Tookie and The Snoop

In cold blood I kill. My take is a few hundred dollars. Still, stark in my terror, I take four lives. The racist system has railroaded me onto death row. Eventually, people will come to my defense.

And so it is. Celebrities never turn down a moral crusade. Since they live in a world void of any morals but of moral equivalency, it is easy to join an unholy alliance with criminals. Ah-Nold, the Governor of California, has agreed to review the case of Tookie Williams who is scheduled to be executed December 13. And that's exactly what happened.

Enter the 'Free Tookie' crowd. He should be so lucky that he has a friend in Snoop Dogg (spelling a guess) who is no stranger to the courts. Dogg, of recent comedic fame and a hero to many, has faced charges himself on murder, weapons possession and dealing cocaine. Now that's a person with integrity one looks for. But this is modern pop culture and the 'badder' you are the more likely you'll find some fans. Unfortunately we forget. When we see Ellen joking with Snoop we think, "Wow, cool and funny!" It's similar to the Arafat syndrome. When this thug was presented the Nobel Prize (thus reducing this prize to nothing but dust in my eyes), people simply were not aware of the fact that he was not a freedom fighter but a cold, hard, calculating, murdering, tactical politician.

Tookie's supporters say that have new evidence that he did not commit the crimes and that he was railroaded during the trial. They also point out that he has redeemed himself; that he has written children's books and teaching children not to take his path. This is not the issue. It is to be noted that he has taken his time in prison to connect with his human side. He has contributed some good. This, however, is not enough to free a man for his original actions. At the time, he was an adult, and as such he must pay for his actions. For each action, there is a consequence. Poor or rich, this is what makes us human - knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Which brings me to the issue of capital punishment. This piece is not about whether this is just. Rather, it's about knowing and understanding the laws of your society. By extension, it's understanding the simple principle of accounting for your actions and facing the consequences of those actions. We seem to have removed this outright in contemporary society. The Arab world has excessively low crime rates because that society understands that if they commit a crime, they will face an extreme form of justice. They will face harsh realities for their crimes. Not in Western culture, where not only does the 'innocent until proven guilty' rule prevails - thus placing the burden on the prosecution to prove a person is guilty - but people have the option of blaming environmental reasons - like we see in Canada with its ridiculous youth laws - for a persons crimes. The bottom line is simple. In places like California, New York and Florida, if you are citizen in these states, the death penalty applies. Proceed at your own risk.

While some may be swayed with the notion of "well, if celebrities are defending him then he must be innocent and saved", we must always come back to perspective. He killed four people (including a family of three). He killed four people. Say it, he killed four people in cold blood.

Snoop and his ilk want us to conveniently ignore this. Celebrities want us to accept vices as natural human flaws. Once we do, we will never want to erase those vices. For now, the message is "If you kill, write a children's book, watch celebrities flock to your cause, as the guilt of society will set you free."

If the new evidence presented proves his innocence is accurate, then he must be freed. Here in Canada, Guy Morin and David Milgaard are legendary examples of men going to jail for crimes they did not commit. Stories like Hurricane Carter, while not uncommon, still remain the exception rather than the norm. I don't know if this is a similar case. In the end, the Terminator must make the right decision if Tookie fails to present the hard facts proving his innocence.

I write this piece in honour of the victims. As is usually the case, the victims are often forgotten. May their souls rest in peace.


In Search of Santa Claus: An Insane Journey.

I awoke with a conspicuously suspicious mind this morning. Who is Santa and what exactly does he gain for tirelessly cramming his ass down chimneys to leave gifts for duped children? Qui bono, dammit? No one is perfect and infallible in their altruism, right? Does altruism exist? Why do we do good deeds? But first I had to find out if he was real. I needed to find out.

I kissed my wife good-bye and left. "Don't bother coming back," she indifferently mentioned. I smiled and replied, "You crazy girl."

I started at a local school. No luck. The kids are way too deep in their absorption of Santa Claus propaganda. Worse, the teachers willingly feed this crud under the guise of selling the spirit of Christmas. Steal the spot light from my boy Jesus, eh? Wait until I get my hands on jolly St. Nick.

Next, it was the shopping mall. I found him sitting there alright; all cheap, fat, old and dirty. You can tell by the black rings along his red suit that he has not washed his clothes in some time. Pig. His beard was browning at the edges.

While I waited in line, rehearsing what I was going to ask him, I began to sweat. Which line should I open with? "Here Santa, a blood soaked suit for you. I killed the walrus myself!" Or I could simply make him bleed and stain his own clothes. I'm not sure.

Stage fright was about to hit! The fiendish looking elves were directing us along and when my turn came I felt a sudden kick, "Move, Mister!" I look back; it was some dumb nipper. I looked at his mother and simultaneously wanted to slap and fuck her. I wouldn't mind sticking my north pole in her ass. But before I could further embellish my thoughts, one of those awful looking elves - who were really midgets - yelled at me. They had whips. They spoke with Bismarckian authority. "Break you momma's back!" one yelled. They scared me.

I ran away like a Taliban mental case. I drove my car into the parking lot of another mall. Silently and with purpose, I entered. I wasn't sure what I was going to find. As I turned, my knees buckled. Sock puppets!

