Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should Canada be broken up?

Was the title misleading enough? This isn't an article supporting Québecois or Western secession, but one supporting breaking the Great White North into Canada-West and Canada-East for the World Junior tournaments.*

You may be asking; Amrit, why would you even dream of this? You may also be planning a fire-bombing of my house. I would ask you not to do the second, but I will answer the first question.

First off, we're too dominant. Yes, it's possible to be too dominant. Since 1988, Canada has won 13 of its total 15 gold medals. In other words, teams other than Canada have only won nine times. NINE! Now, you may be saying, "Amrit, that just means we're awesome, stop your damn whining!" But I contend that this dominance is bad for the sport.

While Canada pours significant amounts of money into its junior and development programs, that spending isn't really justifiable for anyone else... because they don't have the results to back up any extra investment. Russia won three bronze medals in a row between 2005-2007, and has won the last two bronze medals. Do you think the Russians are going to put more investment into a program that doesn't seem capable of pulling off a gold medal win?

Further, support for junior hockey in places whose names don't start with "Ca" and end with "da" goes down. As sports fans in Ottawa show time and time again, it doesn't matter how much your team tries, or the style of hockey they put on the ice, if you're not winning, no one cares.

Seriously, take the Czech Republic. Arguably a hockey country (anyone who's been to the tourist area in Prague knows what I'm talking about), they have a successful domestic league and a solid history in the World Juniors, having won 14 medals as the combined Czech Republic-Czechoslovakia (but only three in the non-Communist era). We've all seen the strength of the Czechs in the NHL, why doesn't it translate into the World Juniors? Well, when they get beaten by scores like 8-1 (Canada v Czech Republic, their worst loss in the tournament last year), what incentive is there to follow them? Seriously -- the photo above was taken during 2008's IIHF World Junior tournament in the Czech Republic... look at those packed seats!

Canada is probably the only country that really gives a toss about the World Juniors, and it's got a lot to do with the fact that the team is a consistently dominant force. Unfortunately, Canadian dominance is leading to the rest of the world giving up... it's time to even out the field.

Split Canada down the middle for the World Juniors, make the tournament more even, and the level of competition should increase. Otherwise, all we're going to see is the red'n'white kicking the shit out of everyone for years to come (the pre-tournament warmup games are certainly giving us a hint of that... 6-2 over Sweden, who've won the last two silvers, and 3-0 over Finland last night... the Finns managed a grand total of 17 shots).
* How much do you love that map? For serious! Windows 7 is pretty awesome... MS Paint has stuff like "crayon" and "oil brush".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maybe I should start doing a weekly roundup?

Also, you should read Bucholtz's post on the importance of Paul Henderson's goal in 1972, and the significance of the Summit Series in general.

Read it. Read it now. And watch Espo's rant. It's awesome. More awesome than even Pachelbel's Rant.

Justin Dunk Point/Counterpoint

Hello out there, we're on the (interwebs)*... again. ... Finally.

At any rate, I'm not going to talk about the start of the NHL season as planned, because it will only make me sad. I was a sad panda last night.

As you may have heard, in the world of interuniversity sport, Guelph quarterback Justin Dunk was suspended for yelling "FUCK WESTERN!" at the camera during Guelph's homecoming game. This game was not only being broadcasted on TV Cogeco or something, it was on The Score. Even though the suspension has now happened, Jake and I wrote a Point/Counterpoint in the Journal arguing the legitimacy of the suspension. It's posted below:

Should Dunk have been suspended?

Amrit Ahluwalia

During The Score television network’s Sept. 26 broadcast of the football game between the Guelph Gryphons and the Western Mustangs, Gryphons quarterback Justin Dunk broke for a 22-yard touchdown rush, ran to one of The Score’s cameras and yelled “Fuck Western!” to the country.

There hasn’t been OUA action on the incident, but Guelph suspended Dunk for their next regular-season game against the Waterloo Warriors. This was absolutely the right course of action.

It may have been what Dunk was thinking, or even what the Guelph Homecoming crowd was screaming, but it was inappropriate for the face of the team and the school to scream a profanity into the camera.

He almost certainly caused embarrassment to his school and probably a fair amount of vitriol to watching Western fans, and Guelph couldn’t appear to idly stand by. It may seem harmless at the time, but he effectively insulted Western’s entire student body, its wealth of alumnus and everyone affiliated with the school—especially its athletics program.

I think what players say on the field, only in view and not in earshot of the cameras, is their own business. But when they run into a camera they clearly intend the world to hear their words. Had Dunk done the same thing in any televised professional sporting event he would have faced fines or suspensions. Soccer’s Didier Drogba received a four-game suspension from UEFA after swearing at a TV camera on May 6 after Chelsea lost to Barcelona in the Champion’s League semifinal.

In smaller towns like Kingston and Guelph, where the highest level of local sport is OHL hockey, university sport takes on a local flavour. The players bear that responsibility on top of the demands of the student-athlete.

