Monthly Archives: May 2015

7 Reasons the NHL is Superior to the NBA

In light of the two semi-final game sevens in the NHL, I give you seven reasons why the NHL is superior to the NBA:

  1. The playoffs are much less predictable in the NHL.
  2. NBA players are afraid of getting dunked on. NHL players are unafraid of throwing themselves in front of a hundred mile an hour slap shot.
  3. Nobody ever refers to NHL players by their first name only.
  4. NHL teams don’t call time outs every twelve seconds in the last two minutes of the game.
  5. Every single team that have ever lost a playoff series in the NHL has always lined up to shake hands with the winning team. That is not the case in the NBA.
  6. The NHL doesn’t take a week off between playoff series.
  7. NHL coaches don’t get fired for working their players too hard in practice and giving their best players too much ice time.

Newfoundland is the Worst Place on Earth to be a Sports Fan

Though Newfoundlanders love their home, they do complain about it an awful lot; be it the weather, the lack of a Taco Bell, or all the moose that keep terrorizing drivers. If there is one thing that Newfoundlanders don’t complain enough about though, it is how terrible a place this is to be a fan of professional sports, at least for those of us who have to go to work in the morning.

I like sports. I particularly like sports in the playoffs, when every game is crucially important and the entire season is on the line. The problem is, the better the series, the worse a place Newfoundland, which is in a time zone an hour and a half later than EST, becomes to watch the game. The NHL semifinals have been fantastic so far, particularly the Western Conference, where pretty much every Blackhawks and the Ducks game has gone into overtime. I haven’t watched a full game yet.

If the games were blowouts, I could actually watch the game and get to bed by a reasonable hour. But because these teams are so evenly matched, there is better than even chance that the game well end up in overtime, and you never know if the game will end a couple minutes into the first overtime, as it did the other night, or go to triple overtime as it did a few games ago. There is nothing worse than investing several hours in a game and then having to go to be before it ended, only to find out the next morning that a highlight reel game winner. Though basketball does not have long overtimes, the last 3 minutes of close game can take a half hour to play, since NBA teams have 40 timeouts per half and teams save them until the end. Though I’m not much of a fan of the NBA, from time to time I’ll turn on a game in the fourth quarter with the intentions of watching the last few minutes of a close game, only to end up watching 30 free though attempts until 1am.

I once met a sports fan from Philadelphia who had worked all over the US and was living in Nashville at the time. I remember how he raved about how the Central time zone was the best place for a sports fan. On the west coast everything comes on too early, often times before people get home from work. On the east coast of the US things came on a little bit too late. He couldn’t believe it when I told him that I live in a place that’s an hour and a half ahead of EST.

I grew up a hockey fan, but in recent years with work and kids I’ve found myself increasingly watching football. The simple reason is that most games are shown on Sunday afternoons. I can actually watch the end of a game without having to wake up like a zombie at 6am the next morning. All of this makes the decision by the provincial government to experiment with double daylight savings time back in 1988 all the more unfathomable. Was Brian Peckford’s cabinet entirely devoid of hockey fans? If we could do something as absurd as turning our clocks ahead 2 hours, why can’t we try holding off on adjusting to daylight savings time until after the Stanley Cup Finals?

Jay Leno Should Have Gotten the Same Send Off As David Letterman

With all the fawning praise for David Letterman in anticipation of tonight’s final episode, I can’t help but feel a little bad for Jay Leno. It seems that almost every famous comedian is making a point of saying how Letterman was the greatest late host ever and was such an enormous influence on young comedians. Norm MacDonald almost broke down in tears the other night and told Letterman that he loved him. This stands in stark contrast to Jay Leno’s run-up to his finale, when it seemed like all he got was insults and cheap shots.

It is worth noting that Jay Leno had beaten David Letterman and everyone else in his time slot for twenty consecutive years, and he never once retaliated for all the criticism he received. Though the most visceral attacks came from Jimmy Kimmel, Letterman was rather mean spirited himself, delighting in the Conan O’Brien fiasco while repeatedly mocking Leno’s voice and also his looks by referring to him as “Big Jaw”.

The common narrative has been that Jay Leno was once a fabulous stand-up comedian who “sold out” by shifting to safer, blander comedy in order to steal away the Tonight Show from the quirkier, edgier Letterman, and then later re-steal it from the quirkier, edgier Conan O’Brien. The truth is though that all comedians who take an 11:30 network TV talk show sell out to a certain extent. Every comedian you have ever seen on network TV is nothing like they are during their stand-up routines. If you don’t believe me, just google “Bob Saget Aristocrats”. If you take a job as a late night host your job is to get ratings, and Jay Leno did that better than anyone.

