Life, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, racism and other isms, law, history, journalism/media…all through the lens of sport.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Mixed Bag Return - Big Mac's Thoughts on The Sporting World

I know my viewing public missed me. Clearly, they did. Haha.

After a few weeks of a mixture of work, more work, a newly developed problem of tendonitis in my right shoulder, and various other incidents that remind me of my natural 'joie de vivre', I have returned to discuss a few things.

Jamarcus Russell Release by the Oakland Raiders

I hate to say it.... but to basically everyone I spoke to for the first 72 hours after they chose him, I TOLD YOU SO!!!

I called this the day he put the hat on. The man is not a great quarterback. He is a great athlete - he can throw a ball very far, he is fast and big (though recently it's been the wrong kind of big, coming into training camp near 300 lbs), and I'm sure he could be very good playing another position.

As a quarterback though, this man was a train wreck. And I called it the first time I heard the man speak. For lack of a more eloquent term, he's dumb as rocks. A lamp post has both more character, more interesting things to say, and I'd largely believe a higher IQ. To be a quarterback in pro football, you don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar - I mean it's not like my boy Tom Brady is building a perpetual motion device or discovering cold fusion on the sidelines - but you certainly need to have a level of intellect and quick reaction time to make intelligent decisions in a small window of opportunity. Through JR's time in Cali, he couldn't do it. Now he's just another cast off, and perhaps the greatest 1st round bust of all time... though a very wealthy one, provided he didn't go spend it all on magic beans or something.

Some team will take a chance on him though. I have a strange feeling we could even see it be the Patriots, as painful as that would be. Want to really amuse me? Make it the Bills. It'll be like my birthday!

World Cup Fever... but is it a disease for Canadians?

I have been a fan of the World Cup since around 1998 when I first started cheering on France, my favourite team. Since then I have watched every Euro Cup, every World Cup, and over the past year and a half have started paying more attention to club teams in Europe (believe it or not, I even recently bought my first soccer video game!)

I have cheered for a multitude of teams, though always Les Bleus first and foremost. The reason being is that I speak the language, have been to the country and know a fair amount about it's history, and I have it in my blood (amongst many other nations). I have also cheered for Japan in respect for my brother in law, Argentina for my best friend, Uruguay for my best female friend, and Turkey for my wife. I have always thought that Canada is supposed to espouse it's multicultural fabric, or at least that's what we're told, so cheering for other nations should come somewhat naturally.

Ignorance, however, is the mold that grows from the bacteria of nationalism. Toronto is house to a multitude of nations, and in any World Cup game, there is a different part of the city cheering after a game, from Spain to Senegal, Italy to the Ivory Coast. I think that's fine - fill your boots! Cheer your hearts out!

Why, though, do people look at me like I have 3 heads when I wear my France jersey, or have my France flag flying out the window of my car?

I cannot count the number of times I've had people ask me "Are you from France?", to which I reply "No, but I have generations of my family who came from France. My great grandmother was of French descent." The usual reply I get to this is " you're not French then? How can you cheer for them then? Why don't you cheer for England?"

In my mind, this is indirect racism. The fact that I am a caucasian male who is past 1st generation Canadian, I automatically must cheer for England because I'm a white guy with an Anglo-Saxon last name. The funny thing is that I have precisely the same amount of German, Irish, French, and English blood flowing through my veins. I am also parts Norwegian and Scottish. Even when explaining this fact, people seem to think of me as 'not a real fan' or a 'bandwagon jumper', or even a 'poseur'.

This rule doesn't seem to apply to other cultures. Walk the streets of Little Italy, you will come across swarms of 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians who have never set foot on Italian soil, and don't speak the language, yet they are fully permitted to scream out "Forza Italia!" at free will, while proclaiming the superiority of their beloved Azzuri. No one will bat an eyelash. I have a friend whose great great grandfather was from the Ivory Coast, and she proudly flies the flag on her car. No one questions that either. Ditto the guy I know who is actually Indian, but he strangely looks Mediterranean, and he flies a Portugese flag on his car and heralds Christiano Ronaldo as the single greatest human walking the planet. Even those aware he doesn't hold heritage in those countries, he is totally fine to cheer for them, and no one raises an eyebrow.

