My 2016 New Year’s Message

There’s nothing like flying across a time zone on New Year’s Eve. We got 2 countdowns in the air. I was floored that Anderson Cooper replied to me on Twitter! That poor guy goes through more stuff with Kathy Griffin on New Years Eve, than with most of the news stories he covers for the rest of the year. That chick be kray-kray.

The last year was a good one for us, Miss Deantha in particular. Her new CD was released and has received major positive reviews, and stirred up some waves, hopefully leading to even bigger and better in the near future. We wait to hear news on a huge possible performing gig. Here’s hoping.

Annabelle is growing into an extremely talented little girl. Laurel Atherton once said, “A daughter is one of the most beautiful gifts this world has to give.” We are fortunate enough to have a daughter who is going to give this world the gift of her voice, acting, and dancing. She IS the arts, folks. Her first TV performance was incredible at the Empty Stocking Fund Telethon. It is far from her last. Be ready.

My health has been stable for a while now. Still doing the treatments every three weeks, but I’m not going to get away from that. As long as the treatment interval isn’t shortened I’ll be fine.

Now 2015 is gone and we all need to take a breath and get our strength back.
2016 is under way. Look around you. Appreciate what you have. Nothing will be the same in a year. It never is. Maybe 2015 was a really shitty year for you. I’m sorry for that, and I know you tried all you could to make it better, but some things are out of our hands and that bites. Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us. No regrets. Just lessons learned.

Your mistakes should be your motivation; not your excuses. On the heels of these defeats or failures, start all over again. Failure is a large part of the growing and learning process. You don’t know where you’re vulnerable until you fail. Once you’ve found that hole in the dam, you can’t be like that “little Dutch boy” and his thumb. You need to put your entire body and mind into plugging it, making damn sure the dam doesn’t burst again in that spot. You’re not saving a village. You’re saving YOU.

2016 will be challenging for some of you. Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. Live in the moment. Forget the past and don’t concern yourself with the future. Ask yourself what is really important and then have the courage and be committed to building your life around that answer.
Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you. Then it’s totally up to you to MAKE it a success.

Former Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson said, “Success isn’t something that just happens – success is learned, success is practiced and then it is shared.” Success seems to be connected to action. Successful people keep moving forward. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. Successful people know the difference between patience & procrastination. There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. And those stairs are freshly waxed, and lack handrails.

Don’t compare your progress with that of others though. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. You can never be another person, you can only be a better version of yourself. You can have RESULTS or excuses. You cannot have BOTH.
The difference between who you ARE and who you WANT TO BE is the work you put in. Great things never came from comfort zones. Don’t think outside the box. Pretend it’s The Matrix: “There is no box.” 🙂 But be wary never to be played for a fool…never to be left without a seat when the music stops. Don’t be deceived. It will be a humbling experience that you will not care to repeat.

Most importantly, be happy. Be who you want to be. If others don’t like it, then let them be. Happiness is a choice. Life isn’t about pleasing everybody. Never apologize for what you feel. It’s like saying sorry for being real.
This year, do something that will make the person you’ll be next January 1, proud to have been the person you are today. You are made to make a difference, so embrace every opportunity to do so.

My best to you all in 2016. HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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Somebody get the door…1993 just knocked

October 8 at 2:28pm ·

Somebody get the door…1993 just knocked. And call the cops. I think I see Fergie Oliver behind the bushes….

Anybody else been thinking about where they were back in October 1993 over the past couple of days? Sounds weird…but I’m exactly where I thought I might be. Well not so much the location, but as for the person I was supposed to be with. Imagine being with the person you’re supposed to be with forever, but being too young and stupid to really capitalize on it. Then spend 17 years apart, re-connect, and realize how lucky you are 5 years, and one incredible 4-yr old daughter later.

I remember Joe “touching ’em all” off the “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams. I watched it during my second year there at The Axe with a rowdy crew of friends and Axemen hockey team members. The Axe then inexplicably said they were closing for the night. Closing???? It was a Saturday night!!!! I remember thinking that was possibly the most irresponsible thing anyone who ran a bar in Canada could do at that moment. So I yelled at the top of my lungs for all to hear: WE’RE GOING TO THE ANVIL!!!!!

