Saturday, December 6, 2014

Remembering Jean Beliveau

Monsieur Béliveau was 83 when he passed away. I knew that he was getting older, and that he wasn't getting any healthier. I still hoped that he would live forever, even though I knew that Habs fans were lucky to have him around for so long.
I know that I'm a few days late with this tribute. I wanted to take the extra time to think about it, to avoid the clichés and platitudes that are so often thrown out there without sincere emotion to back them up. Like any good Habs fan, I loved Jean Béliveau. When I had to choose the greatest Canadian Habs player for a certain big hockey site, I almost immediately went with my gut. It was a no-brainer, one of the easiest decisions I've made as a hockey writer. I don't think I can ever say enough about everything he's done both on and off the ice.

Every time there's a jersey retirement, a montage, anything about the Habs dynasties of the 1950s and 60s, my mom tells me that my grandfather loved those players. (I've mentioned this already, I know.) I don't really remember my grandfather talking about them, so all I have are my mother's memories. Seeing Jean Béliveau always made me think of that - my grandfather learning about hockey, living in this city when the Habs won Cups (18 of them, to be exact), and watching them in black and white on his very first television. Béliveau's work ethic, his kindness, his dedication to family - all of these things reminded me of my grandfather. That's why his passing was so difficult for me. I had to say goodbye to not only a great man, but a great man who reminded me of someone I loved very much.

Unfortunately there's nothing I can do now but offer my condolences to the Béliveau family, and hope that someday the hockey world will be lucky enough to see another player like him.

Edited to add: I found this piece from 2010, after he suffered a stroke. I bookmarked it because I couldn't bring myself to read it then, and still can't.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I Don't Care If You Think It's Cool

By now, I'm used to the reactions I get when I express my enthusiasm for Movember. People think I'm funny and strange just because I encourage people to grow mustaches, and I wear mustache accessories, and I spend an entire month trying to raise money for a worthy cause: cancer, mental illness, and the overall health of men.

Things are different this year. Interest in Movember has been waning, and this is probably the weakest year I've seen so far. The movement isn't at its peak anymore; not everyone you know is growing a mustache, or explaining why he didn't grow one and offering to donate instead. Not as many businesses are using it as a marketing opportunity. It's like Movember "isn't cool anymore," and people don't want to participate in something that's not cool.

That's not an excuse. This isn't a band or a sports team whose bandwagon you can hop off of when it stops trending on Twitter. Which, by the way? People are still buying Maroon 5 albums, or watching Grey's Anatomy, or cheering for the Oakland Raiders. What's so passé about staying committed to an annual fundraiser? Given the choice, I'd definitely donate money to cancer research over lining the pockets of a judge on The Voice or paying some athlete to gas up his Lincoln. (Are Lincolns still cool, or...?)

"It's not cool anymore" isn't really a great excuse. Movember supports causes that matter. That hasn't changed since last year or the year before. Over 23, 000 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. An estimated 1000 Canadian men, most of them young, will be diagnosed with testicular cancer this year. And discussions about mental health have finally really started to take their place in the public sphere. We can't stop now. It's too important.

"Cool" is for food trends and sneaker styles. Not for saving lives. Support your local Mo Bros, Mo Sistas, cancer patients, and the men in your life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Season premiere day!

I feel like I should be really excited about the season starting. The primary reason for that is because I just want to talk about hockey instead of all the drama surrounding its players, media and fans.

Last month, Hab It Her Way quietly celebrated its fifth anniversary. For the last five years, I've had a public medium to express the pride and excitement I feel as a female hockey fan. (Or rather, a hockey fan.) Somehow, the hockey world always seems more enjoyable when we’re discussing mock drafts or highlights, rather than choosing to take sides during a debate and refusing to listen to each other, like angry children. Unfortunately, that’s what it often comes to, and the drama is only exacerbated by a lack of real hockey news to take its place. I saw it happen over the summer, at the beginning of the NFL season, and again just this past weekend. It's exhausting, and while I know that some problems and debates will never go away, it will at least help when we have hockey around to do what sports do best – give us something to cheer for, to pin our hopes on, to laugh about without any real-world consequence.

It’s why I've been blogging for the last five years (sometimes more regularly than others.) And it's why I’ll keep watching sports, despite all the drama and bad blood. So let's just drop the puck and have some fun. Here’s to another season of big dreams, big surprises, and big changes.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll return to my pit of denial in which Josh Gorges is still a Montreal Canadien.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What happens after #IsItOctoberYet

Is it October yet?

Wait, are you sure?

September doesn't have a 31st?

Okay let me check my calendar

Wow, I really never knew that

But is it, like, OCTOBER October?

Like, is there hockey?

No, like, is there HOCKEY?

No, that doesn't count. It doesn't! Stop looking at me like that!

Next week? But it's October now!

False advertising.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Designated Hitters

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.

Mo'Ne Davis would write an awesome chapter on baseball.
The chapter on baseball is, appropriately, interminable. I could take this chapter to a baseball game and I would likely need some extra innings to finish it, and that's not even including the time it takes to roll my eyes at a lame joke, close the book, and wonder why I'm putting myself through this.
(It should also be noted that I obviously didn't take this book to a baseball game, as evidenced by its pages, completely unstained by sauerkraut and ice cream.)
The chapter begins with a few paragraphs explaining why baseball is interesting. And yet I remain unconvinced. The author even tries to compare it to chess, which I have heard a hundred times before - wouldn't I just play chess on the regular if I really liked it as a game? If I'm not a fan of chess, will society at large give me a free pass for not being a fan of televised baseball? So many unanswered questions.

