The prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Montreal has gone from one out and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth to runners on first and second, but a rookie coming up to bat. If I bungled that baseball metaphor, it’s because I haven’t really watched that much baseball since the Montreal Expos left town in 2004.

Now, though, the prospect of them returning seems to have shifted into the realm of possibility, though it remains a longshot. Here’s where we are:

  • Toronto Blue Jays pre-season games played in our Olympic Stadium continue to draw a crowd.
  • A recent report commissioned by business leaders hoping to bring a team here produced positive results provided there was a new stadium close to downtown.
  • Stephen Bronfman met with Quebec Premier François Legault to pitch the idea. Legault tweeted about the meeting and also told Bronfman that provincial investment in a new ballpark was possible if accompanied by private money.
  • While clearly not as gung-ho as her predecessor, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has said she is enthusiastic about the idea and was happy about the results of the report, but she also reiterated her campaign promise that she would put any investment of municipal funds in a new stadium up to a referendum.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays are running into a bit of trouble and may leave a spot open in the American League East.

The last point may be the most significant. Montreal would need to be in the same division as the New York Yankees, Boston and Toronto to make it work.

Bronfman and company are pushing the idea that a local audience could support a team if they didn’t have to travel to the East End to catch games. That’s only half true, we would need the baseball tourists, too.

I can easily see Yankee, Red Sox and even Blue Jays fans regularly making the trek to Montreal to catch their team play ours, especially when the tickets are cheaper and easier to get. People from Atlanta, not so much.

Come to think of it, if the problem with the Expos the first time was really that we were in the National League and not the commute, why not use the Big O for a new team? Are you telling me that a Yankee fan who regularly travels to the Bronx to catch games would come to Montreal but balk at a trip on the Green Line?

OK, I know that’s not going to happen, MLB would never buy that argument. Just thought I would throw it out there. Moving on…

If We Build It, Will They Come?

Last time Montreal built a stadium, it was for the Olympics. We already had a pro baseball team at the time, and moving them into the new digs just made sense.

This time, we don’t have a team and have no other reason to build a new stadium but to host one. If we do decide to build, I seriously hope, at the very least, that it is with a team confirmed.

We don’t want a repeat of Quebec City building a new arena for the Nordiques and then not getting a team. If we do get a team and the new stadium isn’t ready, they can play in the Big O until it is.

So, let’s say that there is a team on its way and we are building a stadium in the Peel Basin, just across the canal from Griffintown, which seems to be the site of choice. The area isn’t residential, so we’re not looking at mass expropriations, which is good.

It is closer to downtown than the Olympic Stadium, but while the Big O is connected to Pie IX Metro, this is roughly a 20 minute walk from Bonaventure. There’s supposed to be an REM stop there, though, plus buses, you can bike to it, probably decent for driving, and if Plante gets the Pink Line off the ground, maybe a closer metro stop.

But what about when there’s no baseball game? Well, the Alouettes could use it in place of Percival Molson Stadium for regular season games, though they kinda have a good thing going there. The Impact could use it instead of Saputo Stadium, though that’s unlikely given how much money went into making them a permanent, soccer-specific home.

That leaves concerts and other non-regular events that require a large venue. Assuming we’re not going to try for another retractable roof, it would be either closed, in which case these events could happen year-round, or open-air, meaning they would be seasonal.

So, basically, the new baseball team would have to pack the place or at least come close for most of their season for a new stadium downtown to be feasible. They can’t rely on other organizations and events to make the enterprise worthwhile.

Our Survey

While Bronfman may have done a survey and produced a report, he obviously was hoping for certain results, and he got them. I’m sure his process was accurate, but why not get a second opinion from different people with (presumably) different questions and no desired result on our part.

With that in mind, here are seven quick questions and a spot to add your comments. You can also add your comments in the comments below.

We will publish the results when we have enough responses to get an accurate picture. It takes less than a minute, less than a Buzzfeed quiz. Have your say on everything but the team name, because we all know it should/will be the Montreal Expos: 

Featured image by Eric Molina via WikiMedia Commons

Podcast panelists Casey Rosner and Cem Ertekin discuss the World Social Forum happening in Montreal, controversies surrounding the 2016 Olympics and our News Roundup including the Bylaw P-6, the good and bad at Osheaga and more. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor

Casey Rosner: FTB Contributor

 

*Reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

In case you haven’t heard, the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for fellow all-star defenseman Shea Weber. As a playoff bandwagon jumper/regular season casual observer, I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough in hockey to properly analyse what this means for the team on the ice next season except to say that, on paper, defense star for defense star seems like a fair trade.

Where the logic falls apart, though, is when you look beyond the rink. P.K. Subban has fully entrenched himself in Montreal and has become a local celebrity.

A Total Showman

Subban is quite the performer. From the stylish outfits he wears to games and promotes on his website pksubban.com, he has a signature style off the ice that is hard to mimic. It’s also a style that goes over quite well in Montreal and is well-received coming from him because we are a hockey town.

While most NHL players take the summer off, P. K. was preparing to host a show at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival. He may not be a comedian by trade, but he sure knows how to entertain. Just for Laughs has confirmed that the show is going ahead as planned, so at least there will be one more time people can catch P.K. play Montreal before, you know, he his playing us in a Nashville Predators uniform.

A Charitable Man

While P.K did sign quite the expensive contract, $72 million, he decided to give back to the community. He pledged that his foundation would raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital over the next seven years (his JFL show is part of that). In this video, his response to the trade news, he indicates that he will live up to that promise:

The Children’s Hospital, which he also made a surprise visit to during the holidays last year, released a statement through its foundation today saying they were “saddened to learn yesterday that our favourite hockey player had been traded to Nashville. However, we are grateful that P.K. will continue to honour his commitment to our patients and their families.”

One thing is clear. This is a man who set down roots in Montreal, not someone who was planning on leaving anytime soon.

