• As the hockey playoff season toys with addicted viewers such as myself, I am reminded of a tragic flaw possessed by certain hockey broadcast directors. Often, the best moments of a game are brought to us by its final minute—-in particular when one team has a precarious one-goal lead over the other. On such an occasion, the team that is behind will almost always trade in their goaltender for an offensive player. My concern, then, is with NHL broadcasters, who, in such a crucial moment, insist on cutting our view away from the frantic play so that we can witness the vacating goalie on his journey to the players’ bench.

    Given the frequency of one-goal games that yield this scenario during an NHL season, you would think that somewhere between 99 and 99.9% of NHL fans would understand and believe the play-by-play commentators when they tell us “The Canucks’ goalie has left his net for an extra attacker.” Nevertheless, the broadcast director, who apparently hates to see a relevant image go to waste, often invades our viewing of the excitement so that we can verify that the announcer isn’t lying to us: “Yup, I see the goaltender is, as described, skating to the payers’ bench.”

    For the skeptical, hearing impaired, or otherwise confused fan, I wonder if 2011 broadcast technology might allow a wee “picture in picture” to show the detail of the goalie leaving his cage? Yeah, I think that might to do it. But, if not, personally I think it’s worth allowing the estimated* .1 to 1% who are confused to ask their fellow viewers for assistance. (*Note: these statistics are based on a double blind guess by this author.)

    Perhaps Broadcast directors have trouble making this obvious decision because they fancy themselves to be artists instead of documentarians. It’s the standard blunder: when the author of any tale gets too caught up in the artistic tricks of his or her craft then they can easily lose perspective on the actual tale they’re depicting.

    The same infliction sometimes overcomes sports broadcasters who put together “plays of the week” as they feel an urge to smother the footage with special effects. As a sports fan, I find these various digital treats make it difficult to follow the plays that I’ve come to watch.

    The only solution I can think of to this problem is for a boycott. I suggest we all turn off our TVs when broadcasters ruin our view with unnecessary closeups. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em!

    (Note: for more on this topic see its sequel, “THE ART OF BROADCASTING: A NEW YEAR’S FOLLOW-UP,” coming to Sethblog December 2011.)

  • This is one of those classic commentaries that I promised in my “Captain’s Blog”: it comes to you from many months ago and so isn’t exactly “archaic” as my brother would say, but it is slightly beyond timeliness. However, as 2011 begins its quest, I thought it would be a good time to offer this analysis of one the biggest events of last year. As always, therefore, please read it with a grain of imagining you were living in the former time in which it was written.

    FIFA, with its World Cup (of Football), presides over the world’s most popular game and name for a sport. Far behind the dominant leader, there is Rugby Football, Australian Rules Football, Gaelic Football, American “Gridiron” Football, Canadian Football, and (will you accept?) Foosball, who each believe themselves entitled to the name because, you see, it was their common ancestor’s moniker before them. Yes, like a Homo Sapien to a Homo Neanderthalensis (who still roam the earth on over-loud motorbikes), all those sports descend from a common game.

    The original, untamed sport allowed hands as well as feet to manipulate the ball. (Indeed, because the sport was not always foot-centric, some suspect that the term “football” derived not from the use of the feet against the ball, but instead from the medium of feet by which its peasant participants moved about the pitch, in contrast with the horse-bound aristocrats competing at polo.)

    That first, not-fully-defined game was eventually organized in England, where a dispute over whether hands should be kept active in the contest branched it into two offspring: those who wanted to focus on the feet created “association” football (whose name was adapted to “soccer” from, yes, the “soc” in “association”), while those who wanted to keep their hands in play invented “rugby” football (which then begat gridiron football such as the CFL and NFL in North America).

    Each of these games succeeded, but, like its metaphorical counterpart, the homo sapiens, association/soccer football was the most prolific—-probably for the same peasant accessibility reason that (may have) put the “foot” in “football”. Rich and poor could play without many resources: a ball will do—-goalposts are a bonus. It is now contested fervently on six of seven Earth-bound continents (although there are rumours out there, which I’ve recently started, that the scientists on Antarctica occasionally put up some frozen goalposts and compete for penguin meat).

    In spite of its mudblood beginnings, association football seems to believe that its popularity implies superiority and so chortles at the efforts of its cousin games. North American football is often teased, for instance, for its constant stoppages in play—-apparently in ugly contrast with the “beautiful game” in which players glide around the pitch for 90 minutes with only one stop of its watch.

