Archive for February, 2010

Canadians: Not a bad lot

February 21, 2010

It seems that Canada may have some features other than ice and snow, government health services, igloos, lack of culture, etc.

It turns out that we are OK!


Tiger Talks. Media Whines

February 21, 2010

Tiger stood at the podium Friday morning and gave a prepared speech to a limited and question-restricted audience in which he spoke at length about his problems and his path to redemption.,

Although Woods had been criticized for months about his disappearance from public view and chastised in the media for not making a public statement the criticism did not abate with his planned appearance at the PGA headquarters.

Firstly he was slammed for timing his reappearance with the Friday of the Accenture World Match Championship, one of the sponsors that had dropped him early into the scandal, with the feelings that his timing had upstaged the event. Some opined that it was an act of revenge for being dropped by the sponsor. I liked David Feherty’s comment in a CBS interview, that if Tiger was looking for revenge he would be out there winning the Accenture tournament this week..

Then they didn’t like the idea that Tiger would make a statement and there would be no question and answer period afterword. Which breaks their little hearts, but why the hell would Woods set himself up for a bunch of questions that would be provocative in nature and not really relevant to anything other than prurient curiosity.

Prior to the Friday event, Alex Miceli who works as a commentator for the Golf Channel was asked about Tiger’s press conference and went off on a stupid rant about Tiger manipulating the press and being gutless and selfish and how he owed the world an explanation for what he had done.

He owes the world an explanation? What an unadulterated load of garbage. He’s not who he is or where is in the golf world because anyone voted him into the position. He’s there because of his hard work, talent and dedication. He may owe some people an apology and an explanation, but it certainly isn’t Alex Miceli or any of the other media  types, and it certainly isn’t “the world”.

There was a lot of crying about the timing of the press conference, in that it was on the Friday of the Accenture tournament and how it took away from that event. Hell, Accenture probably got more publicity in the media that they ever could have hoped for if Tiger had made his appearance the following week.

Actually the timing was pretty brilliant. To begin with, if you want to limit the damage you put out your news on a Friday, where it dies away over the weekend and is old news by Monday. Governments have been doing that with bad news for years. Next, the Olympics are in full swing and much of the major networks’ television time are into that spectacle and there is no time to chatter on about Tiger Woods. The final benefit about going public at that time was that only Letterman is live right now and he’s not doing too many jokes about other peoples’ infidelity problems. Leno’s not back on the air, The Daily Show is on re-runs as is Saturday Night Live. I can’t believe that Tiger’s camp didn’t take a lot of this into consideration.

Manipulative and controlling? That’s supposed to be a crime when you’re dealing with your personal life? They’re all just burned because Woods doesn’t play their game.

Tiger’s biggest challenge will be the first tournaments that he enters when he decides to come back. There will be rabble in the crowds and an embarrassing questions in the press room. But what interest me more is whether that sheen of invincibility will have been removed and whether there will still be that psychological edge against opponents when he is coming down the stretch on Sunday.

Drinking the Olympic Kool-Aid

February 14, 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics are now underway in Vancouver.

My early – pre-torch run – impression was that the Canadians were pretty blase about the whole thing. But that seemed to change as the Olympic flame wended its way across Canada. There were certainly enthusiastic crowds that turned out to watch the torch as it was carried through the various locales.

Personally, I am not a fan of the Olympics. I think that somewhere they lost their way, although the winter games possibly less so than the more prestigious summer games.

I am not sure just when the Olympics ‘jumped the shark’ for me personally, but it may have been in 1988 when Ben Johnson fell of his pedestal – or podium – as the case may be.

I was on a sheep hunt in B.C.’s Spence’s Bridge area at the time and was sitting in a local pub watching the race on TV. It was an exhilarating moment which was brought to earth a couple days later when the drug scandal broke.

We had known for years that there was a win at any cost mentality at the Olympics, seeing female East German swimmers with shoulders you could set a table on, and Russian female athletes on one hand who looked as though part of their daily regimen was a morning shave, to lithe little gymnasts who never seemed to grow up. All of which pretty much turned out to be true.

But that was the doing of those nasty Eastern bloc socialists and somehow ‘our’ athletes were the true amateurs, and at one point that may have been a bit closer to the truth.