Social Media Revolt

And the Montreal community really doesn’t want him to go, either. While the hockey press lamented this as the worst trade the Habs have made since Patrick Roy and even the worst in Habs history, the reaction on Twitter pretty much says it all. There’s this tweet:

and this one:

and then #fuckingHabs started trending:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With most of the commentary against the trade, a few Montrealers are now saying that they’re “done with the Habs” at least until the team gets rid of coach Michel Therrien (a dispute between him and Subban is a rumoured reason for the trade) and GM Marc Bergevin.

While tempers may cool as the weather gets colder and the Habs start playing again, it’s clear that damage has been done. Maybe not damage to the team, but most definitely to the team’s image in the eyes of many.

P.K. Subban has already left his mark culturally on Montreal and that won’t soon be forgotten.

With hockey season over for the Canadiens, Montreal is in dire need of a sport we can get behind in the summer. Some turn to the Montreal Impact, our awesome soccer team, but with their home, Saputo Stadium, so far east, it’s not convenient for many of us to schlep out there in an overcrowded metro car. Luckily we have another team we can turn to: the Montreal Alouettes.

The Als, while under many of our radars, have been around since 1946 and despite a lapse of existence in the eighties, still draw die-hard baby boomer fans who were around for the team’s glory years in the sixties and seventies. The Canadian Football League (CFL) within which the Alouettes operate works in conjunction with the National Football League (NFL) in the States.

montreal alouettes toronto argos

While the two leagues are distinct, the NFL’s agreement with the CFL gives them first pick of any players drafted. The CFL gets to choose their teams from whoever is left and a salary cap helps keep any one team from packing their roster with expensive players. Cheerleaders are volunteers compensated with merchandise, publicity, and a chance to travel with the team.

The Alouettes play at Percival Molson Stadium (on the McGill Campus) on Pine Avenue downtown, a location extremely accessible by foot and public transit. An agreement between the team and the STM has resulted in shuttle buses that will take you from various locations along University Street up to the stadium – all you have to do is show the driver your ticket. Tickets go for as little as twenty five bucks but the team is regularly offering promotions in order to fill seats. They can be purchased online at ticketmaster.ca.

On June 17, 2016 the Montreal Alouettes played their first home exhibition game against the Toronto Argonauts. Exhibition games are used by teams to make cuts and don’t count during the actual season. They’re sort of like a massive public tryout.

I was excited and frustrated by the game.

I was excited because of the overall atmosphere of the football game: the music, the crowd’s cheers and screams of frustration, and the audio system blasting “Make Some Noise!” Some players, like the Alouettes’ running backs Martese Jackson and Stefan Logan made impressive runs that wowed the crowd, wriggling past Toronto’s defense before finally being tackled.

Our defense held strong against the Argonauts but our offense came in fits and starts. Quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Rakeem Cato showed leadership and courage. In the second quarter, a pass from Glenn to wide receiver Duron Carter resulted in a seventy eight yard touchdown. Our team got a total of eight sacks against Toronto and in the end we emerged victorious with a final score of twenty two to fifteen.

I was frustrated because I counted a total of twenty six penalties during the game, many of which were given to both teams at the same time and more or less cancelled each other out. As a legal columnist I see referees as game judges, people who make sure the rules are enforced, but in an exhibition game meant to show coaches what prospective players can do, penalties given for something other than a major foul or unnecessary roughness seem just that, unnecessary.

The screen at the far end of the field used to show replays and ads had a massive glitch leaving a large portion of the screen black that technicians failed to fix. There was also the matter of the cheerleaders.

Als Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders no longer lead cheers. They are now led by recordings that encourage people to make noise, clap, or chant because speakers and large screens can be seen and heard by more people. The cheerleaders were almost all white women and their uniforms, generously provided by Jupa – a company that normally makes snowsuits for children and teens – looked to be designed more for American fetishists than Canadian football fans.

While the outfits are in the team’s colours, they bear the stars and stripes of the USA when a plain design would have worked better. Pleated miniskirts cater to school girl fetishists while the white go-go boots while sturdy are clearly impractical and made only to cater to those into S&M.

Given the uniform and the fact that they don’t lead any cheers, the cheerleaders are clearly there to be eye candy for men in the crowd when there’s no game play going on. That being said, they deserve to be paid for it and it wouldn’t hurt to make their ranks a little more diverse either.

And then there was the halftime show, which featured the Montreal Alouettes’ “Mini Cheerleaders” a bunch of little girls aged 5-17 clad in miniskirts doing a cheerleading routine. The goal of this program, as per the Alouettes’ website, is to allow them to learn to dance with the pros in a fun, safe environment. The problem is that it also seems to be catering to pedophiles.

In an era where women’s sports are increasingly popular and profitable, having a cheerleading program just encourages the notion that there should be separate sports for boys and girls when girls would benefit just as much from the guidance of professional football players as boys would. Instead of encouraging an athletic gender divide, the Als’ should put their money towards girls’ sports teams and make them the half time show.

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, the Als’ only tribute to the victims was a single pride flag above the field. The lack of honor for the victims at such a masculine event promotes the idea that what happened was an LGBTI issue and not one that affects us all.

The Als can do better, I know they can, which is why I’ll be at the games this summer, wearing the team’s colours with pride. I encourage everyone to do the same.

I don’t know much about hockey. A Montrealer to the core, I love the Canadiens whether they win or lose so long as they don’t lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I know that the object of the game is to get the puck into the net, that hitting and tripping another player with your stick is illegal, and that the refs will usually wait until the crowd has enjoyed a fight a bit before stopping it.

Having said all that, even a noob like myself can tell the difference between good hockey playing and bad hockey playing.

I saw both at last night’s game.

From first period to the third, the Habs stank of desperation. They clustered around the ice, trying constantly to crowd the net in the hope of getting the puck past a goalie who was definitely earning his ridiculous paycheque.

Every time the Canadiens had the puck, Nashville was there to take it away. Like a well-oiled machine, Nashville’s defense never faltered. They were coordinated and their moves spoke of a team that was well coached and went into the game with a strategy.

The Canadiens on the other hand played with the sloppiness of a team ready to give up. When the Habs had to pass the puck because of an onslaught of Nashville players, they passed it into empty ice because there was no teammate to take it.

