Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Rah Rah Rah

August 19, 2009

It is a rare day that this blog ventures into the realm of sports, but this is one of those days.  The two sports teams that I closely follow, and actually cared about, are the Detroit Tigers and the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  In the time I have been a fan of those two teams they have combined to have 8 winning seasons a handful of playoff appearances and 1 championship.  Considering I’ve been following them for a combined 35 years, this record is far from impressive.

There are people who become fans of whatever teams are successful when they are young. In fact there is a proliferation of 49ers, Lakers, Cowboys, Bulls, and Yankees fans among people my age.  But I was always a contrarian.   I picked the Tiger Cats because they are our local team, and the Tigers because they were playing the Jays one day and I wanted to cheer for the other team.  A strange thing happens when you cheer for teams that perpetually lose.  Eventually you come to expect the worst all of the time.  Bill Simmons has written and spoken at length about this phenomenon, and I agree with his assessment that bad teams lead to paranoid fans.

There is another segment of that fan population.  These are the people, like myself, who remain eternally optimistic, and always believe their team will finally find a way to pull it off.  For me, this continuous hope paid off with a 1999 Grey Cup victory, and to a lesser degre, the Tigers appearance in the 2006 World Series. Just thinking they would make is so soon after the 119 loss season was considered a bit extreme.

Perhaps I just don’t care enough about the results to get worked up or paranoid about my favourite teams.  It takes a certain level of investment to take losses to heart.  I don’t regularly attend either team’s games, though I do watch some games on television, or follow them on the internet. The truth is I expect sorts to provide a positive counterpoint to the more awful parts of our world.  If I want to be pessimistic or sad I focus on the many negative issues  and what can be done about them.  I expect sports to entertain me, and provide an occasional lift.  I don’t want to spend anytime being upset about a tough loss. I hope that my favourite teams will succeed because that is the best possible outcome, and the only one that will truly affect me.

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Every River That I Try To Cross

May 20, 2009

Just because I’m losing doesn’t mean I’m lost.

Coldplay

Lost!

The internet is an amazing invention.  I don’t think the reasons need to be listed here. Regardless I have yet another site for you to peruse.  If you are like me and love trivia, you will enjoy sporcle.  It is loaded with those fun “how many of “insert thing” can you name?”  I’ve done Olympic host cities, tried to name the most populous cities in Canada and even went after U.S. Presidents without military service. Some of this are very challenging, and I’ve only managed to ace one test, name the MLB teams, a gimmie if there ever was one.  If you go to this site, you may lose an hour of your life.

I have quoted that Coldplay song again today.  It’s Wednesday for me, which means I am 3 days away from the 2009 Reach Forth Basketball Playoffs.  While recreational adult sports aren’t that serious, and I’m not one of those people who takes it too seriously, I do appreciate the fun and pressure that comes with any kind of playoff in sports.  My team finished in last place this season, so for us there is literally nothing on the line. For the other teams there is, of course, not much more.  Yet I am compelled by the underdog status we have going forward.  Our collection of young players (average age of my team is likely around 28) has struggled to find a groove all season.  The playoffs offer us an opportunity to change our fortunes completely with three measley little wins.  I imagine that the other teams will view our team as an easy out. We have been competitive in most games but have had some really awful weeks where we were shorthanded and lacked motivation.  This weekend will be different.

I am reminded of the words of another master songwriter, Tom Petty:

Well I know what’s right, I got just one line, in a world that kees on pushing me around, I’m gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down…You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won’t back down.

Although the outcome of this weekend will make little lasting impact on my life, for a few hours that basketball court will be the most important part of my world.  The 6 people I have shared this season (and for most of them last as well) will be my family, and all that will matter is putting our best effort forward.  We will forget about everything that’s happened before and know that as the last place team we have nothing to lose.  That kind of redemption is rare in life, but regular in sport. Perhaps that is why we love them so much.  It’s certainly the reason I enjoy every cheesy sports movies.  I can see Shane Falco throw the winning touchdown in The Replacements a dozen times and still feel that twinge in my heart.  Maybe my team will rise to the occasion this weekend, maybe we will win it all,maybe we won’t last a game.  Regardless it will be a thrilling ride as we get lost in the moment.

Shhhhhhhh! I’m Trying To Cheer!

March 17, 2009

Thanks to a shipping error I am now currently overstocked on wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, and I am passing the savings on to you!!

Al Harrington

Al Harrington’s Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man Emporium and Warehouse (Family Guy)

A new podcast dealing with the same topic as this post is available over there–>.

Here is an article that touches my life in several ways.  First, my grandmother is from Nottingham, so I have some ancestry connections.