But the Olympics became corrupted when governments began to use them to showcase their country and more importantly their political agendas. It may have always been thus, but in modern times the 1936 Olympics in Germany stands out.

Hitler used the games to try and sell his theories of white supremacy, only allowing members of the Aryan race to compete for the country. But his boast of Aryan supremacy was famously brought down by the 4 gold medals won by the great U.S. athlete, Jesse Owens.

It turns out that the 1936 Olympics was simply the harbinger of things to come, with government beginning to demand and expect medal winning capabilities from the athletes they sent to the games and the use of Olympic boycotts to make political statements.

The Olympic Council of Ireland boycotted the 1936 Berlin Games, because the IOC insisted its team be restricted to the Irish Free State rather than represent the entire island of Ireland.[104] There were two boycotts of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics: Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland refused to attend because of the repression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet Union; Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the Games because of the Suez Crisis. In 1972 and 1976 a large number of African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott to force them to ban South Africa and Rhodesia, because of their segregationist regimes. New Zealand was also one of the African boycott targets, because its national rugby union team had toured apartheid-ruled South Africa. The IOC conceded in the first two cases, but refused to ban New Zealand on the grounds that rugby was not an Olympic sport.  Fulfilling their threat, twenty African countries were joined by Guyana and Iraq in a Tanzania-led withdrawal from the Montreal Games, after a few of their athletes had already competed. Taiwan also decided to boycott these Games because the People’s Republic of China (PRC) exerted pressure on the Montreal organizing committee to keep the delegation from the Republic of China (ROC) from competing under that name. The ROC refused a proposed compromise that would have still allowed them to use the ROC flag and anthem as long as the name was changed. Taiwan did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name of Chinese Taipei and with a special flag and anthem.

In 1980 and 1984, the Cold War opponents boycotted each other’s Games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This boycott reduced the number of nations participating to 81, the lowest number since 1956.[110] The Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Bloc partners (except Romania) countered by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, contending that they could not guarantee the safety of their athletes. Soviet officials defended their decision to withdraw from the Games by saying that “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in the United States”. The boycotting nations of the Eastern Bloc staged their own alternate event, the Friendship Games, in July and August.

There had been growing calls for boycotts of Chinese goods and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in protest of China’s human rights record, and in response to the disturbances in Tibet and ongoing conflict in Darfur. Ultimately, no nation supported a boycott. In August 2008, the government of Georgia called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, set to be held in Sochi, Russia, in response to Russia’s participation in the 2008 South Ossetia war. The International Olympic Committee responded to concerns about the status of the 2014 games by stating that it is “premature to make judgments about how events happening today might sit with an event taking place six years from now”

Which is quite a history of governments playing their owns games on the backs of their athletes.

Then there is the case of the vanishing amateur. For years various countries got around the rules against professional athletes in the Olympics by various means, but when it became increasingly apparent that many athletes were amateurs in name only the barriers against professional athletes came crashing down. Professional hockey players are now key to winning Olympic teams and the U.S. basketball dream team at the 1992 games in Barcelona featured players such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley. With the addition of golf to the Summer Olympics we can expect to see full rosters of PGA professionals on many country’s teams.

All of which leaves the Olympic Games as a rather tarnished spectacle in my eyes. Certainly there are magnificent moments brought on by the skill and focus of superior athletes. That is the case with any high level sporting event. But to spout on about the purity of the games and their noble aspect is an insult to one’s intelligence.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which controls the Olympics, is run primarily by a group of elitists and has had its own problems with scandal.

Scandal broke on 10 December 1998, when Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler, head of the coordination committee overseeing the organization of the 2002 games, announced that several members of the IOC had taken bribes. Soon four independent investigations were underway: by the IOC, the USOC, the SLOC, and the United States Department of Justice.

Before any of the investigations could even get under way both Welch and Johnson resigned their posts as the head of the SLOC. Many others soon followed. The Department of Justice filed charges against the two: fifteen charges of bribery and fraud. Johnson and Welch were eventually acquitted of all criminal charges in December 2003.

As a result of the investigation ten members of the IOC were expelled and another ten were sanctioned. This was the first expulsion or sanction for corruption in the more than a century the IOC had existed. Although nothing strictly illegal had been done, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious. Stricter rules were adopted for future bids and ceilings were put into place as to how much IOC members could accept from bid cities.

and on the same event.