Since the late shows come on at 1am where I live, I’ve never actually watched very much of Letterman or Leno, just the odd Friday night and YouTube highlight. My bias towards Jay Leno is not that he was funnier, but for how he worked harder and delivered better results than any of his competitors for twenty years, all the while refusing to say a bad word about any of his detractors. Very few people in his position would have been able to refrain from lashing out at his critics and rubbing his success in their faces.

For all that has been said about Jay Leno, the thing that really put me in his corner was when Jimmy Kimmel told Leno on his show that he and Conan had children to feed, but Jay Leno only had cars to take care of. To suggest that either Jimmy Kimmel or Conan O’Brien, who make millions of dollars a year, have any worries about looking after their children is an insult to all the people who truly understand what it means to struggle to provide for their children. Also, for all Jimmy Kimmel knows, Jay Leno and his wife may not have been able to have children, so it was particularly mean spirited to even bring up the topic of children.

I have always enjoyed David Letterman and agree with most the praise he has received. I wish him a happy and long retirement. I just can’t help but feel that Jay Leno should have gotten at least half of Letterman’s praise and well wishes when he retired from his show.

Why I Never Got Into Mad Men

With Mad Men’s series premier last night, it is time to consider the show’s place in TV history. According to social media, the Internet, and my wife, Mad Men was an all-time great TV drama, even though the general consensus is that it had been in decline for the past few years. Since my wife is a fan of the show and we don’t live in a very big house, I have seen bits and pieces of many episodes and was generally aware of the plotline. Though I did find some of the parts I watched interesting and amusing, I never actually watched a full episode.

For me, a show or a movie needs to give me a compelling reason to watch. It needs to introduce the plot. There was no real plot to be introduced with Mad Men. It was a show about advertising executives being advertising executives. After seven seasons, the show ended with one of those advertising executives coming up with a successful ad. Breaking Bad hooked me by introducing the plot right from the very beginning. A high school chemistry teacher was diagnosed with a potentially fatal cancer and embarked on making and selling crystal meth to cover his medical expenses and provide for his family.

Once Breaking Bad introduced its plot, it then continually progressed it until the climax and resolution. It may have gotten progressively more far-fetched as the series went on, but it did progress and kept the audience guessing. Walter White started as a chemistry teacher, became a reluctant drug dealer, and ultimately became a ruthless drug lord, poisoning innocent children and murdering rivals. Don Draper started the show as an advertising executive and ended as an advertising executive. Along the way he had a bit of a mid-life crisis, just like every other middle aged man on the face of the earth does, but he essentially ends the series in the same place he started.

A truly great modern cable TV drama is one where you are anxiously awaiting every new episode to find out what happens. At a macro level, what exactly happens in Mad Men? How could you possibly summarize the plot of the show in a single paragraph? Most great works of fiction have a plot that can be easily summarized. Romeo and Juliet is about a young man and woman from rival families who fall in love with tragic consequences. War and Peace is about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and its effects on Russian society. How can you summarize the plot of Mad Men? The show is about a bunch of advertising executives who start off making ads and seven seasons later are still making ads.

Imagine if Shakespeare wrote a play about King Duncan which started with him as King and ended with him as King. If that were the case we wouldn’t even know who Shakespeare was and nobody would care whether it was him or Christopher Marlowe who wrote those plays. The English language’s greatest writer understood the importance of grabbing the audience’s attention by introducing a plot early and progressing towards a climax and resolution.

Why is Deadspin so Fixated on Jason Whitlock?

Last week, Deadspin published a 10,000 word article on Jason Whitlock and the website that he is supposed to be creating for ESPN, “The Undefeated”. If you would prefer a short executive summary, it is essentially just a detailed explanation as to why the author believes Mr. Whitlock is an incompetent, egomaniacal buffoon, supplemented with some leaked e-mail correspondence between him and one of the writers working for him as well as a copy of his so-call playbook, which lays out his philosophy for him website. After the article, Deadspin had a Whitlock-focused podcast. This isn’t the first time Deadspin or this author has written about Jason Whitlock. Last year, the same author wrote a rather critical account of his discussions with Mr. Whitlock about potentially writing for his site.

What is curious about Deadspin’s criticism of Jason Whitlock is that much of it centers on how he holds himself in such high regard, even going so far as to include inspirational quotes from himself in his playbook. I will admit that it takes an ego of a rare size to quote oneself, but the fact that they are spending 10,000 words on Jason Whitlock and his website that doesn’t yet exist seems to suggest that Deadspin considers him to be a very important and famous person. Deadspin probably doesn’t like anything I write either, but they’ve never even made mention of me even though I have a fully functioning website. I can only hope that one day Deadspin will deem me important enough to warrant a 10,000 word article.

