Monday, August 30, 2010

Woman's Hockey - The Fight For Survival

Late last week the 4 day summit on the state of hockey on various levels and both the men's and woman's games drew to a close. The day 4 focus was where the game is more so internationally in the woman's game. We all know that there are really just 2 teams at the top of the mountain, Canada and the USA then there are the rest. Sure there are some countries that are making some great strides over the last few years to make their woman's programs a little more competitive but there is still a big gap. The big question continues to be how big is this gap and is there enough ground being made up on a year by year basis by the lesser countries to make woman's hockey a viable option in the Olympics.

It is great when you are Canadian and you know that the worst you are going to finish is 2nd but if it all goes by the waste side what is the point. When you get 2 good teams like Canada and the USA play you get a good game and they put on a good product. If the other countries can make a solid effort and keep growing then the game will make it on its own merit and this won't be an issue after the next Olympics.

The woman are looking to create a strong "pro league" and that can only help grow not only the sport but the overall awareness and maybe get more players involved at younger ages if they know that there is actually something to aspire to and shoot for. I look at a woman's North American Pro League like that of junior hockey. When we see players on the national team, either on the USA or Canada we can choose our favorites but after that tournament they are gone from our sports viewing. if they went back to club teams then you can follow them better and become fans. It is similar to professional wrestling, in the past there were all these regional promotions and splinter cells all around. Then they were all eventually absorbed into bigger more national entities. then you get a WCW/WWE type production which is big. Bigger names, more recognisable players and teams and a stronger more structured set up (provided that it is done correctly). I think that there would be a market for that and with the right amount of team in the right markets it could not grow the game and thrive but help good players from other countries have a chance to not only play with better players but also and maybe more importantly practice with better players and coaches.

I like the men's game for the tough and skilled play, but I also like the woman's game with little or no hitting because it make the game faster and more free flowing. the less contact the less obstruction and the faster the pace. The skill can still be there and tempers can still get high but it doesn't happen as often or needlessly. If there are 2 things that I just can't stand is every time there is a whistle that all the players have to skate into a pile and start face-washing each other and the other is every time a player gets hit there has to be a fight. Even if the hit is clean players seem to think that everything needs to looked at as being predatory and "If you are a good teammate you'll stick up for your guy". What a load of crap...clean is clean, just play the game. It is a collision game, collisions will happen.

Both men's and woman's games have pros and cons but one thing they have in common is they both deserve to stay as Olympic Sports.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Is Wrong With Today's Youth?

The Little League World Series is going on in Williamsport, Pennsylvania was on ABC this past weekend. Since, once again Canada has not sent a team that is in a position to compete for the title (especially after loosing to Taiwan 23-0). This is fun baseball to watch even though the field looks sooooo tiny.

Sadly what stuck out to me the most was the uniforms that the kids were wearing. Lets get one thing straight - It is NOT OK for the little douche slacker kids walking around the streets with their ironed flat billed hats, especially if they are ones that sport the logo of real teams, even worse when it is "blinged" out NY or LA hats with a picture of the skyline ion them. It is even worse when this look moves to the playing field. These Justin Beiber Looking M-F’ers wearing their hats like this on the playing field is not only annoying but is mocking the uniform and the integrity of the game. If I were the manager I would have these kids bending the brim and looking like they belong on the team and the field.

I blame the C.C. Sabathia’s of the sport for wearing their hats like this. Thankfully in the majors it is the exception not the rule that players are adopting this ridiculous look. In any event, someone needs to get to the youth of today and put a stop to the straight brimmed hipster doufaced slacker look, not just on the streets but more importantly on the baseball field.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Sounds of Baseball - Can You Feel It?

Baseball is America’s pass time. Sure, through the years and the growth of technology it has had a more difficult time staying on top of the cultural landscape but to those who have either been in the bridge period and have experienced both the electronic age and the days where it was not uncommon to only get 1 game a week on TV or only be able to enjoy baseball games on the radio using the skill of the broadcaster and your own imagination to really appreciate how special the game is. It is a game with distinctive sounds that is en grained in us. Whether it is from the voices on the radio like the icons from the past like Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck, Mel Allen, Harry Caray, Red Barber and Vin Scully. Baseball just seems to have its own personality and also be home of great personalities.

"If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base."
– Dave Barry

I recall the sounds of the game while listening to Blue Jays Baseball with Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth on the radio. At the time it was the main source of play by play that you could get. Jays games were covered well on radio and were available. You were lucky if CTV had a Sunday and maybe a Wednesday game on, but that was VERY RARE. There was usually a game of the week but unless you were a Yankee’s fan that was all you were going to get. It was regional games and that was your region.

I then got cable and that was the beginning of more exposure. More exposure and more games led to more variety. It was then that I began to embrace America’s team as my own and they quickly became my favorite team. These were the Atlanta Braves. It was the TBS Superstation that had a big part to play in this. It was a team that had its own network and was shown all over and had just about every game (granted the 14 consecutive division titles didn’t hurt either). They employed 4 of the classic voices that I now associate with baseball. The late Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren, Joe Simpson and Don Sutton.

For me it always comes down to the sounds, the sounds of the game and the music that is associated with it. It is strange how a few chimes of music can take you back to a simpler time, a time when the most important thing was turning a double play or getting that timely. The Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop, and various ‘pump up the crowd organ music. The theme music when certain players enter (eg. Chipper Jones and Crazy Train or Mariano Rivera and Enter Sandman). Perhaps even to a lesser extent OK, Blue Jays. The intro to Blue Jays Baseball, The MLB Theme from FOX, the Sunday Night Baseball Theme from ESPN and the one that takes me back to when I was just a kid the theme music from TWIB (This Week In Baseball), that still sometimes gives me goose-bumps. Oh, and let us not forget the most famous of them all... ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’.

"Why does everybody stand up and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ when they’re already there?"
--Larry Andersen

Even music from baseball movies have a special feeling to them and their ties to the game. The music from The Natural-when Roy Hobbs hits that epic home run. Just about every 3rd scene from Field of Dreams. It seemed that even the background music from that move made you "feel baseball". Even hearing ‘Wild Thing’ and seeing Charlie Sheen with those skull black glasses.

"Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything."
-- Toby Harrah

In a game that is more a game then a sport it has captivated fans and has survived the test of time. Sure there has been many a dark day but they always seem to get through it. The 1919 Black Sox scandal, the exclusion of negro players and how long it took for those ballplayers to not only get to play but actually get a fair shake. Now, more then anytime before the cloud over the game has cast a very ugly shadow. Steroids, Amphetamines , HGH, PEDS have tainted the purity of the game and it is just now looking to be getting clean or cleaner the cheats are always a few steps ahead of the good guys.

Just remember:
"A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz."
-- Humphrey Bogart

Monday, August 02, 2010


This is a game played by two teams, one out the other in. The one that’s in, sends players out one at a time, to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. If they get in before they get out it does count. When the ones outget three outs from the ones in before they get in without being out, the team that’s out comes in and the team in goes out to get those going in out before they get in without being out. When both teams have been in and out nine times the game is over. The team with the most in without being out before coming in wins unless the ones in are equal. In which case, the last ones in go out to get the ones in out before they get in without being out. The game will end when each team has the same number of ins out but one team has more in without being out before coming in.