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  An Inspiration To All...

Mar. 23, 2010, 4:50 PM

TSN has prepared a masterful piece on Jay Triano that outlines his relationship with Terry Fox.

The two knew each other at Simon Fraser University. Once a pretty good high school basketball player, Fox worked as a trainer for the men’s basketball team on which Triano starred.

Fox detoured his 1980 Marathon of Hope to Niagara Falls to visit Triano in his hometown. Decades later, when the school unveiled a bronze statue of Fox, Triano was the event’s master of ceremonies.

The Terry Fox run has become a staple of the Canadian calendar and a world-wide phenomenon. The runs have generated more than $500 million for Cancer research. When he began his run, Fox was hoping to raise $1 for every Canadian.

I tell stories in schools. My employer is the only one I know that grants its workers paid time to do something good for people.

I have two go-to stories. One is a tale of Maurice Richard, who I met, dragging a defenceman with him to the net by sheer force of will.

The other is about Terry Fox. While the kids are wildly enthusiastic about his story, they don’t seem to have a lot of material. They don’t know the constant grind of the prosthesis pulverized the stump of his leg. They don’t know that he was an adult when he lost his leg. They fall silent when they consider the choice of amputation or death.

The logistics of the 143-day run stagger them when they learn how people prepare for a marathon and the physical demands of the run. They didn’t know that he was often irritated, that he chafed when others ran with him because he so longed to race them or that he was nearly run off the road in Quebec.

They didn’t know an OPP cruiser was waiting for Terry at the Ontario border or that he first realized the depth of his run at a CFL game in Ottawa when he came from under the stands to deliver a ceremonial kickoff only to find 20,000 wildly cheering, weeping Canadians.

They didn’t know that early in his run people took him in, that service clubs gave him spontaneous barbecues or that just a handful of people showed up for the beginning of the run.

They didn’t’ know that while his manager and driver stayed at hotels, Terry often slept in a van rendered rancid by a notoriously poor chemical toilet. He had it parked in the giant pyramid-style structures municipalities use to store salt.

They did not know that many feel Terry refused to stop his run until no one on the highway near Thunder Bay could see him quit or that the young amputee he memorably swam with would die of his Cancer.

The kids don’t know that if they were stricken by the same Cancer Terry walked into, they probably wouldn’t even lose their leg today, let alone die, thanks to the progress in Cancer treatment.

I know this, and I never met the man. Jay Triano and that is the definition of great people on the court or off, on or off the ice.

Through Terry Fox, I share a thread of life with the famous, accomplished coach of the Toronto Raptors. If you ask, or even if you don’t, I will tell you about the effect of meeting Maurice Richard.

I think the inspiration of great people runs undiluted through the people who knew them to the people who didn’t. That’s what Jay Triano has offered you today.

Maybe that’s why they call it a link.




  Raptors Remain Close Despite Tough Season


Mar. 22, 2010, 2:28 PM

When Ed Davis opened his Range Rover the other day, he found about a million pieces of foam, coincidentally one for every harsh word DeMarcus Cousins has for his Sacramento teammates.

There were five cackling teammates present when the chips hit the pavement, a number, give or take, in tune with the number of weapons Gilbert Arenas brandished at Jarvis Crittenton.

I couldn’t come up with anything to match the one-game suspension the Wizards’ Andre Blatche and Javale McGee incurred for a DC punch-up, but you get the idea.

Somehow, filling a rookie’s car with foam seems, well… innocent.

Through a 20-50 season that has carried about the same ratio of joy and disappointment, the Raptors remain that rarest of phenomena: a harmonious team enduring a galvanizing, losing season.

Sonny Weems should be the star of a real life show named Everyone Loves Sonny. If he and DeMar DeRozan aren’t inseparable, the very least it would take is a putty knife. Amir Johnson makes it a threesome. Davis is polite and deferential. Reggie Evans is everyone’s big brother, so long as the big brother is a highly decorated NBA veteran who views the world with equal parts wonder and wry humour.

This is not necessarily the norm.

The rule of the court often emulates the rule of the pond: the ducks look differently at each other when the water goes down.

On losing teams, someone invariably complains about not getting enough looks, being cheated on playing time or any number of imagined offences. Sooner or later, the word ‘respect’ creeps in and a frosty divide materializes between players who balk at mentoring young players and young players who feel no need for a mentor.

NBA players often come into the league when they would otherwise be undergoing their second or third year of college. They are kids who travel with men with incalculable wealth and even entitlement greasing the road to who knows what. A losing season is a hothouse for all of the above conditions.

And there, in the parking lot of Air Canada Centre, the foam hit the concrete. “Welcome to the NBA,” said Reggie Evans among the hoots of his teammates. “Good luck cleaning it up.”

Some of this must lie at the doorstep of coach Jay Triano, who has never encountered a bus he would throw his players under. Much can be attributed to Evans, the perfect placid focal point when the dressing room doors close. There is no deferring, on the court or off, to a resident superstar. The team’s best young players, Johnson, DeRozan and Davis, seem to be surviving without any sense of entitlement. Andrea Bargnani is a stoic, Jose Calderon is ludicrously positive.

