Saturday, February 22, 2014


I get that the rotation of the Earth plays a major role in a lot of what goes on—tides, the sun rising, etc etc.  That's fine.  But it is extremely annoying having the Winter Olympics over in Russia.  I mean, the games are on during the workday.  This is just another example of my career getting in the way of me sitting around watching TV all day. 

I like watching hockey.  The interesting thing is that during the Olympics, people who have never watched hockey, ever, are suddenly tuning in and screaming at the television.  Okay, said the judge, I will allow it—you are patriotic.  You can either sign up for the military, venture over to Khandahar and risk life and limb as a member of our proud Canadian military, or you can wear an oversized Team Canada hockey jersey and high five me as I'm coming out of the bathroom at work.  Either way. 

The women's Canadian hockey team played in the gold medal game against the U.S. on Thursday.  The game was on at around noon my time zone (which is definitely not Russia) and so I was at my desk while the game was on.  "No big deal," I quietly mumbled to myself.  "I am PVRing the game just like I PVR the FA Cup soccer final, the World Cup soccer final, and the occasional Sunday Night Football game.  No one cares and I will quietly slink home and watch it."  As long as I stay off Facebook, Twitter, Teaker, Tweaker, Reddit, Donnit, Seenit, and RedDogSeenIt Mobile App, I should be fine. Plus don't look a the elevator TV that shows all the news while I get down to the ground floor or listen to the radio on your way home work.  And don't look anyone in the eye—if they have a happy expression, that could be a hot tip on the final score.

Well, spoiler alert: everyone loves blabbing.  The score was emailed out to everyone at my office.  It was also on television in some office buildings, horns were honking by passing cars, and anyone wearing red was hoisted up onto strangers shoulders and paraded down the main streets in towns and cities all across Canada.  So I figured out that Team Canada won.

Hey, no big deal!  I will just go home and watch the game anyway.  Except that the stupid PVR decided to be stupid and didn't tape the game.  Watching an hour of the People's Court and a cooking show just wasn't the same. 

Hey, no big deal!  I own an iPad and I figured I could watch the replay of the game, somewhere online.  It's the internet, right?  I googled "Women's Olympic Hockey".  No matter what you search for, Myley Cyrus comes up.  Does she own the internet now?  Only 20 minutes later was able to locate CBC's replay of the game.  I clicked on it.  Here we go!  Only that I had to download an app for the CBC Olympics.

Hey, no big deal!  I downloaded the app.  It only took 20 minutes.  (My internet might be a bit slow—an iPad has no moving parts but I swear I heard gears creaking.)  I finally clicked "play" and got ready for the big game!  First, however, there is 5 minutes of advertising.  "The All-New GMC Whatever Truck." 

Hey, no big deal!  The first period started.  I clicked through to the third period.  Wow, what a game!  I got all the way to overtime—it was tied!  Then the app decided it didn't want to play "video" anymore.  It was frozen on the goalie making a save.  So I could hear the announcer screaming like someone was poking him in the going with a pool cue, but I couldn't see anything—just the statue of the goalie.

I didn't want to hear the goal, I was feeling like a diva and wanted to actually see it as well.  I know... picky picky!  I closed the app and relaunched it.  It went back to the first period again.  Oh well.

Hey, no big deal!  I pressed "overtime" and suddenly I was watching overtime again.  Yes!  Only the app decided it needed to play 5 minutes of commercials again.  So I am listening to the announcer yelling and save after save is being made, and all the while I can hear "The All-New GMC Whatever Truck."  Okay, okay, I get it—trucks are cool.  Can I watch the game and listen to it at the same time?  Is this allowed?  Can I talk to the boss?  Is Miley Cyrus around?

I finally saw Team Canada score the big goal and it was a crazy, awesome game.  So the app did work and hey I didn't pay a penny for it so I can't really complain. 

Although I do have an overwhelming desire to buy a GMC Truck.


Monday, February 17, 2014


Biographies of NFL players are nothing new.  Almost every great NFL legend has cranked out a memoir after their playing days are over.  We love to hear about how they overcame obstacles, fought through adversity and ultimately stood at the podium to claim the Super Bowl.  We love winners!