I ran away like a Commie hippie pinko left wing pothead. Another mall. This time no sock was going to distract me. This time, no one was going to push me. This time, what the hell? Is that Santa? B-but, I just saw him at the other mall! How many are there? Is he like the Wile E. Coyote? One or many? I asked him the question while sitting on his lap. I don't weigh all that much - 152lbs. He answered, "I am omnipotent. I live in your heart." "Oh" I said, "like God?"

"What do you want for Christmas?" he interjected curtly. "I want the truth" I told him. "You're kidding right? I mean, you're not serious?" he said. "No, no I'm dead fucking serious Santy. I want to know what union you work for and exactly how you profit. I want to see a break-even analysis. I want..." "Security!" They have sock puppets. I leap for my freedom.

Outside, I lean against a wall catching my breath and thoughts. I punch the calming air and tantalizing wind with my fist and demand, "Show yourself you coward. Damn you!"

I ran away. I was confused. I was not closer to the truth. Worse, I may have uncovered a racket. A consortium of diabolical Santas had entered our quiet little town. I'm sure the Jews are behind this. I hear and read that they are behind everything. Heck, Santa Clause may be a Jew. His real name may be Clauseberg or Clausevitch. His whole network may be nothing more than an Israeli plot to take over the Middle East and eventually the world!

I lit a cigarette and went home. My key didn't fit the lock. "Hmm, that's strange. 2B. This is my apartment alright." I look around. Neighbors look at me but say nothing. I plot my next move.

The Montreal Alouettes are the Atlanta Braves of the CFL

Since 1996, when the they returned to the CFL after a 10 year absence, the Montreal Alouettes have compiled a regular season record of 120 wins -59 losses - 1 tie. Or a .669 winning percentage. By far the best record in the nine team league. The only team to have kept pace with this record are the Edmonton Eskimos - the New York Yankees of the CFL - who compiled a 103-77 record or .572 percentage.

Yet, it is the Eskimos with 2 Grey Cup titles (after 5 finals appearances) after tonight's thrilling 38-35 OT win over the Als. Montreal, for all their regular season dominance, have only one Grey Cup to show for it. That was won in 2002 over the same Eskimos.

For their part, since the early 1990s the Atlanta Braves, after 14 division NL titles* and 4 Pennants, are 1-3 in the World Series; losing twice to the New York Yankees. Yes, this is still a great achievement, but I'm sure they feel a little unfulfilled; just like the Montreal Alouette fans and front office feel this evening. Indeed, this type of success may even affect attendance. It already has in Atlanta and Montreal fans are notorious for their fickle behavior. A 'call me when you win' attitude may set in.

The Als let this one slip away - as they usually do. Brain dead penalties and pourous defense in critical moments simply did them in. The Esks were there for the taking - as they were all year long but still found a way to win.

This was Edmonton's 13th Grey Cup (second only to the Toronto Argonaut's 15). While they trail the Argonauts, since 1954 - when the Grey Cup officially became property of the CFL - the Eskimos have been the league's most successful franchise marked with periods of dynasties in the 50s and 70s. Hence, the Yankees reference. The Als, have always been a solid regular season club but now have a well-deserved reputation for not being able to win the big one. Montreal has 5 Grey Cups to their name in 14 tries.

These are not great days for Montreal sports fans. The Expos left MLB with no honor, the Habs are a mere shadow of their once shining masterful dominance in the NHL and the Alouettes are second fiddle in perpetuity. As one of the greatest actors of our generation once said, "Boo-hoo-hoo, always the bridesmaid but never the bride."

*Out of possible laziness, it is not uncommon to hear sports reports, shows and papers annoyingly praise the 14 consecutive division titles won by the Braves. This is a little unfair to the now defunct Montreal Expos. In 1994, the Expos were 74-40 when the players went on strike; in what turned out to be the death and fate-sealing moment for the Expo franchise. At the time, they were 6 games ahead of the Braves.


George Best: Soccer Loses a Master

George Best passed away yesterday. Born in Northern Ireland, Best went on to become Great Britain's first true global football superstar. A slick, weaving and clever hard-tacking forward, Best was incredibly skillful and a masterful deceiving menace to opposing defenders.

Best arrived on the British football scene in 1963 with West Bromwich - five years after the Busby tragedy. In 1965, he inspired Manchester United to the Premiership title and the semi-finals in the European Cup. He led them to another title in 1967. In 1968, his performance in a 4-1 masterful defeat of Benfica in the Champions' Cup finals - Man-U's first - earned him the nickname "O'Beatle" by the Portuguese press. Manchester United did not win another Champions League Cup until 1999.

When all was said and done, the "Fifth Beatle" scored 136 goals in 361 appearances for Man-U. He was voted World and European Footballer of the Year in 1968. Unfortunately, because Best was born in Northern Ireland, the football world never had the chance to watch him showcase his skills on the biggest stage; the World Cup.

His on-field prowess was matched by his off-field antics. Addicted to women and alcohol, Best was washed up by the age of 28; usually the peak years for any athlete. Indeed, he was another great tragic figure among sports legends. God knows there have been a few in North American professional sports.

