Nope, I still don’t give a crap about the World Cup…

Down in Brazil, the action is heating up as the elimination stage of the 2014 World Cup is just about set!  I only know this because I live in Toronto, The Centre of the Known UniverseTM, where you can’t stumble into a restaurant, bar, food court(!!!), doctor’s office or electronics store without seeing soccer on several screens.  This is the third World Cup I’ve spent in the city that Rob Ford un-built, and I can tell you that no other Canadian locale gives one-hundredth as many fucks about this event as Toronto does.  In fact, I can almost guarantee you that there will be more Argentinian–and maybe even Swiss–flags than maple leafs flying in TO next Tuesday, unless you’re within 50 feet of Edgefest.  (On that note…Our Lady Peace again!?  Really?)

But I guess I’m not your typical Torontonian, cuz my field of fucks lays barren when it comes to World Cup soccer.  I haven’t sat through more than 25-30 minutes of continuous futbol action this entire tournament–and even that was only on one or two occasions, when I’m on the treadmill.  (Hey, it beats watching Off the Record with Michael Landsberg!)  Those two times included the extremely biased second-half officiating of the home country’s fixture against Croatia, as well as the indescribably dumb penalty call that advanced Greece over Cote d’Ivoire into the round of 16.  Both of these games–or rather, the last 30 minutes of each–were enough to remind me why I hate soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually played the sport growing up, and not just for a year or two, but close to 15.  Living in a mostly-Italian neighbourhood until the age of six, we were already being taught the art of headers and chest traps in kindergarten, our coaches telling us “C’mon, be a man!” as they chucked balls at our grills.  Surpisingly, we weren’t taught diving yet at that age–but then I moved across the country, and Calgarian coaches were much more conservative in their approach.  I don’t think I took another ball off the head till I was 12!

Mind you, Calgarian coaching did produce one international soccer star, just not for Canada.  Can’t say I ever played against Owen Hargreaves, but I’m pretty sure he could trap the ball against his chest, among other soccer skills.  He actually suited up for England in ’06, and I think he even became the first Canadian to score a goal…for England, anyways.  (Wait, no he didn’t.)  Didn’t give me anything to cheer for, but I remember Rogers Sportsnet being obsessed with that shit back in the day.

And therein lies the rub: I am nothing if not Canadian, at least fourth-generation on all sides of the family.  My Icelandic ancestors came over to Gimli, Manitoba (aka Little Reykjavík) in the late 1800s, and I think my Scottish side had ‘em beat by half a century.  Thus, I really don’t associate myself with any other country; besides, both Iceland and Scotland are rubbish at footy, or so I’m told.  And the last–and only–time Canada ever qualified for the World Cup was 28 years ago, in which they lost all their games and didn’t score a goal.  Yeah, I think I’ll stick to hockey…along with the rest of the country!

Of course, hockey just ended, but the lockout-free CFL season is right around the corner.  How many Torontonians even know that the Argos are kicking off their season tomorrow in Winnipeg?  OK, so it’s no Ghana-Portugal, but I know which one I’d rather watch!

On that note, stay tuned for my CFL season preview tomorrow, and join me for some strictly Canadian content over the next couple weeks until this soccer nonsense buggers off into the next fortnight.  I’m even going to a CFL game on the day before the World Cup final–and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Stamps fans than typical Torontonians in attendance. ;)

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Bye Bye Buffalo Bills…

Yesterday, it was announced with little fanfare (and surprisingly few comments from the peanut gallery) that the Bills in Toronto Series was being “postponed” for 2014.  Yeah, and the last time I “postponed” a date, I never saw her again.  Looks like the writing’s on the wall for the Bills in TO, and as someone who attended every single one of those games–except for last year’s sorry-ass contest–all I hafta say is “It’s not me, it’s you.”

