Another new feature from The Barnstormer: The Round Bus, a weekly roundtable discussion of the world that is, that was, that be. More often than not The Round Bus will feature a few of The Barnstormer editors and some special guests. This week The Barn’s Ian Orti, Bryan Jay Ibeas, Andrew Forbes, and Mike Spry are joined by Montréal writer Jon Paul Fiorentino, author of Indexical Elegies and the upcoming Needs Improvement, in discussing Tim Thomas, Michael Phelps, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Toronto Blue Jays, and badminton. Seriously. Badminton.
Ian — Last week – or maybe it was the week before that, Stanley Cup Winning MVP Tim Thomas came out in support of Chick-A-Flick or Filet-O-Chick or some kind of chicken joint in the US because they took a stand on gay marriage. Then all hell broke loose on Tim Thomas, as is apt to happen to Tim Thomas in instances when he speaks his mind. I’m coming out in support of Tim Thomas. There, I said it, I love what Tim Thomas said, or rather, I love THAT Tim Thomas said (something), not because I support Chick-O-Lay (seriously someone help me here-I’m too lazy to look this shit up) or their ultra weird religious-militant stance on gay marriage – since their actual statement registered pretty high on the F*ckingCrazy meter – but I support Tim Thomas because I support any person who has an opinion they’re willing to voice. There is nothing more tiring than an athlete telling you how well the boys dug into the corners and how well the D shot blocked and kept the passes on the tape. Or worse, when a player defers difficult questions, such as the ones Thomas is evidently not afraid to share his opinion about – to a team media rep controller. I don’t give a shit that Thomas has been working hard with a goalie coach – I’m actually interested in his opinion about taxes, and the government, and maybe the war in Afghanistan. More of this please. But seriously, what’s that f*cking restaurant called? Chick-Fil-A? Is that it? What a shitty name if that’s the case. Also – does this mean that if a ton of gay couples went for fried chicken-lips at this restaurant they wouldn’t get served. My guess is they would get served which ends up just making the owners look like big shiny hypocrites which I’m sure is a big shiny sin punishable by an equally dark fate in the same Bible the Chick-Fil-A folks are throwing at homosexuals.
Spry — I’ve got a new infallible marketing plan for struggling companies in Middle America and Tea Party communities. Put out an outlandish, seemingly anachronistic press release stating that your company is against a civil or social right that only the unenlightened or morbidly racist would oppose. Though the inevitable onslaught of angry tweets and Facebook groups dedicated to hating the company will cause an immediate backlash, eventually other troglodyte homophobic tea baggers like Tim Thomas will come out publicly in defence the offensive opinions, and they’ll get a surge in business.
The worst kept secret in North American pro-sports is that the majority of its players are conservative. They are, for the most part, uneducated and extremely wealthy and know only that con governments will let them hold onto more of the millions of dollars they earn. There are more Tim Thomases in pro-sports than Steve Nashes and Andrew Ferences.
This begs the question: Is Tim Thomas now the most well-known NHL player in the US? Also, what the fuck is Chick-Fil-A? Seriously, someone help us out here. Is it like KFC?
Ibeas — This Tim Thomas episode reminds me of the vast disappointment I felt when I found out that Charles Barkley – one of the very few NBA players to say anything remotely sensible when Magic Johnson announced he was returning to play despite being HIV positive, and one of the very few active or former NBA players to say anything remotely sensible when John Amaechi spoke out about his homosexuality – was a raging Republican. I was also really disappointed to find out that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was also a Republican, not because he ever had anything sensible to say about anything, but because he was so damn cool.
Fiorentino — Timmy Thomas has quickly become the Curt Schilling of the NHL. It’s embarrassing. He has all the political insight and acumen of Hank Williams Jr. But perhaps worst of all, he is a Boston Bruin, which is sort of the worst thing a person can be. Honestly though, these hyper-conservative outbursts are bad for the NHL, bad for the Bruins, but probably good for Tim Thomas, who will no doubt get a show on conservative talk radio or the Fox network. Clearly that’s what he’s aiming for.
