Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disenchantment

Prelude

I always enjoyed playing, watching sports on television and attending the games live. I competed in North American Football (my favourite), hockey and baseball. My long time and very good friend Uncle Block suggested I write a rant about sports...I accepted his advice and here it is.

As a young boy and teenager I participated in organized sports in Hamilton, Ontario. I played three years of house league hockey at Inch Park Arena. My third year I was selected for an all star tryout...I was cut after the first practice.

Back in those days (early 1960's) the rinks weren't enclosed. Whenever I played the temperature was frigid and the wind was biting cold. I remember my father (R.I.P. and God rest your soul) taking me to my games at four and five o'clock on Saturday mornings...he would be frozen stiff watching his son compete.

I played two years of baseball, one year of fastball at Buchanan Park, the other year of hardball at Holbrook Park. I also partook in high school football, one year of junior and two years of senior at Westmount Secondary School.

Like most boys during my childhood and teenage years I was athletic...active and energetic, but just an average kid when it came to possessing any real talent. It was safe to say there wouldn't be any sports team scout knocking on my door wanting to recruit me.

Since my preferred sport was the grid iron pastime, I decided to endeavour coaching football...the year was 1972. As it turned out, I coached the pigskin sport for thirty-two seasons at various levels. In the spring of 1985 I travelled to Austin, Texas to watch the Texas Longhorns (my favourite college football team) practice for a week. The purpose of that trip was to acquire any ideas for my coaching betterment.

I have many wonderful memories of my amateur career, but three occurrences were absolutely remarkable and outstanding. In 1977 I was Head Coach for a peewee (12 and 13 year olds) team for the Hamilton Minor Football Association and we won the city championship...it was a very dramatic season since our record was 4 wins and 4 losses before we entered the playoffs.

I received the Seymour Wilson Award presented by the Hamilton Football Officials Association for service and contribution to amateur football in 2005...it was an exceptional and magnificent honor.

In 2006 I was Defensive Co-ordinator for the Steel City (Hamilton) Ironmen Junior Varsity team (ages 14-16 years old) of the Ontario Varsity Football League and we won the Ontario Provincial Championship. Winning both championships has sensations some coaches would never experience...to say it mildly, extreme joy, elation and ecstasy.

My last year of coaching was 2006. I contemplated returning to the Ironmen grid iron in 2008, but my conscience kept saying, you went out a winner and have a championship ring.

I did consider coaching high school football a few years ago. However, I thought I can do without being present at the practices and games freezing or saturated from a cold rain...my days were finished...I put my time in. Oddly enough, now, I don't miss coaching at all.

I have appeared at a good deal of Professional sporting events throughout my life. I have been present for many Hamilton Tiger Cat games of the C.F.L. (Canadian Football League), watching the Detroit Lions of the N.F.L. (National Football League) square off against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills, also of the N.F.L. play the Dallas Cowboys.

Major League Baseball (M.L.B.) was always pleasurable. I witnessed the Toronto Blue Jays in their initial years and saw a Detroit Tigers game at their old ballpark, Tiger Stadium. I had a marvellous and fantastic time taking weekend trips to Cleveland, Ohio with four good friends (sadly one is no longer with us...R.I.P. and God rest your soul you left us way too early) and watching the Indians...oops, is that racist, oh well. We did that venture twice, one year for the New York Yankees and the next year for the Blue Jays.

I travelled to Buffalo, New York on an organized bus trip in 1976 and watched the Buffalo Sabres of the N.H.L. (National Hockey League) take on the Soviet Wings of the Soviet Union...the final score was 12-6 for the Sabres.

Myself and some of my buddies would journey to Toronto when the Chicago Black Hawks (oh, oh, racist sweaters) of the N.H.L. would check in for a Saturday night game. We stayed overnight at a five star hotel located in the heart of downtown...we did this more than once.

A very good friend (still great friends today) of mine's uncle was the manager of the beautiful, upscale and luxurious building. If I remember correctly, there was no fee for our overnight lodging. When we returned to our rooms there would always be a tray of snacks and beer on ice...absolutely without a doubt, a complete and total class act. Sadly enough my friend's uncle passed away some time ago...R.I.P. and God rest your soul...you were a super nice guy.

The number of games I have viewed on television or listened to on the radio is a considerable amount. My favourite professional sports teams were the Chicago Black Hawks (N.H.L.), Green Bay Packers (N.F.L.), New York Yankees (M.L.B.) and the Ottawa Rough Riders (C.F.L.)

