Kwasi.on.Sports

Diverse thoughts on a diversity of Sports

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For Canadian Basketball Fans, the future is bright and it starts this March

Every March, for as long as I can remember, the Canadian traditions of one last snowstorm, March Break and the Spring thaw has always been accompanied by being glued to the television watching college basketball south of the border.  Lately though, this tradition of watching the NCAA basketball tournaments (both Men’s and Women’s) has been progressively giving Canadians more pride.  Increasingly, there has been a pipeline of young Canadian basketball players heading down south for prep schools before university which has made following the full crop of emerging young players in the National program a little trickier. For those of you who didn’t know, that future is bright.  Very bright, And unlike many athletes in other sports who we’ve seen choose other nations (Canadian soccer needs you Jonathan De Guzman and Junior Hoilett), most of these young ballers seem committed to building a successful program here at home.  That means that the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games could well have our Canadian team on the podium in basketball which means the best is yet to come. 

The future starts with the best high school basketball player in the world and #1 recruit in the 2013 recruiting class Andrew Wiggins.  He is by far the best young player Canada has ever produced and he has already  been compared to that Lebron guy you may have heard of.  Pressure filled comparisons aside, as a 6’8 wing whose all around talent and athleticism is off the charts, his star power alone would be enough to put Canada on the map for sometime to come.  Luckily for him, he’ll have some company at the next level and that starts with Cleveland Cavaliers Power Forward and the highest Canadian draft pick ever (#4 in 2011) Tristan Thompson.  Add in other recent young Canadian first round draft picks in guard Cory Joseph and Andrew Nicholson, and you’ve got a young nucleus for a future team.

Some additional names that have made headlines in college ball recently or are about to this March are …

- National Player of the year favourite and dominant big man Kelly Olynyk.  There are reasons why Gonzaga managed to get a number one seed for the first time and he and fellow Canadian starter Kevin Pangos are two of them.

- ACC Freshman of the Year Olivier Hanlan.  While his Boston College team will not be in the tournament this year, he did set the ACC freshmen tournament record for 3 pointers and points (41) in an ACC tournament game.  

- National Freshman of the year candidate UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.  His all around game and consistent play will be on display in UNLV’s first round game against California this weekend.  Watch him.

- Nik Stauskas is a young shooting guard at the University of MIchigan whose steady play has helped his Big 10 team excel this year.  If Michigan makes a deep run this year, don’t be surprised if he’s a big part of their success.

Lastly, here’s a look at a possible Canadian Men’s basketball roster in the future. There is depth at every spot, star power, athleticism and balance.  I can’t wait….

Point Guard

Myck Kabongo (Texas), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse recruit)

Shooting Guard

Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Nick Stauskas (Michigan)

Small Forward 

Andrew Wiggins (undecided), Anthony Bennett (UNLV), Khem Birch (UNLV)

Power Forward

Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Trey Lyles (undecided), Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky)

Centre

Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic), Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State), 

Filed under Kwasi.on.Sports @Kwasi_on_Sports CanadianBBall Wiggins Olynyk Gonzaga Kabongo Pangos Olympics March Madness