Why is it that, in a culture where we are supposed to appreciate everyones background and the tapestry of their heritage, those whose complexion falls under the "caucasian" tab that we are not apparently permitted to cheer for a team other than the most general one available? Why are we only allowed to appreciate the cultural heritage of those deemed more exotic, or those who are greater in numbers? Some may argue this is not the case, but it is absolutely certain the majority think this way. World Cup is about an incredible tournament of a great game to watch, but what it is not supposed to be is an opportunity to boast superiority of one nation over another.

I could have sworn we were all Canadian in the end.

Losing On Purpose - Grant Whybark's Quest to devolve sports

For those who hadn't heard, a college golfer by the name of Grant Whybark who plays for St. Francis College in Illinois, decided that he would intentionally double-bogey a hole during the conference final tournament in order to allow a competitor by the name of Seth Doran to move forward to the national finals. Why would an athlete intentionally throw a game you ask?

Whybark basically stated that he knew Seth for a few years, and decided that he had earned his spot in the finals, and that because he was a 'good person', he spoke it over with his teammates and they were ok with him blowing the hole on purpose to allow his buddy to advance.

How disgusting is this? And how is this not being investigated by the NCAA?

This is no different than match fixing. Controlling the outcome of a game. No difference from this to shaving points in a basketball game, intentionally fumbling in the Rose Bowl, or walking a guy in a baseball game.

While Whybark was allowing his friend to move forward, there was another golfer in that tournament who was busting his butt to quality, and had his chance taken away by this raging idiot. How people can sit there and justify it is absolutely incredible - this isn't a bonevolent gesture, this is absolutely ridiculous.

That's all for now! Back later with more rants :)


  1. Hey Big Mac,

    Always good to read your stuff!

    I've got two comments in response to this article.

    Briefly, I appreciate your issue with the curious double standard that comes up in Toronto whenever World Cup rolls around.

    Sports encapsulates all facets of our world - economics, politics, education, medicine, law, marketing, logistics, hospitality and yes, of course, race as well. It drives me nuts, the lengths people will go to avoid race issues as they come up in sports.

    In fact, it's one of the primary reasons we had to set up our own sports talk platform - so we could talk frankly about sports and sports-related issues, as we saw them.

    We'll revisit this issue again as the World Cup draws near.

  2. My other comment is about JaMarcus Russell, but I'll create a separate post for that.

  3. Finally, regarding losing on purpose, I agree with you.

    Sport integrity should preclude the consideration of such a move. A person advances in golf with the best score, assuming everyone is trying. Seth Doran is a nice guy, and that's great. But if that's the criteria for advancing in golf, there'd be more golfers than money to pay them. Golfers advance for beating the other golfers (I'll blog some other time about the claptrap about "competing against the course").

    But sports has a funny way of dealing with perceptions of sportsmanship. The strange discussion of bunting when a pitcher is on pace for a no-hitter boggles my mind.

    Why in the world would that pitcher be upset by a batter attempting to reach base by bunting, especially if the score is close? The fans might boo, fine, I'd want to say I was at one of only 19 no hitters in baseball history.

    But, from a competitive standpoint, why concede a game when winning is still within reach? And, in baseball, with no clock to expire, winning is always in reach, and a rally at any point in the game can put 6 runs on the board in a hurry and turn what was setting up to be a blowout into an extra inning marathon.

    If a pitcher is on his stuff, he'll confound even a bunt attempt. Further, a no-hitter is not about a pitcher throwing 27 pitches, 27 strikes, s7 outs; it's about pop ups into the lights and 2nd basemen and center fielders not bumping into each other; it's about short-stops fielding a ball and not throwing an error into the stands;, it's about 1st basemen not doing a Bill's a TEAM achievement. So if a batter lays down a bunt, the pitcher, back catcher and first basement have to work it out, or give up the no-hit bid. A bunt is still a part of baseball, still to be prepared to handle.

    Again, "unwritten rules" can be convenient, patently annoying, and both support as well as confound sportsmanship. Don't run over the pitcher's mound, don't approach the batter's box until the pitcher completes his warm up...blah blah blah...but I digress.

    Granted, it's refreshing to see a guy "lose" to help someone else. Perhaps sports has become so tainted with the negative elements that we long for some injection of humanity, humility, good-natured altruism...hmm, having said that, why didn't Whybark do it in a way that didn't let us know he did it on purpose?