Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Breakfast of Champions: The CFL 2016

Most of the teams in the CFL have played half their games at this point in the season. As is often the case, the teams from the West Division have done a little better than the teams in the East.

Calgary Stampeders have lost just once in the nine games thus far. The British Columbia Lions are in second place in the West, with three losses. It has been a tough season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, with just one win. Last Friday night, they lost to the Edmonton Eskimos, by the close score of 33-25.

Of the four teams in the East Division, three have four wins. Montreal sits in the basement, but with three wins. As is always the case with the CFL, things can change dramatically. One of the prime reasons is because of the cuts in the National Football League.

The NFL is in the throes of completing its pre season contests, and there are exceptional players that just don’t fit with certain teams. Many of those players know about the CFL. They are competitive, and want to play the game. Hence, they fly north in hopes that they can catch on with a team before rosters are finalized. The CFL scouts are scouring the practice fields of the NFL in hopes that they can pick up a few key players.

The Lions head to Toronto this week to play the Argos. Toronto has moved to BMO Field from the cavernous Rogers Centre, which was always unsuitable for football. It was fine for Grey Cup games, but not for regular season games. Surprisingly, there are plenty of seats available for the Argo games. I thought the place would sell out quickly, as is the case in Ottawa.

The REDBLACKS play in Montreal on Thursday night. You will find the Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris on the front of the Sugar Crisp box, chased by The Alouettes’ Nicolas Boulay. There are five other boxes in the series, with quarterbacks on each one. Bo-Levi Mitchell is at the helm for the Stampeders, pursued by Marcus Howard of the Eskimos.

The Tiger Cats’ Zach Collaros is featured with the Argos Jason Vega, a preview of the annual Labour Day game to be held in Hamilton this year.

There is also a contest that will put you in great seats at the Grey Cup Game:  air fare, accommodation, dinner at The Keg, jerseys, and some pocket money.

Shreddies are on my diet, so I will keep an eye on Darian Durant from the Roughriders and Joshua Bell from the Stamps, as I chomp down on my breakfast.

On November 27, we will discover who, in fact, will be able to start the day with his own box as the “Breakfast of Champions!”

August 30, 2016     

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




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.


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

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