Friday, August 31, 2012

Hockey Who?

The last time there was a work stoppage and Gary Bettman cancelled the NHL season I had been married just over three years, had a one year old daughter, was 37 years old, was just starting my career with Capsule Music, had never heard of blogs and had a dog named Ben who was a healthy lad of seven.

Eight years later, well the math is pretty simple, I'll let you do that. As for the rest I've three kids now, the youngest is starting school in six days. Even with my very infrequent posting this will be my 924th post on this website. And poor old Ben has been gone over two years now.

When the first lockout happened we had been waiting for it for years. 'Armageddon' it was called long before it came and while a true reckoning would have resulted in a half dozen franchises down the tubes along with the jobs that came with them there was still a lost season, the Stanley Cup uncontested, millions and millions of dollars lost by owners and players.

I believed at the time that it was the right thing to do, that some sort of cost certainty had to come into the game and I still believe this to be true. While the English Premier League may be wonderful entertainment (and I believe it is) the truth is that we already know the top four at year's end, give or take one and the one that misses out will probably be fifth. Smaller clubs may have a year of brilliance but invariably they are squashed by the economics of the game and so it was that even when fans pointed to Tampa/Calgary as an example of how poorer clubs/clubs on a budget could succeed, the reality is that in the nine years previous four teams had won the Cup and, even more telling, the list of teams that were truly competing for the Cup were, well, those four and a couple of others.

That was what the league had become.

Now here we are years later and suddenly we are staring into the abyss again. Why? Revenues have grown like wildfire but the problem is that there are about a dozen teams carrying the water, if that, so as the cap has gone up, so has the floor. The owners' grand southern experiment, an expansion fee cash grab and reach for the Holy Grail of US TV dough, going on since 1967, has been a massive failure and you could probably fold a half dozen franchises with very little fanfare other than the protests of their core fans.

You could cut the cap in half and there would still be teams losing money. Think about that. So while Bettman may talk about financial viability for the weak sisters being a cause here (and I don't think he really has honestly) these teams would only be saved by a return to the indentured servitude of the post World War II era when players, most of whom grew up in the Depression and the butchery of a global conflict, were literally happy to have jobs. Pretty hard to complain about your lot when you grew up with nothing and a half dozen older boys on your street never came back from Europe.

So its about the owners getting more money, nothing more, and while you still have a handful of the 'I would play for free' gang grumbling (sure you would dummies), it appears that the majority of fans and media, except for the most ardent spear carriers for the owners or those who really love the whip of authority on their asses, can see what's going on here. The players make a ton of money, sure. My wife works with kids with cancer for crying out loud, I can see that the whole thing is crazy, but hockey is a billion dollar business and the guys who play the game are the guys who generate that revenue. There are 690 of them who have jobs and probably two thirds of those, if that, have jobs that are relatively secure. So yeah, they deserve to get paid a lot.

The owners should expect to make a profit too, at least the ones where people actually come out to watch hockey and pay for it, don't get me wrong. No way the players should take home the whole pie. But this, folks, is a cash grab plain and simple.

What can be done? Well I was kicking around ideas on a patio last Friday. If you could get the politicians to say that with no agreement the writeoff loopholes would get closed off I think you might get some owners' attention. Or if the players could come together and create a challenge tourney for the Cup, Canada wide, similar to the FA Cup so you would have teams at all levels of the game playing off, well that would be something. Problem is if there was a settlement they'd have to carry it through right to the bitter end. Wouldn't happen, same as the politicians. Fantasy.

The only possibility is that this time when its all over the fans don't go back so that six or seven years down the road this doesn't happen again, so that Bettman sees that 'the greatest fans in the world' won't stand for his contempt anymore.

But do you think that will happen?

Here's the thing though. I don't care. Maybe its the fact that the Oilers have been so awful for so long. Maybe its because Bettman is such a dick. Maybe its because there are too many teams and the hockey is watered down and the league is bush, always has been.

Or maybe its because the reality is that its a game. Its entertainment. A hobby. A way to waste time. And the reality is its not that big a deal if they don't play this year.