The last hockey game I watched in it's entirety was a 1985 Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Chicago Black Hawks and Edmonton Oilers.

Some folks have stated the league has "cleaned up" the game, from what it use to be in regards to fighting and cheap shots. Every morning I lay on my couch with my coffee and my bottle of tap water and watch the sports highlights from the night before and still see players brawling and/or inflicting inexcusable and unsportsmanlike physical actions on each other.

I recall a game on Nov. 15/16 where Johnny Gardreau of the Calgary Flames was deliberately slashed with a stick by Minnesota Wilds Eric Staal...the end result, Gardreau received a broken finger,

I don't doubt if for one second, Canada owns hockey...it's the country's game and Canucks are the best in the world. Many Canadians will insist and persistently argue that fighting is part of the game. I've always tried to comprehend, what component of the game?... I have never agreed with that rationale.

When a fight occurs at a hockey game a multitude of fans behaviour transforms into a state of euphoria...they have an extensive and vast pleasure watching two players physically assault one another or better known as beat the shit out of each other...I just can't understand the mentality.

When two people engage in a physical altercation their objective and full intention is to SERIOUSLY INJURE each other and nothing less...is that amusing?

I wonder if anyone has ever asked Don Sanderson's family or friends if they support fighting in hockey. On Dec. 12/08 Sanderson who was a 21 year old defenseman for the Whitby Dunlops of the Allan Cup Hockey League was in a fight with Brantford Blast forward Corey Fulton. Sanderson's helmet fell off and he dropped to the ice hitting his head. He was in a coma for almost three weeks and died Jan. 2/09...HOW FUCKING AMUSING IS THAT?

Chris DiDomenico, a player with the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was quoted in the Star Jan. 3/09 (a day after Sanderson's death) and said, "I don't think there's anything wrong with fighting. If two guys want to drop the gloves it's totally up to them."

A player has just died from an unnecessary and pointless incident and he still thinks fighting is O.K.? I wonder if he would "change his tune" if a family member or close friend died from a hockey fight? I guess his generation is what we call desensitized.

It's horrific when parents experience the loss of a son or daughter, but lose a loved one in a hockey game due to senseless and idiotic fighting is DOWN RIGHT FUCKING WRONG!!! You may say it's only happened once...once is TOO MANY! Tell me, is death due to fighting part of the game?

My E.A. (Executive Assistant) any myself watched the third period of the gold medal hockey game of the 2010 Winter Olympics between Canada and the U.S. (United States) on television...to say the least, it was sheer entertainment...a true classic.

The game had a soaring calibre of skill and artistry...it was spectacular with continuous end to end action...an outstanding and splendid extravaganza...Canada won 3-2. Undeniably, there wasn't any fighting or cheap blows...the way hockey should be played.

Keeping with hockey, I find it very odd players don't wear full protective face shields, such as a steel cage or plastic visors. The risk of receiving a puck, stick or skate into the face is highly probable as Sidney Crosby experienced on Dec. 14/16 in a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Crosby received a puck and a stick in the face on two separate occasions. Some forums I "surfed" stated the N.H.L. prohibits full facial protection unless for medical reasons. An article in the Hockey Writers on Dec. 14/15 stated in the year 2015 alone there were an incredible number of injuries suffered from pucks, sticks and even skate blades to the face.

If full facial protection is actually outlawed by the N.H.L. I find it truly absurd. It's really strange that there is a lack of health and safety rules for players about full facial protection.

Our eyes are a precious, priceless and vital feature of the human anatomy. Occupations like firefighters, construction, road and factory workers (to name a few) are regulated by law to wear their full and proper protective apparel and abide by the health and safety mandates.

Other reasons I have read for the absence of full facial protection, they are uncomfortable, players have a harder time controlling the puck and the cameras can't acquire a clear shot of the player's face...now really, is this a photo shoot or a hockey game?

The full cage or visor doesn't appear to hinder the performance of the Canadian Women's Hockey Team...they just keep on winning world titles and gold medals...they are the best on this earth.

I was an avid C.F.L fan for many years. When the league expanded in the 1990's with some American teams and the Ottawa Rough Riders franchise collapsed in 1996 my enthusiasm (didn't have to be curbed) was basically shattered and ruined.

For some time now C.F.L. teams have had sponsors on their sweaters...they are located on the upper front by the players' shoulders. I find it completely amateurish. Hold on a minute now, before you start screaming, I am not calling the players amateur, on the contrary the players are excellent athletes...polished and talented. When I see the advertising on the sweaters it reminds me of the jerseys of a tyke or peewee minor football team.