From start to finish, the Habs proved they’d forgotten that they were just as responsible for a victory as their goalie. The game only went on as long as it did with a low score because Mike Condon proved his mettle by successfully blocking nearly every puck that came his way.

Though star goalie Carey Price is out for the season, his teammates aren’t picking up the slack. Instead of coordinating themselves to get as many goals as possible and block their opponents, they seem to ignore their net and hope that their goalie can do all the work.

The Canadiens’ only goal was scored by Brendan Gallagher in the first period. With a minute and fifteen seconds to the end of the period, he and Markov successfully got the puck past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, a man who spent the game plucking the puck out of the air like the Habs were aiming for his glove.

The second period was not as painful to watch. For the first five minutes it looked like the Habs had upped their game and adopted defensive strategies not unlike their opponents. For the first five minutes, thousands of watching fans had a hope that we’d win. And then those five minutes ended and the Canadiens were back to that same scramble of desperation. Even the Canadiens’ fan who attended the game with a paper bag of shame hid under it, watching the Canadiens lose through eye slits cut in the brown paper.

canadiens nashville predators

The third period came and the sound system played How Deep is Your Love by Calvin Harris & Disciples. Whoever chose the playlist knew that the Habs were truly testing their fans’ love by playing so badly.

In the mess that was the third period, a failed attempt at a goal against Nashville sent defenseman Nathan Beaulieu knee-first into a goal post thanks to Predators’ defenseman Colin Wilson. As Beaulieu writhed in pain on the ice, Alex Galchenyuk valiantly put up his fists to punish Nashville for his fallen comrade. Though the fans were out of their seats and screaming, the ensuing chaos kept the Habs from helping their teammate, who had to be pulled out of the ruckus by the refs so he could get the care he needed.

Beaulieu won’t be playing tomorrow against Washington as a result of his injuries.

Despite a major save by Condon in the final minutes of the third period, the fans were giving up hope. As the camera scrolled through the faces of spectators, it focused on one woman asleep in the stands, clearly tired of seeing her team screw up yet again.

The refs who saved Beaulieu spent the remaining game asleep at the wheel, failing to notice when a Nashville player tripped a Canadien in plain sight.

The last two minutes and thirty-three seconds were the Canadiens’ last real hope. The Habs shot on goal and the siren went off, driving the crowd wild, only to sink back into their seats when the replay revealed that Nashville’s goalie had stopped the puck before it crossed the line and defenseman Roman Josi scooped it clear of the net.

The game was tied 1-1 and went into overtime.

Despite the bravado of P.K. Subban and an epic save by Mike Condon, Nashville’s defense held firm against players who were clearly exhausted and sluggish. Nashville shot at the net and everyone was sure the game would end then and there…

But something miraculous happened…

The puck bounced off both goal posts and never crossed the line. It was as though Lady Luck herself knew how badly the fans needed a win and was willing to give the Habs one last chance to redeem themselves.

It was a chance the Habs never took, for despite the best efforts of Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretti, the Canadiens lost to Nashville in the shootout.

The crowd left the game with the slow somber gait of a funeral procession, off to bars to drown out their sorrows or home to scrub their minds clean of defeat with sex, sleep, and TV.

The Canadiens play the Washington Capitals tomorrow. Let’s see if they learn from yesterday’s defeat and up their game.

This is the premier edition of the FTB Podcast, a bi-weekly panel discussion with reports, interviews and more. Over the next few months, topics will range from news items, politics, social issues, music, arts and more from Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the world.

In our first episode, we discuss the anti-police brutality march, Bill C-51 and a proposed name change for the McGill Redmen.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

Irkar Beljaars: Producer of Native Solidarity News on CKUT, Mohawk journalist and writer.

Arturo Vasquez: NGO consultant working with human rights and indigenous communities in Mexico, Political Science major at Concordia. To inquire about his consultation services, please send him an email: arturovasques (at) outlook (dot) com.

Drew Wolfson Bell: Sports Editor at the McGill Daily, third-year Education student

Anti-Police Brutality March Report by Cem Ertekin

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

On September 24th McGill University published a press release stating they had become knowledgeable of a McGill Redmen football player being arrested and charged and that the student would be suspended from football until his court dealings were concluded, carefully citing that this suspension was simply in accordance with the University’s values and athletic standards. Speculation around the charge, which was not indicated by the University in its press release, quickly began circulating – but the quick response from McGill (the student had only been charged earlier that morning) and very public release led many to believe the charge was, as rumoured to be, domestic violence.

Only a few hours later reports confirmed that 22-year old Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, a running back and all star football player for the Redmen, had assaulted his 21-year old girlfriend and would be facing arraignment in court the following day. It confirmed for many of us that the preemptive public statement was McGill’s attempt to remain out of the shade surrounding athletes and violence and a quick method of applying band-aids to hypothetical wounds if they didn’t act quickly. This all largely influenced by the Ray Rice scandal in the NFL where a running back who assaulted his fiance, knocking her unconscious on film, was only ejected from the league after that film became public.

Some people applauded McGill’s response to the crime. Within hours they developed a press statement, suspended a player and maintained a public image, but is it enough? I suppose we could have asked that question last year, when the same football player was charged with assault and McGill not only allowed him to remain on the team but to serve his 90-day jail sentence once a week, in order to continue his training. Or perhaps we could ask if it was enough when the university refused to discipline three Redmen football players in 2012 after they were charged with the sexual assault and rape of a Concordia student.

Although McGill learned from past mistakes and responded more confidently to the charge, one could speculate it was simply putting water on the embers of an already burning fire.

McGill’s history of dealing with violence, specifically by football players, has never been one to applaud. And with notable public pressure for major athletic institutions to take hardline positions against violent players, it is hard to believe that McGill will ban the football player upon a conviction and repeat offence.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only McGill who fails to set a standard of non-violence to its students. Universities in general are also part of a trend in failed discipline.

Last year, the University of Ottawa administration refused to take disciplinary action against three male students for the sexual harassment and violent comments toward another. More recently a student from Columbia has been petitioning a university for action after being raped by a fellow student, Columbia administration also refuses to take any notable action.

