Friday, October 12, 2007

Baseball and Cricket - Both Are Confusing

This morning before work, before the girls got up and things got hectic, I was sipping a coffee and reading the sports page of the Windsor Star.

A little side bar item caught my eye. It seems that England beat Sri Lanka in a single day Cricket match.

I read further.

Sri Lanka were floundering at 24 for three after 12 overs by the time Stuart Broad came into the attack. They rebuilt, slowly and cagily, through a 126-run stand between Kumar Sangakkara and Chamara Silva. But on a day of punishing heat and humidity, both men were gasping by the time they passed 60, and Broad was able to bounce them out in consecutive overs.

I wonder what that means?” I thought to myself. “It sounds like England won?

What an odd game.

Then I remembered a few weeks back, while our Satellite provider gave us a free preview of a European all sports network – watch a hurling match from Dublin, Ireland. And that was as confusing. I could appreciate the skills of the players catching what looked like a baseball on the end of what looked like a spatula on a bat, flip it up and hit what would be a baseball line drive – only as a pass to another player who caught it on his spatula and batted through some uprights for points – while below a goalkeeper tended the nets.

And I thought “What an odd game. It looks like Harry Potter’s Quiddich – without the brooms or golden snitch.

Then I remembered when the Irish came to Windsor for a visit.

Our two very great dear friends, Ray and Shell, flew to Canada for a vacation, and in the duration of their stay, spent two of their weeks with us.

On their second full day with us, we took them across the river to see a Major League Baseball Game. The Detroit Tigers played the Arizona Diamond Backs.

This was in June of 2004. The Tigers were not great.

This was our way to introduce Ray and Shell to North America.

A baseball game.


Warm beer in large plastic cups.

Vendors tossing peanuts at you behind their back.

You know, baseball.

Ray has a strong Irish lilt to his speech. And it took my North American ear a few days to tune into it. And neither Ray nor Shell had ever seen baseball. Oh, they knew the New York Yankees symbol, as the hats and jersey’s are big-sellers world wide. But they had never seen a baseball game.

I tried, over the roar of the crowd, to explain.

The pitcher throws the ball and the batter tries to hit it.” I started.

The batter swung for strike one.

He’s not very good, the batter, is he?” observed Ray.

I then tried to explain how they hit the ball and go to first, then second, then third. And they score a run when they get home.

Like Rounders?” asked Ray.

I don’t know”, I said. “I guess so.

The game went on, and a home run was hit. I explained the home run.

ahh I see … “ said Ray, who thought better now to enjoy the experience and see that the rules or the game were inconsequential. Insignificant. Why spoil the day trying to learn all this rubbish?

But I kept on, naïve as I often can be.

And Ray was great. He patiently listened to me explain, and said things like “I see”, and “right”. And he smiled and enjoyed the day in spite of my educational insistences.

Meanwhile Shell was gabbing away to Darlene about the great stuff in the gift shops. They were both on the same level of understanding. In fact they bought matching bracelets that you hook in little bobbles and mementos on.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers were down 3-1. The bases loaded, and Carlos Penia knocked the ball into the right field bleachers for a walk-off grand slam. It flew right over top of us. And I stood up and raised my arms up and screamed “YEAH!!!!!!” – and Ray was clapping and waving his fist.

By jove, I think he’s got it. I thought.

And the game was over.

So as I sat and read the article about the English Cricket team beating Sri-Lanka – all I could think of was Ray – putting up with my explanations, and enjoying the game.

I have a dream that one day my family can go to Ireland for a visit with Ray and Shell. I pray one day I can make it come true. And if we do, besides playing a lot of golf (Ray is an excellent golfer), I hope to see some sports there.

I am a big soccer – er – I mean football fan. I would love to go sing in the stands at a Manchester United match, I would also want to see hurling, and cricket – if the Irish indulge or not I don’t know.

And if we did, I would let Ray know that no explanation is necessary, I will just drink the beer, eat some food, and sing and yell when everyone else does.

Although he may want to get me back for the baseball game.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Enhancing the Common Good

I work for a non-profit health benefits company in Canada.

The only non-profit health benefits company in Canada.

Many have written to me to ask me “what does that mean?”

So I thought I might take this opportunity to explain. At least I will attempt to the very best of my understanding. I will keep it simple, because I understand that there is very little that is interesting about providing health benefits.