Let’s face it, the Bills haven’t helped themselves by bringing some gawd-awful squads up here.  This franchise hasn’t made the playoffs since Doug Flutie was their QB (that was 14 years ago, in case you’re wondering), and their results weren’t much worse in Toronto than they were at any stadium in America–a mere 1-5 in six regular season contests.  But it’s not just that they lost those games, but how they lost them: 16-3 to Miami, 19-13 to the Jets, 22-19 to Chicago, 50-17 to the Seahawks…  OK, so I quite enjoyed that last loss.  But it’s no secret I was sitting on the visitor’s sideline for that one. ;)

When they announced the 2013 opponent as the Atlanta Falcons, I was a little less enthused.  After all, I did have a bit of a beef with Atlanta–who knocked the Hawks outta the playoffs on a last-second field goal in 2012–but I figured that the reigning NFC South champs would make Buffalo burgers out of the Bills, who had about as much depth and talent at QB as the Calgary Flames have got in goal.  As it turns out, Atlanta’s season went been shitty *inside joke* in a hurry, and they were about as bad as Buffalo coming in…but even with Seattle playing on MNF that week, I opted to sit at home and watch a Broncos game rather than pay money to see that sorry spectacle.

It figures that last season’s game was the highest-scoring Bills contest in Toronto, with the so-called home side losing 34-31 in overtime.  That could actually be considered exciting–if either team had anything to play for.  But the biggest complaint afterwards wasn’t about the Bills giving up a game-tying TD in the last two minutes, or the piss-poor play of EJ Manuel (18-32, 210 yards, 50.3 QBR); it was about all the fans cheering for the Falcons.  Cuz hey, it may be 1,600 km away, but Atlanta’s still on the East Coast, so their fans’ll still travel.  And it’s not like the visitors making more noise was a new thing–any Bills fans who hadn’t left by halftime wanted to puke, not shout, in that Seattle game.  In fact, Bills center Eric Wood went on local radio afterwards and said stuff like “[Toronto]’s a bad atmosphere for football. I mean, nobody wants to play there.  I guess for opposing teams it beats the hell out of going in somebody else’s stadium and dealing with a bunch of crowd noise.”  Really, he could’ve been talking about any Bills in Toronto Series game there…except maybe their lone win over Washington.

Now, there are some–including The Mayor of This CityTM and his First Brother–who think that as a world-class city, we deserve a world-class team in a world-class football league.  Well, the Bills may play in the NFL, but they haven’t been a world-class team in 20 years.  And as I’ve said before, Toronto’s just not that big into football.  I mean, the Argos haven’t brought a decent crowd out to Rogers Centre since Doug Flutie was their QB.

Speaking of which, it’s probably just as well that I won’t hafta pretend to be a Bills fan once a year anymore.  Even after dropping a lotta weight these past few months, I just barely fit into my Flutie jersey…

Stephen Brunt wants to know why Toronto doesn’t much like football. Here’s my theory…

Just got the latest edition of Sportsnet magazine in the mail today and I immediately turned to the back page, enticed by the tagline “Brunt: Why Doesn’t Football Work in Toronto?”.  I myself am I little miffed at the lack of support the CFL sees in this city, what with the uniquely Canadian take on my favourite sport drawing more fans to the stands in nearby Hamilton (population 520,000) than in the Big Smoke (population five-million).  I attended the Argos home opener a couple weeks back–in Calgary colours, mind you, complete with cowboy hat–and was a little bit shocked at the low turnout, reported at 20,682 for a beautiful Saturday-afternoon contest.  Not to mention that, as the game went down to the wire, several people left early–and these weren’t Stamps fans, either!  Mind you, I have seen worse.  Last October, the official attendance for the Flames and Leafs at the ACC surpassed that of the Stamps and Argos at Rogers Centre the night before.  In case you didn’t know, Rogers Centre holds a lot more people than the ACC does.

But it’s not just the Argos that are getting snubbed in this city.  As Brunt writes, the International Bowl, pitting NCAA schools from the Big East against the Mid-American Conference, “died a quick and unlamented death” after four contests, and while the annual Bills in Toronto Series games tend to (eventually) sell out, I’ve seen more enthusiasm in the stands for the Argos–where, as previously stated, there are far fewer people in attendance.  When Brunt says that “Toronto doesn’t much like football,” he certainly has a point.  I can’t dispute that, but I am going to attempt to explain it.  Bear with me here, this could take a while…