Taking clear positions and hard-line action against students who commit acts of violence contributes to a greater effort in addressing the larger concern of violence against women in general, more specifically in recent headlines: violence perpetuated by professional athletes.

Guimont-Mota was a well-recognized and rewarded Football player, but by failing to remove Guimont-Mota from the Redmen football team, McGill reintroduces to the CFL and NFL a new Ray Rice. It tells other players that not only can you get away with assault and continue to associate with our University, but you can get away with it twice, be sentenced to jail, break your probation and still make it for the fall season kick-off.

By not entirely banning athletes who have committed violent crimes, universities are not simply remaining apathetic to the question of violence itself but instead they are taking a position on the side of that violence.

What a backwards world we live in. Teachers in Chicago go on strike for the betterment of their students? They get ripped apart. Workers locked out of their factory for years just for trying to keep a living wage? Perfectly acceptable. “Right to Work” legislation passed in dozens of states to undermine unions and keep wages low? That’s OK too.

Conservatives are always quick to side against organized labor, unless of course their lives are personally affected. If a replacement worker in their favorite sport blows a call on the field that allows their team to lose, well then everything must be done to make sure those professional referees return before the next game no matter the cost. If only those teachers in Chicago and Wisconsin were more important than football in the eyes of certain important people.

The NFL referee strike was great at showing the inconsistency of conservative ideology, but there are more lessons to be learned here. Professional American football is filled with things that modern day conservatives can’t stand, including regulations, socialism and labor unions.

Football fan Theodore Roosevelt

Back in 1905, football was an extremely violent game played in colleges across the US; it closely resembled rugby, and had no professional organization. It was so vicious that 18 people died playing that year alone and progressives were calling for an outright ban on the sport. That’s when Republican President and football fan Theodore Roosevelt stepped in with you guessed it; regulations.

Roosevelt invited certain college coaches and football experts to the White House and told them to introduce rules that would make the game safer. The rule changes were massive, but necessary. No more gang tackling, no more rugby-like formations, a neutral zone was set up, first downs were extended from five yards to ten and most importantly; the forward pass was put in place.

Introducing regulations to football not only made the game uniquely American and more exciting, but it made the game significantly safer. A hundred years later, football can still be considered a violent sport, but death on the gridiron is a rarity. Smart government-imposed regulations are essential to our social wellbeing, whether it’s keeping our sports and streets safer, making sure our meat isn’t tainted or keeping corporate greed in check.

The NFL is considered to be the best run sports league in North America. This accomplishment is thanks to a well thought out combination of socialism and capitalism, two words that don’t mix in the conservative’s mind.

The National Football League is almost a ten billion dollar a year business, it’s natural to see capitalism at work. Everyone gets rich, players, broadcast networks, merchandise manufacturers and owners (who get even richer).

What makes the NFL so successful though isn’t just the size of the revenue the league takes in; it’s the income that gets redistributed among all the teams. All profits get put into one big socialist piggy bank; it gets shaken up and redistributed to the 32 NFL teams. This allows places like Green Bay, Wisconsin with a population of only 100,000 to not only stay competitive, but to win (and win often).

Another little socialist trait is the “taxing” of the top teams, a strategy used by all North American sports leagues to try and keep the playing field level. When a team wins the super bowl they automatically pick last in the next player draft and so on down the line. Conservatives in the real world call this “punishing success” (thanks Bill Maher).

The workers of the NFL (players & referees) have their unions to thank for acquiring a larger piece of the corporate pie, just like any other unionized business. Before the NFL referees went on strike they were earning about 30% less than their counterparts in the National Hockey League.

Some might consider this fair given that the NHL plays five times more games, but the NFL brings in three or four times more money. Why shouldn’t the refs of the most popular game be entitled to more pay than the least popular? With no union that doesn’t happen. At Wal-Mart, the most successful retail store on the planet, organized labor there would help up to 80% of their employees at any given store get off of food stamps. With no union that doesn’t happen.

Conservatives and football might go together like peas and carrots, but conservatives and the NFL go together like oil and water. It boggles my mind how much fundamentalists can adore a sport, but refuse to take lessons from how the league manages to be so successful. I guess that’s why they call liberals the ‘intellectuals’.

Follow Quiet Mike on Facebook and Twitter

With 204 nations taking part, nothing seems to bring the world together like the Summer Olympic Games. Nowhere was that symbolism better demonstrated than during the lighting of the Olympic cauldron last Friday night.

During the parade of nations, each country had a child carry out with them a “petal” that was later attached to a branch of the cauldron. When the individual petals were lit, they lifted up and came together to form one. Truly breathtaking.

Many people, especially westerners, give the impression that the Olympic Games are all about medals. How many medals will the US, Russia, China or whatever country you come from bring home this time? Honestly, who cares. Did you know if you took population and GDP into account you’d find the most successful nation four years ago was actually Jamaica?

The Olympics aren’t about medals at all, in spite of of how the media decides to promote it. The games are about fair play, getting along with others (despite the fierce competition) and most importantly; playing to the best of your ability. The Olympic motto is “faster, higher, stronger” not “win, win, win.”

It’s a shame the leaders of our world don’t strive to be on par with our athletes. Imagine politicians playing fair, getting along or even doing their best, what a world it might be. One only needs to look at the United States and the upcoming election to comprehend my point.

In regards to fair play, the Republicans have been playing dirty. Up to five million voters are being left off the voter rolls in various Republican led states, they have denied passage of job bills to sabotage the economy and are taking in untold millions of dollars in corporate interests thanks to Citizens United. It’s been only about winning since Obama took office.

I’ll admit I don’t watch much American television, but the little I have seen tells me both parties don’t get along when it comes to political ads, in fact you’d think they’re at war. I’ve seen advertisements using an opponent’s statement out of context and Super PAC ads claiming just about anything.

I’ve yet to see an ad that talks about past accomplishments and more importantly I haven’t seen either party try and explain how they intend to improve the country. It’s about burying the other guy, instead of raising yourself up.