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What Manti Te’o has taught us
There aren’t many stories that are as tangled and just plain confusing as the Manti Te’o story. Some of the points are still up for debate but the following is a quick summary:
Te’o was a captain and leader of the resurgent Notre Dame football season that saw them make it to the BCS Championship Game.  He finished second in Heisman voting and was phenomenal on the football field.  Off the field, he gained notoriety as great person on campus who had overcome intense heartache and struggle throughout the year.  In September, his grandmother lost her fight with cancer and 6 hours later his girlfriend, who had been fighting Leukemia for a year since a severe car crash, passed away as well.  His legend grew as he persevered through this difficult period.  
This week, deadspin.com broke the story that Te’o never actually saw his girlfriend  in person.  Here are the pertinent facts from that article:
"There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.
Lennay Kekua’s last words to Manti Te’o were not “I love you.”
The story also said that his family had lied about having met her and that while he did initially think his girlfriend had died in September, he found out in December that she was still alive.  He never said that publicly and though Notre Dame did their own investigation, he continued to refer to her as another cancer victim who he lost in September.  The explanations for this saga have ranged from the fact that Te’o is gay and that Kekua was his way of masking his sexuality, that he is a compulsive liar or that he is indeed the victim to an online prank gone horribly wrong.
While it is difficult to figure out which one of those possibilities (or combinations) is the truth, rather than question and scrutinize Te’o more, it’s more productive to see what this situation says about us as a society. We’ve been reminded of the following:
- That a near perfect athlete does not necessarily make a near perfect person (in fact it rarely does).
- That a near perfect person does not necessarily make a near perfect athlete.
- That it is still difficult for a great young football player to be gay (either openly or not).  Cyd Zeigler Jr. who writes for outsports.com and was “bombarded with texts, emails and calls” about Te’o puts it this way:
"I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they’re out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic."
- That a great football player could have mental health issues
- That a life consisting of a Mormon upbringing, attending a Catholic University and playing football would be extremely challenging arenas for a gay man.
- That young adults who under pressure make mistakes.
The last point we know to be true but have simply been reminded of.  I feel that the positive fallout from this situation are that the discussion around an openly gay athlete in football are being discussed and that the pressures on young athletes can be overwhelming.  It would be nice to see mental health also discussed (if he did in fact invent the whole thing) and continue discussion that show it be time to re-visit how we treat college athletes. Why put these young men and women who are already under so much pressure under more at such a young age when they are still learning to be adults?  
Gay or not, compulsive liar or not, let’s hope Te’o can make his mark on the field free of additional public scrutiny.  Let’s not forget the real reason we know his name in the first place: he’s a great young linebacker. 

What Manti Te’o has taught us

There aren’t many stories that are as tangled and just plain confusing as the Manti Te’o story. Some of the points are still up for debate but the following is a quick summary:

Te’o was a captain and leader of the resurgent Notre Dame football season that saw them make it to the BCS Championship Game.  He finished second in Heisman voting and was phenomenal on the football field.  Off the field, he gained notoriety as great person on campus who had overcome intense heartache and struggle throughout the year.  In September, his grandmother lost her fight with cancer and 6 hours later his girlfriend, who had been fighting Leukemia for a year since a severe car crash, passed away as well.  His legend grew as he persevered through this difficult period.  

This week, deadspin.com broke the story that Te’o never actually saw his girlfriend  in person.  Here are the pertinent facts from that article:

"There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.

Lennay Kekua’s last words to Manti Te’o were not “I love you.”

The story also said that his family had lied about having met her and that while he did initially think his girlfriend had died in September, he found out in December that she was still alive.  He never said that publicly and though Notre Dame did their own investigation, he continued to refer to her as another cancer victim who he lost in September.  The explanations for this saga have ranged from the fact that Te’o is gay and that Kekua was his way of masking his sexuality, that he is a compulsive liar or that he is indeed the victim to an online prank gone horribly wrong.

While it is difficult to figure out which one of those possibilities (or combinations) is the truth, rather than question and scrutinize Te’o more, it’s more productive to see what this situation says about us as a society. We’ve been reminded of the following:

- That a near perfect athlete does not necessarily make a near perfect person (in fact it rarely does).

- That a near perfect person does not necessarily make a near perfect athlete.

- That it is still difficult for a great young football player to be gay (either openly or not).  Cyd Zeigler Jr. who writes for outsports.com and was “bombarded with texts, emails and calls” about Te’o puts it this way:

"I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they’re out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic."

- That a great football player could have mental health issues

- That a life consisting of a Mormon upbringing, attending a Catholic University and playing football would be extremely challenging arenas for a gay man.

- That young adults who under pressure make mistakes.

The last point we know to be true but have simply been reminded of.  I feel that the positive fallout from this situation are that the discussion around an openly gay athlete in football are being discussed and that the pressures on young athletes can be overwhelming.  It would be nice to see mental health also discussed (if he did in fact invent the whole thing) and continue discussion that show it be time to re-visit how we treat college athletes. Why put these young men and women who are already under so much pressure under more at such a young age when they are still learning to be adults?  