The tributes have been gracefully and furiously coming in fast. So, where does George Best fit among the all-time greats?

There is no doubt he is among the greatest footballers of the century. Where he fits is a little more difficult to assess. As mentioned, he did not play in the World Cup - though this should have no weight except for popularity considerations - and his career was cut short.

Soccer - and sports in general - is highly subjective. Nor is soccer a sport that relies too much on statistics like we relish in North America. Still, there should be some parameters to follow. One writer from the London Daily Graph ranked him behind Pele and Maradona. Another had him just behind those two and Johan Cruyff. Nice sentiments but a little misguided.

I won't even attempt to rank him. What I will do is point out where some prestigious and important soccer publications placed him. Placar, Brazil's soccer magazine, ranked him 27th in a list of top 100 - a list dominated by 25 Brazilians and 11 Italians. Italy's Venerdi Magazine published their 100 top players (100 Magnifici) in no particular order which included George Best. Another Italian magazine, Guerin Sportivo, compiled a list of the world's top 50 players in the century. Interestingly, Best was left off the list. France's Planéte Football, did include him in their top 50 list; A list which included 6 Brazilians and 6 Italians. France Footballer ranked him 12th. Last, World Soccer magazine mentions Best in their top 100.

In all these lists and others I examined, along with fan threads I read, we can arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to where George Best fit among the all-time greats. In each of these, he was firmly and staunchly behind the geniuses of the game. They include, Pelé, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Alfredo DiStefano, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas, Giuseppe Meazza, Michel Platini and Garrincha. For those of you who are wondering where Beckenbauer and Baresi are, not to mention goalkeepers, I kept it to midfielders and forwards. Heck, I'm sure there are many a Briton who would debate who was greatest among Matthews, Charlton, Moore or Best. Such is sports.

On this day, however, it doesn't really matter. George Best does sit comfortably along side these majestic players. Soccer has lost one of its true giants.


Commentary: This 'Tator Needs a Defibrillator: Football, Quebec, Terrorism, Maureen Dowd, CSI: Las Vegas and history

-You are what you eat. You consume a lobster then you are a lobster.Sports leagues are a reflection of the state of a nation's business culture in some ways. There are no better examples than the NFL and CFL.

We all know about the NFL. Its origins and history plays like a typical American handbook on how to succeed. The CFL on the other hand has more lives than Fritz the Cat. It's a league that if a movie were to be made about it 'Night of the Living Dead' would be the perfect parody. From how it operates all the way to how it projects and markets itself the CFL is quintessentially Canadian; and that's not a good thing when it comes to making profits. 9 teams and 95 years of history and the league still can't figure out how to make money. One century later and they still don't sell out every single game - though attendance has been improving. Sounds suspiciously like the country itself. Canada has 10 provinces that conveniently forget they are in a Confederation. Each province acts like it's an independent entity (think inter-provincial barriers) out to suck the Federal system dry. There is no unity or cohesiveness as to how Canada functions. It's a dysfunctional collection of leaderless and spoiled disaffected morons. Can't wait for the Grey Cup though.

-Speaking of provinces, Quebec deserves credit. I have been merciless in the past regarding the political situation in this place. The intellectualism here is claustrophobic and weak. But that's for another post. When looking at Canada as a whole, Quebec by far has the most thriving grass roots football programs and indigenous movie industry. Slowly we are beginning to see world-class French-Canadian football players emerge and there has been a marked improvement in the quality of Quebecois films. Quirky, well-written and now sophisticated, Quebec-based films are even marketable to Americans. In a larger North American context, this is welcomed. While Canadians have been introduced to the many facets of American life, Americans have not been exposed to the different culture that lays North of them.

-Spanish police arrested a Moroccan with plans to attack subways. One of the cities initially thought to be targeted was Montréal. Well, I'm not going to rehash anything here. One of the first things I argued was that we were not immune after 9/11. Canadians, however, unfortunately seemed perfectly content to dive further into a deep and dark realm of denial. Canadians have taken to easily to the disease of anti-Americanism that masquerades as Canadian nationalism. I have strenuously argued that this country is not only unprepared logistically but psychologically as well.

-Speaking of absurdities. Maureen Dowd is one pompous chick. I caught two or three minutes of her interview with Charlie Rose and could not watch one more wretched nano-second. Her demeanor and locked-jaw was awful. Now that's megalomania at its height. Seriously, I have no idea what the fascination is with her. I have read maybe three of her articles and found them to be superficial, childish and arrogant. They offered nothing in insight that would help to improve my knowledge. From what I hear, she's acclaimed and littered with awards. Which leads me to wonder - what are these awards worth? They did, recall we must, give Arafat a Nobel Peace prize.

-Speaking of history, I watched CSI: Las Vegas - as a prelude to FOX Sports World who had my UEFA Cup soccer updates at 10pm - Ever notice how, and CSI is not the only one guilty of this, whenever a character goes off and explains an interesting historical event or fact how the person he or she is speaking to reacts? Usually with rolled eyes or complete disinterest. Tells a lot about the state of history in pop culture - to me anyway.

Clear! That's the sound of the defibrillator....


