Bad Blood is Good for Sports

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Bad Blood

As a Maple Leafs fan, I used to not care about a game between the Habs and the Sens. The two teams would put a passionate hockey fan addicted to Red Bull to sleep. But things got intense in the first two games in the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There was lots of contact, heated words exchanged, and the determination on both sides to beat each other up. Kind of reminds me of the Canadiens-Nordiques playoff match-ups in the past where there were more fights than goals. It’s only the start of the post-season but we are already seeing some bad blood being spilled. On the other side of the coast, the Vancouver and Calgary series is so heated, there is no knife sharp enough that can cut through the tension. Bad blood wasn’t limited on the ice. There were brawls happening off the ice as well.

I recently covered an OHL playoff series between the Barrie Colts and the North Bay Battalion. It was not quite as intense but it did deliver drama, great scoring plays, dynamite goaltending, a couple of fights, and plenty of chippiness. The last game of the series saw a large contingent from North Bay making the trip down to Barrie to cheer on the Battalion. Kind of like when Leaf fans would infiltrate the Palladium/Corel Centre/Scotiabank Place/Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. Hearing fans of visiting teams scream louder and annoy the home side adds more fuel to the fire. It makes watching hockey, especially in the playoffs, more interesting to watch.

Part of the reason two teams often despise one another is geographic. The closer the opponents are, the more intense it gets. Ottawa and Montreal, for example, is less than 2 hours from each other. Rivalries aren’t limited to the sport of hockey. Soccer is perhaps the best example where inter-city opponents are often the most hostile. It is not limited to just cities either. There’s been a hate between Canada and the United States that has developed over the last 20 years whether it is in hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball.

Contrary to what the pacifists who disguise themselves as sports fans say, bad blood is good for sports. And with what is at stake, you need it. This is what makes sports interesting to the spectator. Even noted anti-fighting-in-hockey advocate Mike Wilbon believes players retaliating in sports is welcomed. We are attracted to the participant who is as emotionally involved in the games as those who watch it. We often become skeptical towards multi-million dollar athletes playing in competitive sports. More often than not we don’t see them compete with the same passion and emotion that we normally associate with sports. So when we do see them hit, battle, and show off their animosity to towards their opponent, that appeals to fans like us.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say players should step out of bounds or people should go break the law to display one’s love for their sports team. But you can not take out the emotional component of the game. As long as you have two combatants willing to compete, don’t expect them to leave their hostilities towards each other at the door.

Also see:

Hockey is a Tough Sport, Get Use to it
People Don’t Watch Sports, Fans Do
The Point Where Haters Become Worse than Those You Hate

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Dave Cameron is the Reason for Senators’ Turnaround

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Dave Cameron

While many fans and the media in Ottawa think Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond (a.k.a. The Hamburglar) is the reason their team is in the playoffs after a poor start to the season, I think the real credit for the team’s turnaround should go to the man behind the bench.

Since Dave Cameron took over the head coaching reigns from Paul MacLean, the Senators have been playing winning hockey with virtually no change to the lineup. Cameron has been able to take his defensive system in junior and apply it to the pros. The result: a 32-16-7 record since he took over as head coach. That, and for no other reason, is why the team is in the playoffs.

For those who followed the St. Michael’s Majors (whether in Toronto or Mississauga) and the one or two in the media who covered the OHL team on a regular basis, Cameron’s ability to coach a winning team comes as no surprise to them. He has been able to get the most out of what talent he has available. Perhaps being under the radar in Toronto allowed him to flourish as a head coach.

If there is one advantage the Senators have against the Habs in the first round of the playoffs it is coaching. Cameron’s experience in the World Juniors and in the OHL will bode well as he helps guide his team against one of the best in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. If the Senators continue the way they have played under Cameron in the last two months of the regular season, they can shut down the likes of Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, and Tomas Plekanic.

It is about time Cameron gets the recognition he deserves. People will point out the fact he was behind the bench when Canada blew a 3-goal third period lead to Russia and lost the gold medal game at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, and his Majors lost to the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Memorial Cup final that year. But if the Senators do end up hoisting the Cup in June, the media better make sure Cameron’s name is the first one they mention.