Gay or not, compulsive liar or not, let’s hope Te’o can make his mark on the field free of additional public scrutiny.  Let’s not forget the real reason we know his name in the first place: he’s a great young linebacker. 

Filed under KWasi_on_Sports @KWasi_on_Sports mant te'o notre dame football homophobia gay in football mental health collegesports

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Why, Ben? Let’s lose the comma!

With Lance Armstrong joining the long, LONG, list of “disgraced” athletes who have cheated their sport by using Performance Enhancing Drugs, I feel it’s time to revisit to the unofficial “poster boy” for steroids and see how different these two stories really are. I feel that while time has played a role in all of this as we now understand how widespread PEDs really are, race and nationality play a big role too.  Ben Johnson as a Jamaican born, Black sprinter was left with no support though he accepted his fate as a guilty athlete.  Armstrong on the other hand, armed with the privilege of being a white, male, American athlete not only denied his guilt but sued and silenced those who presented facts that showed his drug use and is yet to appear truly apologetic or genuine in an admission. Below is a are some relevant facts that show just how different the two are:

Admission

BEN: Once tests were made public and evidence was present of his drug use during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Ben admitted guilt and has ever since. In fact, his admission and lack of denial most likely lead to his “poster boy“ status.

LANCE: After close to a decade of evidence showing his PED use, Armstrong used lawsuits and threats to further defend himself. Immediately after retiring, Armstrong continued the fight for his innocence. His admission only came after countless inquiries showed evidence of his drug use and doping.

Requests after admission

BEN: For the sport of Sprinting to be looked at in general and cleaned up. Argued then and continues to argue now that Sprinting as a sport is dirty “before his time, during his time and after his time.” He has argued that he is one of many sprinters to have used PEDs but part of a select few that got caught.

LANCE: Based on the timing of his interview with Oprah, many observers thought that Armstrong’s only motivation was to free himself of some guilt but mainly to try and be reinstated as a potential triathlete. When asked by Oprah Winfrey about whether he hoped to compete again, he replied:

“When you see the punishment – I would go back and say you are trading my story for a six-month ban [the punishment cyclists who testified against Armstrong were given] – so I got a death penalty, meaning I can’t compete…I hope to run the Chicago Marathon when I’m 50.”

This quote along with his seeming cold and distant body language point to a lack of remorse that many observers were hoping for.

Support Network in place

BEN: Once found guilty, Johnson was cast aside by the Canadian Olympic Committee and left to defend himself. In fact, he was presented as an individual renegade to the point that his coach, Charlie Francis who provided the steroids, was active in track training soon after the 88 Olympics. The COC has never backed Johnson and joined in the global effort to label him a cheat and disgrace him.

LANCE: So far, the facts point to possibly the most intricate and complex doping scheme that the sporting world has ever seen. Armstrong’s cycling team was not only supportive in his exploits but rumours are now surfacing of just how much of a bully Lance was to his teammates and other cyclists.  There are stories of his demeaning and ostracizing anyone who threatened to speak out about his team’s drug practices. 

Immediate Public Reaction

BEN: Hatred. After being celebrated as Canada’s track hero, Johnson was quickly described as the Jamaican sprinter, who represented Canada. This change was accompanied by the Canadian public distancing themselves from the disgrace that he brought them.

LANCE: Before his admission there seemed to be two groups. Those who thought he was cheating and didn’t need his admission and those who didn’t care. The reaction immediately after has been similar where some have defended him and others continue to hate that he lied.

Filed under Kwasi.on.Sports @Kwasi_on_Sports Lance Armstrong Ben Johnson Oprah Steriods race privilege Tour de France cycling Canada 1998 Seoul Olypics cheating drug testing

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"Well it’s stupid and MAYBE offensive but I don’t know if it’s racist…"

Trigger #1: Tyler Bozak completed his Bill O’Reilly hat trick within the last three years by using blackface to be Michael Jackson. Step 1 was dressing with friends in blackface and wearing dreadlocks as Jamaican bobsledder in 2012 which was followed by step 2 when he defended Raffi Torres’s black face Jay Z costume in 2011.