First of all, I must say that I am a major exception to this rule.  I do like football, very much so.  In 2008, I didn’t think twice about taking the trip to Montreal for the Grey Cup after the Stamps won the CFL West Division Final, and their ensuing victory was one of my most memorable moments as a sports fan.  A couple years later, after some deliberation, I flew all the way out to Seattle for the Seahawks’ season opener in 2010–hey, it was the beginning of the Pete Carroll era–and it was another amazing weekend, worth every penny.  (I balked at the higher prices for their Wild Card game against the Saints that season–not to mention the cost of a flight booked one week in advance–but went completely nuts watching it on TV.)  But my love of the game extends beyond the two teams I worship.  I estimate that I’ve seen 10 to 12 Argos games at Rogers Centre since I moved here in ’05, including a handful where they weren’t even playing against Calgary.  I’ve also been to every single International Bowl, and have the programs to prove it–as well as every single game of the Bills in Toronto Series, including pre-season contests.  I initially purchased the four-game ticket package at those elevated prices, and when they dropped ‘em this year, I upgraded my 500-level seats to the best non-VIP section on the visitors sideline, without hesitation.  Of course, it helps that the Hawks are coming to town this time around.  (Did I mention that I’ve already got my new Nike 12th man jersey–purchased in person at the Seattle Pro Shop?)

I could go on to mention that I’m the self-proclaimed president of the Seahawks Eastern Canadian fanclub (the team’s unofficial message board won’t even approve my registration cuz I live in the Eastern Timezone–they must think I’m a spy) and that I wear my Seahawks gear to my local sports bar on Sundays when I can’t get the game on Rogers digital cable.  Generally speaking, if there’s more than a handful of people at the bar for the 4 o’clock kickoffs, it’s only because the Leafs or the Raptors are playing a Sunday matinee.  But I think I’ve made my point.  I am not your typical Torontonian–in more ways than one, mind you–because I really, truly love the gridiron game.  Then again, in a city so large and culturally diverse, it’s really hard to call anyone a typical Torontonian.  There are many different ways you could break this city’s population into segments and fit them into neat little boxes, but as a general rule, I’ve found there are three types of people in TO:

1) People who immigrated here from other countries.  Let’s face it, as the biggest city and more-or-less-official cultural capital of Canada, Toronto still sees the lions’ (no, not the BC Lions) share of immigration from other countries.  Vancouver gets a large chunk of new Canadians from Asia, while some of the economically savvy are choosing to head west to Calgary, or even Saskatoon, but if you were to dig up the numbers, you’d surely see that Toronto has the highest proportion of residents that were born outside of this country.

2) People who moved here from other parts of Canada.  I myself fit into this category.  I came here from Calgary for university and never left.  I also know plenty of people living here who grew up in other parts of the country, from Windsor to Chicoutimi to Halifax, Vancouver and small-town Saskatchewan.  Let’s face it, if you aspire to make in in the Canadian entertainment industry, Toronto is the place to be.  It’s also the home of most national English-language magazines, all three national sports networks–not to mention the head offices of the country’s Big Five banks and most of its major insurance companies.  I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog that there isn’t much demand for bilingual jobs in Calgary–but there are enough openings in Toronto’s national head offices that I’ve been able to find employment in the financial industry in my second language in spite of my rough-hewn Alberta accent (which would never fly in Montreal, I’m sure).

3) Born and raised Torontonians. I know these people are out there, but I don’t know too many of them.  A good deal of my co-workers come from other countries, while a lot of my friends are originally from other provinces.  I do know plenty of people who grew up here, mind you, but they came to Toronto from elsewhere, whether it was India, Korea or Yugoslavia, at a young age.  As first-generation Canadians, they grew up amidst our cultural institutions, but with a traditional upbringing from their parents.  Which doesn’t make them any less Canadian, mind you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for multiculturalism.  On any given week, I can sample cuisine from five different countries on Yonge Street, and I must say, some of my favourite foods are ones I had never even tasted before I left Calgary (case in point: shawarma).  I also find that interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds on a daily basis has greatly expanded my world view; instead of just reading about the Balkans in the newspapers, for instance, I’ve spoken to people who’ve come out of that area, and it’s given me a whole new perspective.  And that brings me to my point: Toronto is not your typical North American city.  It’s no coincidence that the Raptors attract more international free agents than American-born players; this city offers up a little slice of home to them, wherever they come from.  Having lived elsewhere in this country, I know that you’d be hard-pressed to find outstanding Greek cuisine in Calgary, much less Ethiopian or Nepalese.  Let’s face it, there isn’t another city in Canada where the Euro Cup final is a bigger event than Canada Day.  (I’d say maybe Montreal, but replace Canada Day with St. Jean Baptiste, and that’s definitely not the case.)  And that brings me back to football.