My son is almost seven and in a few weeks he will start hockey for the first time. We got him his gear last weekend and came home and he tried it on and he was so proud and so excited and he is going to hopefully love the game like I do. The real game. Not the NHL game.

This week I got on the ice myself three times. Playoff game on Monday (we got killed) and then shinny at the 'new' Maple Leaf Gardens Tuesday and Thursday. Hockey with old friends and new. A lot of laughs and some good healthy competition and I scored one on a tap in from inches out and scored another on a clean cut breakaway, high over his glove (I never score that way) and while last night my hip hurt (occasionally does) and my knees hurt (quite often they do) and my ANKLES AND FEET HURT (what the fuck is happening to me!!??) it was all worth it. Winter hockey starts in a few weeks for us and I will play shinny every Wednesday like I did last winter and hopefully the boy and I will go for a spin now and then as well. Hockey. Love it.

What else? Well the boy and I are going to help my old man close our camp down again this fall. We have a wedding in September and Jenn's birthday is coming up so we'll go for dinner and maybe overnight for that. We have friends and family coming to visit in the fall and we have our own busy lives to live, good food and drink and the sex as well. Books to read. Music. You know, living.

So I'm thinking that yeah I'll be ok. And whenever the players end up caving in this time then yeah I'll turn the TV back on and catch the games when they start again.

But I won't miss them when they're gone. And neither should you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Very Good Day

Announcement today that Taylor Hall has been extended for seven years for 42 million dollars.

A very very good deal.

Consider that Hall scored 27 goals and almost a point per game last year over 61 games and that he did so while driving the bus AT THE AGE OF TWENTY and that the contract buys three UFA years and its really a terrific deal and yes Tambellini and company deserve credit.

The only worry I have seen brought up is that the kid has missed a number of games in each of his first two years. Could he be Wendel Clark or Eric Lindros?

Of course. Anything is possible. But you cannot not (not not?) sign a kid who drives possession and scores goals because he might, might, get hurt. Every longterm deal is a gamble. This is a very good gamble.

Next - Jordan Eberle. My guess is that Hall is the outer marker now, as he should be imo. What Eberle gets will be very interesting. I think he's a very good player who will probably regress a bit this year, his percentages were through the roof last season. Still I do believe that he will be a top line forward as well although he still is a guy who gets sheltered. Should he make as much as Hall? No. Will he get the same contract? He may. If he does its not the end of the world but if he comes in at a lower rate than Hall then it would be a sign that this management team may be on track.

Whatever the case its a very good day to be an Oilers' fan.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Matters and What Does Not Matter



I remember last summer there was some point where I felt overwhelmed by it all for a short while. We live busy lives and I was out for pints one lovely hot night with a good friend and as we watched the city pass by I lamented my lot. He laughed and commented that my life was a tough one alright, day after day of hanging out with friends and family eating and drinking and enjoying what life has to offer.

Um yeah, that snapped me out of it. Gave my head a shake.

This year has been, if anything, even busier but I have my head out of my ass and while I'm exhausted I have to say its a good ride. We've had fantastic weather all year and good luck to top it off and everything culminated in our family reunion at Goulais River last weekend. There was some poignancy to the whole event. Dad and his siblings are all getting older and the past two years have seen some major health scares. One uncle had a major heart attack. Another had a heart attack and almost immediately afterwards was surprised by a dire diagnosis, cancer of the esophagus. It was touch and go for him for sure. We had a cousin diagnosed with cancer and then of course there was Mom, stricken by something (they never figured out what) that put her in a wheelchair, by all accounts permanently, and left her in pretty well constant, though manageable, pain.

There will be major sorrow for all of us at some point but not yet my friends, not yet. For all of those stricken low pulled through, some luck involved yes, but of course nobody cares about that. For the most part it was bad luck that laid them low in the first place.

And for Mom, told that she would never walk again just over eighteen months ago, triumph, the victory of a stubborn, tough woman who decided, I think, that sitting around was tiresome. And so she hit the pool and the bike and when I called home in February Dad said, without fanfare as is his wont, that Mom was indeed doing well, first the wheelchair and then the walker put away, walking for the first time since over two years ago.

