7 straight years.
They say that a rivalry doesn't truly begin until both sides have won something. This clip shows the first time Calgary beat Edmonton in the playoffs - on Steve Smith's own goal in 1986 - that is when it became a true rivalry:
Since 1919 the Red Sox have won 1 World Series, the Yankees 26. However, in 2004 the Red Sox did the unthinkable, coming back from an unprecedented 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in 7 games in the ALCS - after losing Game 7 of the ALCS to the Yankees the year before. The Red Sox then went on to win the World Series in 4 games over the St. Louis Cardinals.
This match-up has always had a David vs. Goliath feel to it, with the Red Sox always playing the underdog, the lovable loser. But with the World Series win in 2004, the playing field has levelled somewhat and the match-up has definitely intensified.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
History has a lot to do with this one. The Red Sox and Yankees both have long histories and their histories are intertwined with each other. In 1919 the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, causing Ruth to supposedly curse the Red Sox to never win another World Series. And for 86 years it looked like it worked. This was the Curse of the Bambino - if you've ever seen the criminally-bad Fever Pitch, you should know what this is all about.
In the modern day, I'd say this rivalry hit its stride in 2003 and 2004. The Yankees won Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS in dramatic fashion, with a game-winning home run in extra innings. The story in 2004 was even more dramatic, as the Red Sox were down to their last out and were on the verge of being swept, but somehow rallied and came from 3 games down to win in 7 games.
This clip shows how intense the rivalry is for the fans, it's the scene in Fenway Park when David Ortiz beat the hated Yankees with a single in Game 5:
My original idea here was Rocky Balboa vs. Communism but then it was brought to my attention that John Rambo was also dedicated to wiping out the Red Menace. So it became very clear that Sly Stallone was obsessed with single-handedly destroying communism.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
Do I really need to explain? The ultimate action star of the 1980's versus the quintessentially evil political ideology of the 1980's.
John Rambo started things off by softening up the enemy, drawing First Blood:
Then Rocky Balboa ended the Cold War with his 15th round knockout of Ivan Drago. Once Drago went down in Moscow, there was no longer any hope for the Soviets - the Cold War was over:
This is one of the few rivalries in the NFL that is actually relevant. These are two of the few consistently competitive teams in the NFL and it's always a must-see game when they play each other, be it in the regular season or the playoffs. Indianapolis finally beat New England in the playoffs last year, en route to their first Super Bowl.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
This has match-up has been interesting in the last few years because in the playoffs, when it really mattered, New England would always prevail. Indianapolis would put up gaudy numbers in the regular season but could never get past New England when it really counted. This was the scene inside the RCA Dome when Indy finally beat New England in the AFC Championship Game last January. Now it's on:
(The only thing this clip needed, more cowbell)
Seriously...do I need to explain this one?
Happy can hit a golf ball a country mile, his grandma needs money to save her house, Happy joins PGA tour to raise money, Shooter is jealous of Happy; buys grandma's house, Happy and Shooter play final game for possession of the house.
There, I've just ruined the movie for you, but do yourself a favour and watch it anyway if you've never seen it - and if you have watch it again.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
Classic good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath, underdog situation. Plus you've got Sandler in his absolute prime (but that doesn't really make it a great rivalry, just a great movie). And as if that wasn't enough you've got Apollo Creed as Happy's golf coach. And then just to top it off, the best rhyme fight in cinematic history:
Glasgow, Scotland. One major Scottish city.
Rangers, Celtic. Two major Scottish soccer clubs, one city.
Catholicism and Protestantism. Two major religions, one city.
Relations between Catholics and Protestants are generally pretty shaky at the best of times, but when you add soccer to the equation, things are taken to a whole other level. In Glasgow, the two religious factions are each represented by their own soccer team. Celtic is the Catholic team and Rangers the Protestant. Let's just say that sometimes things can get out of hand.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
As if opposing soccer fans didn't dislike one another just on general principle, throw in religious hatred as well and you've got yourself a truly great rivalry. The fact that both teams play in the same city and are perennially competing with each other for the Scottish league title makes the Rangers-Celtic rivalry all the better. The "Old Firm Derby" as their games are called have got to be about the most highly secured matches in the world. Any match up where fans have a high likely hood of serious injury or death makes this list any day:
No 2 teams dominated the NBA in the mid-1980's like the Lakers and the Celtics. They were the 2 teams in the NBA. They met in the NBA finals in 1984, 1985 and 1987. And each team had their own franchise superstar, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird - the two players of the 1980's. Their personal rivalry actually dates back to 1979 when Magic and Bird met in the NCAA finals.
Why This is/was a Great Rivalry
Not so much a great rivalry anymore, as the Celtics have not been much more than lame ducks since Bird retired in the early 90's. But in the 80's if you wanted a marquee game, you wanted Lakers-Celtics. And if you wanted a marquee battle, you wanted Bird-Magic:
It's generally accepted that these two players saved professional basketball in the early 80's. They came along and injected life back into a dying sport. The rivalry between these two players and these two teams created excitement where there was none before.
Part religious, part regional, part national, part irrational - whatever the reasons may be, the final outcome is always the same - Turks and Greeks just straight up hate each other. I'm sure there are hundreds of historical reasons why they can't stand each other, but I'm too lazy to research them all (I need an assistant) - so it's enough for our purposes here just to say they hate each other. Perhaps that's being a little too general, not every Turk hates every Greek and vice versa, but by in large, this hating on one another seems to be true. And when you add soccer to this mix it's like gas on a fire.
Why This is a Great Rivalry
As in the case of Rangers and Celtic, it always makes for a great rivalry when opposing fans and players not only dislike one another but absolutely loathe each other. And when national pride, determined on a soccer pitch, is on the line everything gets ratched up another notch or two. Watch this clip and then see if you think the Turkish players who have the bottles, sticks and fireworks thrown at them think this rivalry is pretty intense:
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I have officially hit rock bottom.