In his piece, Brunt makes the case that football is North America’s most popular sport.  There’s no denying that; it’s huge in the States, both college and pro, and has found a niche in every other CFL market except for Toronto–where a good chunk of the population comes from outside of North America.  Don’t get me wrong, football is big in other countries too, except what they call football isn’t played with helmets, pads and yardsticks.  It involves kicking a ball into a goal, and there are no hands allowed.  Up here, we tend to call it soccer, and there’s no doubt that it’s huge in Toronto.  In the past few months, I’ve listened to French and Italian colleagues discussing the state of their country’s sides, chewed my burger in silence as an Irishman and a Ukranian contemplated their teams’ slim chances in the Euro Cup at the pub, even overheard a native New Zealander on the subway mention how he was getting up early to watch the Rugby World Cup on weekends–but I’ll be damned if wearing my Stamps jersey elicits any kind of response anywhere more than 500 feet from Rogers Centre.  Y’see, all these people grew up watching soccer, not football, and they’ve seen no reason to make the switch.

On the other hand, many of my Group 2 friends who came here from other parts of the country do like the CFL.  They may not be as passionate as me (few people are), but they still care about how the Riders or the Bombers or the Als are doing.  In fact, if you go to one of those sparsely-attended Argos games and sit behind the visitors sideline, chances are you’ll be surrounded by fellow fans of the opposing team–even when you’re from Calgary.  But since their teams only come to town once or twice a year, these CFL fans aren’t Argos season’s ticket holders, and often won’t attend more than one game per season.  There have been years when I’ve done this myself; I mean, who wants to watch Cleo Lemon pass the pigskin?  Ugh.

As for the native Torontonians, well, let’s face it, they’ve got a lot more entertainment options than they did back when the Argos were winning all those Grey Cups.  (The only Argos fan I know likes to point out that his team has won it 15 times, to which I counter that while they won all those rings before he was born, most of the Stamps’ Grey Cup wins came during my lifetime.)  In the years since Doug Flutie roamed the Skydome turf, Toronto FC has sprung up in the summertime, attracting an instant fanbase despite their lack of success on the pitch.  Hell, the Raptors franchise was still in its infancy back in ’97; they’ve since established a solid fanbase of their own, starting their season during the CFL’s home stretch.  Then there is, of course, the Leafs.  If you don’t know the impact the Leafs have on this city’s sports scene, you’ve obviously never been to Toronto.  Nuff said.

Alas, while the Raptors and FC appeal to Toronto’s multicultural communities, and the average Toronto sports fan has several choices when it comes to spending his hard-earned cash, the Argos have gotten the short end of the stick.  And it doesn’t help that they haven’t been winning lately, either.  According to the team’s official attendance figures (which, interestingly, they seem to have stopped tracking after 2007), they averaged 31,597 fans a game in 2005, the season following their last Grey Cup victory.  Through two games this season, that number’s closer to 21,000.  Face it, those fairweather fans are a lot less likely to support a losing team when there are other games in town.  Did I mention that the Argos kicked off their 2012 season on Honda Indy weekend?

Likewise, the Bills haven’t made they playoffs since they inexplicably benched Flutie for Rob Johnson in the Music City Miracle way back in 2000, and those International Bowls, aside from the inaugural edition, were all blowouts, the Big East teams making mincemeat out of their MAC opponents.  Hey, if I came to Toronto from, let’s say, Columbia instead of Calgary in ’05, and my exposure to North American football was the Argos, the Bills on local TV and in town once a year, along with the annual bowl-game blowout, I’d probably stick to fútbol, myself.

On that note, I’m actually heading out to Hamilton for a slice of CFL history tomorrow.  I’ve never been to Ivor Wynne, so I figured I’d see a game there before they tear it down at season’s end–and I also plan on visiting the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, which resides in Steeltown as well.  I’ll probably have some pics to post when I get back on Sunday–for all you non-Torontonian Canadian Football fans out there.  (For the record, when I asked the only Argos fan I know if he’d ever been to a Labour Day Classic game in Hamilton, he said, “No way man, who wants to go to Hamilton!?”) ;)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: An alternate means of transportation this evening…

From: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/06/01/flooding-at-union-station

I was actually on a southbound train during the lunch hour, one stop away from my office, when the flooding at Union Station was announced.  But hey, at least they have busses on Bay Street.  I’m also fortunate that I live along the Bloor-Danforth line, so I won’t hafta squeeze on to an overcrowded shuttle, either (though I suppose the Number 6 will be more occupied than usual).  As for the folks headed southbound, might I offer the following means of transportation:

Also, from the Globe and Mail:

Now there’s an idea—replacing the Red Rocket with a Yellow Submarine…

Is Toronto really THAT much better than Calgary?