    But, maybe, precisely because it’s so popular, association football needs help. Sports that don’t have a six-continent following have had to evolve to compete. In contrast, soccer has no peer to fear and so perhaps lacks the incentive to aim to be better. Instead, it languishes in its dominant position without questioning itself.

    Therefore, I humbly offer my services in this area. (I realize it’s presumptuous to question the behaviours of a game that dwarfs my own favourite—-hockey, which is perfect, thanks for asking—-but I’m willing to do it anyway for the sake of being so very helpful.) After observing FIFA’s World Cup, 2010 edition, I have three tiny little blasphemous suggestions:

    (1) Let’s begin with football’s amalgamation with the sport of diving. Within the present rules of soccer, there appears to be the following guideline: “A foul occurs when (A) a player is struck by an opponent via kicking or pushing, or (B) a player is almost struck, and gives a wonderful, acrobatic demonstration of how he would have fallen if indeed he had been violated”.

    (Consider the following Youtube compilation…)

    Soccer players are not the only athletes who attempt to convince referees that they’ve been fouled when they haven’t (my Canucks’ leading jerk, Alex Burrows, can attest to that) but they are the most prolific and profound in their efforts. With comprehensive pseudo-agony, their faces writhe as their bodies fly and flail across the pitch after being nearly tripped. Much of the time the referee realizes that players who are genuinely damaged would be too distracted by their pain to try to highlight it, but sometimes the performance of the diver convinces the judge that a crime was committed and the corresponding sanctions must then be enforced.

    (See the following delightful video to imagine how teams might train their players to dive…)

    In the non-sports world, we call that fraud. The only difference between a forger selling a fake painting and a football player selling a fake foul is that an unearned penalty kick in a World Cup match is much more valuable. Yet, association players are rarely convicted for this crime. They are free to jump up from what appeared to be an amputated leg’s worth of pain and continue sprinting around the field until their next performance.

    It is not so beautiful to witness, but, as long as simulating injuries is part of the skill-set that can help a team win, players will continue to develop their tumbling routines. So unless FIFA, in fact, believes that one’s flare for the dramatic should be amongst the aptitudes that influence the result of a football contest, they must make the punishment for the crime outweigh the possible gains.

    Currently, if a FIFA referee is convinced he’s seen a fake, he’s authorized to apply one of his yellow warning cards (the second of which will eject the player from the game). Unfortunately, first-view assessment of diving is very subjective and so it is not often called: I suggest, then, that FIFA supplement these occasional yellow cards by spending a few minutes, after each match, at the replay screen, and then disciplining any conclusive evidence of fraud with a 10-game ban from international competition.

    This is just a wonderful starter idea. I leave it to Mr. and Mrs. FIFA to work out the details. So long as the penalties are sufficiently aggressive, few players will invoke them.

    (2) Now let’s talk about offside, the omnipresent restriction that says you cannot be ahead of the opposition defence unless the ball is too. It is a rule that has a lovely spirit to it that insists that success in the game be derived from skilfully manoeuvring the ball past the enemy as opposed to running ahead and waiting for a long kick from a comrade. But, to my spoiled-by-hockey-viewing eye, the rule is to too restrictive because it doesn’t allow for a middle ground: no matter how far your team has brought the ball up the field by its wits, you’re still offside if merely your diving cap is beyond the defenders. This limits the options of the attackers and so offers a hefty advantage to defence in a game that is already ever noted for its nil-nil matches. In hockey, conveniently, so long as you manage to stay onside as you pass the blue line of the opposition’s defensive end, then you are allowed to do as you wish with your position until the puck is returned to the other side of the line.

    I won’t go so far as to suggest that association football implement a similar brilliance, but I do demand that, if they’re going to have such an oppressive rule, they determine a reliable system for accurately imposing it. In my awestruck viewing of World Cup 2010, I noted that most goals that were achieved at any speed were, according to my play-by-play guides, “possibly offside”. The only difference I could see with these instances and the many outlawed goals that were charged as offside was that the officials guessed differently. The game happens too quickly to get the close calls correct at a rate much higher than chance, which means that, in these games wherein one goal is usually the decider, luck of the estimate is often the ultimate ruler.

