Monday, August 22, 2016

 

The Next Olympic Games


    

Rio 2016 emblem 

For many years, I have been a strong advocate for the Olympic Games. Great memories flash through my mind when I reflect on past Games. The Games became an important impetus for learning in my classroom. A wonderful activity used to study geography, sport, culture, and many other subjects.



I will continue to follow many Olympic activities, to my dying days. I will follow the careers of great athletes. But I have had it with the extravagance of the games, and the cost. And the politics, and the cheating, and the drug factor, and all of the other negatives about the Games.

 


Before they ever raised the Olympic flag, and uttered the Olympic oath, there were serious doubts raised about the Games. Water activities were to take place in cesspools, some Olympic fat cats were accused of lining their pockets. Russian athletes were banned from the Games. Nations threatened to pull out for political reasons. What else is new?



The Brazilian authorities managed to get to the closing ceremonies without terrible repercussions. Apparently, thievery was rampant. Drunken American athletes had to apologize for staging silly behaviour. Coaches in a circled-ring event went bonkers after a result was announced, and stripped to their jockey shorts, to protest the decision.



With all of that in mind, I have a few suggestions in mind to help with the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. You are welcome to disagree.



All activities involving horses and boats are eliminated. Can you imagine how much money governments would save with that suggestion? No more hay burners in the dressage ring.



All team events are no longer welcome: basketball, (always a joke), volleyball, handball, water polo, soccer, tennis…it is a long list. One exception, naturally---beach volleyball. I knew you’d agree. Team sports have their own individual world championships, and do not need the Olympics to highlight their sport.



Most judged events will be history, especially boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, judo, gymnastics, and synchronized swimming. There will be one diving event, off the tower, for men and women. Just for fun, the tower will be 30 metres high…no, make that fifty. Like the Mexican cliffs or the mountain at Canada’s Wonderland.


 


That will leave us very few events: Archery-hit the target, you win. Period; athletics, with lots of running, jumping, and hurling of various objects; swimming, with the elimination of several unnecessary races; pentathlon and triathlon, and the marathon, of course, to determine the best athletes in the world.



I have even contemplated events for the next Winter Olympic Games, and the same conditions apply: no team sports, (we don’t need the Olympics, we have the Stanley Cup). Include: alpine skiing, ski jumping, short track speed skating, (with body checking permitted). That’s it! I know you will miss the skeleton events.



Kudos to all the Olympic champions. Good luck to the International Olympic Committee as they begin to disassemble the Games, according to my specifications. 



April 22, 2016.

Monday, August 15, 2016

 

 

Take Me Out To The Ball Game 2016




The refrain from that great song can be heard across North America on most sunny weekend days, throughout the summer.



A couple of weeks ago, Hunter whispered to his grandmother that he would like to go to a Blue Jays game. He gets to go to at least one game a year, and it is an exciting day for him. There are baseball traditions, and he holds steadfast to those traditions.




He loves to sit behind the bullpen. In Toronto, at the Rogers Centre, the bullpens are located behind the outfield fences. He prefers to sit behind the opponents’ bullpen, located behind the right field fence. Another bonus to that seating arrangement is that he can watch Jose Bautista when the Blue Jays are in the field. Yes, that is, unless Jose is in sick bay. He has had difficulties this year, and was not playing the day we went to the game.




I received a note from my friend Eric Chapman after I posted the photograph of Hunter and me, and he reiterated my feelings about taking family to the game. He was at the same game with his son Chris, and grandsons Adanai, Nate and Carter.



There are some baseball traditions not to be trifled with: hot dogs, (at least one jumbo dog, maybe two!), Cracker Jacks, cold beverage, and a keen eye on the catcher in the bullpen. Hunter often is the catcher on his team in Belleville, and he has always enjoyed the bullpen experience. They scurry around when the manager puts the call into the bullpen to get a pitcher ready when necessary.



We both love to hear the smack of the ball into the catcher’s mitt-“The Decker”- when the pitcher begins to throw smoke. He notices the arm movements the pitches uses to indicate to the bullpen catcher that he is throwing pitches that will move to one side or the other at the plate.



