Appetite for Destruction

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on Appetite for DestructionNov 20, 2006

In honour of Axl showing up in Ottawa and rocking out (according to the Ottawa Citizen), here is a review of Appetite for Destruction I wrote a few years ago.

Appetite For Destruction

We knew we were listening to something…different. My friends and I (average age 11 y/o at the time) were sitting around listening to the radio, when all of a sudden a hellish guitar riff flooded the airwave. It was Welcome to the Jungle, by Guns n’ Roses. GnR hit the rock scene like a tonne of bricks in 1987 with the release of Appetite For Destruction. Absent from these rockers were the makeup, the blow-dried hair, the on-stage acrobatics or the fake street cred. These fellas were for real, and were as in your face about it as you could get.

My close friends often have to suffer my diatribes about how Izzy is the soul of GnR. I honestly believe that without him, there was no band. Proof is in the pudding, and upon Izzy Stradlin’s departure from the band, GnR failed to record any original material as a band ever again. Sure, Slash’s genius cannot be denied, Duff’s bass lines were crafty and Axl provided the necessary rocker angst, but it was Izzy who was the backbone with his hook, line and sinkerish rhythm guitar riffs. I’ll expand a little more on this in the specific songs, but you only need to focus your ear on the rhythms of Paradise City or Mr. Browstone to realize that Izzy Stradlin is a rock God.

Welcome to the Jungle

Everyone knows the opening guitar riff to Welcome to the Jungle. Heard regularly in many formats, from sports stadiums to Jim Rome’s theme song, Jungle is an anthem to youth, sex, and survival to which many people relate. The song’s lyrics were written by Axl, and chronicle his difficult transition from small town Indiana to the bright lights of Sunset Boulevard. For me, it was an introduction to the seedier aspects of life, a portal into post-teendom that every pubescent adolescent aspires to. Axl empowered me to rebellion, Izzy created a backbeat that added a distinctive strut to my gait, and Slash made me want to wear top hats (ok, he did more than that, but I’ve got to keep stuff for the other songs! Haha)

It’s So Easy

In case Jungle wasn’t badass enough, the boys from Hollywood hit us with a song about sexual domination, and the objectification of women, born out of Axl’s disgust with the smuttiness of L.A. women. The song has grown on me over the years, as I’ve learned to appreciate Axl’s sleaziness, and the equally degradatory guitar licks that support it. Here’s a telling lyrical sample from Axl’s philosophy towards women (which would change over time):

 

“Turn around bitch I got a use for you
Besides you ain’t got nothin’ better to do…and I’m bored” 

You’ll notice a pronounced change to Axl’s view of women in the Illusions albums, a reflection of falling in love HARD with Stephanie Seymour (who hasn’t?).

Night Train

Axl chooses Night Train to introduce himself to the populace, and to tell us all what a badass he is. A night creature, Axl was a self-conscious and uncertain country kid looking to make a mark under the big city lights. Night Train reads like a mini mission statement, letting everyone know that he’s arrived and the road better be cleared for him.

 

“Said I’m a mean machine
Been drinkin’ gasoline
And honey you can make my motor hum
Well I got one chance left
I’m a nine live cat

I got a dog eat dog sly smile
I got a Molotov cocktail with a match to go
I smoke my cigarette with style
An I can tell you honey
You can make my money tonight”

Out Ta Get Me

This one is another “Me v. the World” ditty that exposes the punk world’s influence on the band. This song earned the newly-minted “Explicit Lyrics” sticker for the cover.

Mr. Brownstone

An ode to heroin, I related to this song not for the drug undertones (I had no idea this song was about drugs when I was 11), but because of its procrastinating nature:

“I get up around seven
Get outta bed around nine
And I don’t worry about
nothin’ no
‘Cause worrin’s a waste of my… time”

…my teenage years in a nutshell, that. Steven Adler’s drum performance in this song is one of his best. He just keeps the song rolling along, as Slash and Izzy interlock in a beautiful rhythm/lead tandem.

Paradise City

One of the songs of the 80’s. A seven minute epic in a time where albums were over-produced to give us neat little 3 minute radio-friendly verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/chorus formulas. It starts out with a beautiful strumming intro by Slash, only to be railroaded (in a good way) by a heavy rhythm turn by Izzy. We get a glimpse into Axl’s soft core in this one, because the song is a tale of homesickness.

The final third of this song absolutely kicks ass. Played incredibly up-tempo and for a long while, it must have exhausted the boys in the band. Having seen this song performed live, I can attest that it grabs you out of your seat (if you have the gall to be sitting at a GnR show) and moves you every which way. There is no feeling like handing over total control of your body to a song (or a girl).

My Michelle

My Michelle is titled to give us the impression it’s another cute little ballad, but it’s actually a song about a bad girl gone good (and I’m not sure Axl approves). This one never really grabbed me in any way. Musically and lyrically it’s good, but just never stuck to me.

Think About You

Another one of those songs that slips under my radar. I quite enjoy the rolling rhythm guitar, and the hook of the chorus.