    And yet, (3) in contrast with its football cousins, FIFA “the Luddite” does not believe in using non-traditional methods (video replays) to assist in refereeing its matches. Thus, when England took on Germany, and gave in a goal that replay would have instantly determined as offside, and then were later rebuked a goal because the referee didn’t notice it go in, they had no recourse but to take comfort that their sport had not sold out to the evils of objectivity.

    (Consider this video of the England’s “non-goal”…)

    I’m not proposing that all goals and offsides be subject to the ultimate decision of the replay official (this would slow the game’s beauty down even more than the frustrating rule itself), but perhaps the officials could ask for assistance on close calls.

    And maybe, while they’re looking, they could check on the veracity of the yellow cards (which are given out as “cautions” to players for various infringements of the rules): I wouldn’t normally quibble over something so gentle-sounding as a “caution”, but, in this case, if a footballer receives a total of two yellow tickets anywhere from the first game to the end of the quarter-final (a five game span), he misses the next match. This is a stringent punishment for an action that again may have been misread in the high-paced moment by the referee (whose judgment may have once more been manipulated by one of those famous diving routines designed to create the illusion of a foul where there wasn’t one).

    A common response from announcers to mistaken decisions is that, “We have the benefit of replays; the referees don’t” as though it is a tragedy that cannot be helped. And yet, by simply raising its head and allowing a wee bit of sand to pour off, FIFA could permit its officials to make some game-time decisions that surpass even the quality of the casual fan’s assessment from the television sideline.

    But of course, as I’ve stipulated, FIFA has no incentive to consider such alterations. It is unlikely that any of its football-cousins will ever match soccer’s prowess in the hearts and cultures of the world and so, if the sport is satisfied with earthly dominance and the precious traditions that serenaded it there, then it shall remain a beautiful shame. One can only argue in retort that, as with the Earth-shattering homo-sapiens, success over one’s rivals is not a perfect predictor of merit. The movie “Avatar” taught me that. (For that matter, the box office success of “Avatar” taught me that, too.)

  • Several times now I’ve heard articulate TSN hockey commentator, Pierre McGuire, comment during a hockey telecast that a certain performer is not only a great player, “..but an even better person!” This irks me each time because, although I don’t doubt that the athlete possesses a delightful personality, I can’t help wondering if Mr. McGuire is taking liberties with his definitions: it seems to me that a hockey player would have to be a pretty awesome human being to outshine the hockey skills that have gotten them into professional hockey.

    My concern was brought to rant, then, when McGuire referred to superstar, Steven Stamkos (who is currently the league’s second leading scorer) by this same “even better person” claim.

    So let me get this straight. According to my friend Wik, there’s well over 1.44 million registered ice hockey players world wide, and Stamkos is probably one of the top 10 best of those players. That is to say, he’s in the approximately 99.9993th percentile of hockey players. But he’s an even better person! So he’s in at least the 99.9994th percentile of human beings. He’s basically the best person in a 145,000 person radius! Not bad for a 20 year old!

    It is of course possible that a hockey player (Trevor Linden) is as great at being a human as he is at playing hockey, but it seems a fairly daunting task, and so I can’t help wondering how exactly Pierre McGuire defines the words “even better person”. I’m guessing Mr. Stamkos is very likable and easy to be around, and makes Pierre feel comfortable to be himself. But has Steven made great efforts to change the world for the better?

    I looked around the web to see what sort of work the Steven Stamkos Foundation must have done for charities in Africa, and how much money the millionaire himself has surely donated to save wounded polar bears.

    Strangely, I didn’t find much evidence of anything particularly generous coming out of the Stamkos Empire. But, on the website for the Tampa Bay Lightning (for whom Stamkos works), I found, from 2009, a “Steve Stamkos Answers your Questions” page, and the following query from a fan…

    “…have you thought about using your celebrity status to bring awareness to a certain cause or charity?”

    “Yes,” Steven cheerfully wrote back, “it’s definitely crossed my mind. I won’t go and say I’m a celebrity, but I definitely thought of that.”

    (See, that’s the kind of modesty from a young star that certainly does make him seem like a delightful fellow. I see what you’re saying, Pierre!)

    He goes on: “I attended numerous charity golf tournaments this summer in and around my hometown of Markham, Ontario. I also donated some jerseys and sticks to great causes. I’ve thought of having a Steven Stamkos Charity Golf Tournament back in my hometown. I think we’ll wait a couple of years and see how the next two seasons or so progress, but having a charity event is definitely on my mind and will be coming in the near future.”