I’ll channel the “Golden Girls” Estelle Petrillo here:
Picture it…Wolfville, 1993. I, blue bandana, jeans, white t-shirt, cowboy boots and all, led a huge parade of staggering students with open alcohol (i have no idea where I got those beer, but I suspect the barkeep at The Axe slipped a couple in my hands because they were capped, for good tips and doing the right thing by keeping the celebration going), down Highland Avenue as people honked their car horns in celebration, knowing exactly why we were doing this. They hooted and hollered back with us, celebrating the back-to-back Canadian victory in the Great American Pastime The ever-gracious Wolfville town cops knew me from my time working at Tim Horton’s and a few other notable exceptions, so they just shook their heads, then gave me that look of, “Just keep it relatively sane outdoors”, and watched us party our way down Main Street. I think if it had been anyone but a “local” leading the charge, it would have been reversed. However, absolutely no one caused a problem and we made it safe and sound to a totally “packed to the rafters, WAY over fire legal” Anvil. God Bless Joe Rafih and his complete disregard for human safety. But he knew how and when to make a buck.

Fast Forward 22 years and lots has changed. A couple of years ago I switched my baseball allegiance from the stupid Mets who continually let me down, to the Detroit Tigers. Now the Tigers suck and the Mets made the playoffs. Always remember that with me, opposite is better. Especially with Pro-Line. True story: this baseball season I bought a ticket and took every single visiting team, making an adjustment in the wager that guaranteed me a win of SOME form if even one or two teams I picked won. That night, for the FIRST TIME IN MLB HISTORY….every single home team won. Once, during football season last year, i bought two tickets with exact opposites. The website broke. I’m serious. This stuff is no longer co-incidence. It’s personal.

So today, for the first time since that alcohol/victory fuelled parade, we get to see playoff baseball in this great country again. I know I’ve been thinking about how fortunate I am to be with Deantha Edmunds-Ramsayagain. That part sure as hell isn’t by chance. She’s been with me in mind and spirit since Acadia. I woke up through this friggin’ massive migraine that annihilated me last night and welled up with tears as I could hear her and Annabelle downstairs playing and watching TV. Then I had to phone her from cell to get her assistance. This 27 year old headache is stupid. I’m typing this with my left eye closed, and hoping that through the double vision in my right eye, I spell everything right. Now then:

I don’t care if you love the Red Sox, Tigers, Expos (yes I said it), stupid effing Yankees, or any other team that didn’t make the playoffs, it is your national duty, nay obligation as a sports fan or just as a Canadian to cheer for the Blue Jays. If you’re a fan of the Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, Astros, Rangers, or Royals then you’re off the hook until they’re eliminated, and if the Jays are still playing. But once your team is gone, the only option is Toronto.

Listen….i hate starting a sentence with that word….I’m not jumping on a bandwagon here and I’m not going be a permanent fan. I will go back to criticizing everything they do as soon as spring training starts next year. I hate Toronto and every sports thing associated with it.

Even though Rogers Sportsnet has the NHL season as a 365 day event, it only just started. The US and ESPN have the NFL held in the same stature. The NBA has not even started, and only Stephen A. Smith wants the attention so far. Lord knows the Leafs won’t win anything for the next 50+ years during this rebuild, there shouldn’t even BE a CFL, the Raptors are a great regular season story and super playoff choke artists, and TFC is still a Canadian team, playing in the MLS, which is soccer, which really means absolutely nada.
So as the team has been propagandizing for the past month Canada, it’s been 22 years. Let’s all try to be part of something positive in the midst of the trivial banality of political campaigns. It is time. Let’s‪#‎COMETOGETHER‬.

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October 16th 2015

Tick, Tock,

So, a Roman soldier walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, “5 beer please.”
That’s the funniest clean joke I’ve heard in a long time….

Three weeks gone and I’m back in my chair. I showed up late today due to traffic….and that damn Tim Hortons lineup. But we can discuss priorities vs my caffeine addiction later. Worst part is I ended up with Deantha’s TEA. Some toolbar counter-help listed it as a coffee. Displeased. But, at least I like tea. Poor Deantha despises coffee. She’s in much worse shape.