I did learn something from this chapter: That the tradition of the seventh-inning stretch originated with rotund American president William Howard Taft, who stood up during a game to stretch his legs.
Hey, Mr. President: Maybe remove that super-tall top hat? Someone paid for that seat behind you.
The author could also afford to learn something: she doesn't seem to know what a designated hitter is. (I didn't know until a couple of years ago, but now I know, and feel as though I should teach her.) She seems to think that a designated hitter is the sporting equivalent of having someone who can go to work for you on a day that you're too grouchy to do your own job. As far as I know, that's not it at all. A designated hitter is more like the professional equivalent of my old job, where I managed Facebook and Twitter accounts for a boss who thought that a Twitter account didn't need to have more than five tweets on it at a time. Her job was to coordinate the stuff that we were promoting on social media. My job was to make sure our social media presence was... well, present. Pitchers pitch and designated hitters are designated to hit. How hard is that to understand?

This might just be a personal gripe, but the "Legends" section was the worst thing in the whole chapter. The section does not appear to put its legends in any particular order, but I'm going to get irrationally angry about one thing anyway. The author put Mark McGwire's bio before Jackie Robinson's. HOW AND WHY? This is Jackie Robinson we are talking about - an athlete who broke the colour barrier at a time when the colour barrier was awfully hard to break, a man whose resilient spirit was matched only by his talent, a man whose memory is honoured to this day in cities all over North America. You do not put anyone ahead of Jackie Robinson. I don't care how "American as apple pie" he is, or that he used steroids to break a record right before a "dark-skinned Dominican" did. (Sammy Sosa, by the way, is considered a "legend in the making.")

If this book was written in 2014: You already know that I'm going to say it should be all about Mo'Ne Davis. But it would probably be all about Derek Jeter's retirement and the not-a-joke hashtag #RE2PECT.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thinking Beyond PR Moves

At this point, I'm not surprised when someone who's made lots of money from professional sports is in the news for all the wrong reasons. It's not just NFL players - after the "scandals" surrounding Donald Sterling, Stephen A. Smith, and Semyon Varlamov, we'd all be incredibly short-sighted to think that way. However, I'm always amazed at the way people react to such occurrences. Ray Rice's firing yesterday was another such event.

This isn't something that just happened recently - the incident occurred months ago, and a lot of people were upset about it, and wanted to see Rice punished more severely. It was talked about during the offseason when the NFL started to do damage control. This public anger really only hit critical mass when a tape was leaked, and then suddenly everyone knew just how wrong it was, and got up in arms about how badly the Baltimore Ravens needed to terminate his contract. Which they did, in what a lot of people called a PR move.

"They didn't fire him because it was the right thing to do," came the cry from all corners of the Internet. "They fired him because he was damaging their brand!" Thank you, Captain Obvious. Anyone who knows that the events caught on tape didn't happen last week knows that the Ravens took an awfully long time to fire someone who beat the woman he claimed to love. Ray Rice was fired because the general public - everyone, even people who don't want football - was shocked and offended.

Why did it take us so long to become so shocked? Why did we have to wait until TMZ released video evidence of Rice punching his fiancée to realize that he had done something wrong? If there had been no video evidence, there is at least a slim chance that Ray Rice would not have been fired at all. And that, to me, is the scariest part of all this.

It's time for us all to stop waiting until it's too late to speak up or make a real difference.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Quarterbacks

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.

I think I might be a glutton for punishment. I could have just put down this book after the offensive intro and the questionable chapter about basketball. I'll admit that I learned a few things, but I'm not sure it was worth it. To put this in terms more familiar to the audience of The Smart Girl's Guide, it was like going all the way to another neighbourhood for a sample sale and only scoring one blouse.
(I can't remember the last time I even wore a blouse. I'm more of a novelty T-shirt kind of Smart Girl.)

Anyway, I decided to press on and give the football chapter a read. I had read a few pages of it when I bought the book some years back, hoping to bring my football knowledge a little bit further than "ten yards in four downs." I learned a few things, but I never finished the chapter. Now I know why. Like the rest of the book, it's informative, but quite eyeroll-inducing. Now, it's worth mentioning that the author seems to have a particular fondness for football, if you can call it that. It was her gateway sport - she was surrounded by football fans and decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. You may remember that her gushing about Jerry Rice is what got her in the good graces of a man she knows!

There was quite a bit of information in this chapter. My first reading of it taught me about two-point conversions, because I didn't remember seeing one happen until that point. This reading revealed a lot more information about a few elements of the game, but of course it was all buried under pounds and pounds of mansplaining. One joke gave me hope that this chapter might be different from the rest: "Women tackle problems. Men tackle each other."
"Yeah, let's tackle some problems like the smart girls we are!"
But then the rest of the chapter had jokes about how a man buying a woman flowers and jewelry can facilitate "scoring." I thought that this book was supposed to be for women - did she write it specifically for women who are also characters on Entourage? Is that why there are entire paragraphs about whose butts you should look at and whose butts are not worth looking at?
There are some very useful bits in this chapter (like a guide to rivalries and explanations of a few key terms) but that didn't stop me from gasping in abject horror at the worst things in the whole chapter. Because there are two of them. One: If there are only two things you learn about Joe Montana, the second (and most important!) is that he has "the most gorgeous ice-blue eyes ever seen in the NFL." (The first thing you need to know is that he's good at football.) Two: The author literally gives readers a word-for-word quote of a sports-savvy thing they can say. Which... really? I'm not sure that putting words into someone's mouth is a good idea. Especially not if you're just spotting them one sentence. Who says one sentence and just walks away from a conversation? Smart Girls of the world: Don't say something because someone wrote it for you word-for-word, unless that person is your presidential speechwriter.

If this book was written in 2014: It would probably still be all about Tom Brady, because he's the most quarterbackiest handsomest of all the QBs in the NFL (because the other ones don't have pretty eyes like Brady has pretty eyes.)
Any mention of the Redskins' name would go beyond some Cowboys fans (due to rivalry) "would say their logo is politically incorrect."
I'm not sure what she would say about Peyton Manning's Broncos getting shellacked at the Super Bowl, but I sure as hell wish I could read it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Space Jam

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.
Got to admit, I'm pretty excited that the first chapter of this regrettable read is about basketball - a sport that I both enjoy greatly and want to learn more about. This chapter will either help me know a little more about the NBA or make me never want to watch it again. Let's dive right in, shall we?