It’s also quite clear that neither party leader is living up to their full potential. Mitt Romney has changed his views more than I change my shorts. How can you do your best when you can’t even decide what the best is? Obama on the other hand knows what he believes, but is too chicken to fight for it, gun control is a prime case in point.

I might be using an American example here, but the same can be said for international politics as well, whether it’s elusive peace in the Middle East, the economic situation in Europe or global warming.

Most Olympians sacrifice everything just to participate in the games, often without the prospect of winning something. They do so with the hopes of testing the human spirit and pushing the boundaries of what humans can accomplish. It’s a disgrace that our leaders aren’t willing to do the same.

Follow Quiet Mike on Facebook & Twitter

Congratulations to the Canadian women’s gymnastic team for advancing to the team finals for the first time in Canadian history!

Looming on the skyline of London as you head east to Stratford is the Olympic Orbit designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. This horrid tower twisting up made of cold brutal steel, supposedly represents the spirit of Londoners as well as the harmony of the games. It does nothing of the sort.

It is so horrific that Jonathan Jones, The Guardian’s art critic tried to rationalize it by associating the binge drinking, brain cells killing, over indulgence behaviour to its design, quote: “a drunken party animal of a building” and “Colossal and imperfect, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture at the Olympic Park is the body of us all”.

No dear Sir, I take offence of such outlandish characterizations, and I take offence of Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond assuming us so feeble minded that we would believe whatever they touch turns into gold.

The problem with major sporting events like the Olympics is that they create a frenzy of publicity and dare I say pointless hoopla by the hosting nation, who understandably are looking to profit financially and build up a reputation. However this coincides with swarms of bad decisions which end up costing more than budgeted.

The cost of London Olympics this year has been reported as $14.46 billion, which is significantly more than the naively hopeful 2003 bid figure of $4 billion. This figure might come as a shock amidst UK Conservative PM David Cameron‘s call for more austerity and the subsequent cuts that have affected all public sectors across the board. This kind of mentality boggles the mind. Is reputation and superficial national glory more important than health, security and education? Do we need better teachers, doctors and researchers or people who can jump, lift, and throw?

I am a supporter of better health, I do on occasion enjoy a sporting event, and I am in astonishing awe of physical excellence and ability; however we have bigger problems than nationalism and London’s reputation which frankly would not be affected by the Olympics. The greatest dangers we face include climate change, poverty, unemployment, disease… and UK would rather spend the money on these overpriced competitions. If we are to survive we need more thinkers not bunch of sprinters.

Frankly when I watch a football match I do not think I might excel at the sport, and thus go out on a field and play, so the nonsense about Olympics promoting better health is hogwash. As for unity and promotion of peace in the world, I’m afraid you would have to get rid of the competitive part in the games, because in that stadium opening night there won’t be one flag uniting the world, but division between the nations and different cheers of national pride in multiples of languages echoing from each corner.

People of East End of London who have been so affectionately praised as the poorest in the city by the mayor Boris Johnson won’t be benefiting from these games, the private companies who have been contracted by the government to presumably and as it turned out unsuccessfully keep the costs down will. The private security firm G4S has already displayed what happens when money comes in by the bucketful and ethics go out the window, things have gone so awry that the government had to deploy the army to help out.

And let’s not forget Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond who have taken care of the art. The tower has nearly cost $40 million, $10 million of which came out of the taxpayers’ pockets, the rest was paid for by the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal from the ArcelorMittal steel company, hence the tower is called ArcelorMittal Orbit. Don’t for a second think that this venture was for the love of art, or the love for the games, Lakshmi Mittal has kindly offered to charge visitors nearly $30 to go up the tower. And what do you get when you reach the top? Nice view of London? Surely a request for your money back; because what you will see up there won’t make you feel special, or optimistic about life, what you will see is the city of London being swallowed up by immoral private companies.

So maybe Jonathan Jones was right about one thing, and this squirming, twisting, ugly metal structure is our bodies which we have allowed to succumb to this horror by the hands of our politicians. “Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good. How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land!” (La Haine, 1995)

Rednecks are a dyin’ breed ya know,” a sweaty, fat man in a white cowboy hat called ‘Cousin’ explained to me, as he aggressively scrubbed the last of the ­bean sauce off of the bottom of a pot, “except here in Calgary, they flourish!” His entire body laughed. He knew I was a rookie.

Before the Stampede I hadn’t thought much about Calgary really. I knew what most native Montrealers know about the city. I knew it was where Steven Harper lived and that oil and gas money built the tallest buildings and greased the economy. I’d heard about the Stampede of course, people in South Africa have heard about the Stampede, but aside from casually tuning in to the annual animal activist brouhaha that swarms the national media during these fateful summer months, Calgary was pretty much off my radar.

It came as a rather abrupt shock to my very un-Calgarian system, when my fist visit to Canada’s fourth largest city did not consist of a trip to Chinatown or an afternoon at the Glenbow Museum. Instead, I spent a week working in the ‘VIP’ section of the infamously controversial chuckwagon empire.

Not only did my feet find their way on to Calgary soil, but before I knew it, my moccasins (my silent protest) were caked with layers of Cowtown mud. I was in deeper, I was told, than most people ever get to be. “People who come to the Stampede year after year for their whole lives don’t get to be where you are,” my new boss would explain.

Initially I thought I was going to the stampede to sell watches. It wasn’t until I was handed a security pass and was led through three security check-points that I began to question this assumption. Finally, when I arrived at the “Chow Wagon” I knew watches weren’t going to be on the menu. The air was hot and thick and smelled of hay and horse shit.

The Chow Wagon was a restaurant/bar in the shape of a chuckwagon that hooked up to the back of a pick-up so that it could be easily transported from rodeo to rodeo. It was set up “behind the barns,” the chuckwagon base, with all the other tents.