One of my nurses (after a litany of abuse and late jokes) informed me I have been put on the interview list regarding the care and services provided here. They wanted someone who they felt would stick to the actual topic instead of flying off the handle at the government, health care in general, or the doctor that can’t cure their stupidity. Must have been a shallow pool of  patience. :). But I’d never utter a bad word about my health care providers. I have been one of the luckiest patients ever. I have always had a team of the most highly respected specialists, doctors, and nurses throughout this ordeal. I’ve always liked to think I’m the type of person to go the extra mile for someone who wouldn’t even cross the street for me anyways.
Lord knows I will be bitching about lack of wifi in here tho….

I just about lost my composure a tad as they took my blood pressure a few minutes ago. A simple putting in of the BP cuff almost had me in tears. Not sure what set that off. 27 years of this unending horseshit. I’m not having the most fun time of late. It’s been a rough several months of brutal migraines, chest pains, fevers, etc. But then I stopped. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I feel bad for Deantha because I’m gonna be flat until at least Sunday night.
But no matter how good or bad your life is, wake up each morning and be thankful that you still have one. Let’s say I pulled it together quickly. I’m fine.

Thanksgiving just went by, and we all have so very much to be thankful for. Family, friends, health, wealth, and happiness in any form. Find the little things and celebrate them too. But don’t make it just a once a year holiday. Make it an “every morning you open your eyes” holiday.
Isn’t it scary knowing that any time could be the last time you talk to someone? Always keep that in mind. Three things you cannot recover in life: the word after its said, the moment after its missed, and the time after its gone. If you’re not good with words or feelings, find another way. Do it your way though; in a way that makes you comfortable. It will definitely come across as more sincere. I really don’t care about what anyone thinks of me or how I express myself . I am who I am. I do what I want & I don’t live to please you.

So we are now two days out from the most exciting baseball game in Canadian history, and easily the most bizarre game since “the ball went THROUGH Buckner’s legs” in 1986. Ah, the good old day of Mets glory. As a country (and almost continent) the big topic yesterday was the Blue Jays, and Jose Bautista’s epic bat-flip. To be clear, I have absolutely no issue with what he did. In that atmosphere and situation he gets the pass as a one time 54hr hitter, and the guy who stated last year that he was pissed off at the teams’ inaction at the trade deadline. He wants to win there. He’s been the face of the Jays for years. He hit the biggest homer in his career that night. He earned that flip. If you’re old-school baseball and are disgusted by that gesture in sports today: evolve….now. It’s now a part of the game. Do you freak out at a pitcher’s stare-down after a big strikeout? Do you hate the pose after a massive alley-oop slam dunk? Do you hate the “Gronk-Spike” or Mark Gastineau’s sack dance? Did you hate Tiger Williams riding the stick or Teamu Selanne throwing his glove in the air and shooting it down “pump-action style” with his stick after he scored a goal?
Did you hate Kirk Gibson, Kirby Puckett, Carlton Fisk, or Joe Carter all freaking out and celebrating their big homers? No? Good. Sit down and STFU now then too. It’s a new day.

JoeyBats has shown exceptional patience during his tenure in Toronto. It’s a sports market that hates its own teams unless they’re winning. He’s heard nothing but disdain from fans and media for the lack of team production and constant under-achievement. But he stayed the course. He never stopped believing. He did HIS part. This year, the right moves were made by the right people and everything has fallen into place. The lesson to be learned here is to never give up. The best things take time.

Nothing takes up more time than doing nothing though. In order to be able to earn your celebration it’s up to you to get off your ass and accomplish all you are able to for goal fulfillment. There’s a good chance you don’t have a personal GM who’s trading for an MVP admin assist or other missing links in that winning gold medal chain. So don’t just talk, act. Don’t say, show. Don’t promise, prove. You’re not going back to change the past, so look to the future and don’t make the same mistake twice.

Constantly blaming yourself for past failures is pointless and just adds to the stress you already have in your day. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. It is more about forgetting yesterday and making time to think about a new today.
It is time to make new uncovered memories.
Stay strong through all of your efforts and make them wonder how you handled it. And once its handled, be proud of yourself. Make sure people know it. Be happy with your hard work, determination, perseverance, and discipline.
And then you take that goddamn bat and you flip it with all you have.