Speaking for the first time since the controversy blew up, Welch openly admitted giving IOC members whatever they wanted in order to buy their support – arranging everything from plastic surgery for a member’s wife to cash payments into bank accounts and scholarships for relatives.

The Olympic movement was rocked when the scandal came to light three years ago and six members were expelled after an investigation by the committee’s headquarters in Lausanne.

But Welch claims this was a face-saving exercise. ‘It was all for show,’ he told OSM . ‘If what those expelled members did was wrong and everyone else on the IOC was to be judged by the same standards, then probably 80 per cent should have been kicked out.’

Those were the people, he said, who were ‘imposing themselves on you, asking for things and pushing for lavish hospitality’. He said they expected to be treated ‘like lords’ and other cities wishing to host the Olympics had played along too. ‘We bust our butts off to be the greatest hosts,’ he said.

The IOC considered their investigation of allegations against its members to have been thorough and found no evidence of wrongdoing by other members.

Welch, who is now aged 55 and lives in California, revealed that one IOC member was known as a ‘human vacuum cleaner’ because he sucked up a quarter of a million dollars worth of gifts, hospitality and cash.

Another IOC member tricked Welch into paying cash into a London bank account for a daughter who, it was later discovered, did not exist. In both cases the IOC members were expelled.

There is nothing pure and clean and wonderful about the Olympics. That may have been the case at one time in our innocent past, but not for a long time now.

Most of the athletes – at least the top ranked ones in many countries  – do very well financially and more power to them. If governments are going to bask in their glory then they should be able to make their hard work and dedication pay off. They are the ones that bring the viewers to the TV sets and to the actual events.

But don’t feed me any of the crap about patriotism and noble ideals. The Olympics is a sports spectacle that is used by politicians, at best to showcase their country or their region, and at the worst to improve on their personal images and drive political agendas.

Climategate (Hide the Decline)

February 4, 2010

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link.

Groovy golf and spirit of the game

February 4, 2010

Much tearing of clothes and pulling out of hair on the PGA tour over the new groove ruling that came into effect this year.

Although the use of the old, grandfathered Ping wedges are completely legal to use, due to the old lawsuit won by Ping, there have been accusations that players using them are cheating and if not cheating then certainly not playing by “the spirit of the game”.

This is very important to the mythology of golf. Players call penalties on themselves if they break the rules of the game, even though no-one else has seen the infraction. Sometimes even if they are not entirely positive they actually committed an infraction. Which is a wonderful thing about the game of golf.

However, just who makes the decision as to where the boundaries lie in the spirit of the game?

The Ping Eye2 clubs are legal. It’s an anomaly because of the ruling that came out of the old lawsuit, but they are, nevertheless, legal. So to call anyone using them a cheater is not only a stretch, I would think that it bordered on libel.

Spirit of the game? A lot of players think that the long putter should not be allowed and is not in the spirit of the game. But they are legal, because they have never been declared illegal by the governing bodies of the game of golf.

What about when a bunch of fans rolled away the boulder so Tiger Woods could play his next shot unimpeded? It wasn’t illegal, even though the rules were changed after the fact to make that kind of assist illegal in the future. Woods knew the rules and used them to his advantage. But was it in the spirit of the game? I would be inclined to say that it wasn’t by a long shot, but I didn’t hear much wailing about it at the time. Lots of discussion, but the word ‘cheater’ never aired nor do I recall hearing much about ‘spirit’ either.

Frankly, I think it’s a tempest in a teapot. A few guys will try them and who knows, maybe it will give them a psychological advantage. But I wonder how much technical advantage an old Ping Eye2 club will give anyone. Probably very little to none.

Of course if someone really needs to own an Eye2, I just happen to have a set I could sell if the price was right. There may be an upside to this after all.

The aftermath of the late night wars

February 1, 2010

I am somewhat puzzled by the fact that Jay Leno has apparently turned out to be the villain in NBC’s debacle over the Tonight Show.

It seems to me that the only villain here is the NBC decision makers and I suspect they’re less villain than incompetent.

How did this all play out?

1. Five years ago Leno’s contract comes due with NBC at the same time that Conan O’Brien is making noises about leaving the Late Night Show and taking his act somewhere else. NBC doesn’t want to lose O’Brien and see him go to another network, so they promise him the Tonight Show in 5 years if he stays where he is. O’Brien agrees.