The 2016 Grey Cup was held in Toronto on Nov. 27/16 at B.M.O. (Bank of Montreal) field. The Grey Cup is a championship trophy awarded to the best team in the C.F.L.. The Ottawa Redblacks defeated the Calgary Stampeders 39-33 in overtime.

The seating capacity at the B.M.O. field is 26,500 but was expanded to 35,000...attendance was over 33,000. It was the first outdoor Grey Cup game for Toronto in 34 years. I do question the decision of having the game at B.M.O. field and not the Rogers Center. Since 1976 the Grey Cup attendance has been over 50,000 at every game and the Rogers Center, it seats 52,000 plus.

The Grey Cup is a prestigious event...it is the highest honour and privilege a C.F.L. team can obtain. Players and coaches work extremely hard and diligently all season to play in that classic. It's unreasonable teams should have to play the most important game in their life in the cold, rain or snow.

It never ceases to amaze me Wynne's Ontario has foolish and ridiculous rules and the 2016 Grey Cup followed suit. The Toronto Sun on Nov. 24/16 reported the Calgary Stampeders mascot (a horse called Quick Six) was forbidden on the field for the game. The article also stated the Ottawa Redblacks mascot team, the chain saw crew (they slice a touchdown "cookie" from a log) were also disallowed on the field. I'm really "shocked" the authorities didn't ban both teams' cheerleaders.

The Calgary Stampeders were also prohibited from practicing on the B.M.O. field...they rehearsed their game strategy at an indoor complex. Considering the magnitude of the game, coaches and players want to get "a lay of the land" or in other words familiarize themselves with the actual field for the greatest game of their lives.

I find it highly peculiar that the three largest populated cities in Canada which are also homes to C.F.L. teams, have below average attendance. Montreal Alouettes and B.C. Lions (Vancouver) is just over 20,000 and the Toronto Argonauts is 16,380. Toronto used to play at the Rogers Center but moved to B.M.O. field for the 2016 season...my guess, they couldn't afford the Rogers Center.

The C.F.L. has lost some of their traditions. For many years the Hamilton Tiger Cats would host the Ottawa Rough Riders every Thanksgiving afternoon...it was a huge and notable rivalry...for some reason it no longer happens. Each C.F.L. team would play four pre season games, now there are only two...dam difficult to assess and judge their talent. Even though teams have free agent camps we must acknowledge squads have a large number of athletes competing for positions...the Ottawa Redblacks 2016 roster was 84 players.

A few years ago the New Orleans Saints of the N.F.L. were found guilty of placing a bounty on opposing players. Their coaches, specifically Defensive Co-ordinator Greg Williams paid out bonuses to Saints players who would intentionally injure opposing teams players.

This is FUCKING REPULSIVE and DISGRACEFUL These "unworthy coaches" are supposed to be advocates of the game and act as decent and respectable professors of the sport...true role models...what does that teach our kids. On March 21/12 Head Coach Sean Payton was suspended for one year and Williams was suspended indefinitely, however, Williams' penalty was overturned a couple of years later.

As far as I'm concerned the staff that was involved in this putrid and sickening escapade should be banned from coaching forever...never to coach again, any where or at any level. It reminds me of my high school senior football Head Coach announcing to the team at one practice, "if you're not out there to hurt someone, you shouldn't be playing this game"...absolutely deplorable and shameful.

Epilogue

My interest in professional sports has dwindled immensely. Free agency certainly doesn't help...favourite players are here today and gone tomorrow. Free agency started with baseball in 1969. Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals was the first player to "test the waters" and in 1993 the N.F.L. commenced their journey into free agency. Numerous players jump from team to team to team for the almighty dollar. I've been disconnected with my favourite teams for quite some time...I just can't get excited any more. Notwithstanding that, I continue to watch the sports highlights every morning and still have a "grip" on professional sports. I can summarize my feelings on professional sports with the 1970 Gordon Lightfoot song titled, "If You Could Read My Mind", with the lyrics, "but the feelings gone and I just can't get it back."

The End

The Harvenut Puritan Project
Puritan will return with, It's Difficult To Wave The Flag

1 comment:

  1. Love the Gordon quote....Harvenuts, very surprised you did not make comment on the "outrageous and outlandish" salaries these sports workers make today. No minimum wage legislation required.

    ReplyDelete

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