Also see:

It’s Not the Size, it’s How You Use it: The St. Mike’s Arena
Why We Like to Lay Blame and Not Give Credit
Winners Blaze Their Own Trail

Sports is Not a Platform for Activism

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Smith Carlos OlympicsThe recent controversy over the Religious Freedom Act in Indiana has crept its way into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s Final Four in Indianapolis. The people who are opposed to this legislation have attempted to use it to overshadow the tournament. They have no business being associated with this event, or any sport for that matter. It is not enough that there are post-secondary institutions everywhere infiltrated by this junk. Now it is being taken into the sporting arena. These groups are, to use a corporate term, looking to expand. Kind of ironic that this is happening on one of the most religious holidays on the calendar, Easter.

Why would these people get involved in this important event in the first place? Audience. Sporting events like the Final Four, Super Bowl, and Olympics attract millions of people to the host city and on television. So you have everyone in the world watching you raise your fist in the air or hold both your hands up high in a salute. All for what? Tommie Smith and John Carlos may as well have held waffles in their hands. Besides, what really is the difference whether you clench your hands into a fist or you have them open? The arm is still raised in the air. You can argue Tim Tebow has made kneeling down, putting his fist on his forehead a political gesture. But I’m guessing you are also comparing Jesus Christ to a Black Panther.

Whether it is racism, domestic violence, or gay rights, I can tell you none of them really care about these causes unless it fulfills their agenda. That being to settle a score at the expense of our sport. But the problem though is while it is a one-sided fight, it’s the ones advocating these so-called injustices that have an unfair advantage. You have Salon and the Huffington Post all trying to put more social matters into the sports discussion and yet people remain outraged. How empty can you get?

As I have said before, racism and homophobia are not restricted to white males. Women and other ethnic groups have also demonstrated these characteristics. Yet, it seems the proponents are keeping mum whenever minorities are involved. Nobody really cares about fixing the problem. All they like to do is make trouble. As the saying goes: what a joke!

It would be easy to say lets ban all political activities in sports including the playing of the national anthem. That to me is playing into the hands of the social justice crowd. I have a better idea. I’m more confident that the millions of people who attend these sporting events will see the political activism for what the really are: a publicity stunt. I would hope these folks can follow the advice of a political activist website and move on.

Also see:

Political Correctness has No Place in Sport
Racism Knows No Bounds
Michael Sam is on the Clock

Rare Feats are Exciting Because it’s Rare

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2004 Boston Red Sox

I recently witnessed a hockey team complete an amazing comeback. A hockey team who started a best-of-seven playoff series down 0-3 only to end up winning the next 4 games to advance to the next round. Sure it was in the Junior C loop and it wasn’t for the big prize. But it is these kinds of accomplishments that makes sport exciting. The same team was in the same position 4 tears earlier. A semi-pro baseball team in Ontario reeled off 4 straight wins to clinch the league championship after beginning the series down 3-0.

A perfect game, an undefeated season, a Stanley Cup winning goal… in overtime… on a penalty shot. Those are some things that we rarely witness whether it is in the regular season or the post season. Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Joe Carter’s come-from-behind, game-ending, World Series winning home run in 1993, the Buffalo Bills coming back from 32 points down to beat the Houston Oilers in a 1993 NFL Wild Card Playoff game. Those kinds of feats we may never see again.

But as exciting as they are, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Dave Stieb got his first and only no-hitter with the Blue Jays in 1990 but there were 6 others who accomplished that feat, 5 did so by themselves. There were 7 more no-hitters thrown in 1991. While Blue Jays fans were overjoyed by Stieb’s accomplishments, to the rest of the baseball world it was just another no-hitter. I can tell you hockey fans started growing tired of the shootout 3 years after it was implemented despite the number of highlight-reel plays it created. The luster of the novelty wore off. I’m worried that the outdoor winter game will suffer that same fate if the NHL continues to keep having these games beyond their annual New Year’s Day event.

People seem to miss the point that part of what makes these experiences exciting is because it doesn’t happen very often. If every Super Bowl winning team in the last 10 years went 19 and 0, would we look at them the same way as the 1972 Miami Dolphins? Of course not. I’m sure there are people in Boston and fans of their associated teams would say there is nothing like winning a championship each and every year. But I bet they will also tell you going through those lean times made those championships much sweeter.

Also see:

Still the Greatest Post-Season Home Run… Ever!
Enjoy the Moment While It Lasts
What Happens When the Passion is Gone?