Occasionally, he pays attention to the game. He likes to sit in the first couple of rows in section 105 so that he can see the big scoreboard as well. He likes to see the count, and follow each “at bat” carefully. He knows the ebb and flow of the game, and the scoreboard helps to keep the focus. He likes all of the little games played with the fans between the innings, all part of the modern game.



Some of those “new traditions” are barely tolerable, to my eyes. On one occasion, I watched Blue Jay players on the big screen doing lip synching! Likely a stretch for Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle. I can just hear Casey Stengel when he might have been approached with that suggestion. Every player on the Jays comes to the plate, accompanied by his own special song. Casey would have vetoed that as well.



But it is all part of today’s game, and it is enjoyed by the fans. Toronto leads the Major Leagues in attendance, with good reason. They are at the top, or near the top of the American League East standings. They will be in that position for the rest of the season. But there are tickets available for their games.|



The icing on the cake for Hunter comes at the end of the game, when the pitchers from the bullpen head to the clubhouse. Usually the catcher picks up a ball or two and tosses them to kids leaning over the rail. Hunter has a couple of them. They are treasures!





James Hurst

August 14, 2016.    

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

 

REDBLACKS FOOTBALL 2016




 

The Canadian Football league recently announced that the 2017 Grey Cup game will be played in Ottawa. The game usually takes place in late November. If you plan to attend, I recommend that you bundle up. But if you want a truly spectacular professional football experience, I suggest that you head up to Ottawa for a REDBLACKS game in the near future.



On Friday, August 19th, the Ottawa crew entertain the Montreal Alouettes. The following week on Thursday, August 25th, they will play the British Columbia Lions. They don’t return to TD Place for a month after that game. There are a few tickets available for those games, but once the teams settle on the field for the opening kickoff, you will be turned away at the gate.



They are playing their third season this year. The original Ottawa team played from 1907 to 1996 as the Rough Riders-Senators. The team was revived in 2005 as the Renegades, but only lasted four years. But now the football flame in Ottawa has been rekindled, and it is a football experience you should not miss.





                                        These guys can make some noise!!   

After all, it is less than three hours away. The parking and bus shuttles to the game are very efficient. And the pre game activities in and around the field will certainly get you ready for the game: parking lot street food, great restaurants,  great music, and all of the characters you would expect to find in a nation’s capital. Might I suggest you take a couple of days to really appreciate the city. With all of its museums, nature drives through the Gatineau, and the splendour of Parliament Hill, you will not be disappointed.


                                                                  Superfan!


The REDBLACKS won their first home game last Saturday night defeating the Edmonton Eskimos 23-20. With 91 seconds left on the clock, Chris Milo’s field goal split the uprights to put the REDBLACKS ahead for good.




                          # 2 Jermaine Robinson, in the sun, before the game.




The Eskimos and the REDBLACKS were never separated by more than a few points the entire game. In the dying minutes, Eskimo quarterback Mike Reilly moved his team methodically toward the REDBLACK’S goal line. He spotted receiver Chris Getzlaf, (yes, the hockey player’s brother) downfield, and fired a strike to him. Slightly out of his line of vision, Jermaine Robinson lurked in the shadows in the Ottawa secondary. He dashed in front of Getzlaf and snatched the ball to intercept the pass. With a brilliant bit of open field running, he was able to return the ball far enough into Eskimo territory to set up the winning field goal.





REDBLACKS quarterback Henry Burris had a fine game. It was his second game back after sustaining an injury in the first game of the season, way back in late June. There was some controversy as he had been maligned by television commentators for his inconsistent play the week before. Milt Stegall, Matt Dunnigan, and Chris Schultz all played in the CFL for many years. Their work is usually very good; however, with too much time to kill, on occasion, talking heads can develop looser tongues, and can be overly critical.



