The Barnstormer: In R.A. Dickey We Trust

The following can be found in its entirety at The Barnstormer. Link below.

When you’re a kid, there is a blissful ignorance in your affection for sport. Your favourite team is likely from the city you live in, or whichever one is close by, or the team your folks cheered for. Team loyalty is passed down through generations, like heirlooms, willed from father to son to granddaughter. Your favourite player, if you believe in such trips of childish reverie, is unique in that rather than willed it is bestowed, by some higher power, an intangible and immeasurable God of sport, who chooses for you. Your love is measured in fraying posters clinging desperately to childhood bedroom walls, imaginations of sandlot afternoons, and trading cards tucked safely into nine pocket pages in binders once meant for math or history. This is the second love you’ll know, after parents but before romantic love. For some reason, these players appeal to you, call to you. When they hand out little league and Pee Wee numbers, you do whatever you can do get theirs. You’ll fight your neighbour for Casey Candaele’s number 9. You’ll trade a Ryne Sandberg rookie card for Fred McGriff’s 19. There is no logic here. It cannot be explained. It just is.

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The Barnstormer: The End of Fighting in the NHL

The following can be found in its entirety on The Barnstormer. Link below.

Let me clear up something before we get started, so that I don’t get called a commie, or a pansy, or a Mary, or a Leafs fan. I like a good hockey fight. I have stood on my chair in the middle of a crowded bar, frothing with bloodlust, and cheered for the savage beating a man, a father, a husband, a son, a boy, a child of the tainted culture that is the NHL. I have done this willingly, with neither fear nor regret. But I also like drinking too much whiskey, telling ecru lies, minor thieving, watching Mark Ruffalo romcoms, and on occasion putting on a dainty skirt and being called Jolene. Not all at once, but on occasion. Christmas. Arbour Day. Wednesday. These things are not good for me in mass quantity, but in controlled moderation, as a superfluous and benign addition to my days they are not the self-destructive vices they appear, but rather the willing flaws of the complexity that is life. And they’re not important to me (well, except whiskey), they don’t define me, and should tomorrow come, and my therapists were to tell me that my life would be infinitely better should I, could I, give up Jack Daniels afternoons skipping work watching Just Like Heaven in an ex-girlfriend’s pilfered bubble dress, then I would. In an instant. And this is how I feel about fighting in hockey. The sport would be infinitely better in its absence. Fighting is hockey’s unnecessary vice, its frilly skirt, preventing it from fulfilling its promise.

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The Barnstormer: Hockey’s Worst Year

The following can be found in its entirety on The Barnstormer. Link below.

Jim Hughson didn’t utter a word. As the final minutes of the 2011-2012 NHL season came to a close, CBC’s Hughson turned off his microphone, took a breath, leaned back in the booth, and did what more sports broadcasts should. He let the images tell the story. The game clock slowed towards its destiny. The crowd stood, and cheered, as crowds tend to do. But not with a desperate fervor, or the pain of relief, but by way of habit, and tradition. Gloves and sticks and helmets were discarded. Grown men, proud men, cried and embraced. An aging goaltender, a native Montrealer, left the ice for what may have been the final time. A smug commissioner, an enemy of hockey patriots, stepped onto the ice. He was not booed, which is a custom unbeknownst to a Southern California crowd. He handed the Cup, a sacred chalice, to a 27-year-old from Ithaca, New York, a grinder, a winger who plays with grit, with sandpaper, “the way the game should be played”. A character guy. He’ll drop the gloves, you know? The Cup, the oldest of its kind, gets passed from player to player to coach to trainer to general manager. Slowly, reluctantly, one-by-one, they left the ice. The crowd remained standing. The crowd remained cheering.

To an outsider, it would appear to be the culmination of a beautiful season, the peak of winter’s game’s crescendo. The anthemic refrain that fades to a contented quiet. But that would be false. It would be a lie. Because beneath the tears, the character, the hyperbole, the pageantry, is what the moment really was. This, was the end of hockey’s worst year.

It began as last season ended. It began with a death.

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Newspapers are Suicidal

The only time I’ve ever been fired was from a Milestone’s in Vancouver, sometime around 1998. It was not a pleasant day, a day made worse by the fact that upon returning home unexpectedly and unemployed, I discovered my partner and my roommate had been having an affair. Losing a job and a lover in the same morning is humbling, and yet the two have striking parallels. Both, one could argue, are essential to living. Both are gratifying, in their own ways. Both provide you with money. I’m often hesitant to introduce both entities to my parents. But I can empathize with anyone who has lost either, though they are learning moments. I learned that you shouldn’t work for an organization that has their own glossary, or more than 20 employees. I also learned that when your girlfriend spends late nights with your roommate, it’s not because she digs his Captain Beefheart LPs. Earlier this week, a large contingent of Postmedia staffers lost their jobs in what is a sign of the times for the newspaper industry. But, unlike my ability to learn from heartbreak and loss of a $8-an-hour cooking gig, has the newspaper industry learned anything from its losses? I think not.

Newspapers have been dying for some time. Content is free online, and not just theirs. There is a near infinite supply of news and opinion available. It’s part of the reason you’re reading this, and not some other chump’s ramblings. Newspapers had a monopoly on printed news and opinion for, well, forever, and now they are feeling the effects of not adequately preparing for a shifting marketplace. They failed to adapt to a rapidly changing industry, whether by flaw of ego or a lack of understanding. How anyone could watch and not learn as technology nearly destroyed, and then reinvented the music industry is beyond me, but I’m of a different generation than those running newspapers and those who continue to pay to read them. And therein lies the problem. The newspaper industry is built around a demographic that no longer dictates the mode by which we consume. The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and the rest of Canada’s papers are written and edited by, and marketed and subservient to Boomers and beyond, while the generations that follow are rapidly reinventing our methods of news consumption.

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100 Days of Blame

I am, by most accounts, a horrible partner, and I have the exes to prove it. I am self-involved, self-indulgent, and more often than not underemployed. I suffer from tunnel vision and insomnia. I enjoy adult beverages, some times too much. I write poetry. I listen to a lot of alt-country. A lot. This is why I am 35 and my folks still ask about the absence of grandchildren and RRSPs. This is why my LinkedIn profile notes that I am a freelancer, but follows the claim with a question mark. This is why my relationships last three months, and typically end in a furious and graceless blaze of glory. But despite my poetic endings and disappointed parents, I’ve always been good at admitting blame, of recognizing my faults, and celebrating my flaws. One day I plan on learning from them. During the 100 days of the Quebec student strike, all sides, all entities involved, have been unwilling to admit any fault, to believe that they may have made mistakes, to admit that they should not have come home three days late smelling of perfume and whiskey. So, as Montreal prepares for an important day and joins the protest century club, I’m taking the time to consider how to share some blame.

The Mainstream Media

The CBC, CTV, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, et al. have failed miserably in their coverage of this event, and rest assured it is an event. The journalistic coverage has been if not lazy than perhaps complicit. Over the weekend “a” Molotov cocktail became pluralized very quickly in many reports. All entities continually refer to the “students” protesting and marching, while in reality the students are on strike but much of the rest of Quebec are on the streets. They quote tired facts about tuition costs, but are guilty in omitting from the discourse what non-residents and international students pay. The images and arguments have been ones of violence, and all too willing to ignore the moving and inspirational story of the rise of an important social movement. Their coverage has the appearance of writing from afar, written on desks in Toronto and Calgary.

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