Ralph Wiggum Makes an Appearance at the Joe

Y’know, I hate it when guys say stuff like I told you so, but I did correctly predict the winner of tonight’s Stanley Cup Final and the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy.  No doubt the media will be arriving on my front lawn tomorrow morning wondering about the secret to my prognosticative prowess;  here’s hoping I can get some chores done in between interviews.

Speaking of interviews, the line of the night goes to Jackson Cooke, the five-year-old son of Penguins forward Matt Cooke.  Here’s a clip from the tail end of Scott Oake’s on-ice interview with Cooke from CBC:

Runner-up prize goes to Marc-Andre Fleury. Asked by Oake to describe how he felt when he saw the Red Wings swarming his crease in the final minutes of the 3rd period of the game, Fleury smiled, shook his head and said, “Oh shit!” Spouse and I exploded with laughter.

Adam van Koeverden

One more day of Olympic fun, and then it’s a long wait until Vancouver.

I have to admit that Spouse and I have been complete summer games junkies over the last few days.  We have been camping out at night on the fold-out sofa bed in the living room so that we can fall asleep in front of Bulgaria vs. Hungary in handball.  I admit this is slightly odd.

It seems to me that Canada could not have picked a better athlete to carry our flag in the opening ceremonies than Adam van Koeverden.  Scratch that, Canada could not have designed a better athlete to represent our country.  The guy was a big favourite in the K1 500 and a medal hopeful in the K1 1000.  For whatever reason (and van Koeverden, to his credit, has no truck with those who believe in the alleged “curse of the flagbearer”), he came out flat in the final of the K1 500 and finished eighth out of nine boats.  He gets out of the boat, looks in to the camera and apologizes.  He then rests for a day and comes back for the K1 1000 final, in which he goes out strong and leads all the way – until he is passed in the final 75 meters by a guy from Australia, relegating him to the silver medal position.  In an interview with CBC’s Diana Swain broadcast here in the Eastern time zone this morning, van Koeverden says he is in no way disappointed, is honoured to have won a silver medal, and takes time out to voice his respect for the Australian athlete who nipped him at the wire.  He also manages, in the course of about a five-minute interview, to point out the increase in collegiality among athletes at these games, where even sprinters (who customarily stare each other down as if they were rival gang members) are high-fiving each other and congratulating one another and observes (without sounding cranky or piqued about it) that athletes in the summer games sports who are not named Kobe Bryant or Yao Ming would appreciate it if people would pay just a little attention to their sports in non-Olympic years.   This guy has more class in his little finger than most folks will ever see.   I am so fiercely proud that my country produces athletes like this guy;  I wish we could bottle what he has and inject it into the bloodstream of each and every player on my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

Clean, Jerk and Sniffle

I don’t like to tell tales out of school, but (hypothetically) someone I know – someone whose nickname on this site rhymes with “mouse” – has a bit of a problem with the Olympics. The Olympics cause this person to become a complete puddle of tears. Hypothetically, you could put a nine year old child in the centre of a stadium, singing (or lip-synching) a song in a language that this person cannot even understand; if you tell this person that the little girl is singing about the Olympics, the waterworks begin. Being the kind, caring and supportive type of person I am, I tend to let this type of behaviour pass without comment. It would be wrong for me to make fun of such this person’s charming and endearing little trait, right?

…or something like that. Anyway, karma is a bit of a beeyatch sometimes.

So there Spouse and I are, watching the CBC’s evening roundup of yesterday’s Olympic performances as we were preparing our dinner. and the men’s +105kg weightlifting class comes on the tube. I can count on zero fingers the number of times that Spouse and I have sat and watched a weightlifting competition together, but there we were watching the big fellas snatch, clean, and jerk. The announcers tell us that Germany’s Matthias Steiner has had a difficult time leading up to the Olympics, losing his wife Susann in a car crash a year ago. The announcers mentioned that he promised his dead wife that he would become a German (he was born an Austrian) and that he would become an Olympic champion for her.