So, I’ve had a couple days to digest The Economist‘s 2011 Liveability Ranking, in which both my current hometown and the city I grew up in made the Top Five.  Based on their complex calculations, Toronto ranked fourth overall, with a score of 97.2 out of 100.  Calgary was fifth, racking up a total of 96.6, which got me thinking–is Toronto really 0.6 per cent better than Calgary?

The Economist rankings are based on five categories, namely Stability, Healthcare, Culture & Environment, Education and Infrastructure.  Both cities scored a perfect 100 in three of them–Stability, Healthcare and Education–with Toronto’s eight-point advantage in Culture & Environment beating out Calgary’s seven-point edge in Infrastructure.  Don’t get me wrong, Toronto’s a lot more cultured than Cowtown.  The only thing I don’t get is how the cultural capital of Canada only scored a 97.2.  While that is the second-highest total of any city in the Top 10, there was one city that got a perfect score in that category, Vancouver.  That sure shocked the hell outta me, considering what they do for entertainment in that city.  (The scores had already been compiled before the mostly-White Riot, mind you.  The study notes “Although the riots came too late in the year to have an impact on the score of the current survey, further unrest may affect scores for the city in the future.”)

I was a little surprised by Calgary having such an edge in Infrastructure, though.  Don’t get me wrong, the city is rapidly expanding, and there are new roads, overpasses and C-Train stations every time I go back there–but for my money’s worth, the TTC is quicker and more efficient than Calgary Transit.  There, I said it.

Alas, after being born out here, moving over there when I was a kid, and returning here for university and sticking around afterwards, I’ve spent at least 12 years living in both cities.  Thus, I feel that I’m able to take a closer look at The Economist‘s study to see if Toronto is really 0.7 points better than Calgary.

 

 

 

 

 

Although I feel that Toronto’s reputation as a “dangerous city” is highly overrated (stay out of certain neighbourhoods, and you’ll be fine), statistics show that we’ve got a lot more crime than Calgary, which has only reported three homicides this year, compared to 32 for Toronto.  Not to mention that Calgary’s never been the subject of a serious terrorist threat–but Toronto has had a pretty serious one in the time since I moved out here.

ADVANTAGE: Cowtown

 

 

 

 

 

When I was living in Calgary, I had a family doctor who was almost like family.  If she didn’t know what was wrong with me when I came in, she would always figure it out.  Since I moved out here, I’ve yet to find a doctor I can trust.  I’ve been to this one clinic near my office (and where I used to live) a few times, but every time I see a different doctor there, I get a different story.  I think I only had to go to the hospital twice when I was growing up out west, and both times were relatively quick and painless, considering that my thumb had swollen up to the size of a softball the second time.  On the other hand, I checked myself into the hospital once a couple years back with some wicked stomach pains, which I feared was appendicitis.  Toronto General kept me for a full 24 hours, most of which was spent in the hallway, not even in a room, then finally discharged me without telling me what was wrong.  On the plus side, they gave me all the morphine I could ask for.

ADVANTAGE: Cowtown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now these are some interesting subcategories.  Toronto is a lot hotter and more humid than Calgary, where the air is dry and the weather unpredictable.  (It even snowed on Canada Day when I was a kid!)  I must say that I was known for my dry, hacking cough in high school, and it was only a matter of hours upon my last visit to Cowtown that I started hacking up blood.  Although the summertime’s a bitch when you don’t have air conditioning, I’m definitely more comfortable with the climate out here.

As far as corruption is concerned, I’ve seen a lot more at Queen’s Park under Dolton McSquinty (my favourite Toronto Sun nickname for him!) than we ever had in Calgary under King Ralph Klein’s rule.  Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Ralphie was a raging drunk, but he wasn’t a crook.  When he left office, he gave every Albertan a 400-dollar surplus cheque.  (Mine was sent to my parents’ house, but I still got it!)  On the other hand, I was so disgusted by the eHealth scandal that I went and voted for Rob Ford.  That said, I must admit that Calgary is more uptight and censor-y than T.O..  Technically, burlesque dancing is still illegal in Alberta

While the first four or five categories are evenly split, Toronto takes the last four easily.  This city has seven professional sports teams, not including the Bills, who are on a five-year loan from Buffalo.  In Calgary, you’ve really only got the Flames and Stamps.  There hasn’t been an affiliated minor league baseball team in town since the Cannons moved to Albuquerque, and the Calgary Roughnecks aren’t exactly the greatest show on turf.  (That’s a lacrosse team, by the way.)

