Newcomers to the city of Edmonton inevitably have questions regarding our perpetual rivals to the south, or what has come to be known as the Battle of Alberta. They don’t ask me – I purposely sport a fanny-pack and 20 pounds of camera gear when I wander about the city so that tourists don’t talk to me – but they’ll ask somebody. The answer they’ll probably get is “hockey”, which is blatantly misleading and 100% wrong.
Edmonton and Calgary have held a semi-snarly relationship for much longer than the history of professional hockey in either city. Far from a rivalry of mere convenience (we are the only two major cities in the province), the Battle of Alberta extends to fundamental belief systems, to political preferential treatment, to bigotry, inclusion, and of course… money.
Which is truly the greater city? As a lifelong resident of Edmonton, my honest answer is that I don’t care. Both cities are gorgeous: they have the Stampede, we have the continent’s most impressive Fringe Theatre Festival. They have proximity to the magnificent mountains, we have an exquisite river valley. They are the economic home-base of the province, we have a gigantic mall.
But enough of the niceness. Let’s see how this got ugly.
The Battle of Alberta extends for centuries before there was even an Alberta over which to battle. The Blackfoot Confederacy was the political union among the Blackfoot tribes who moseyed about southern Alberta and Montana, killing buffalo and living a northern version of the indigenous lifestyle of the American Indian. Up in the boreal forest that covered the northern half of the as-yet-undesignated province, the Cree and their allies (known as the Iron Confederacy, making the history of this region sound like a bad-ass Native version of Game of Thrones) lived a subarctic lifestyle, which involved trapping and fur-trading. Read more…
Fans of American football are no doubt giddy with delight in the afterglow of last night’s victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers – the first actual game we have seen in seven months. Non-fans of American football most likely stopped reading this article after the headline, or after they realized this has nothing to do with soccer-football. That’s okay, not everyone shares the same sports-page passions – a fact that becomes resoundingly evident every year as the city around me leaps to their feet at the start of hockey season.
Younger fans of the game might not recall that this 13-season stability we have seen in team names and locations is unprecedented in the history of the league. The 20th century saw several clubs shuffle around the country in search of a permanent home. Most every move was money-based, each one was reviled by fans, and some took place under dubious circumstances.
No team relocation was handled quite so strangely as the Baltimore Colts’ mysterious overnight disappearance to Indianapolis. It was a figurative stab at the collective heart of Colts fans, and a cloak-and-dagger escapade that would leave a gaping wound in the spirit of the city. A wound that would not heal for more than a decade, when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell was ready to inflict a similar agony upon the football devoted of his own city.
Memorial Stadium. Home of the Baltimore Colts since their inaugural year in 1953, and home of baseball’s Orioles for even longer. By the early 1970’s, it needed a facelift. 10,000 of the seats had lousy views, 20,000 seats were just wooden benches with no back support, and both pro teams had to share office space and locker rooms. Colts owner Robert Irsay tried to work with the city to land some new digs for his team. Read more…
Like a vintage facial scar or a controversial Foghorn Leghorn tie, I am proud to wear my fandom for Cleveland sports teams, boldly and without a micron of hesitation. While my tootsies have yet to come in contact with Cleveland soil – in fact, I’m not certain any member of my direct lineage has crossed the threshold into the Metropolis of the Western Reserve – I nevertheless cheer on their teams with a curious zeal.
Why is that? What compels my soul to that southeastern elbow of Lake Erie? From Eastlake to Olmstead, from Brook Park to Shaker Heights, there’s something about this blue collar town – a town that hasn’t scored a professional sports championship in fifty solid, dreary years – that appeals to me. Not in an I-want-to-live-there sort of way; I just want these stalwart fans to have some reason to cheer.
Some 732 days ago (hey, that’s two years and two days!) I wrote about the Cleveland Browns’ unfathomable seven league championships and ten championship game appearances in a ten-year span in the 1940’s-50’s, just as they transitioned from the AAFC to the NFL. The Browns were unstoppable. Well, except for those three years they didn’t win. But that’s pretty damn close to unstoppable.
