It was Electoral Process Week here at the Barnstormer, as we spent a good deal of time paying attention to the fallout from the RNC, the provincial election of a xenophobe separatist premier in Quebec, and the Return of Bubba, Bill Clinton back in the spotlight. Is it the 90s? My discman says yes, but my student debt says no.
This week on the Round Bus we are so very honoured to be joined by Toronto writer David Brock. Brock is a playwright, poet, librettist and occasional sport blogger. His plays and operas have been produced in Canada, the US, and Europe. He has written two chapbooks of poetry: Gasmask Summer (Emergency Response Unit, 2009) and Black Metal Melody (Ferno House, 2011), and a first collection of poetry is forthcoming from publisher Wolsak and Wynn in 2014.
DION PHANEUF ENGAGED TO ELISHA CUTHBERT
Spry — Cuthbert is the ultimate puck bunny. I fully expect Sean Avery to break up the wedding ceremony, then they’ll be a pew-clearing brawl.
Also, the Leafs suck. Had to be said.
Brock — As a Round Bus rookie, I was nervous that I’d be the only one to make a Sean Avery reference and that the safety of the reference would be a product of rookie jitters. Sort of like how David Wilson, the second coming of Brandon Jacobs, fumbled for the Giants in his second professional carry on Wednesday night football (yeah yeah, I picked Wilson in my fantasy league).
Do Phaneuf and Cuthbert have an official portmanteau yet? Phanbert? Cuthneuf? Cuthneuf sounds too dirty to be in the Globe and Mail Arts section. Whether it’s love or an I-told-you-so to Sean Avery, Phanbert’s combined talent score comes in well under Mike Fisher-Carrie Underwood but slightly above Hilary Duff-Mike Comrie. I’m not sure where Carol Alt-Alexei Yashin fit in on the power couple talent scale. As a huge fan of 24, I always saw Elisha Cuthbert with someone a bit more Scott Gomez-y.
Spry — Phanbert! Dear Lord, I can see the t-shirts now. Let’s trademark that.
Along the lines of puck bunnies, we should have had topic about Paulina Gretzky, and her inevitable TMZ moment of grand shame that rocks Canada, but Americans won’t care about. Like, she’s dating a cast member from Heartland or it’s discovered she’s having an “affair” with Kerry Fraser.
Orti — They say that behind every great man is a great woman. But in fact it’s beSIDE every great man is a great woman. Most often it’s the great woman that makes the man great, and not the other way around. What this engagement means to me, as a Leafs fan, is that Dion Phaneuf will now be a greater man. A greater individual. A greater Leaf. And the greater the Leaf, the greater the Leafs. In my books, Dion and Elisha are the Becks and Posh of the NHL and I for one will be throwing confetti off the overpasses of the Don Valley Parkway on the day of their marriage.
Ibeas — Guys, leave Cuthbert alone. I grew up on Popular Mechanics for Kids.
Forbes — Benefit of the doubt here. People marry for love, except when they don’t.
A SEPARATIST MINORITY GOVERNMENT IN QUEBEC
Brock — I’m cowering in the corner here. My knowledge of the sociopolitical climate in Quebec is limited to Michel Tremblay plays, Mike Spry’s blog, and a few beer runs in the mid-90s to Timiskaming when I was still underage. Until Twitter told me that shots were fired in QC, I was watching the Democratic National Convention on CNN, drying my tears from Michelle Obama’s speech, yelling at Ari Fleischer’s mug.
Spry — The Bus’ first Bunny Tremblay reference! Brock wins! Brock wins! Oh, wait. That’s Michel Larocque. What mid-80s Nordiques or Habs team did Michel Tremblay play for?
Orti — I would like the English language media to rise to the fucking occasion and please tell me, and my Francophone friends with whom I eat, drink, laugh, share, and occasionally, sleep with, what they mean by friction and tension between the two groups. Otherwise, I’d like to see the Liberal Party of Canada stop ushering in conservative governments because they are corrupt, morally and financially.
Ibeas — Every time I read “minority government”, my heart leaps like a demented stag, until I realize that phrase does not mean what I wish it means.
Forbes — Political violence is, of course, deplorable, and The Barnstormer condemns it. Beyond the life lost and those shattered, there’s a secondary concern that one man’s actions could wrest the narrative of Quebec politics away from those other events of Tuesday night: namely that Quebec decided a bigoted party of separatists was preferable to Charest’s clumsy and brutal mishandling of the public trust, which is an historically significant moment.
But I assume the question was meant to bring up something about the Nordiques. That’s why it’s the lead-off topic in this sports roundtable, right?
Spry — Exactly, Forbes. I was hoping someone would bring that up—hence the off-sports topic. Charest played the “a separatist government means you won’t get your Nordiques back” card, which reeked of desperations. Plus, didn’t Manitoba separate in 1978? And they got they Jets back, so…
NCAA FOOTBALL SEASON HAS BEGUN, A BILLION DOLAR INDUSTRY. IS IT TIME TO PAY THE PLAYERS?