Each rider has his own tent,” a tall, handsome man who said his name was something or other, but who I just called ‘the Cowboy,’ explained. We were walking along the back of the barns while I was trying to get my bearings. “So,” I said, “what does that mean? What’s a… tent?” He pushed his hat up over his hairline and revealed a thick band of glimmering sweat, “each driver has a sponsor and that sponsor sets up one of these here tents fur entertainin’ their vee ay pees before and after the races.”

I would later  learn that this is the most important part of the derby. Every spring, major companies try to out bid each other for advertising space on a chuckwagon tarp. They call it the GMC Rangeland Derby Canvas Auction.

Eleven time derby champion Kelly Sutherland’s sponsor, YaYaCalgary.com, a nascent bargain-hunter website, paid $170,000 for the their ad to be on the tarp of his chuck for the duration of the Stampede. This year, the cost of the canvases ranged from $77,500 to $170,000. Some companies, such as YaYa, will absorb the entire cost of the canvas space, others will share it with up to 9 other companies. In this case, the add on the tarp will alternate between the participating companies or several logos will be displayed on a single tarp. In 2007, the highest grossing year to date, over 4 million dollars was bid on 36 drivers during the auction. This year, the total tarp auction proceeds amounted to $2,840,000. The auction is viewed by many Calgarians as an indicator of the city’s corporate health.

The Chow Wagon was run by the catering company hired by the ‘Kidz Wagon.’ The Kidz Wagon tarp cost $70,000. The wagon then goes to subsequent sponsors for different nights of the races who pay $10,000 each a night. The sponsors of the Kidz Wagon were major companies, such as Gibson Energy, Courtesy Air and various oil companies.

Ten grand buys an all inclusive, all you can eat and drink exclusive BBQ courtesy of the Chow Wagon, exclusive access to the barns and passes to see the “chucks!” And of course, the highly sought after spot on the Kidz Wagon tarp. This shameless endorsement of animal cruelty, according to Stampede officials, also buys “recognition during the live radio, internet  and television broadcasts, track announcer promos during the live races, over  60 seconds of extreme marketing nightly as [the] wagon thunders around the track  and more.”

But the Kidz Wagon is unique among the chucks, because unlike West Jet, every year it sponsors a different kids charity. Which is great for it’s sponsors because for $10,000 they get the exclusive opportunity to look like they give a shit.

This year’s chosen charity was the Kristin Kares Klub Humanitarian Foundation. The foundation was created in memory of 13 year old Kristin who tragically passed away last year due to a combination botched medical procedures, misdiagnosis and cancer. It was set up by her mother to fulfill her lifelong dream of “helping people and animals. “Kristin wanted to change the world for the better and to inspire love, peace, friendship, faith & joy by helping people and animals around the world,” her mother writes on the charity website.

Kristin’s mother Pam, is an incredibly passionate and dedicated woman. I can remember watching the races with her. “This was one of Kristin’s favourite scarfs, I kept this one because it was blue. That was her favourite colour,” she said as her eyes darted to her feet. “We’re gonna change the world with this charity, you know.”

I asked her what she thought about the chuckwagon races. “Horses die every year during the races, don’t you think that’s a little…off?” I said. I was trying to be careful  not to offend her, it was after all an incredibly sensitive issue. I was trying to understand how a charity that in part wants to “help animals” would have anything to do with the stampede at all. She just looked at me with this piercing blank look as the orange sun slipped gracefully behind the grandstand. “I don’t really know much about it, I know they treat them really well,” she finally responded. It was as if she had never though about the stampede that way. Never questioned it, never thought to.

That same night, in fact the very same race that conversation took place, one of “our” horses broke its leg and later had to be euthanized. I didn’t find out about this until after the race because most horses will keep on racing after a fracture. “Did you hear?” A girl I worked with poked her head into the Chow Wagon. “Hear what?” I said. “One of Jim’s horses broke it’s leg, somebody cut him off!” She put her head in her hands. Her genuine concern was touching but later that night I asked Jim about it, he shrugged it off and said, “It happens…” and smiled.

Historically, a chuckwagon is a horse-drawn portable kitchen. Think The Oregon Trail. It wasn’t until 1923 when Stampede cofounder Guy Weadick thought it would be a good idea to race them around a couple of barrels along half a mile of track. Over 50 chuckwagon horses have died and hundreds have been injured since 1986. These harrowing numbers have earned the stampede the unofficial title of the Calgary Deathpede.

Although positive steps have recently been taken by the stampede to increase animal welfare and safety, this year’s stampede still saw two horse fatalities and several injuries.  Wagon driver Jim Nevada has defended the sport on several occasions. “We don’t pay four or five thousand dollars for a horse and try to kill it. You don’t win money if you don’t take care of your horses. We’re drug tested, both us and the horses. Those horses would be in a dog-food can or on a plate in France, if it wasn’t for wagon racing.” Many riders will defend the sport with two key arguments. The first being many of the chuck horses are ex-racing horses who would otherwise be euthanized if it weren’t for the chucks. Pro-chuckwagoneers will explain that these thoroughbreds have been given a second chance at life. The other popular comeback is that they are treated like the rock stars they are.

Anybody feed you the best oats in town?” Cousin asked me one particularity sticky day after I expressed my concern for the horses. “These horses get treated better than any horse out lookin for food in the wild. They were born to run. They love what they do and they die loving what they do. Don’t forget we are in charge here. Don’t you think if horses ran the show they would be makin’ us run? Haven’t you seen planet of the Apes?!”

Vancouver Humane Society spokesman Pete Fricker argues that “It is totally unacceptable to continue this event when horse after horse is dying just to entertain a crowd.”

Though the horses are loved, it is a love that much more closely resembles the way someone might love their car rather than another animal. Some riders customize their horses the same way a teenager might customize their car, branding the horses bodies with flowers or the riders initials or even their company logo.

I haven’t been around a whole lot of horses in my lifetime, but I have never see horses so skittish and frightened in my entire life. Walking through the barns one night, I reached out to pet one of the horses. “Get back!” A woman yelled. “They bite!” Bite? It turns out they kick too and run away, as one horse I saw did as he tried to escape his owner.