Nowadays, Cleveland teams can barely get started.
Cleveland Indians fans call it the Curse of Chief Wahoo. The Chief has been the official (and moderately racist) face of the franchise since 17-year-old Walter Goldbach crafted the cartoonish visage in 1947. Sportswriters took to calling the symbol by the strange yet remarkably joyous name of Chief Wahoo shortly thereafter, though Goldbach ostensibly disagreed with the moniker. In a 2008 interview he pointed out that chiefs tend to sport a full headdress, whereas Wahoo’s lone feather would make him a brave. That didn’t cause Clevelanders to rescind the name, though it probably inspired a few chuckles from Atlanta baseball fans. Read more…
Chances are, if you’ve even so much as sneezed in the same room as a computer connected to the internet this week, you’ve absorbed some snippet of World Cup fever. The World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world – more so than the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Full-Contact Bare-Knuckle Finger-Jousting Championships combined. And due to the current impressive girth of our pudgy modern internet, which is just right for streaming the games to every interested PC, tablet and phone, they’re predicting this to be the widest audience for anything, ever.
Soccer is the ultimate sport to bridge together the citizens of this floating rock, mostly because the rules are simple and you can make a workable ball out of trash and/or roadkill. It’d be hard for a poor rural village to fashion together functional sticks to play hockey, hoisted-up hoops to play basketball or crudely-crafted anabolic steroids to play baseball. Soccer (or “football” – I know, I know) is where it’s at.
Apart from the degenerate wuss-bags who perform acts of atrocious theatre in hopes of drawing a foul for the other team, soccer really is a great game. And even though I’ll be spending the next few weeks getting caught up on the new season of Orange Is The New Black, I might allow myself to sip just a little bit of the tournament’s excitement. After all, soccer can – in rare cases – get a little weird.
In my neighborhood, local interest for the qualification round of the 1994 Caribbean Cup was pretty much nil. But for fans in Grenada, the January 27 game against Barbados was huge. Having lost to Puerto Rico already, Barbados would have to win by two points in order to advance to the final round and bump Grenada out. For a country perpetually mired in revolutions and/or hurricanes, this was a big deal. Read more…
“It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.”
So said sportswriter Joe Williams of the New York Herald-Tribune. He was writing a critical (and overtly misogynistic) piece about Babe Didrikson-Zaharias. Babe’s name is anything but household today, though at the time she was the most important woman in the world of sports.
To claim that Babe was the single greatest female athlete of the 20th century would not be an unmerited hyperbole; she played a myriad of sports and excelled at every one of them. Babe was tough, she was brilliant, and she wasn’t afraid to be an “athlete” instead of a “woman who plays sports”. She hammered out her own identity and handled all her own PR. How her life story remains unknown to so much of the general populace today, I have no idea; we all know Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Arnold Palmer, Red Grange… and those schmucks only mastered one sport apiece.
Babe Didrikson-Zaharias conquered most of the sports section, game by game.
Mildred Didriksen (she’d later change the ‘-en’ to ‘-on’) was born to Norwegian parents in Port Arthur, Texas – also the birthplace of Janis Joplin. She took the nickname ‘Babe’ from her mother’s childhood pet name for her, though she’d later claim she was given the nickname in honor of Babe Ruth after she’d hit five home runs in a childhood baseball game. Her version of the nickname origin was an exaggeration, though I suspect the baseball story is true. Read more…
My mission today is to return to my childhood, albeit briefly and without overdosing on peanut butter-Cheez Whiz sandwiches. My parents raised me using an unorthodox less-is-more approach, meaning “less money spent” equals “more good”. So when I asked for an Atari 2600 I received an Intellivision. When I asked for an Apple IIe I received the Intellivision computer module which sucked more ass than a hemorrhoid vacuum (should such a thing exist; I’m not a doctor).