Spry — I would imagine Orti, who unionized nap time in a Kingston nursery school in the mid-70s, would disagree with me, but I say no. NCAA players on scholarship receive what amounts to around 35K per year, by way of not having to pay tuition. You know how many 18 year-olds are pulling in 35K? That’s not counting the illegal funds, cars, diamond studs, and Vegas vacations being coming to them under the table. You know how much money I made going to university? Negative 20K a year.
Where I do think the players need to have a fund from which to divide evenly among all of them, is when the NCAA uses their likenesses in video games or jersey sales. All monies collected from these types of initiatives should be put in a big pot, and given to the players as a bonus at the end of each year.
Brock — Grumpy Old Man Answer Addressed to an Invisible Chair: No. You’re getting free school and your grades likely didn’t warrant the quality of education and social development you have the opportunity to receive. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, kids—I’ll be damned if now I’m gonna pay you to eat lunch.
Rationale Adult Answer with an Information Shortcoming: Maybe. At the very least, some sort of alumni insurance plan/danger play that compensates for injuries that prevent future employment. Maybe this already exists.
A Man with Regrets Answer Rant: As soon as I was older than the players in the World Junior Hockey tournament, I stopped being that excited to watch it. It’s petty jealousy, but I struggle to cheer for the athletic or economic success of teenagers. I’m not unreasonable though, so pay the third and fourth years—to hell with freshman and sophomores. Get to class! Learn something! Do all the things I never did! And what about the slippery slope of other University organizations wanting to get paid for their services to the University community. Does the tuba player in the marching band get paid or is that part of their education, learning to perform in front of a large audience? Man, I wish I learned to play the tuba. Is anyone going to read my Round Bus contributions? Does milk mix well with Tanqueray?
Spry — My ex-wife drank milk and Tanqueray when she was mad. Then she became lactose intolerant. And promiscuous. Long story. Ian?
Orti — Spry, by your rationale, a university that makes millions or tens of millions based on the performance of its players is justified in throwing crumbs at the players who generate this revenue. Try to imagine a player who lives off tuna and second hand clothes (although his tuition is paid for) walking by a local sports shop seeing a jersey with his number on it selling for $120 and who sees thousands of these jerseys on a weekly basis while on campus or playing on the field and you’ll know why I think these players need a union.
Ibeas — I have nothing but bile and venom for the circus that is US college sports. So the most diplomatic response I have to this question is that they can do whatever the hell they want. Call me when college culture starts placing greater value on pure research than on tournament brackets.
Forbes — Yes.
NFL SEASON OPENS WITH REPLACEMENT OFFICIALS
Brock — There are worse things in the world than having high school gym teachers officiate professional football games; it might even be a bit of perverse fun. Though, okay, I hear the safety argument if players take advantage. I’m not quite sure how I got on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s email list, but once a month, he uses NFL letterhead to address The Fans. His last email was all about the NFL prohibition on bounties and he stressed the following:
As always, we hold everyone, including ourselves, strictly accountable for protecting the integrity of the game, starting with the health and safety of our players. (Goodell 2012)
No mention of the referee situation, but nary a paragraph passes where Goodell doesn’t use the word “safety” or one of its synonyms. So, okay, replacement referees might jeopardize player safety, but so do the following:
Playing with a lacerated spleen: Jason Witten begged to play with a “just healed” lacerated spleen despite some trepidation from doctors. My physiology classes from undergrad are rusty, so I had to Google spleen—having a lacerated one seems unpleasant. Looking at the photos of a lacerated spleen, I have just developed a psychic pain in the spleen area. It’s getting me out of doing the dishes, but if it’s still around tomorrow, I’m going to a walk-in clinic.
Driving While Intoxicated: Does anyone have stats on the number of players who picked up DUIs this offseason? If the NFL is truly worried about player safety, how about a driver-for-hire-program? Maybe tie it into the Obama job creation platform.
Being Mark Sanchez: You’re telling me an evangelical Tim Tebow fan isn’t going to go Tonya Harding/Jeff Gillooly on Sanchez’s knee one of these days? For the safety of Sanchez, Goodell should have taken a page from David Stern, vetoed the trade, and given Tebow a two year salvation mandate in placid Jacksonville.
350 pound men who can run fast: AKA, the reason the game is watched.
Secret Bounties: They’re still around, no?
Orti — I will say this and this only: the best pizza in Berlin is served on Stargarder strasse near a Pakistani restaurant. If you go there enough times, as I do, Emilio, a Roman emigre, will serve you an extra glass of wine and probably a grappa.
Spry — This will be the most over-written, over-played story of the new season. The officials are hardly competent, and make good money to work once a week, six months a year. Many of them are doctors, lawyers, or retired rich white dudes. Let them strike. At the end of the day someone will still win the Super Bowl. Except, not the New York Giants.
