Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Truly Canadian Olympic Games Moment

I have been really enjoying the Winter Olympics.



To the point of distraction.



Staying up far too late watching skiing and ski jumping and moguls and snowboarding and half pipe and speed skating and figure skating and dance skating and …



.. and curling



.. and hockey.



The one point of these Vancouver games that I anticipated was "how would they light the Olympic Torch?" – that big mammoth glorified gas fireplace that sits above the city for all to see for the duration of the game – only to be snuffed at the end with the remainder of the flame shipped back to Greece to be stored like Lord Stanley's Cup.



"Where would they put it?", I wondered.



"Why up in the mountains – on Whistler –so high it would shine down on all like the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles", I answered myself.



You should worry when you answer your own questions – or so they tell me. Especially me. I am usually giving myself bad information.



But my answer made perfect sense - to me.



"So how would they light it?", I countered myself again.



Well let's see.



In Atlanta – they had Muhammad Ali light it. That was a wonderful scene – the great Ali in heroic fashion mastering his challenges to ignite the flame.



Moving - In true American style.



In Barcelona they had an Archer stand at the bottom of the great arena – and the last runner of the torch lit the end of the Archer's arrow – and he shot it up into the sky – landing in the center of the caldron – and igniting the Olympic flame!



Legendary – in true Spanish flare!



In Beijing – the entire upper wall of the arena depicted scenes from all across China – and a runner ran all the way around the huge electronic banner and lit the flame at the end.



Honorable – in true Chinese tradition.



So how would Canada do it?



"I know, they could have a ski jump above the torch, and a ski-jumper slide down the great ramp – floating as only a ski-jumper can – and land inside the torch to ignite the flame - but who would we sacrifice at these games? You couldn't survive that, could you?"



But Vancouver trumped my expectations.



Vancouver selected Wayne Gretzky – the Great One – old 99 himself – to be the lighter of the torch.



The Great One was selected above others such as Terry Fox's mother – the young man who ran across Canada after losing a leg to Cancer – to raise awareness of Cancer across our entire Country – only succumb to it before he could finish his quest.

He is truly our greatest Canadian ever.

If Terry Fox were still with us – I would hope he would have had the honor.



"So what would the Great One do? Light a hockey puck on fire and shoot it into the torch? That would be really cool."



Nope.


Ya see, here is what they did.

They got a yellow pickup truck.

And they gave the Great One the torch – and they made him stand up in the back of the pick-up.

And then – in the pouring rainy mist that only Vancouver can muster year around – they made old ninety-nine hold that torch up and they drove him through downtown Vancouver – to the hidden location of the great Olympic Torch ...

(which weren't on no mountain at all - it was locked up tight downtown - so no one could snatch it)

... and they unlocked the gate so he could get in, and he walked over to the torch and lit it.



Ta-da!



In true humble and modest Canadian fashion.

Oh my.

I kept waiting for the pick-up truck to pull into a Tim Horton's donut shop to get an extra large double-double for the trip – or maybe stop at the beer store to grab a two-four of Labatt's or Molson's.



The Olympic Beer Run tradition would have been started right here in Canada.



Now that's Canadiana, baby!

I do love my country so very much. And in a way – I do think The Great One's lift in the back of a pick-up was a fitting tribute to our mighty land of hosers.



Bob and Doug McKenzie would have been prouder than punch.



And we all have another wonderful Olympic memory.



So for all the wondrous - and disastrous – things that have happened in these 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada …



The lighting of the torch is still the highlight of the games to me.

I plan to talk about if for a long, long time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Check One Item Off Tiger’s To-Do List

Tiger came out of hiding today.

Tiger Woods has come out and read his speech and followed the coaching of his public relations people – looking around at the audience – meeting their eyes – looking into the camera – meeting the home viewers eyes – and did his best attempt at a sincere apology.

A quick glimpse of his Mum in the audience revealed a very sour faced Mrs. Woods.

What did it mean?

Honestly – it meant nothing. It was an item on a to-do list. An agenda item that can now be marked completed.

A line item in a project plan on the critical path to Tiger's return to golf.

Was it successful?

It didn't have to be.

It merely had to be done.

He pulled it off without a smile.

He nailed the landing like a Russian figure skater at the Winter Olympics landing a quadruple sow-cow.

"Did anybody buy it?", he may very well have asked as he walked out of the building and got into a waiting helicopter to fly him back to his yacht called Sanctity.

"They didn't have to, Mr. Woods", would say the polished public relations assistant escorting him.