It appears that I have come up with a case of writers block. The sort of block that drives a man to brutally murder his family, the sort of man as portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the great thriller “Something’s Gotta Give”. Damn that Amanda Peet is a fine piece of work.
Anyways I digress. My editor in chief and I agreed that this week I would write about obscure tough-guys and goons from the NHL and WHA. The sort of tough-guy and goon whose cocaine-fuelled antics on and off the ice gave them cult status amongst the hockiests. However, that kind of piece takes hard work, research, ethics, time, money, and an ability to write a truthful piece. All of which I sorely lack. To make up for all my shortcomings I will be providing you with many youtube links to clips of some tough-guys you may or may not have heard of before. As well I will provide my usual rant about each clip and player, most of which will be completely fabricated.
1. Steve Durbano – This real life Ogie Oglethorpe was one suspension away from being barred from the WHA, Durbano decided to flee the sinking WHA and jump to the NHL. The provided clip is explanation enough for this clown. I wonder how much peyote he had before taking the ice on this occasion. Apparently he mooned the crowd after being ejected. Now that’s an exit!
(Editor's Note: Here are a couple links to obituary's for Durbano - from the Toronto Sun and from StLouisBlues.com. His is an interesting story. He is very fondly remembered for such a notorious hooligan.)
2. Nick Fotiu – Born on Staten Island, Fotiu honed his craft with the time that I am sure he spent on Rikers Island.
3. Behn Wilson – Probably the highest drafted tough guy in NHL history (6th overall 1978) In this clip he fights Dave “The Hammer” Shultz of the Penguins. Those were some sweet, sweet jerseys.
4. Link Gaetz – “The Missing Link” no doubt honed his fighting skills on the schoolyard during recess. With a name like “Link” you have to be a tough sonuvabitch.
5. Willie Plett – Not a household name when it comes to being a tough guy but he does hold in my eyes the notoriety for being the proud owner of the greatest cheap shot in NHL history.
6. Jimmy Mann – No I take it back…this is the greatest cheap shot in NHL history. How come we have never heard of this before? This is right up there with the Bertuzzi and Simon incidents as well as the very unfortunate Denny Pratt tragedy.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Here they are again, back despite lack of popular or any other kind of demand...
I can't believe this series went 6 games. If not for the otherworldly goal tending Calgary got from Miikka Kiprusoff, Detroit would have wrapped it up in 2 games - and that's not even possible. Calgary was nearly doubled in total shots for the series - 255 to 129, that's an average of 42.5 shots per game people. I don't care who you are (or think you are), you're never going to beat anyone giving up an average of 42.5 shots per game.
I would expect a big shake-up in the off season and it's probably going to start behind the bench. Rookie head coach Jim Playfair looked totally lost at times during the playoffs and absolutely lost control of his bench at the end of Game 5.
As a fan it's tough to swallow that a team with so much talent and potential underachieved so badly. Now I guess I know how Ottawa fans feel.
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and make a prediction (and we all know how those turn out) - expect a Jarome Iginla trade, either at the draft or later this summer.
Friday, April 20, 2007
(See post below for explanation)
Ok, quick...locate the puck. It's the round, black thing that's crossing goal line in the bottom left corner of the picture.
Found it? Good. Now as a rational human being, possessing, we're assuming some common sense, and having a cursory knowledge of motion and kinetic energy, do you think there is any way this puck DID NOT cross the goal line?
Well this may come as a shock but the NHL disagrees whole-heartedly with you.
Late in Game 6 of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Finals with the game tied, Martin Gerlinas "scored" this goal to put the Calgary Flames ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (You will never, ever convince me that this was not a goal. Never.) However, with the NHL ruling this no goal (I'm not even sure if this was reviewed or not, I think I passed out - or I've blocked it out from my memory - someone will have to fill us in on that) Tampa won the game in overtime and then won Game 7, giving them the Stanley Cup.
As a Calgary fan it's very hard for me to talk about this without flying off the handle, so I'm going to keep this short.
Calgary won the Stanley Cup that night.
That puck was in.
(See post below for explanation)
Let me set the stage for you, it's the 1998-99 NHL playoffs and every goal that's scored is being reviewed by a team of CSI experts to see if anyone was in the goaltender's crease. These were the days when the lace of your skate couldn't even graze the outside of the crease or a goal was disallowed. You could be on the other side of the net from where the goal was scored, nowhere near the goalie, with a fraction of your toe in blue and the goal wouldn't stand. The rule was, if you were in the crease and the puck wasn't, you were guilty and you feel shame.
Now look at the above photo and tell me how the goal that Brett Hull scored a split second after the photo was taken was legal. He was in the crease and the puck wasn't. No goal, right? Wrong.
In triple overtime of game six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals Brett Hull scored this goal giving the Dallas Stars the Stanley Cup. He's the one in green, with his foot and half his body in the crease.
The official explanation from the NHL was,
"A puck that rebounds off the goalie, the goal post or an opposing player is not deemed to be a change of possession, and therefore Hull would be deemed to be in possession or control of the puck, allowed to shoot and score a goal even though the one foot would be in the crease in advance of the puck." (from http://proicehockey.about.com/od/history/f/no_goal.htm)
Because Hull got his own rebound, the explanation says that's it's as if he never lost the puck.
At the very best it was a terrible rule that has now thankfully been abolished. At the very worst it was a pretty sad way to win and lose a championship.
...I was wrong. I think I'm man enough to admit it.
My Vancouver/Pittsburgh Stanley Cup prediction went down in flames last night, along with Crosby and the rest of the Pens. This prediction was based on the fact that recently we've seen one Canadian team and one struggling American team in the Finals. This seemed like the logical match-up.