Ibeas — I yearn for the day when all human officials are replaced by computers and robots. People need to start believing their sports are enthralling enough that they don’t need the added narratives created by idiot officiating.
Forbes — Does Keanu Reeves already have the script in hand for The Replacements 2: Blowing the Whistle? In which he and the other replacement players from the first film are called on to come in and officiate games? Because wow. Hilarious!
You know what I always hated about the movie The Replacements? The fact that it wasn’t about The Replacements.
ONE WEEK BEFORE THE NHL CBA EXPIRES
Brock — Again? With the NFL spreading out its games over the week, an autumn promise to myself that I will read more Canadian books, and the possibility that with some careful channel management, I could watch televised poker for 24 hours straight, it’s, sadly, too easy to forget that NHL hockey exists. It’s become the NCIS of the big four professional sports. I guess the NFL would be Breaking Bad (huge gaps between exciting seasons whetting the public desire for more), MLB would be Two and a Half Men (you kind of know what’s going on without ever watching it), and the NBA would be like Say Yes to the Dress (it’s okay if you like it, but don’t ask me to watch with you unless we can gamble on it).
Orti — If this season goes to strike I will assemble an 82 game video collection of past Leafs victories and watch them over the course of the season so that they go 82-0. Then, that will be my reality and I when people say the Leafs never went 82-0 in the 2012-13 season, I will say, “But you can’t prove that they didn’t.” Also, didn’t I fucking talk about this shit a few weeks back?
Spry — No hockey will give me more time to profess my love for Kelley O’Hara.
Ibeas — No hockey will give me more time to follow the much more engrossing Spry/O’Hara drama.
Spry — You’re my boy…Ibeas!
Forbes — Public sympathy is a slippery fish. The players think they have it in hand right now. Don’t be so sure you’ll have it in a week’s time, boys. I just hope both sides recognize the true stakes here, namely that while they’re bickering over the size of their pie slices, the relevance of the game in all those fence-sitting markets — the ones where the money flows like sweet honey and the dollah billz smell like lilac bushes and Drakkar Noir and fresh-baked banana bread — hangs precariously in the balance. Meanwhile, a billion TV hours on CBC, Sportsnet and TSN threaten to go dark. We might all be watching tape delayed KHL games soon.
Brock — Alexei Yashin still plays in the KHL. Does Carol Alt winter in Saint Petersburg?
BASEBALL IS HEADED FOR THE POSTSEASON STRETCH
Brock — When I was five, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up: I said a Detroit Tiger (the baseball player, not a zoo animal). If the Tigers squeeze into the playoffs, I’ll catch the fever; if not, does anyone know when season three of The Voice starts?
Spry — I love playoff baseball, third only to the NHL and March Madness in sporting postseasons. (Shut up with your NFL playoffs. Overrated.) Last season will be hard to beat, what with games 162 from heaven and all that. I’d like to see the As make it, if just because a Moneyball sequel would be sweet. That Brad Pitt is dreamy. Also, I’d like to see the Yankees fall apart down the stretch, if just so that I can start to get death threats from Yankees fans again, like that time my collection of poetry The Yankees are Cheaters and So Was She: Poems About My Ex and the Bronx Bombers was shortlisted for a Griffin.
In the NL, I’ve already written about why I’d like to see the Dodgers make a run. If the Nats do anything of note, it’ll break my Expos heart (even though Forbes says it’s ok). I’m not a huge Braves guy, but to see Chipper Jones win one in his last year would be cool. And his name is Chipper. But seriously, the Marlins sucked so anything that happens after that in the NL is all cherries on gluten-free ice cream for me.
Ibeas — I hate the Yankees, but I like Ichiro. I hope he does something cool. Whoops, I guess that makes me a Yankee fan after all.
Forbes — Every year I hope for two things: for an unlikely team to put the pieces together and actually threaten the established baseball order, and for a perennial contender to undergo an historic late season collapse. (In my wish for these two things will you find a pretty decent encapsulation of my character.) Might both of these teams reside in the AL East this year? I’m looking at you, Baltimore, and you, New York. Entertain me!
Orti — All your bases are belong to us.
Forbes — Once we’re done here, I’m headed down to the Rogers Centre to pour a 40 over the grave of the Jays’ season. So tragic. Who’s with me?
Spry — I’m in, Forbes. Then we should set fire to Ricky Romero’s Escalade. Then go for Vietnamese sandwiches.
Ibeas — Count me out. I cried my last tears for the Jays when Alex Rios got flesh-eating disease. Possibly from a sandwich.
Orti — Currywurst is curry at its worst.
Brock — Predictions for 2012: Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl. Some Barnstormer Senior Editors get a rap sheet for vehicular arson. Carol Alt googles her own name, and this conversation comes up.