As a Roman soldier once said, “Vita brevis, sō carpe diem”Hook me up girls. Bring the pain.
Let’s do this thing. *FLIP*


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A Happy New Year’s Message…

A Happy New Year’s Message…

End of year. Time to reflect, not dwell on the past, and more importantly look ahead. And yes my people…there will be swears. There’s a lot at the end. Seriously, you’ve been warned, because I’m not censoring this, and I edited a whole bunch out already.  There’s liquid paper all over my screen.

Right now, I’m flying solo for two weeks over these holidays, due to a simply wonderful recording and performing opportunity for my incredible wife Deantha, over in Newfoundland. It does however, give one time to stop, get back to basics, strip down to almost nothing, grab a cold, frosty one, watch the games, listen to, and play some blisteringly loud music, block out the calamity of this world…and just think about shit.

Honestly, this has not been an easy year for us.  As you know, I’ve been in hospital for extended periods of time on multiple occasions.  This goes along with a ridiculous increase in treatment frequency.  But we have so much to be thankful for:

Most importantly, my girls are both healthy.  Annabelle continues to grow and amaze us daily.  She’s going to blow this world away with her gifts, and we’re letting her damn it.  I’m making a point to encourage every aspect of it.  Don’t get me wrong, she will have her parent-set limitations. But she’s going to grow into someone special, and she’s going to be find out who she is, and will be her own person. Just sit and watch the future explosion because you’re going to love it. She woke up singing Russian opera songs the other day. Yeah…she’s four.  Buckle up.

The love of my life continues to be just that.  Knowing each day that I get to wake up next to my biggest supporter, my greatest critic, my lover, the one that got away once and never will again, and my best friend forever is the greatest knowledge a person can have.  I love you with every ounce of my being, Deantha.  Always have.  Always will. ‘Nuff said.

We managed to find a new house, twice as big (or more) as the other one, with exactly the space we require for separating personal and work lives. Deantha gets “her” separate lower level music studio, and I get a life free of extra kids running through the house and doorbells ringing as I’m trying to cook supper, or passed out on the couch from my treatments.  We got a new vehicle a short while ago because the dealership decided it was better to give us a better monthly deal on that, than have me drop 700 dollars on tires.  I whole-heartedly agreed.

As always, I’ve had the incredible love and support of my family. I have made a life out of making some incredibly questionable decisions.  They have always been there to help pick up the pieces.  If you have this happening in your life, then just stop reading for a moment. Call them. Tell them you love them. Thank them. This piece isn’t going anywhere.

News-wise, I’ve almost stopped watching CNN and CBC News entirely. I try to keep my opinions on world affairs to myself now.  They’re my opinions, and you do hear/read them when the time is right. But for now (in brief)…

We’re slowly watching this world crumble on a daily basis. Our local world was stunned, shocked, and horrified by the tragic events in Moncton. Nationally, some fucking idiot takes out one of our best, who was performing one of the most solemn, respectful, and honourable duties a soldier can have, standing guard at the Unknown Soldier Memorial. Continentally, we’re about to have a complete re-do on race relations. It’s not going to involve “non-violence” either.  I have the odd feeling it’s going to get really ugly, and really soon.  Across the ocean, we have too many people fighting too many other people’s wars.  ENOUGH ALREADY. Let them all figure it out themselves. Come home boys and girls  We need you here. Your families need you here.

This year I have made a couple of plans and possible projects to work on. This writing will continue and hopefully expand, beyond anything I could have imagined possible. I will keep you informed.  It has become something that I didn’t really know I could do.  Then one night, I got pissed off at the beginning of a stupid Leaf’s game (redundancy) on a Saturday night.  I sat down and wrote an article on pointless celebrations of  half-assed former players (aka Luke Richardson). I’ve re-read it many times since. It still amazes me the power of words. The old saying is true, the pen is mightier than the sword.  Well, except if the other guy gets to the sword and stabs you before you get to your pen.  Then it’s pretty much game over.  But I digress… If you can find an electronic “paper trail” of something being wrong or corrupt, oh baby…there’s some hell ahead because you have documentary proof in hand. 

The year ahead will of course bring its challenges. There will be injury, illness, and death as always.  Businesses will fail, economics will be troubled, and people will be out of work.  Relationships will be strained to the point of breaking, or unfortunately snap completely.

