Category Archives: Sport

There is a lot to be learned from Basketball



In my opinion the NCAA basketball tournament is the most exciting sporting event in the world. Of course the sport has lots of flaws. It is the championship of American college basketball. It is a tournament of 64 or 68 teams (depending on how you count). Its complicated how to count the teams. It is like the Stanley Cup playoffs if each series was a sudden death game. It is all over in 2 weeks. Wonderful.

This year I watched a number of games on television. I watched the University of North Carolina (“my team”) suffering a crushing defeat at the ands of the surprising Auburn team. My heart was broken.

Yet today I learned something valuable in the defeat. Roy Williams of the UNC team said in his interview after that game that he was proud of how his players had played even though they made 3 critical mistakes in the last couple of minutes. He said his players showed a lack of communication that caused the errors and this was his fault. “I did a poor job of coaching for not preparing them for the game.”  Can you imagine that? He blamed himself for the poor performance of his team. He told his players he loved them and wished that he had been able to do more for them. What a class act!

I could not help but think that this was the opposite of the current President of the United States. When things go wrong he quickly throws someone else under the bus. Never himself. Trump has no class at all. Not a mite of class.

All of this was even more surprising because I had thought all year long that the UNC team was not as good as they seemed and that it was the best coaching year ever for Coach Roy Williams. I think he brought his team to play the best that they could play.

Modesty is becoming; bragging is not. This is a lesson that Trump would do well to learn.

I was also noticed during the game that a UNC player inadvertently bumped into one of his opponents so hard that he got injured and was out of the game. It was one of the best Auburn players and they had a narrow lead over UNC at the time. The UNC player tried to help the injured player and was clearly upset that he was injured. He had respectfor his fallen foe. The two were fierce competitors, but they competed against each other while respecting each other. Again this is something Donald Trump does not understand. He understands nothing like that. That is because, as I have said before, Trump has as much empathy as a Turnip.

We could all learn something from basketball. Winning is nice. In fact, winning is important.  But winning is not everything. Empathy is more important. As is honour. As is respect. Respect for others and respect for self.

In another game during the tournament, I watched the University of Virginia defeat Auburn University in a very close contest that went into overtime. It was an extremely exciting game. It was very stressful for the players and their coaches. The winner would go on to the Final Four next week. The losers would go home defeated.

Yet the coach of the Virginia team, Tony Bennet, seemed very cool and calm as everyone else was going crazy.  The coach has a motto: Calm is contagious. What an important lesson from basketball. This lesson could be important in many other areas too. We should all learn it.

There is a lot to be learned from basketball.

Free  Solo



I watched the documentary film Free Solo about the promise of Alex Honnold to climb a massive slab of granite called El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It is a granite monolith about 3,000 ft. (900 m.) from base to summit. It is a massive hunk of rock. Free solo is a mountain or rock climbing technique that means the climber ventures forth entirely without safety equipment of any sort.

At the outset let me say it: I am a chicken. I would never do anything remotely like what Alex Honnold did. I have not the slightest desire to even try.  I also want to admit at the outset that I am fearfully afraid of heights. I get queasy just thinking about what he did. I got queasy watching rock climbers with ropes and equipment climb a rock mountain in Zion National Park 2 years ago. For me, I would have a hard time standing near the edge of the summit, let alone anywhere on the face without ropes or equipment.

I was scared of watching the film because I had been told that anyone who was scared of heights probably should not watch. I wondered what might happen to me from the comfort of my couch as I watched it. How cowardly is that?

I have only seen rock climbers once. That was 2 years ago in Zion National Park. We were beside what I thought was a massive monolith. We saw the climbers from the ground and looking up they appeared as miniscule people. Frankly, I could hardly watch them from down on the ground. I thought the climbers were nuts. And they all had ropes.  In the movie Free Solo I learned that this free solo climb in Zion was an easy preparation for El Cap. Nothing to it was Honnold’s attitude. To me that seemed incomprehensible.

It is interesting to note that Honnold was going to climb with a film crew following every step, often from a safe distance. That must have added to the pressure.