Irrefutably Demented Megalomaniacs: A Preliminary Examination of my Hockey Pool


The act of exchanging $1 in the hope of earning $10 through the futile art of sports gambling is foolhardy. Not only that, - gambling is not a calculated risk - but the low art of believing, through the dark prism of half-developed minds and egos, that you're better than the next half-broiled ham with pineapples - is technically immoral and therefore a sin. Hence, the billion dollar industry it has spawned.

Anything that gives way to the possible attachment and addiction of a vice should be banned. Anyone caught betting should be stripped and chased by a hungry and angry pack of soused, sex starved Eskimo lesbians. Think about it.

Legislate against a vice? Bah.

As a covert sociological study for a government that shall remain nameless -ok, so it's for the Saskatchewan Wheat and Gaming Boards - I joined a hockey pool a few years to analyze what motivates normal and responsible individuals with high positions and seemingly stable families to engage in an utterly depraved and valueless activity. They spend hundreds of dollars that could otherwise be used to dress and take the kids out. They consume hundreds of hours researching, strenuously debating and pontificating about people they know little of. Why?

What I have learned so far:

The objective of the exercise is to pick players, through a draft in a poorly ventilated restaurant that serves suspect food for several hours, and subsequently hope and pray the players you chose bring you in barely one months rent or mortgage payment. Worse, the servers are rarely sexy women with big tatonka's. They are usually French speaking males who obviously want to take part rather than take orders.

All the while, an inordinate amount of time is wasted, as mentioned earlier, emailing nonsense, swearing, making terrible Muslim terrorist references, researching and begging someone to take one of your players in a barter system known as a trade. The goal of the trade is to sodomize your opponent. To rape and make him to feel like he is unfit to be part of an association of pool sluts. If he goes home in a depressed state and his wife questions his manhood then mission accomplished. "Dad, why is Sergei Gonchar a puke and a vomit that stinks like pig shit and eats dead ants?" "I do not know son. DAMMIT, Timmy I just...don't... know. Leave me alone!"

My first essay was titled "A most deprived and depraved group of mental cases that need to have more sex outside of marriage." While on the surface we are witnessing what seems to be a normal and functioning society of market oriented poolsters, deep within its layers we find a darker more sinister reality.

In this city of vice, there lay several internal factions struggling to gain recognition and power. Tribalism and decadent ritualistic practices have been detected; though I have yet to substantiate. I need to gain their trust first to be included inside their inner sanctum. One of their initiations, it is alleged by one source known only as Lennie, is to jerk off in a coffin while a monkey awaits to clean up.

What follows is a sample of some of the subjects:

One poolster, is a giggling mad fool who paints the walls of his house with the names of the players he is following. He is Exhibit A and I call him Frolov. Another, a doctor of some sort, though I have my suspicions that he is really a sorcerer, is plotting to inject vaccinations ladened with a strand of a viral infection into his enemies. He is also known to employ thugs to beat fellow poolsters should they turn down any deals. I call him Ninimaa. A draftsman from Kirgizstan concludes my first round of observations. He is Teemu. His intimidation abilities include employing an innocent smile while sonically sending wicked waves of dolphin squeals to his enemy. He insists he learned the trick from Arthur Curry - otherwise known as Aquaman.

Preliminary conclusion:

And so my experiment continues. My result will not be published for another year. But when I do, it promises to be of incredible social value of grand proportions. Legislators will clamor to my feet begging for guidance on how to eliminate and eradicate the pond scum that seems to constantly rise in our society. Only then will I be able to help those who have succumbed to madness. Now, if you don't mind, I have a call to make...to a poolster....about a...trade.


Max: Self-Unemployed

I know I haven't written much recently but I swear I will be back with more stories and pointless adventures real soon. Insert banjo player from 'Deliverance' here.

For those of you wondering where Jeebies has gone, he is learning how to rope sing in Nunavut. He also sent me a lovely pair of gloves made of caribou fur. His last message said "Me and Igalikuk are busting this joint up like Bad Scooter and the Big Man."

As for me, I've been busy searching for love and legal advice. For purpose and existence. For rare hockey tickets and Charles Lindbergh. For an original Al Jolson recording and honor. For laughter and sorrow. For the Falcon and the Snowman. For a sparrow and a black bird. For Jenna and cold hard cash. For King Arthur and a leader for my country. For lies and for spare change. For truth and dust. For integrity and optimism.

I can feel it somehwere now.


Article of Interest: Politics: Foreign Affairs: Melvin R. Laird

Here's an article in Foreign Affairs by former Secretary of Defense (1969-1973) Melvin R. Laird. It is informative, insightful, sober, balanced and introspective.



A Remembrance Day Incident

A few months ago I wrote a piece about an ignorant busboy (caught up in the anti-Bush hysteria) who felt compelled to comment on my wife's t-shirt of a jeans company that happened to have an American flag on it. The politically challenging remark - in a place where we paying customers - stunned us and left us wondering about the state of freedom in our country.

Fast forward to today. It never fails. Every year Canadians are encouraged to wear Poppy in honor of fallen soldiers. It's not meant to be political but as a somber reminder of a different time when a whole generation were not as lucky as we are in our leisurely ways. I have two poppies. The one I wore today had a Canadian flag pin holding it down on my sweater.