Sweet Child O’ Mine

“Her hair reminds me of a warm, safe place
Where as a child I’d hide. ”

The song kicks off with one of the most unmistakable guitar hooks in music history. I wonder sometimes about the day Slash first unleashed this baby on the boys in the band, and what their reactions were. Did they know they had struck gold? You’d have to think so. The beauty of it is that the boys didn’t sit on the riff and ride it to glory – Sweet Child contains 4 guitar solos, impeccable rhythm guitar, forceful drum beats, a wonderful break-down (“Where do we go, Where do we go now?”), and lyrics to make any girl’s knees go weak. I really admire the guts it took to get away from the simplistic rock-ballad formula they could have stuck to and been guaranteed a top 10 hit. It worked out for them, but in doing so they broke the mold that was strangling rock n’ roll.

For me the song represents the youthful innocence with which you are filled every time you become infatuated with someone. It is also a reminder of how fragile we are when confronted with beauty. This song makes me want to run my fingers through her hair, leave a nail mark in her side and nibble on her neck. Mmmm…

You’re Crazy

This one has recently come to signify a part of my life. Isn’t it great when a song you’ve listened to your whole life suddenly morphs into a metaphor for a life situation, and you suddenly feel a bond with the singer? Well, in this case I have to remove the obvious anger Axl feels toward the girl he’s singing about. For me, saying “you’re crazy”, or in fact being told so, is a fun little teasing thing.

“I’ve been lookin’ for a trace
Lookin’ for a heart,
Lookin’ for a lover
in a world that’s much too dark
Because you don’t want my love, no, no
You want satisfaction” 

Damn straight, Axl.

Anything Goes

Just pure sex.

“My way, your way, anything goes tonight.”

How could I possibly have anything to add to this?

Rocket Queen

This has come to be my favorite song on this album, if not my favorite GnR song. Rocket Queen has everything I love about GnR; sex, aggressiveness, vulnerability, great guitar hooks and tempo variations. Musicianship at its best. Just do yourself a favor one of these days and block out all other aspects of the song except Izzy’s rhythm guitar. It’s a mesmerizing performance, one in which Slash comes in and out, with Duff’s bass providing the skeleton. The meat is all Izzy, though.

I see you standing
Standing on your own
It’s such a lonely place for you, for you to be
If you need a shoulder
Or if you need a friend
I’ll be here standing
Until the bitter end

No one needs the sorrow
No one needs the pain
I hate to see you walking out there
Out in the rain

So don’t chastise me
Or think I, I mean you harm
Of those that take you
Leave you strung out much too far
Baby-yeah

Don’t ever leave me
Say you’ll always be there
All I ever wanted
Was for you to know that I care

The Pimple: Roadie Edition

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on The Pimple: Roadie EditionNov 18, 2006

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was going to Buffalo to see my first NFL football game. I promised to try and write a travelogue, and this is the ensuing attempt. It’s probably written more for those who were on the trip or who know someone who was on the trip, so I apologize to those that find this incredibly mundane.

The trip was to be made with seven other (ahem) gentlemen, in two cars. I drove my car with three gentlemen in tow: Bruce Mr. Turk, Karl the Rabble-Rouser and Scott the Wing Man. What follows is a breakdown of the low-lites.

Saturday, 10am:

Ottawa South

We set out in my car. I had picked up Bruce earlier in the morning while Karl drove Scott to my place and parked his car in my spot. Bruce was the navigator, as he always is on these roadtrips, with Karl and Scott in the back of my Mazda 3. Before I go on I should give you a small biography of the principle players:

Bruce Mr. Turk: works for a police agency, very knowledgeable when it comes to sports. Known him since I was eight, college roommate and a no-nonsense type. As you may already know, a huge Niners fan who loves to remind me our NFL teams suck.

Karl the Rabble-Rouser: plays a prominent role in a major political party. Funniest guy on the trip, but not in a hijinx kind of way. Sharp wit which turned out to be a little dangerous in northern New York. “You know, a drink can also…”

Scott the Wing Man: one of Karl’s colleagues in the aforementioned political party. Exactly what you would think of when you imagine a pol. He’s the guy in that Toyota road-trip (Fits Four…Friends) commercial who gets his Blackberry thrown out of the truck. The overtly intellectual of the group.

The other party included Matt, who seemed to be in both groups at once, and the other three who had their own road-trip going (no one’s fault, that. It’s bound to happen with such a big group). They ended up producing a kick-ass video of the roadie.

Saturday, 12:30

1000 Islands Border Crossing/Duty Free Shop

A few days before, Matt had sent us this email reminder: “Guys, make sure you stop at a smoke shop/variety store/gun shop on the way to Buffalo to get beer, since our hotel is in the middle of a war zone”. We decided to heed this message and stock up booze at the Duty Free. We wanted to be able drink good beer instead of getting stuck with Genesee or some similarly awful excuse for a beverage. It was beer for me, beer and rum for Bruce Mr. Turk while Karl and Scott loaded up on beer and gin. Looking at our loot from the Duty-Free, that’s where I started to get worried about the next 36 hours.