So besides the usual festivities, the beer and wine and rum, the barbequed porchettas and turkeys, the games for the kids and the golf tournament and the tour of old family landmarks, there was a little more plain old joy at this event, some headshaking at the toughness of old women and men and some thankfulness for what we all got to enjoy.

After the dinner on Saturday night we gave a nod to Dad, who turned 80 this June, and to he and Mom, who celebrated 50 years of marriage this past April. I gave a little speech, apologizing for the inability to celebrate two great milestones in five minutes or less (Unpossible!) but I think I did ok. I spoke to the enthusiasm that Dad has for life and how more than anything I hope we could all learn from that and I joked that while 80 years is quite the milestone you have to have some luck to make it whereas 50 years of marriage, well that takes some real heavy lifting.

Marriage isn't easy of course, you need to work at it, even in the good times. The real measure of a marriage though is when times are a bit rockier, when your spouse's father is in a coma and touch and go for a month and you have to hold down the fort while she is a thousand miles away trying to keep it together, when the baby is three months old and still up through the night and the two of you have to try and survive the overwhelming fatigue without killing your other kids and each other.

The real measure of a marriage is when your wife's health falls apart, she loses half her body weight and ends up in the hospital for five months and you go each day to sit with her and then, when she comes home, you take on the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning and the errands without complaint. The real measure of a marriage is worrying, not about your own failing health, but about your spouse and the fact that they are doing everything and you, who did so much for so long, cannot contribute.

 The real measure of strength and character is when the one who cannot stand, who cannot walk, decides that she will and is able to do so, not only because of her own strength and willpower but because of her husband who gives her everything that he has so that she can do what she needs to do to come back and defy reason.

 So yeah we celebrated that and our wonderful crazy family. We had a great party. Its a great ride.

 That's what matters.

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 In 2005 I was all for whatever it took to bring some competitive balance back to the NHL. Teams like Toronto and the Rangers and the Wings were spending three times as much on salaries as many clubs. While this didn't help the first two do anything of note the fact is things were seriously out of whack. I remember watching one game between the Oilers and Wings and the commentator noting that the Wings first power play unit made more in salary than the entire Oilers' roster.

 Good management might allow a team on a budget to make a surprise run (like Tampa and Calgary did the last year before armageddon) or to be competitive year after year (as the Oilers did from 1998 to 2004 despite some awful amateur scouting) but there was no staying power for those surprises and those teams that managed to compete were first round fodder that shipped their quality to the big boys as soon as they had to be paid.

 So yeah I wanted a cap and while it was shitty that a season was lost to it I felt that it was worth it.

 And now, seven years after that deal was signed we are facing another work stoppage. And this one, my friends, is all on the owners. They got their cap last time, they got their cost certainty, the fans didn't see ticket prices fall, as Bettman claimed they would (and nobody in their right mind believed) and yet here they are, again with their top hats in hand, looking for more.

 The league is broken of course, hard to believe considering the huge increase in revenue since 2005, but it is broken and its the owners that broke it, greedy for expansion fees and the US TV money that they have chased since 1967. And so there are teams all over the US that won't draw flies and short of returning the league to the 1950s when each player was the property of whichever team signed him as a teenager until he retired there is no way to fix this. Revenue sharing is the partial answer but when teams lose twenty, thirty, forty million dollars despite being relatively successful (as Phoenix has been recently) and receiving revenue sharing already, well, no measure of revenue sharing is going to save those franchises. They can cut the players' share of HRR and limit contract length and increase revenue sharing and the zombie franchises may be propped up momentarily but this is not the NFL where TV and merchandising money means each team can make money and compete. The NHL is smalltime. Always has been, always will. There are haves and have nots and the haves don't make enough money to prop up the have nots and make a tidy profit themselves. (I may not like the owneres here but I'm not against them making money on the whole venture). I'm not a commie like Horcov.