Normally, I just use a regular pin but it would not have held well on a leather coat. So, I opted for the one I never wear but keep on my desk. I just wanted to make sure I was carrying one.

As each passing year goes by, so does a person who forgets or the one who conveniently chooses to politicize the event. The province of Quebec is one of those places. Quebec sent many of its sons and daughters to fight but the issue of Canada mobilizing for war was highly controversial here and it eventually led to a dithering Mackenzie King to enact a conscription law. A double whammy against the wishes of Quebec who felt, not without entire reason, that it was not Canada's war but a war for Britain. In this light, they were similar to American isolationists. English-Canada responded that we were a part of the Empire and as such were compelled to fight alongside the Commonwealth.

Both sides had a point. In the end, the right decision was made. The allies needed Canada it turned out.

Granted, Canada made some horrible decisions - like sending our soldiers with outdated Ross Rifles in the Great War and going ahead with a highly dubious Dieppe campaign during the Second War- but the country matured fast during this time. Our foreign policy had yet to come of age and we were caught between wanting outright Canadian independence and the reality of existing in the bosom of the British Empire. Lest we forget Canada became a country in 1867. Today, Canada behaves very much like they are country in search of itself.

Off we went to war. And the rest is history. Now, we remember. However, many have taken the years that have healed all wounds to engage in revisionism or to rehash old stories. Quebec remains rooted in a 1950s mentality that simply does not resonate well with contemporary times. They often talk of English Canada as one monolithic block - which of course it isn't.

Someone, after examining my pin, told me today that they would never hold the flag. Not that I asked. I found this comment curious for a couple of reasons. One, never mind that Canada's present flag was invented in 1968. We fought under the British flag during the Great Wars. Second, what was the point of saying this on such a month? Again, politics always overwhelms our better judgment. This was not a matter of free speech but someone questioning my rights. Today, people can be ignorant and feel emboldened to showcase it. I responded carefully and measured since many people were around.

Above all, this is not what offended me. What saddened me was the fact that all these people, from French and English Canada and of all nationalities and barely past their 18th birthdays, died for us. It really isn't about the politics but the human side of it. It went right through the empty mind of one individual today.


A Look at the North American Sports Fabric with Hockey and Football

Hockey rules Canada and football the United States. The facts, of course, help to support this reality. Which sport has a bigger impact on its country though? I would submit hockey captivates and occupies the Canadian sports fan more than football does an American. At the same time, it is also interesting to note how football had a common thread between the two countries. The origin of football is a shared sports story between Canada and the United States.

The first documented football game in Canada was played in Toronto in 1861. It was first played in 1868 in Quebec. By 1909, the Grey Cup was introduced as a reward to the champion of the Rugby Football Championship. The Grey Cup has been a Canadian tradition ever since and its awarded to the CFL (Canadian Football League) Champion. In 1874, a football team from McGill University visited Harvard to play two exhibition games. The key result of this match up was the fact that McGill played a hybrid game of soccer and rugby while Harvard played a form of soccer. Harvard won the first game 3-0 playing Harvard rules and the second game was 0-0 playing McGill rules. Characteristics such as running with the ball and tackling which became the hallmarks of football were spread by an enthusiastic Harvard squad to other Ivy League schools.

Interestingly, football in Canada preceded hockey which played its first organized game in 1875. In 1888, Lord Stanley of Preston donated a trophy to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. By 1917, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the champion of the National Hockey League and is widely considered to be the most recognized trophy, in addition to being the oldest, in pro sports. The Grey Cup happens to be the second oldest. In any event, it was hockey that was to capture the attention, hearts and minds of Canadians.

By contrast, the first inter-collegiate football game in the U.S. was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton and the first professional game in 1875. American pro football went through many changes and began with the American Professional Football Association in 1920. The APFA changed its name to the National Football league in 1922. The NFL withstood many viable rival leagues early on. The first was the All-America football conference from 1946 to 1949. Later, and more significantly, the AFL was created in 1960 and soon merged with the NFL later in the decade. The NFL, at the height of its popularity, had to battle yet another well orchestrated league in the USFL but this too was defeated by the NFL. Today, the NFL rules the football world.

Baseball, for its part, up until the 1960s transcended American sports. First played in 1865, baseball organized its first league - National League in 1876. The World Series was first played in 1903 between the winner of the NL and the American League (AL) founded in 1901.

With this, it is time for some observations. First, one may wonder why Canada had an early impact on all of North America's pro sports (including basketball). The reason is simple. Britain still had a major influence on Canadian society during this time. British Majors and Generals stationed in Canada were always developing or on the look out for new games. Athletics was considered an important element in creating a soldier and a gentleman. Much of what was played was at the amateur level.

Second, football had to take on hockey in Canada and baseball in the U.S. This is where the two countries go their separate ways. While football is a popular game in Canada, it could never seriously rival hockey. In the beginning, this was the case with the U.S also only baseball ruled. Things took a sudden change by the time the 1960s rolled around. While key championship games in the 1950s had laid the foundation, football began to run wild in the 60s. Ever since then, even with baseball's push in the mid-70s, football has become America's game while baseball remained a pass time. A different America with different dynamics shrugged off baseball and moved on.