We get back in the car and get queue up for the border crossing. Bruce entices Karl: “I’ll give you 20 bucks if you get out of the car and RUN across the border”. Fortunately Karl wasn’t drunk yet. No worries, though, as Bruce got very creative in finding means of parting with his money.

After a few minutes of the boys harassing me about picking the wrong queue, we got to the crossing. We hand over our passports and the US border agent begins the questioning:

USBA: So you boyz going to the Bills game?

Ottawa Sports Guy: Umm, yeah. (my god, he’s psychic!)

USBA: You boyz got any alcohol in there?

OSG: Yes sir, in the trunk.

USBA: Alright, pop the trunk.

USBA proceeds to go through our stuff in the trunk and returns our passports.

USBA: Alright, you boyz are good to go…

OSG: What? You don’t care that we’re here to rape and pillage?

Fortunately the filter caught that last bit.

Saturday, 1:30 pm

Fort Drum, NY

The first thing that struck me about northern New York is the difference in advertising. It shouldn’t feel all that different, because we get most of the same ads in Canada. “It’s the little differences”, as Vincent Vega would say. This gigantic roadside billboard, for example: “Cigarettes: Lowest Prices Allowed Under the Law!!”or “ABORTION is MURDER!” You just know you’re not in Canada anymore.

We begin musing over lunch, and the decision was basically left to me. Choosing a restaurant for a group of people is one of my biggest pet peeves, but no one would bring forth any preferences. So I made an executive decision and decided to follow one of those “Fork and Knife” roadway signs (how assertive of me). Fifteen miles off the main highway later, we’re in Fort Drum (home the 10th Mountain Division) and there are two choices for fast food; McDonald’s and Arby’s (both located next to Freedom Plaza, the local mall – I wonder if you can park there without a “Support the Troops” magnet on your car?). Bruce and I had never had Arby’s so we decided to venture into a new culinary experience. Any of you who’ve ever been to an Arby’s are probably chuckling right now. I decided to play it safe and have a chicken sandwich, Bruce mirroring that choice. I don’t remember what Scott had, but I do remember Karl’s penny-saving decision: the special was four beef melts for $5, and Karl never met a deal on beef melts he didn’t like. This, however, was not the highlight of our stay in Fort Drum – on Karl’s soft-drink cup was an advertisement for Arby’s Jamocha Shake (I’m paraphrasing here because I must have heard it 50 times over the next 36 hours):

“You know, a drink can be both a drink and a dessert at the same time. Take our signature Jamocha Shake. Between bites it’s a drink. After the meal, or on its own, it’s dessert.
Way to go, Jamocha.”

On the surface, that’s not very funny. But throw in Karl’s Québécois accent and the fact that soldiers from the 10th Mountain are in the restaurant, and he’s reading it so pretty much everyone can hear him, and we’re sinking into our chairs, desperately trying to mentally figure out how quick we can get out of here and if a Mazda 3 can outrun an Army Jeep: well, that’s high comedy (once you get home safely).

Saturday, 4:00 pm

Adam’s Mark Hotel, Buffalo, NY

After beating a hasty retreat from Fort Drum, our afternoon went by without further incident, except for Karl who would occasionally go into his “Way to go Jamocha” spiel. After parking the car in the hotel parking lot, we got into the elevator carrying our bags and beer cases, where we were joined by two mothers and their 6-7 year old daughters. They were obviously in a cheerleading troupe, their team jackets a dead giveaway. For some reason I couldn’t quite figure out which button to press to get to the hotel lobby, which led us on an elevator tour of the various parking garage floors. This lead to the mothers cracking jokes at my expense and, forgetting that there were young girls in the elevator, defending my actions by saying “Don’t worry, we’re just drunk”. Everyone started laughing except the little girls, whose panicked eyes brought me back to reality and an even more fervent “no, no, look, we haven’t had any yet!” while I pointed to the unopened beer case. Now everyone in the elevator is cracking up; my friends because they were embarrassed with nowhere to run, and the mothers out of fear because there was nowhere to run. I felt like such a dunce.

We finally get to the lobby and find it to be buzzing with activity. Apparently the Bills game was only one of many events in Buffalo that weekend; the Leafs were in town for a Hockey Night in Canada tilt against the Sabres, and the rowdy “Go Leafs Go” chants made me think I was at Scotiabank Place during the playoffs, there a Cheerleading competition for little girls, the Marines had a gala event for young recruits being sent off to war and Packers fans were everywhere with their “Favre #4” jerseys. We even spotted Pierre Lebrun of the Canadian Press (I resisted the temptation to approach him and ask him whether people ask him if he’s my twin) and Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun. It was a rather hectic scene. We finally got our room keys and headed up to our road trip HQ.