What about the rest of the players?  Most of us only ever hear about the Brett Favre's and Peyton Manning's of the NFL world—long, hall-of-fame careers.  Finally a book has been written about the "other guys"—Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson.

What do you mean you've never heard of Nate Jackson?  Most people haven't, and that's the whole point of the book.  This biography shines the light on an undrafted free agent who was signed by the San Fransisco 49ers in 2002.  He went on to play for six seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, changing position to tight end.  

If you are a hard-core fan of football and want to know what it really feels like preparing for a game, fighting through injuries and tackling a ball returner during a kickoff, this book has it.  But what I really enjoyed was the descriptions of the rest of an average NFL journeyman's life—the boring stretches between games, the strange balance between danger and monotony during training camp practices, and life on the road.  It also has some really funny, absurd moments—in one scene, a fellow inactive player gets drunk on the sideline while one of the coaches fights a noseblood that gets so bad, he is literally leaking blood through his eye sockets.  (Well, maybe it was funny looking back on it.)  Jackson is a talented writer and does an excellent job of walking the reader through what the average Joe in the NFL sees, hears and feels—physically, mentally and emotionally.  

The book also extensively chronicles Jackson's injuries: tearing muscle from bone, going for an MRI, watching the blood separate in a centrifuge, and non-stop painkiller injections, tape jobs and physio appointments.  The body can only last so long despite (or in some cases, because of) these treatments.  Many readers will no doubt skip over the long, wordy doctor reports, but Jackson includes them—they weren't my cup of tea but maybe someone with a medical degree could do a better job of deciphering the complicated medical reports.  

I recommend this book if you are looking for a different style of biography—it is definitely an unpredictable, realistic look of the life of a grinder in the brutal world of the NFL.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spy Rock Memories - Book Review

I got a great Christmas gift this year—a co-worker of mine figured out that I knew how to read, and I was pleasantly surprised to get a book for the holiday season. 

Books make tough Christmas gifts: they are risky.  With something like lipstick, or soap, or a towel, you know that they are going to use it eventually.  But a book?  Hmm.  People go long stretches without ever cracking the spine of some books.  I have been over to people's houses, and they have entire shelves of books.  "Wow," I exclaim, "you are pretty well-read!" Well, not so fast.  They are well-bought.  They proudly proclaim that they own over 100 books, but when I go to pull one off of the shelf, they break down and tearfully admit that they haven't actually read any of them.  I'm still not convinced that Stephen Hawking has even made it to the end of A Brief History of Time—and he wrote the damn thing.

The book that I received at Christmas is called Spy Rock Memories, and is written by Larry Livermore.  My eyes lit up when I unwrapped the book and flipped it over—Larry Livermore is the guy.  More specifically, "The Guy".  My sheer stroke of luck, my co-worker grabbed me a book written by The Guy who distributed Green Days' first couple of albums on Lookout! Records back in the early 1990s. 

I am a huge Green Day fan.  I have every album, including their alter-ego Foxboro Hot Tubs album.  I hunkered down in the cold evenings in January and cracked open the first page of Spy Rock Memories, which is Larry Livermore's Memoir of his days living in a desolate, strange backwoods area known as Spy Rock.

Larry also produced and ran a small newspaper called the Lookout, which angered some of the colourful neighbours on the mountain.  So it was no surprise that the book is tight, well-written, and funny.  I was a little disappointed at first that I was ten page in and there was no Green Day.  After all, Billie Joe Armstrong himself was quoted on the back cover!  However, I quickly began to realize that there was enough drama on Spy Rock—snow drifts that could kill an unprepared resident, stray animals, shotgun-wielding neighbours and all sorts of marijuana growing.  It is a thoroughly entertaining read.  (A very young Tre Cool does make an appearance, although he is more scrawny twelve-year-old than world-class drummer.)