So in 2015, I want you to take your happy moments, and try to pin them up on the cork board in the house, and especially in your mind.  If you’re having a bad day you can always look back and say, “Wow, I did that too!”   Sure, you might be criticized for your decisions or some actions through the year.  But, there are critics of us all. Fuck them.  Look up to your heroes, but do NOT be intimidated by them. Be INSPIRED by them. Remember those posters on your wall as a kid?  Don’t look at that wall and think, “Fuck, I could NEVER do that.” Look at that poster on the wall and say, “Fuck, I’m gonna do THAT”. And then you DO IT. You can still be what you want to be. Who you always thought you’d be. It’s a brand new world for us all now. Get out there. Remember your inspirations. Better them.

Oh, and Happy New Years kids. Let’s do this!

– The Sugar

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Confessions of a Yankee Hater

Since I was very, very, very young, I was taught the male baseball watchers in my family are to be fans of the New York Yankees.  I do believe I have been a tremendous disappointment to my male brethren, as their indoctrination process failed miserably.

I started out cheering for the Montreal Expos.  I followed Gary Carter after his trade to the New York Mets, and remained a Mets’ fan until Gary’s death.  It was then the campaigning from my family members began in earnest once again.  However, I took a different turn, and have been a Detroit Tiger’s fan since then.  I can state on a stack of Bibles: I am NOT a Yankee fan.  I will never be a Yankee fan.  I will never turn to the dark side.  It will not happen. Ever.

There are some aspects of the Yankees’ organization that I ADMIRE: their incredible sense of history and tradition, their many championships, and most of all, The Captain, #2 Derek Jeter.

As anyone who follows sports, or even might be a casual baseball fan knows, Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of this season.  His announcement during last year’s off-season came as no surprise as the other three of the “core four” Yankees: Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada had already retired in the past few years. He’s getting old, and the body is starting to break down.  His desire to play is still there, but he know’s it is time to step away, and let the re-building of the Yankees begin.

This column won’t contain the story of his upbringing in a travelling military family, the missteps of several GM’s who skipped him in the draft, or his pre-MLB career. It will contain pertinent statistics when required to outline a point.  No, this column is about Derek Jeter, the baseball player, athelete, and most importantly, role model to everyone in sports.

The final game in his Hall of Fame career will fittingly be against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, in Boston on September 28th.  His final home game is on Thursday night, the 25th, against this year’s AL East Champion Baltimore Orioles.  I expect it will be one of the most emotional games of all times.

The last time I remember being this psyched up for a regular season game NOT involving one of my teams, actually involved the Baltimore Orioles as well.  Except that game didn’t involve just the number 2, it involved the number 2131.  It was on September 6, 1995 and Cal Ripken, as he broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time “Iron Man” record for consecutive games played.  I remember watching the game in my room, and as the game became official seeing that banner drop.  I remember Oriole Park at Camden Yards going insane, Ripken running a lap around the stadium giving high-fives to the fans, and me applauding and shedding tears the whole time.  The similarities between the two are there, but Ripken was by far the better defensive player.  Both played shortstop (Ripken for the majority of his career), both hold almost unbreakable records on their teams, both ended their career’s at the right time, and both are the model for what a profesional athlete should be.

I was very fortunate to go to Montreal during 2001 to see an inter-league series between the Expos and the Orioles.  I saw the last two games of three game set and watched Cal Ripken play in his final year.  I held a ticket to the first game of the next series as well: the Yankees were in Montreal, and Derek Jeter was in his sixth year playing shortstop.  In three days, I got to see two of the greatest baseball players to ever  play the game.  It truly was one of the best times I’ve ever had, both on and off the field.

Jeter’s farewell tour is wrapping up at just the right time for the sports world.  For the past several weeks and months, we have been inundated with stories about the incredibly poor decisions, brutally violent acts, and sheer incompetence throughout the sports’ world, and the NFL in particular.  Derek Jeter spent TWENTY YEARS under the New York City media microscope, and has come out unscathed, unharmed, and completely free of controversy.  Well, if you want to call an unending string of relationships with some of the most attractive women in the world, and an enviable string of one-night stands a controversy, you’re talking to the wrong guy.

He avoided any blemish because he didn’t give people anything to talk about.  Derek Jeter played baseball.  He knew what his role was as the captain of one of the most highly regarded sporting organizations in the world.  When he got off the field, he lived his life away from the lights, not looking for trouble, or to get his name out there.  He has always been the prime example of how an athlete can show grace and class, both on and off the playing field.