A few hours later the second group arrived and we all gathered in our room for a game of poker. I had never played poker for real money before, and I made it out of there in good shape, doubling my original ante. Copious amounts of alcohol were being consumed in the meantime, and some Leafs fans were getting rowdy in the hallways. Karl the Rabble-Rouser, now fully lubed up with gin, decided to confront them. Having warned him that we didn’t have his back if he got himself into trouble, he ventured out there – this was to be a running theme throughout the evening. Turns out the gang was from Brockville, and he ended up making some friends in the hallway after some initial tense moments where both sides were sizing each other up.

Saturday, 11 pm

Downtown Buffalo

One of the members of the second group had been talking about this “awesome” bar in downtown Buffalo, hyping it up by telling us it was like nothing else in Ottawa. Turns out it was a dud (for me and Bruce, anyway – a dance club type place with 18 year-olds running around). However it got me out into downtown Buffalo. What shocked me was the beautiful architecture and the feeling of being in a historical setting. This was at night-time, which it turns out created its own set of optical illusions (take the photo of Buffalo City Hall on the left, for example. Seen at night and lit by strategically placed spotlights, it is stunning. When you see it during the day, it looks like it’s about to fall apart.) Bruce Mr. Turk and I decided to turn in early to get a good night’s rest. However, the Leafs had soundly beaten the best team in the NHL, and Buffalo became Toronto 2 for a night, with Leafs fans everywhere chanting “Go Leafs Go”. It was nice to see that they don’t reserve their annoying chanting for Ottawa. So much for a quiet night in Buffalo. That wouldn’t dampen our spirits, though: Our first NFL game was right around the corner!

Part 2 tomorrow…

Homecoming

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on HomecomingNov 16, 2006

No, I didn’t get killed in Buffalo, although my buddy Karl did his damnedest to get us in trouble with the Amerkans (Way to go, Jamocha!).

I’m finding blogging regularly very challenging when big things are happening to me and the sports world takes a back seat. I wonder how the better amateur bloggers do it, like Neate over at Out of Left Field?

Anyway, the toughest thing to do when you’ve been away from your blog for an extended period is to figure out where to get started again. I suppose I’ll go with a story that really caught my attention this morning: the Evgeni Malkin court ruling.

Yesterday, a U.S. district court ruled in favour of the NHL against Russian hockey clubs that wanted to bar some of its players from playing in NHL games until a decision is made over compensation for those players. I imagine most NHL fans welcomed the news with a shrug of the shoulders and a “way to stick it to the Russians!”.


As is my nature, this turn of events has me wondering, especially on the heels of the Matsuzaka sweepstakes in baseball. The two cases are similar at their core: a bigger league covets a superstar in the making from a smaller league. This happens all the time in soccer, where one team will compensate the other with a “transfer fee”, usually in the millions of dollars (depending on the player, of course). This appears to be modus operandi for the Boston Red Sox, who have offered $51 million to the Seibu Lions should they succeed in signing their star pitcher.

Meanwhile, in what seems like another world, the Pittsburgh Penguins practically smuggled Evgeni Malkin away from Metallurg Magnitogorsk without compensation. This is a player that was under contract to the Russian club, and the Penguins were able to sign him to a contract and have him play.

How can two situations that seem so similar at their core produce such differing results? Imagine this scenario: have Sidney Crosby signed by, say, Spartak Moscow. For whatever reason, Crosby decides this is the right career move and leaves the Penguins for Russia while the Pens get nothing in return – like the NHL wouldn’t go all the way to the Supreme Court over something like this.

It’s been mentioned that it’s the Russian Federation’s fault for not signing an agreement with the NHL, which would have capped the amount of compensation given to Russian clubs at $200,000 per player. Can we blame them? 200 grand when the Penguins will make millions off this deal? There’s a certain hypocrisy from the NHL wanting to globalize the game, yet when rival leagues try to hold on to their talent (or get fair compensation for being pillaged), the NHL tries to kick them back into the backwater. It’s only a matter of time before the Russian league will be able to hold
its own against the NHL. Bettman and company need to embrace the fact that they’re succeeding in making the game a global success, and everything that comes with it, including successful leagues in foreign countries. It’s not because a bunch of NHL execs get together in a room once a year and decide who gets what (the NHL draft) that the rest of the world have to abide by these terms, as if we were back at Versailles in 1919.

I’ll say it again: North American sports leagues need to look at soccer for guidance on how to go global. The systems are mostly in place when it comes to soccer, and all the NHL needs to do is model themselves after them. Baseball seems to be getting the message, and the NHL, as usual, is lagging behind.

The Twit: Random Scribbles

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on The Twit: Random ScribblesNov 03, 2006

– Nothing drives me higher up the wall than media hacks that try to create the news, which is exactly what some reporters are trying to accomplish with all this Alfie trade-talk. Alfie is the icon of this franchise, and should retire a Senator. I know that may sound a little idealistic considering the current sports climate, but if Stevie Y can do it, so can Alfie. Remember, trade rumours swirled constantly around Yzerman just before the Red Wings went on a run of league domination, both regular season and playoffs.

