Am I Still a Leafs Fan?

Categories: 2016, Hockey, Personal, and Sports.

As I find myself wrapped up in the success of The Blue Jays so far this playoff, and eagerly awaiting the NBA season, I wonder to myself if I still care about the Maple Leafs, this at a time when there is more legitimate optimism around the team than perhaps there ever has been before in my lifetime. The Leafs were the most important sports team for me from my late teens (I’d say around 1998, when I was 17) till only a few years ago (2013), when The raptors completely took over my sports fandom. (I was also a Read More

The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young (2014, Annika Iltis, Timothy James Kane)

Categories: 2014, Movies, and Sports.

This is a very conventional documentary about one of the craziest races you’ll ever hear about. Not only is it insane (somewhere between 100 and 130 miles in 60 hours, over hills and through the woods) but is run in such a kooky way. Part of the appeal of this film is the sheer accomplishment of these people – I could never do anything like this, I’d merely be able to complete 1 loop walking and then I’d be done like dinner. But the other part is the sheer kooky traditions of the race – the conch shell that gives Read More

Initial Reactions to the Raptos’ 2016 Draft

Categories: 2016, Basketball, and Sports.

I saw a CBC story that claimed Raptors fans (on twitter) were not happy with Toronto’s #9 pick. Some twitter users were unfamiliar with Poeltl because they apparently do not follow college basketball or NBA mock drafts or…maybe they aren’t even actually Raptors fans (but just play them on twitter)? Frankly, if this is the reaction of serious Raptors fans, I don’t understand it. Ujiri has been the GM for three years. He has shown both here and in Denver that he has a way with trades – he can get the better of many an opposing GM, as he Read More

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008, Chris Bell)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

This is an entertaining and thought provoking documentary about steroids in particular, and performance-enhancing drugs in general, in the US. The filmmaker uses the often annoying framing device of how the filmmaker and his family is affected by the issue, but here it actually works as it turns out the family is a bit of a microcosm of American society at large. This movie raises many legitimate questions about why steroids in sports are bad, when numerous other substances are legal when either the health risks are worse or they are just as “performance enhancing.” It’s well worth it if Read More

Senna (2010, Asif Kapadia)

Categories: 2010, Movies, and Sports.

This is a captivating and engrossing film about Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula One driver who some believe was the greatest driver the sport has ever seen, but who died young, before he might have broken some records. The film does a good job of making us understand why Senna had appeal outside of his sport in addition to within the sport and manages to make a lot of the Formula “drama” more interesting than I normally find it. (I am just getting into the sport and I enjoy the racing, not the bickering.) It also does a pretty good Read More

The Crash Reel (2013, Lucy Walker)

Categories: 2013, Movies, and Sports.

If you have a child (a teenager) who doing or is interested in playing or participating in a sport that involves serious risk of head injury, you should make your child watch this movie. There are lots of moving and penetrating accounts out there of what life is like after a head injury however I have never seen a full length feature to cover this topic this well. Though this is the story of Kevin Pearce, it is really the story of any athlete whose successful career is derailed by a traumatic head injury and has to learn to accept Read More

Balls of Fury (2007, Robert Ben Garant)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a pretty unfunny comedy that seems to exist solely because the writers thought that Christopher Walken not even attempting to play a Chinese man would be funny. I generally enjoy Reno 911 (though not as much as some people) but I feel like it’s borderline impossible to tell this was made by the same people. The gags here are mostly easy and obvious, and the script doesn’t always fully commit. Most of the humour – beyond the ostensibly humourous premise of an Enter the Dragon ping pong tournament – could have been in any movie. In fact, many Read More

Does Hedo Turkoglu Belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Categories: 2015, Basketball, Hall of Fame, and Sports.