    Very nice. Definitely sounds like a great fellow. He might have a charity golf tournament (which I suspect is all work and no play for celebrity name behind it) and he’s donated some of his used equipment to auction off to people willing to pay a lot to a charity for them. Very very nice.

    Now, at the time of that quote, Stamkos was only 19, so go easy on him, SethBlogs! But, before you rant back at me for being too hard on the young star, be advised: I’m not actually meaning to imply (with my sarcastic tone above) that he’s not a very good person. In fact, I think Stamokos seems very likable, and I wouldn’t kick out of a conversation if I met him. However, perhaps Mr. McGuire could hold off on ranking him as one of the top 2000 people in Canada (per the math of his statement) until he’s done a few more good deeds?

    Thanks so much.

  • In sports, when underdogs win unexpectedly, there seems to be an almost unanimous tendency amongst such winners to suddenly deride those who predicted they wouldn’t win.

    INTERVIEWER: How does it feel to win?!

    UNDERDOG CHAMPION: Yeah, everyone was counting us out. They were all bashing us. Nobody believed in us, but ourselves, and we proved them all wrong!

    I find the indignant tone of such remarks to be a wee bit confusing. It’s as though the vindicated athletes think the pundits were maliciously targeting them in a manner akin to someone telling a child they would never amount to anything…

    PUNDIT: I predict the Rangers will beat the Blazers 4-2.

    BLAZERS’ PLAYER: Oh, great, so you’re saying I’m not good enough to win?! You don’t believe in me just like my parents never believed in me! Thanks a lot.

    Surely the players understand that, if predictions are to be made, someone has to be estimated to lose, so their designation as underdog was not necessarily mean-spirited. But maybe I’m missing the point. Perhaps the players simply don’t like being predicted upon at all…

    INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to be go into this tournament ranked number one?

    HIGH RANKED PLAYER: Actually, I find the whole notion of rankings to be disrespectful: I’m tired of being treated like a piece of meat whose results can be anticipated by non-players. Instead of typecasting us based on past performances, why don’t you just wait and see what happens? Whatever will be, will be!

    Strangely, though, such railing against complimentary predictions doesn’t seem to happen. Instead the players only seem resentful when they’re not picked to win. Actually, that’s not completely true. More accurately: they only object when they’re not picked to win, but end up winning after all. However, I’ve yet to hear an assault on predictions of losing when they prove accurate…

    INTERVIEWER: So, how do you feel about your 5th place finish?

    5TH PLACER: Well, let me first point out that everyone predicted I would come in 5th. And I just want to say ‘Screw you!’ to all those people that didn’t believe in me.

    INTERVIEWER: So you feel you should have been predicted to fare better?

    5TH PLACER: Yeah! It would have been nice if someone would have believed in me. I see that all sorts of people believed in Mr. World Record Holder over there. Isn’t that nice for him? So not only does he get the glory of winning, he also gets the pre-event accolades, too. Couldn’t those predictions have been shared out evenly? Or better yet, here’s an idea: why not treat us all like we have an equal chance of winning and not predict at all!?

    So, given that the athletes only object when they are inaccurately predicted to perform worse than they do, maybe their objection is not that their results were estimated, but instead that that the alleged experts got it wrong. Hmm, but the problem there is that if inaccuracy of prediction is the only issue, wouldn’t the “overdog” players predicted to win complain when they lose?

    INTERVIEWER: So how does it feel to lose after being the favourite in this tournament?

    OVERDOG LOSER: Well, the truth is I was a little irritated in the first place when we were ranked so highly. Clearly, the so-called experts don’t know what they’re talking about. They said we’d come in first, and did we? No. I just feel really bad for the fans who were given false estimates by the pundits.

    So I’m not sure what the solution is to this apparent paradox. When I coached kids’ rollerblade hockey, a four-team tournament was divided into “Gold Medal Winner”, “Gold Medal Runner-up”, “Silver Medal Winner” and “Silver Medal Runner-up”. Admittedly, one of my ten year old players approached me afterwards and said, “Why are we being called ‘Silver Medal Runner-Up’? Didn’t we come in last?” Nevertheless, perhaps sports prognosticators can learn from such efforts to protect people from ever thinking they’ve lost…

    PUNDIT: I believe equally in all four teams in this tournament. They’re all ranked number one in my books! If I had to choose – and it’s basically a coin flip – I would rank the Bears ‘1A’, the Tornados ‘1B’, the Lions ‘1C’ and the Ravens ‘1D’.