When it comes to food and drink, consumer goods and services (shopping!) and cultural availability, it’s not even close.  Anyone who would take Calgary in these categories has obviously never been to Toronto.

ADVANTAGE: T-Dot

 

 

 

Comparing the primary/secondary school system in Calgary to the post-secondary system in Toronto is apples and oranges, really.  I will say that I couldn’t have possibly done less work to earn a degree than I did by studying Magazine Journalism at university, whereas I actually had to work for (some of) my grades in junior high and high school.

ADVANTAGE: Push

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Calgary, I had to drive to get anywhere.  In Toronto, I’ve only been behind the wheel once, and that was to move my stuff two blocks east to my current apartment.  I can’t really comment on the quality of the roads out here, but like I said, Calgary’s always building and improving.  On the other hand, there always seems to be construction around Yonge & Bloor, but nothing seems to change.

That being said, I can definitely compare transit systems.  After high school, I worked in a motorcycle shop on the other side of town.  Driving there took 40 minutes, tops, when my mom let me borrow her car.  Otherwise, it was an hour and a half on Calgary Transit, taking two buses and the C-Train, which didn’t go as far as my neighbourhood.  (They’ve since extended it.)  After university, my first job was in Scarborough.  It took me 45 minutes on the TTC to get to work via the Bloor-Danforth line and the 34 Eglinton bus, unless there was a delay.  One morning, when the subway broke down, I took a taxi from St. George to Pape that took almost as long and cost me 20 dollars.  The bottom line, I guess, is that it’s better to drive in Calgary, but The Better Way is the best way to get to work out of all of the above.

International links?  Well, Pearson’s a lot larger than Calgary International, and it’s a lot easier to get to and from the airport to downtown.  I think I saw a bus when I was last in Calgary that went to one of the newer subway stations in the Northeast–which still a long way from the heart of the city.

On another note, the house I grew up in was a lot nicer than any of the places I’ve lived in since, and there have been several.  I should also mention that two summers ago, my basement apartment in the Annex (I no longer live there) was subject to three or four blackouts that lasted at least half an hour.  That never happened to me in Calgary.

Looks like we’re about even till we look at the cities’ administration.  I’ve witnessed the growth of Calgary’s infrastructure under Dave Bronconnier, and as someone who only comes back to Calgary every year or two, it really seems impressive.  From what little I’ve heard about new mayor Nenshi, I think the city’s well-positioned moving forward.  On the other hand, Toronto has Rob Ford, who put the kibosh on Transit City and walks to get rid of bike lanes, too.  I don’t like where this is going…

ADVANTAGE: Cowtown

So there you have it, folks.  Much like your typical Flames-Leafs game, the final score is Calgary 3, Toronto 1.  Did I mention that Calgary also has better jobstastier brews and that its Sled Island music festival kicked the shit outta this year’s NXNE?  So why don’t I move back there?  Well, I don’t have any experience in engineering or design and I’m one good solid day’s worth of warehouse work away from a massive heart attack.  I think I’ll stick to my downtown desk job in a city where French is a career asset, not just a language you use to make fun of people behind their backs.

If I had somewhere else to go, you know I’d be the first to leave…

Peace,

Greg

Jalousie runs deep chez L’Express…

Something tells me the photo editors at L’Express are a bit bitter over Paris placing 16th in this year’s Economist Livability Ranking.  This is the photo they used for Toronto, which finished in fourth place: 

Were it not for the CN Tower on the left, you’d think it was Tuktoyaktuk…

http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/diapo-photo/styles/voyage/les-10-villes-les-plus-agreables-du-monde_1025624.html?p=4

UPDATE 11:04 am: Meanwhile, more than a few francophone commenters on this Radio Canada article are upset with Calgary coming in fifth, right behind Toronto.  To them I say, “Hey, hit any potholes lately?  Yeah, that’s what I thought…”

No Sleep Till Cooperstown: A Torontonian’s Trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Cooperstown is a neat little place.  A rustic village full of old country homes–but once you hit Main Street, it’s all baseball, more than anywhere else I’ve seen.  You’ve got baseball memorabilia shops, baseball-themed restaurants, a baseball wax museum, a historic baseball field–and of course, the Baseball Hall of Fame, easily the most impressive structure in town.