I could've skipped the beginning of this chapter, because a lot of it is so incredibly obvious that anyone who's seen basketball in any form (like, even a scene in a movie where people are playing basketball.) Also, the worst thing in the whole chapter happens pretty early on: the author tries to wax poetic about the sport but just ends up sounding... not blatantly racist? I mean, she doesn't ever say anything outright, but she does admire basketball's hip-hop style, its urban attitude, and its jazzy rhythm. As if we don't know what she was implying.

The Fictional Suburban Mom's Guide To Sports
But then she goes on to explain actual sports things. Like the many different shots. (Luckily, we're spared from a simplistic definition like "a shot is how the ball goes from being in the player's hand to not being in the player's hand anymore, on purpose.") Anyway, the author compared shots in basketball to black pants. (I don't think she meant that in a racist way. I mean, the basketball season starts after Labor Day, so no one can really wear white pants then anyway, right? LOL jokes about clothes are so funny when you're a girl.) Why does she compare shots to pants? Because there are so many of them! The author then goes on to list all of the types of black pants a girl should own, like Monica Geller categorizing her towels. Among these categories are "uptown chic," because your black pants belong in a Billy Joel song, and "downtown funky." Let me repeat that. "Downtown funky." I have no idea who this book was written for, because I know plenty of women, and none of them have ever described a piece of their clothing as "downtown funky." If anyone ever has, it was probably Prince. And I'm like 90% sure that Prince isn't a woman.

One of the shots, as you may know, is called a "slam dunk." Maybe you've heard of it. If you haven't then please let this book teach you that it is similar to dunking a cookie in a glass of milk, but it's done with more pizzazz! You know, just like how Prince is similar to a regular human, but with more pizzazz. Raise your hand if you've ever done this to an Oreo:

Me either. I am not an All-Star.

Throughout the chapter, the author reminds readers that Michael Jordan was the greatest of all time and such, but she doesn't even mention Space Jam. Now, if you want to learn about basketball but don't already know that Michael Jordan was very good at it, you might want to rethink the whole "Smart Girl" thing. Like, you have to at least have heard of Space Jam. I know the book doesn't mention it, but if you haven't heard of Michael Jordan or Bugs Bunny, there is something very, very wrong.
I don't even remember this movie that well, so, please clear my schedule for tomorrow evening.
Anyway, when the time came for me to read Michael Jordan's profile in the Legends section, I was blown away. It actually made this book worth reading. Not only were there a few things about his life story that I didn't know, but the author presents them in a really fascinating way. These profiles are the best part of the book so far - and yes, that is a compliment. They make up for the questionable quality of just about everything else because they get right down to what being a sports fan is all about - being a part of history, and watching some incredibly talented athletes get to do what they do best. She makes readers want to know more about these players, to scour YouTube for highlights of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dr. J. 

Now if only she had nicer things to say about Kobe. The edition of the book I have was written in 2004 or 2005, right in the wake of Kobe Bryant's sex scandal. Now, I do not blame her at all for deciding not to put Kobe Bryant on a pedestal. No one was at that time. It's just weird that the strong, feminist Smart Girl in her awoke at exactly that moment but remained dormant for everything else I've read so far. "Whoopee - he's only an adulterer, not a rapist." Her anger is justifiable, it just seems out of place. The author doesn't mention any other incidents where pro athletes did unsavory or illegal things. Tons of athletes cheated on their wives before 2004, and tons have done it since. Wouldn't they be worth talking about, too? I guess we'll see how she treats bad or illegal behaviour going forward. It just feels awkward that she singles out one athlete, rather than the entire culture of professional sports.

The chapter ends with a glossary, which contains 2 unfunny sex jokes, 1 unnecessary story about the author, 1 "women be shoppin'" joke, 1 reference to players as "hotties" and surprisingly, minimal racism!

If this book was written in 2014: It would probably be ripe with reminders that Kim Kardashian was married to a basketball player for 72 days. And LeBron James' writeup would be more than speculative. He betrayed an entire fanbase and ended up winning two rings because of it. And ladies love rings!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams

I know that to some people, it seems ridiculous to mourn a famous person that you knew only from their work onscreen, that you never met in person. I've never felt this way. I think it's okay to feel attached to someone you know and love just because of movies, television, sports, anything. Judging by what I've seen online in the last day or so, a lot of people agree with me. Every death is a tragedy, and it seems surreal to lose someone you thought you would always be able to see on your TV screen, someone who is alive every time you hit the "play" button.

Robin Williams wasn't just a celebrity. He was even just alive onscreen - he was larger than life. He was beloved by audiences, by his contemporaries, and by anyone who saw him and was inspired to pursue whatever it is that they're best at. You've seen it in your news feeds and on the faces of your friends when they find out he passed away. My father was saddened when he heard the news - his English isn't that good, but he watched Mrs. Doubtfire with us when we were growing up and loved it as much as we did. Williams had an incredible impact on so many of us - the generation that grew up watching him wasn't the only one who loved him.

I'm part of that generation, but now that I'm growing up and learning more about comedy, his death is affecting me even more than I thought it would. I've been trying to learn what makes a comedian great. Sometimes it's clear that comedy is hard work - so many people that are incredibly funny spend inordinate amounts of time practicing, rewriting, and performing in order to improve, and they never stop improving. They just keep working. Hard work and tenacity are what can make a good comic into a great comic, and a regular laugh into the kind of laughter that makes your face hurt, that makes you forget you even had anything else on your mind before the joke started. Others are just born great. Robin Williams was born great. I know he spent a lot of time observing, learning, thinking of ways he could be better, but it seems pretty obvious to anyone who's seen him that that's not the whole story. He was born with incredible talent. He was special. He had a gift, and we all were fortunate enough to see him use that gift and turn into something brilliant and unique.