    RAVENS’ PLAYER: Awesome! We’re ranked number 1!

    P.S. Similarly, consider Jim Carrey’s (academy award worthy) Lloyd Christmas in one of the great (and most underrated) comedies all all time, Dumb & Dumber…

    (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t view you if you haven’t yet seen this brilliant movie!)

  • So, many years ago, my second favourite sister (featured in the background of JamColouredGlasses) and I were wandering through a bookstore, whereupon we spotted an autobiography by a famous hockey player (who shall remain anonymous, but may be featured in my “Howe to” post). The interesting thing about this autobiography, unlike any other that we’d ever seen before, was that it was an “Authorized Autobiography”.

    “Hmm,” I said to my sister (she’ll claim it was the other way around, so don’t be alarmed), “so, if this is the authorized autobiography, there must be at least one unauthorized autobiography out there too.”

    “Yeah,” the sister quickly caught on, “and how exactly did that work that he wrote and published his own story without his permission?”

    “Maybe he wrote it in his sleep,” I suggested.

    “Yes,” the sister concurred, “and then he must have accidentally published it thinking it was his novel. Oops! But it was too late: the unauthorized autobiography was already out there.”

    Yup, it all made sense. I hope I never write an unauthorized autobiography. I know a lot of my secrets and could definitely portray myself in a negative light.

  • In basketball, the phrase “Nothing but net!” indicates that a player has made a shot so accurate that, on its way to the hoop, it touched neither backboard nor rim, but instead travelled unencumbered straight into the arms of net. It’s a term of endearment, therefore, for shots that not only score, but are accurate in a particular way. Such shots can arise from various basketball plays (jump shots, hook shots, Michael Jordan vs Larry Bird advertising McDonalds shots), but, let me repeat: to be counted as a “Nothing but net! shot, the ball must travel from the player’s hands to the net without touching anything but that net.

    I reiterate this definition because it is apparently not as simple as it sounds. Twice recently I’ve overheard television announcers witness an excellent basketball play, but in which the ball hit the backboard before going into the net, and yet the commentator has nevertheless claimed, “Nothing but net!”

    “But,” I replied from my couch, “it hit more than net… it hit backboard… and then rim… and only then net.”

    After several hours of soul-searching, I realized that these commentators did not actually realize that the words in “Nothing but net!” have meaning beyond being a cool bit of emphasis. You see, during their commentator training, they must have noticed the phrase was always expressed in excitement towards a great shot, so the newcomer announcers logically must have assumed that “Nothing but net!” was just a fancy way to say, “Great shot!”

    If you don’t believe me that newbies to expressions can sometimes confuse emphasis for meaning, consider the statement: “She’s literally hanging around the house!”

    For those who aren’t familiar with the error in this usage, I’ll bring in guest SethBlogger, Dr. Frasier Crane, for illumination. Frasier, take it away:

    P.S. Hee, hee, well done, Frasier! Special SethBlog Contest: can you identify the voice of the literally defeated caller? I’ll give you a hint, this isn’t the first time he’s been accused of being Dumb & Dumber.

  • As you likely know, Lebron “King” James (or “LBJ”) is one of the top two or three basketball players in the NBA. He’s been a superstar in his profession since, seven years ago, he transitioned from high school to play for his home state Cleveland Cavaliers in the world’s best basketball league. From the start, he was not just a great individual scorer, but also possessed incredible vision and passing ability for someone who had skills enough that he could have ignored his teammates. And, just to add flavour to his abundance of greatness, he’s a rather handsome fellow, who contains a high level of charisma.

    Strangely, though, somehow this year he has become, in the eyes of many observers, an NBA villain. You see, at the end of last season, his contractual obligation to the team that drafted him had expired and he could sign with any new team that could afford him; unfortunately for Lebron, his decision, and the way he presented it, kind of a irked a few people.

    Going in, it was estimated that several major factors would weigh in Lebron’s choice – (A) his loyalty to his original team and fans, whom he had nearly (but not yet) brought a championship; (B) his loyalty to his bank account – perhaps he would offer himself up to the highest bidder; and/or (C) his pursuit of a championship – perhaps he would sell his services to the team he felt would give him the best chance of acquiring trophies.

