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Sports Look Faster In Person – Usually

Ernesto Escobedo serves to Nikoloz Basilashvili

I am a fan of sports. But not being a fan of crowds I tend to limit myself to television coverage. Recently we were given a pair of “Prestige Passes” to attend the Rogers Cup ATP event in Montreal.

Settling in I was pleased that there were several empty seats to my right, affording me plenty of room and no claustrophobic feelings at all.

With a sunny day forecast, free parking provided and fifth-row seats how could I say no. So off we went to Parc Jarry in the city’s northern section, a place I had not been to since I worked on the Pope’s visit in 1984. The new tennis facility which integrates the original home of the Montreal Expos is lovely.

We took our seats in the fifth row to watch a match pitting American Ernesto Escobedo against Nikoloz Basilashvili of the Georgia. Settling in I was pleased that there were several empty seats to my right, affording me plenty of room and no claustrophobic feelings at all.

In person, one understands just how fast hockey players skate and shoot the puck. The speed of a fastball is clearly evident from box seats.

I have attended hockey games, football games, baseball games, Formula 1 races, even a few soccer matches.  What always strikes me, particularly in the case of F1 races, is how television coverage does not do justice to the speed of the event. In person, one understands just how fast hockey players skate and shoot the puck. The speed of a fastball is clearly evident from box seats. A football running-back’s dart down the field and the physical contact of the game are impressive, to say the least.

Then there is tennis.

This was my second professional tennis match. The first was many years ago and featured Gabriela Sabatini. On both occasions, I came away thinking how slow the game is in person. With the exception of the delivery of services, or serves, which are tremendously fast. Tennis looks better on TV to this armchair athlete.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Madison Round Garden?

I have always liked the fact that the building is called Madison Square Garden, but it is clearly round!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Bound; CBC Hones Bias

Toronto Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup in 1967 (Bob Olsen/Toronto Star) – I did look for a colour photo but …

There won’t be any need for Viagra or Cialis in Toronto today. The beloved Maple Leafs have secured a spot in the National Hockey League playoffs. This will have the folks at the CBC in absolute raptures as post-season play returns to Canada’s largest hockey market. Big audiences mean big bucks.

I am happy that the long-suffering hockey fans of Toronto can get their hopes up; as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs. But what I am not looking forward to is the irksome pro-Toronto bias of the CBC.

The fact that the Leafs are marking a half-century since their last Stanley Cup victory makes their appearance in the playoffs just a wee bit sweeter. One good playoff run leading to a Cup and fifty years of futility will be erased. Never happened, a mere blip. Hockey will have been invented in Toronto on that day.

I am happy that the long-suffering hockey fans of Toronto can get their hopes up; as they say, anything can happen in the playoffs. But what I am not looking forward to is the irksome pro-Toronto bias of the CBC.

Let me state clearly that I harbour no belief that the NHL itself is in anyway biased towards the Leafs or any other team. Many will make that assertion but it is just silly. The NHL is a major business entity that would never stand for it. The officials are professionals who call ‘em as they see ‘em, both ways.

Tony Kubek (L) and Curt Gowdy

That having been said, the CBC most definitely proudly wears a huge Toronto tilt on its sleeve. Note that the broadcasts of hockey on the ‘national public broadcaster’ (i.e. the one supported by all Canadians tax dollars) are supposed to be neutral. Think back to before the current days of sports specialty channels when NBC’s Game of the Week was the only national baseball broadcast. Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek would pop up on our black and white television from a different city each week, depending on the importance of the game. They provided play-by-play and colour commentary from a neutral perspective. They were NBC announcers, not Yankee or Red Sox or Dodger announcers. Hired guns if you will.

Sometimes watching a Leafs game on CBC can give the viewer the impression that the announcers are watching a different game altogether … It borders on the infantile

Sometimes watching a Leafs game on CBC can give the viewer the impression that the announcers are watching a different game altogether. A Leaf player bumping an opponent is described as a ’massive blow’, a Leaf player down must have been tripped, almost every Leaf goal is highlight reel worthy by their standards. It borders on the infantile. Like Gowdy and Kubek on NBC, the announcers of Toronto Maple Leafs games on CBC are NOT working for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toronto Blue Jays announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler work for Sportsnet specifically to do Jays play-by-play and colour commentary. Sportsnet is a private business. It is a whole different situation, even if the games are broadcast nationally.

However as a Montreal Canadiens fan perhaps I should keep schtum; who knows, maybe the Hockey gods don’t like the homer approach of the CBC and have been taking it out on the team and fans for fifty years!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Audio Sports Highlights Just Don’t Work

There is an expression used when an athlete makes a great play; they say ‘that will make the highlight reel’. You can see just how old that adage is by the use of the word reel, at one time teams put out end of season films of the best plays of the year.   I have never been one to watch sports highlights. I enjoy watching a number of sports in their full game state. But a program made up of one highlight after another is not my cup of tea. They all look the same after just a short time. However I understand there are those folks who get their fill of sports via these little snippets.

What has always struck me as being totally asinine is the use of audio highlights on radio.

