What did we learn this week? Well, that Kerry Fraser and figure skating don’t own a monopoly on bad officiating, that NBC has become their own unwatchable sitcom, the Second Amendment kills people, and that hate and ignorance don’t know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims.
Darren Bifford, author of Wedding in Fire Country, joins us in the Round Bus to talk about tennis, soccer, PK, and whales.
MENS OLYMPIC TENNIS FINAL
Orti — If you haven’t played tennis it’s hard to understand just how amazing these players are right now. In a game of millimetres, the men’s game has never been better and has recovered from a painful serve-em-dead era that it suffered from in the late ’90s onwards when the big servers dominated the game and bored us, or me at least, to tears. If the game has gotten better, it’s because players know how to return these big serves much better now. As for Murray/Federer, the narrative of this couldn’t have played out any better and I think this is an even bigger win for Murray than what Wimbledon could have, and may well be, in the future. The next time a Brit can win gold on home court in the Olympics could be fifty or a hundred years from now. Murray was a force, and showed uncanny poise during his demolition of Federer. In Federer’s defence, he had a far more grueling run to the finals and had one of the busiest seasons of his career. My inner Federer fan though is telling me he threw the match so Andy could have some glory at home. That’s just how classy Federer is. He opens doors for ladies, and he throws Olympic finals for pals.
Bifford — The power of this match really only makes sense when you keep in mind Andy’s recent loss at Wimbledon and his longtime position as the number four in the world. Federer is the Ferrari of tennis. He works almost perfectly so much of the time that the only real shock is when he doesn’t excel. Djokovic’s year of utter greatness was an ecstatic explosion–and I mean the sexual metaphor here. Nadal…well, my wife and I love Nadal, but we love him like we love a small, vulnerable precocious child. He’s kind of like Rainman on the court. For all his ferocity, he’s as polite as a well raised twelve year old. And he wins because he doesn’t want to disappoint. I mean, this was a guy who, as an adult, was depressed for a year when his parents split. Now Andy— Andy’s of a different stock. The distance between Andy and the rest of those guys has always seemed so huge. I watched him do away with Nadal and Djokovic a few years ago in the Roger’s Cup in straight sets. But that’s the Roger’s Cup, not a major. When it comes to majors, we witness Andy exposed, tormented, taciturn, bordering despair. Frankly, if any tennis pro is likely to kill himself, I’d put my money on someone finding Andy hanging on the rafters. And for all these reasons it’s been easy for me to not care for him. He looked, on top of it all, like a dick. The kind of asshole that’d keep company with, say, Andy Roddick, who no one likes.
Anyway, all that changed for me at Wimbledon, and my wife and I shared Andy’s tears at the conclusion of that match. I became a Murray fan—and my disdain for Federer was confirmed. I wondered how the man would recover. I wondered how he’d get back out there, regain his focus. Truth is, these doubts were proved the doubts of a mere mortal (me), a very poor player of the game of tennis, a consistent scratcher of the eight ball. The greatness courted by Andy Murray is more difficult and genuine and human than that achieved by any of the (former) top three. Maybe a case could be made of Djokovic. But with that, one always senses Djokovic’s love of life. Even his disappointments point to his love. But Andy has no love of life. He sulks on his off days. He’s morbid at the sunrise. He dislikes small children and rain. His girlfriend is beautiful and generous and rich but knows nothing of the soul of Murray. Murray points to heaven when he wins, but it’s toward the old Scottish gods. And when he points up to the sky he’s asking for a forgiveness we ordinary people can’t understand. For these reasons, I’m very happy for his Gold medal.
Forbes — Strange match, in that I had grown so used to the All England being Federer’s de facto home court that seeing all those union jacks and hearing the crowd cheer Roger’s unforced errors so enthusiastically felt like stepping into some bizarro world. But, as with any loss he has ever suffered, Fed was all class. If you turn on the television midway through one of the man’s matches and don’t know the score, his expression and demeanour won’t tell you whether he’s about to win in straight sets or he’s on the ropes and been broken on every serve.
As much as Federer just didn’t have the Roger thing going on, Murray played well. It won’t be remembered by the rest of the world (outside the UK) the way an actual Wimbledon victory would have been, because the Olympics reside in a weird, sort of less-significant parallel world to actual majors, but in a sense this win, when coupled with Fed’s win there a month earlier, lets everybody have their cake and eat it too.
Ibeas — I’ve been out of the tennis game for a while, but having played the sport for years I’ve developed an appreciation for the various styles of play. For example, I hate Rafael Nadal and his weird-ass grip with a passion. Which has nothing to do with the Olympic final, I know. Deal with it.
Spry — I once asked a girl to marry me, and she said yes, but we were both drunk and in the morning she didn’t remember, so to her, it meant nothing. But to me, it’s still the closest I’ve ever been to marriage, and she’s perhaps the last girl I’ll ever love. I’m Andy Murray. Or maybe I’m Federer. Fuck it. Ibeas and I are going for cocktails.
