Category Archives: Sport

Flames Arena Deal Iced

Once again your tax dollars have been wasted. This time on a fantasy gone wrong. The Saddledome is a relatively new building built for the 1988 Olympics but for many it was already outdated because it wasn’t good enough for particular musical acts and there wasn’t enough luxury revenue generating suites for the liking Flames brass. For the wrong reasons, Calgarian’s tax dollars intended to meet the needs of every Calgarian were committed toward a special interest and a sport represented by players and management whose salaries far exceed those responsible for contributing funding. It was odorous from the beginning and the rightful ending has arrived but not without costs. 

You see….back when community rinks were established in the 1940’s and1950s all over Canada, these rinks were built with the pretext of bettering communities because all taxpayers would have access to them for figure skating, hockey, and recreational skating. Community programs could be advanced through the utilization of the facility. The health and wellness of all Canadians could be advanced in lieu of a community investment. This model is a good representation of a budget line item worthy of public funds given the direct benefit to tax payers.

You’ve all heard the economic argument of “spin offs” from building bigger and better. The trouble is that there is simply too much risk in postulating “economic benefit” from the standpoint of the magnitude of investment. Canadian cities are becoming more diverse with an aggressive immigration policy attracting new citizens who have not been acclimatized to the sport of hockey.

The NHL and its teams are financially successful evidenced by published salaries earned by players. In a capitalist model which Canada is barely retaining, corporations should be looking to the markets or investors for funding and not the public purse. 

Ironically and yet to be confirmed by rumours it may become evident that the nixing of the deal had much to do with a matter relevant to a reasonable Flames request associated with public funding of roadways / public works associated with the vicinity of the arena.

This has been a fiasco and could have been avoided. My sense is that prior Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had his instinct correct in the beginning about this project but then ceded his position from variables which I’ll allow you to speculate.          

Ski Gear Safety Tips

Now that we’re “gearing up” for the new ski season, I’ll give some gear tips to help keep you safe this winter. With many seasons under my belt while reading the occasional review on mountains and gear, I seldom see gear safety write ups…..so here goes my take.

Not all ski brakes are designed equally. Some fold up nicely while clamping in and others may not. If brakes do not elevate and wrap inward, then protruding brakes can catch on your snow pants or boot buckles. This could send you tumbling. Upon stepping in, check on your brake alignment with feet apart. If they don’t fully wrap, you can manually bring them in with a squeeze in order to save a trip to the pro shop. However; do have a technician tend to them in advance of your next outing.

Ski poles are still sold with straps. When you insert your hand into a strap, you don’t want your pole to catch on anything while whizzing by….like boundary netting. Never put your hands through pole straps in advance of disembarking from a chair.

Binding settings – this is one that you do think about. The settings need to be adjusted to your weight and proficiency level. If there’s a change in these two variables, your settings need to be changed accordingly.

Boot grips – there are none so buckle down when walking around the base area and mid-mountain lodge. This way your more nimble gait will lessen the chance of a slip. Smaller steps when walking in boots.  

Sun screen for your nose and lip balm. Ha ha.

Good Biomechanics of Running

I’ve been running recreationally my whole life with a particular hiatus during period of some knee discomfort. Today I comment on good biomechanics of running. My experience in running combined with my undergraduate degree in sports science compels me to evaluate good running form. My component coach during my fundamental course work in “kinesiology” in first year was Gabor Simonyi. This Hungarian master of hammer and shot put technique has a storied history in Canadian Athletics typified by the seven of eleven conference championships won by my Alma Mater the University of Alberta during his tenure and coaching leadership. He was a quirky slight fellow more adept at the intricacies of biomechanics than of the administrative side of sport as testified by former athletes.

Gabor had two primary focal points around the stride. I remember him incessantly referring to angle of attack and center of gravity. In my mind, I see him to this day demonstrating the foot hitting the ground in a backward propelling manner appealing to his students. One never gets set up properly without the necessary forward lean. We need to want to go just like the skier looking down the escarpment looking to attack versus cautiously navigating a path. Naturally, good mechanics also require stability in the pelvis and relaxation in the ankle. With a mind keen to move forward rather than up, we limit the impact as the foot lands. Arms work productively with balance and thrust.

Fatigue is a reality in running and the heroic propensity to overdo is ever present. People should take breaks when fatigued. Endurance arises from repetition and practice. Us mere mortals are always in a continuum of fitness due to schedules and lifestyle demands cognizant that exercise is our own responsibility to ourselves.    

The New Mental Health Mantra

It’s all getting a bit ridiculous wouldn’t your say – this new mental health mantra. Suddenly there’s this new excuse for failing or missing the show. When nothing else sticks…just pull this one out of the hat because the whole internet universe has gravitated toward it and you know how politically incorrect it would be to call it out as “bull”.