Third, football is indeed the most popular game in the U.S.and it has found a resurgence in Canada since the 1990's. However, no sport means so much to a country like hockey does to Canada (not mention scores of soccer nations. England, Brazil and Italy in particular take it to another level). Hockey has come to represent the achievements and failures of a rustic society. Hockey affects the Canadian psyche that football and baseball only wished it could. America, after all, still has the NBA and NASCAR - so their attention is divided.

More importantly, baseball and football do not have international tournaments that pit nations against other nations. Football remains, despite being played in Mexico and Japan now, a two country sport. Baseball never mobilized itself to create a meaningful tournament that brought Cuba, Japan, Canada and other relevant countries. Hockey did. This is what made the sport so important. Especially during the Cold War. There are four major international tournaments and all have Canadians riveted.

There you have it. A somewhat long look at two countries and 2 sports. The point of the argument was that football managed to wrestle the American sports fan away from baseball to become its most dominant sport in a highly competitive market. Not so with the Canadian fan where hockey continues to wield a magnetic power on an entire nation.


Remembrance Day, November 11. Honor Thy Sons.

As November 11 approaches, it is only fitting to pay homage to Canada's proud military past. In recent years, our government has neglected our military and has turned a once proud heritage into a curious farce. This in itself is cause for shame and is just another poignant example of the loss leadership that absorbs this rudderless country. With this, this piece will remain on this post for the month of November. We begin with a poem written by a Canadian.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae

It is not surprising that many have forgotten about Canada's contribution during the Two Great Wars. Whether we had any direct interests or not in participating the facts of history secure that we nonetheless were present. Every year our Veteran's, a dying breed and treated with scant respect, color our shopping malls ready to pin a Poppy on grateful citizens.

Unfortunately, there have been some shocking disrespectful actions of ingratitude among some. In Quebec, nationalist politicians will at times side with classless musings in an effort to reminds people that Quebec was not interested in fighting and that it was a British Empire affair. Perhaps, but bringing this up during the one month where we all gather to respect those who did go - including many French-Canadians - is disappointing.

Indeed, Canada is a nation that has lost all sense of purpose - choosing instead to direct their pride into things of scant importance. A couple of years ago, the CIBC bank - one of the largest banks in this country - chose to not allow Veteran's to set up there tiny tables in their branches. This from a bank that boasts of its contribution to Canadian history in its commercials. I vowed, in whatever capacity, to always bring this up. The CIBC, IKEA and other companies like them should always be made to account for their poor actions.

Canada is a tough little nation. Many of the battles this young nation fought have often been overlooked by the Great Powers but were it not for their many victories - often victories that the Great Powers themselves could not achieve - the Germans would have had much more momentum. Here are some of the key battles:

Battle of Ypres - Belgium, 1915. Attacked under a cloud of chlorine gas from three sides by numerically superior German forces, the Canadian 1st Division, abandoned by their French allies, held on to the post until the Germans retreated at the cost of 6 000 Canadian casualties.

Battle of Mount Sorrel, 1916. Hand to hand combat of brutal nature marked this battle which included the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Princess Patricia Light Infantry, the 5th Battery. Canadians, when over ran, fought to the last man but with their revolvers in their hands. The Canadians halted the advance.

Battle of Vimy Ridge - France, 1917. The Canadian Corps met all objectives by capturing this important 135 metre high ridge, key to the Hindenburg Line, defended at all costs by the Germans.

Passchendaele, Belgium 1917. Relieving New Zealand and Australian units, Canadians put an end to this battle at the cost of 8 000 casualties and pushed back a fierce German counter-attack.

Battle of Hill 70, Lens, France 1917. Using various original methods, the Canadian Corps took this chalk called Hill 70. The capture, at the cost of 1 055 killed and over 2 400 wounded, gave allies a clear view of Germans positions in Lens. By this point, Canada was showing the world it could take and hold points of importance.

Belcourt, France 1918. 100 000 Canadians stormed the Hindenburg Line. Four Canadian divisions met 9 full German divisions. A German officer was quoted as saying this was the 'blackest day' as Germany "buried all hopes of victory." In fact, Canadian fighting abilities had become stuff of legend among the Germans.

While what was happening on the ground was nothing short of remarkable for Canada - still a subject of the British Empire, Canadian airmen distinguished themselves with the likes of legends like Billy Bishop. All allied nations took notice. The British thought so highly of Canadian pilots - it is thought a Canadian (Roy Brown) shot down the notorious Red Baron - that they set p a recruiting and training program, which included Americans coming up to be trained, at Camp Borden in Beamsville.

Dieppe, France 1942. Canada's unnecessary raid of the beach resort becomes a disaster. Of the 4 900 of whom only 3 900 reached the beach, 983 were killed and 1 874 were taken prisoner.

Pachino, Italy 1943. Canada spearheads the Sicilian campaign with its 1st division. The campaign was also in Reggio Calabria where the West Nova Scotia Regiment, the Carleton and York Regiments took part. Later that year, the 1st Division was to also take a German stronghold in Ortona.