In 2009, stampede officials estimated that the 10 day event brought in 172.4 million to the city and 226.7 million to the province making it the biggest money maker of any single Canadian event…ever. The “greatest show on earth” wont be going anywhere anytime soon, especially when it has a plethora of corporate stakeholders.

 

George Orwell was right when he said Big Brother was watching us, but it doesn’t seem to be the government as much as ourselves. This past week, social media has proven that we must be careful in what we do and say. We can become the laughing stock of the world or capture its imagination.

With a camera being built in almost every gadget known to man these days, it is almost impossible to hide. Chances are whether you know it or not, your mug shot is in the background of dozens of photos taken by strangers using regular cameras, camera phones, traffic cameras, etc. The only sure way to avoid becoming part of a file on some guy’s computer is to be invisible.

Last week we all witnessed what happened in Vancouver following the Canucks loss to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Riots quickly broke out downtown leaving more than 150 people injured, more than 50 businesses damaged, 15 cars destroyed and at least 14 officers with minor injuries.

Most people present during the unrest were not causing damage, but almost no one could resist the opportunity to pose proudly for a picture in front of a burning car. Whether or not they were responsible for torching the car, they might as well have been telling everyone (including police) “Hey guys, look what I did!”

For the miscreants that did take part in the destruction and looting, it won’t be long until the police come knocking on your door thanks to images and video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, not to mentioned some idiotic ramblings on Facebook bragging about the crimes their authors have committed.

How stupid can you get

Vancouver Police requested that the public send or post pictures so that they can be used to prosecute the offenders, naturally they have received plenty. Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List alone has gathered tons of videos and photos depicting those who started fights, flipped cars, set fires and looted stores. In the future if you decide to loot, you might not want to be seen smiling with your face exposed and your arms full as you exit London Drugs.

Not only is social media working in favor of the police, but it also is helping to clean up the downtown core. The riot wasn’t even under control yet when Facebook events started to appear calling for everyone to go downtown Thursday morning to help clean up the mess.  “Post-Riot Clean-up: Let’s Help Vancouver” quickly drew over twelve thousand people and sure enough the masses have been pouring in to volunteer the last few days. All it takes is one man opening a page on Facebook for the rest of us to get inspired and do something.

Speaking of inspired, without all the little brothers out there with cameras last Wednesday night we might not have gotten to see the kiss. Alex Thomas and Scott Jones are now world famous for their viral photograph of them lying on the ground kissing while surrounded by riot police. The Australian Jones was apparently trying to calm down his Canadian girlfriend when the picture was taken. It is one of the best authentic images I’ve ever seen.

Heaven in Hell

Social Media outlets clearly played a key role in the Vancouver riots, much like the Iranian protests that followed the re-election  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009; social media played a key factor in its organization and its crackdown. At least in Vancouver’s case the only losers are actual losers.

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A week after the game 7 elimination by Boston and Montreal still talks hockey. There have been many assessments and evaluations on how the team fared this year and what to look forward to next year. It’s still a little weird that the season ended last week. It was so heartbreaking that the Forget the Box site shut down when we posted the game 7 blog.

Ok, I wish that happened. It may forever be lost in cyberspace but here’s a quick summary of game 7: Boston was going to win, then PK Subban scored a goal, another game of “guess the overtime winner/win a beer” then Nathan Horton scored a goal, end of season. Sucks for the guy who was watching the game at four in the morning on a ipod somewhere abroad but that’s what we call a hardcore fan.

Looking back, this was the first time I actually liked the Montreal Canadiens as a whole. There will always be strengths and weaknesses for teams but for the first time there’s an actual future with these guys. I looked back on the Preseason Dilemmas entry and thought of players that made an impact.

Brian Gionta was a great choice as captain and   Mike Cammalleri found his touch after being injured for 20-plus games. Andrei Kostitsyn played solid and Lars Eller had an excellent playoffs and could shape up into becoming our first giant centre in a decade. He finally found use for his size. Ryan White will be the guy who will score a goal and take a punch for the team. Let’s hope he makes the team next year. David Desharnais may be small…so what, so’s Gionta.

Defense was in near panic when Markov and Gorges got hurt, but seeing PK take the reigns and Hal Gill guiding him helped our ever-happy defenseman ease into his rookie year. And of course getting Wisniewski and Sopel for next to nothing did help. Hope these guys will be back (so I can finally learn how to pronounce Wisniewski).

Max Pacioretty was on the verge of a breakthrough season until Zdeno Chara hit him, concussed him and broke his neck. He’s becoming a fan favorite with his twitter account and appearences around the city proving that not even a broken neck will break his spirit. He’s made himself a bonafide superstar and will be back next year.

Which brings me to Carey Price. All season he’s proven himself as a solid goaltender. Getting out of the shadows of Jaroslav Halak and doing something better, playing some kick ass cowboy-style goaltending. If there are still any nay sayers about Price and what he’s done this season, I’ll say this: “Really? He’s kept the team in play all season, f**k off you losers.” Seriously, no one f**ks with a cowboy.

So if it weren’t for the injuries, this would have been a different season. However, if it weren’t for the injuries we wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the kiddies prove themselves to make the team. I think it’s shaping to be a good future in Montreal.

So I’m done for the season. I still watch the occasional game (was right about Washington choking). My darkhorse for the final has to be Tampa Bay and I give a maybe for Vancouver (they did finally beat Chicago).

It was an adventure on its own finding bars where I could watch and scream at TVs. Montreal’s hockey culture is strong and whatever the bar is, be it chic or sketchy, there will be a game on. Hopefully next year I will find even more obscure places or finally have someone tag-team with me on games. Will find out in the off season if I can do another season like this. In the meantime, I will go back to regular life and letting my liver heal.

Last of the shoutouts: Shout out to all bar staff who worked during the games, to the kitchen staff for the snacks (a diet of nachos and burgers has its limits). Shout out to the little ones who do the preskate at the Bell Centre to get the fans and players charged. Finally, shout out to the other hockey fans I got a chance to watch games with and get into debates and bet in the overtime beer game with. Thanks again to Forget the Box for the season.