There will never be another comedian or performer quite like him, but there are legions of people who'll never forget him. He will be missed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's About Time

USA Today broke a story today about a new show set to premiere on CBS Sports. It's being sold as a "sports talk show" hosted, produced, and directed by women.

This is huge. And it's about damn time.

I may not know the title, who is hosting it, or when exactly it's slated to premiere, but I definitely plan on watching it. I don't even know if I can get CBS Sports in Canada, but I'll try. I'll plan a road trip across the border to watch the premiere if I have to. It's going to be an important moment for a lot of sports fans, and I want to be there when it happens.

Even the most seasoned female sports reporters don't always get the recognition they deserve. I'm very proud of TSN for hiring so many female anchors, but even that is proof that women have to work incredibly hard to be taken seriously. It's time that women got a big stage, one that doesn't have a glass-top desk. It's time that they're given a chance to truly shine, or to yell, or to fuck up, because male analysts get to do that all the time. I'm not saying that all male sports anchors or analysts are bad at what they do, but the culture of sports broadcasting is a certain way. It's a boys' club, and women have made great strides to change that, but there are still better opportunities for meatheaded former players, or guys who like to talk really loud, than there are for a lot of women regardless of their work ethic and their level of intelligence.

It's time that women are given these major roles - we've seen such great work from a lot of female sportscasters, and they deserve to get their due.

When the show premieres, I'm hoping to see lots of in-depth discussions, segments I can learn from, and a few good laughs. But, to be honest, I'll settle for seeing myself a little bit better-represented on television. I know that there's a chance that the show might disappoint me - television is just like that sometimes. And that's okay, because we've seen that happen before, and in some cases, we see it happen regularly. (ahem, Coach's Corner) But no matter what, it'll be nice knowing that there's something different out there, and that women will be working hard to produce it. It'll be nice to see a new perspective on the sports world. And it will most definitely be nice knowing that the show was produced in an environment that might be a little bit more welcoming than some other media outlets out there.

And if they want to hire me as an intern or a proofreader, that would be nice, too.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Reading Project: The Smart Girl's Guide to Introductions

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is my way of sharing the misery that is reading The Smart Girl's Guide to Sports, which cost $2. Let's laugh at this together.

My introduction to the Summer Reading Project didn't include a summary of the book's introduction, because, well, I could probably write a series of posts on the introduction alone. The author has the best of intentions, but then again, so do grandmothers when they try to set you up with the nice young man who works at the grocery store. Or at the bank. Or at the pharmacy. Or... well, luckily those are the only places my grandmother goes.

The introduction starts with a story, wherein the author talks about how saying a random sentence about last night's football game immediately won over one of her male co-workers and suddenly they became the best of friends! You see, before she had mustered up the courage to say something about how good Jerry Rice was at sports tasks, he thought she was just another dame coming into his workplace and interrupting his scotch-drinking. But she's cooler than all those other women who didn't say a sentence about sports that day!

Now, I have a similar story, wherein someone from my office didn't like me very much when I started working with her - I was new and still learning the ropes, and this girl is insanely good at what she does, so she had no time for me to make beginners' mistakes. I thought she hated me. A few months later, our office had a karaoke night. I sang a Destiny's Child song and suddenly she was on my side! We've been getting along very well ever since. Maybe I should write a book called The Smart Person's Guide to Beyoncé.
If you liked it then you should've put a championship ring on it
Basically, the author implies that the only way to combat sexism, whether in the workplace or elsewhere, is to buy into it. You'll "instantly win respect" by knowing one thing about whatever sport the men are talking about, and then you can "drift out of conversation and go back to thinking about what you're going to wear tomorrow." Knowing about sports will make you better than other women and help you knock the ball out of the park and straight through the glass ceiling, apparently!

No, thanks. I choose my outfits in the morning, anyway.  Now, I'm no scientist (because that's another thing that's for boys, right?), but apparently you "don't need scientific evidence to know that men have a sports gene." I think what I love most about this book so far is that it was written by a woman, but it rarely sounds like it. I didn't know that mansplaining could also be done by women! What a great accomplishment for us all. Who run the world? Girls! (But only the ones who are smart enough to talk to men about sports and then write a book about it.)

She ends her intro with some "Hip Tips To Enjoy Sports!" Her first piece of advice? Find a player who you find attractive. Because being a smart girl is nothing if not giving in to the biggest cliché that female sports fans find themselves fighting every day.

So, let's get ready to read the rest, and release the sports goddess within us!

(That's an actual thing she says in the intro, so something tells me this woman owns hardcover copies of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy because they're super well-written and romantic.)

Every time I finish a chapter, I'll summarize it and tell you about the legitimate advice, spelling mistakes, gender-based stereotypes, and everything else that a smart girl would need to know about sports.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project is underway...

...and I probably should have just picked up a copy of Gone Girl or some Bronte instead. But this will be fun, because sarcasm and eye-rolling are two of my favourite hobbies, outside of making hockey puns and watching 30 Rock.

Here's my unfortunate book selection for the inaugural (and maybe only) Hab It Her Way Summer Reading Project:

Yes, really.
Reading this book might be the best way to keep my snarking skills sharp during the offseason. It's my equivalent of flipping big-ass tires or breaking rocks on Travis Moen's farm.

A little background:
I bought this book a few years ago, back when I was still very, very much a rookie. It cost two dollars. (No, it literally cost two dollars. Maybe three.) I bought it because it was cheap, because I had time on my hands, and because I thought it might help answer some burning questions like "Why are there rules in hockey that I still don't understand?", "What do all the positions in football mean?" and "Why on earth do people watch car racing for fun?" I read a few pages and gave up. It was not a book for smart girls. I kept the book, though, mostly as a handy tool to squish spiders. And now I'm going to try giving it another read.

Ironically, summer is traditionally my busiest season at work, and with Just for Laughs upon us, I might not get to write weekly posts as I'd like to. But I will try my hardest, because it'll be worth it.