More importantly this idea of creating atmosphere with phony fans is absolutely funny, not only because of the absurdness of the idea, but also because you’d be hard pressed to find a difference between blow up dolls and many fans at North American sporting events.  Now I will admit that I tend to be among the more restrained people at a game.  I will cheer for my favourite teams and stand up after a good play. I will get louder to spur on the defence, and when I was younger I’d even yell out the odd taunt.  What shocks me, and many observers, is the lack of knoweldgeable cheering among fans.  In most professional sports, large sound systems and screaming announcers dominate the crowd. On the surface there is nothing inherently wrong with this.  After all, arena builders spend hundreds of thousands of dollars outfitting their buildings with the best equipment and they should make use of it.  Awhile ago I wrote about using small sports leagues to help people reconnect to their communities.  A professional sports team develops their own community among their supporters.  In the past most teams drew their in stadium supporters from a wide swath of society.  Without advanced sound systems the crowd was forced to make noise and create home field advantage all on their own. It was also necessary for fans to understand the dynamics of the game they were watching and cheer at appropriate times. The most often cited example of this is when a crowd gets loud for their defence at a football game, and then quieter for the offence.  There are many subtler examples of this phenomenon but the anecdotal evidence demonstrates that crowds are either less interested in the games they are watching, or have been programmed to follow the music. Thus the crowd is more disjointed, quieter, and much less cohesive.  I won’t try to name the various types of fans you’ll find but they range from businessperson out with clients to drunk twentysomething to lifelong diehard to family.

One other aspect of this change is arena architecture.  Bill Simmons of ESPN has written about state of the art (SOTA) stadiums/arenas.  He argues that they are built to exclude the ordinary fan in favour of higher paying customers.  The consequence is a crowd experience that is, in his opinion, lacking in passion and intensity.

The final element in this mixture is television.  For the average fan, who may be feeling the effects of a failing economy and ticket prices that have been sky rocketing in recent years, watching games from home is an attractive alternative to attending them live.  I think this is a spiraling situation. As more fans stay home from games because the experience isn’t as fun, the crowds get less passionate and enthusiastic, meaning fewer people see the value in attending the games live.  At some point the major leagues will need to increase the revenue they get from tv (which is already quite substantial) if gate revenues begin to drop. Perhaps at that point inflatable crowds will be the norm.

The Unassisted Play

February 13, 2009

My post yesterday proved to be quite popular yesterday thanks in large part to a mention on truehoop, arguably the number 1 source for daily NBA information on the web.  So thanks to Henry Abbott for that (and whoever tipped him off).  I want to do a quick follow up today to clarify and expand some points (also because I am preparing for a job interview so my mind is already going 100kph).  As I see it my idea of a semi pro/amateur regional basketball (or other sport) league rests on a few key conclusions.  They are:

1. That people naturally enjoy live sporting events because of the excitement and passion that is created.

2. That people generally love the city they live in more than other nearby ones, if only because they are inherently competitive

3. That local talent is more sympathetic than talent from elsewhere.

4. That although the level of play would be below that of any professional league, the low price point would overcome the talent deficiency.

5. That talent could come from those high school players who couldn’t go to college or university, and players who had used up their eligibility or were done school.

6. That civic leaders would openly support the idea of community building.

7. That national sport organizations would like the potential for grass roots development through academies, tournaments and coaching opportunities.

8. That families could find affordable entertainment that their children can relate to.

9. That by limiting player expenses, travel costs, and partnering with local government running a franchise is feasible with minimal sponsorship.

10. That by utilizing alternative media and the internet the league can be highly accesible to its fanbase.

11. That the owners are committed to growing the game and the community.

I don’t think these are unreasonable propositions.  This discussion is going to continue on a new blog I’m launching called The Unassisted Play. It will be a place for me to share lots of sports related thoughts and hopefully generate some discussion.  It will also allow me to focus The Alder Fork on the main topics it has always been about while scratching my sports itch. The Alder Fork will go on as usual.

From Downtown

February 12, 2009

In  a number of previous posts I have mentioned my love of sports.  I grew up playing baseball, basketball, football, and curling competitively and a number of other sports recreationally. They have always been a part of my life, whether I was clipping newspaper articles about hockey as a kid, or reading 5 sports blogs everyday. With the changing economic situation in North America there has been a lot of talk about the fate of the big 4 team sports.  It is pretty obvious that their revenues will suffer for a year or two thanks to fewer sponsorships and lower attendance.  As more people choose to get their sports through TV, many will miss out on the experience of attending a live game.  Already many people have been priced out of attending top caliber sports in their hometowns. There are also those who live in places without major sports teams.

I believe that regional leagues in a variety of sports and involving local athletes representing their hometowns has the potential to resurrect that live sports experience and to improve community cohesion.  There are already leagues like the CHL, and senior hockey programs, several semi pro football leagues, and a number of other examples.  So the concept has been tried and has succeeded with the right circumstances.  My idea is inspired by the way lower tier soccer leagues are organized in Europe, and the types of teams that could be found in the past.  These leagues don’t need to be large national organizations, even though there are advantages to that model.  The point is to form a team that can play games to small crowds with a low ticket price, with players who receive some pay for their time, but not enough to live on.  I would expect the players to have day jobs and for games to be played mostly on weekends.  Teams would play other cities in towns within a small radius, much like the 100mile diet plan for promoting eat local.  Although people are generally reluctant to pay large sums of money to watch second rate talent (just ask the AHL or D-League about that) it is likely that a small venue could be filled under the circumstances I am suggesting.  To summarize I will use a fictional basketball league centred in the area around Hamilton, Ontario.

