In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.

WARNING: 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.)

(Or this full instructiongal guide to the football sport of diving.)

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.)


I’ve been asked by one of my loyal readers to defend my claim that The Reader (a story “that promotes reading”) is a dreadful movie.

Let me begin by acknowledging that I have been known to enjoy bouts of teasing “Reading Propaganda.”

(Even though, that is, I certainly think books are often great disseminators of information and stories, I resist those who seem to believe that they are always superior to other forms of artistic entertainment such as movies and television.)

However, in spite of my admitted predilection for antagonizing the glorification of books, my quibble with the movie, The Reader, is not so much that it’s attempting to reinvigorate the over-stated claim that reading is the best, but instead my concern is the contrived way in which the plot pushes the point through.

Let me make the point through the aid of my friend television. On the wonderfully written television show Seinfeld, Jerry discovers one day  that his dentist friend Whatley has converted to Judaism so that he can have “total joke-telling immunity” against both Jewish people and Catholics (his current and former religious groups, respectively). So Jerry complains to a Catholic representative:

FATHER: Tell me your sins, my son.

JERRY: Well I should tell you that I’m Jewish.

FATHER: That’s no sin.

JERRY: Oh good. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he’s converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

FATHER: And this offends you as a Jewish person?

JERRY: No, it offends me as a comedian!

Hee, hee, brilliant!

In similar (though less brilliant fashion) my contempt for The Reader is an artistic one. If you’re going to promote a dull, unoriginal cause in your movie, at least do it eloquently, not with contrived statutory rape scenes, followed by gratuitous use of the holocaust to seem like a deeper movie than you are, culminating in the heroic arrival of the blessed saviour, reading, to give the characters’ difficult lives renewed reason for being.

I’m offended as a writer.


I’ve now seen the movie Barney’s Version (based on the book of the same name by Canadian author, Mordecai Richler). It is a well-rendered plot set to dislikable characters (led by Barney, himself, played by Paul Giamatti).

The version that Barney is telling is in contrast with that of his police detective rival, who has written a book, which claims that Barney got away with the murder of his own best friend. So it combines a touch of mystery (as we don’t know for sure whether Barney did it till the end), with a trifecta of lave-hate stories (Barney’s various marriages), along with a semi-cautionary tale of over-indulging in various vices (including hockey-viewing, which was rather enjoyable for hockey fans like me).

The mixed-timeline narrative is certainly interesting and well performed by the actors (whose aging makeup is the best I’ve seen since James Woods’ magically gained a few decades in The Ghosts of Mississippiin contrast with Kate Winslet’s magical lack of aging in the dreadful film The Reader).

However, the trouble with Barney’s Version is that almost every character is a jerk. (Exceptions included Barney’s loyal and entertaining dad, portrayed delightfully by Dustin Hoffman, along with Barney’s second wife, played aptly by Minnie Driver. The latter seems to be the butt of many of the movie’s jokes due to her silly behaviours such as constantly pointing out to people that she has a Master’s degree, but she reveals herself—against Barney’s viciousness—to be genuine and strong as she stands up to Barney’s condescension simply by saying, “Do I talk down to you like that?”) As a result of this mostly unlikeable cast of characters, it is difficult to emotionally invest in the movie.

I’m fully in favour of being entertained by villainous personalties (Jane Austen’s movies taught us that!), but this story is rarely funny (although, many people in my audience were strangely laughing at moments that I thought were too dark and mean to be humourous), and so, by time the story gets to the point where we’re supposed to feel bad for its anti-hero, I found it difficult to care. Nor was the semi-cautionary tale particularly useful to me, because I had no interest in Barney’s lifestyle in the first place.

I suppose, therefore, the film could be helpful to those considering a life of doing exactly as their cravings tell them at all times, but the story doesn’t exactly debunk the glamour of such an existence, so I’m not sure this is the show to be played at the addiction clinics either.

So, in conclusion, you have my permission to see this movie (if only for the parallel hockey timeline) as a diversion if you have nothing better to do, but you also have my approval to miss it if there is anything else playing (such as a hockey game).


