5 12 2012

Great news in the baseball world. The late Tom Cheek, who had been the primary play-by-play voice for the Toronto Blue Jays, calling a total of 4,306 consecutive Jays games before cancer prematurely took him from us, has been named the 2013 Ford C. Frick Award recipient by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown today.

This award has been a very long time coming. Including this year, he’d been nominated for the Frick Award for nine consecutive years. But the campaigning to have him honoured is now done, successfully.

The Ford C. Frick Award recognizes one’s contribution to baseball broadcasting, and Tom was one of the best, being with the Jays from their opening day in 1977.

Congratulations, Tom!


The NHL lockout continues… *sigh*

26 10 2012

[Posted today on Facebook. I decided that more people should see this, so I made it my blog entry, too.]

Ok, something came to mind. Yes, there was word today that the National Hockey League cancelled all the games for the month of November.

So what? If and when NHL hockey resumes for any number of games (even 82, if a deal had been made before last Thursday), the entire schedule will need to be adjusted, or rewritten, to get a decent balance of games within each conference and division. Once the NHL started cancelling regular season games, this became the case.

So why is the NHL bothering to cancel a month of games, when it’s clear that every team would need a whole new schedule anyway? Cancelling looks to be just a ploy to try to get the NHL Players’ Association to cave in.

In reality, the cancellations mean nothing!

Again, the people who are being hurt by this lockout are not the players or the owners, but rather those that stand to lose their jobs (if they haven’t already lost them) because of the lockout: arena staff, workers in restaurants near the arenas, sports memorabilia folk, to name a few.

Come on, owners and players. Enough is enough! Get together and solve this issue!

NHL lockout looming…

15 09 2012

Well, it looks 99% certain that there won’t be NHL hockey when the actual season gets under way next month.

As of tonight (Saturday night), the players will be locked out by their teams, because they won’t have reached a new collective bargaining agreement.

Here’s what gets to me: league revenues are up big time, meaning that the NHL appears to be flourishing, and yet the league is trying to claw back money that, until the current CBA expires tonight, went to the players.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been saying, time and again, that player salaries have been going up too quickly, and is trying to reduce the salaries paid to the players. But the owners are at fault too, as they’ve signed a number of players to big contracts, like the deal by the NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes, signing 36-year-old captain Shane Doan to a $21-million, 4-year contract.

So Mr. Bettman is saying one thing about player salaries, and doing the opposite, as he had to approve Doan’s deal, because his league owns the Coyotes.

The players are not blameless in this. It is not a matter of the owners simply saying “We will pay you X million dollars for you to be with our team.” It took two months, I understand, for Doan and the Coyotes to reach an agreement, so the amount must have been rolling around in Doan’s mind for some time.

So let’s see: the players, who are already earning more than I think they should (in my opinion, no player, not even Sidney Crosby, is worth millions of dollars a year), have been going after these huge contracts, and the owners are willingly giving them these deals. And yet, Mr. Bettman is saying that salaries are too high?

Something is not right here.

And with the lockout beginning tonight, the rest of us (fans, arena staff, anyone else who would earn money from the games) are left out in the cold.

I’d said it, perhaps jokingly, before. Perhaps I’m more serious about it now. The negotiators on both sides (including Bettman and NHL Players Association head negotiator, Donald Fehr) should be locked in a hotel room somewhere, not to come out until a deal is done. Yes, give them access to bathrooms and room service, but nothing beyond that.

Sooner or later, both the owners and players have to come to their senses that the season is about more than just them, and get this deal done! Enough of this crap we’ve seen recently!

UPDATE (9/16): As of midnight this morning, the 99% chance I mentioned became 100%, barring a deal before the season starts (which is unlikely). The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL owners and players has expired, and the lockout is officially on. 😦

The latest shows offered by GSN…

26 08 2012

…really don’t appeal to me.

Last week, GSN debuted two brand new shows: Beat the Chefs and The American Bible Challenge.

I already see interesting cooking competitions on Food Network, so I don’t need to see another one with Beat the Chefs, and as many of you know, I’m not a very religious person, so The American Bible Challenge holds no interest for me.

However, one upcoming show that I’m really looking forward to is GSN’s version of The Pyramid: its take on the classic Pyramid game show format that has been very successful in the 70s and 80s. From the promos I’ve seen so far, it looks like they’ve put the set together right. It’s modern, of course, but reminiscent of the earlier versions of the show (unlike the very dark-looking remake of Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, a few years ago).

That said, I do wish they’d update the lineup at GSN, so that it isn’t running various versions of Family Feud seemingly all the time (almost to the point of calling GSN the “Family Feud” network).