I found one thing very interesting in the film. Alex said, “in free soloing you come as close to perfection as you will ever get, because even the slightest mistake means you will die.” I always think the pursuit of perfection is insane. This type of perfection is even crazier. Perfection, as they say is the enemy of the good. I would add it is the enemy of sanity.

I admit to some unease about the film interviews with Alex. Was the purpose to glorify the attempt? If so I do not want to be a part of it. I think it is a crazy thing to try. No it is an insanething to try. I hope the film does not lead others to try it too to grab some glory. The glory could be short-lived.

The first person to climb El Capitan climbed it together with a partner  in 47 days using “siege” tactics. This means they climbed expedition style using fixed ropes along the length of the route linking established camps along the way and using  aid climbing with ropes, pitons, and expansion bolts to make it to the summit. Even then it took nearly 2 months.

It was ascended again 2 years later by a group of 4 in 7 days. Today it usually takes a group of fit climbers about 4 to 5 days to do it. In 1975 a group of 3 climbers did it in 1 day.

The first solo ascent (not free solo) was accomplished in 10 days in 1968. In time some climbers sought ways to climb El Cap either free or with minimal aid. On June 3, 2017 Alex Honnold completed the first free solo climb of El Capitan without any protective equipment whatsoever. The film is about that climb. He ascended the Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes.

The filming was spectacular with some fabulous 360°shots.  A number of times I was almost ill watching. Remember I’m a chicken.  It was that intense when he made some moves that required stunning body twists and holding himself with a thumb or a couple of fingers and a quick movement of a foot for a slight toe-hold from one tiny ledge to another. Imagine holding yourself up with a thumb? Or a toe? It really seemed like an impossible achievement.

Even though the cameramen at times had to look away as well, one of them said, “Alex is having the best day of his life.” Was he? Why? I really don’t get it.

I personally have no need to seek out thrills.  I don’t want to support it (even though I paid to see the film). I would not want to encourage anyone to take such chances for no real purpose.

Now I know there is nothing gained by me going to photograph wild flowers, or writing this silly blog, but at least I am not putting my life in danger. I get lots of excitement from traveling the world of ideas. I would rather venture forth in the world of ideas than climb a mountain, or walk across Antarctica, or run 29 miles in the Sahara desert. Each to our own. I don’t say my puny achievements are better. They are just better for me.

It was interesting to me that no one in the film encouraged Alex to climb the mountain free solo. Not one person. His girlfriend clearly would have preferred him not to do it, but I also felt perhaps she enjoyed soaking up some of the glory surrounding Alex. She did not stick around to watch him climb. Alex admitted he did not have to do it.  He chose to do it. Even after months of preparation by him and the film crew he said, “I know I could walk away from it, but I just don’t want to.”  He wanted to try it, knowing he might die in the attempt. But he gave no powerful reason for doing it.

What is the morality of a person doing something as crazy as this so we might behold his achievement? I don’t know. I don’t think I want to encourage it, but I guess I did. I don’t know why. Chris did not want to see the film because that would be like encouragement to others to try it too.

Honnold also said he did not want to die in front of his friends who were filming him. None of them wanted to do anything to distract him. They were very careful to avoid that while filming him. It must have added a serious element of extra danger to do what Honnold did with a film crew constantly around him. He even said he was tempted to just do it all alone one day without all the fuss. Just sneak out int he morning and do it. But then no one would know you did it. Why should that matter?

Honnold also claimed he was doing it “for all the right reasons”. What could that possibly mean? He did not explain. Can you conceive of a right reason? I can’t. Even Honnold admitted that it seemed odd to him to say he was doing it for the right reasons when he was climbing with an entourage of a crew.

At the end Alex said, “What a journey.”  That was his summation. That is a pretty prosaic statement for such an amazing achievement. That leads me to think that the entire effort was actually entirely banal. There was no good reason to do. He could not explain one. I don’t think there was one. Hannah Arendt wrote when she covered the Nuremberg Nazi trials after World War II that evil was banal. Sometimes that is true.  But I would add that so is spectacle. Spectacle is banal. Sports achievements are all ultimately banal. It may be briefly fun. But there is no important reason for them. There is no good reason, other than to have some fun and get in shape and experience some competition. Extreme sports achievements are all, in my opinion, banal.