    Two years before making his decision, the King was already contemplating out loud his future options, which drew criticism from NBA legend, “Sir” Charles Barkley, who claimed that, until his contract with Cleveland was complete, the team deserved his full attention.

    LBJ’s response was slightly less charming that his usual: instead of taking on Barkley’s point, James instead simply critiqued the man himself: “He is stupid,” said the then 23 year-old. In Lebron’s defence of this slightly useless response, he had probably never before in his career encountered criticism and so he had little idea of the proper way to deal with it.

    This tendency to believe that he could do no wrong may have also influenced the royal star as he approached his decision before this season as to where he would play. The finalists, he assured us, still included Cleveland, but also, amazingly, the Miami Heat where another of the league’s top three players, Dwayne Wade, had already set up camp along with recently acquired free agent superstar, Chris Bosh. So, if LBJ signed there too, the team would be stacked with talent not usually seen outside of an all-star game.

    Some of us thought the idea of three superstars colluding to form one superpower team for the sake of winning a championship was somehow missing the point of the accomplishment. Winning the league’s top honour seems meaningful to me because great players are pitted against great players in a grand struggle for supremacy, but if you get there by putting all the best players on one team, that’s seems like a less difficult matter, and so therefore makes winning “a championship” a less valuable prize.

    Indeed, the afore-insulted “stupid” Charles Barkley noted that he Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson would not have signed up for the same team in their era: they preferred to play against each other.

    Nevertheless, most accepted Lebron’s right to choose his team. However, they still resented how he did it. Instead of making his choice and then – for curtesy’s sake – letting the runners up know, he staged a one-hour primetime television “reveal” interview in which he would announce his “decision” to the world that he would be… inspirational music, please… defecting to the Miami Heat.

    He explained proudly, you see, that he was taking less money to give himself the best possible chance of winning (although, don’t worry too much for poor James: the endorsements acquired in his new situation should make up the difference pretty quickly). It’s funny to me how in the sports world the selfish pursuit of winning (i.e. pursuing winning for oneself at the expense of one’s former teammates and fans) is somehow considered noble. I don’t really get why greed for glory is any more beautiful than greed for money. They’re both just about providing Lebron James with a happier life.

    Regardless, as the now dubbed “Big Three”, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade showed themselves off in a lavish welcome to winning party at Miami’s home rink, Charles Barkley was once again shaking his head. He argued that James’ television announcement again showed disrespect for the King’s ex team, who Barkley felt deserved to be told of his decision privately before James started dating his new city.

    The snubbed city agreed with Barkley’s assessment and burned various Lebron products in effigy, while their majority owner, Dan Gilbert, wrote to the fans: “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. … I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE. You can take it to the bank.” He added: “This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”

    Wow! That might have been a bit much, but why shouldn’t the guy who’s losing the most by Lebron’s decision not say everything he could to inflame his fans to stay loyal? Mr. James had a right to leave, and Mr. Gilbert, I suggest, had a right to try to mitigate the disaster by using his only remaining weapon in retaliation.

    But wait! Lebron James actually felt bad about leaving Cleveland. “I never wanted to leave Cleveland,” he explained. “My heart will always be around that area. But I also felt like this is the greatest challenge for me, is to move on.”

    Sorry, to be a nag, Lebron, but, um didn’t you say that you were going to Miami because it gave you the best chance at victory? Yeah, I think that was you who said: “I feel like this is going to give me the best opportunity to win. And to win for multiple years. Not only just to win in the regular season, or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row. I want to be able to win championships and I feel like I can compete down there.”

    So, wouldn’t the bigger “challenge” (that you seem so interested in) have been to stay with the team who wouldn’t given you the biggest chance at perpetual league dominance?

    Anyhoo. All of this is to set up, for those who weren’t previously in the Lebron loop, Mr. James’ new Nike commercial, which responds eloquently to all this hurtful criticism. Let’s watch, and then we’ll come back to me for comments. (Note: “Chuck” refers to the above-mentioned Lebron-critic, Charles Barkley.)