In all seriousness, I'm shocked that the NHL allowed the Pens to go out in the first round. The face of the league is done and I would bet American viewership just dropped 20%, maybe more. In business terms and ratings-wise this is terrible for the league.
Plus now the media won't have much to talk about as their two major story lines died last night as well. How far could Crosby take the Pens in the playoffs? And how bad would Ottawa choke? Maybe they'll have to be creative and find new stories to beat to death now.
And if you think I'm just a sad conspiracy-theorist, you may be right, but there is now video evidence proving one major sports conspiracy - and it is related to the NHL, in an indirect sort of way. It's about the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery and how commissioner David Stern rigged the lottery so that the biggest name in college that year, Patrick Ewing, would end up playing for the team in the league's premier sports market, the New York Knicks. Here's the video:
For a detailed description of what happens here, read the first few paragraphs of Bill Simmons' blog, he can explain it much better than I and he has been on this case for many years. Suffice it to say that one of the sealed envelopes gets 'marked' with a crease and then Stern bottom deals that envelope to himself when selecting the envelope for the first pick. If you know what you're looking for in the clip it's actually really obvious.
Now how does this relate to the NHL you might ask yourself, well sit back Chappy and I'll tell you. From 1981 to 1993, do you know who was chief legal counsel to the NBA and David Stern's right hand man and protege? That's right, it was now-NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
David Stern is a notorious control-freak and micro manager, who would do anything - even making sure a marquee player ended up on a marquee team through a little bend of the rules - to ensure the health and prosperity of his league.
If you think some of this mentality didn't trickle down to Bettman you're crazy.
Now I'm not saying that the playoffs are rigged every year or that winners are predetermined. But sometimes I think things are tweaked one way or another in a teams favour. I am going to post two photos proving this I think (but since Blogger is apparently really limited in it's function, photos can only go at the beginning of posts - so check the post above this one for the photos and their description).
And when you look at the photos, consider what teams the outcomes favour - Dallas and Tampa Bay - two teams in non-traditional hockey markets struggling to gain and keep a paying fan base. And consider what teams these photos hurt - Calgary and Buffalo - two traditional hockey markets, who have large and loyal fan bases.
Coincidence, possibly (probably). But it's still something to think about anyway.
We'll call it the Stern-Bettman Competitive Advantage.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Talking about the Maple Leafs failure to make the playoffs again...
How about the Blue Jay suddenly turning into an infirmary ward...
The real trouble in Toronto today is with the Raptors.
Now I know what you're going to say, 'Didn't they go 47-35, make the playoffs, win their division, and secure home court advantage?" Well, yes they did. But my response to that would be, "Have you seen who they're playing in the first round of the playoffs?"
The answer to that is: Vince Carter and The New Jersey Nets.
I'm not sure there could have been a worse scenario for the Raptors. They finally get back to the playoffs, win the division and they have to face the guy who openly quit on them until he forced a trade. And since Vince Carter left Toronto for New Jersey he has basically been a Raptor killer. This year against the Raptors he averaged 21.5 points, 7 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
People in Toronto might be saying that they want to play Carter, that they want to beat him in the playoffs and exorcise their demons once and for all. They might say that on the outside, but I bet on the inside they're scared, maybe even terrified that Carter and his suddenly healthy and suddenly surging Nets are going to come in and end the Raptors great run this year.
And since this year was such a surprise, Raptor fans would probably be willing to accept a first round loss. However, that would all be based on Vince Carter not being the person they lose to. A first round loss to Carter and the Nets would bring back all of those old, terrible memories again.
Don't get me wrong, I hope the Raptors beat Carter and the Nets like a gong. But with the Raptors lack of playoff experience and the Nets suddenly being hot, this is going to be a tough, tough series for the Raptors to get through. Not that it's going to be a cakewalk for the Nets either. The Raptors aren't pushovers and didn't win the division on a fluke.
I want to say this is like Anakin coming back to face Obi-wan but it's not really like that at all. It's more like...well it's like something, but I just can't think of what.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
In which Cooper opens by crushing me in print...
Welcome to week 4 of Cooper’s Corner, or the 4th edition of Cooper’s Corner, whatever you prefer. I have say I am still not fond of the whole "Cooper’s Corner" title. No offence to my editor in chief but I do think it is time for a change. Seeing that it is 0800 hrs and I have yet to have my morning coffee or my LSD-laced energy drink, I am leaving it up to you the commoners to send in your suggestions for a new moniker for this proverbial train-wreck. (Editor's Note: Contrary to what is apparently popular belief, I'm not a huge fan of the name Cooper's Corner either. The name came from my desire to have an alliterative title, similar to Piper's Pit. However, it was pointed out to me last week that Cooper's Corner bears a striking resemblance to Coach's Corner which, I swear to you, I didn't even realize. So it's settled then - an open referendum will be held to determine the new name for Cooper's Corner. Comments, emails, phone calls, loud shouts, and smoke signals are all appropriate means of voicing your opinion.)
Anyway to the topic at hand……Harry Neale.
Hockey Night in Canada’s Bob Cole and Harry Neale are without a doubt the greatest broadcast duo in hockey history, and I am sure they have a place in the upper echelon of sports broadcasters in general. Up in the ranks with the likes of Frank Gifford, Howard Cossell and Don Meredith, Marv Albert and even the great Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts. Wow that doesn’t seem right when you see it on paper but they were pretty damn good although Jackson did carry Fouts a long, long way.
There are some people out there that would have you believe that Harry Neale is slipping, his colour commentating not as sharp and as relevant as it once was. However, I disagree and I have the evidence, in video format. And let me tell you the evidence is quite clear that Harry Neale has done nothing but improve in his broadcast skills over the past 35 years. Also his choice of wardrobe has drastically improved.