Trigger #2: Terry Bradshaw says on air that running back Reggie Bush (who is Black) was running for a touchdown “like he was chasing a bucket of chicken that the wind was blowing”. 

There was a time when society was so racist that there were no limits to how minorities were treated or represented in the media. Blackface, minstrel shows and segregation were the “norm”, so there was no need for the media to portray something other than what society accepted.

The civil rights movement raised awareness which caused society to change and thus the media began it’s slow, painstaking journey to social equality. This began with questioning what might be offensive to others or even racist. Mass media moves slowly and as late as the 80’s you’d be surprised as to what was still acceptable (I am well aware that there are still examples but it was worse, trust me). If you don’t want to take my word for it, here are some Examples

From there we moved into a time where people were very concerned with not appearing racist or offensive in their ignorance.  I’m thinking of the times where people (and media) first started to wonder if to say black, dark skinned, African-American or yet another description of someone who is part of the African diaspora. In this period of sensitivity and internal questioning, everyone’s radar was honed in and we could detect that insensitive comments and actions were racist, offensive and stupid.

So where are we now?  I’d argue we’ve taken a few steps backwards. Today, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and feelings which therefore means that very little self reflection or consideration for others takes place.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the media and non marginalized people feel the need to protect their self interests and opinions rather than think of the effect they might have on others. This is, at least in part, because we have moved into a “post-racial” era where everyone is “colour-blind”, and therefore “not racist”. 

Racist and stupid have somehow become mutually exclusive.  Rather than question if something is offensive, the media simply blankets all racist, sexist or homophobic incidents by saying it “might” be offensive.  No self reflection needed, just know that it could be offensive. How did we get here? How did we get to a place where a 23 year old hockey player wearing blackface or a 52 year old media analyst could still be protected by a shield of ignorance, and not have to pay the price for being racist as well as stupid?  

For many this issue comes back to “clear intent”, but that line of thinking is neither acceptable or progressive, especially from media figures.  Yes, there are still many actions that are extremely racist because they have intent and planning but the increased use of this “racist scale” is dangerous. The way this scale works is that things aren’t racist because there is something else more racist. Monkey chants at black footballers in Europe? That’s racist. Wearing black face on Halloween? It’s “stupid” but is it “racist”? (The answer by the way is yes).  

As a minority, this scale is about as useful as a moisture scale that debates whether something damp is truly wet because something else is soaked.  They are ALL wet!

Rather than question whether something stupid is also offensive and racist, ask yourself why you think it’s stupid.  Chances are it’s stupidity is rooted in institutionalized racism which as the name suggests, is racist and therefore offensive.  

Filed under Kwasi.on.sports @Kwasi_on_Sports Terry Bradshaw NFL NHL Tyler Bozak Reggie Bush bucketofchicken blackface Stupidvsracist Racist Racisminsports Offensive Media

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Forget 1992, the 2012 Lakers are Stern’s REAL Dream Team

Commissioner’s dream exit: A Laker’s Championship

David Stern has recently announced that he will be ending his 30 year reign over the NBA in February of 2014. His trusted side kick Adam Silver will be taking over a league that has seen unprecedented growth with Stern in charge.  He took a league that up until 1981 had its Finals series shown on tape delay after the news and reruns of sitcoms to a multi billion dollar industry that is now rivalling football as the world’s game. Of course, his reign hasn’t been all roses. In recent years: vetoed Chris Paul trade and unreal suspensions that fixed the 2007 Suns-Spurs series while in past years playing Robin hood stealing picks from the Blazers to hand the Mavericks to entice new owners in the early 1980’s. Not to mention his hands on manipulation of the lottery: Ewing to the Knicks, Lebron to the Cavs, Irving to the Cavs, his latest phenomenon of any owner who sends a child wins and on a local level, the Raptors and Grizzlies not being able to win for their first 3 years in the league.  Many don’t realize that the Raps won the lottery in 96 but had to pick second based on expansion rules. The difference? Just that the Raptors got Marcus Camby instead of Allen Iverson. 