Obviously the answer is ‘no,’ but as usual, I want to have a look at his career anyway. Career 15 seasons, 8? quality (by VORP) 11,022 points, 3,971 boards, 299 blocks, 2,832 assists, 750 steals in 26,695 minutes over 997 games 26.9 MPG Per 36: 14.9P, 5,4R, .4B, 3.8A, 1S .426 FG%, .384 3P%, .784FT% 14.3 PER, 17.3 Assist % (7th all-time among forwards and centres, minimum 900 games), 63.3 Win Shares, .114 WS/48, 21.4 VORP Playoffs: 1059 points, 415 boards, 32 blocks, 287 assists, 81 steals in 2985 minutes over in 109 games 27.4 MPG Per 36: 12.8P, 5R, Read More

Does Simon Gagne Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Categories: 2015, Hall of Fame, Hockey, and Sports.

I missed that Gagne retired on the 15th. So here is my belated post. No, he doesn’t qualify for the Hall on points. Still writing this anyway.   Career: 14 seasons, 10 quality 291G, 310A for 601P, +129 in 822 games 82-game average: 29G, 31A for 60P, +13 3-year peak (’05-’08): 40G, 34A for 74P, +12 Possession (since ’07-’08): 50 CF%, -1 CF%Rel, 49.6 FF%, -1.7 FF%Rel Playoffs: 37G, 22A for 59P, +7 in 109 games Adjusted: 319G, 337A for 656P Adjusted: 32G, 34A for 65P Traded twice after his prime. Accomplishments: Scored 45 goals once, 40 goals twice, 30 Read More

The Armstrong Lie (2013, Alex Gibney)

Categories: 2013, Movies, and Sports.

This is a fascinating film. It began as a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s 2009 comeback attempt but, before it was finished, new allegations emerged about Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs and the film was eventually altered significantly to focus on the revelations that soon followed. So there are really two movies that have been combined into one. One which may have started out as a puff piece and a sequel, as it were, that tries to figure out how so many people could have believed Armstrong for so long. And it pretty much works. What we get is nuanced approach Read More

Does Jason Richardson Belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Categories: Basketball, Hall of Fame, and Sports.

Career 13 seasons, 11 quality 14,644 points, 2.284 assists, 995 steals, 4,245 boards, 367 blocks in 29,241 minutes over 857 games 34.1 MPG Per 36 minutes: 18P, 2.8A, 1.2S, 5.2R, .5B .438 FG%, .370 3P% (14th all-time in attempts and 16th all-time in makes), .707 FT%, .528 TS% 16.3 PER, 59.1 WS, .097 WS/48, 24.4 VORP Playoffs: 633 points, 50 assists, 40 steals, 200 boards, 13 blocks in 1262 minutes over 37 games 34.1 MPG Per 36: 18.1P, 1.4A, 1.1S, 5.7R, .4B .465 FG%, .404 3P%, .724 FT%, .583 TS% 18.1 PER, 3.8 WS, .143 WS/48, 1.8 VORP Traded thrice Read More

Delaney (2015, Grant Curtis)

Categories: 2015, Movies, and Sports.

This is a poorly made short about an interesting story: a football star tried to save drowning kids even though he couldn’t swim. From the opening, you know things are bad, when the guy employs faux-static and other overused camera tricks. The whole thing is basically “Joe Delaney was the greatest.” Now you don’t even need to watch it any more. I just summed it up for you. 4/10 Read More

The Annual Hockey Hall of Fame Complaint for 2015

Categories: Hall of Fame, Hockey, and Sports.

First of all, congratulations to the deserving inductees. The problem is, as always, that the Hall of Fame inducted players who both deserve to be in it, and players who do not (or, in this case, not yet). So congratulations to Nicklas Lidstrom, a player who, I have argued elsewhere, might be the 2nd best defenseman in NHL history. So this was inevitable and it is well deserved. And congratulations to Sergei Fedorov, who deserves to be inducted, even if he might have deserved to be inducted, you know, in a few years, behind some other people. But it’s the Read More

The Phil Kessel Trade

Categories: Hockey and Sports.