If the owners win, and its a question of when they win and by how much really, they will all get more money but it won't fix what is broken and all of Bettman's smarm won't change it. Of course Bettman is the perfect villain in all of this. He's just doing his job really and I certainly can't get worked up about him like I used to do so but its hard to believe that anyone could make Donald Fehr look warm and fuzzy. Gary Bettman manages to do so though. The arrogance is unbelievable. As we saw from the whole Phoenix mess he cannot be trusted to tell the truth for one second. And the ego is massive.

And so he makes a good villain. ;)

There will be no hockey this fall and then come late November there will be movement and in mid December there will be an announcement and it will be a fifty fifty split of HRR and on New Year's Day the season will kick off with the Winter Classic. This time the fans are on the players' side, with the exception of those who believe the players shouldn't make anything, the 'I'd play the game for nothing' crowd. (Although seriously if you were one of 690 men good enough to play in the NHL in the world why would you be that dumb? That's elite company right there. Under 700 guys good enough to play in the Show and out of that how many are good enough to have real careers? Maybe 450 of them? Think about that the next time you complain about how much a guy who scores 'only' 50 points in the NHL makes. There are so very few of them and they are in a big money business. Fucking rights they should get paid very well.)

 But the fans, well the fans don't mean anything to the NHL and unless they were organized in a way that is impossible then they never will. So there will be a lockout. There will be hockey come 2013. The fans will return (the greatest fans in the world as Bettman calls us) and in a couple of years clubs will figure out a way to get around this contract and salaries will get goofier and teams where people don't care about hockey will struggle all the while as Bettman goes on about record revenues and how no franchises are on any difficulty.

 So this fall I'm going to watch soccer, just as I did back in 2004/2005. I'll watch some junior hockey. I'll drink some beer and help the boy learn how to play hockey and I'll chase Jenn around the house. So business as usual in a lot of ways. ;)

 But I'm not going to worry about Bettman and his cronies' latest money grab. Its a garbage league and so with the hockey comes the garbage. This is one of those times. Best to enjoy the things that matter.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Gutted



For a long time my summers in my hometown included coaching soccer. As a matter of fact every summer from when I was 17 until the last full summer I ever spent there at the age of 22 I coached a neighbourhood rec team. We had a lot of success. Two teams won both the regular season title and the city championship. Two others won the regular season title and fell short in shootouts in the playoffs, one in the semis, the other in the final. Fuck I hate shootouts. A fifth finished fourth and lost a best of three playoff final two games to one. That last may have been my favourite of the bunch, always loved the underdogs I coached. The team we lost to was far superior and we pushed them right to the edge. It was wonderful.

The last team I coached before I came down south for good had won three titles in a row, one of those the previous year I had been the coach. They were a damn good team and the summer in question we tore through the league again and marched through the playoffs. We had a big winger who was fast and tough and who loved to score and we had a handful of guys who could poach goals with the best of them but our real quality was our midfield. We had three kids who could all play. There was a big fellow who was a sublime passer and had a long range bomb that he'd float over a keeper who was snealing off of his line. We had a little wiry guy who was a tenacious defender, a real shutdown guy, he could make plays too (he later played point guard for his college) but wasn't much for scoring. And then we had another smaller guy in the middle, probably the best player in the league. He could do it all, score, defend, make plays, you name it. Smartest guy I ever coached and really with him it was more or less a case of running him out there and letting him do his thing. And a ferocious competitor, wow he hated to lose.

 We had lost a couple of pretty good players from our team the year before and there were a few more kids we had to hide out there but we still ran out to first place easily and going into the final against what would be considered our biggest 'rival' we knew that if we played our game we would win. They were a solid club but we'd beat them by a few goals usually, wear them down and then break it open.

 So we got out there this Saturday afternoon and that was the plan. We knew we could shut them down, we'd play our game and we'd win. And so the game started and it went back and forth and we gradually took control. And then about twenty minutes in, the wheels fell off.

 Now you have to realize something first. These kids had played together for three years and a number of them had played together for seven years and they were a competitive tough bunch and they had received, in all of that time, one yellow card. In seven years. And this was a rec league so the dirty stuff wasn't tolerated.

 And suddenly our captain had a yellow for something inadvertent, a collision, a shirt tug maybe. It was nothing. A few minutes later he received a second yellow for something just as ticky tack. He was gone.