– I’m going to Buffalo this weekend to see my first meaningful NFL game (although dubbing a Packers-Bills game “meaningful” might be a stretch). When I was a kid (10 years old?), I saw an American Bowl game at the Big O between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The only thing I remember is that we were seated far from the action and that Bubby Brister was the Steelers QB. I’m also a little worried: I don’t consider Buffalo a vacation destination – by showing up we’ll remind them what people with real teeth look like. But you know, I feel a little bit Bono-esque with this voyage: it’s important to visit third world countries and remind yourself just how lucky you are. Who knows, maybe I’ll adopt a child from Cheektowaga (save the hate mail, Buffalo peeps. I’m a Dolphins fan, it’s my duty to rag on your city). I’m going to try and provide a travelogue upon my return, but I’m not sure if I can pull it off. Stay tuned…

– Congratulations to Vernon Wells on winning his third consecutive Gold Glove award. Hopefully he is sincere when he talks of signing a new contract with the Blue Jays. I’d hate to see anyone else patrol centre field for the Jays.

– NHL television ratings are down a little bit (9%), and this has given a kind of liquid courage to those who love to criticize the clampdown on interference and stick-related fouls. First of all, the ratings are down and this was expected: when you come back from missing an entire season of hockey, people are naturally going to watch more because they missed the product. Expecting to maintain those numbers was never plausible. Secondly, consider the whiners and their agenda:

1. Bill Watters: The clampdown has seriously affected his beloved Maple Leafs. Theirs was a team cynically built in the “old” NHL to slow down the opposition through clutching and grabbing. The rules have hurt the teams that have been unable to adapt, like the Leafs and the Flyers. Smarter GM’s have evolved with the times, like Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey.

2. Nick Kypreos: Try and follow the logic: the salary cap has created higher player turnaround, so the players don’t know their teammates as well, so they are forced to clutch and grab, which increases penalties, therefore the clampdown is hurting the NHL. That pretty much sums up this guy’s thinking. Kypreos and Glenn Healy whine and moan constantly – they are the player’s mouthpieces on network television. It’s no surprise he’s constantly bashing the salary cap. He will obviously reach for any argument, sane or not, to illustrate the evils of a system that prevents teams from giving the Bobby Holik’s of the world $10 million per season.

3. Don Cherry & Ron McLean: Yes, it has reached the point where I lump them in together. Cherry has finally broken McLean down. These two have a lofty perch from which to sermonize, and unfortunately they use it irresponsibly, such as when McLean endlessly criticizes referees. It isn’t too difficult to imagine where Cherry is coming from in his hate of the new enforcement of the old rules. Cherry is a macho man’s man who will stop at nothing to see a return to the 70’s style of brawling hockey. Sad (as in pathetic) thing is, he’ll never live to see it. He’s simply a bitter old curmudgeon at this point, and his ramblings constantly border on senility. Agree with him at your own peril.

Furthermore, if you look into the numbers a little deeper, there is good news. The demographic every advertiser lusts after, 18 to 34 year old males, is showing an astounding 40 per cent increase in NHL viewership. Ergo, the next generation loves the “new” NHL, and the rules changes are here to stay (if we can trust the governors to use sound judgment – never a gimme).

– Everton are making a case that they belong near the top of the Premiership table. Their draw at Arsenal on Saturday was an eye-opener, and the hope is that they can finish in the top four in order to earn a Champions League berth. I just picked up FIFA 07 for the 360 this week, and have played until my thumbs hurt. There’s nothing like video games to build an intimate knowledge of the players on your favourite teams, especially with the accuracy EA Sports pours in to individual attributes. In soccer that is especially true, as watching Everton play on TV doesn’t give you nearly the amount of depth that playing them with FIFA provides. Joseph Yobo and Arteta have never looked so good. Many of you have vowed to follow soccer more closely after last summer’s World Cup: there’s no better way to get attached to a club than through the FIFA series.

Soccer Pimp: A Great Decision

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on Soccer Pimp: A Great DecisionNov 01, 2006

You won’t see these words written very often in this space, but today CONCACAF have announced a great decision (CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football – UEFA’s North American cousin). They’ve decided that the Gold Cup (Concacaf’s version of the European Championships, or Euro)will no longer have “invitation” teams. What this means is that only teams from our Confederation will be allowed to play in our Championship. Having “invitation” teams was akin to having a European club team participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs because it was deemed that the 16th team wasn’t strong enough to compete. It was a complete insult to the region, a slap in the face considering only 12 teams play in the Gold Cup.

Are there 12 world class teams in CONCACAF? No. Only Mexico and USA deserve that designation. However, why deny Nicaragua or Haiti the chance to play with the big boys in our regional championship? Latvia played in the last Euro, for crying out loud! We all know anything can happen in soccer, and Latvia proved that by drawing Germany in the group stage. Would you deny them that opportunity in favour of inviting South Korea or Ecuador? UEFA would never demean itself in such a way, and I’m glad to see CONCACAF come to their senses.