Today’s youth who want to play any sport should be paying very close attention to what happens over the next week.  They will bear witness to one of the greatest players who ever played baseball ride off into the sunset.  They should study how he managed to handle himself throughout all of his years as a lifelong Yankee, both the good, and especially the bad.  And oh boy, did he have some bad times.  But never once did he lose faith in himself.  Not once did anyone doubt him.  This was because they knew how committed to his not embarrassing his family, the sport of baseball, and the New York Yankees.  Now, the sports community doesn’t need to be full of “Derek Jeter’s”.  But it would be a damn lot better off if there were many, many  more athletes willing to shoulder the load that Jeter has.  He once said, “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.”

The Yankees have Joe DiMaggio’s famous quote,  “I’d like to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee. ” on their clubhouse exit to the diamond.  And to once again tie in Cal Ripken Jr. with Lou Gehrig’s famous, “today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth” speechI think it behooves us all to be thankful we have had the incredible thrill, pleasure, and true honor to watch Derek Jeter play baseball for 20 years. He was the leader of the clubhouse, settling teammate disputes, offering up motivational speeches, and playing to win at all costs in as unforgiving an environment as you can play in.  Thursday night we will watch the finale of what might very well be the first ever unanimously voted first ballot Hall of Fame. We have always known that there is no “I” in Jeter.  But we now have learned that there is a “2,” in #RE2PECT.

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The Sports Business

Remember when the “business of sports” was simple? Trade Gary Carter: I cry like a newborn.  Trade Wayne Gretzky: I go into a catatonic state, have 3 simultaneous mini-strokes, and somehow dislocate four toes.

In the past, most trades in sports were mentioned on radio or TV, quickly discussed, and then dismissed.  All the business aspects were handled “in-house”, and none of the dirty little details were divulged to the great unwashed.

The biggest trade occurring prior to mass multi-platform media was Babe Ruth being traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees on December 26th, 1919. We all know what happened to the BoSox since, and only recently does it seem that “Curse of the Bambino” has been lifted. But that trade happened in an era when news would take four days and 7 horses to go from East coast to West coast. The actual behind the scenes money dealing wasn’t known to the general public for a quite a while.

In my mind, sports business took a turn for the perverse on August 9th, 1988, when The Great One was moved, with Marty McSorley, Mike Krushelnyski to the L.A. Kings.  I remember getting the phone call from Dad who told me Gretzky was being traded to LA. I had only been released from 4 months in the hospital, and really wasn’t feeling great. I told him to just stop joking around. “It’s not funny, and it would NEVER happen,” I said. Then he calmly told me to “turn on the TV.”  so I did.  I don’t recall if I just dropped the phone, swore, or passed out on my feet. All I know is, since that moment and so long as I live, everything is possible.

The Gretzky trade was different, and continues to be different in the way it involved bringing a brand new segment of North America’s population into becoming fans of the NHL.  While there have been major trades in each of the four major sports since, none have had such a lasting impact on the SPORT itself.  Teams have been brought into the “Sun-Belt” of the United States, and while several have suffered from poor management and attendance issues, we now see the powerhouse that has been developed in California hockey. Gretzky’s trade changed the paradigm of the sport, and the way people viewed it from afar.  The NHL continues to have its opponents because of the useless goons, and meaningless violence, but all in all, the league has never been stronger from coast to coast, both in Canada AND in the United States.

This brings me to crux of this article.  The seemingly ridiculous soap opera that occurs during EVERY SINGLE NBA off-season.  Just as I naively followed the path of accepting that players played, coaches coach, and general managers generally manage, July 8th, 2010 happened.  That was the evening that LeBron James destroyed Cleveland, and “took his talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Heat, along with his buddies Dwyane wade, and Chris Bosh.  I had just recently moved to New Brunswick and was in the midst of my chemotherapy treatment.  Though I think we all knew what what “The Decision” was, I HAD to watch the show, just like a rubbernecker at a train wreck.