The author has the best of intentions, but unfortunately, she seems all too ready to accept a gender binary and act like all women be shoppin'. Some women be shoppin' for a new Habs shirt after some unfortunate free agent moves, okay? Without even getting to the foreword, I can tell you that the author doesn't seem to know many women who watch sports, or many men who don't. She's written an entire book, but hasn't used those pages to go beyond the absolute basic stereotypes that my dad's generation believes to be true. I'm not sure how many women have read this book and turned from pink princesses into beer-drinking, stat-spewing die-hard fans, but my guess is that she might have missed her mark. (The book does not discuss archery.)

Anyway, it was written as a "helpful guide." Over the next few weeks, I'll find out just how helpful it is.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Top 5: Things Hockey Should Borrow From Soccer

I may not watch much soccer outside of international tournaments and the occasional Impact game, but it can be a great spectator sport. It has global appeal and a great culture, so it brings people together just the way that sports would in a perfect world. Unless, of course you're one of those people who believes that you can't cheer for any country other the one you live in. I skipped the World Cup opening ceremonies (why is it that Pitbull is so unappealing as a recording artist, and so adorable as a breed of puppy?) but I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the tournament.
Oh and by the way, yes, I call it "soccer" and not "football" or "futbol." Sorry, I guess.

Top 5 Things Hockey Should Borrow From Soccer

Ultras. Hockey has passionate fans. I know. There are the people who've had season tickets for decades, the people who go to the World Juniors and paint their faces, and the people who throw stuff on the ice when officials make terrible calls. But most hockey markets don't have the same kind of loud, insane fans who have an arsenal of pre-rehearsed chants and who turn fandom into its own sport. I mean, okay, some cities have those jerks who'll vandalize stuff or riot, so hockey has THAT in common with soccer, but you'll rarely hear the steady background vocals of a hockey crowd like you will at a professional soccer game.

Commentators who yell a lot. I mean, some of that yelling comes from obvious homerism, but the rest just comes from from passionate commentators who still appreciate the game and don't spend all their time trying to sound like the voice of authority. (Let's be honest: the occasional hockey broadcaster just sounds like they're asleep at the wheel.) Goals are exciting! I wish more commentators would acknowledge that.

One-named athletes. Why do soccer fans get to have all the fun, cheering for guys named Felipe or Chicharito? These guys are like the Beyonces of the sports world, and hockey fans are stuck cheering for dudes with names like "Mike Richards" and "Sidney Crosby." Why does the NHL get all of the Debbie Gibsons and none of the Beyonces?
(Note: Yes, I am aware that hockey has some cool-ass names, like "Ryan Malone" and "Zemgus Girgensons", but they're still your regular old first name-last name combos, like any regular human has. They lack the magic, the punch, of a one-name wonder.)

Jersey swaps. The handshake line is good, it's great, okay? Don't hate me, hockey purists. Jersey swaps are great, though, because the players need to take a little more time to interact. Seriously, why doesn't hockey do this from time to time? ...other than "Because the hockey card companies want to buy up all those jerseys and chop them up."

A Champions League. The Olympics and other international tournaments are great in that fans get to see dream teams - players from the same country hand-picked from pro teams across the league. How cool would it be to see the teams we know playing against the best teams from across the world? It would make the Spengler Cup look like... um... the Spengler Cup.

Happy World Cup month, everyone!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Worst Thing About a Playoff Round Against the Bruins

I couldn't be happier that the Habs beat the Bruins and are on their way to the conference final. (Okay, I could be, because I'm still in disbelief. When it sinks in, I'll be even happier.) There was so much in this series that I loved.

And lots of stuff that I didn't.

Some of it was the standard stuff you see every time the playoffs heat up, or anytime the Habs face the Bruins: players getting a little too angry at each other, fans engaging in inappopriate/racist/sexist/homophobic language, and hockey sticks hitting delicate areas. But the worst thing, by far, was having to face this reality:

I've been in denial about Jarome Iginla ever since he signed with the Bruins. You know how people say they remember where they were when they found out Kennedy was shot, stuff like that? I remember exactly where I was on July 5th, 2013, when I found out Jarome Iginla signed with the Bruins. I was at the Bell Centre, which is supposed to be my happy place. And I've been trying to forget that moment ever since. Okay, actually, I've been denial about all this ever since he left Calgary:

I made it through the entire regular season just by exercising the kind of denial that is probably rarely seen among healthy adults. I would pretend I didn't see him in that black-and-yellow jersey, that it was another #12. I couldn't get away with those denial tactics through seven playoff games. And that is how I found out that Jarome Iginla isn't the same player I used to love with all my heart.

The Jarome Iginla I saw during the playoffs wasn't just an amped-up version of the strong, all-around player that everyone knows he is. He was a Bruin, through and through. He put that jersey on, played with that team, and he turned, like a gremlin someone fed after midnight. He was aggressive, and not in a good way. He was angry. I no longer had any interest in seeing him make a run for a much-deserved Stanley Cup. I just wanted to see him go back to his old self. He wasn't the same guy whose T-shirt I wore, whose hockey card I bought. And it sucked to have to face that.

There are lots of reasons why I don't like the Bruins, but right now, ruining Jarome Iginla is the only one that matters.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Put A Spell On You

I checked my Facebook during one of the many intermissions in Game 1 of the second round. (It was either that, or bite my nails down to unrecognizable nubs.) One of the beer companies held a contest where people could win a beer glass shaped like a hockey skate if they guessed who scored the game-winning goal. Or something like that. Honestly, I just wanted to win a glass shaped like a hockey skate, so it didn't really matter what the contest was.

Anyway, for whatever reason, lots of people couldn't spell players' names properly. So I put them on some jerseys.

There were the accidental typos:

I feel your pain, person. The B and the N are right next to each other. 
SubAnn? Is that like DicAnn? Like RaggedyAnn?