         I know you have to be brave to do what Alex Honnold did. I don’t have that kind of courage. None of it to be precise. But you also have to be brave to dissent from the almost unanimous opinions of your friends or community. You have to be brave to strike out on your own on new lines of thought. You have to be brave to speak up when someone else is espousing racist views. You have to be brave to attack your own convictions because you never know where that will lead you.  That is the kind of bravery I wish I had.

Soccer is not a religion in Island


In Island (Iceland) football (soccer) is not a religion; its much more important than that. Just like hockey in Canada. Particularly Winnipeg. The entire country was mad about their time. The team consisted of blue collar workers and in their first game played a football giant in Argentina a team filled with highly paid professionals. The Island team was coached by a dentist. When in the first game, the team tied Argentina the country went mad with excitement. It was said that 99% of the people in Island watched the game. Business ground to a halt in favor of passion.



We arrived in a small town of Siglufjödur in Island as the second World Cup Football (soccer) match was underway. The local community club bar was jammed to the rafters with avid fans. It reminded me of Jet hockey fans. Fueled by passion.  Fans as fanatics in other words. Every chance their team got to score was met with jubilation, until the team failed to score. The fans like religious zealots  never lost hope right to the dying seconds of the game, even though It appeared to me the team no longer had a chance.

This fan could not stand the excitement and went out for  smoke. She hid her cigarette behind her back when she consented to me photographing her.

The third game was against Croatia another powerful team. We watched the game at another town in the bar of our hotel in Hellisholum Island .We wondered if the name meant Hell hole. it didn’t.  A contingent of locals including children showed up to cheer on their team, but again Island lost.  For awhile enthusiasm was contagious.

In the end we sang the team song even though Island lost. The feeling was they had lost gallantly. I know the fans were gallant losers. Our bus driver had to leave immediately after the game he was so upset. Sometimes its tough to be a fan.

Husband Daycare Centre



In Reykjavik we  walked the streets looking at churches and eventually found a bar.But this was not just a bar!  This was a Day center for Husbands. What a great idea! Women could leave their husbands safely at a bar under careful supervision while they went shopping. This is called win-win.


Island (Iceland) really is civilized. In so many ways.  This day centre was filled, mainly with men, but not exclusively. The people were watching a World Cub game from Russia with great enthusiasm

I think we should lobby the federal government to provide full support to men to attend Day Care. It would be good for society.


Am I a hypocrite?

Today I realized what it feels like to be a Donald Trump supporter! For months I have been trying to figure our how Trump’s supporters can continue to support him. I have been particularly harsh on evangelical Christians. How can they continuing to support him after more than a year of when it has become obvious, if it was not earlier, that he is an ignorant, racist, narcissistic blowhard who does not even have a passing acquaitenc with truth or morality?

He said when he was running for office that he could stand in Times Square in New York City and kill a person and people would still support him. He turned out to be right, for everything Trump has done is about equivalent to that.

Now I am ashamed to confess that I may be just as bad as Trumps supporters.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (‘NCAA’) college basketball tournament started yesterday. I have often said that this is the best sporting event in the world. It has all the excitement of the NHL playoffs in 3 consecutive weekends of sudden death basketball. 68 teams play and each game is sudden death If a team loses it is out.

The winner will be the one college team that wins 6 straight games. Only one team can do it. It is a thrilling event. Every year there are major upsets as favored teams are eliminated by upstarts. Nearly every year what the experts predict, fails to materialize.

The game is played by magnificent young student athletes cheered on by rabid college fans. Many of the games are astonishingly exciting. The student athletes are not paid a salary. Nothing at all. In theory at least. This is where things start to get a little murky.

The deal is this: college athletes are not paid a salary, but they get a college scholarship that allows them to get a very valuable and expensive education from elite American universities. That is worth a lot of money. At least in theory it is worth a lot of money.

College basketball is of course awash with money. Television companies together pay more than a billion dollars for TV rights to the games. More than a billion every year!