Doubleday Field is where they played the first game of baseball, according to legend.  They’ve built some bleachers and a proper ball diamond in the spot that used to be a farmer’s field.  A neat historic ballpark.

The man himself, Abner Doubleday, has his spot in the Hall, even though the myth of him inventing the game has long been disproved.  (My camera doesn’t seem to like him, either.)

Touring the Hall takes a good five or six hours if you take the time to really look around, but don’t stop to read every plaque.  It’s nice that they stamp your hand for readmission, so you can leave and come back throughout the day to get some food or whatever.  I made it there by 9:30 and left at quarter to three, stopping for lunch at a place called “Hey, Getcha Hot Dog!” across the street.  Although I had charged my camera’s batteries on Friday before leaving town, they died when I got to the third floor.  So yeah, I took a lotta pictures.  Here are a few of them.

Naturally, I started off at the wing where the new inductees have their memorabilia displayed, namely ex-Jays Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick.  It was their enshrinement in the Hall last month that gave me the urge to make the trip down here while they were still featured prominently.  I also attended Roberto Alomar Day at the ballpark a few weeks back.  The first picture was taken on my phone at the game.

Yes, those are the ’92 and ’93 World Series trophies!

While Robbie Alomar’s the first player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Jay, there are four other players that have Toronto on their plaques.  Can you name them all?

Paul Molitor was World Series MVP in 1993.

Dave Winfield hit a walk-off double to clinch the ’92 Series.

Ricky Henderson (left) was on base when Joe Carter touched ‘em all in ’93.

The last one is the trickiest.  No, Joe Carter is not in Cooperstown.  The fifth former Toronto player was actually the first to be inducted: knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who started three games for the Jays in ’87, when he was 48 years old.  His numbers weren’t very good–0-2 with a 8.25 ERA and 1.83 WHIP–but they still included his stint in Toronto on his plaque.

Here are some other famous faces enshrined in the Hall:

For a second, I thought I was back in Cleveland at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, but as it turns out, ex-CCR singer John Fogerty has his own display case in the Baseball Hall of Fame, dedicated to his 1985 hit “Centerfield”.  I wonder what kinda tone he gets from that baseball bat-shaped guitar.  Apparently, it was actually used for live performances — I wouldn’t wanna break a string on that thing!

There was a whole wing dedicated to baseball artwork, with pieces running the gamut from Norman Rockwell to Andy Warhol.  Can you tell which one’s the Warhol?

Some interesting historical baseball documents.  Click the images for larger versions.

I think Jackie Robinson was trying to send a message by typing his retirement notice on “Chock Full ‘o Nuts” letterhead.

A baseball writer’s tools of the trade…

Gordon Cobbledick is a Hall of Fame baseball writer.  I wonder if he made it in under the Silly Names section of the ballot.

Check out the porn stache on Peter Gammons!

Robert Redford’s uni from The Natural.

Duane Ward sure had a rocket arm!

Some baseball history…

This job posting from 1868 mentions that there’s an opening with the Treasury Department–but only if you play a mean first base.  Good thing Mickey Mantle wasn’t born yet–“No Irish need apply.”

Honus Wagner was the first baseball superstar.  Today, his baseball card’s worth two million bucks.

And here’s the latest addition to the Hall: Derek Jeter’s helmet, and the batting gloves he used for his 3,000th hit.

Some Jays stuff, past and present.  There’s no use in debating whether Jose Bautista will be the next Jay in Cooperstown–he’s already there!

The two Great Canadian Ballparks.  Though they no longer have a team in Montreal, beer’s still a lot cheaper at the Big O!

Just down the street from the Hall of Fame is the Baseball Wax Museum.  It’s a lot smaller, and will take you about half an hour to visit, tops.  They do have some neat stuff, though.  Here’s something you won’t see at the Hall:

If there was a Hall of Fame for hamburgers, the Cooperstown Diner’s jumbo burger would be a first-ballot inductee.

This is what 13 ounces of beef looks like.  How does it taste?  Delicious!

Alas, I didn’t leave town without grabbing a couple souvenirs.  I now have a shrine to Robbie Alomar on my dining room table.

Peace,

Greg