I had a look at the schedule, and on three nights of the week, if they’re not running eps of Beat the Chefs or The American Bible Challenge, it’s an all-evening block of episodes of Family Feud, with either Richard Karn, John O’Hurley, or current FF host Steve Harvey. Plus, GSN runs an hour of Harvey’s version twice every day: once in the afternoon, and once just before the late-night block, which also has an episode each of Karn and O’Hurley. There is just too much Family Feud on GSN. Don’t get me wrong: I like Family Feud (I’m not a fan of Harvey’s version, though. I realize that Harvey’s version is newer, and has been well received by the viewers – I just don’t like the version). I just don’t want it to be on as much as it has been for some time.

There are other shows that were just taken off the air, like Jim Perry’s version of Card Sharks, and a variety of other shows that have aired in the past. Why can’t GSN pull them out for another run? Even some of the more-recently-produced shows, like Chain Reaction (which does get some air time) or Russian Roulette, both GSN-produced shows, could help with the schedule.

Roger Federer deserves 7th career Wimbledon win. But…

8 07 2012

Wimbledon has come and gone for another year. The men’s final today, one way or another, was going to be history-making. This year, the final was between Roger Federer (a victory would tie him with Pete Sampras for the most titles, with 7) and Scotland’s Andy Murray. Murray’s appearance marks the first time since 1938 that a Briton has reached the men’s final at Wimbledon. If Murray were to win, it would be the first time since 1936 that the Wimbledon men’s champ would hail from the British Isles.

Murray seemed to throw down the gauntlet right off the bat in the final, breaking Federer’s serve in the opening game of the match. Federer had broken back a short time later, but Murray broke Federer again and came away winning the first set, 6-4.

The second set was won by Federer 7-5. One set apiece.

In the third set, both players held their serves, going to 1-1. At that time, the skies opened up and it started raining, causing the players to leave the court, while the tarp was put on the court and the Centre Court roof was closed. But not only do they close the roof when threatening weather begins, work also gets under way to get the temperature and humidity under control. The whole process, before play could resume, took nearly 40 minutes.

Eventually, play resumed. At 3-3 of the third set, Murray, unfortunately, on three occasions, apparently found damp places in the grass, causing him to slip. Those slips proved to be costly, as his serve ended up being broken, and Federer didn’t look back, winning the third set 6-3, and the fourth set 6-4, to earn the Wimbledon title.

Now, I’m of the mind that Wimbledon’s handling of the roof – not just today, but the entire tournament – was not good. On a number of occasions, in the middle of a match, the rain came, and play had to be halted in order to close the roof and get the interior conditions under control. Each time, there was a loss of about 40 minutes of playing time. Now, in any other sports event where there is a retractable roof, such as Major League Baseball games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (the home of MLB’s Blue Jays), if there was a significant chance of serious weather coming that could delay action, the roof would be closed before the event started, so it could be played without interruption. Apparently, this thinking doesn’t occur in Wimbledon. They apparently prefer to keep the roof open as long as possible, not closing it until it is absolutely necessary. If there wasn’t as much of a delay in resuming play, that idea would make sense. However, a wait of 35-40 minutes waiting for the roof and the stadium to get to playing condition is unforgivable. The roof has been in place at Centre Court since 2009. The folks at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club need to be more proactive on this. If it means a few more matches are to be played indoors, so be it. I believe that a retractable roof is there to be closed before play begins when weather threatens to delay a match; to avoid a significant period of delay in play.

Such a delay took place today in the match between Federer and Murray. The delay, while waiting for the roof to close and Centre Court to be ready for game play again, was nearly 40 minutes again. It is my strong belief that during the delay, though he’d been fighting tooth and nail against his opponent until then, Murray lost something – call it “the edge” or “the will”, or whatever – and the slips that occurred when he was serving at 3-3 in the 3rd set certainly did not help (If the roof had been closed before the start of the match – assuming organizers knew the storm was coming – the wet patches Murray had slipped on would not have been there, and the rain and the delay would not have been a factor). I believe that if Wimbledon had been more proactive regarding the roof, to make sure that the final could play in its entirety uninterrupted (which, to me, should be the reason for spending millions on the roof in the first place), we may have seen a different result to the final. Today’s result seems a little tainted to me, for that reason.

Of course, I’m not taking away from Federer’s work on the final. The handling of the roof was done according to the Wimbledon rules. Like any champion, he saw a weakness in how Murray was playing and took advantage of it. Roger Federer is one of the best tennis players the world has ever seen. One does not become a 17-time Grand Slam event champion without being able to take advantage if his opponent falters in some way.

Meanwhile, by even making it to the final, Murray became the first British player to make it that far since 1938. He played very well, and represented Britain very well, under the circumstances. But when you’re playing against someone of the calibre of Roger Federer, you pretty much have to play perfectly the whole match. You cannot allow even the slightest opening to your game, for whatever reason, or Federer will take advantage of it.