Steiner battles it out with the other big men, misses an early lift in excruciating fashion, and appears to have lost the competition in this way. On his final lift, though, he plays out – in real life – the script of every inspirational sports movie, calling for an additional 10 kg to be placed on the bar for his final attempt. He has never lifted this much before. He steps onto the stage, absolutely stalks the bar, glaring at it like a sworn enemy, then makes the final attempt of the competition. He manages a relatively fluid clean, then struggles mightily with the jerk and emits a tremendous, joyful roar as his lift is validated by the judges, he throws the great weight to the ground in triumph and commences an alternately exuberant and despairing celebration. At first, Spouse and I laugh with joy at seeing his exuberance.

CBC cuts to video of the podium ceremony, and Steiner is displaying a photograph of his wife, smiling and crying. Spouse and I are no longer laughing, it’s very quiet in the room.

I need to go to the bathroom for a moment – I think there’s something in my eye.

Some Olympic Thoughts

Usain Bolt: the guy nearly stumbles coming out of the blocks (dragging his left toe on the first stride), shuts the engine off at about 80m (foregoing a full-power effort for the last 8 strides of what is for him a 42 stride race) and STILL shatters the world record and lays down a 9.69. I really, really hope that’s not chemically-assisted, because I want to like this guy a lot. On the CBC, Elliotte Friedman kept his impeccable record intact for “most consecutive interviews featuring at least one astonishingly stupid question”. He mentioned to Bolt that Michael Phelps has seven gold medals in swimming, then pointed out that Bolt still has the 200m and the 4×100 relay to go and asked whether he could “equal” Phelps. Bolt gave him a look, you know the one, the “are you really saying that?” look, then said “No, I don’t think I can equal that guy – he’s great.” Next up in Elliotte’s interviewing arsenal: “Usain, in a fight between an eagle and a dolphin, who would win?” and “Usain, who was smarter: Leonardo da Vinci or Charlie Babbit from the movie Rain Man?” It must have been tough for Elliotte to fit that one in to what was a relatively brief exchange, just a minute or so in duration, but – as always – Elliotte made the bold choice to forego asking the questions the viewer would like to have an answer for, such as “why did you let up in the last 20 meters”, instead choosing to concentrate on some nonsense about a guy from a different country who competed in a different event on a different day and in an entirely different physical medium.  In fact, the fascination with Michael Phelps is becoming somewhat thematic with Mr. Friedman;  last week he asked Canadian swimmer Brian Johns, who had swam a Canadian-record time to simply qualify for the 400 IM final what it was like to swim against Michael Phelps – that is to say that in the immediate aftermath of the crowning athletic achievement of this young man’s life, seconds after he has finished competing at the highest level he or anyone else could imagine after years of solitary hard work and lonely dedication to purpose, Friedman essentially took him aside, pointed at Phelps and said, “Canada wants to know:  don’t you think THAT GUY is fast?”  Keep it classy, Elliotte.

This morning, Spouse and I were watching a bit of the women’s trampoline competition. We were having the perhaps inevitable conversation about the legitimacy of this event as an Olympic sport, when one of the announcers observed of a particular competitor that she needed to “bounce back” from a disappointing performance. We descended into gales of laughter and pretty much didn’t hear another thing anyone on the TV said because we were too busy wheezing and gasping for air in between howls of laughter about trampolinists on the rebound, trampolinists failing to obey the law of gravity and simply shooting off into space, etc.  Oh, sporting cliches:  you give us so many hours of joy, and what do we give you in return?