Overall, the book is a great read.  Too often in memoirs, the day-to-day details of people's lives are glossed over.  Punk bands go from unknown kids in a basement to global superstars, and we never get to see any of the actual details about how this transformation happened.  In Spy Rock Memories, we get a first-hand account of the producer and co-founder of Lookout! Records, who signed some successful (and some not-so-successful) punk rock acts.  It's a well-written look at the punk music scene in the late 1980s and 1990s.  But even if that doesn't interest you—well, there's people living on a mountain running generators, shooting bears and growing weed.  So there is definitely something for everyone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Five Failed Football Innovations

Football is one of those games that we love, whether it is watching huge dudes collide on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, or watching skimpy cheerleaders at a sunny game in California.  (Actually, the cheerleaders sounds a bit better.)  There are scary players that look like James Bond villains, little fast guys who look like they are being chased by the police, and thousands of fans who forgo all dignity to sit in the stands dressed up as Darth Vader, or wear a strap-on pig nose, or a viking bra.  For some reason, only when their team loses are they “embarrassed”.   

No sport is perfect, however.  Football is evolving, and there have been some great innovations that have helped increase the overall quality of the games like instant replay, coach’s challenges, and more cheerleaders.  Unfortunately, we are discussing none of those.  Instead, let’s check out some football innovations that didn’t quite last—much like a skinny lineman, they may look impressive for a few moments but ultimately they will be carried off to the hospital, never to be seen again.

1. Stickum

It doesn’t seem fair that most players would spend countless hours out on the practice field catching thousands of balls, while others would resort to slathering themselves in glue.  However, that is exactly what Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes did (who in all fairness, is regarded as one of the greatest cornerbacks of all-time).  Hayes, like many players in the late 1970s, would rub a sticky adhesive on their hands, arms, and any other place it would help.  The MVP of the football teams were undoubtedly the laundry personnel.

Lester Hayes was commonly referred to as “Lester the Molester”.  Kind of creepy, with the nickname and the fact that he was covered in goo.   
Why will no one shake my hand after the game?
 2. Field Goal Blocking / Hurling A Player

It used to be completely legal to throw another human being like a sack of cement up in the air in order to block a field goal.  This was known as the “good old days” when everyone wore skimpy leather helmets and every game was accompanied by a rag-time piano.  Hello, my baby, hello my darling… hey, I just dug my cleats into another player and they launched me in the air.  I’m boffo! 

It is now illegal for a defensive player to jump or stand on any player, or to be picked up by any teammate or use their hands on a teammate to gain additional height.  You can run into each other with enough force to crush a hybrid automobile, but do NOT under any circumstances jump two extra feet in the air.  Safety first.
Nice try, rocket man.  Illegal.
3. Tear-away Jerseys

Who wants to see naked guys running around on the field?  Anyone, anyone?  Okay… how about half-naked guys?  This was the philosophy behind the NFL banning the “tear-away” jersey that was made famous by a running back named Greg Pruitt. Although he was a great player, he also felt that having rinky-dink fabric would give him a competitive edge, which was completely allowed at the time.

The tear away jersey met with some success in the 1970s, as football players would try to tackle the ball carrier but would wind up with a handful of fabric.  At the end of the game, it was basically “catch the naked guy” and the NFL had enough of that. 
What a game!  OK, naked guys, get out there and shake hands.

 4. Any Name On Jersey
Remember this guy?  You may have seen him if you watched the XFL.  His name is Rod Smart, and he achieved some notoriety by wearing “He Hate Me” on the back of his Las Vegas Outlaws jersey.  The XFL was trying new things, and its long and colourful history stretches from opening kickoff in February 2001, all the way through to the franchise folding in May of 2001.  It may sound like only four months—how about we call it “120 days”.  It sounds longer.

It’s a warning sign when the biggest headline in your league are words on a jersey.

For one season... he watch me.

5. Barefoot Kickers

The NFL definitely has something against people wandering around naked.  For god’s sake, just keep your clothes on please.  Although technically barefoot kicking is allowed, the last guy I could find who did it barefoot was in 1990—Rich Karlis, kicking for the Detroit Lions.  Although if he was kicking in Detroit, I am wondering if maybe someone just stole his shoes.    

The advantage to kicking without a shoe on is that the kicker apparently can “feel” the ball better, but the downside is getting your toes crushed by a 400-pound linebacker, or even the 80-pound water boy on the sidelines.
There's always one partially naked guy at the party.