Burris summed up his position after the game. “All I’m focused on is winning games, helping this team win games. That’s my job. I make sure I get better week in and week out, and I was able to improve throughout this week of practice, and hopefully it showed in the game where I was able to make key throws.”



He finished the game with 26 completions on 39 tosses for 341 yards. There were also a few dropped balls that should have been completions. Pretty good stuff for the future Hall of Famer who had his 41st birthday in May!



James Hurst

August 9, 2016

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

 

2016 Rogers Cup-Toronto





Under brilliant skies, the men's semi final matches took place last Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. There was a hint of rain as I roared along the 407 north of the city. That ceased as play got under way.

In order to get to the semi-final, Kei Nishikori, the third seed, had to move past three opponents: Americans Dennis Novikov (6-4 6-3) and Rajeev Ram (6-4 7-6), and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov (6-3 7-5). He faced Stan Wawrinka from Switzerland in the semi-final. Neither player seemed to get untracked in the first set. Wawrinka fired powerful backhands down the line that were untouchable. But Nishikori continued to battle, and won the first set 7-6, on an 8-6 tie-breaker.



                                                             Stan Wawrinka

For Wawrinka, in the vernacular, that was all she wrote. He lost the first games, and struggled in the fourth game. He forced Nishikori into a weak high return, only to blow the easy return. He mockingly pulled his shirt over his head in shame. He lost the fourth game. Nishikori blasted two serves to close out Game Five, and went on to take the final set 6-1. That earned him the right to play his first final in Toronto.

The evening semi-final paired first seed Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils. Monfils, the tenth seed from France, bested the last Canadian hope in singles, Milos Raonic, who was seeded fourth. It was a straight set win, 6-4 6-4. Djokovic had breezed through to the semi-final without losing a set. He started slowly on three occasions, relying on his experience to take the first set in a tie break.



                                                             Djokovic, ready to return

Such was not the case in the final. With a service break, Djokovic moved into a strong position at 4 games to 2. Trailing 40-30 in the next game, at a really critical juncture, Nishikori miss hit a return to give Djokovic a 5-3 lead. With little difficulty, Djokovich completed the first set 6-3.

Most observers believe that Djokovic now should be considered one of the top five players of all time. He has a tremendous work ethic, and focus. Even during the break, while sitting at the side of the court, he replays points in his mind, tilting his racket this way and that.



Serbian compatriots were there in force to cheer on their beloved “Nole”. They wave their flags, sporting Serbian caps and shirts. There are plenty of cheers and shouts of encouragement which I do not understand. Preparing to serve, just before going up 3-1, Djokovic heard a fan shout, “Hey Nole, will you marry me?” He smiled, lowered his head, and shook off the interruption. “Definitely not,” was his indication.


Djokovic’s sneakers squeak from side to side on the court, grunts when he serves, and also when he puts a little extra mustard on a shot. In the waning seconds of the match, Nishikori again hit a poor shot to lose the match. Djokovic acknowledged the fans with his traditional salute, and even sent a message to everyone. It is an international game, he said, and it helps keep peace in the world. He asked all of the fans to hug their neighbours at the court. Never a bad thing.


                                                     Simona, last year, with her fans!

Next year, the women return to Toronto, the men go to Montreal. Simona Halep won the women’s final this year, after being runner-up last year in Toronto. Many of the players packed their bags for Rio, for the Olympics. Never a dull moment, on the courts.



August 2, 2016

 
James Hurst
613.399.2278
sportslices.blogspot.ca



Monday, July 25, 2016

 

Tennis, Anyone?








“In the good old summer time…”



It’s baseball, hot dogs, apple pie…all of those things, and more.



And tennis, of course.



This is the week of the Rogers Cup in Canada: the men are in Toronto this year, the women in Montreal. Not long ago, there was some serious tennis played in London, at a place called Wimbledon. I had the great fortune to be there, for a fine afternoon. I will share a few things that I learned on the excursion, in the hope that you will also get the opportunity to visit tennis’s greatest venue.