The "this is what it sounds like when my uncle in Trois-Rivieres says it":

The Don Cherry specials:

The... To be honest, I don't even know what these are:
The one jerk who picked a Bruin AND misspelled his name:
And, the joke that would probably have killed 10 years ago, if it weren't (surprise!) misspelled:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Things that might happen during the Habs-Bruins series and how to deal with them

I'm trying to be better at planning for the future, so I've been preparing for some possibilities in this playoff series.

Might happen: One fanbase makes T-shirts or memes that are more heinously offensive than fun and competitive.
How to deal with it: Change the subject, argue about who has better beer or street food or something.

Might happen: On-ice hits that turn into tussles that turn into brawls that turn into at least one player being done for the season.

Might happen: Bruins fans make fun of Habs fans who don't speak English.
How to deal with it: Remind them that not all Bostonians are that great at English, either. We've watched Wahlburgers, okay?

Might happen: The Bruins win a game.
How to deal with it: Three glasses of wine, a Nutella sandwich, and go right to bed. Wake up and have another Nutella sandwich (wine optional.)

Might happen: Milan Lucic spears someone in the balls.
How to deal with it: Send him to the penalty box.

Might happen: Bruins fans complain that refs are biased toward the Habs because Milan Lucic got a penalty for spearing someone in the balls, and he didn't get in lots of trouble last time, because the NHL rulebook doesn't say anything about making ball kabobs.
How to deal with it: ...Point out that making ball kabobs is not very nice.

Godspeed, Habs, and may your delicate parts remain intact.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wishin' and hopin': 2014 playoffs

Yes, I'm writing a postseason kickoff about three days too late. No, I didn't forget that I run this blog. My predictions post was just no good at all, so I let go of it, like an Oilers fan lets go of hope that their team will ever make the playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: I hope the Habs win and make it a short series, as I have a previous engagement on what would be the night of Game 6, and I want my friends to be able to make it without missing an important game. (They get a free pass in the event that there is a Game 6.) I also hope that bandwagon Habs fans will read the playoff posters and towels and remember that they have to say "Go Habs Go" and not just "Go Habs." The second "Go" is important.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: I want this series to last long enough to help cement the Jackets' reputation as "NHL team nobody hates." I also wish that this series would have minimal closeups on Sidney Crosby's face.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers: This series is 99% "go meteor." The other 1% is my sincere hope that Wayne Simmonds does something great, just to spite the obnoxious Rangers fans that sat behind me at the season closer.

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings: I just wish the Bruins' playoff run lasts the exact number of games that it would take for Donnie Wahlberg to realize that marrying Jenny McCarthy would be completely insane. I don't know how many games it will take. Hopefully four.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild: I want the Wild to beat the Avs so hard. I also wish Colorado's goalie and coach would be at least a little bit less repulsive.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks: I hope this series lasts long enough to make everyone everywhere realize that Jonathan Toews is like really great and stuff. (Apparently some people are not yet aware.)

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars: I hope that no hockey bros will look at both teams' logos and make a stupid "she wants the D" joke. But I also wish that Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu could play forever and ever amen.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings: I hope a team from California wins this series.

Overall, I hope to be able to share these playoffs with any readers I have left, and not drop the ball on it, like I did just now by making a non-hockey sports analogy.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saying goodbye to How I Met Your Mother (sort of)

This was supposed to be a much more special post. Like a Top 5 with fun pictures, a quick brag about the time I met Ranjit, or a really long and sad eulogy for How I Met Your Mother, as I am wont to write every time a beloved long-running show ends.

But I just don't have it in me right now. I love writing more than anything, and I still love watching TV, but it's been a long few weeks at work and I've been pretty busy. But if there's anything I've learned from nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother, it's that growing up sucks, but we all have to do it in some way or another. We all at some point end up working with a Sandy Rivers or a Hammond Druthers, or we have to clean up a mess we made, or we have to admit that we're too old for this... stuff. It happens. But it's not always so terrible (unlike a few episodes from season 6 and 7.)

So, thanks, HIMYM, or as I've called you for the last nine seasons, "Ted." It's been a good run. Maybe someday when I have enough time, I'll sit down and write you something real.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pitching a new Hockey Night In Canada


I should be so excited about George Stroumboulopoulos hosting Hockey Night in Canada next season. He's smart, relaxed, and well-rounded. He loves hockey but he's proven that he can talk about pretty much anything. He's my favourite person on Canadian TV. (No offense, surly police chief on Murdoch Mysteries.) I'd hate to see his talents wasted on a broadcast that won't grow with him, flanked by a bunch of guys that I am far less excited to watch on a regular basis.

It doesn't have to be that way. I just wish I worked for CBC so I could pitch the new and improved HNIC.

First of all, there isn't really a need for a show to have five anchors. Five anchors? FIVE? That's too many. American Idol couldn't even deal with two hosts! Remember Brian Dunkleman? No? Exactly. So instead of five dudes at a desk, let me present:

Hockey Night In Canada, hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos and Andi Petrillo
Petrillo's promotion also comes with two perks: a better stylist, and the respect she deserves. She's great at her current job, but she can do so much more, and deserves to. I really liked her anchoring during the Olympics, so we have proof that she can do it. A hosting job would be a great use of her on-camera skills and knowledge, while giving her some authority so she doesn't have to talk over people just to be heard. Strombo can share hosting duties with her because he'll help loosen up the show and make it more relevant to hockey fans. (Or those like me, at least, who don't own camouflage T-shirts with Don Cherry's face on them.)