Spouse and I are both excited about the upcoming equestrian show jumping competition. The first round of competition was yesterday morning – we watched bits and pieces of the round as we were dressing for work and later – when we had gotten to work – certain of the trips via CBC’s streaming feed on the Net. Canada’s Mac Cone and Eric Lamaze each laid down a perfect trip with no time faults – Lamaze and Hickstead, in particular, were absolutely blazing around the course finishing three seconds under the alloted time on a course where I would venture to guess more than half the competitors accrued at least one time penalty. Canada also benefitted from Jill Henselwood and Black Ice’s clean, but slightly slow round (1 fault) and Ian Millar and In Style’s 4 jumping fault trip. Captain Canada and In Style got a little unlucky on that one, when the horse’s trailing legs came down on the top of the far rail of the last oxer, rattling the rail out of the cups in circumstances where it might just as easily have stayed up. Canada stands tied in the team competition for second place with one penalty (the lowest individual score posted by a team member in each round is not counted), behind a U.S. team that managed to post a penalty-free score with strong performances from Laura Kraut, McLain Ward, and – as always – Beezie Madden and Authentic. Biggest surprise so far: poor performance of the German team, who posted twenty-two faults in all, and who were well back in the pack.

I don’t want to jinx it, but based on the way Eric Lamaze and Hickstead have been going all year, I will not be surprised if they end up battling for individual gold with Beezie Madden and Authentic in a jumpoff for the Olympic title.   It would be a great story of personal triumph for Lamaze, who has twice previously been expelled from the Canadian team for drug-related reasons, and who comes from a disadvantaged socio-economic background and had to scratch and claw for everything he’s gotten in what can be a somewhat elitist sport, so going to places like the Asheville Recovery Center is one of the better solutions to face this problem.  It is tough for me to root against Beezie, because she just seems so genuinely nice, but I have to confess there is a part of me that would like to see Lamaze put his Olympic issues behind him most emphatically with an individual gold.  Spouse and I have been fortunate enough to see him ride Hickstead on a number of occasions, and – although I don’t pretend to know a lot about the sport – this partnership seems like one in which absolutely everything is going the right way at the right time.

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

CTV announced today that it had acquired the rights to the iconic “Hockey Night in Canada” song. Most people ’round these parts seem to want to talk about how CBC was wrong-footed on this one; the conventional wisdom is that CBC looks foolish in failing to re-acquire a license for the tune. That may be so, although it seems to me likely that – had the Mother Corpse thrown a pile of money at the rights holder just to nail down the song – people would have been just as busy bellyaching about a publicly-funded broadcaster lavishing funds extravagantly on a mere overture to the weekly exhibition of hockey. Whatever the truth of the matter, my point is that patrons of donut shops coast to coast would – and do – have no shortage of second guessing and “obvious” wisdom to offer free of charge, delivered between gulps of coffee and with an accompanying spray of cruller dust, for the dunderhead bureaucrats and anyone else within earshot.

My own parochial interest was piqued more by this little chestnut, hidden near the end of the linked article:

Earlier Monday, CBC had announced it asked Toronto sports lawyer Gord Kirke to mediate negotiations between the public broadcaster and Copyright Music and Visuals, the company that controls the song’s rights.

Yes, that’s right, the CBC wanted to hire Gord Kirke – THAT Gord Kirke! The one that’s supposed to be taxed to the max by his many demanding duties on the committee the Toronto Maple Leafs have struck to find The One, the G.M. that will lead Leafs fans into the promised land after our own little version of Exodus, lo these forty years (yes, that was a cheap “1967” reference. I’m entitled to one a year.)

WTF?

Haven’t the Leafs been assuaging the worst fears of their fans – that the lack of obvious activity towards achieving this goal is in fact reflective of the actual level of activity going on within MLSE – by assuring us all that a very thorough and exhaustive search was being conducted in order to identify the perfect candidate for the position, and that the organization would not be rushed into making a selection simply for the sake of having someone in place come draft day? Haven’t they in effect been telling us that Gord Kirke and the rest of the committee are busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, and don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, they’ve rolled up their sleeves, they’re pulling all-nighters on this one, but dammit we’re gonna do the job right?

Doesn’t it sound a little bit like that’s all – and this next passage is a technical term, please try to follow along – bullshit? To me, this sounds a little like Mr. Kirke is the kind of “busy” that you used to be when your Mom asked you to mow the lawn: “Oh, wow, I’d love to, Mom, but I’ve got this killer report due in third period geography on Tuesday, and the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board is also kind of hoping I’d have a GM hired by then.” In other words, too busy to mow the lawn, but NOT too busy to go whip donuts at passing buses with your best buddy.