Even if you don’t like the guy you got to at least admit he still dresses to the nines.
Exhibit A: Harry Neale in 1973 interviewing players from the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, a team that Harry also was the head coach of.
His interview and on camera skills in this clip are just deplorable. And his suit that day, looks like Ronald McDonald threw up on some fabric. I also love the choices for filming locations. I am pretty sure for two of the interviews they are in a doctor’s office. Oh and check out the future CBC and sportsnet personality the he interviews first. Nice bowtie loser!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siaFbm6WvvM
Exhibit B: This next video clip doesn’t really show how bad Harry Neale’s broadcast skills used to be but more of how bad his coaching ability was.
It is of Harry giving a pre-game speech to the Saints before the take the ice against the Winnipeg Jets. I like how when Harry drops the S-Bomb they censor it with an arena horn to make it seem like a coincidence. Check out the sweet ass clear plexi-glass boards they had at the old St. Paul Civic Center. Also I have to nominate those Saints jerseys as one of the best jerseys ever. I love that logo.
Exibit C: Harry loses his mind…
...and eventually his job which ended him up working with Bob Cole in this clip. Not too sure which one Harry is but I do know that he went all Neil Diamond on some Frenchy’s ass and smacked them in the mouth.
Exibit D: Bob Cole and Harry Neale are calling a game between the Oilers and Jets in 1989.
Just listen to the comment that Harry makes about Kelly Buchberger, his hand and a car wash. Enough said.
So as you can clearly see for yourself Harry Neale has done nothing but improve in his broadcast abilities over the years. Sure he may be slipping back a little bit, but that’s the Alzheimer’s or the dementia that all elderly people slowly but surely develop over time. So don’t go blaming him when he starts spouting off and foaming at the mouth about the trap. Just remember he is old, and that’s what old people do.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I know, I know, I just put up headlines on Thursday but Headlines are going to be featured on Mondays from now on, recapping the week that was in sports. So in an effort to get everything on schedule, here are your Headlines:
A side note: I have no desire to engage in a personal assault against Mr. Vanstone. I don't know him and have never met him. He may very well be a great guy. I have only exchanged emails with him on one occasion - but that's another story for another day. The issue I have is that I believe people deserve choice and quality sports-talk. I don't think we're getting either of those things from our local mainstream media. Sports As Life is an attempt to provide those things.
Now what you may not know is that Evraz is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who also owns Chelsea FC of the English Premier League (this is soccer people). Four (I think) years ago Abramovich purchased Chelsea and then proceeded to spend 100's of millions of dollars on the best soccer players money could buy. The results? Chelsea became an instant contender and has won the past two EPL titles, blowing everyone out of the water. Now to sports people, this is what we call buying a championship.
- Ok NHL enough is enough already. We get it, you're serious this time about cracking down on obstruction (and everything else seemingly). The endless parade to the penalty box has to stop. Powerplay after powerplay does not make for exciting hockey. If you think it does you don't know anything about hockey.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Here are some headlines we would have liked to have seen this morning after the first night of the NHL playoffs:
- Ok, so maybe that's a little wordy for a headline but it sums things up fairly well I thought. Nobody gets more media attention than Crosby (whether he wants it or not, and whether we want to hear about it or not) but this is all getting to the point where people are starting to turn against the kid just because they're sick of hearing about him and seeing his face everywhere. Enough already! Everyone knows he's a great talent, just let us enjoy watching hockey and just let him play hockey.
- I understand the need to promote the superstars of the game, but this is getting ridiculous. It's gotten to the point where I just mute the TV and listen to my iPod while watching games on TV. Can't we just say enough is enough already? Bob Cole is without a doubt the best voice in hockey history. Well at least that my generation has heard, having never had the chance to listen to Foster Hewitt, except in this clip.
(It's 10 minutes long, so to just get the good stuff, let the clip load and then skip ahead to about the 6 minute mark. I love that the Canadian bench basically emptied - including Canadian goalie Ken Dryden coming all the way down the ice to celebrate - when Henderson scored, even though there was still about 50 seconds left in the game. I also love the guy on the Canadian bench, I think it's Harry Sinden, giving the F-you to the Russian crowd. It still gives me chills and it was 8 years before I was born)
But it's time for Bob to step aside. Never mind the fact that Bob openly cheers for the Toronto Maple Leafs while broadcasting their games on our publicly-funded CBC, because he is certainly not the only person on that network guilty of biased commentating. But last year's Stanley Cup Finals, where he didn't know more than half of Edmonton's roster and couldn't pronounce their names should have been his swan song. The people outside of Toronto who watch hockey on CBC deserve better than this. The heir apparent, Jim Hughson, is waiting in the wings and is ready to take over the main broadcast. Surely Bob Cole must be almost 80, I think it's time to pass the torch.
(Ok, I just looked Cole up on Wikipedia. I said he was almost 80 for dramatic effect but holy crap, he's 74. Also, I didn't know that he skipped the Newfoundland teams at the 1971 and 1975 Briers.)
- This is really what every real hockey ran feared isn't it, that the refereeing would be radically inconsistent in the playoffs? About a month or so ago the whistles went away, so to speak, and we saw games being called as we normally see playoff games called - very few penalties and letting the players play. But last night we saw that the NHL has obviously mandated that penalties be called by early-season standards. In the 4 games played last night there were 63, yes SIXTY-THREE penalties called. 22 in the Ottawa/Pittsburgh game, 17 in the Nashville/San Jose game, 15 in the Vancouver/Dallas game and 9 in the Anaheim/Minnesota game. The only total that seems reasonable to me is the 9 from the Anaheim/Minnesota game. All we can do is hope this trend doesn't continue. Nobody wants to see an endless parade to the penalty box or games and series being decided by power plays called on a referee's whim. Just let them play.