 A few minutes after that a second midfielder, the big fellow, got a straight red. I think a kid ran into him and fell down. I really can't remember. It was awful.

 The ref was a kid, maybe 17 or 18 years old. We'd never seen him before but he hadn't a clue. And now we were down to nine players with seventy minutes to go.

 And we took it to them. We took it to them. And unbelievably the worst was yet to come. With minutes left, the game still at zeroes, one of our players took a long probing shot which the goalie mishandled, leaving a fat rebound. A little forward raced past their defenders and fired it into the net.

 Despite it all we would win!

 And then the ref, who had been TALKING to one of their players, called it offside despite the fact that it was in no way, in any way, close to offside by any definition. He hadn't even seen the play.

 That was our last gasp. We battled through the overtime and it went to penalties and while our two best penalty takers sat on the sideline, ejected from the game 90 minutes earlier for nothing, we lost.

 These boys and girls were thirteen years old, if I recall, and there were a lot of tears when it was all over. I told them that I was proud of them, I could not be more proud of them and that they were the champions, always would be. I didn't talk about the ref although when he came up after the game I didn't shake his hand and my assistant, who knew him from somewhere, I don't know where, we were only 22 so not much older than him, said calmly and firmly (and quietly so only he and I could hear it) that it was the worst officiated game he had ever witnessed.

 After everyone left is when I started kicking shit over. ;)

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That game was over twenty years ago and it still sticks in my craw. I had lost before and I would lose again and while I hate losing I can take it. But not that time. It was sheer incompetence from someone outside of the game who cost us the title. I had told the kids all year long to work hard and play as a team and that's all you can do but as long as you do that things will be fine. And here I was made a liar.

I hated it. Still makes me crazy lol. /drinks

And today, well today I saw it all over again and if a rec game still bothers me after twenty years, well I guess the Canadian women's soccer team will take this one to their graves.

Hey the Americans are quality, they have been for years, the best, although the world is catching up (or has caught up in some cases). Its possible that they may have pulled it off anyhow but they certainly didn't need any help. The game was poorly officiated right from the beginning but poor reffing in soccer, or in many sports, is not unusual. I really can't think of a greater incompetent than this Norwegian ref though. Its one thing to miss some calls but the handball in the American box, the ball that was clearly out  for a goalkick that resulted in a corner for the Yanks instead, well, I can't say I've ever seen anything like it. Ever.

 And the indirect free kick that led to the penalty? Certainly one of the worst calls ever. Worse then the Turk who was redcarded when a Brazilian's play acting suckered in a ref at the World Cup. Worse than myriad dives and Henry's handball against the Irish. The game happens quickly and refs are human and some are incompetent and sometimes the game happens too fast.

 But to essentially give a team a free shot at the goal in a game this big at such a momentous time in the game on what is essentially bureaucracy?

 Worst ever.

 No verbal warning. No yellow card for the keeper to warn her. Just an arbitrary decision so bizarre that nobody in my Twitter feed, witnesses of thousands of soccer games at every level, journalists, explayers, fans around the world, had ever seen it before.

 Its an awful shame. I cannot imagine how Sinclair, who APOLOGIZED after the game, after a game that places her amongst the all time greats in this nation's rich sporting history, I cannot imagine how she feels. Or Tancredi or Scott or Matheson or any of the others who laid it all on the line to have it taken away like that.

 Hey the Americans may have won it anyhow. The talent and experience on that side is overwhelming.

 But if they were to win it it should not have been that way.

 The awful thing is that these wonderful women still don't even have a medal, they may lose their next game and go home empty handed.

 Except they have proven their character, their skill, their heart and their courage on the field of play and have done so on the biggest stage. They deserve our nation's applause and I encourage all of you to send tweets, messages, emails, however you can to tell them we are behind them and we will always remember their performance today.