For the record, Canada won the Gold cup in 2000 and was 3rd in 2002. Yes, the championship is played every two years. This is the next battleground in the war between CONCACAF and Common Sense: let’s have the championship played every four years, in the same year as the Euro. At the same time we can add four teams to bring it up to 16. In this way the Championship will gain credibility and cachet.

Great Quote

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on Great QuoteNov 01, 2006

I decided that tonight I’ll be watching the Sens-Habs game on RDS, since I can’t really stand Dean “Oh MY HEAVENS!!” Brown. So they have a pre-game show where they sit down with Guy Carbonneau, the Habs head coach, and the interviewer asks him:

– “Any changes to the lineup tonight, Guy?”.

– With a wry smile he answers: “I’ve put Aaron Downey in the game tonight, since you never know with Neil and McGrattan.”

Nice! Let’s get it on!

The Pimple, Week 8

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on The Pimple, Week 8Oct 31, 2006

Quick everyone, reach for your tissues. If we are to believe the football pundits this weekend, we’re supposed to feel much pity for Shawn Merriman following his four game suspension for steroid use. Apparently, Merriman is a “good kid” who’s a “team player” and “upstanding citizen”.

Ummm, no. Merriman can now be placed on an infamous list that includes Ben Johnson (“Do you Cheetah?”), Jose Canseco and Lyle Alzado. He gets to rub shoulders with Marion Jones, Floyd Landis and Ken Caminiti (newsflash, Shawn, but two of those named have died because of steroid abuse). There is a phone number posted in every NFL locker room; a hotline for players who have doubts about the contents of various supplements. Over the weekend, Merriman’s agent confirmed that his client had never made that call, and had never cross-checked the supplements he was using with the list of banned NFL substances. All these circumstances made for some very uncomfortable viewing this weekend, when I was watching him destroy the Rams offensive line. “Now wait a minute here,” you say. “How could he have been playing if he was caught juicing?” Ah…great question Doctor Watson. The NFL (and every other pro sports league) allows players to appeal suspensions, and it’s mostly used to pick and choose which games they are to miss. Got some tough games coming up? No problem – appeal the suspension and keep playing until you hit a soft patch. These derelicts make a mockery of the rules of the game and bend them to their advantage. And I’m supposed to give this kid the benefit of the doubt? I say let him sit until the league can hear his appeal. Let’s see how strong a case he really feels he has.

Red Alert to all Billick haters: your boy gets to crow this week, after lighting up the Saints defence for five touchdowns. This comes in the first game since he fired Jim Fassell as his offensive coordinator and took over play-calling duties. The shameless self-promoter is sure to make the most of this – perhaps another book on his unquestionable genius?

Denver plays Cincinnati on Christmas Eve: don’t say I didn’t warn you, but this will be a golden opportunity for some producer to put up the “Silver Bells: Mike and Tatum” graphic. On a darker note, and I’m sorry Darrent Williams, but there’s no gentler way of putting this: you got sodomized by Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne on Sunday.

My favourite quote of the week came courtesy of the Football Night in America panel. Bob Costas commenting on a Chris Henry touchdown reception says: “…and he can do it too…when he can make bail.” This is followed by giggling “ooohs” and “ahhhs from the rest of the panel. Costas then says, laughing “What? He’s been arrested like five times since January!” Collinsworth, unable to contain himself, quips: “Not in the past couple of weeks he hasn’t!!” That had me in stitches. These guys are good.

And since I’m on a roll with broadcasting compliments, I have to send out some kudos to Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson of Fox. They called the Seahawks and Chiefs beautifully. Insightful, accurate, working off each other, challenging one another on close plays (with sincerity, none of this mock confrontation). I hope they move up the ranks on Fox. Since I like them, that’s as likely to happen as the Niners scoring a meaningful touchdown against the Bears in this decade.

Product tag line over which I’m still scratching my head: “Toyota Rav 4: Too intelligent to be categorized.” Really? Looks like an SUV to me. Or maybe it’s finally becoming uncool to own these death traps, so they prefer to say they don’t have a category? And what does “Too intelligent to be categorized” mean? Come again? Is the truck intelligent? Someone please help me out.

My apologies for the short Pimple this week, but that’s all I’ve got, and I refuse to babble for no good reason (some of you may think this was the case anyway!)

Note: It’s 31-7 Patriots with 13 minutes to go. It’s safe to go to bed right? Right? Maybe I should call Denny Green and ask what he thinks. “They WERE who we THOUGHT they were!!!”

The Soccer Pimp Revisited

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on The Soccer Pimp RevisitedOct 27, 2006

A few years ago (by the looks of it, back when I still had room for Michael Landsberg in my life), I wrote this little column for The Voyageurs website (check out their forum: It’s the web’s premium gathering place for Canadian soccer). I’ve dusted it off a bit and am offering it to you as a reminder that there are ways for soccer fans to survive in our American-centric sports landscape. Also check out Neate Seager’s interesting blog on how he vows to become a soccer fan. I wonder if he was successful?