Then of course there are apparel companies. 2 years ago one University, UCLA and Under Armour signed the richest apparel deal in college sports worth $280 million over 15 years! The University of Oregon is commonly called University of Nike because that company has poured millions into its coffers. Every team has contracts with a shoe company for their team to display shoes. These contracts are very lucrative.

Who gets that money? Not the players. There are strict rules about what can be paid to them. They get almost nothing. That is because they are expected to be pure athletes. Driven only by a love of the game.

That of course does not apply to the coaches and administrators. Money is lavished on them. Especially coaches. Most of them, of course are white. So money is heaped on the white men and a few lucky African Americans while the young, mainly black, athletes get almost nothing. Does that sound fair? Its hardly surprising that Sports Illustrated magazine, hardly a leftist organization called the NCAA “profitable if grossly exploitative.”[1]

This past year my favorite team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels were investigated because of allegations that some of their basketball athletes were enrolled in courses where a pass was virtually guaranteed. Little work had to be done. The pass was pretty automatic. No player in these course failed no matter how little effort was given by the student athlete. I was later told that the university resisted the charges against them on the basis essentially that in essence this was no different from many other courses! Many of their courses are like that.

If that is true, the students are getting no education at all. It is a fraud. The students get nothing. Nothing at all. It is a fact that very few college athletes get careers in professional basketball. They can’t count on that. If they don’t get a good education they get nothing. So the athletes, who are mainly black, get almost nothing. Only a few get very lucrative professional basketball contracts.

Recently the FBI investigated cases of coaches getting paid money from shoe companies to direct prospective players to certain agents who would then direct the players to certain teams. Reportedly, one of the best players this year received $100,000 under the table.

To begin with I wondered why would the FBI investigate such an allegation? Where is the fraud? Such payments may violate NCAA rules designed to ensure the players are pure, but how is this a crime worthy of an FBI investigation?

The University of Louisville Cardinals found another route to corruption–hookers. They were charged and found guilty by the NCAA of hiring prostitutes for potential recruits, resulting in the firing of its Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino. Incredibly, Louisville argued that their fine should be small because they hired cheap hookers! Morality in the NCAA has reached below rock bottom.

I don’t blame the players. Many of them come from underprivileged families, often with single moms. Who can blame them for accepting cash? Everyone in the industry is paid, and many of them extravagantly, while the players who produce the magic, get zilch.

The coaches are loaded with cash for their efforts. According to USA Today, the 4 highest paid NCAA coaches were paid a high of $7,300,000 to a low of $4,779, 000 in 2018. My favorite coach of my favorite team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels was way down the list at a paltry $2, 182,000. Is that all he is worth? Nonetheless it is clear, coaches are very well paid off the backs of student athletes who get a pretty thin gruel.

A couple of years ago a class action law suit was filled by the players against the NCAA demanding the players be paid the minimum wage for their efforts. According to Sports Illustrated magazine the NCAA responded by citing a precedent case where an inmate in a penitentiary unsuccessfully sued the State for a minimum wage for all of his work while in prison.[2] In the earlier case the court held in a 1992 case that the 13th Amendment applied. That amendment erased the legality of slavery, but also allowed “involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been convicted.” That is the basis of cheap prison labor to this day. The NCAA used the same argument against its student athletes–equating them to prisoners! Well that is what they are! But should such a draconian law apply to student athletes? On what basis?

NCAA president Mark Emmert who is paid about $2million per year, responded, with breath-taking hypocrisy,


“With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”[3]

So everyone but the players can be paid stupendously. The players get to suck socks. Capitalism at its finest?

So what have I done in the midst of all this corruption? Absolutely nothing, except for a few rants. How corrupt does it have to get before I stop supporting the NCAA? I am still intending to watch the tournament. I can’t seem to resist. Like Trump supporters never lose their devotion, so I watch the games no matter how corrupt the league. Am I any better than Trump’s resolute supporters?

[1] Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p. 16

[2] Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p.17

[3] Charles P. Pierce, “Law and Disorder,” Sports Illustrated, (March 12, 2018) p.16