In terms of previewing the 2012-2013 season there is no question as to which team he wants to see victorious: the Lakers.  Not only do they play in the most major of major markets and have a plethora of high profile fans, they are also one of the two franchises that helped Stern shape this league (the Celtics being the other).  As if that isn’t enough, the real reason why Stern would love to see the Lakers win is that their present roster represents a multitude of Stern successes: globalization with three stars who were raised outside of the U.S. in Gasol (Spain), Bryant (Italy) and Nash (Canada), a possible rehabilitation story in Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest, making Howard a champion to cement his place as a possible legend to make people forget Shaq and a championship for Mike Brown who once guided over now anti hero Lebron James and the Heat.  Think about it, the league couldn’t approve the Chris Paul trade that would have rejuvenated fans after the lockout due to perceived imbalance BUT approved a trade that saw 3 teams improved dramatically with new stars (Denver - Iguodala, Philadelphia - Bynum and the Lakers with Howard) and the team who gave up the most, Orlando end up with Afflalo and 3 late draft picks? Really? That trade was approved? 

Needless to say Stern has gone far and wide to try and make the NBA market synonymous with the global market and watching Kid Canada, the Black Mamba and Pau lift the trophy would be the ultimate icing on the cake.  It would ensure viewer-ship is up in non traditional markets and also provide tons of half time specials on how each came to the game.  Having the new Superman along for the ride would help people forget about the once tumultuous times in LA between Kobe and a dominant big man while also help leave the league’s power franchise and the league itself, in a star’s hands on Stern’s way out.  The fact that Mike Brown who couldn’t seem to control and create a system for the league’s best player while in Cleveland could now win a championship that would give both him and LBJ both one would be unreal.

That being said, Stern’s dream may not become a reality.  But there is every chance that the Miami - Los Angeles final could easily occur and lead to the commissioner’s ideal series.

Filed under Los Angeles Lakers @Kwasi_on_Sports NBA 2012 Pau Gasol Kobe Bryant Steve Nash Dwight Howard NBA Preview Global Basketball Canada Spain Italy Mike Brown Lebron James Miami Heat

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Yesterday, Lincoln Alexander, a Canadian trailblazer and human rights icon passed away at the age of 90.  I can’t help but feel that few people lived a more eventful or “impactful” 90 years and for those reasons while it is sad when someone passes, I feel we should definitely celebrate his life and his candour.  Any man who lived life honestly, spoke freely and defined hard work by always persevering, has earned the right to be recognized in the many that he already has been (and hopefully will continue to be posthumously. When the opportunity presents itself, make sure that you read his autobiography,”Go to school, you’re a little black boy” or view the documentary with the same title that chronicles how the son of a maid and a porter could go on to become an MP and Lieutenant Governor. In dissecting his story and reflecting on his life its amazing that the place he called home was also home to an athletic icon who himself is living a distinguished life.  

Chuck Ealey, who was the focus for Stone Thrower, the fantastic Charles Officer documentary which is part of the TSN Engraved on A Nation series, also achieved racial and professional success in Hamilton.  As a young man growing up in Ohio, Ealey was fortunate to end up at a high school where his coach was less concerned with the stigma of a black quarterback and much more concerned with winning. With winning as his focus, he decided he would give Ealey the start and he never looked back.  All he did, was lead them to several State Championships. He was recruited to play at the University of Miami BUT as a third string quarterback, so he opted for the University of Toledo where he could start immediately.  Toledo lost the last game before Ealey arrived and lost the first game after he graduated but a funny thing happened in between: they went 35-0! The Ealey led Toledo team completed the longest unbeaten streak in Collegiate football history.    