 Now excuse me while I go down to the Norwegian consulate. They have some 'splainin to do. /drinks, lights Molotov
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Please check out this writeup by Ben Massey (@Lord_Bob) who knows more about soccer than I ever will and who I can imagine was just ruined by this result. Great stuff by Ben.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

In This Country

This week we have family flying in from BC and then we're heading north for the biennial (roughly) family reunion up at Goulais (or as it was known over a century ago, the other side of the moon). Should be a fantastic time. My liver is already begging for mercy. It slipped a note under the door the other night. Poor fucker. He's a dead man. / drinks

Its going to be a whirlwind trip, here, there and everywhere. Just pile on the exhaustion. We've barely returned from the annual trip out east and I'm a bit worn out. Better to be worn out from a couple of weeks of eating and drinking and laughing with family and friends than from the daily grind though, right? Right.

This was our eighth time driving to the Island and back. It went about as well as it could in that everything we could not control came up roses. The weather was unbelievable. One rainy afternoon the entire time. On the way there we made fantastic time, probably the best we ever will. On the way back we did very well, made good time indeed. Luck was on our side. We even saw four deer and (for Jenn a first) a pair of moose, luckily (there it is again) on the other side of the moose fence in New Brunswick.

 And of course we had the opportunity to once again enjoy this wonderful country. We wandered Charlottetown for our anniversary and had a terrific meal and night at an old Inn in the city centre. We spent a few days out at Wood Islands, laying in the sand, swimming in the cold water of the Northumberland Strait, digging clams. I went out to the Montague River for an evening with my man in PEI, Mr McLeod, and we drank beer and ate steak and caught up on the past year as we do every year. And we trekked out to Greenwich and walked out to the dunes, past the land my wife's family farmed for nearly two centuries, now a national park.

 Good times.

 We left a little earlier than usual and drove over to St John to visit Jenn's sister and we had a great time there on the banks of the St John River. And on Saturday we followed the river north (saw our moose), skipped by Riviere De Loup and sped west along the St Lawrence, pressing into Montreal, finding our hotel at 4pm. The kids have never been to what is my favourite Canadian city and so we walked down Peel and St Catherine and down to Old Montreal. We ate crepes and wandered the cobblestone streets and the kids took it all in and made us promise that we would return for a longer stay next time.

 Smart kids.

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It took me a few days to get into the Olympics this year, partially, I think, because we were on the road for its first weekend, partially because we will be away (and on the road) for a great part of the second week, partially because of the time difference and the fact that I am at work when 'everything is happening!!!!'

 But I've become invested in them, as always, we love the Olympics in our household, always have. Its been an enormously satisfying first week, uncharted territory really. When I was growing up watching the Olympics meant watching Canadians get their heads handed to them by the Eastern Bloc juggernaut and the Americans and, well, everybody. We'd win a handful of medals, maybe a gold or two, maybe. Our teams, if they made it, were run out of the rink or off the fields or courts. Our individual athletes would finish in the thirties and forties and it was all very pleasant and everyone was happy to be there.

 When did things change? 1984 in L.A. I think. It was the year the Soviets boycotted and without the state supported, super doping juggernaut in California, Canada soared. Of course many of the medals would not have happened if the godless Commies had been there but nobody was going to beat Alex Baumann or Victor Davis and other Canadians were class and what happened, I believe, is a couple of things. A lot of Canadian kids got inspired (don't believe it - look at how many Canadian speed skating veterans, the Hughes generation, talk about Gaetan Boucher) and money began to slowly trickle into the system. Success began to beget success and so you had more medals in both winter and summer sports and suddenly sports which had been disasters for years suddenly became powerhouses - rowing and speed skating come to mind.

 Even with that success (which increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union) there has been still a strange relationship between the Olympians and the media and fans back home. The media hypes the athletes and part of the hype is anointing favourites and the problem is, as usual, the fact that they over simplify things. So a guy who won a medal at the Worlds the year before is a gold medal favourite even though he has done poorly this year and is coming off an injury and then he falls short and all hell breaks loose.

 Read or heard something very smart the other day, can't remember where. A commentator said that unless you're an absolute sure thing being a gold medal favourite means pretty well nothing. So you have the American medley relay team, Chinese divers and after that its a crapshoot. ;) Not quite but even Michael Phelps won a race in Bejing by a fingertip.