Forbes — The Tim Thomases and Chick-Fil-As of the world deserve one another. Let them bloviate conservatively until they’re blue in the face, as far as I’m concerned. I take Orti’s point about defending to the death Thomas’s right to say stupid things, but c’mon. It’s twenty-goddamn-twelve; can we agree that more love in the world is better than less, and get on with the real problems? It’s been hot as hell since April and the earth is baked hard as a pan because we insist on powering our plasma screens with lumps of coal. Can we worry about that? Can a major US restaurant chain come out with a firm position on that?
THROWING BADMINTON MATCHES
Ian — Jesus, leave it to a handful of badminton players to sully the spirit of the games by making a boring sport more boring. That being said, after the eight players were booted disgracefully from the games, the Canadian tandem of, no shit, Bruce/Li is now going for bronze.
Spry — Badminton? Really? The birdie is called a shuttlecock. Haha. Cock.
Ibeas — I make fun of badminton so that I will never have to play it and display my complete lack of talent in it.
Fiorentino — I am so down with Bruce/Li it’s not even funny. In pro sports, you can “suck for luck” and tank entire seasons. I actually don’t have a real problem with intentionally tanking a badminton match. What’s good for the Indianapolis Colts should be good for Wang Xiaoli and Yang Yu.
Forbes — If I’d paid six hundred quid for tickets to a badminton match, I’d firstly reexamine my life choices, but after I’d sorted that out I’d expect some stiff competition. Real cutthroat badminton.
And yet, if I’d paid $60 for Toronto Raptors tickets, I’d expect them to pull up short on jumpers and brick a few free throws in order to improve their draft position because, let’s be honest, Andrea Bargnani should not be the key to any franchise’s success.
I suppose what I’m saying is: the ethics of sport are complicated, and the ethics of the Olympics even moreso.
MICHAEL PHELPS SETS AN OLYMPIC RECORD WITH HIS 20TH GOLD MEDAL
Ian — Meh.
Spry — I already used my best line on Phelps for a paid piece for a well-known pornographer’s SFW online mag. But I can relay this short anecdote about when I was 12 and I told my dad I wanted to be a competitive swimmer. He said, “Martha, if you want to shave your legs and spend all your time getting wet with a bunch of dudes in speedos, you can move back in with your mother.”
Ibeas — The joke will be on all of America when Phelps reveals he’s actually a citizen of Atlantis.
Fiorentino — Michael Phelps is an emotional eater. Spry and Phelps have that in common. My body is eerily similar to Phelps. One more Phelps fact: Michael Phelps is married to well known anti-gay crusader, Fred Phelps.
Forbes — Something about Phelps’ personality and appearance makes this a hard sell for me. He is an amazing athlete, no question, a unique confluence of innate ability and relentless training. In these, his third and apparently final Olympic Games, he should appear the elder statesman on his victory/farewell tour, but instead he still looks like the lanky kid in the parking lot asking you to buy him beer because he “forgot his ID at home.”
Honestly, I have a conflicted relationship with swimming. My learning process was a long, tortured one, and still I forget to breathe. Watching the world’s best swimmers is a mind-boggling exercise for me. They appear to originate from a different planet, so alien are their physiques and freakish their ability to, you know, swim, and avoid drowning while doing so. So the greatest of them all is quite simply an individual I can’t fully contemplate. At a certain point my brain shuts down to preserve oxygen. The best I can manage is: Kudos, Michael Phelps. You’ve done amazing things.
SOME JAYS GETTING TRADED
Spry — I believe the reign of genius that has been the GM tenure of Alex Anthopoulos has come to an end. The Jays are going to finish 5th in the AL East. Brett Lawrie, for all the hustle and bluster, is having an average season and is not mentioned in the same breath as either Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Their middle infield of Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson redefines disappointing. More dudes have manned first base than manned my ex-girlfriend while we were engaged. Their rotation includes no less than four pitchers who no other team would start. Ricky Romero looks like the second coming of Gustavo Chacin. And at the non-waiver trade deadline they unloaded their once-prized Travis Snider for a middle reliever/spot started, and their opening day left fielder for a dude who was out of baseball, like, twenty minutes ago.