The first thing that we learned was that you do not go to the Wimbledon stop on the tube. The courts are more accessible from an earlier stop. By the way, it is a good idea to buy a special travel card called an “Oyster Card”. It gets you through the turnstiles quickly, and saves you a ton of money. Once you arrive at the stop, you follow the crowd, and read the signs that say “Five Minutes to the Courts”. That is, if you are a young Roger Bannister!




Then there is the matter of THE QUEUE. It is simply a method to provide the possibility of securing “Premium Tickets on the day of play”. The directions in the booklet indicate that if you decide to queue overnight, the stewards will awaken you at 6:00am. We had decided to go to the matches on Thursday, and figured it might be a tough ticket.




How wrong we were! We paraded right up to the ticket window and were offered two choices: general admission, which would allow us to tour the grounds, and sit on the grass to watch a big screen; or better still, to purchase seats at court level for Court Number One, for 58 pounds each.



                                        Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza





We saw three fine matches, all quarter finals: Ladies’ Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Men’s Doubles. Martina Hingis was the defending champion in mixed Doubles. She and her partner Leander Paes from India eventually fell to Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen. Watson hails from the UK, and was naturally a crowd favourite.



As was a certain Andy Murray, who emerged as the Men’s Singles Champion, much to our dismay. He played Milos Raonic in the final, and breezed to victory. Murray is a steady competitor, and returned serve well. Raonic scored an impressive win over Roger Federer to get to the final.



Raonic is playing in the Rogers Cup this week in Toronto, as is Novak Djokovic, the number one player in the world. They are both in the same grouping, and may meet in the semi-final. No matter. There will be some great tennis this week on the grounds at York University.




I took the opportunity to watch some wheelchair tennis as well. Pretty incredible stuff. Great shots, fine returns. Gordon Reid, the number four seed from the UK, took the championship.



It is truly “Tennis Week” in London. There are 20 courts at the site, accommodating tennis at all levels: boys’ and girls’ singles and doubles, and invitational events as well. The city is decked out in traditional attire for the tournament. They do serve strawberries and cream too!



James Hurst

July 25, 2016.                           

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

 

The Open






The Open, that golf tournament played at various locations in the United Kingdom, wrapped up on Sunday afternoon.



The final pairing of Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson was electrifying. Both had distanced themselves from the rest of the pack after the end of the third round. And then it came down to the final day, even down to the final holes. Stenson birdied 14, 15, and 16 to move ahead of Mickelson.



Stenson played the round of his life. He broke the record of Open Championship strokes below par of 19 under, held by Tiger Woods. He shot 63, tying a major championship scoring record. He ran in long putts when required, obviously tough on Phil. As the day wore on, Phil became increasingly frustrated. His complaints about cameras and distractions came though loud and clear. Interestingly, they were ignored by the announcers.



Stenson is the first Swede to win a major championship. Another fellow countryman, Jesper Parnevik, (the guy who turns up the front of his cap), came close to winning, but fell just short. Parnevik sent Stenson a message: “Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish.”



The Open, the Masters, the U. S. Open, and the PGA Championship are the Majors. Of course there is a fair amount of coin that goes with a win-more than a million dollars. The winner also gets to keep the trophy, the Claret Jug, as it is called. But just for a year. It is a replica, and the original rests on permanent display in the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse.





It was just a fortnight ago that we walked the course at Troon. The locale is wonderful, on the West Coast of Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde, off the Irish Sea. Freighters can be seen entering the channel leading to Glasgow. Police on horseback casually patrol the beach area, keeping those who might try to sneak into the grounds at bay. Across the water lie two islands: Arran and the Ailsa Craig. I an sure you will be pleased to know that most curling stones are quarried there!



   Marco Dawson                                                         Padraig Harrington


I sat in the stands at the first hole, watching players tee off in the practice round. It is a casual day, when players will toss four or five balls into traps, or along the greens, to try to learn the lay of the land. I watched Padraig Harrington and Marco Dawson tee off. Harrington is a former Open champ, and Dawson is always in the running for victories on the Champions Tour.

