Sports Wednesday

Hard to believe Rafael Nadal was crushed in straight sets on clay today. I used to love watching his raw, protruding forehead and beautiful deltoids as he slid around the red dirt with strength and precision. Not today though. If I were in France, I would’ve rooted for him over the number one ranked Serbian robot that is Novak Djokovic.

FIFA is changing hands, the Mr. Burns of world football Sepp Blatter is no longer running one of the weirdest and most powerful organizations in the world. Football may never be the same again. At least we hope.

Golden State and Cleveland in the Finals? What planet is this? I like it.

Stanley Cup starts tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. I’m hoping that everyone outside that amazing state of Florida is wanting one of the Original Six to win it all. Again.

Baseball is in the depths of its long, long, long season. We’ll catch up in the fall.

But in the fall we’ll likely be talking about Amercian football.


Timbers Rule

My little city has a big soccer team. If I could write anything decent, I would start by trying to describe the pure camaraderie and sense of community I feel every time I attend a home match. It’s an absolute workout while watching, an emotional assault and lovely spectacle of outspoken dedication and furious desire. This is the audience, I’m referring to.

It’s overwhelming being a part of this effort to cheer this great team, this team that has been in this city for as long as I can remember, but now playing on the highest level in the nation, the whole operation nearly brings tears to my eyes.

Football is truly, one of THE greatest sports on the planet, the most universally understood and beautifully played, and my god, the Portland Timbers Football Club makes me want to burn, destroy, wreck and kill.

I mean, you are my sunshine.

162 Game Season? Nope.

As most know in Portland, our local soccer club has just become a Major League Soccer team. Much to the chagrin of baseball fans citywide, the beloved Civic Stadium is now a “soccer only” park and while the era of Portland’s minor league baseball went the way of the bygones, it’s important to note that baseball as a global sport is only popular in the United States, Latin America, Dominican Republic and Japan. Soccer, however, transcends economic castes and world geography to engage everyone on the planet, not just the folks in North and South America.

If you want baseball, try watching a cricket match. That’s how this soccer fan feels after 9 innings of the national pastime.

Timbers’ home opener on the 14th of April is coming and I’m happy to report there still ain’t No Pity In The Rose City.

US 2, Canada 3

I don’t even know where to begin. A whirlwind trip to Vancouver for the Winter Games was one of the better weekends I’ve ever had. Sleeping in a rented Jeep Commadochero and bombing all over the city with a map in one hand and a camera in the other, was furious and intense, marvelous and stunning.

Red and white was the color to have, everywhere I looked I saw a maple leaf or someone singing “O Canada”, it was almost like a television advertisement on Canadian pride and patriotism. They were loving the Olympics and it was a great epidemic.

Sat through some horribly cold rain to watch the women’s snowboard parallel slalom, weathering my poor decision on wearing the wrong clothes to the mountain. Loved it all, nonetheless. We were lucky to have seats sitting right behind the athletes section so we got to watch teammates cheering their countrymen down the hill. Countrywomen, in this case. Austrians are no joke when it comes to snow sports. They brought flags and giant bells that clanged like Sunday morning, it was a raucous spectacle. Everyone was good natured but competition by country is something far deeper sense of intent, something my small-town arse has never seen.

Back through town and hitting bakeries and cafes, taverns and shops, zig zagged through downtown Vancouver and down to New Westminster and then around the water back up through the city, Hastings, Robson and Granville were pretty much the big streets I remember. BC has certain left turn lanes which threw me off and I don’t think I drove like anyone but the absolute tourist I was, not knowing which way was up. It was great fun.

Turned out that the Canadian men’s hockey team beat Slovakia to land a shot at a gold medal against the US team. We decided to stick around town one more day to watch the game in Canada, where it belonged. It was the away game of my lifetime, so far. Hockey and Crown Royal is all I know about Canada. I did see a lot of public art, great architecture and a wonderfully huge array of cultures all living in the same city, but all in all, hockey is what happens in Canada. The pinnacle of union and arguement, and the pinion that keeps it all together. Hockey rules in Canada.