You see few of us are ever faced with perfect circumstances when delivering the goods. There’s always something in the context of the playing field not to mention haunts from the past. That is what makes the show adrenaline filled and exciting. One is faced with the task at hand along with the context in which we present ourselves albeit the training and obstacles overcome. We may not meet a standard we expect of ourselves but a measure is taken at a point in time. It’s not a matter of win or go home. It’s a matter of doing our best.

If you put your name forward as a contestant, you have a duty to meet the obligation unless obvious unforeseen circumstances present themselves practically. If you don’t feel up to the task…then don’t put your name forward.

At Wimbledon, Naomi Osaka took an entry spot from an embattled tennis player who would have scrambled to qualify likely indebted using scarce resources to travel amidst COVID concerns. In the world of professional tennis there is much disparity in pay between players who consistently make it through to later rounds and players who qualify to make the draw.  Osaka is wealthy. Many of her tennis compatriots are not. She should have thought of them before deciding to contest the event if she was stricken with mental anxiety.

The Simone Biles situation is unfathomable in the context of my aforementioned. If she had thought that her mind was in such a state that she could not pull off the difficult dangerous manoeuvres, with the support of her coach she should have simply adjusted her routine accordingly in order to honor her commitments to her team, and her country. In my opinion, government funding should be withheld from athletes who fail to appear in the Olympic Arena having qualified citing a “mental health” concern. As far as I’m concerned, any individual who has demonstrated the characteristics and training necessary to qualify for international competition also possesses the mental acuity to perform.     

Tennis Career of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Takeaway

Some superstars come right out of the gate as gifted with magic in their ground strokes. Other players have required time to develop the neuro-pathways with coaching in order to manifest the weaponry to compete at the highest level.

At 29 years of age Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova finally made it into the final of a grand slam event. This is a woman who had lost consistently over a number of years in the first, second, and third rounds of both doubles and singles events. She has a sprinkling of quarter final appearances to go along with some absences due to injury or failure to qualify. She obviously kept working on her game in order to improve with sights on a grand slam championship.

So here she was the other day in the 2021 French Open final getting blown out in the first set to an unseeded dark horse but found resolve to comeback and compete vigorously. I can just imagine the talk she gave herself at the first set break revisiting all the training she had done along with all the mediocre results in her long career. This would have been a moment of truth for her similarly to when we are all faced with similar situations when it’s time to step up and perform. Will we wilt or will we shine? On this day Ms. Pavlyuchnenkova shone by taking the second set 6-2 and losing the match by posting 4-6 in the third . She gave it her absolute best manifested something better than the past. You see – that’s what we are aiming to do. We are aiming to deliver something better from day to day. When there’s a regression, we double down and push harder. We go the extra mile. We test ourselves thereby adding fruitfulness and vigour to our being while managing other important elements of our life.

Congratulations to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on her 2021 French Open tournament!   

LaRussa Tirade

I’m occasionally reminded of my old childhood passion – baseball. Combine the topic of baseball and sportsmanship and you’ve got premium fodder for blairsblog.

You see, Whitesox manager, Tony La Russa, had scolded his all star hitter Yermin Mercedes for swinging for the fence (finely executed the homer) on a 3-0 count against a position player pitcher with the score at 14-4 in favour of the Sox the other night. Traditionally we “take” (take in baseball terms means let it go) that pitch. The bizarre follow on was that after the next game when Twins pitcher deliberately threw at Mercedes’ knees – LaRussa condoned it.

It’s only recently that position players have been taking the mound when games get out of control on the score board. This never used to be the case. Relievers have traditionally “mopped up” so now there’s a disconnect between the quality of the pitch and the quality of the batter. Should LaRussa have put in a pinch hitter (utility player) for Mercedes? Well, I suppose every manager could now unroll a wholesale change of the lineup in concert with the opponent’s mop up position player pitcher but this is not what the fans necessarily paid for at the ticket wicket.

It’s pretty tough not to sanction LaRussa for basically condoning violence but he certainly was within his  right mind to condemn Mercedes for not heeding the “take” sign.

I also have a sneaky feeling that LaRussa would have known he was out of line in applauding the Twins pitcher but certain men of this age and ilk are growing intemperate with the era of political correctness.    

World Record 1500 Metre Run By Gudaf Tsegay

Have you ever noticed how unwittingly those navel gazing smart people dismiss the power of the human spirit while enshrined in their cerebral gymnastics. This was precisely what happened when the announcer of the ladies 1500 metre indoor championships called the race on February 9, 2021 in Lievin France. You see he thought two pace makers given their inexperience totally misjudged their duty in paving the way for competitors by leading out unusually fast. As laps progressed around the indoor track an indignant sense grew in his tone. In fact, he became so baffled, he forgot to even contextually interpolate the world record time as Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia crossed the line.

Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia now holds the women’s indoor 1500 meter world running record.