* Teams would be composed of amateur athletes from the designated city or town they represent (local citizenship is an important component of this idea)

*This particular league would have teams that could be reached within an hour of so by car, so Hamilton, Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, Burlington, St. Catherines, Niagara Falls, Guelph, Milton, and Oakville would be obvious choices

*Players would be paid a small stipend on a per game played basis to cover expenses and as a means to let them make a little money on it, but they would likely have day jobs, or possibly be university students who had used up their eligibility

*Team ownership could be handled by thte community or an individual who understands that the model is intended to break even at best. It is an opportunity to give back to the community and to create programs surrounding the team (like a basketball academy)

*Venues would have to be small gymnasiums at a community centre, fairground, university or college.

*The schedule could be of various lengths depending on the expected need, but would likely start out as 2-4 games against each other team followed by a playoff

*Per game ticket prices would be cheap, say $5-10, with discounts for children

*A major emphasis of a regional league is building community and fostering participation in the sport. This would likely help the developmental activities of national organizations

*Local government may be interested in contributing because of the potential for infrastructure upgrades

*A regional league is intended to be a lean operation, so most of the organizational work would be done by a small committee made up of owners or their representatives

*The teams could affiliate with existing club programs. The benefits of affiliation include increased exposure to high level play for the young players (through league organized tournaments) and by providing a feeder system for the league team.

*Team names would emphasis the uniqueness of the community they represent. For example, off the top of my head, the Hamilton Boilermakers, Kitchener-Waterloo Fighting Mennos, Guelph Galts, St. Catherines Steamers, Burlington Braves, Niagara Barreljumpers, Milton Quarrymen, and Oakville Wasps.

I think this is a feasible idea, but it needs some dedicated people to make it happen.  Obviously these types of league won’t replace the major sports, nor will they affect their bottom line.  They will provide the opportunity for people who don’t have access to live professional sports to follow and support a team in their own community. I’d love any feedback you have on my thoughts.

Thanks to the tremendous resonse to this post I have launched a new sports only blog called The Unassisted Play. Hope to see you there.

From Downtown

January 2, 2009

For it’s root root root for the Blackhawks! If they don’t win it’s a shame!

Everyone at Wrigley Field

2009 NHL Winter Classic

New podcast goes up today. This time I am blessed to be visited by Max Woghiren of The Mass Romantics and an unnamed new music project. You can find out some of The Mass Romantics at their myspace page. You can enjoy his work on Chasing Concordia here. As always you can find the podcast over on the sidebar.

I’m moving a little out of my ordinary realm today because it’s New Year’s Day and the third outdoor NHL game is on TV.  Most people enjoy things that make them feel nostalgic.  I only played “pond hockey” once as a kid. I couldn’t really skate so it lacked a lot of appeal for me though I did play street hockey all the time.  I enjoy the Winter Classic because of the atmosphere and the notion of old time sports.  Allow me to clarify.  When I saw the movie Semi-Pro I wasn’t very impressed by the film, but I loved the arena.  Old arenas, stadiums, and rinks have a character that is unique. It is defined by tradition, intimacy, passion, and a raw energy that generations of fans share.  I grew up attending football games at Ivor Wynne Stadium, a venue that has stood for decades.  Fans from top to bottom sit on bench seats with painted numbers that let you know where your general area is.  I attended a number of games at old Tiger Stadium and have yet to experience anything like it. We were sitting along the third base line, near left field. Our seats felt like they were hanging over the left fielder. It was a surreal and amazing experience, even if the Tigers were a lousy team at the time.  I also had the chance to walk on the field and experience what generations of ball players had.

I’m sure many people are glad that places like SkyDome and the Air Canada Centre exist.  It’s nice to watch a game in comfort with padded seats and enormous video screens. I will always remember a CFL playoff game when, as I was sitting virtually beside the score board in the North-West corner of Ivor Wynne, Paul Osbaldiston attempted a 51 yard field goal against Montreal.  He was kicking to the East endzone so from where we were seated we couldn’t possibly see if it was good or not.  The “video screen” in those days could only show a garbled live picture that could have been a kids cartoon. Fortunately, the roar from the fans in the endzone spread across the stadium and we knew that the Ti-Cats had won the game. Experiences like that, on a cold November day, are the product of circumstance, tradition, and location.

I have read articles lamenting the loss of the fan experience.  A time before large audio systems and screaming game hosts. When fans had to make noise on their own by understanding the game in front of them.  Maybe someday The Alder Fork will own its own minor sports team and play games in a Cow Palace, or Memorial Arena. That’d be great.