And he clicked the item completed on his blackberry calendars' list of agenda items.

It doesn't matter one little bit.

Tiger cheated on his wife. He cheated a lot. And to me, that is all between Tiger and his most beautiful wife Elin – a woman more beautiful and classy than any of the women he cheated on her with.

Stupid ass.

Will he do it again? Who knows. I don't need to know about it if he does.

Because while Tiger Woods has been away from the PGA Tour – the golf has stunk.

I have been an avid follower of the PGA for nearly thirty years now. From the end of Jack Nicklaus' dynasty in the 1980's to the present day.

And through the eighties and nineties I cheered for such lack luster personalities as Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Freddy Couples, Curtis Strange, Nick Price, and Ernie Els.

Only Greg Norman and Payne Stewart held any spark of personality. Both fairly colorful figures.

And John Daly. Everyone loves big John grip-it-and-rip-it Daly.

I remember being excited when Phil Mickelson came along – a young trickster of the short game setting up to put the golf world on its ear with his flop shots and stylish play around the green.

But then came Tiger. I watched him win all three of the U.S. Ameteurs in edge of the seat style and drama.

And then Tiger turned pro.

And then he won the Masters.

And then he won – good grief – a whole lot more than I care to research.

With excitement and drama and going for it – and pulling it off. Hooks around trees that then faded back after the wind caught it to make the shot in the shape of the letter S. On purpose.

And his name was Tiger.

And he was fun.

And he was cool.

And we thought he was as amazing a person as he was a golfer – albeit we were in denial and refused to acknowledge his thrown clubs and excessive cursing and rudeness at times to the fans.

Having lunch today – a good friend of mine told us the story of taking a young relative to the Buick Open. As he tells the story – it was 6:30 AM and Tiger was practicing putting on the green. My friend took his young nephew up to Tiger – when no one else was around – apologized for bothering him, and asked if Tiger would sign something for the boy.

"I'm not doing that today", said Tiger to my friend, and walked away. The young boy was crushed.

This was last summer. Before Tiger's world fell apart.

Would he have done that if a camera were there. Likely not.

So I think that it's fair to say that the persona of Tiger Woods is a fabricated one. Built to match and enhance the legend that his real skill has created.

Do I care?

No.

Okay, truth be told, I fell for his image. Hook line and sinker.

But shame on me for being so naïve. Like Gomer Pyle used to say:

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me".

Shazaam.

Now during this period of absence – PGA golf has just been incredibly boring. Even the PGA knew it was boring – creating hilarious ads when Tiger returned to the Tour last summer to show us they knew that we knew that the tour was boring without Tiger.

And Phil Mickelson got caught cheating – even worse so than Tiger – during this period. He was caught cheating on the golf course – carrying a now-illegal wedge because of the grooves – and he knew he was cheating.

Tiger never cheated on the golf course. He swore – and he threw tantrums – but he never cheated on the course.

So what's next on Tigers' agenda?

Well, I guess he has to finish his rehab.

Rehab? For sex addiction?

Okay, sure.

Then he has to come out and tell everyone he is a new man.

And say "I'm sorry again".

And face reporters.

And answer questions.

And then actually play in a tournament. But it won't be much a golf tournament if all that is talked about is "Tigers back".

I can imagine the broadcast.

" … how do you feel about Tiger Woods returning to the PGA tour?" the reporters will ask every tour player in the event,

"I think it sucks!" – will think the Tour pro - you will see it in their eyes.

"Oh it's wonderful … He's done so much for the game … It's great to have the number one player in the world back again" will say the tour pro – every tour pro – in the accent they speak in – and a bogus smile pasted to their face.

Except maybe Boo Weekly …

"I'm gonna ask him if I can borrow his little black book …", would say Boo.

But one thing's for certain.

When Tiger returns this time, the PGA won't be hyping it up with any funny ads.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Detroit Tigers Offseason - What The Hell Is Going On?


This story was originally posted as the first on my new blog "Tigers Baseball Outsider"


This has been a very confusing off season to say the least.



And it started that day in late September 2009 when once beloved Maglio Ordonez achieved enough at bats to trigger the option on a huge contract bonus of thirty three million of Tiger owner Mike Ilitch's hard earned dollars for the 2010 season.



After a lackluster three quarters of the 2009 season.



And even though Mags finished 2009 with a flourish, the Tigers finished 2009 with a flop.



I still shiver when I think of those last two games of the regular season. So I won't relive them for you. You remember them too.