-In, what can only be described as a horribly misguided attempt to make the game seem cooler and more hip, NHL.com has given us "celebrity" blogs for the playoffs. And trust me, they are using the term celebrity in the absolute loosest sense of the word - as I'm not entirely certain that the bass player from Nickleback constitutes a celebrity, or how about professional wrestler Edge. Honestly, I can't say any more about this... they're just making it too easy, it's not even fun anymore. Oh, I should mention too that rapper Lil' Jon, who was famous for about 17 seconds 3 years ago, has a blog on there as well.
But here are the links so you can make up your own jokes about the NHL:
You have no idea how happy it makes me to have some comments which I am able to respond to. If you're reading this and haven't viewed some of the comments left on this page, do yourself a favour and check them out (just click on Comments, underneath each entry). We have had some great ones, ranging from a vicious cricket/British Commonwealth debate spanning two continents, to a comparison of Nate Davis to Rita McNeil. So keep your comments, questions, complaints and insights coming - all feedback is appreciated.
But we've got a couple in the last few days that I thought warranted response:
"Though it's not a sports related observation something in your Robservation Piece could have included the Daily Show's new set...very nice. Also, I watched the dog show which was mildly entertaining especially when a Mr Muggles look-a-like went in attack mode on judge #3..... in case you don't know who Mr. Muggles is here's a clip,
If anyone actually watches this can you post what song is playing during the clip, it's starting to bother me ... "
First of all, the answer to the question is the song from the clip is the theme song from Who's The Boss. I won't lie to you though...I have no idea what that song has to do with the clip. Perhaps it's meant to show that in his own Danza-like way, Mr. Muggles is the The Boss.
Secondly, I wanted to respond to let people know that watching a dog show is not the lowest form of sports broadcasting. This past Saturday I awoke early in the morning to find there was a cat show being broadcast on the Game Show Network. Not only that but the cat show was called The Cat-Minster Cat Show, putting itself in direct competition with the Westminster Dog Show I assume (I assure you, I'm not making this up - see for yourself). I stopped watching the broadcast around the same time as one of the contestants proudly showed the viewing audience that she had a separate, full-size kitchen in her home just for cat food preparation. At this point can anybody really blame the terrorists for hating the Western World?
So next time you find yourself with nothing to watch on TSN but a dog show, just be thankful you're not watching the Game Show Network.
"In the spirit of Robservations (man I hate that guy) I would like to make a few comments on the playoffs, or more importantly TV coverage of the playoffs.
- Has anyone noticed the "pixie dust" sound effect on CBC that accompanies every transition between replay and live coverage. Turn up the sound if you haven't. I cringe every time. First time I noticed was with the sound turned up watching the Flames/Oilers game a month back, right after the Smyth debacle.
- Did anyone else have an epileptic seizure during the Sens game last night? Every time it looked like there may be a hit, goal, or save there was a 1200 kilowatt camera flash which took over the television screen. Is this common, and my eyes are suddenly picking up more frames per second than before? If it is truly an Ottawa thing, I revoke my Eastern favourite pick for the Cup.
- During that hilarious, yet tragic play of events during the islanders/devils game on Sunday, did anyone else enjoy the TSN commentating on Dubielewicz during the shootout. Who knew having a Yoda picture on your mask would turn your goal stick into a "lightsaber", as mentioned multiple times by the commentators. The combination of Mitch's passions must have been too much to handle. "
Confession time, due to familial-dinner commitments I was only able to watch part of the first period of the Ottawa-Pittsburgh game last night. Add to that the fact that I can no longer listen to Bob Cole announce a hockey game (more on this today hopefully), meaning that the TV was muted for the few minutes I was able to watch. So this all adds up to me not noticing either of Chris' first two points, but my radar will definitely be up for them in the future. And I urge all readers to do the same and write in with your comments.
I did however see the Islander/Devil game on Sunday that Chris talked about. And while I didn't see the TSN studio crew talking about Dubielewicz's mask, I did enjoy the commentators of the game. TSN got the feed from MSN, who is a New York sports broadcaster, so the commentators were unabashedly rooting for the Islanders. So when the Devils scored with 1 second left to tie the game the two guys calling the game started shouting like another plane had crashed into New York City - they were wailing like cats in heat. It was highly entertaining.
So that's all but keep the comments coming.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Due to inclement weather and serious travel delays, Cooper's Corner was unavailable yesterday. Apologies to everyone who relies on it to get you through Tuesday. But here it is:
To you I say good-day, or good evening.
Depending on what time it is on your metric clock as you read this week's entry, please pick the appropriate greeting that applies to you. In this week's entry I will not be rambling on aimlessly on one particular topic, or regaling you with tall tales of past hockey glories. No I am doing what all good writers do when they find themselves in a bind and are late for their deadline, write a short piece, with multiple short quips on a variety of topics, what is known in the business as a “Robservation Piece”. So named after the very hack who oh so often enthrals us almost on a daily basis with his complaints on sports and his waning libido.
However I am not the sort to suckle on the teat of a local green clad group of ruffians and criminals.
Nor am I the sort to bitch and moan about how I am not able to access a certain 4-letter sports channel on my black and white at home.
Instead I will give you nothing but pure muck that is fit to rake, nothing but the pure gold I see in the media fit to mention. And without further ado, my first ever “Robservation Piece”. Enjoy!
- On a recent episode of “Off the Record” with that proverbial douche bag Michael Landsberg, former NHL’er and now agent to Ryan Miller, Mike Liut exposed himself as a lying SOB. When asked when the last time he had heard Brass Bonanza was, Liut promptly said that he has never heard it before. How is it that someone who played for the Whalers in the 80’s, the heyday of Brass Bonanza has not heard the song before? LIAR! I have promptly burned all my Mike Liut cards and memorabilia and I urge you to do the same.