It is impossible to know how the Raptors are going to turn out after the agonizing first few steps of their young core. One thing we do know. The Raptors aren’t planting their seeds in salted earth. The players get along and for people whose growth has only just begun, that means a lot.




  On Fowl Language...


Mar. 16, 2010, 4:52 PM

The last Best Damn Sports Show Period aired its last original episode in 2009, but thanks to the rants the program loops through our collective memory.

Manager rants. Coach rants. If an alien were to watch BDSSP, it would conclude every human carrying a clipboard or lineup card was crazy as a loon. We all know that’s only partly true. Remember Denny Green and the “Bears Are Who We Thought They Were,” Hal McRae gutting a telephone phone or the great Mike Gundy’s “I’m a man, I’m 40” descent into madness.

Wonder what got into these guys?

Well, take a window for winning often shorter than the lifespan of a gnat, learning-impaired players, meddling agents, interfering wives and girlfriends, a ludicrously complicated CBA and a constant churn of entitled stars. Now mix them with the genuinely good people and the best and the worst of the media. Take that recipe; it should be about the consistency of Silly Putty. Roll it in a ball. Now step on it.

That’s losing.

I’m not sure winning is quite as intoxicating to basketball players as it is to fans. The real benefit of winning is that it represents a night without losing. Winning doesn’t feel nearly as good as losing feels bad.

Losing is much, much worse for the participants than the spectators. Losing is corrosive. It is soul-destroying. It is bad for job security and it is worse for your emotional health.

Winning means never having to explain. It makes all the undesirable parts of the job, the late-night check-ins, the insecurities about playing time, the mind-numbing routine, bearable.

Which brings us to Jay Triano, who uttered that word that rhymes with duck in an interview, Monday. Noting that the Raptors have been relatively high scoring, he said critics should duckin’ relax about offensive output. In November, having been torched by Deron Williams, he asked “what the duck are you going to do?” He meant it rhetorically.

Now, coaches say the calibre of the question can set them off, but I am here to tell you, I have asked more stupid questions than any combined media gaggle and most of the time my head stayed where I left it. How angry coaches become at a question is only incidental to the question.

If the Raptors were leading the East, you could send a transcript of every one of Jay Triano’s spoken words to the Queen. The problem is 83 wins, 130 losses, a .390 winning percentage and a rebuilding team that competes, but often only gets close enough to disappoint.

When you lose, there is nothing to say. It’s why people give speeches at a wedding but no one says boo at a divorce. It’s why they interview lottery winners instead of people holding tiny shards of red and white cardboard that say ‘Please play again,’

The funny thing here is you won’t find a more genuine, well-spoken man than Jay Triano. He is almost unfailingly polite. Almost. His team is free of the internecine warfare that plagues losing teams. His work ethic and relationships are so airtight, they seem ready to trump his won-loss record.

Lenny Wilkens seemed to be in cruise control. Kevin O’Neill was incendiary, Sam Mitchell loved ribald language but only with the camera off.

Every man is different but I want the guy whose public visage only wavers a couple of times a year, the guy who has poise but who still gives a duck.




  A Reference Guide To The NBA In London


Mar. 4, 2010, 8:52 PM

The Raptors are in London to play the New Jersey Nets and while the game is basketball, the stumbling block is language.

The English invented the English language, an idea so good they named their country after it. Americans, however, made it fun. Hence the potential for mayhem. NBA players don’t use teaposies. English people know nothing of being posterized.

Ever helpful, I have included this list of easily misunderstood English expressions and how they be misunderstood by North Americans.

For example, when a Brit mentions a porkie, he is referring to a lie. When an NBA player speaks of a porkie, he means Eddy Curry.

  When a Brit says… When an NBAer says…
Ring:  Make a phone call Ring: Championship
Uni:  University Uniform
Watcha:  Hi Fan
Wind Up:  Make fun of Prepare to shoot
Wobbler:  A tantrum Reggie Evans jumper
Nut:  Heat butt Fan who attacks Ron Artest
Sixes and Sevens:  Confusion Dancers in Milwaukee
Pass: Being unable to answer a question Giving someone else the ball
  Changing the Guard Trading Jarrett Jack
Globe Theatre: Shakespeare’s home An eye-catching dunk
Salad Days: Good times Not making weight
A-Z: London Street Directory NBA Guide and Record Book
Red Rag to a Bull: Antagonize Donning a headband in Bulls dressing room
Gert Maky: A huge person Some guy in the D League
Jammy: A lucky person A dunk that get’s you on SportsCentre
Blinkered: Narrow-minded Unwilling to pass the ball
Chucks: A nickname for a prince Shoes
Camp: Satire What Shaq does in the key
Cheerio: Goodbye Cereal
Drop a clanger: Make a mistake Hit the rim
Mug: Gullible Face



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