They'll talk to a rotating panel of analysts. Elliotte Friedman, senior analyst, will be a fixture, and the other two spots will rotate between a team of people who actually do things when they're not on the air. (More on that later.) The new panel will stay fresh in two ways:
- Viewers won't get tired of seeing the same boring faces every week, and the show might actually give people something to discuss, rather than hate-watch;
- If one of the analysts says something tasteless, irrelevant, or offensive, they're done for the night. Maybe replaced with a puppet that looks like them, depending on how Andi and Strombo feel about puppets.
Like this, but a bit more Muppety
Strombo's interviewing skills can be put to good use by having him pre-tape a weekly interview with an important figure in hockey, like a current or former coach, or a legendary player. It can air during intermissions (leaving less time for idle chatter) or before the show kicks off. If Charles Barkley can interview Barack Obama before the NBA All-Star Game, surely CBC can allow a pre-taped interview with Marie-Philip Poulin or Paul Henderson on HNIC.
...but with less Ron McLean
I'd like to see more women on the show. There will be a few minutes to recap the week in the CWHL or international women's hockey tournaments. As I said in my Olympics post, there's a lot of great female talent out there that can be put to use. Give me any of the women's hockey analysts over Glenn Healy. If they're not at the analyst desk or reporting in-game, they can be part of a team that does (actual good) human interest stories. People make a huge deal out of the whole Hockeyville thing - what if more community rinks got more screen time, or profiles of everyday people who make rinks in their backyards, or who use hockey as a way to raise money for great causes? A short weekly segment that puts the spotlight on regular Canadians would make things interesting, would probably be really popular with viewers in small-town areas, and could easily nab a big sponsor.

Get someone new and interesting to anchor the iDesk. Don't put Jeff Marek back there, as hilarious as that would be. Get someone who's dynamic, who cares about the Internet and thinks it's interesting, and can make it sound interesting on TV.

And, finally, I know you're wondering what I'd do with Coach's Corner. It's getting a makeover. We don't need a full seven minutes of a weird old man saying whatever he wants, because Drunk Uncle is a character on SNL. Instead, it will be replaced by...
Coach's Dunk Tank
Yes, Don Cherry is like a thousand years old and it would be rude to drop him in a pool full of cold water. All he has to do is get through his segment without massacring a player's name, or saying something racist, or trying to invent new words, and he'll stay dry. If he makes a major misstep, he's going in that water.

It's nice to see HNIC hosted by someone who's on my side. With any luck, the entire show will be as good as the musical montages.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A lesson for the next Olympic tournament

I love the Olympics. Always have and always will. I didn't think anything would change that.

During these Winter Games, though, there’s been a lot that has irked me. Maybe the general negative attitude towards the host country helped the bloom fall off the rose. But it didn’t stop at the poor organization or the institutionalized homophobia. It just kept going. Maybe my fuse is short because the World Juniors just happened and I was already completely sick of hearing the word “jingoism” – seriously, I’d be happy if all international competitions were cancelled forever if it meant I’d never have to see my Twitter feed wallpapered with the same damn buzzword over and over again.

Even that is not as utterly infuriating as the awful trend of comparing female athletes to male athletes for no reason at all. I know that the events are all separated by gender, except for pairs figure skating in all its heteronormative simplicity (seriously, everyone, if we’re going to bash Russia for its anti-gay laws, let’s maybe evolve how we talk about sports first.) I have no issue with comparing athletes as far as their ability goes. A male skier wins gold, and that means he’s the best male skier in the world at that moment. A team of female curlers win gold, and that means that in that moment, they are better than every other women’s curling team. We can compare medal results between men and women, too, of course. No harm in that. But so many of the media outlets are so used to reporting on men’s sporting leagues year-round that they sometimes don’t know how to talk about female athletes. So, inevitably, they’ll fall into biased reporting and make it sound like women should strive to be more like men – and because we as viewers get our information from these media, we don’t seem to have a problem with that. The fact is that this is a huge problem. As far as I know, an Olympic athlete doesn’t get more sponsorships or better coaching based on gender alone. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

I’m proud of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. I’m equally proud of Alex Bilodeau. But they have literally nothing in common other than the country they play for, so why would a reporter invite a comparison just because Humphries and Moyse repeated their gold medal win? Each athlete has made Canada proud with his or her accomplishments. That’s it. No need to ruin a gold medal win with patriarchal or language-biased reporting. Even the reporter’s gender doesn’t matter in this case; it disgusts me that that’s how far this goes.

Female hockey players are compared to the men’s teams. If only that were the case – then the world would have enough teams of well-coached, well-trained, talented, popular women that we’d never again have to worry about women’s hockey being removed from the Olympics. Women would take a short break from the leagues they get paid handsomely to play in, go to the Olympics, capture the attention of the entire world, and go back home to finish their seasons. If only. Instead, we get tweets like this one:
Because fans need the incentive of a stick signed by a man to cheer for one of the best women’s teams in the world?

I'd hate to be Team USA's Amanda Kessel, because the fact that her brother plays in the NHL is treated as more than just trivia. If it were, I would hope that we'd hear people mentioning that Phil has a sister who's a world-class hockey player. It must be so disheartening to finally get to play in front of an international audience (the only really big stage there is for women's hockey) and constantly be referred to as someone's sister. Especially in a field where gender bias is already so obvious that likely the only reason Phil is more famous is because there's no NHL for women.

It happens here at home, too. Every time the Canadian women’s team has an excellent Olympic tournament (which, to be frank, is all the time, because they’re incredible) people like to joke that maybe the women’s team should replace the men! Or play with them, because they’ve proven that they’re good enough! Why is it impossible for us as Canadians to take pride in having the best women’s hockey team in the world for four consecutive Olympic tournaments without comparing the players we nearly forget when they’re not on our televisions? Why do we have to compare them to the guys we see on Hockey Night In Canada every week? “You might be as good as a man” is the most backhanded compliment a reporter or fan could give a player who was just named the best in the world. Why should we say that scoring two goals in a gold medal game makes Marie-Philip Poulin good enough (or almost) to play on a line with Sidney Crosby? Crosby would be lucky to play with someone who knows how to score a goal in Sochi.

The former players that TSN and CBC have employed to analyze and report on the women’s hockey tournament were fantastic. They combine the experience of a wacky colour commentator with the professionalism of a seasoned anchor. What I wouldn’t give to have a quality panel on my television on a regular basis, instead of the uncomfortable unemployed coaches and boneheaded former players that we see so often on RDS, CBC and NBC.