Dunk is the face of the Gryphons. He was in their commercial on The Score, and he must be expected to set an example for youth.

I think Dunk is in a position to receive at least a two-game joint suspension from the school and the league, given he sullied the name of OUA football and his own alma mater in one fell swoop. He can count himself lucky not to be facing greater punishment.

Football’s a passionate sport, and people are always passionate on the field, regardless of the sport. But 90 people suited up to play in that game and 89 of them avoided swearing on national TV.

Jake Edmiston

Guelph’s quarterback Justin Dunk was suspended by Guelph athletics this week for using obscenity in front of a camera from The Score. He won’t play in tomorrow’s game against the Waterloo Warriors.

Dunk forgot to cleverly manipulate his words. The phrase he used on Saturday was two letters away from the “Wuck Festern” slogan printed on hundreds of chests at Queen’s Homecoming football game against Western last year.

Dunk’s actions may have been offside, but they were part of a certain culture surrounding interuniversity football games. Chants from student sections aren’t always conducive to family television. Neither are candid end-zone celebrations. That’s why seven-second delays are handy, but The Score wasn’t operating with one. If last Saturday at Richardson Stadium had been televised, a crowd roar of “York loves dick” may have been broadcasted nationwide.

Sports induce emotional responses in athletes and fans. Dunk got emotional, but one could cut him slack considering he spends his afternoons avoiding 300-pound men with a penchant for roughness. If one player is going to receive a venomous response for using football-game vernacular then maybe it’s a good idea for those watching at home to be seven seconds behind, to protect certain ears and certain reputations. If Guelph suspended Dunk, they should be frequently escorting fans and athletes out of Alumni Stadium for a nice soap-gargle.

Dunk exposed it; he didn’t start it. He shouldn’t have said it, but you wouldn’t be pressed to find more offensive material in a locker room. Rivalry is entwined in competitive sport and the colourful outbursts it creates are part of the entanglement. If it’s an issue, make it an issue with every player and fan. If it shouldn’t be on television, use a panic button to blank out words and sterilize the sexual euphemisms.

Guelph Athletics could have acknowledged the trend of vulgarity as a part of the culture; they could have made the trend an issue. Instead, they’re making Dunk the issue. His actions now appear to be an isolated incident being dealt with internally. That’s effortless for the university and difficult for Dunk, who has to put his dignity in the swear-jar and watch from the sidelines next week.

Dunk graduates this year. Instead of focusing on football, he’s probably hoping the people reading his resumé don’t also read the CIS blog or national newspapers.

* Best video footage to the Hockey Song ever. Ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nurturing to take over poaching in Premier League

It's about time. According to the BBC, Premier League teams have agreed to a system where they must name eight 'home grown' players in their squad of 25.

A home grown player is someone who has played for a club in England or Wales for a minimum of three years between the ages of 16-21. This is fantastic news.

Essentially, it will bring about a system similar to that in place in the Europa League and the Champion's League, where teams must name eight home-grown players, five of whom who must have spent those formative years at the club itself.

Though there are easy ways around this system (you could do a Chelsea and poach 15-to-18 year olds from elsewhere... though that hasn't worked for them in the past), it's a way to both increase the chances for English-and-Welsh born players to play top flight football and a way to stem the ridiculous spending binges of some of the new-money clubs that have pushed their way into the upper echelons of football, without imposing the EU-banned 6+5 player quota discussed last year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, I am pretty sure I have hit near rockbottom in terms of my sports fandom. The Toronto Blue Jays are simply awful. Manager Cito Gaston clearly does not care, the best pitcher in baseball Roy Halladay clearly wants out and ownership is getting ready to sell the team. The Jays started out like a house on fire, peaking at a sparkling 27-14 record, the best in the American League. Halladay was Halladay, the pitchers were pitching great, and hitters were smoking the ball. And then injuries. Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan started the year on the disabled list, and both have suffered further and further setbacks, to the point where it would not be a surprise if Dustin McGowan never pitches again. They were joined by Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Ricky Romero, Robert Ray, Scott Downs and the complete and utter destruction of BJ Ryan.

On the offensive side, the Jays employ one of the worst everyday players in baseball in Vernon Wells, except he is due in excess of $60MM in the coming years. Scott Rolen, one of the most likeable Toronto sports figures I can remember, decided he had had enough and asked to be traded. The Jays then let Alex Rios and his limitless potential walk away. The end result? Since being 27-14, the Jays have gone 30-53 to sit at 57-67. And they neglected to shell out the money for their top draft picks.

This is the closest I have ever come to giving up and turning my back on this team. My brother and his wife just gave birth to a baby boy. He and I are in complete agreement that he is not to be raised as a Toronto Blue Jays fan.