Survivor’s Handbook in a Hostile Soccer Society

Dick Howard, TSN’s venerable soccer analyst, recently appeared on Michael Landsberg’s OTR along with the usual assortment of sportscaster, eye candy and Ignorant Loudmouth. OTR deserves credit for kicking off its show with a question we in the soccer community have been asking for years: “Will soccer ever become part of the mainstream in Canada”?It turns out that Ignorant Loud-Mouth was one of those “soccer sucks” blowhards. You know the type: the guy at the bar or family dinner who feels he has to come down hard on the sport with half-witted arguments, no matter if he’s alone or surrounded by 20 English hooligans. The problem with these Ignorants is that the people who might be prone to enjoy soccer if left to their own thoughts become useless lemmings in the company of Ignorant Loud-Mouth. They nod in fearful agreement to his discourse, which is usually just a regurgitation of something he heard on the Jim Rome Show. Ah, and the radio show analogy is a useful one in this case – these people remind me of the Right-Wing radio people across North America: the Rush Limbaughs, Lowell Greens and Bill O’Reilly’s of the world. It’s quasi-impossible to turn these people into soccer fans, but you can at least stand your ground and give observers of the debate food for thought.

With that in mind, I thought I’d put together a quick-reference list of intelligent comebacks to these unsavory opinions, for use by you the reader the next time you encounter Ignorant Loudmouth.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I can’t get into a sport where the players flop and dive all over the place, as if they just got shot. Then they just get right back up like nothing happened.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast:

• You’re correct to say that some players dive, but the majority of the pain you see is genuine. The difference between soccer and other sports is the frequency at which studs are driven into various parts of the players legs. Just imagine I went into the closet and pulled out a soccer/baseball shoe, and drove the stud into your ankle right now. You would probably drop to the ground or hop around on your good foot. After about 10 seconds, the pain would subside and you would be good to go.

• If that’s how you really feel about divers, then you’ll be restricted to watching golf. Anytime a quarterback or kicker even feels an opposition player close to him after letting go of the ball, he’ll go down and roll around, hoping to draw the roughing flag.

• Darcy Tucker.

• Baseball fans know what I’m talking about. Any time you see a runner slide into the 2nd baseman studs up, the next thing you see is that same second basemen rolling around on the ground. Rarely does that player need to be taken out of the game. The only difference is that it happens much less frequently.

Ignorant Loudmouth: Soccer players are sissies. They go down too easy.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast:

• That’s because you’re used to watching North American sports like American football, basketball and hockey where players use their hands. The reason soccer players go down so easy is because they are almost always off-balance – that’s the nature of having to dribble with your feet! When a running back plows into a defensive player he’s got a low centre of gravity because he is hugging the ball and lowering his shoulders. A soccer player doesn’t have that luxury: he has to be light on his feet in order to avoid the countless metal-spiked shoes flying at his ankles. (you can even demonstrate this by asking Ignorant Loudmouth to keep possession of a prop by holding it in his hands while you mock-tackle him, and then repeating with the prop at his feet. You’ll have illustrated your point beautifully!)

Ignorant Loudmouth: The field is too big.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Slightly bigger than an American football field, smaller in square feet to a baseball field.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I only like American sports.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: There is no such thing (unless you count Roller Derby!!).

• Baseball is a modified version of Rounders and Cricket (Britain)
• Football is a modified version of Rugby (Britain)
• Basketball was invented by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith
• Hockey was invented by Canadians
• Golf was invented in Scotland

Ignorant Loudmouth: It can’t hold my attention because there isn’t enough scoring.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: Okay, let’s take American football for example. A respectable score in football is around 21-14, which equates to a 3-2 scoreline in soccer (not exactly unheard of). Considering that it takes 2 hours to watch a soccer match, and 3 ½ hours to watch a football match, there’s more scoring in soccer than your beloved football.

Ignorant Loudmouth: The game is so slow. It’s like watching paint dry…

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: …yet you love watching baseball and golf.

Ignorant Loudmouth: I don’t think I could ever get into a game where you don’t know when it will end.

Refined Soccer Enthusiast: In fact, a soccer match never goes beyond 2 hours (except in tournaments where extra time and penalty kicks can stretch the match to 3 hours). In basketball, the final 5 minutes can take up to 30 minutes of real time. In baseball, a game could technically go on indefinitely (ever read W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe?).

There are many more criticisms that Ignorant Loudmouth loves to jam down everyone’s throats, and I’m sure this column could go on for countless extra pages. I hope I’ve sufficiently armed you for your next encounter with Ignorant Loudmouth, and that you’ll successfully turn him round with his tail between his legs.

____________________

This weekend’s soccer on tv:

Saturday:

7:30 am Sheffield United v. Chelsea (stay in bed) (Sportsnet)
10:00 am Liverpool v. Aston Villa (this should be a good match, with star players) (Sportsnet)
11:00 am Watford v Tottenham (Canadian Paul Stalteri plays for Tottenham) (FSW)
12:30 am Newcastle v. Charlton (Sportsnet)
2:30 pm MLS Playoffs: New England Revolution v. Chicago Fire (FSW)

Sunday:

8:00 am West Ham v. Blackburn (Sportsnet)
2:00 pm MLS Playoffs: Houston FC v. Chivas USA (FSW)

The Rosin Bag: We Care, Already!