The call of the race prompts memories of a 100m quarterfinals heat in Indianapolis Indiana on July 16, 1988 when Florence Griffith- Joyner set the 100 metre world record which still stands to this day. During that momentous occasion, there were two variables clouding the expression of two announcers;  namely – doping and wind. Without questions these variables tempered the excitement of these men calling the exactness of what transpired on that peculiar day when wind was swirling and the functionality of the wind measuring apparatus came into question. One particular announcer again seemed more cerebral than visceral when doing his job on a day which will indelibly be referenced decades from now.

You would think that within a world class race sanctioned by the IAAF any announcer must assume that within the field, any particular athlete could arrive on site prepared to eclipse a world record. You also might assume that if a pace maker leads out in break neck speed that there was an agenda put in play by one or more athletes to make one race on one particular day their particular signature run.

Grandstanding Athletes – My Take

You’re on the wrong stage if you think that withholding your appearance at a game / match is going to solve racial injustice. Racial injustice must be resolved through democratic and legal channels. Absence from duty on a sports field for reason other than illness, vacation or bereavement is a breach of an employment contract and subject to termination. Under such circumstances, an athlete will then have full time hours to invest in lobbying for reform and racial justice. Prima Donna athletes should translate their passion for a cause into a voice for reform as opposed to conveniently withholding their services. Spineless sports franchise owners should fire those who are in breach of contract rather than crater to team group think.

My interest in the NFL ceased six years ago when on one occasion, a cast of color commentators took an occasion to obsess more about the personal problems of one player and the player’s wife as opposed to focusing on the game. You remember that player – the one who got caught beating his wife in an elevator. Then a sequence of TV ads came on and I made a decision then and there to cancel my cable TV. This was before the Kaepernick charade.

Baseball was filled with a continuum of delays and the game lost my trust when my Montreal Expos were sent to the sidelines with the best record during the 1994 season because of a work stoppage. The team was my childhood dream team and I had followed them every year. There was no World Series in 1994.

Also during my childhood, there was a hockey announcer by the name of Jim Robson who called the games for the Vancouver Canucks. He put sport in a wider context than most. You see, at every Vancouver home game that he was on the air broadcasting, he would give a “shout out” to all the “shut-ins” who couldn’t make it out to a game. Well back in the ‘70’s and ‘80s most everyone could afford a seat unlike today so it was apropos for him to acknowledge those that were prohibited through poor health.  That gesture of his is something that has always stuck with me. That is….an acknowledgment of a contribution athletes make as entertainers to those keen to digest athletic grace defined by finesse, agility, speed and biomechanical prowess yet whose own bodies have failed them.

In the new world order of naive young athletes thinking they are something they are not….they grandstand. Robson will also be scratching his head I’m sure. 

Tennis Fund For Lower Ranked Pro Players

Although a capitalist in every sense of the word, I do see merit in the position put forward by Novak Djokovic that a fund be set up for lower ranked players struggling financially during this pandemic. Tennis has always had a pay grade system which has richly rewarded the top achievers while paying first round losers a pittance comparatively. The thing about tennis is that those first round losers are phenomenal tennis players and the game would not be what it is today without them. Some move up and some move down. Few of them have had much to say about the pay disparity because they aspire to win and hope to move up the ranks.

These are not ordinary times and they are forced to the sideline. Dominic Thiem doesn’t like the idea and makes a justifiable point that nothing was handed to him as he fought his way to a number three ranking. He’s young, has come into wealth recently, and has ego pumping through his veins. I can’t blame him for his position.

Sport is social but it’s not socialist. The sought after victory comes with reward. However; context and backdrop can never be fully ignored because the human condition must be rational in its zeal.

Canadian Tennis History Almost Made Today

Denis Shapovalov had an opportunity to become the first Canadian male tennis player to win a Masters 1000 (most senior level professional tournament equivalent to a Grand Slam) Series event today matched up against the number one player in the world, Djokovic. BTW, we still call all these athletes that leave Canada due to high taxation levels here Canadian in spite of their departure to tax havens. They like to keep the warmth of our country in their heart while paying tax abroad. Few really call this fact into question with respect to any semblance of National allegiance. The athletes certainly aren’t to blame but it is interesting how we still like to dress them with the Maple Leaf and discount the lay of the land.  

What if Canadian star athletes decided to stay in Canada? Certainly, governments would benefit from a return of capital on any funding awarded to athletes in lieu of their elite athletic status during years of development. This is not to say that particular athletes don’t give back to Canada upon capturing success in ways other than a direct return of such government sponsored funding. Then there’s the direct taxation for domestic prize pools associated with Canadian events such as the Rogers Cup. Residents are expected to report their world wide income whereas non-residents to do not. In spite of tax credits awarded to residents for foreign tax paid, the high tax rates in Canada would most likely supersede tax credits.  Non-residents are expected to pay Canadian tax for earnings on Canadian soil.