Or that single game playoff against the Minnesota Twinkies in the dome from hell.



Have they torn that damn thing down yet?



And then the dominos – the repercussions of Mags contract option – started the dominos toppling.



We bid farewell to Placido Polanco as the stalwart and steadfast rock of the infield and master of the clutch hit was refused arbitration and allowed to move on to Phillidelphia.



And if that weren't unthinkable enough – Curtis Granderson – beloved star center fielder and all-around-good-guy destined to be the face of the franchise - is traded to the Yankees.



A kick in the groin to Tiger fans.



"The money just wasn't there to keep those guys", we are told.



Two new young minor leaguers are received for Granderson – Austin Jackson – a centerfielder that the Sporting News projected to be the rookie of the year in 2010, and Max Scherzer - a reasonable pitcher at best.



Scott Sizemore was decided to be brought up from AAA Toledo – only to break a bone in his ankle in an Arizona fall league game. He is still slated as I know it to be Placido's second base placebo replacement.



"Okay", we all thought, "This Mags contract option is costing us our big names and most beloved players … but we can carry on – there's no money and the team is moving into a younger state of mind."



That's when they signed Jose Valverde – a quality closer (to fill the vacancy of rollercoaster Tiger closer Fernando Rodney – who was also not offered arbitration) from Houston – for fourteen million dollars.



I thought Ilitch was pinching pennies this year?



I thought that's why we lost Granderson … and Polanco?



What the ….



Now, as I write this, the rumor mill is spewing the sour news that the Tigers are on the verge of signing Johnny "Curtis Granderson took my job" Damon to a two year fourteen million dollar contract also.



What is it with two years and fourteen million dollars contracts?



This leaves us to question why then did we lose Granderson and Polanco?



It couldn't have been the money?



It must have been a determination to go in a different direction. Not necessarily a young direction. Just in a direction without Granderson and Polanco?



Yet still we have Carlos Guillen in left? He doesn't want to play left field any more than Inge wanted to catch?



And we still have Brandon Inge – easily tied with Granderson and ace Justin Verlander as the most favourite Tigers.



And we still have Mags – without his head of curls – that once lopped off – reduced him to a mere shadow of his former power-hitting self – and the root of what we all thought the problem was.



We kept the weakest links on the roster – and we got rid of our stability leaders?



Oh, I know – only the players who flourished last season have trade value. But we got nothing for Placido, and we got unproven hopes in Austin Jackson for Curtis?



It just doesn't make sense. Not from the outside. Not from where I sit.



But the good news is that the Tigers are still in the American League Central Division. The weakest division in all of Major League Baseball.



So the Tigers still have a shot.



An outsiders shot … but a shot.



No matter my confusion, or disappointment, or frustration in trying to understand the void in rationale of this offseason, I will still root for those who wear the old English D. I will still listen to and watch every pitch on the radio or TV. I will still pump my fist when we win a close one, or utter profanities should we fail to pull one out in the bottom of the ninth with two men on and no outs.



Just like last year … when we led the AL Central from May 10th to the single game playoff in that disgusting dome.



We still have a shot.



And remember … we weren't supposed to be any good at all in 2006.



And for certain … the Tigers aren't supposed to be anygood in 2010.



So we got a pretty good shot.



Albeit and outside one.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

How I Met Your Mother – Or – The Big Bang Theory



Today is our ninth anniversary – and my lovely wife Darlene has challenged me with the task of getting the details of our courtship right.


But of course, I am a guy, and the likelihood of my being completely accurate as to her accounting is slim to nil.


But here is how I remember it.


A decade ago today, I had a great job for a great company in London, Ontario. Life was very mundane, lonely and – except for my work – down right empty.


Free … free to do what I liked – when I liked – with who I liked – but empty.


I met my lovely bride to be in the late winter – early spring of the year 2000.


Both of us were at a sailing club in Bayfield, Ontario for different reasons. I chatted with a pretty red-headed girl at the bar on my turn to buy a round. I left with her email address – and she with mine.


We exchanged a couple of emails and the next thing I knew I was down to the little town of Amherstburg – on the southern tip of Ontario where the Detroit River meets Lake Erie – for a visit.


That first weekend, my lovely new registered nurse of a girlfriend sent me to a local doctor to have a full physical.


She was checking under the hood of the new man she was acquiring. Luckily I passed with flying colors. But it did have me wondering.


The visits became weekends, and shortly became every weekend.