    Wow, I must say: that was very good work, Nike writing staff. Your answer to the damage we thought Lebron had down to his image is akin to a great piece of incomprehensible art that asks the viewer to fill in the substance. (Whatever they come up with is right!) Lebron’s not going to tell us why he left Cleveland – maybe it was for the money (and if we’re big fans of money, we’ll settle on that answer and be satisfied); maybe it was because he’s a “championship chaser” (wow, that’s very poetic and again implies some honour in his departure). Regardless, what exactly did we expect of Lebron James? He never claimed to be our role model. He’s just a man made of flesh and ego like of the rest of us. Indeed, as he repeats this question throughout the soliloquy, the fact that there is no obvious answer seems to imply that there is no obvious flaw in his behaviours.

    Most brilliant, ghostwritten-James seems to be indicating that, in the end, he doesn’t really care what we think of him. He’s gotta be him. If winning championships for his family and friends is wrong, then he doesn’t wanna be right.

    We can dress him up in the villain costume, if we want, but he’s still gotta be himself. (I especially like that, in spite of his ghostwritten insistence that he doesn’t care what we think of him, when he asks, “Should I not have listened to my friends?” he can’t help make an argumentative answer, “They’re my friends”. But, other than that one point, he doesn’t care what we think!)

    It’s a wonderful script that we can all learn a lot from: there’s really no point in continuing to dislike him – it’s not going to bother him in the slightest. In fact, his rogue lack of interest in our opinions should make us kinda like him.

    Oh, but wait! Wasn’t the whole thing a shoe commercial? Which means it’s meant to sell shoes. So… Nike of Lebron does, in fact, care what we think of Lebron James. They were using reverse shoe psychology on us! Those clever Just Doers.

  • If you’re not a hockey fan, but want to impress a friend or enemy who is, try this sentence on for sizable reaction: “Did you know that Gordie Howe had only one ‘Gordie Howe hat trick’ in his 26 year NHL career?”

    (In case you’re guessing for the obvious, a Gordie Howe hat trick is not simply a hat trick – three goals in a game—by Gordie Howe. Instead, Gordie’s trick is a bundle of three hockey behaviours, but not all goals, and like the standard trick, it can also be completed by anyone. However, it was named after Mr. Hockey because he seemed the most likely to achieve it, which is why it should seem odd to a hockey fan such as your friend or rival that he managed only one in his lengthy tenure.)

    It’s true and most hockey fans should find the news intriguing—especially if they didn’t think you were an aficionado of their favourite game. So try the above sentence out and let SethBlog know how it goes.

    Worry not if my parenthetical vagueness has still left you with no idea what a “Gordie Howe hat trick” is, you shouldn’t need the definition in your conversation with your hockey friend or foe because they’ll most likely assume that anyone capable of the expression must know its meaning.

    Instead, then, I think most fun will be had if you play expression roulette with the phrase (so no googling the answer in advance, or your participation in this fun experiment will be revoked). If you do have any trouble with responders to the “Howe Trick,” I’ll be happy to define it for you retroactively.

    P.S. For a look at Mr. Howe in action, consider this footage from a 1979 contest between Moscow Dynamo and the WHA all-stars, which included 50 year-old Gordie, his son Marty and a 17 year-old apprentice to Gordie’s scoring records.

  • As the new hockey season (and so the post-game interview season) arrives, it is important to refresh our understanding of hockey players’ special metaphorical math in regard to percentages. In standard, boring old mathematics, that is, “percentage” is up to a maximum of 100, but hockey players (as well as other athletes) use an alternate system known as “emphasis percentage”.

    You see, in reality, it’s actually quite difficult to always give 100% effort (that’s a sure way to burn one’s self out), but nor is it very safe to admit to the picky journalists that one gave, say, 80% on a given night. Thus, a special alternate system of percentage was invented just for athletes and motivational speakers. Emphasis percentage works exactly like regular percentage, except that, instead of counting the number of points within a 100, E% has a maximum total of 150.

    Thus, after a game, an athlete can happily, and honestly, state that they put in “120%”, which looks great for emphasizing that they tried really hard, but doesn’t provoke nit-picky questions from reporters about why they didn’t give more.

    If you’re curious, however, to know what an athlete actually put forth, just remember the exchange rate from E% to M% is .67. If in doubt, here’s a handy chart…

    Emphasis % Math %
    110* ——-> 73
    120———-> 80

    *Note: 110 is the E% minimum.

    If, however, you ever hear someone claim that they gave 200%, don’t believe them: it’s impossible.

    P.S. Of course, not everyone agrees with my assessment of hockey percentages…

    P.P.S. Also, to further prepare you for the hockey cliche season, consider this….

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