   Think it was enough to make him an NFL top pick? Nope! Again he was asked to switch positions to either running back, cornerback or wide receiver.  Much like Linc did before, he refused to take no for an answer and told NFL teams that if he wasn’t going to play quarterback, they shouldn’t draft him.  In the end that brought him to the CFL where he lead the Hamilton Tiger Cats to the 1972 Grey Cup.  

In a time when our youth struggle to find appropriate role models and are unsure of where to turn when they need guidance, I’d like to propose these two gentlemen as Canadian heroes.  If you feel like there are some obstacles that are standing in your way be it race, sex or economics, look at these two men.  They managed to work hard, try their best and when they were told no, work harder. I feel we’ve lost one hero but at a time when we usually look south for black heroes, we can stay right here in Canada and find a two legends who helped build Hamilton.

Filed under Lincoln Alexander @Kwasi_on_Sports Kwasi.on.sports Canadian Lieutenant Governor Black MP CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats BlackQB

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In short, the NHL has turned what is supposed to be an exciting and joyous weekend into a depressing and uneventful one.  Rather than think about the amazing combination of Eric and Jordan Staal playing together in Carolina or why one win in the pre-season means we can plan a parade here in Toronto, there is nothing.  Nothing in LA where the Kings did what Gretzky couldn’t by bringing a Cup to Hollywood, nothing in Toronto where new ownership means that the Leafs will have nothing to hold them back and nothing in Winnipeg, where after waiting for so long to get their beloved team back, there is nothing.  

Considering NHL fans found themselves in this exact situation just 8 years ago, it begs the question: What is the NHL thinking? Last year when the NFL and NBA both went through work stoppages, there was a feeling among sports fans that the last NHL lockout was inevitable and something that modern day sports leagues can’t avoid.  If the mighty NFL could end up in a work stoppage, then so could any other league.  The problem is that while the NFL lockout was definitely not going to impact the length of the season and games played (there was just too much money to be made/lost) and the NBA lockout pointed to a shorter season, there is no such optimism when it comes to the NHL. The league lost a lot of fans the last time they were locked out to MMA and Poker and there is reason to believe that some fans who leave this time around south of the border may not return.

NHL Owners have put themselves in a situation where I find it difficult to not place much of the blame on them. Consider:

-      NHL Revenues have grown 50% since the last lockout to roughly 1.7 billion dollars

-      The NHL will not release information on which organizations are losing money, or how much money they are losing.

-      During the last lockout, the owners were seen as big winners by getting players to agree to a salary cap which they now say isn’t working.

-      NHL teams continued to sign players to lengthy, expensive contracts (Minnesota Wild anyone?) though they claim that revenues are in danger and that players are making too much money.

I struggle around this idea that the players are making too much money and it’s a huge problem since it is the owners and management themselves who decide on how much money the players make.  Fact is that until the owners find somewhere to make public what exactly the NHL is danger of losing or struggling with financially, the players will continue to get my sympathy.  After all, many NHL teams continue to save on money during this lockout which again points to their lack of motivation in trying to engineer a fair and quick end to this lockout.

Considering that the NHL and its fans found themselves in this exact situation just 8 years ago, it begs the question: What is the NHL thinking? Last year when the NFL and NBA both went through work stoppages, there was a feeling among sports fans that the  last NHL lockout was inevitable and something that modern day sports leagues can’t avoid.  If the mighty NFL could end up in a work stoppage, then so could any other league.  The problem is that while the NFL lockout was definitely not going to impact the length of the season and games played (there was just too much money to be made/lost) and the NBA lockout pointed to a shorter season, there is no such optimism when it comes to the NHL. There is no rabid fanbase in every market (like the NFL) and there is no universal appeal globally (like the NBA) which leaves the league as a strictly North American league.  Not only that, but there is outside pressure from European leagues (KHL anyone?). 

Unfortunately, the NHL lockout appears to be a case of wealthy men wanting to become more wealthy at the expense of rich men.  It is also an example of an organization (the NHL) that created a problem (rich player salaries), continues to add to the problem (increasing the average salary per player) and then complaining about the very problem they created.  The owners need to stop looking at the money they feel they are losing and focus more on the fans that they are losing and the revenues lost on the backs of the players that built the revenues in the first place.   