WOMEN’S SOCCER SCANDAL
Ibeas — My word, what a match. Forget the officiating scandal, forget the weird patriotic aspect that always rubbed me the wrong way, forget all of that. Remember the match, as it was, from a purely competitive standpoint. Those women laid it all out there that day. They tried to win the best way possible: not by exploiting the rules and breaking the game, but by beating their opponent the exact same way their opponent tried to beat them. It was marvelous. This contest was the footie equivalent of a Pacquiao fight. Also, I’m thinking of getting a Christine Sinclair jersey, now that “Sinclair” translates to FIGHT ON FUCKERS!
Forbes — I’m with Ibeas: what a game. Historically awesome. What’s most significant in the long run might not be that the Canadians were forced to play for bronze by some shaky officiating, but that we were all watching women’s soccer with the agonizing edge-of-the-couch anticipation usually reserved for Olympic hockey games. Often as not these women play in near-empty stadiums with small or non-existent TV audiences. Here they were playing in a full Old Trafford, with a nation watching at home, and millions more around the world tuned in for good measure. Expect this to have positive residual effects on the women’s game, and to do some damage to the wrongheaded notion that women’s sports can’t be as exciting as watching the boys do it.
Now, where do I find a pair of Sinclair jerseys, one for me and one for my daughter?
Orti — Thankfully soccer has never been marred by such things as match fixing scandals or referees being on the take otherwise we might have something to say about the most dubious display of officiating in the history of the sport. But I’m not saying the fix was in – it was just a day of bad calls – as bad as it is for Canada, the outcome is just as bad for referee ABC. I won’t even write her name here because I don’t want to add to the legions of web pages she’ll be subjected to for the rest of her life which sing her scorn. It’s also highly unlikely she’ll see action in important matches in the future and she was a respected World Cup ref. The only positive outcome is that the rest of the country finally catches on to the fact that Canada has a living legend on the team and a woman who is but goals away from holding the record for the most goals scored. Ever. In the sport. That’s huge. Not only is Christine Sinclair a gifted sniper with Beckhamesque touch on free-kicks, she’s a true leader, and one of the toughest competitors in the game — men’s or women’s. Oh one more thing….the men might want to take a look at the women’s game to see how professional athletes should behave. The men’s game is ruined by rich men who feign injury. The women never do this, and so in my books their game is better and more respectable. As for this particular match’s place in history… consider Scott Murray of The Guardian in the UK called this the best elimination match in the last 30 years, men’s matches included so they’ll be talking about this travesty of justice and second most watched Olympic event after Crosby Night In Canada for a long time.
By the way, Hope Solo, if you’re reading this as you google yourself, your comments that your defense made Christine Sinclair look good make you sound like an idiot. She roasted you three times. In one game. Count how many times a goalie gets cooked three times by the same player in a game. It’s rare. If only this were the first time Solo has publicly thrown shit on her teammates. It’s not. Yes, you have a gold medal now and I suspect you’re the kind of person who’s retort to any criticism would be ‘Gold,baby’ full stop, but know that that gold medal comes with the world’s biggest asterisk and anyone outside of America will call it the most undeserved medal in sport.
Spry — I get Orti’s anger, mostly because I lived in Costa Rica for a winter so I understand his half-latino ire. But, as much as I feel for the women’s team, poor officiating is a part of sports. The only winner is the winner.
That being said, it was the greatest non-hockey game I’ve watched involving a Canadian team. Those women have nothing to be ashamed of.
That being said, is it weird or unpatriotic that I have a mad crush on American wingback Kelley O’Hara? Like, a crazy crush. It almost left me unable to watch the game. I think I may be in love, or at least cross border lust. Kelley, if you’re reading this, I can be reached at email@example.com. I’m moderately employed, I enjoy whiskey and the Silver Jews, I’m a virgo, and am willing to relocate… unless you’re hip to moving to Montreal. The Mile End is nice, and cheap. Do you have your MA yet? You could go to McGill. Ok, this is getting weird.
Bifford — I had my appendix removed the night before. I hope Spry gets laid by the American despite my general dislike of Americans. P.S., The Mile End is not cheap.
PK IS STILL UNSIGNED BY THE HABS
Bifford — RDS made up a report that Subban had rejected a two year offer, one that would pay him something like 2.5 mil per year. PK, apparently, was insulted. Subban’s agent denied the report flat-out. My conclusion, then, is that RDS sucks. And that the Quebec sports media are kind of like a gossip rag about 22 year old hockey players. This makes me ashamed of being a Habs fan. Everyone know that the Habs gotta sign PK, and would be beyond stupid not to. Despite this everyone is expecting the Habs not to sign PK. This is like expecting the kid with the gump foot to trip over his gump foot. It’s like expecting the stupid kid to say the stupid thing. My hope is that the Habs will cease to make dumb moves. There’s evidence that the new management is not prone to stupidity but there’s inconclusive evidence that they may still be. We’re all expecting the coaching choices to be secretly genius decisions. But maybe we’re all deluded by hope. I hope PK will sign. I love watching him play. I was at the Bell Center for his first ever game– a bad loss just before the all-star break when the Habs played a horrible game (Halak in nets) against, I think, the Flyers.