If Gord Kirke and the search committee is so damn busy, how the hell does he have time to be even considering taking other jobs? I appreciate the fact that the story indicates CBC was approaching Kirke, rather than the other way around, lemonade-755563but what’s the likelihood that CBC isn’t plugged into Kirke’s level of activity on the GM question, tied as they are to the apron strings of Maple Leaf broadcast money – money that gets more and more plentiful the more successful the Leafs become, as the playoff runs of 1993 and 1994 proved beyond any shadow of a doubt? If Gord Kirke is truly busy with the GM search, and I’m talking “juggling chainsaws while he puts out a four alarm fire, dances a jig, writes an opera and rescues a puppy” busy, no way does anyone at CBC throw out his name as a dude that might be able to help them in their time of crisis.

I wonder what other occupations and pre-occupations might currently be engaging Mr. Kirke, in addition to his many exhausting headhunting labours on behalf of the Bay Street Mint? He could be:

  • operating a lemonade stand – can’t let the first heat wave of the season go unexploited, and 25 cents a glass for some water, sugar and citrus flavouring is market waiting to be exploited. Look for the chain of stands with 16 oz glasses of “product” that comes in a plastic cup with Bryan McCabe’s picture on it, and retails for eight bucks plus tax;
  • trying to get through Grand Theft Auto IV;
  • watching Cheers marathon on Deja Vu – currently enjoying seventeenth consecutive “Coach” episode, struck by similarities between Ernie Pantuso and former employee John Ferguson Jr.;
  • totally working up the courage to flirt with that hot chick behind the counter at Timothy’s coffee shop under the TD Centre: “Hey, baby, I can get centre ice reds for you. Of course there is the matter of the seat licence; now, if you’ll let me take some licence with your seat…”
  • trying to learn how to belch the alphabet. Currently making it regularly up to “q”, only vomited once;
  • secretly hiding shit from Cliff Fletcher’s desk when Fletcher takes a time out in the executive crapper, then wondering aloud whether Fletch may be beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s when Cliff expresses frustration at not being able to find his fucking stapler; and
  • helping O.J. look for the “real killer”.

Seriously, Gord and his buddies couldn’t convey their intentions any more clearly at this point if they hired a skywriter to author an airborne message to the following effect: “Dude. Chill out. We totally have Brian Burke’s phone number. He just has to work some shit out, man.”

Ridiculous Dept.

Evidently, the poor (on-ice) performance of the Leafs is being cited as a contributing cause to the cancellation of certain CBC programming (via bitterleaf):

Apparently, without the playoff revenues generated by the large audiences that tune into post-season Leaf broadcasts, the CBC can’t afford to keep crap quality programming like Hockey Wives and Jpod on the air

Be careful if you go clicky; the linked post contains a throrough (and humourous) discussion of the pernicious influence of the Maple Leafs throughout history. I nearly spat tea all over my computer as a result of the first image. You’ve been warned.

Seriously, though – what the hell is this nonsense? Are we really to believe that the inability of the Leafs to reach the bonus round the past few years is the problem here? shinola01How ’bout the idiots in the financial planning department at the CBC who were, evidently, betting the family farm that Andrew Raycroft would lead the Buds to glory? This kind of causes one to wonder what other excellent financial prestidigitation has been going on behind the scenes at the Mother Corpse. I mean, if nothing else, the fact that they’ve apparently been drawing up budgets that are premised upon the assumption that the Leafs will participate in the playoffs reveals that CBC mucky mucks are unable to distinguish the substance pictured at left from unrelated fecal matter when it comes to hockey and/or that they haven’t even been watching their own programming – anybody who’s popped in for the occasional episode of Hockey Night in Canada when the Leafs are busy coughing up a three-goal third period lead in the last couple of years (and those episodes have been numerous, I tells ya) ought to have at least a passing idea that it might not be terribly prudent to assume that the ACC will still be rockin’ come June.