Congratulations to Roger Federer – seven-time Wimbledon men’s champion! No question – you’ve earned this title, and you have, even more, cemented your place in tennis history with today’s win.

Notes about game show hosts…

9 05 2012

Some time ago, in this blog, I wrote about the current version of The Price Is Right, and how I like the current host and announcer: Drew Carey and George Gray, respectively.

A friend of mine and I recently chatted about game shows, and we agreed that, in general, the better hosts of recent game shows are, or have been at one time, stand-up comics. This is true of The Price Is Right, as both Carey and Gray spent time on the stand-up circuit.

The reason, to me, that comics make good hosts and announcers is because they know how to engage the audience, and get them interested in the game.

There are some hosts who fit that category for me. One is Bill Engvall, who had spent six years as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and is the host of the currently-running season of Lingo. He’s very good at talking with the players and keeping them interested on the game.

A couple of others come to mind, and though they were never on the stand-up circuit, they do have backgrounds in comedy acting, and that has helped them engage the contestants and audience. I’m referring to former Family Feud hosts Richard Karn of Home Improvement fame, and John O’Hurley, who is best known for the repeating role he had on Seinfeld, and also his appearance on Dancing with the Stars. Both Karn’s and O’Hurley’s versions of Family Feud are currently airing on GSN, and they are fun to watch.

On the other side of the coin, the first host of the latest version of Family Feud, Louie Anderson, and the new current host of the show, Steve Harvey, just don’t work for me. With Anderson, I never liked him much, so it’s not surprising that I didn’t like him on FF, but I was a bit surprised that I do not like Harvey’s work that much. Harvey was a stand -up comedian at one point, and has been in comedy for years after that, but I don’t like seeing him as FF host.

I did like the previous versions of FF, such as the Ray Combs version that ran in the late 80s/early 90s. Again, Combs had a background of stage comedy, which helped him to work with the players and the audience.

But to me, the original host of Family Feud continues to be my favourite. Richard Dawson, like all the other FF hosts, has a comedy background. A regular in the 1960s series Hogan’s Heroes, he spent the early 70s being a regular in comedy classics Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Dawson was also a regular panelist in the early years of Match Game before being given his own show: Family Feud. Now, Richard knew how to engage the players and the audience, and the way he controlled the flow of the show helped make Family Feud one of the all-time game show favourites.

Wishing all the best to Mariano Rivera…

7 05 2012

If you follow baseball at all, then you heard about what happened to Mariano Rivera last Thursday. During batting practice before his New York Yankees took on the Kansas City Royals, Rivera was doing what he always did during batting practice: shagging fly balls. However, on this evening, a normal routine for Rivera took a horrible turn. Chasing a fly ball in deep center field, his right knee gave out and he collapsed, clearly in a lot of pain.

Seeing the replay, I didn’t think he’d done anything before his right knee simply collapsed on him. But a number of reports say he caught a cleat on the seam between the turf at Kaufmann Stadium and the warning track carpet, and that was a factor in the tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of his knee.

Many speculated that Rivera’s pitching career may be over – and they may be right. This is a devastating injury, and a difficult one for any pitcher to come back from. But a friend of mine said that if anyone is likely to come back from an injury like that, it’s Rivera.

I do hope that Rivera is able to come back and pitch in 2013. He has announced that he does intend to return to the mound next year. Hanging it up due to an injury, he said, is not the way to end a career. I could not agree more. Yes, he’s with the Yankees, a team that many of us, as baseball fans, love to hate, but at the same time, we can’t help but admire Rivera’s success on the mound over the years, and he is one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen.

How good has Rivera been in his career? Nothing short of spectacular! He started out in the Yankees rotation in his first year, back in 1995, before moving into the bullpen. He would lay claim to the Yankees’ regular closer role in 1997. In that year, he was an impressive 43 of 52 in save opportunities. Yep. In that first full year as the Yankees’ regular closer, Rivera had all of nine blown saves. That’s the most blown saves he would have of any year. Most years, he’d blow something like 3, 4 or 5 saves at the most, and in one year, in 2008, he would be nearly perfect in save opportunities, collecting 39 saves in 40 chances. Yep – just one blown save the entire year! When you were playing the Yankees, you dreaded facing Rivera on the mound when the Yankees had a save on the line. Rivera was money in the bank. He was that dominant over the years.

Including the five saves he collected this year before his injury, he has amassed a total of 608 saves in his career – more than any other pitcher in major league history!

A pitcher like Mariano Rivera deserves an end to a career much better than what appears to be the end, as a result of an injury that took place during, of all things, batting practice! Got to give him a lot of credit that he’s going to try to come back next year. He has a hell of a long road ahead, with surgery to repair the ligament, and months of rehab after that. But I agree with my friend. If anyone can pull off the recovery needed to get back on the mound after an injury like that, it’s Mariano Rivera.