Actually, the Intellivision was not a cheap knock-off of the Atari at all; it was a far superior system in every way – even the weird disc control was great, provided you hadn’t played for several hours and reddened your thumb to an aching groan.
I’m going to re-visit some of my favorite games to see how they hold up. I’ve got a good 30 years of post-Mattel gaming under my Batman-brand utility belt, and I’m curious to see if those sepia-tone memories have been frosted with the cool minty icing of a distorted perspective or if those games truly were fun. Fun by my 39-year-old standards, which include all-you-can-eat shrimp and sex. It’s a much higher bar to reach.
The granddaddy of all Intellivision games is Astrosmash, the Asteroids answer whose only great in-game achievements are the sudden and illogical changes to the background color when a certain point total is achieved. Actually, this is still an oddly enjoyable game, despite the fact that it is inherently depressing.
Think about it: your little ship-dude is the last line of defense to keep your base safe from those falling asteroids, those pesky UFOs, and those insipid and unexplained twirling things. But it never ends. You keep shooting these objects, knowing that your demise (and the destruction of the base and its inhabitants) is the only inevitable conclusion. It’s a bleak philosophy. Read more…
Those who know me know that I love mnemonics. I recite them often in an instructional way, which is why those who know me try not to spend a lot of time around me. Mnemonics – in particular those little rhymes that assist in remembering grammar and spelling – should be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when they’re writing. I just finished responding to some dopey twit on NFL.com who had made the astute observation that the Pro Bowl captains “should of been aloud” to choose the position order of their drafts. First off, he’s wrong – that was exactly how they ran the draft. Secondly, his clumsy manhandling of the English language suggests that he’s either too stupid to throw a brick at or else a Patriots fan.
Speaking of which, it’s time for my annual tradition of posting a Sad Tom Brady pic:
From the moment he knew he lost.
Because there are only a handful of rhyming mnemonics pertaining to the English language, I might be able to improve the linguistic landscape of our little worldly-wide web by adding a few more. To be clear, I’m not bothered when I see texting lingo in a discussion forum – if you want to type ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘2’ instead of ‘to’, I say go for it. Prince was doing it decades ago.
But if you’re going to mount an argument and drop a Yobogoya ‘their’ splatter when you meant to say ‘they’re’, then I may still listen to your point, but I’ll read it in my head in a vile, nasally, downright Gottfriedian voice. So there. Read more…
If you’ve been anywhere near the sports pages this week, then you have probably heard all about the weather in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The hometown Packers, the tiny-market, publically-owned NFC North champs are hosting a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers in wind chills that could smack that wretched point where Fahrenheit and Celsius collide, right around the -40 mark.
Edmonton’s air promises to be just as unforgiving today, and I’m already dreading the sprint from my car to the grocery store; I can’t fathom loping around a sideline for the better part of a 3-hour contest. This is the kind of weather that can scramble cogent thought. Walking through -40 makes one pray for a nearby explosion, just for the heat of the flames. It turns a loogie into a crusty green snotsicle before it hits the pavement.
And so football lovers will turn their pre-game focus to other chilling playoff epics. The mighty Dan Fouts-led San Diego Chargers could have jetted to the Super Bowl in early 1982 were it not for the vicious wind in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. The hometown Packers were frozen out by the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship game. But nothing – not even today’s game – will compare to the infamous Ice Bowl.
The 1966 NFL Championship didn’t earn its oft-marked page in the tome of football history for simply being the coldest game ever played. Its significance is spread all over the game like cream cheese on an excessively-dolloped bagel. This was Green Bay’s attempt at an unprecedented third consecutive championship. It would determine who would represent the NFL in the second Super Bowl. And most importantly, it was the last time the NFL championship was considered to be the most important game in the sport of football. The American Football League was still considered a ‘secondary league’ and the Super Bowl between the two league champs was more an afterthought. Until Joe Namath’s league-rattling upset the following year would forever cement the Super Bowl at the top of the charts. Read more…