The company I work for is Green Shield Canada. We provide pre-paid health benefits to groups and individuals all across Canada.

Pre-paid benefits means that you have an “account” of coverage for all aspects of your health care that you or the company you work for are willing to provide for you.

Some companies pay up front for what they expect you will need for glasses or for physical therapy. Some pre-pay for manufacturer name brand pharmaceuticals. Others may deem that they do not need to provide coverage for glasses or generic brand pharmaceuticals are sufficient.

As a company, we adjudicate those claims made by those we cover.

To adjudicate means:

to settle or determine (an issue or dispute) judicially.

- source: Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 06 Oct. 2007.

To do this, our staff determines the validity of each claim based on the rules agreed to by the company you work for – the company or group that has pre-paid for your benefits.

We have built some very sophisticated computer systems to help accomplish this. In most cases, our computer systems adjudicate your claim when you are still standing in the pharmacy, or at the dentist or doctors office, settling your account with them.

As a non-profit company, we do not make profits. We have surplus. Surplus – like profit – is the monies above our costs to perform the service. Some of those surplus we re-invest in our company – to enhance our computer systems or to enhance our ability to perform our works.

The remainder of our surplus is re-distributed back into the communities that we serve. This is what we call our “Social Surplus”. And this is quite a substantial amount of monies.

Every year we receive formal requests from all kinds of organizations, charities and non-profit groups that exist to help those in need. A very special committee reviews each request, and if appropriate – funds are provided.

One of our biggest social-surplus partners is the United Way. Another is Easter Seals.

There is no one at Green Shield Canada getting rich off our business. But that is not to say that we do not make a proper living.

You see, this endeavor requires skilled persons. And very few in this world have the luxury of being so financially independent that they can donate their entire work lives to our efforts. Our salaries are constantly reviewed that they are competitive in the communities we reside in. Otherwise all our best people would leave to work elsewhere.

This does not make them insincere in their contributions to Green Shield Canada. It is merely a reality that people have to provide for themselves and their families to the best of their abilities before anyone can expect them to have a charitable nature.

Green Shield Canada was founded by a group of Windsor pharmacists in 1957 – led by William Wilkerson. It was created to help resolve the problem for those families that had to decide between providing food and shelter rather than medicine for their families.

In his typical style – all surplus generated would go back into the community. Mr. Wilkerson truly was a man of a special ambition. His memory is the very foundation that our current mission is based on.

Over the next ten years, Mr. Wilkerson was also very instrumental in the development of the child-proof medicine bottle cap. It was originally called the “palm-n-push”. While it has caused most of us frustration from time to time, the original intent was to eliminate the needless deaths of children who were swallowing their parents medications thinking the little pills were candy.

When Green Shield Canada won the contract to build and maintain the computer systems that adjudicate and administrate drug claims paid for by the Ontario Provincial Government for senior citizens and socially assisted persons; we added yet another monumental break-through. We implemented a means to check drug-to-drug interactions – so that when a senior received a prescription at the pharmacy – while that claim is being adjudicated by our computer system – we would be able to check that prescriptions against all other prescriptions they had recently received to make sure they did not combine to result in a poisonous or fatal manner.

Since all seniors and Socially Assisted persons in Ontario have their prescriptions entered through our system, this check against all other prescribed medicines they have taken is indeed more complete than anywhere else in the world.

There is no telling how many lives have been saved by this simple logic algorithm.

When I first returned to Windsor seven years ago, to marry my wife Darlene, to start our family, and to begin my career anew with Green Shield, the thing that amazed me most was the reaction people in Windsor had when they learned who I worked for.

And who do you work for, Mr. Brill?” – would say the bank manager.

Green Shield Canada”, I would reply.

Ooh, very good”, would be the reply.

The response always had a sentiment of being impressed. And that is the impression that Green Shield Canada holds in Windsor. Often it’s followed by the question “are there any openings there…?

For all those that I work with at Green Shield Canada, there is not one person I can think of that is insincere in fulfilling our roles. There is no one that I know of that is only there to earn a paycheck.

There is – as any place else – the occasion to complain about your job, your boss – or even the company. But those complaints are generally frustrations that we all face on a daily basis as we wrestle our way through life. The same as one complains about a rainy cold December and the aspect of another green Christmas in Windsor.