A most memorable weekend included a trip to the new Comerica Park in Detroit – to watch the Toronto Blue Jays beat the snot out of the Detroit Tigers. It was my birthday present.


The seats were right behind home plate – and I sat there alone in the barren stadium on that May 28th game and listened to a drunk two rows up from me heckle Carlos Delgado as he hit his second home run in a row. My lovely girlfriend Darlene had decided to go shopping in the gift shop that afternoon.


Cut to Father's Day later that summer.


Again I was down and visiting, and we had some friends over from the neighborhood. Good friends I must say now in retrospect. The next morning, trying to absorb a coffee into my recovering dried out brain, my lovely girlfriend Darlene presented me with a Father's Day present.


My very first one.


I looked at her oddly as I opened the box.


Inside the box where a pair of booties for a new born baby. Each adorned with a tiny old English D logo of the Tigers.


"Hey .. that's pretty cool!" I responded, thinking they would look great hanging from a rear view mirror.


"uh ..hmmm" cleared the throat of my lovely girlfriend. "There's more".


At the bottom of the box sat a photograph of some kind. I pulled it out and tried to make sense of the image.


"Okay …?" I said still not getting the not so subtle hints.


"It's an ultrasound image", she said.


"Oh, yeah .. I see it now!"


"It's a girl" said Darlene as her eyes got all warm.


"Ohhh ….OHHHH ….ohhhh" as the dawn of realization swept across my face in what will stand to be the most life changing moment I will experience – aside from being born myself.


At that moment, and never with question, I knew that Darlene and I had just embarked on the journey to the rest of our lives together.


And there has never been a doubt in that decision.


Since Darlene had a great career as a registered nurse across the Detroit River – and I as an IT guy could find work anywhere … the decision seemed simple for me to find a job down in Amherstburg and leave London.


The one job that I had landed was as a Java Architect for Chrysler in Detroit. Two interviews and several phone calls had left me with the impression that I would be travelling frequently to Germany to work with the Daimler side of the company to integrate systems between Detroit Chrysler and the German Daimler.


"You have to be able to be a tough prick to get things done with these German's", my future boss informed me.


My next call to their office the following week was greeted by a message on an answering machine that the office no longer existed. The Germans had overthrown Chrysler and the office was gone.


To this day, I am so glad I did not start that job only to lose it a week later.


At the same time, I was working hard interviewing and trying to sell myself with Green Shield Canada, a premier employer in Windsor. All the while – driving back and forth from Amherstberg to London – a two hour drive each way, through November and December snow blizzards.


Just before the end of the year – I finally landed a job with Green Shield, and I left my former employer – a company I had watched and helped build from a staff of fifteen to nearly a hundred people nine years later.


So we were set.


We rented a tiny little home in the old downtown section of the historic little Amherstburg. And we started to prepare the tiny little nursery for our soon-to-be newborn daughter.


As our first Christmas came and passed – and the new year started – and the culture shock of my new job was jarring me – my lovely girlfriend and I came to realize that only one thing was missing from what was soon to be our perfect little family.


We weren't married.


Now I don't remember who said what to who – but the conversation one evening late in January 2001 went something like this …


"You know, I'm due in early February?"


"Yes, I believe you are."


"We really should get married you know"


"Yeah, I know."


A couple of minutes passed in silence.


"Let's do it".


"Okay".


There was no kneeling down. No engagement ring. No violins or champagne.


Just an agreed acknowledgement of what should be done. The right thing to do.


I guess that's one of the reason's I love my wife so much.


We told our neighborhood friends our plans … and they got very excited … more excited probably than we were. And we told Darlene's parents. And they seemed very relieved. More relieved than we were.


And so at the end of the eighth month of my lovely girlfriend's pregnancy – glowing and in her most full rounded form, we marched down the isle of a non-denominational chapel and said our vows to a non-denominational minister.


And we were hitched.


My lovely wife's father – now my father in law – threw a really nice little lunch for us in a restaurant that looked out over the river – across the street from the chapel.


And then we went home.


And that afternoon was like any other Saturday afternoon.


The following Monday, I went into the office and in simple passing … when asked what I did last weekend, I simply listed off the events … "oh, and we got married on Saturday".


The following weekend, our eldest daughter Alannah was born.


And while we were in the hospital learning to be parents in our weekend dose of instant reality – I simply looked over at my lovely wife Darlene … holding our beautiful and perfect baby girl … and said …


"What do you want to do next weekend?"



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