2. The NBC execs tell Leno that they will give him a 5 year contract and at the end of the contract – even though his show is currently number one in late night – he has to leave the Tonight Show and let O’Brien take over that time slot. They apparently think that by the end of the 5 years, Leno’s rating will have slipped away.

3. Leno agrees, and at the end of his 5 year contract – even though he is still holding the Tonight Show in its #1 spot – Leno steps down and turns the show over to O’Brien. Leno actually steps away before his contract is over.

4. Leno asks to be released from his contact with NBC but NBC decides now that it doesn’t want to lose him either, knowing that he will probably be picked up by another network and become a competitor to their existing shows.

5. NBC then asks Leno to step into the prime time 10 PM time slot and do his show there. Leno accepts, even though he must know it is a risky move to try and put a talk show in that time slot. But NBC says they have done the research and besides, it is far cheaper for them to run than a drama or a sitcom. The affiliates aren’t happy, but NBC thinks it will work.

In hindsight, there are people second guessing Leno’s decision to accept this show. They seem to feel that he should have refused the offer from NBC. But why would he? NBC wouldn’t release him from his contract, have offered him the challenge of trying to make his show work in prime time, enabled him to keep his staff employed and have ensured him that their research says that the concept will work. Why would he feel compelled to turn that down?

6. Now seven months down the road, Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show is down on the rating scale, having lost Leno’s #1 position. Leno hasn’t captured a big enough market at 10 PM – even though the show is making a profit for the network –  and the affiliates are about to rebel. Now NBC has another problem. Forced to cancel Leno’s show or lose affiliates, they have the option of dumping Leno and keeping O’Brien, who doesn’t have the ratings they want. But NBC, true to its corporate self, wants to have it both ways. They want to find some way to keep both men rather than lose one of them -either one – to some competitor. So they come up with their next brilliant idea.

7. NBC comes to Leno and tells him that they are thinking about giving him a half hour show at 11:35 PM and moving O’Brien and the Tonight Show back to 12:05 AM.

If Leno made a mistake anywhere in this process, it was here. He should have picked up the phone, called O’Brien and said, “what the hell’s going on here? Are you OK with this”? But he didn’t. He says he asked if Conan was alright with this and the network said that he would be, and he left it at that. A lot of his own problems might have been alleviated if he had just made that call.

Conan’s reply to NBC was, in effect, stick it in your ear and it all went further downhill from there.

8. NBC drops Conan O’Brien from the Tonight Show and asks Jay Leno to step back in and Leno accepts. Now Conan is the martyr and Jay is the villain.

But if NBC had confidence in O’Brien, they would have capitulated at that point, left him in the 11:35 slot and started negotiations with Leno to release him from his contract. The network had the option at that point of who they wanted to keep and who they wanted to let go. They made the decision that, rightly or wrongly, Leno was the one they needed to keep.

So should Leno have turned down their offer to return to the Tonight Show? A lot of people seem to think that he should have. By why would he? This was now a business decision, both on NBC’s and Leno’s part.

Leno gets to return as the host of the highly desirable Tonight Show franchise and he gets to keep his long time staff employed. Should he have walked away from the offer in some kind of high moral dudgeon? He could have done that, especially with how he had been jerked around by the network brass, being moved from his job while he was leading the field in the ratings and then being put into a high risk time slot with only 4 months, as it turned out, to make the show work.

But I think that Leno recognized that there was no logic in doing that. He would have put his staff on the unemployment rolls and for what? Would NBC have kept Conan anyway? Maybe and maybe not. Or would the Tonight Show franchise have simply crashed and burned? I think he made the only decision that made sense for him.

The question now will be whether he can return the show to its former glory. NBC has done him no favours by giving him back the chair. If he takes it back to #1 he will be a hero, but if he can’t bring the ratings back up he will be chewed up and spit out by the critics – which in this case is a good chunk of the North American viewing public. He has a major job ahead of him and I am sure that he knows that all too well.

But for all of those noble people out there who think that Leno should have gotten on his high horse and ridden off into the twilight, is that what you would do if you were offered your dream job at the miserable sum of $30 million a year?

Yeah, sure. Get a life.