There was a feeling in the overcast air at the Bell Centre last night. It was elimination time for the Montreal Canadiens, and if they lose then the season is done. A win, meanwhile, would mean the final showdown the next day (today). This series has seen stats being thrown at these teams, and then thrown away when the opposite happens. The odds were against Montreal. Could they beat them one more time?

Though this doubt was looming, it didn’t stop the fans from having a good time. I trekked to the Bell Centre to check out the Fan Zone. There was a smell of confidence over at Centennial Plaza, along with the scent of french fries. Everyone in their red shirts with beers in hand, having a good time meeting fellow fans. Kids taking a shot at the Bruins dunk tank, trying to get the Boston fan all soaking wet.

The best I saw were a group of girls with water guns, toting a stuffed bear with a sign that read “hunting season,” and carrying an inflatable Stanley Cup. It was bear season over at the Bell Centre. We hoped Montreal could bag us a bear (and a win).

I ventured over to Brutopia for game 6, since the rest of the bars were already packed. The basement floor alone had room, while the other two were full. A guy got off work early and dropped a $20 tip for the waitress: a preview of many beer purchases to come.

The key to this game was to shut down the top line of Ryder-Peverley-Kelly and catch Boston on the power play. Boston had been notorious for bad penalties, and last night, it happened again. Mike Cammalleri tic tac scored on the five on three and the Bell Centre instantly came to life.

Boston tied it, however, and it was Brian Gionta to light one up. Man, I love it when he scores. His smile right after can light up any room.

Meanwhile, Boston’s Milan Lucic nearly knocked the lights out on Spacek. Not to worry though, he’s alright. The refs got it right at least, and gave Lucic a game misconduct.

Carey Price was in another goalie duel with Tim Thomas, but it was another busy night for his “triple low five” partner PK Subban with 27 minutes of being all over Chara and company. There was a last minute scramble, where at least five guys were vying to stop the puck. Nevertheless, it was going Montreal’s way tonight. There was a light coming out of the overcast sky. Things were looking up for Montreal.

The guys did have someone looking over them tonight, and it surely wasn’t any hockey ghosts in the rafters. This would be the first time we got to see Max Pacioretty, playoff beard and all. We hope he can play again soon. I figure he got a kick out of the win.

So here we are, game 7. We’re ready to take this the next level. Montreal will have the riot cops on the streets again tonight, just in case. We’ll always riot for something.

The key to game 7 is to take advantage of Boston penalties. Their penalty killing has been a disaster, as well as their power play. Special teams are key.   We need to shut the top line and try to get the first goal. Everything else will build up. In the meantime, we all have a short time before the inevitable build up to one hell of a game 7.

Shout out of game 6: the girls who went hunting for Bruins at the Bell Centre.

We return to Saturday hockey, however things have changed in the last 7 days. The Montreal Canadiens are looking from the outside in as Boston decided to show up and turn the 2-0 lead into a series. It was going to be a battle that night, the stat about who would score first or if the road team win, let’s throw that out the window.

It was all about the goalies. Tim Thomas, now a nominee for best goalie versus Carey Price who got snubbed but has worked his ass off all season. Montreal’s cowboy was in the ultimate goalie showdown, something out of a Western movie.

It was going to be good, it would be bad for one team to lose and man, it could get ugly with a win up for grabs. I decided to go to Brasserie Bar Laurier for game 5 as the fans bleed for the Habs and beer was cheap (7 dollar pitchers during playoffs). Fans were running in and out of the bar for cigarette breaks and food runs so they wouldn’t miss whoever would break the scoring tension. Still no score after two periods.

It was a goalie duel along with great defensive play. Boston was still weak during the power play while Montreal had many, many chances at scoring and killing penalties. Fans watched carefully as the Boston line of Ryder-Peverley-Kelly had been the top scorers.

Even Max Pacioretty played a little defense from afar with a tweet he regretted as he compared the length of the scoreless drought to Boston’s Brad Marchand’s nose. Marchand got his revenge as he broke the scoring tension and Montreal’s hopes in the third. The tweet got removed, we wish we can do that with the goal.

Bar Laurier got drunker in hopes of the Habs coming back, they started booing whenever they showed children in Bruins gear. Price had to stay cool, the defense had to stay solid. PK Subban and Hal Gill locked up the most minutes for the defense with guys like Gionta and Plekanec taking the most shots but Thomas wouldn’t let up. Even Michael Ryder played a little bit in nets (he is sometimes a goalie in the summer).

Then there was Chara, playing dirty and getting away with it. Didn’t that hit on Ryan White looked a little familiar? The hero of the period became Jeff Halpern as he scored late in the 3rd and took the Habs into overtime.

Never before had I felt the heavy hearts of a city in one game. Boston was all over the cowboy goalie and Montreal vice versa. Both were walls, this could have gone all night. A word to Carey Price: you really should work on the stickwork in the offseason, scary save.

It was another round of “guess the overtime winner, win a beer.” Once again, PK was the favorite, then Gionta. Lars Eller was actually making a claim for it.

No one should text during overtime, WHO THE F**K IS TEXTING ME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOST INTENSE GAME OF THIS SERIES, REALLY!!! Like I said, never text during overtime.

Hamrlik was one second too late in double overtime and Nathan Horton scored. I felt the hearts of hundreds in the bar sink to the ground and a collective groan all over the city. At least there are 7 dollar pitchers.

So there is a game 6. Montreal is on the verge of finishing their season. There still is a lot of game in them, but will it be enough to beat Tim Thomas? David Desharnais may be doubtful for the game, Chara hurt him (not surprised). It’s all about beating Thomas, it’s all about not being a second too late for defense. To shut down the Ryder line, to avoid any mistakes. The usuals better step in up, in fact, everyone has to step it up.

Forget about who’s hurt, dehydrated or gives the finger. It’s all about staying alive. I predicted a game 7, I usually keep my word. Plus, it would suck to lose in front of the home crowd as the hearts of Montrealers couldn’t handle another hearbreak.

Shout out of game 6: Shout out to the fans at Bar Laurier, best I’ve seen this series.