- There is a new video circulating the net made famous by sports talk radio personality Steve Czaban of what is possibly the worst golf swing in history. Luke and I have both studied the film and have come to the conclusion that the guy in said video has no bones in his arms. Just some sausage casings filled with rancid mechanical meat. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAelgNV_ivE. I also encourage you to read the frame by frame analysis at http://www.czabe.com/ (Editor's Note: As Cooper routinely skips story meetings he was unaware that this clip and story were included in this week's Master's wrap-up. However, because the swing is so absolutely ridiculous, we here at Sports As Life have decided to include it again.)
- Did anyone happen to see the Dog Show on TSN last week? I mean seriously did anybody catch that? Maybe Rob Vanstone has a valid point. No on second thought he does not….he is still a douche.
- Has anybody else noticed that the term “douche bag” has been going around quite a bit? When did that become so popular? Not that I am complaining, I use the word more than anybody. It just seems to me that more and more people are using it these days.
- This just in, Steve Czaban is calling for a media blackout of the nickname “Pacman” and just calling the now suspended Tennessee Titans defensive back by his birth name, Adam Jones. I for one applaud this move. Somewhere in the distance I hear the unforgettable noise of Pacman dying. You know the one.
- The playoffs are about to start in a few hours and I for one am pumped. I was very disappointed however in Maggie the Monkey’s picks this year. Another reason why TSN is nothing but a joke and a bad one at that.
- I for one am fed up with Pierre Maguire’s constant ass kissing of Sidney Crosby. Am I the only one to notice this? If so I will shut-up but I swear that Maguire is shoulders deep into Crosby. Always with the praise and sticking up for the guy. Maybe that is what made me vomit in Moose Jaw.
- Don Cherry will be making cameo appearances on NBC’s coverage of the playoffs this year. If the American public has a problem with a radio personality using the term “nappy-haired hos” then I can only imagine the outrage Cherry will bring to the American public after one of his long rants on how Europeans and the French are douche bags. See there it is again. Always with the douche bag placement.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Isn't it interesting that even when he doesn't win, he's still all anyone can talk about.
The prevailing opinion the day after the Master's is that Tiger lost the tournament, rather than the fact that Zack Johnson won the tournament. I won't lie to you... I don't understand this point of view. To me it's hard to believe that someone else won the Master's only because Tiger Woods wasn't at the top of his game. This argument gets even thinner when you realize we're talking about someone (Tiger) who led the tournament for one hole (between his birdie on 2 and bogey on 3 on Sunday) - and this was never an outright lead.
Now let me make this very clear, this is not a simple anti-Tiger Woods diatribe. I fully agree that Tiger Woods is indisputably the best golfer in the World right now and is easily one of the best ever. But my point is this: Shouldn't he be?
It never fails to amaze me that people are surprised and excited when Tiger is leading or in contention on the final day of a Major, or any tournament for that matter. This is a man who was bred and brought up for no other purpose than to be a professional golfer. I never met Earl Woods or spoke to him or even researched him (admittedly), but I'm not real confident that his son Tiger had too many career paths open to him other than golf. There is no doubt I could be totally wrong about this. But it just seems to me that someone who is on TV when he's 2 golfing with Bob Hope pretty much has his future mapped out for him.
So that's what I just don't understand about this whole situation, I fully expect Tiger to win every major and every tournament he enters - that is what he is supposed to do. I always consider it a big deal when Tiger doesn't win something he enters.
This is precisely the reason I don't like Tiger Woods.
I can admit it, I don't like Tiger Woods. It is not because I think he is over-hyped or I doubt his ability. Far from it.
It comes from the fact that I don't enjoy cheering for someone who is always expected to win and almost always does. It's like cheering for the dealer in blackjack (from Bill Simmons). Do the people who follow Tiger around the course on Sunday also cheer for the Yankees to win the World Series every year or the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl? Did they cheer for the Montreal Canadiens of the 60's and 70's? Or the Babe Ruth-era Red Sox? Or the Pittsburgh Steelers of the late 70's? Besides the people in those respective cities, I can't imagine too many people found those dynasties very exciting and I would imagine most people were quite happy when those teams lost.
Which is why I don't understand why Tiger has the fan base he does. Sure he can do things on a golf course nobody else can do, but don't people get sick of the same person winning all the time. All of the media coverage I understand, because golf isn't exactly the most...exciting...game at the best of times and you've got to showcase the superstars the game has. It's the fan base I don't understand.
Especially in light of the way Tiger carried himself on Sunday at Augusta. For the better part of the day Tiger sulked his way around the course pouting like a petulant child. All of this coming to a climax on 17, where he needed to finish birdie-birdie to tie Zack Johnson for the lead. Tiger's towering second shot into the green at 17 was looking good...looking good...and then it landed, well short of the green, in the bunker. At which point Tiger shouted out "I thought it was downwind?!" In some media outlets today Tiger Woods-apologists were saying that he was cursing the winds and heavens for not bringing helping-gusts to his aide. However, watching Tiger's demeanor during that final round, there is no doubt in my mind that Tiger was shouting at his caddy, Steve Williams, for giving him supposedly bad advice, even though the shot was clearly downwind.
So even though CBS's Sunday Master's coverage sounded something like this, "...blah blah blah Tiger Woods...blah Tiger...blah blah Tiger Woods... blah blah... Tiger..." I enjoyed it for two reasons, a seemingly nice, decent human being won and Tiger's armour cracked just a little and we were able to see his true colours for just a little bit.
As a postscript to all this, everyone should read this article about his thoughts on the Master's by Steve Czaban. Also check this out, only because you though your golf swing was terrible. (scroll down to the entry from April 6th, A Swing Sequence Unlike Any Other).