Normandy, France - June 6, 1944. The biggest amphibious operation im military history. 175 000 American, British and Canadian soldiers landed in Normandy. The Canadian 1st Parachute Battalion along with other divisions such as the 3rd Canadian Infantry, the RCN minesweepers and RCAF, made the deepest penetration of all Allied forces. 359 Canadians were killed.

And so it went on. Soldiers from a Nordic society seeking recognition and independence liberated Dieppe, Antwerp and Holland. During the Post-War era, Canada was a key member in establishing the United Nations. Canadians were to take help their American friends in Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War with Iraq and the War on Terror in Afghanistan. In a symbolic moment of the Golden Age of Canadian identity, Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games. Canada's eminence and their place in the world was limitless.

Alas, there was a limit. A price ceiling if you will. Contemporary Canadian leaders exhibit an inability to fully grasp this country's true spirit. Once a rugged and individualist nation with limited government that understood its role in the world, Canada is now a rudderless, misguided collection of 'follow the polls' politicians. Canada is now a nation that demands government handouts in the form of equalization payments for its provinces and subsidies for its industries. It is a nanny state in comparison to what it once was.

Canadians no longer stand on their own two feet. The must be propped up with a cane. Canadians seem unaware or disinterested in returning to a time when we really mattered. In a larger sense, some citizens in the West have taken to mocking our liberties. They forget that liberty is a precious commodity that is sought after by wicked people. They forget, in their rebellious questioning, that once upon a time freedom was threatened and fought for. It is no womder why some downplay what we face today. Propaganda perhaps. It's a good kind though. Peace at all costs has a downside. We must seek it but not in compromise. We have been fed a whole wagon of leftist special interest jargon. In the process of our well-intentioned and vain social engineering, we have forgotten who we are. The first casualty was our military.

A first gesture to recovering a sense of ourselves is to make sure we take a moment to reflect and recall the sacrifices made by a generation on Rememberance Day, November 11.


Hockey is Tailor-Made for the American Sports Fan

For years I have always wondered and tried to intellectually rationalize why hockey isn't more popular across the United States in terms of media and television exposure. Furthermore, it barely registers on the publics imagination. Then again, since the rise of football in the 1960s, even baseball has lost its grip on the American sports fan. Sports mad America has two passions in different regions and demographics now: College and NFL football & NASCAR.

That doesn't mean hockey isn't popular in certain parts of the country. Minnesota is a hockey-crazed hotbed at both the Collegiate and amateur ranks. The state consistently produces world-class players. In Detroit and Philadelphia, the Red Wings and Flyers outdraw the Pistons and 76ers respectively. Massachusetts has a long and proud hockey culture, as Bruins hockey reveals.

Chicago and New York, two of the country's biggest markets, have devoted pockets of Blackhawks, Sabres, Islander and Ranger fans. I think the Devils, despite their successes, are only followed by Bruce Springsteen.

The first real stage of the NHL's attempt to make inroads with the average American sports fan was presented when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. The impact on California's hockey inscriptions was immediate. Since then, its growth and development has been impressive. It is not uncommon to see California teams come up to Canada to play in major tournaments, and excel. In some cases, they even win. The thinking is that most southern states do not connect to hockey for several reasons.

Weather is often cited as one. The myth and allure of hockey in northern climates is that kids play the sport outdoors and thus create an immediate love for the game. This kind of grassroots 9make that iceroots) connection can never be underestimated. In Canada, the ritual in this country was playing hockey on Saturday and then getting home to watch Hockey Night in Canada. The sport has achieved a level of passion that only soccer fans can rival.

Another is that the sport is a foreign one and has little relevance to the American experience. To me, this one is less plausible. Football is not a purely American sport. Canadians had a hand in how the sport evolved from rugby in the late 19th century. Eventually, both countries developed their own styles and rules. Basketball, while invented in the U.S., was an idea from a Canadian. Americans will latch onto a sport regardless of origin. If they love it they will support it. I think anyway. The truth is that if there is any holes in my argument it's that basketball and football are not viewed to be foreign at its roots.

Yet another misconception is that Americans simply don't understand the game. While on some level this is true, especially if we're talking about places that are just being introduced to it, in a larger sense this can be dismissed. The American sports fan is sophisticated and knowledgeable enough to grasp the intricacies of the game.

Ironically, while the sport is a favorite whipping boy among ESPN personalities and often dismissed as a fringe activity, USA hockey has quietly built a superb hockey program that rivals the traditional powers. American hockey is clearly on par with Canada, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say, given the enormous population base in the U.S., that one day American born players will come to dominate the NHL. We may very well see the United States win on a regular basis at the World Juniors, World Cup, World Championships and Olympics.

The same contradiction can be seen with soccer - another sport Americans seem to love at the grass roots level but have little interest at the pro level. While hockey is a sport with limited appeal on a global scale - save North America, Europe and parts of China and Japan - soccer is truly the world's game - except in the U.S. Yet to soccer fans, the U.S. has once again quietly found itself in the upper echelons of soccer nations, cracking the top 10 in the FIFA rankings. It is a ranking system with dubious methods, but a recognized one nonetheless. In fact, America is so committed to developing its soccer program through its huge reservoir of talent, I have predicted that we may not only see an American squad reach the finals one day but go all the way and win it.