To let you know, I have no professional motivation in writing this entry. This space is my own, and it has been a great joy to me to write my various tales and accounts of my life. To my knowledge, there is no one at Green Shield Canada that actually reads my blog.

In truth, the place I work has over the last seven years had a significant and important influence on me; both professionally and personally. It has made me a more socially conscious person – a more charitable person. It has made me a better person I believe.

And you can’t really understand a lot of what I write unless you understand the significant components that influence my life.

And Green Shield Canada has most certainly influenced the person I have become.

if you would like to know more about Green Shield Canada, visit our website at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Walking Eighteen With Mike Weir

I have bumped into a few famous people over the years.

I drank beer with Burt Reynolds in 1981. Me and about fifteen other people.

In 1998, I flew from Detroit to Toronto with Isaiah Thomas – a legendary basketball player for the Detroit Pistons.

In 1995, I bumped into (literally) Shania Twain at Canada’s Wonderland near Barrie, Ontario.

But my favorite experience was not so much by chance.

Also in 1995, the Ontario Open was being played in London - where I lived at the time. In fact it was being played at the Forrest City National Golf Course – which I think may now be gone. I loved that course and played it every chance I could. So we went to see how the pros would play it.

These were guys on the Canadian Tour, a stepping stone to the PGA for those lucky enough to survive, conquer qualifying school, and get their PGA tour card.

When my girlfriend and I arrived, we got a program, and looked for someone to follow.

Here’s a guy” I said. “He’s from Brights Grove, over by Sarnia, and look – he is tied for the lead. Let’s follow him!”.

My girlfriend agreed.

So we walked all 18 holes of the course I played all the time and knew like the back of my hand, watching Mike Weir play it. With us was a local radio sports announcer who I only remember by his nickname “Horney” – his real name was Jim VanHorne.

And the best part was that you did not have to stand behind any ropes - you could walk the fairway right with the players. So we did.

I had been to PGA events before in New Orleans. I had followed Greg Norman and Fred Couples back then. I followed Nick Price at the 1995 Canadian Open. But Mike Weir hit the ball so smooth and effortlessly, always hitting his target.

There is one hole on that course that is a par five. It plays around a lake wrapping as a dog-leg right to a narrow green on the far corner of the lake. The fairway is split into two sides by a long sand bunker.

If you land on the right side of the bunker you can hit a fairway wood to the green flying 200-230 yards of water.

If you land to the left of the bunker you have to play a long shot up the fairway and hope you can fade it for a nice short approach shot as your third.

If you land in the bunker on your drive, you’re dead. You will now have at least two more shots to hit the green.

Weir hit that bunker. I leaned to Horney and said “He is screwed”. Horney nodded in agreement.

Mike took out his four-wood, put the ball at the back of his stance, came down through the ball wand clipped it ever so perfect taking only a grain or two of sand.

I remember watching that ball’s flight. Straight at the pin. But I knew how narrow the green was. It would never stop within that 20 foot area. It couldn’t, not out of the sand with a wood; no way could he get the back spin.

That ball hit the front of the green bounced high, and when it came down it bit and held.

Mike Weir hit that bunker shot to within 5 feet of the pin.

I looked at Horney, and he at me. Our jaws were dropped like to yokels at a hog auction.

We hooted and yelled and told Mike that what he just did was impossible. He smiled and simply handed his four-wood to his caddy.

When we got to the green, Mike sized up the putt and dropped it.

Eagle three.

I do remember saying “Thanks” and having to explain to the group we were walking with that I was thankful to see such an amazing shot.

I still have that program at home. It became even more special when Mike made the PGA tour. And even more special still when he won the Masters in 2003.

I had played that hole so many times, both before and after that day. And I had tried to fly that water on many occasions. Once I was lucky to go over the green and get up and down for a birdie.

For all the great golf I have seen, that still stands out as the most incredible shot I have witnessed.

Last weekend, at the President’s Cup in Montreal, Mike Weir paired up against Tiger Woods on the final day. And Mike was three up on Tiger into the back nine. But Tiger caught him, and passed him. And for the first time I have ever known, someone fought back, re-caught Tiger, and beat him on the 18th hole. It was Mike Weir.

I can’t say I know Mike Weir. But I sure can say I am proud of him.

If only I had gotten Mike to sign my program that day.

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