I saw the remade The Green Hornet last night. Superhero movies don’t have a great batting average with my taste, but the trailers promised it would be a humourous encounter, so I was willing to give it a try.

In the past, I’ve found the Hornet’s star, Namesake Rogen, to be likeable and funny (more so, generally, than the scripts he’s in). In this performance, Namesake’s bumbling superhero persona is paired with a highly skilled sidekick, Kato, who can design their supercar, drive it like a stuntman, and then perform magical martial arts on the enemy. Kato (played by Taiwanese musician, Jay Chou) has his own charm, but his limited grasp on the language of the movie (English) forces Rogen’s Green Hornet to take on the primary role of entertaining us during non-action sequences.

This is the tragic flaw of the film as Rogen seems to be feeling the pressure to make his lines big and hilarious in every moment of every scene to make up for his partner’s lack of contribution. The result is somewhat painful as Rogen’s over-the-top efforts are too big to be humourous more often than chance; and so, neither is the movie.


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 people. 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 the 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.

SELF-AGGRANDALISM II: If Your Critics Don’t Believe In You, No One Will

In the face of difficult questions, the most talented egos use impeccable sleights of language to rebrand their behaviours to seem heroic. This series is dedicated to those rhetorician-magicians.









In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.

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 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 happens rarely. 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’ve 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 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 the incrogruity that predictions seem to be okay so long as pundits don’t predict certain teams to lose. 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?”

Despite the youngster’s ability to see through the trophy-based re-framing, 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!

For delightful illustration of the above, consider below Jim Carrey’s (Academy Award worthy) Lloyd Christmas in one of the greatest (and most underrated) comedies all all time, Dumb & Dumber. In this wonderful scene, Lloyd masterfuly reframes a situation in which first glance might suggest he hadn’t succeeded.

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










Congratulations from the New Year’s Regret Collection Agency! You may already be the winner of a brand new year! Your N.Y.R.C.A. agent will collect your regrets on your way into your new set of four seasons. We appreciate your business, and hope you will consider us again this year.

As you begin on this new year’s worth of existence, you will be bombarded by “feel good,” pressured-packed propaganda that speaks of a fresh slate on which you can imprint any new life that you’d like. But we at the N.Y.R.C.A. would like to remind you that New Year’s resolutions are just mean-spirited criticisms meant to change you and your naturally-earned habits.

Instead, why not simply be yourself and once again pay us your regrets at the end of next year?

Happy Nearly New Year: we have agents standing by to take your call.


I notice, from the previews, that the new movie, The Tourist (starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), features the following conversation (approximately):

DEPP’S CHARACTER: You look ravenous.

JOLIE’S CHARACTER: You mean “ravishing”?

DEPP’S CHARACTER (confidently): I do.

Hee, hee, very funny, but I call accidental inverted plagiarism! That is, my brother has been mixing up those two words in the reverse manner for years:

SETH BROTHER: Man, I haven’t eaten all day. I am so ravishing!

SETH: I think you might mean, “ravenous”.

SETH BROTHER: Yeah, that’s what I said.

SETHBLOGS: Yes, I’m sure it was: I just hope you’ve been telling people all day about your “ravenous” self-analysis.

SETHBLOGS NOTE: As a result of comments from my readership, I have discovered that my claim that the tourist engaged in “accidental, inverted plagiarism” may be inaccurate. Please read the below comments for details.


So, many years ago, my second-placed sister (featured in the background of styrogirls.com) 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 TRICK YOUR FRIENDS” post). The interesting thing about this autobiography—unlike any other that we’d observed 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), “if this is an authorized autobiography, what exactly would count as an unauthorized autobiography?”

“Yeah,” my sister quickly caught on, “how exactly would you write and publish a story about yourself without getting permission from yourself first?”

“I guess maybe you could write it in your sleep?” I said.

“Yes!” my sister said. “And then I guess maybe you might find it in the morning, and—without realizing what it was—you might instinctively send it in to a publisher without realizing it was a tell-all about yourself. Oh no! By the time you realize what you’ve done, it’s too late: the unauthorized autobiography is already out there, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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.

Seth celebrating his first Stumpy Cup victory. Photo submitted to Sethblogs by Seth without Seth’s permission.