I like radio, it can be a wonderful thing to sit back and have someone talk to you. Radio broadcasts of baseball games on a hot summer night sitting outside are the things memories are made of. But what has always struck me as being totally asinine is the use of audio highlights on radio. The first time I heard this was during the nineties when the Expos were still in Montreal and on the morning after a game the radio station that carried the games would have a recap of the game that was punctuated with bits of audio from the broadcast. I didn’t care how the play was described, if I can’t see it just tell me the score.

Radio stations now routinely feature clips of play-by-play in their sportscasts. When you televise a highlight you are focusing on the athlete who has performed the feat. But when you play a recording of, for example, a home run it is actually the announcer’s call that is being featured not the home run because you can’t see it!

On a television highlight I can see the shortstop dive to make a great stop, somehow flip the ball to the second baseman who touches the base then wheels and fires to first to complete the double play. Wonderful athleticism, great skill, fantastic reflexes and strength.

On an audio highlight I can hear a guy describe the play … Great pipes, lovely cadence, fine vocabulary, but the play takes a back seat to the announcer.

On an audio highlight I can hear a guy (it is usually men) describe how the shortstop dove to make a great stop, somehow flipped the ball to the second baseman who touched the base then wheeled and fired to first to complete the double play. Great pipes, lovely cadence, fine vocabulary, but the play takes a back seat to the announcer.

And God forbid you should have to listen to audio highlights of a soccer game: ten different versions of GOOOOAAAALLLLLLL. Nope, time has come to label audio highlights dumb!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Aerosmith and MLB: Walk This Way

Photo/New York Times

Photo/New York Times

Here we are once again looking at a fresh new baseball season about to get underway. Hours of entertainment lie ahead with so many games available on television, even for those of us with regular cable. A true harbinger of spring and summer, the annual Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues are underway, having crept under the radar while President Trump stole the spotlight.

Daylight was our only means of seeing the ball, as the evening crept in it was deemed frugal to not waste valuable sunlight while walking a batter.

And just what does Major League Baseball have up its sleeve for us this year? The powers that be are forever tinkering with the game. As technology advances there are more calls for its use in determining close plays. Yet this year’s alteration actually seems to fly in the face of technology.

I played recreational fast-pitch softball for many years. Quite often in the latter stages of a game, if an intentional walk was to be issued, the process of throwing four pitches outside of the strike zone was omitted and the batter just trotted down to first base. There was a very logical reason for this: we played in a park that had no lights! Daylight was our only means of seeing the ball, as the evening crept in it was deemed frugal to not waste valuable sunlight while walking a batter.

No possibility for a balk, or a messed-up attempt at the outside pitch under pressure, or a poorly thrown ball back to the pitcher that allows runners to advance, and no chance to throw two outside pitches then sneak in a strike.

MLB wants to go down a similar road by scrapping the four-pitch intentional walk in favour of a signal that will indicate to the umpire that the batter should make his way to first. No possibility for a balk, or a messed-up attempt at the outside pitch under pressure, or a poorly thrown ball back to the pitcher that allows runners to advance, and no chance to throw two outside pitches then sneak in a strike. Nope, all those little facets of the game that make it so interesting will be replaced by a head nod or a flag from the dugout. Initial rumours that managers would blast Aerosmith’s Walk This Way from the dugout have thankfully been quashed.

Is MLB behind on their electric bill? Are the lights only on for a certain amount of time? Is there another couple of teams that have the park booked for a specific time and therefore the game must be rushed?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Donald Trump Signs Super Bowl Executive Order

trumporder

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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#TBT Whither the Two-Handed Fly Ball Catch

With no teams of interest to me in the NHL playoffs I have been watching a lot of baseball recently. Even some basketball. I could not help but notice that the one-time unwritten rule of fly ball catching, namely to use two hands, has been all but erased from the game.

Willie

The Catch – 1954 Willie Mays

This was something that coaches pounded into the heads of young players from day one. Once you have a position under a fly ball, get both hands, thumb alongside thumb,  ready to cradle the ball safely. It was a standard move for outfielders. Obviously there are situations when this is not possible, but when it is, there is no excuse for not doing so. Even Willie Mays used two hands when he made his famous over the shoulder catch.

Today players wait for the ball to come down and casually put up one hand and snag it, like they were shagging flies on a playground. I think it is the fielding version of the bat flip. An attitude thing. I suspect that at some point a manager or coach suggested strongly that two hands should be used and was probably told by some young phenom to speak to my agent!

But sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

I think it is the fielding version of the bat flip. An attitude thing.

On July 28, 1991, in front of 45,500 people in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles,  Montreal Expos’ pitcher Dennis Martinez did the ultimate for a pitcher, he threw a perfect game. That day his left-fielder was Ivan Calderon. Ivan liked to be a bit of what was in those days called a hot-dog, a showman. He used to catch routine fly balls by bringing both hands together at chest level then throwing out both arms catching the ball in the process. This required perfect timing lest Ivan end up with the ball embedded in his sternum.. As the game went on and Martinez was retiring batter after batter, and the tension built as a perfect game became a possibility, Calderon stopped doing his trademark catch and went back to the good old two hand catch. God forbid he should blow a pop and cost his pitcher the perfect game. Very sensible.