 Now for some fans this isn't enough, James Mirtle and I were conversing on Twitter the other day and he said that based on comments on the Globe website there was a lot of disappointment out there. I don't read comments on websites anymore, I barely even read them on blogs anymore. The stupidity and vitriol makes me sad. And to read some couch jockey complaining that someone has fallen short after years and years and years of training, well, nothing is more laughable. Its like the couch jockeys who call Tom Gilbert or Ales Hemsky pussies when either man plays through pain that would put the average Bud Lime Light, nacho eating fat spraining average Joe in bed for weeks, shitting himself in agony.

 Is it disappointing that Jessica Zelinka and Dylan Armstrong didn't medal, for example? Sure it is. I doubt that anyone is more disappointed than they are at falling short though. One only has to see how heartbroken Paula Findlay was to see how much it matters to these kids.

 Sorry, I am all over the place. Here's the thing. Times have changed. They changed in Vancouver. Well, really they changed in LA and its gone from there. The Olympics are the same every time. You have disappointments and you have surprises and you have those who meet expectations. The thing for Canada is that more and more we have athletes who are so good that they have expectations and more and more they meet them. Success has brought more success and wait a decade and we will see the gymnasts inspired by Shewfelt and more kids on the trampoline and bicycles and swimming and diving and in bobsleigh and crosscountry skiing and on and on. And the money is flowing from the government and companies and suddenly, strangely, we're an Olympic power in the winter, one of THE powers there, and a solid summer competitor and what the hell, when did that happen?

 And this Olympics we haven't even gone through the handwringing that happens every Olympics because there hasn't been the usual slow start and the media and fans have seen medal after medal until a week in we are nearly where we were in Athens at the completion of the Games.

 Crazy.

 Tyler has a nice writeup on the Games and he touches on the patriotism and I talked about that in the Vancouver Games as well. The country has changed, Canadians have changed, and this has happened in the last thirty years. We are more confident, less deferential, a little more patriotic. For the most part this is a good thing I think. We live in a wonderful country and we should be proud of it and as long as we're not mindless about it (and this is where the danger lies) I think its a nice change from when I was young when people, in a lot of ways, had a negative attitude about Canada.

I'm not talking about not questioning your government or your national mythology because these are good things, God knows a lot of countries' citizens (hello 'Merica) could use a little more self awareness, it helps make your nation a better one if you recognize your weaknesses and do something about them. I'm talking about just a general 'Canada is shitty' attitude. It used to be pretty prevalent. The idea that Canada can do no wrong is not something we want either but the prior attitude, now history it seems, was garbage too.

 I'm a big history guy and I have a half baked theory about the World Wars and the carnage they wrought. Now this was a different time, back in the day. Unlike the last few decades when wars have been fought by the poor and the scions of rich families ducked the draft in Vietnam, in 1914 and 1939 (or later if you were a Yank) if you were a young man you went to war. So an heir of the Molson family was killed in Belgium (Percy I believe his name was) and 'One Eyed' Frank McGee, the great hockey player, died on the Somme and Talbot Papineau was killed at Passchendaele.

 It was our best and boldest and bravest who went to war. Read Pierre Berton's Vimy. Canada was a different country a hundred years ago. Its soldiers were known to be the toughest, the brassiest, the wildest men in the world. And these frontiersmen and builders and entrepreneurs died in France and Belgium and a quarter century later the sons of those who did not die fell in Italy and France and Holland and Hong Kong and drowned in the North Atlantic and were shot down over the burning cities of Germany.

 And those who survived, well, many of them were the cautious ones, the careful, deferential ones. Certainly those who did not survive could not be replaced.

 Half baked, right? lol /drinks

 Anyways /drinks/ if anyone says anything bad about any of our Olympians, especially Rory Cichrane, God Bless him, you'll have me to deal with. /drinks some more

 Actually I don't think young Cochrane needs my help, Christ, did you see that lineup of women with the bare flat bellies proclaiming their love for him at the pool. Methinks his Olympics may be over but his orgy is just beginning, the bastard.

 Go Canada.