I was at the Rogers Centre on Monday night. It is the only game I have been to this year and I went specifically to see Roy Halladay pitch. He really is a no-hitter waiting to happen. People often say that Toronto is a great sports town, the Leafs have sold out since World War II, the Raps have a great fanbase etc. The attendance at the Rogers Centre was 1/3rd its capacity. I have been to maybe 70 or 80 games at the Rogers Centre and the only time I had ever seen a lower attendance was for a mid-April game in 2003 against Boston in the middle of the SARS epidemic in Toronto. Sitting at the game on Monday, I don't think I have ever been so dispassionate and depressed while watching sports.

Even worse, I get to look at the standings and see a team like the Colorado Rockies locked into an absolutely amazing stretch drive playing exciting game after exciting game, while I have to cheer on a team that puts Kevin Millar, Randy Ruiz and Raul Chavez into the same lineup.

I need a drink

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reasons you should never trust online polls

But first -- WOOOO ENGLAND WON THE ASHES!!!! STUFF IT AUSTRALIA! This was probably the worst weekend for Australian sport in a long time, they lost the Ashes to England, the title of best Test cricket team to South Africa and lost in the Tri-Nations (rugby) to New Zealand. Very crappy weekend.

Now for the feature presentation - the reason internet polls are dumb:

I suppose a small amount of explanation is required before going into my rant. You see, The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team finished 2-6 last year. Those two wins were actually an improvement on what was expected from this team... that hadn't won a game since 2001. What right-thinking individual would rationally come to the conclusion that this is a team that was bound to win this season. Further still, how could 40.48% of respondents to the poll think that?

Effectively, the OUA (poll found here) is asking what school the respondent goes to or went to. Polls like this are moronic, they don't give any real information, they just find out whose fans visit the hosting website the most. Polls like the one TSN is currently running on their NHL website (whether Dany Heatley will still be an Ottawa Senator by October 1) are more telling, as fan allegiances only play a small role in the option the answerer clicks (although Sens fans who like Heatley will probably be clicking "Yes, he'll be a Senator").

These kinds of polls really do, to some extent, give an idea of what the public thinks on an issue. For team-based polls, though, almost any fan is going to pick their team to win it all. After all, this is the year!!! Right? So why bother?

Unfortunately, it's an idiot-trap. It's a bit like Las Vegas, you see all the fancy lights and all of a sudden some greasy-haired, shiny-shirt-wearing creep named Gino owns your house. You see the poll, answer it, and are maybe attracted by a story. Who knows? I know people who go to certain sites on a weekly basis specifically to answer a poll.

This all leads me to one very simple conclusion:

Should this blog have a weekly poll?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on today's Premier League action

I can't think up a better title than that... it's late, cut me some slack.


Burnley 1 - 0 Manchester United

Who the hell saw this coming? But then, it's early days and United haven't quite gelled yet. Seeing Burnley win their first home top-flight match in 33 years was wonderful... but to see them win it against last year's league champions? Fairy tail stuff!
At any rate, positives for United: Michael Owen was decent, he got himself into dangerous positions and was moving the ball around well, but needs to find his scoring touch. Also, the possession tells the story, United were dominant with 63% of the ball, but they just couldn't score (not to say they didn't have their chances, putting 9 shots on goal and missing another 9). Unfortunately, in losing Christiano Ronaldo, they seem to have lost that cutting-edge against teams they should be beating... no one really stepped up today and they really missed that lacquered up pansy.
For Burnley, they have easily the most courageous keeper I've ever seen in their great Dane, Brian Jensen, picking up the man of the match award. Their centre-backs were equally deserving of praise, throwing themselves in front of everything United could give them, and doing their best to get in the way. An inspiring effort from all 11 on the pitch.

Hull 1 - 5 Tottenham Hotspur

6 points from two games. It took Spurs 10 games to reach 6 points last year. Oh... and we're top of the table. I'm not taking a win over a decidedly crap Liverpool and Hull as a sign we'll win the championship, but it's rare you hear the Match Of The Day pundits declare (without laughing) "Tottenham for the title". I choked up a little when they said it, I'm not lying... in 21 years I've never heard that said seriously. Spurs were magnificent today, the passing, the movement, the Jermaine Defoe hat-trick... I'm really excited this year. It seems to be clicking.

Birmingham City 1 - 0 Portsmouth

David James will forever argue the penalty... but he shouldn't have been challenging for the ball in the first place, it was nowhere near the goal. I think the most significant question one can ask from this game is: why has he decided to make himself the most utterly ridiculous-looking footballer in the league (Cissé's in Greece now)? He really looks like some ridiculous 70s pornstar, getting into the habit of grabbing all kinds of stray balls (I'm sorry, this is a family-friendly blog... I couldn't resist though).

Liverpool 4 - 0 Stoke

This result should never have been in question... but last year both matches with Stoke ended with goalless draws... so I suppose Liverpool had reason to be wary (especially after their horrible start to the season at White Hart Lane). Glen Johnson, Liverpool's new right-back fresh from Pompey, might be the most inspired non-Spanish acquisition ever made by Rafa Benitez. In the attacking third of the pitch, he gives Liverpool so many new options, he was hands down their best player today (as he was against Spurs on Sunday).