Orti — PK would be a great fit in Toronto so I’m all for him signing as short a contract as possible. Montreal media will eat him alive. He’d be adored in the T-dot. I can already hear what Spry is thinking – they boo the shit out of PK in Toronto. But what Spry doesn’t know is that what fans are really booing is the management for missing PK in the draft and not trading for him later.
Spry — Jesus, this is all so backwards and typical for the NHL. There’s a summer flurry of free agent signings BEFORE they sign a new CBA. Ridiculous. If there’s another work stoppage I’m going to go get my PhD.
The Habs need to be careful here. Subban is a fan favourite, tough for an Anglo from the GTA, and the cornerstone (along with his buddy Carey Price) of this generation of the franchise. Trying to lowball him seems counter-intuitive.
And seriously, both hockey players and students on strike in Montreal? Someone’s getting pregnant.
Apropos of nothing, I once saw Biff kill a man with a villanelle, a stick of butter, and a llamas testicle. True story.
Forbes — Would I like Subban better if he went by his actual first name, Parnell? In all likelihood, yes. As it is, it sounds like he’s named after a penalty kill, and that’s kind of a passive thing to be named for.
Ibeas — I just texted a buddy of mine who’s a diehard Habs fan, asking what he thought of PK Subban. “Awesome,” he quickly replied. Why? “He’s talented. Dynamic. Solid defensively. Plays a lot of minutes. Puts up a lot of points.” Research: DONE.
In my experience, these crowd-pleasing all-around players are usually never re-signed, or are re-signed at such overpaid contracts that the love fizzles faster than a Nazi’s face upon opening the Ark of the Covenant. So it goes.
Shoutout to Joe D’urzo. You’ll get there some day.
SIMON WHITFIELD & CALLING OUT TEAM DOCTORS FOR THEIR HANDLING OF PAULA FINDLAY’S INJURY
Forbes — This seems like a very messy situation, the kind of thing we all encounter from time to time, in professional as well as personal relationships, only our workplace isn’t, say, the Olympics, and we don’t have a copy-hungry media waiting to examine our tweets. I don’t know the particulars, but it’s interesting to me that in this age of personal broadcasting, we consider it normal, and indeed laudable, that someone would call out another in public before discussing it with them one-on-one. Truly, these are knee-jerk times. Whitfield’s tweet was news before the race was even over. I’m not saying he’s wrong, that Findlay wasn’t left to twist in the wind by the actions (or inaction) of others, but the whole thing does illuminate a sizeable shift in social mores that is probably ripe for a scholarly essay that I won’t try to pull off here.
Orti — When I was in high school I had a brief tenure as a long distance runner. I remember during once race I ran a 5km race and Simon Whitfield ran a 10km race the same day. He finished his 10km faster than my 5km. After that I quit running and took up drinking. Not as a direct result; I had merely found something I was more adept at than running. Simon’s a world class champion in my books, and the nation’s too. Although the crash was crushing for him, it’s not what he’ll be remembered for at all. His calling out Findlay’s doctors and this culture of win at all costs makes is a testament to his class and spirit. Not a lot of athletes have the courage to speak their mind. Whitfield is the shit and everyone knows it.
Ibeas — I’m the most tragic motherfucker there is, so I of course am always a huge fan of people who don’t believe that victory is the point or even a singularly important aspect of sport. Simon Whitfield, you are skilled. The Barnstormer exhorts you.
Spry — Seriously, I asked her to marry me, and I think she said yes. Then she passed out in her heels. I think she lives in Parkdale now. She may or may not be engaged to a lobster fisherman. Fisherperson. Fishmonger.
If you swim, bike, and run for sport within your discipline, you’re just showing off. It’s like being a bisexual. Anyone can do, we just don’t fucking want to.
Bifford — I don’t know who these people are.
KAVANA, THE BELUGA WHALE, DIES AT THE VANCOUVER AQUARIUM
Ibeas — I’m becoming more and more disinclined towards the idea of keeping animals in captivity, unless it can be proven that said animals are exploiting their captors as much if not more than their captors are exploiting them. See: cats.
Orti — There are so many things wrong with Vancouver. If that whale died of cancer then it was likely caused by depression. Jesus, even a whale needs sunshine and a winning hockey team and beer that doesn’t cost fifty f*cking dollars for a two-four.
Forbes — I don’t know how to react without sounding like an animal-hating gun nut, but here goes: whales die, in captivity as in the wild. Kavna was probably largin’ it for every last one of those 46 years she was alive. Meals provided, and a man writes a song about you destined to be sung at library story circles for decades or centuries to come? How many belugas wouldn’t sign up for that?
Spry — That’s sad. “Baby Beluga” was my jam for years.
Bifford — I agree with Orti on this one. Vancouver is a horrible city. People I meet when my wife and I return to visit her family in Europe say to me “Canada—oh, Vancouver!” I inform them that Vancouver is a city of violence and sickness, and that they should never go there. That a whale dies in Vancouver only confirms this. To hell with Vancouver.