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
...what a shock.
So if you happened to see the front page of today's Globe and Mail, you saw the controversy over the Toronto Blue Jay's new commercial, which features new designated hitter Frank Thomas getting in a pillow fight with two kids. You can view the ad here:
I think it's a decent commercial, not fantastic but probably better than most. However, the agency that governs broadcasting on private television stations thinks otherwise. Apparently this commercial violates their stringent standards on real-life depictions of pillow fighting. (Actually according to the Television Bureau of Canada, the commercial wouldn't be aired until the kid getting knocked off the bed and the thud sound was taken out.)
According to the TBC's website, "it is imperative to keep the best interests of young children and youth in mind when producing commercials. Because children and youth are very impressionable, commercials should not contain any visual or audio portrayals which are detrimental to their well-being." (Quote taken from globesports.com, you can actually read the Globe's story here.)
Ok, my first problem is HOW IS THIS FRONT PAGE NEWS IN A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER!! Surely there are more important things going on in Canada and the world than this, and there are.
But my real problem with this whole situation is that this is the STUPIDEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD OF!! Are we as a society so terrified of any and every one's delicate sensibilities being offended that we can't even run commercials depicting children being knocked off beds onto floors during pillow fights? (And based on the evidence in the commercial, the kid is obviously uninjured and pain-free. Now if he had come up screaming and holding his shattered arm or a bloody stump it might be a different story.)
There is no doubt in my mind that being knocked off the bed a couple times would do kids some good. But if people are going to start abusing their kids because of this commercial, they they're too stupid to be alive let alone procreate and they should have their children taken away just on general principle, never mind because of child abuse.
Now I'm all for protecting kids from child-molesters, on-coming traffic and Rosie O'Donnell but kids falling off things, getting scraped up and getting hit in the chest with pillows swung by former AL home run champs is what being a kid is all about. I have no desire to get into a huge sociological debate on the sports page, but kids are coddled way too much...and that commercial is kinda funny and original, and original advertising is hard to find.
But it's not just the protecting of kids that's the problem, we're just entirely too sensitive about everything now...
Like this, can someone please tell me why this needed to be censored:
The TBC said that this commercial could not be shown on private broadcasts (basically everything but CBC) with out a 'Dramatization' being added to the bottom.
Now this is even more ridiculous than the Frank Thomas situation. Who on the face of the Earth is stupid enough to think this is an appropriate way to deal with trash? Would anyone, anywhere think that this was real if 'Dramatization' had not appeared on the bottom of their television screen, telling them they shouldn't throw their garbage at the trash collector?
The sad answer is probably yes.
But why is everything, everywhere catered to people of this ilk? Should we not be trying to raise the level of discourse in this country and not always catering and worrying about the lowest common denominator? It's pretty obvious we're terrified that someone, somewhere might get offended by a kid getting knocked off a bed or that some cement-head might try to throw his trash like a cut-fastball.
This is all just so stupid.
I'm still outraged.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Back by popular demand...
"Sadly, photographs do not exist, only apocryphal tales told by former hockey men who are, as you know, unreliable due to their zombie-like stupidity and puck-fever."
- John Hodgman
Last week I told you all about the vast, yet seedy world of professional cricket, this week I will tell you all about my first ever experience at the Saskatchewan EMS Hockey "Invitational" Tournament. I use the word "Invitational" because, I was, as you may be surprised to know, invited to play.
First off I would like to send many thanks to the fine people at Moose Jaw and District EMS for allowing me to wear the fine colours of the Moose Jaw and District EMS Warriors. Also congrats for putting on such a fine event.
Now with all the formalities out of the way I will give a recap of the 3 days that were. The only proper way to read this entry is to have the following music play in the background, which is available on youtube.com. The link has been provided. Please open this link and then begin reading as the music commences. This is the only way to really appreciate and understand how the tournament went. I thank my literary and sports-talk celeb idol Steve Czaban for the idea of adding this catchy tune. Enjoy. (Editor's Note: Right click on the link and select Open in New Window to enjoy both the blog and the corresponding music at the same time).
Day One: -Check in to the Heritage Inn, go straight to the hospitality room where I meet with some ruffians from Moose Jaw and North Battleford. A drinking game called "Moose" which involves an ice-tray and a quarter ensues; Kelly and me start pounding back doubles. Never a good choice. Go to Champs downtown…….time passes…..attempt to play pool……more time passes……?????
Day Two: -Awake at 7:30 for an 8 am game vs Prince Albert….my face is covered in a gooey substance, so is the carpet, and the bathroom floor and shower curtain, sincere apologies to the staff at the Heritage Inn.
-Stop at McD’s and get some McGriddles before going to the crushed can…..so syrupy and good. Gooey substance violently re-appears.
-I am informed that I got us thrown out of Casino Moose Jaw a few hours earlier….of this I have no memory of, so therefore it never happened!
-I am also informed that I blew any chance that Kelly and I had of scoring with these two chicks we were chatting up at Champs after I tried to seal the deal by proclaiming that we were both happily married with kids. I am sure that they were, as Johnny Upton would say in Slapshot, "F*&king Horrible Looking".
-Game time! I am supposed to play defence but a scheduling conflict has me dress for goal. I can barely stand let alone skate. I think I made 4 saves on 7 shots….still pretty hazy. Real goalie shows up….I get redressed. As a defenseman I score 2 goals…. on own goal. Pathetic! Think I broke my ribs. I get a penalty shot…no need to mention anymore. We lose 11-3? Or 10-5?
Not too sure on the final score, or how I got to the game.
-Game 2 vs Battleford. I am sobered up, but I think I am bleeding inside my chest! Play centre and score the first two goals of the game…on the opposing net this time. Goaltender from Battleford crosschecks me in the back of the head. F*$k You Toovey!! We come up on the losing end 7-5.