The Olympics are filled with incredible female athletes, from Canada and the rest of the world. Let’s give them the respect they deserve.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Plus/Minus is as unique as a snowflake

I love the Olympics so damn much that the NHL break couldn't come fast enough. I can watch the Habs any time I want to - but international hockey, ice dance, and snowcross? If only I could be so lucky. Hopefully this Plus/Minus will cover everything effectively enough.

+ To football player Michael Sam, for being brave and honest enough to come out before he's even drafted to the NFL. The sports world is evolving, and it gives me hope that someday it will be as inclusive and as incredible as the fans wish it were.
+ Ryan White is back and all is right with the world again!
+ To Patrick Kane for his candid interview (and a nice little goal) after his grandfather passed away.
+ To Max Pacioretty, king of the breakaway. Too bad he isn't king of the penalty shot, otherwise we might've seen a five-goal game from him on Thursday.
+ To Canada's medalists, of course: Mark McMorris, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, and the figure skating team (including Tessa Virtue's dresses, and her arms.) (If anyone knows how one would get their arms to look like that, please scroll down to the comments section and say so.)

+ Seeing a picture of Alex Bilodeau and Jean-Luc Brassard together. I think a lot of people my age loved watching Brassard back in 1994, and it's just so cool to think that Bilodeau, one of my favourite current Olympians, was watching too and would go on to win a gold medal because of it.

+ The Venezuelan flag bearer acted just like we all would if we got to be our country's flag bearer. Plus, this is his first Olympics: he's 43 years old and has only been skiing for three years.
+ I loved this video by SNL cast member Brooks Whelan, chronicling the last year as he went from LA-based part-time comedian to New York-based full-time SNL star (or, sort of.)
2013 from brooks wheelan on Vimeo.

- It broke my heart to see Spencer O'Brien crying on TV because she didn't make the podium. It seemed as though she felt like she had let the country down. This Minus is for anyone who thinks it's okay to be disappointed in athletes who don't bring home a medal. Sure, it's great to see someone from your country on the podium, but that doesn't mean that they are a disappointment. I'm just proud to have Team Canada, and anyone who disagrees can just leave right now.
- isn't letting me vote for Ryan White as Bell Player of the Week, even though he is Ryan White.
- Now that Fox has cancelled The X Factor, can it concentrate on developing its scripted shows? I'm giving them a Minus because I feel like that won't happen.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch some skiing or skating or whatever happens to be on. Go Canada Go!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Plus/Minus goes after the goalie

I guess the Habs are capable of winning games! Sometimes. Which is better than no times. And then they went and made a random trade, so I guess I still don't know how to feel about them.

+ A huge Plus for this guy, who pulled off a pretty awesome surprise for his mom:
And she got to see her team win the Super Bowl. It must be so incredible to be there for that kind of moment, after decades of fandom. I'm so happy for this family and I don't even know them.
+ Carey Price and Josh Gorges giving their Super Bowl predictions: They gave some thought to their answers, which makes me think that when we're all grown up and they're retired, they'll make pretty good analysts. And they'll still be on our TVs.
+ Wait, is Daniel Briere a hockey player who scores goals? Whoa.
+ Bruno Mars delivered as a Super Bowl halftime performer. He and the Red Hot Chili Peppers did exactly what I hoped they would onstage, and a combination that I didn't think would work made for a pretty damn great halftime show.


- The less I remember about this weekend's games, the better. (Except for Brandon Prust fighting a goalie. I want to be reminded of that all the time.)

- A huge Minus to any Habs fan who complains that Carey Price let in one bad goal this weekend. He's been one of the only consistent players on the team all season. He has worked so hard to keep the Habs from completely tanking. Hell, just last week the players in front of him embarrassed him. How quickly can anyone forget that?

Anyway, welcome to the jungle, Dale Weise.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Plus/Minus: Mad City

It wasn't the greatest week that Habs fans have ever seen. It kind of flat-out sucked. But there's still tons to be optimistic about, right? Stuff that isn't about the Habs?


+ The biggest Plus of the week, of course, goes to Anthony Calvillo. His career speaks for itself, but his behaviour both on and off the field is what will make him a legend.

+ I know that any display of emotion can cause a player to get in trouble, especially when that player's name is P.K. Subban, but I have no problem with his angry stick-throwing during the Capitals game. He was angry. We're all angry. No use hiding it.
+ Peter Budaj gets as many Pluses as he wants for picking a fight with Marc-André Fleury. Because who wouldn't want to mess with Fleury?
+ Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons' performance at the Grammys was one of my favourites in recent years. I know that the Grammys thrive on putting artists together onstage just for the novelty of it, but this combination worked so well. I could watch it over and over.
+ This picture of Kobe Bryant, 50 Cent, and Meryl Streep:
...Kobe is basically the Meryl Streep of basketball.
+ I'm a sucker for really sweet human interest stories. (Because I'm a huge sap who cries at everything.) Seahawks player Derrick Coleman's exchange with a 9-year-old deaf girl who called him her inspiration is just about the best thing I could read in preparation for the Super Bowl.

- This tweet by Dustin Penner:
is just further proof that he is, in fact, an idiot. Assuming that a woman is a prostitute is just about the most offensive thing that anyone could do, and the fact that it's coming from a rich man who probably doesn't judge women based solely on the books they read. (Providing, of course, that he knows what a book is.)
- Oh, and also the fact that the Montreal Canadiens just can't get themselves together, and that their coach is just barely treading water.
- Oh, and the fans who misbehaved during Saturday night's game against the Capitals also get a Minus. Enough with the ironic cheers and the booing your own team. You guys are even worse than the jerks who leave early. (Inside this Minus, though, is a Plus, to whoever it was sitting near the Family section that started a "Never quit!" cheer.)

Dear Habs: Never quit. Please.