I find this topic particularly interesting because I read pretty much everything by Deadspin and Jason Whitlock. Many of Deadspin’s criticisms of Mr. Whitlock are valid. Aside from the previously mentioned practice of quoting oneself, he frequently uses examples from TV shows, particularly The Wire, when discussing societal issues. In an article from June, 2014 on Fox Sports, he even admitted that his “full enlightenment” regarding male homosexuality didn’t occur until viewing the character of Omar in The Wire. As a Canadian, I myself was taken aback when Mr. Whitlock suggested that one of the reasons why Cleveland might want to trade Andrew Wiggins was due to a perception by “smart basketball people” that Canadian athletes might not “want it as much” as American and even European players, even though anyone familiar with the sport of hockey would know that Canadian athletes routinely play though injuries that would sideline a Game of Thrones character for a month. Though he was passing along a perception from others, I would question just how smart those people are who held those kinds of perceptions of Canadian athletes.

That being said, Jason Whitlock is without question someone who regularly writes thought provoking columns and isn’t afraid to take controversial opinions on issues. As a black man, he often takes positions that are unpopular with large segments of the African American community, none more so than his criticisms of the rap music. While Deadspin likes to be controversial, they rarely take positions that would make their base of supporters uncomfortable. For all his flaws, Jason Whitlock will write things that infuriate both the left and the right; Deadspin will never alienate their left wing, sports hipster base.

Before you shed too many tears for Jason Whitlock over his treatment at the hands of Deadspin, I should point out that he has his own history of unfairly targeting someone. For years, Jason Whitlock mercilessly attacked the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, Scott Pioli. Mr. Whitlock spent many years as a sports writer in Kansas City, and he frequently devoted his Fox Sports columns to railing against the Mr. Pioli. His attacks were not simply against his personnel moves; they were deeply personal. He often used inside stories about how he dealt with his employees, and much like Deadspin’s criticism of him, focused on his inflated ego. He even went so far as to refuse to refer to him by his real name, calling him instead Scott Egoli. Perhaps the best explanation for Deadspin picking on Jason Whitlock is simply karma.

Hipster Population in St. John’s Growing Larger and More Partisan

A few days ago I was flipping through the May issue of The Overcast while having a coffee at Starbucks, and I came to an article about the traffic congestion that seems to plague every Tim Horton’s location in the St. John’s area. I have never understood why so many people would stop their vehicles in the middle of a busy street and risk causing an accident just for the opportunity to wait 15 minutes for an ordinary cup of coffee, so I was quite interested to hear the writer’s take on the issue. It turns out that that article said much more about the mindset of St. John’s hipsters than it did about coffee.

After reading the article, it appears that the hipster population in St. John’s has reached a critical mass, whereby they can now go through life interacting exclusively with other hipsters. Hipsters, by definition, dislike anything that the uncultured masses like, so logically they would always avoid something so mass market as Tim Horton’s coffee. Though they would not drink the stuff themselves, they would certainly be well aware that most people loved the stuff, as they would interact with non-hipsters on a daily basis. What was interesting about this Overcast article was not that the writer didn’t like Tim Horton’s, but rather that he or she didn’t realize how most people in this province would rather be late for their mother’s funeral than go without a large double-double.

The article in the Overcast used the results of a poll posted on their website as proof that most people don’t actually like Tim Horton’s coffee. I like the Overcast, but its readership is not exactly a broad cross section of society. Asking Overcast readers about Tim Horton’s coffee is akin to asking Ezra Levant’s blog readers what they think of the niqab. The article used several quotes, including one from a European who suggested that Tim Horton’s doesn’t even taste like coffee, and that it has an “industrial” taste. Using a quote from someone who is not from St. John’s is odd enough, but it is a particularly curious choice when you consider that instant coffee is ten times more popular in Europe than it is in Canada. Not to be outdone, the paper included a quote from their food writer who described Tim Horton’s as swill, undrinkable, and compared it to pouring hot water through dirty wool socks.

If hipsters actually interacted with living, breathing, non-hipsters, they would already know what I am about to tell them. There is no such thing as an “industrial” taste, unless perhaps if you were to literally add motor oil or diesel fuel to the coffee. Human taste buds are incapable of discerning whether a coffee bean was roasted in a small oven with a few pounds of coffee beans or in a large oven with several tonnes of beans. Furthermore, while I am not a diehard Tim Horton’s drinker, it undoubtedly tastes like coffee. It does not taste industrial (since such a taste does not exist). It does not taste like hot water poured through a dirty sock. It tastes as if someone picked coffee beans, roasted them, ground them up, and then poured hot water through them.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how politically partisan people in this province are becoming. It may be that this is simply a reflection of a broader trend that is seeing a growing number of people clustering into cliques of like-minded people. I can see how some might find it comforting to go through life surrounded by people who pat you on the back and agree with everything you say, but I personally would find it awfully boring. Surrounding yourself with people who are exactly like you is only a slight step up from being alone.