 

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Colin Kaepernick’s Protest: Good Cause, Bad Practice?

(Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

(Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

In the lead up to the 2016 National Football League season San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is getting much more attention for his sideline protest than for his performance on the field. As you have no doubt heard, Kaepernick is refusing to stand up for the pre-game playing of the American national anthem. He states that the anthem represents a country that discriminates against people of colour and he therefore will not stand for its playing.

They say there is no “I” in “Team”, but does that apply to making political statements as well as playing the game itself?

This has sparked a debate not about racism, but about Kaepernick’s choice of protest method. While there has been a vocal backlash against his refusal to stand, including posted videos of people burning his jersey, others have supported his stance, including several fellow NFL players. CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill said Kaepernick was principled and went on to defend his actions.

Interestingly here in Quebec there was a time not so long ago when some people attending sports events chose to sit during the Canadian national anthem. Many of those who sought sovereignty for the Province of Quebec deemed Canada to be the oppressor and therefore would not stand for the anthem. Of course it was pointed out to them that the currency they used also was Canadian and if they found that offensive there would be no shortage of takers should they wish to jettison their cash! I don’t seem to see this anymore as a generation has passed and the momentum of the sovereignty movement has been slowed by economic realities.

Also, national anthems represent many facets of a country, by protesting one do you protest them all? 

The question remains: is Kaepernick’s a legitimate means of protest? Clearly no one can question his cause, the issue is how he is going about things. When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their gloved hands while on the medal podium at the 1968 Olympics they were representing themselves in an individual sport. Kaepernick wears a uniform and plays a team sport, perhaps he should have explained his intentions to his teammates prior to acting. They say there is no “I” in “Team”, but does that apply to making political statements as well as playing the game itself? Also, national anthems represent many facets of a country, by protesting one do you protest them all? 

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Rio Olympics Coverage: Kudos to CBC Et al.

The Rio 2016 Olympics are now in the history books. The horrors that some feared would befall the games did not, thankfully, seem to materialize. I am a big fan of the Olympics for several reasons but primarily because they give me an opportunity to see sports that I rarely see other than during the Olympics – team handball, field hockey, and table tennis (certainly not the ping-pong of your childhood) to name a few.

If there was a snag it was that I felt the  co-hosts of the midday show, Andi Petrillo  and David Amber,  never seemed to gel, leaving this viewer feeling awkward at times.

In Canada the rights to broadcast the Olympics belong to the CBC through 2024. But the CBC partners with other Canadian sports channels to provide great coverage. At any given time, from about seven in the morning until well after midnight viewers had a choice of up to six English channels presenting live events, and several more in French. A handy graphic appeared from time to time in the upper right-hand corner of the screen informing viewers about what was on the other channels at that time. Because of the one hour time difference between Rio and eastern North America live events could be aired in their entirety, which is much better than a series of highlights.

For now it’s back to watching that other great sporting event, the US election campaign! I hope CNN doesn’t forget me.

For the most part commentators worked in pairs made up of a professional broadcaster and a former athlete. While all were pretty good, some stood out. Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) who is the go-to guy for all things hockey was great doing Olympic swimming. Former Olympic medalist Alexandre Despatie (@ADespatie) co-hosted the French-language morning show, but also contributed to the English broadcast prior to the closing ceremony.

If there was a snag it was that I felt the co-hosts of the midday show, Andi Petrillo (@AndiPetrillo) and David Amber (@DavidAmber), never seemed to gel, leaving this viewer feeling awkward at times.

So I can take a break until 2018 and the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. For now it’s back to watching that other great sporting event, the US election campaign! I hope CNN doesn’t forget me.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Montreal’s Diabolical Detours

Traffic_Cones

Montreal city hall recently announced that next year the city will host a Formula E race. This class of racing features electric cars, hence the E, and will be run on a road course instead of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The city has earmarked several million dollars for repairs to the roads that will be used, but the actual route is a deep dark secret. Regardless, much-needed improvements to Montreal roads is never a bad thing. Then again …

Like a guy struggling in quicksand in an old western movie, each step plunges you deeper instead of providing an escape.

On a trip to a medical appointment earlier this week the thought came to my mind that what I was experiencing was nothing short of cruel yet sadly not unusual. Like an excerpt from a Kafka book, there seemed no way out. Like a guy struggling in quicksand in an old western movie, each step plunges you deeper instead of providing an escape.

I’m referring to Montreal’s ”system” of detours. As I understand it, a detour is a marked route used to move traffic around a work site or road closure. It is intended to provide ease of movement. So let me put this as succinctly as I can: a detour that sends motorists to an alternate route that is also restricted by construction is not a detour, it’s diabolical.

But that is precisely what happens on many occasions due to the large number of work sites, they infringe upon possible alternative routes. I understand that even with our less cold global warming altered winters most road work must be done during the summer. But is there no planning to ease the gridlock? I wonder if somewhere there is a group of traffic planners laughing heartily as they watch video screens showing irate drivers as they come to understand that they have been detoured right into yet another construction site, complete with its own set of detours.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

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