I miss the Expos.
Ian — Does Joe Carter still play for the Jays? And why isn’t it called SkyDome anymore? When did all this change?
Ibeas — I was so happy that Travis Snider was traded. Xenu knows we already have enough guys on the roster following the Eric Hinske career path.
I’m expecting Forbes to say something crushingly optimistic at this point.
Forbes — Snider was an appealing prospect but probably mishandled long ago and now a good bet for one of those “Change of Scenery” stories. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m happy for him to see the end of those Vegas-Toronto return flights. Toronto’s is still a deep organization that will more than weather the loss of a streaky hitter with no natural position within the organization.
Eric Thames was an intriguing guy, once upon a time. He flashed Gary Redus-like promise and, with his obvious fitness, seemed to fit the mold of what Anthopolous was trying to do in Toronto: build a team of athletes as opposed to hitters and fielders. But over time we have learned that there was nothing about him that couldn’t easily be replaced. So long, Eric.
I’m still aboard the AA Express, if that wasn’t already obvious. There’s no recovering from the ridiculous rash of injuries that have befallen the Jays this season. And I’m wondering if Romero won’t reveal some lingering injury at the end of the season that will explain his drop-off. No, I truly think this team is just a couple of big starters away from pushing for that juicy extra Wild Card spot (in 2013, of course).
Fiorentino — I am going to go out on a limb here and say that AA is not that smart. But it’s the Blue Jays so I really don’t care too much. I’m with Spry here. I miss the Expos. And how heartbreaking is it to see the former Expos finally contending?
WHY THE WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS ARE SUCKING?
Fiorentino — The Bombers are suffering partly because of injuries and partly because of the bloody-mindedness of their coaches and GM. Their inability to shore up the O-line and their unwillingness to see Buck Pierce for what he truly is — the Jesse Lumsden of quarterbacks — have led to this horrific start. The good news is that Joey Elliott and Alex Brink are actually better QBs than Pierce. And Chad Simpson and Chris Matthews have given Bomber nation reason to be optimistic. They will be 3-5 after this homestand and in a league where 6 of the 8 teams make the playoffs, there’s always hope.
Ian — The last time I went to a Bombers game with Jon Paul Fiorentino it was in the Grey Cup. I think that was 2000 or something. Maybe 2001. They lost. Evidently, little has changed.
Spry — What’s a “Winnipeg”? Sorry, JPF, couldn’t resist. I love Burton Cummings.
Ibeas — Sorry, the last time I gave any thought to the CFL was when I realized I had matured as a person because I didn’t think “Our balls are bigger” was all that funny.
Forbes — There’s clearly a team-wide malaise stemming from the crushing news that they’ll still be playing in Canad Inns Stadium until 2013 (they had been scheduled to move into their new digs, Investors Group Field, this season, but construction delays have scrapped that plan). That’s like having fresh new gear to rock at that killin’ housewarming jam at your buddy’s new pad, then falling asleep watching the new Dallas before you even leave the house. Bad news.
Also: Buck Pierce is not that good.
Ian — I think handball is the new football.
Forbes — I’m suffering Olympic burnout a bit early this go around. I had fun for a few days there, chuckling at Danny Boyle’s musical choices (The Prodigy? Oh HA!) and hoping for another Kate and Will sighting — and also the sports, I suppose — but it’s all gotten a bit stale, in my estimation. Maybe they ought to experiment with a condensed schedule, like the the 2011-12 NBA season?
In the meantime, I’ll be lakeside with the TV off and Sam Cooke’s rendition of “Summertime” on serious repeat.
Spry — The biography of this damned generation growing up on Twitter and Facebook will be titled: Nobody Gives a Fuck About Your Cats.
Ibeas — As sickened as I am by oil company propaganda, I’m also glad public opinion has turned to the point where these corporations feel like they actually have to defend their good names.
Fiorentino — Kenny Loggins changed the world for the better when he wrote “Danger Zone”. We desperately need a new “Danger Zone”. It’s the only thing that can save us from ourselves and the menace of ObamaCare.