Since then, nothing is sacred, and everything/everybody is fair game to be traded.  Recently it was reported the Milwaukee Bucks fired coach Larry Drew after agreeing to send two second-round draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets to secure the coaching rights to Jason Kidd.  Trading coaches for DRAFT PICKS? That has to be the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen happen to a former great player in the NBA.  One year removed from playing, Kidd took on coaching.  Maybe he wasn’t quite ready yet, but ownership had provided him with a plethora of talent, and had no qualms about spending large sums of cash to improve.  Russian multibillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov wanted to win immediately after moving from New Jersey, and thought having one of the Net’s greatest coaching, and the four arrivals of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson would do it. Not even the ubiquitous presence of Jay-Z could help them through the playoffs.

But this off-season has again been over-wrought with another “decision” that needs to be made by Lebron James. He opted out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat, as did the other two members of the NBA’s “big 3”. Everything now hinges on where the world’s best basketball player decides to go. It is now “The Decision Part 2 – The Decision to Force a whole bunch of other decisions.” Nobody moves until Lebron says “Yes” to a team. It is way past ridiculous, hovering near obscenity.

There have been daily reports of teams making deals and buying others out in order to free up “cap space”. Apparently that manoeuvre can mean only one thing: they’re looking to make a move on James. Heat owner MIckey Arinson must be having a heart attack every time his phone rings.

The NBA deadline has a lesser effect in Canada. Here, both the NHL trade deadline and Free Agent signing days have the same coverage as the pre-game show for the Super Bowl.  They are six hour shows with very little action except the “insiders” typing away on their smartphones, trying to pry some nugget of information loose.

This is not to say that the NBA deadline is not being followed. With the growth of Toronto Raptor fans, and their success this year, many eyes are on the James choice. Some Toronto sports talk show hosts have intimated that the Raptors have “quietly” been working behind the scenes to woo LeBron. I am of the cynical mind that this is merely the workings of “the Roger’s sports machine” trying to get people to watch their shows, and read their press.

But now we sit and patiently wait. There are approximately 4 hours until trades and free-agent signings can become official. Oddly, if you can believe the last rounds of cuts, trades, and roster moves, it appears King James’ decision is leaning towards removing his talents from South Beach, and taking them home to Cleveland. Should that be the decision, it completes the ultimate soap opera circle/circus the sporting world has seen. The “prodigal son” would be welcomed back home, along with several other big name players. The main focus would be to bring the NBA title to those crying Cavalier fans in Cleveland. Yes, those same fans who burned him in effigy and were literally blowing up his jersey.

While we can’t be sure of everything, we can be sure the inevitable train wreck will have the full attention of the sports world. All the slimy, ugly, dirty, nasty, vitriol, and frivolity that were behind the move will be analyzed and dissected like the virus it has become. That decision is already made.

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It’s just a mild traumatic brain injury…suck it up.

It’s just a mild traumatic brain injury…suck it up.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the words “head-shot”, or “hide his helmet” from sports talk show hosts and analysts in the past two years. Concussions and head injuries are a serious issue, in three of the four major sports. And even though Gary Bettman has tried his best to ruin the NHL, I’m still putting it in with the ‘major sports’. Baseball has had to change some rules for protecting catchers and runners. Basketball rarely lists “head” as a reason for missing a game and NASCAR has yet to permeate ALL North American households.

In 2001, a group of experts called the “Concussion in Sport Group” defined concussion as “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces.” They agreed that concussions will involve a temporary impairment of neurological function which should quickly resolve itself, and that neuro-imaging normally shows no “gross structural changes” to the brain as the result of the condition. Yeah, that sounds encouraging.

I found out that USA Today actually provides a running count of the NHL players who have been concussed this year. ( I was floored at how high the number was. Several years ago, after a huge hit to the head, the player would be barely conscious and lying on the ice. Sometimes a stretcher is brought out, and he is carried off. The media makes a huge deal out of the hit, trying to determine if it was “legal”, and the player is diagnosed. There is no question about his injury, his status, or his ability to play. The doctors would rule him ineligible and the team would have to replace him for at least a game or two.

Old-time hardliners in hockey will say that these hits have been around since the inception of the game. NBC and CBC ‘analyst’ Mike Milbury consistently argues that these hits are nothing that didn’t occur when he was playing. Sorry Mike, when you played the average weight of the player was about 180 pounds soaked with sweat, and you could hit fans with shoes. Now they AVERAGE 225lbs. And that is without the bullet-proof armor-like equipment they are wearing.