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on The Rosin Bag: We Care, Already!Oct 26, 2006

Alright, it’s time for me to get on my box (taking my box out of the closet, blowing the dust off, placing it in the middle of the room and climbing up).

Fans care about players cheating. Pure and simple. We do. That’s a message for you in the media that don’t think we care (led by Stephen Brunt in Canada, who loves to go on Bob McCown’s show and tell everyone this. Note: I love Stephen Brunt and think he’s one of the better sportswriters: he just happens to be on the wrong side of this issue). Every fan I’ve ever spoken to wants athletes to be clean of illegal substances. We care about stats and their integrity. We care about athletes and their health. We care about the rule book and following it.


It’s time to turn the tide of propaganda from the school of thought that teaches that fans don’t care as long as they don’t know. The consequences of this reversal is that reporters would have to work harder to uncover the facts. They would have to display initiative beyond asking questions like: “What do you think was the turning point of the game?” or “How do you feel after such a big win?”. It means journalists will have to develop more cojones when confronting athletes, instead of deferring to them with such reverence.

I’ve never been in a major sports locker room so I don’t know what kind of questions are asked, and if athletes really are so good at spin that it’s so difficult to get insightful answers. The only time an athlete will answer tough questions seems to be when a pack mentality forms with members of the press, as if strength in numbers will assure them that they can’t all get their press passes revoked. Maybe this is true, but it would appear to me that it’s simply a matter of group courage and individual cowardice.

For example, will Tom Verducci run into trouble in the Tigers locker room after writing such an accusatory column about the Kenny Rogers pine tar incident? Something tells me he might get a frostier welcome, but that he’ll get just as much access. Does a reporter have to wait until he pays his dues and acquires a pedigree like Verducci has until he can work up the courage to really go in depth with less than rosy issues? Maybe, but if that’s the case we’re in trouble. If I were a Tigers fan, I’d be embarrassed that one of my players was caught cheating. If it was a Senators player, I’d want him suspended. Am I so unique? Yeah, right.

Sports long ago stopped being a fairy-tale land to which people travelled in order to admire the giants and myth-like figures. That veil was lifted decades ago. What we want is as even a playing field as possible, where athletic ability comes from hard work, talent and genetics, not a syringe or a bottle with green pills. We want regulation sticks and goalie equipment in hockey, balls that haven’t been tampered with in baseball and the letter of the law enforced as it is written.

In short, we want fairness and a world to which we can point and say to our kids: “See that? He cheated and got punished. Don’t cheat.” (getting off my box and placing it neatly back in the closet)

Frozen Vulcan: Sharks Sighting

Posted by Ottawa Sports GuyComments Off on Frozen Vulcan: Sharks SightingOct 26, 2006

A rare shark sighting in this part of the world, courtesy The NHL on TSN. With the World Series in a rain delay, it allowed me to check in on one of the top teams in the West, a privilege usually reserved for our Western compatriots and night owls with the Centre Ice package.

First impressions? These guys are good. They look like the Senators did a few years ago when they were buzzing over and around all the competition. Their transition game is probably the most impressive part of their game: these guys pounce on loose pucks like squirrels on cashews. Kyle McLaren really is impressive, it’s like he’s worked quite a lot on his finesse game. The guy is huge, but he’s got such a sweet poke check, very Bourque-like. Patrick Marleau has also impressed me quite a bit, although I’m sure that wouldn’t surprise anyone whose spent any amount of time watching the Sharks. It’s 1-1 against the Red Wings in the third as I write, but there’s no doubt which team is superior.

As much as I harp on announcers in this space, it’s important for me to single out the quality when I see/hear it. Tonight’s game is being described to us via Chris Cuthbert, and man is he smooth. The CBC unceremoniously laid this guy off when their alternative was Bob Cole? Cole must have some dirt on CBC executives that they don’t want out in the public. How else do you explain it? Glenn Healy isn’t nearly as bad when he’s nowhere near a Leafs game or talking about player grievances.

Other notes:

  • It’s official, Tony Romo replaces Drew Bledsoe as the starter in Dallas. After what I saw Monday night, I can’t say this is an upgrade. Looks like a two-horse race in the NFC East (despite what Ital-Dean thinks).
  • Lots of banter on the Leafs-Senators rematch tomorrow. I suppose that’s normal since TSN is broadcasting, so it’s in their interest to hype it up as much as possible (not that I think they’re doing it artificially – not in this case, anyway). I won’t patronize you by reporting what Tie Domi thought of last night.
  • Line of the night: Sports Chickie, who is anglo-bilingual, spots an interesting name on the back of a Red Wings player’s jersey: Leboa. She quips: “That’s French for ‘Big C*ck”. Oh how I love this girl.