There isn’t a watering hole within a gunshot that isn’t loaded with locals donning the leaf and seething for a gold medal. I’m wearing a red, white and blue Triumph motorcycle sweater and trying to keep my head down and just watch the game. The last thing I need is to let anyone know I’m pulling the US. I truly respect and admire the Canadian team and am super excited to be in BC for the games but I can’t not root for the Americans. The girl and I were the only Americans in the place and it felt secretive and exhilarating.

Our guys played well, underdogs and all, we handled our end and owned the boards for much of what I caught, (I had started drinking beer since the whiskey was doled out at 7/8 ounce per shot) but eventually the game was slipping away by the third period as they had 2 goals to the Americans’ one. And then the insanity happened: 24 seconds left in the final period, the US slaps in a goal to tie the game. I’m sitting in a Canadian bar during the gold medal hockey game with 24 seconds of me trying not to soil my pants, hiding my crazy joy from these packs of hockey fanatics thirsty for blood. But I think they knew. I was barely contained to my seat, the Sleemans was putting heat in my skin and I was fearlessly stoked. We just tied the game and it silenced the whole joint, all I could hear was the ringing in my ears because I knew across my country everyone just jumped out of their seats and screamed something though I didn’t dare do such a thing. There’s a difference between being courageous and being a boor.

Overtime proved gracious to the Canadians and they won in splendor, their star player delivering his legacy for generations, their victory was deserved and it really wrapped up the games nicely. Cheers to Brenden Morrow. The US team put up a fight that no one believed they could and that stands for something as well, and silver isn’t just the first loser. It’s also a heckuva conductor and makes smashing dinnerware. And it kills werewolves. Too bad I didn’t have any for the subsequent urinal conversation with the towering Canadian who muttered, “Good thing we won, right, buddy?”

Talk about a pee chill.

b/c BC is it

Without technology for nearly 3 days. Using maps and public phones, travel brochures and bugging a local. I’m here in New Westminster on an old CRT fumbling with the internet while on the travel and have to say that I think I’m most at home while in another country.  

Things really are on the brink of bedlam. I’m sitting in Vancouver, BC mere hours before Olympic hockey’s gold medal match between the United States and Canada and thinking to myself how much I love sports.

I know hockey only from the local junior league and despite watching a ton of their matches, I’ve come to find that hockey in Canada takes a backseat to no other country. Every bar and storefront is showing the Canadian hockey team games and whether in their front windows or in their back rooms, gatherings on sidewalks are draped in red and white and maple leaves.

Horn honking, bell ringing, this country is certifiable. Their hockey is something blood borne, not just a way of life but a way being. There are chants in the street, songs sung from porch steps and truck beds, everyone is high-fiving in the street, it’s beautiful. Strangers owing their sidewalk screams and camaraderie to one of the most sudden, intricate and brutal sports in all the lands is something I’ll never forget seeing.

Being an American in Canada the day when both countries are gonna battle for Olympic hockey gold medals is just awesome timing. And nicely enough, there is no place I’d rather be.

5 Rings Yet Still No Wedding

The sheer amount of change that can occur at any given time is staggering.

Year of the tiger. Year of selling of the house. Year of the parting of ways and forging alliances. Year of fresh perspectives and year of old habits, year of earning piles of dough and the year of finding new gigs. Valentines day and fat Tuesday, saints and super bowls and me going to the olympics. Soon I’ll be off to watch the gold medal round of women’s snowboard slalom, at the foot of Mt. Cypress I’ll be, drunk on the stars and stripes with a belly of Canadian whiskey.

You! Ess! Ay! You! Ess! Ay!

Reflection 2, Reid 0

There are times when buildings are literally torn from the ground on which they stand to make way for things like medical facilities and education centers. Er, I meant shopping centers, parking lots and sports arenas.

Hey, we need a decent home for our (fill in Indian tribe name here or some sort of animal or obsolete occupation). I’m such a hypocrite, I love sports but not so much its industrial complex but believe me, buster, from here on out I’m watching every NFL game until I find more cheetos in my navel than in the bag.