Filed under nhl lockout revenueslost nhl owners player salaries 2012 @Kwasi_on_Sports kwasi.on.sports

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Today is the International Day of the Girl Child and I, like you, have at least one woman to thank for my life which quickly brings any issue a girl or woman faces to the forefront of my mind.  As I explained to a group at work today, if one asks “Why is there no International Day of the Boy?” the fact is that the older the person asking question, the more ignorant and stupid they sound.  A 6 year old? Somewhat understandable but unfortunate.  A 10 year old? Poor parenting and unawareness are definitely partial reasons for an unreasonable statement. An adult? Now you are an ignorant, stupid man. Simply put, there’s no excuse for someone who can vote to state anything like that.  Though it’s unnecessary, here are some statistics to keep in mind:

Why do we need an International Day of the Girl?

How about the fact that only 30 per cent of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school? Or that one in seven girls in developing nations are married off before the age of 15? Or that more than 50 per cent of third to fifth grade girls worry about their appearance?

Now that that is out of the way, in thinking of women’s sports my mind raced to two reminders we were given over the summer.  The first, which I’m sure many people still remember well, was the success and controversy surrounding the Canadian Women’s soccer team and their game against the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic semi-finals.  While the rivalry and refereeing debates continue to rage on, what isn’t debatable is the quality and excitement that both teams provided for the whole match.  It was attacking and driven football that even the most basic fan could enjoy watching.  For me, it reminded us all that the argument that Women’s sports isn’t as fun or exciting as men’s sports simply doesn’t exist. If you don’t believe me, quick; tell me which Men’s football match at the Olympics was your favourite? Can you remember anything other than the fact that Mexico won?

The second fact that comes to mind today is the amount of progress that we will need.  Nothing reminds me more of the sexism and racism present in sport as the Althea Gibson story. Here is a women who somehow managed to reach the apex of two traditionally white sports (obviously tennis and less successfully golf) at a time when black women in sport was not only unheard of but disparaged. Her rise to fame took place in the 1950’s, one decade after an Norman Cox, an IOC official had stated: 

 “The International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites’ who regularly defeated ‘normal women,’ those less skilled ‘child bearing’ types with ‘largish breasts, wide hips and knocked knees.’ ”

Couple that, with the fact that once she did become successful, Time magazine reported in 1957 that she was forced to submit a chromosome test to see if in fact, she had an extra chromosome.  Fast forward to the 2000’s and of course things haven’t changed as much as we would have like considering the controversy around a certain South African women’s runner. 

The realities around women in sports is that there is still so much progress to be made.  While Title XI has proven successful in terms of providing role models and scholarships to women, it is still often what’s mentioned as the argument for why athletes cannot be paid in college.  Why women’s sport must be mentioned is beyond me but just a sign of the thinking that still surrounds the sport.

On October 11th (and always) remember to recognize the day to day challenges and sacrifices women make around the world in every arena, sports included and ensure you are contributing to being part of the solution because if you aren’t, you are part of the problem.

Filed under Plan Canada @Kwasi_on_Sports International Day of the Girl Althea Gibson Extra Chromosome Title XI Womeninsports Christine Sinclair 2012 Olympics

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For most people in North America, the idea of cricket is a foreign one.  I would probably have the same opinion if not for the insightful, detailed and life-long influence of my father (and any other West Indian man I know) who ALWAYS find a way to follow the West Indies cricket team. As a child growing up, it amazed me that in a pre-internet world when tests were not televised, and scores never reported on mainstream media, my father and uncles would still be able to give an up to date account on their latest beef with Windies cricket.  It was truly amazing to watch.  If West Indies was losing, the issues were easy to outline and it just mattered to what degree the board, commitment of the players and management was to blame.  Amazingly, if they won, the victory would be listed as an aberration and a sign of luck or karma rather than skill.