-Many people end up in the drunk tank after this night…thankfully I am not one of them. I go back home to my loving wife and abusive son to recover.
Day Three: -Game vs Saskatoon. I am scheduled to play goal for both games today but I am terrible. We lost 8-7. I am terribly disappointed in Skilliter. I honestly thought he would man up and try and fight me or try and drive me through the back of the net during the shootout. I assume he left his "stones" at home. However I hear he picked up a dynamite blond the night before. Kudos to you!
-Game vs. Moose Jaw team #2. We are relegated to play in the "D" side final. Moose Jaw #1 vs. Moose Jaw #2. We win 11-7. D Side Champs Biotch!
-Later that evening the banquet takes place. I gorge myself half to death on roast beef and an orgy of food. I come away without winning jack squat…. no door prize, no game MVP’s, no 50/50, NOTHING!!!
Yes, yes, yes I know, it's been awhile. But unfortunately until someone pays me to do this full-time (anyone interested?), the sports writing sometimes takes a backseat.
But now I'm back and ready to get back at it with a vengeance. And how could I not be back and excited with all that has happened and is going to happen. The last week or so and the upcoming weeks were and are one of the most exciting and most anticipated times of the year sports wise. It's like Arby's 5 for 5 deal and a Christmas in July furniture sale all rolled up in to one. So let's start at the start...
THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED
...Raptors win! Raptors win! Raptors win! Last Sunday the Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2001. It is really hard to believe it's been that long. In addition to being a nice achievement for the franchise, it is so nice to a young, good-natured, hard-working group of players being able to get to the playoffs. Plus they've continued winning despite losing Andrea Bargnani (hands down the Rookie of the Year and player I would most likely make a fool of myself in front of if I was to meet) to an appendectomy and Jorge Garbajosa (Garbo, as the kids call him) to a Theismann-esque broken leg/ankle. They are going to be a fun team to root for in the playoffs. I have them winning one series, they might make the second series close, but they're definitely winning one.
...Baseball been bery bery good to me. Yup, can't you just feel it in the air or something equally sappy like that. No matter what metaphor/analogy for baseball you use (spring/renewal/rebirth, father/son relationships) yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball, and I won't lie to you, I'm excited. I realize that baseball and excitement aren't usually found in the same sentence unless it's something along the lines of, "Wow, I can't believe how little excitement there is in a baseball game," but what can I say, I enjoy the game. Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays managed to beat the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers in extra innings. I'm interested to see if the Blue Jays can contend with the Yankees and the Red Sox in the AL East, especially since they really only have one proven and reliable pitcher. I will say this though, Frank Thomas is going to be the worst big man signing in Toronto since Hakeem Olajuwon. I don't think this is going to turn out well.
...The Final Two. NCAA March Madness came to an end last night with the Florida Gators repeating as national champions (this is pretty much unheard of now, as it hasn't happened in 15 years). The Gators defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, in what could at best be described as a yawner of a game. About the only thing interesting about the game was watching Florida's transsexual forward Joakim Noah (no not realy, but come on, that's funny) play against OSU's man-child center Greg Oden (look at that picture and tell me with a straight face that he's 19 - I think he's pushing 40). One other interesting thing about the result was that Florida beat OSU in the BCS Championship (college football's championship game) only about 3 months ago.
...Curling. Yes, I'm going to write about curling. The women's World Championship recently ended and was won (dominated) by Kelly Scott of Canada. And as we speak (well as I type and you read) the men's World Championship is taking place in Edmonton and is being dominated by Canada's Glen Howard. Now normally I would have something clever/sarcastic to say about this...but I'm afraid I might get myself into trouble.
...Only interesting to people in the Regina area. The Regina Pats won their first playoff series since 1999 on Sunday night. It is almost impossible to believe that it has been 8 years since the Pats advanced past the first round... And that's really all I have to say about that. I probably should be more supportive than I am but I just can't get into junior hockey anymore. But still, good for them though.
THINGS THAT HAVE NOT YET COME TO PASS
...First of all, the NHL playoffs are only about a week or so away. I'm not going to say a lot about this now because once the playoffs start they are going to consume this space until about mid-July. The only thing I'll say about them now is that I hope the final Eastern Conference playoff spot comes down to Toronto vs. Montreal on the final Saturday of the season. I have no real vested interest in that game but if it meant the final playoff spot it could potentially be a game for the ages.
...The Masters. If I'm going to talk about curling, then golf should be a huge step up - especially The Masters. Even though I play golf I generally find watching it on TV to be slow and uninteresting. But The Masters tends to be a whole other story, it's just one of those things. The setting, the pressure, the tradition, the total lack of women admitted into the golf club - it all somehow makes you forget that you're watching other people play golf. So come this Sunday I'll be glued to the Masters. And just for the record, I think Augusta National's policy about the non-admittance of women is ridiculous, but what do you expect, the club is run by a guy named Hootie - he probably doesn't care much for black people either.
...The Riders. Sigh. Saskatchewan Roughrider training camp is only ___ days away. Who knows exactly, as the team's ever-informative website makes no mention of training camp or when it starts. I would guess towards the end of May. Have no fear though, the website was very informative regarding the cheer leading squad, which has apparently been selected and set already. Anyone else worried that the cheerleaders have started practicing long before the players will? I guess a 2 minute dance number takes longer to perfect than a hitch-screen that goes for half a yard (ah yes, Rider season, I remember now what this feels like - it's good to be back). Oh, just a quick FYI as well, it looks as though there are dudes on the cheer leading squad this year. If the Saskatchewan cheerleaders weren't the worst in the league before, this probably cements it. Hey, who knew my first Roughrider-related complaint would be about the cheerleaders - I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.