                                        The first fairway, beside the beach

Bubba Watson did not have his finest hour. But he did take the time to scratch his name on the peak of Joanne's Open cap. Nice gesture. 




Naturally, weather plays a factor in The Open. Tee times are critical, because wind and rain are always expected in links golf in Scotland. I climbed down into a pot bunker just to get the experience. I likely would resort to the old tried and true method to get out: a handful of sand in my left, the ball in my right. Works every time.


                                                           In the Pot Bunker


                                                           At the Swilcan Bridge

We went across the country to tour St. Andrews as well. It has been the site of many Opens, and has a fine history. The British Golf Museum is located near the first tee. A must is to go to the Swilcan Bridge for photos. But since there are several courses on the grounds, it is not uncommon to hear, “Fore!”


                                                   The media Area

It is a tournament that captures world-wide attention. The media room is enormous, perhaps ten times the size of the media area at the Canadian Open.




                                                   Allan and Leeanne Stitt

It was a pleasure to be accompanied by local golf expert Al Stitt on the excursions. He had played several of the Scottish courses, and shared his knowledge with us. “Stay out of the fescue,” he warned. That is a nasty bit of tall grass just off the fairways.



Many of the golfers who played The Open are now in Toronto for the Canadian Open, to be played at Glen Abbey in Oakville. Well worth a trip!





James Hurst

July 18, 2016.  







Sunday, July 03, 2016

 

A Great Story-Griffey Jr. & Shane Monahan

Worth the reading!



Monahan's roots are in hockey. His grandfather was Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
His great grandfather was Howie Morenz.
Maybe he chose the wrong game!



 

Please Pass Me your Program!


Please Pass Me Your Program!



Once the 2016-2017 NHL regular season gets underway, we will need a program to identify the players on the ice. Once the dust settles following the trades and drafts from the last week, team owners will have spent millions of dollars in the quest for the holy grail of hockey.



I am referring, of course, to the Stanley Cup. The same one that now resides in Pittsburgh. Had you forgotten? In order to place that mug in your trophy case, you need to get your house in order, with just the right amount of all of those things from the hockey world that make up the perfect lineup.

 


The hockey world was rocked in Montreal last week with the trade of P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. It was completely unexpected by the fans. Team executives, on the other hand, have been working feverishly behind the scenes to move the former Belleville Bull.

 


P.K. spent four years with the Bulls, also the junior hocky home for both of his brothers. For those of us who attended games, the Subbans were a familiar sight at the local arena. We have watched the Subban kids grow, and enter the world of professional sport. P.K. has advanced far more quickly that the other boys, gaining All Star status, winning all kinds of accolades, including the Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the league.



He endeared himself to the fans in Montreal. He donated several million dollars to a local hospital. He charmed the locals with that great warm smile. He played with a panache that has not been seen at the Bell Centre in years. He could shoot the puck, make great passes, took guff from no one.



We entertained two of my Montreal nephews on Canada Day. Once I broached the topic, we had lively conversations. Stephane Lecours and his brother Michael are Hab fans, unquestionably. Michael’s initial reaction to the trade? “It was completely unexpected. Time will tell whether or not it was a good trade. Weber’s salary is less that P.K.’s, and the contract is shorter. But he is also older than P.K.”



Stephane had some ideas about how Weber can endear himself to the rabble in La Belle Province. “If he can score three goals in the first five minutes of his first game, all will be forgiven.” I began to understand his pain, at that point.



P.K. and the management of the team did not always get along. More than anything, his style of play could drive a coach insane. He took chances, and things did not always work out as planned. With his acrobatic spin-o-ramas, he could cough up the puck at very wrong times. Habs G. M. Bergevin: “Yes, P.K.’s different. We’re not going to hide that.  But that was never an issue, never a problem.” I suggest reading between the lines.



This is one of those trades that needs time before intense analysis. I suspect it will work out well for both sides. As for the rest of the moves made by the brass of the NHL, plan to spend a day with your hockey encyclopedia.





James Hurst

Sportslices.blogspot.com.







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