With this in mind, the World T-20 final which was played over the weekend and saw West Indies defeat Sri Lanka was a long overdue victory in the eyes of West Indies fans.  For a day at least, the showmanship and lack of consistency was forgotten as Chris Gayle, Captain Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels and the rest of the gang were free to Gangnam style and celebrate all night.  West Indies victory was also an official sign that the Cricket Board, who continues to be controversial and Chris Gayle, no altar boy himself, could set aside their differences long enough for success.  

Unfortunately, for there to be a winner, someone must lose and the aftermath in Sri Lanka points to the fact that yes, the sport does have some intense fans and the fact that sport cannot replace family and is not exempt from mental health issues.  It has been reported that two Sri Lanka cricket fans, both young men aged 17 and 21, hung themselves to death after watching the final match.  The idea of the outcome of one match having such a damaging impact on families and society as a whole is truly saddening and points to a need for some sort of outreach program for those struggling the most. 

While the mood in Columbo is obviously dour and downtrodden, West Indies fans are smiling but as advised by numerous experts, they should not feel as though this is a sign of a new golden generation. Yes, West Indies were victorious, yes this is reason to celebrate but as for the unmatched domination of Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding and Viv Richards, put pon pause.  Not only is this generation of players no where near as deep or dominant as that generation but even if there were, their cultural significance is no where near as amazing or progressive as the past generation.  I could go on and on about the significance of the 70’s and 80’s team and the amazing documentary Fire in Babylon that chronicles the team over the years but I’ll save that for another post.  For now, Windies fans congrats and be glad with the victory but don’t go planning another 15 year unbeaten streak just yet!

Filed under @Kwasi_on_Sports West Indies Cricket T-20 Chris Gayle Sri Lanka Caribbean Guyana Jamaica Trinidad St. Lucia Barbados Usain Bolt

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Redskins name has to go

Recently, a campaign has started to gain traction in Ottawa for the Nepean Redskins, a local football team, to change their name.  Much like the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, the Redskins name continues to be extremely offensive to Aboriginal communities and through social media, the movement continues to gain support.  The movement was started by Dee Jay Ndn of local band A Tribe Called Red,who states:

“The name would be the same as calling a black man the N-word. It’s extremely derogatory,” said Ian Campeau, a.k.a. Dee Jay Ndn. “As First Nations we haven’t had a civil rights movement yet. That’s why society lets the Redskins name slide.”

Simply stated, these names are extremely offensive and amazingly the two most disappointing aspects of this story continue to be: 1) the team adopted the name Redskins in 1981 and 2) many people are opposing the name change.  The 2nd doesn’t surprise as much as the first but the amount of senseless and unaware responses from local sports fans is frightening. Many people have facetiously posted that the Senators or Canucks should probably change their names as a sarcastic way of reducing a valid concern.  It’s interesting to see how people grow accustom to terms regardless of their history or reference and then try to minimize the efforts of a community to correct a wrong.  Many people in opposition claim the name isn’t offensive and that it is just a name but I wonder, would they approach an Aboriginal person and say “Hey Redskin, how’s it going?”. Like you, I doubt it. Another argument that has been made is that it would cost too much money to change the name (in the neighbourhood of $125, 000) that the local organization simply doesn’t have.  While that is most likely true, here’s an idea: get behind the campaign and ask the government to fund the name change.  Considering this nation’s poor record of Aboriginal rights, funding a name change would be a symbolic and simple way of taking another small step to writing one of the many wrongs. 

Much like the recent Yunel Escobar issue that has put an ugly mark on Toronto as a city, the fact that a youth football team in our nation’s capital can have such an offensive name, is despicable. Sadly, it also points to the fact that Canada’s silent approach to race relations and fear of exposing it’s shortcomings, means that outdated practices continue.  Unfortunately, the name of this football team and the resistance that this campaign has met is yet another simple reminder of the horrendous way First Nations people and community at large continues to be disrespected in Canada. Not only should the government fund the name change, they should interject right now and offer to do so immediately.    

Filed under @Kwasi_on_Sports Kwasi.on.sports Canada Aboriginalrights nepeanredskins ATribecalledRed Ian Campeau Ottawa silentracism First Naitons