I never believed the Leafs would get the return for Kessel that the Bruins got for him. But I hoped it would be something. When the Leafs traded for Kessel, I was upset. I was upset for the following reasons. On the side of what the Leafs gave up: It was very likely that the 1st round pick the Leafs were giving up would be Top 5 or higher, even with Kessel in the lineup – it was obvious to everyone except the Leafs’ front office; It was equally obvious that, unless major changes miraculously occurred, the second 1st round Read More

30 for 30: Fernando Nation (Cruz Angeles)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a somewhat awkwardly structured and edited film that still manages to do one of the major things I want from a sports documentary: it makes me wish I was there. I lived through Linsanity, but obviously not in New York. Fernandomania was Linsanity well before Linsanity (and with a better player), with so much more meaning given the terrible events that led to the building of Dodger Stadium. I would have a preferred a film that explored the social aspects a little more than this did – frankly I think a feature-length would have easily been possible with Read More

30 for 30: The House of Steinbrenner (2010, Barbara Kopple)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a pretty bloodless and blah attempt to document the mixed (mostly) sad emotions of moving from the old Yankee Stadium to the new one. At times it also feels like it’s about the Steinbrenners. There are plenty of interviews with people affected by this change, there are the famous clips, there’s talk about how they spend money, but it doesn’t really add up. But they don’t dwell very long on Steinbrenner’s terrible record as an owner before he was suspended (that gets maybe 5 minutes) and the filmmakers seem unsure whether this is about the move, about the Read More

30 for 30: Jordan Rides the Bus (2010, Ron Shelton)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a fascinating documentary which, for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, should put to bed any idea that Jordan was “suspended” for gambling during his first retirement. Honestly, I wished I had paid more attention at the time – this is utterly fascinating. Is there any equivalent in sports history? The greatest player in a sport trying to make it in another sport, that he hadn’t played in over a decade? And the dedication… Frankly, I’m just in awe. This film isn’t for everyone. If you don’t care about sports or if you have no interest in basketball Read More

30 for 30: June 17th, 1994 (2010, Brett Morgen)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a fascinating, ambitious but flawed attempt at putting the OJ Simpson chase into some kind of greater sports context, and perhaps to serve as a document for those people who were not alive to witness this. Like most people my age and older, I remember this event rather well. What I didn’t remember was how it corresponded with the Rangers’ Cup parade (I had stopped watching hockey the previous year), Game 5 of the NBA Finals (I didn’t watch basketball at the time), Arnold Palmer’s last time at the US Open (golf is terrible), the opening of the Read More

Hell Runs on Gasoline (2015, Martin Bureau)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is an extraordinary 7 minute film about something I was utterly unaware of: the absolutely insane, free-for-all racing in Saint-Felicien, Quebec. I cannot begin to describe how nuts this race is, or how well this short captures the chaos. Basically, I practically wanted to go for one of these races by the time the film was over. Really cool. 9/10 Read More

Summer of 49 (1989) by David Halberstam

Categories: 1989, Books, and Non-Fiction.

I am not a Yankees fan or a Sox fan but I am a fan of The Breaks of the Game, probably the best book I have ever read about sports. This book is not on that level, but, for someone like me who was not alive during the summer of 1949, and who was unaware of what happened, Halberstam still manages to capture enough of interest for someone like me, who hates both teams, to make this engaging, interesting and even compelling by the end. There’s a host of interesting back-stories and some of the the most interesting information Read More

30 for 30: The Guru of Go (2010, Bill Couterie)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is an interesting if overly episodic and too brief documentary about both an interest coach who bucked trends and a terrible tragedy. The problem for me, is that the terrible tragedy could have been the entire 50 minute film, it could have been more than that. I think this is a missed opportunity and I almost feel like there are two different stories here and the filmmakers picked the slightly less interesting one. Honestly, there’s enough material here for two separate movies, at minimum, and most of the various narrative strands that could have been explored are not. On Read More

30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks (2010, Dan Klores)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This was the first ever 30 for 30 I ever saw, years ago now, but I don’t think I watched the whole thing so I decided to watch it again. It’s about a perfect summary as I can think of as a sports rivalry that seemed absolutely epic at the time, but which historically isn’t really important. Everything is outsized: Miller’s and Lee’s personalities, the press reactions, the relative importance of the games to the city of New York and the state of Indiana, and so on. The film makes us forget that neither of these teams were truly great Read More