This brings me to my point. When the U.S. juniors won the gold medal a couple of years ago over Canada, this achievement went unnoticed in the U.S. Moreover, Canada and the U.S. have created an intense rivalry on levels from junior to professional, and from amateur ranks to the women's game. While Canadians feel this is one of the most intriguing battles in sports, Americans seem to be oblivious to this exciting fact.

Many of us remain perplexed. Hockey offers everything Americans cherish and adore in a sport - if not in life. It has power and agility, violence and elegance, high level of skill and speed. It is an intense sport with deep and traditional history. It's a game that embodies all the qualities Americans have come to appreciate in their culture. So why is hockey consistently pushed aside by mainstream sports media and fans?


La France Moderne: Le Miroir est Brisé

I once heard, as most people have, a saying that proclaimed 'it doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they are talking about you.' Or "there is no such thing as bad publicity." This may very well attach itself to France.

By design, France is a suave and sophisticated nation that has contributed much to the world. At different points in time, and often at the same time throughout history.

From the ashes of the Merovingians and Carolingians, the Frankish Kingdom of Gaul rose to become a great country. Of course, all things must come to an end. Modern France is in serious trouble and it's really not hard to figure out why.

The writings of Niccolo Macchiavelli, to cite a peculiar starting point, were a response and reaction to the perpetual state of war Italian city-states were in during the Renaissance were mired in. Macchiavellian politics, while a standard in Italy, was really practiced by all nations and peoples.

France has always thumped its chest and waxed theory on everything possible in pompous grandeur. From their huge and skilled civil service to their large diplomatic corps. At times, their artistic ego sometimes got the better of them.

Not so long ago, I witnessed one one of Chirac's close political colleagues, while visiting Quebec, berate an anglophone journalist for not speaking French. He belittled, before the media, this person for not speaking the language of 'intellectualism and high culture'. Of course, one can interpret this action as being, ironically, rather unsophisticated.

France - like England and Spain - consolidated under the monarchy system centuries before Italy or Germany for that matter. Thus, it was in a much better position to employ Macchiavelli's theories of power into practical use. Indeed, France became a European, and later, world power early on in its existence. From Martel to Charlemagne to a long succession of Monarchs and Generals, France was always in the middle of European and world affairs.

These days, under its present leader Jacques Chirac, France maintains the belief that they are still relevant. They employ an 18th century mentality in current affairs - A world structure that is changing before their eyes. While they were a key player in the design of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 - a treaty that ushered a new world order - they find themselves, largely due to their own choice, on the outside looking in as the United States and Great Britain (present during the Treaty) redesign geopolitical rules.

When examining the quarrelsome French in the 20th century, one can't help but wonder about its odd and what can be perceived as hypocritical behaviour. While American contradictions can be attributed to a nation that has yet to plan a sound foreign policy conducive to its sensibilities, France's actions seem to be deliberate in that it seeks to undermine American power to enhance its own image. This may turn out to not only be damaging to France but a dangerous game to play period.

Nowhere is this more stark than with its alliance with not just Arab states and leaders but with terrorist organizations and dictators. France, once upon a time, was an ally of Israel but soon shifted alliance under Charles de Gaulle in an effort to increase visibility in an oil soaked region dominated by a demographically dominant Arab population. It was a pure Macchiavellian power play. However, one must wonder if this was a deal with the devil.

After 40 years of such tactical foreign policy balancing, there is no evidence that Chirac's repugnant cozying up with Arafat, Hezbollaz and Saddam Hussein has had any positive affect. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. French military personnel and civilians have all been targeted by terrorist throughout the last three decades. France's own Muslim population is growing and is expected to reach 25% of the population as soon as 2025. True, the Arab world looks at France in a better light than the U.S.

However, many of France's Muslims who were born in France are sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden and France has not been immune to the trivial chants of 'death to France' on its own soil. Yet, French intellectual circles - and not just in France but across Europe - continue to use socialist and other questionable left-wing rhetoric as a sign of vibrant intellectualism.

What bed have they made? Possibly, if we agree with these points, a messy one. While it may be too soon to tell, a pattern can be noted. France's political machinations may ultimately nip them in the arse. Needless to say, there posturing has led to the rise of anti-semitism - pogroms are nothing new in Europe dating back centuries- and it has not been restricted to the streets but has found itself creeping into the halls of power. Recently, a French ambassador to the UK was quoted as saying about Israel "...that shitty little country..."

It is remarkably ironic how a democracy with a questionable 20th century track record would eschew an imperfect democracy like Israel in a sea of irrational thought.

France are the purveyors of Macchiavellian thought in Occidental politics. They do what they have to do to remain on top. In this light, they are like any kingdom or nation in world history. However, in this instance, France is not even on top and this makes it all the more disturbing not only for world affairs but France itself.

The French should concern themselves less with the diet of the world and the alleged evils of the United States and more with their own pending social and economic demise. It's time to start talking about France for all the right reasons.