When a guy the size of Eric Lindros gets knocked loopy from a hit, you know the physics of that impact must have been immense. Unfortunately, this happened to him more than once and forced him into retirement. The players are bigger, faster, and stronger. It is not even close to the game you played, Mike, and maybe that old-time line of thinking is why no one will hire you as a coach again.

The NFL also has a running count on “”. Obviously, football has seen more than its’ fair share of “head-related/concussion” injuries. In football, every play is hard hitting. Guys are smashing helmets constantly. But as we have seen, sometimes it’s more than just a bump on the noggin. They get helped off the field and usually do not play the remainder of THAT game.

I say ‘usually’, because this is where the two sports differ: the mentality of the injured player, and the progress being made by the leagues in protecting their athlete. In football, you have to be some big tough guy who likes to play with pain and suffering, and will do anything to help his team. I have listened to all the former NFL players on the sports channels talk about how they would do anything to get back on the field, and the only thing that would stop them is when someone would “hide their helmet”. Nobody was questioning their toughness. They just knew it was best that the player sit on the bench for the remainder of that game.

ESPN analysts Merril Hoge and Trent Dilfer had to retire because of multiple concussions. As did Chris “all he does is catch touchdowns” Carter. These were top players who thought they were tough guys. Now they know how badly they could have hurt themselves. And with most, it takes TWO visits to the doctor and an ugly painted picture of their future to get it through their concussed skulls.

A few years ago, Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers was injured. He was tackled and took a knee to the back of the head. This rendered him unable to play the rest of that game, and he looked awfully groggy on the sidelines. However, during the week he practiced with the team, and was evaluated by independent “league” doctors who considered him symptom free. The team was ready to go with Big Ben starting in their biggest game of the year against Baltimore.

However, on Saturday, Ben noticed he wasn’t quite right. He self-reported this to the team docs, and they shut him down. This put the third string QB in for the game, as QB number two was also injured. In the end, the Steelers lost in overtime, potentially costing them a playoff berth. At the end of the game, one of the best and most respected players on the Steelers, Hines Ward, called Ben out on how “tough” he really is for not playing through the injury.

Hines Ward needs to shut up, as does anyone else questioning the validity of the repercussions of a head injury. The old days are gone Hines. Listen to the former players who are now analysts. They keep talking about how they played through it, but now know they should not have, due to the serious neurological issues these concussions cause. We now have the technology to diagnose these problems, and should follow the advice of professional medical help. We think we live in a more advanced world; a world where people should know better and machismo isn’t the way to go. But these guys still don’t seem to get it. They still feel the need to prove themselves, even though they know it may cost them a viable future.

Both the NHL and NFL will deal with this serious issue in its’ own way. The NHL has formed a committee to investigate how to reduce the number of “head-shots”. The “Messier Project” has tried to develop a newer, safer helmet for the NHL players to wear. No one wants to remove physical contact from the fastest sport on ice, but adjustments have to be made in the player’s thinking. Clean, open-ice hits while catching the other player with the puck having his head down, are sometimes the most dramatic moments of a game. And they make for great highlights. Most of the time, the player who was hit gets back up, and continues on in the game having learned his lesson. It’s the few times where lives can be changed that we need to be concerned about.

The NFL will have a harder time. Every week coaches are trying to screw with the injury report system. I’m a Patriots fan, and I know that my team is one of the worst for it. But, it has reached the point where the league is going to have to step in and mandate that any player that is deemed to have a “concussion-related injury” must sit out at least one game. If nothing else, that rule would be to protect that player. Again, every play is very physical. Helmets are smashing on every snap of the ball, and players still feel it necessary to prove how tough they are by playing through pain. Changing a rule is easy, but changing the ingrained mindset of a player is completely different.

I liken this attitude to the use of instant replay in baseball. Hard-line, old time fans of that game refuse to admit that it is a good thing. Heck, they’ve been getting calls wrong for a hundred years, why change it now? The simple answer to that is: because we can. We have the technology to prove that something is wrong, and needs to be corrected. Put away your testosterone and machismo, before someone grabs your helmet and makes you sit down. They are trying to allow you to be able to SPELL helmet in your later years.

In the meantime, I’m listed as “day-to-day”.

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