The World Series

October 31, 2013

As a Toronto Blue Jays fan, which I assume you are if you’re reading this since we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are the numero uno spot for the latest news, redsoxwinrumours and analysis of all things Jays, last night’s conclusion to the 2013 Major League Baseball season was nothing short of the worst case scenario imaginable way back in the heady days of April.

The much hyped 2013 edition of the Blue Jays were free of any playoff consideration by August, quite possibly earlier if you were really being honest with yourself. The dream of October games for the first time in 20 years once more put to bed early and in brutally ugly fashion. Again, if we’re being totally honest.

The eventual World Series champions turned out to be the much detested Boston Red Sox, facepalmled by a first year manager whose name shall not be mentioned by us here today but who toiled away in Toronto for the previous two years, managing this team almost disinterestedly while waiting, it turns out, for the first opportunity to take his ‘dream job’ in Boston. We were going to show him, that disrespectful so-and-so, with our superstar line-up and big-assed payroll (still less than that of the Red Sox, if that’s any sort of consolation in this dark, dark time).

Well, yes.

The best laid plans of mice and sports fans, eh?

If we learn nothing else from following the endeavours of professional athletes, and arguably we shouldn’t, no more than we should learn anything from watching movies, it’s all just empty spectacle at the end of the day, let it be a heaping dose of humility. In any given season, there can only be one winner. saddugoutIn any given sport, there are an awful lot of people cheering for their respective teams, sides, clubs. You do the math but it pretty much works out to a shitload of disappointment.

I think (and as a baseball fan I’ll admit to some bias in this claim) that his is especially true in baseball. Starting in late-March/early-April and going through until the end of September, teams play almost every day, 162 games in 180 days, give or take. That’s not much down time in between the wins and the losses, the balls and strikes, the hits and the outs. You have to pace yourself. An 8 game losing streak in May isn’t usually as tough to endure as one in September especially if you win a lot of games in between the two.

So the best approach to keeping an even keel is a cautious optimism weighted down with a heavy dose of foreboding. drunkgrandmaExpect the worst and hope for the best, as your grandmother might’ve said, blurry-eyed from her fourth rye-and-ginger. If your team can win an average of 6 out of every 10 games during the course of a 162 game schedule, hey, you just might be on your way to (probable) agonizing heartache over post-season baseball in October. Ten teams in. One team wins.

Why the fuck am I talking about this, you just might be asking, especially with all that’s been going on today a little closer to home?

Humility.

It’s a great philosophy to try and adopt not only as a sports fan but as a way to lead much of our lives.

There are going to be bad days, some of them very, very bad. There are going to be good days, some of them very, very good. Never ever assume any of them are going to stretch on, uninterrupted, forever.

And learn to hit the breaking ball because there’s always going to be the breaking balls. hittingthecurveballOr least, get good at fouling them off until a pitch is thrown that you can turn on.

And there will always be next season — until that one time when there isn’t but that’s an entirely different matter – when the prospects for a better run seem brighter. A season when the bad guys don’t win and when hard work and nose-to-the-grindstonedness finally pays off after years, decades of misfortune and frustration. That one shining moment you will want to never end. But, of course, it will, and then it’ll be back to the same routine of winning some and losing some, trying to keep the record closer to .600 than .500.

A sense of equilibrium is what I’m getting at. Not getting too caught up in either the highs or the lows. Just learn to keep your eyes focused on the long game. Everybody’s winning streak eventually comes to an end.

And now we take you back to our regular schedule programming…

equilibriumevenly submitted by Cityslikr


Rising From The Ashes Of Car-centrism

March 20, 2012

Phoenix had me conflicted.

On one hand there was so much baseball. So, so much baseball, played in human scale stadiums (yet still goliathly priced concessions) with the players – superstars and all the other ones both – close enough to hear their on field banter. Hey. Isn’t that George Brett, dressed in Royals blue and spitting out sunflower seeds in the Kansas City dugout?

On the other hand there was so much driving. So, so many cars, six lane roads and intracity freeways, driving, driving and more driving. A steroid sprawl, a mini-L.A. without any of the character of place Los Angeles can exhibit. Suburbia in the sun, bleached colourless and arid.

But it had baseall. Did I mention that?

Perhaps I am being too harsh. It’s hardly fair to judge a city based on one extended long weekend especially as seen almost exclusively from the driver’s seat of a car, not that Phoenix offers up much in the way of alternatives. Yet, on first blush, the city is a sea of charmlessness in what is one of the most spectacular natural regions on the planet. It’s almost as if the European mind arrived, saw the raw, rugged beauty of the place and decided it could never compete and just start building something, anything.

Or maybe, there was so much space, the landscape seemingly ad infinitum that it was never about building, designing, planning well. It was just about filling it up. Actually, that would be filling it out.

An aging Frank Lloyd Wright certainly saw the area as a broad canvas, an experimental laboratory to plot out innovative ideas in home design and urban planning. A product of its post-World War II mindset, a belief of unlimited space and cheap fuel, much of it did not come to pass and some mercifully so. His proposed Broadacre community was drawn up with low density in mind and automobile travel at its core although it’s hard to imagine how it could’ve turned out any worse than the current city itself.

A Saturday morning drive through the west valley was especially gruesome. A wide thoroughfare surrounded by cargo rail on one side and a dry riverbed on the other, single story housing tracts popped up here and there, almost exclusively the ruddy, rust brown shade of the landscape. As with most car based communities, the social hub seemed to be strip malls sometimes anchored by futuristically designed churches. Religiously retail, you might say.

This being the southwest, the area still seemed to be reeling from the 2008 economic meltdown. Houses were being offered for $10,000 down! (What, did we just travel back to the 50s?) Apartment complexes had $129 move in specials.

And the strip malls were boarded up. Not one or two stores but entire strip malls. Just boarded up.

Now, I’d like to see these hideous blights on the landscape bulldozed and rebuilt in a more thoughtful way as much as the next strip mall hating guy but to see one just done, desolate, out of business is surprisingly unsettling. Where have the people gone? Those that remain, just how far and how often do they have to drive to get to work, to shop for groceries, to go to a restaurant or bar?

You haven’t really experienced a truly Irish St. Patrick’s Day until you’ve had yourself a whisky sour and nachos while watching March Madness in a chain pub in the middle of a Phoenix strip mall. How do you spell mass D.U.I.?

This is not to say there was nothing aside from baseball that would draw me back to Phoenix aside from being a convenient hub for more interesting destinations. There were what looked to be from the outside some very nice gated communities. Downtown Phoenix isn’t devoid of life even on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. It boasts a sizable art gallery across the street from imitation brownstone houses that start in the low millions according to the sales banner. Both the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks have their home turfs in the core as opposed to the ailing Coyotes of the NHL whose arena was moved out to suburban Glendale much to the team’s ultimate detriment.

The Phoenix proper downtown is connected to another thriving core in Mesa by… wait for it, wait for it… an LRT. Yeah, that’s right, boys and girls. Even car crazy Phoenix has built itself about 32 kilometres (20 miles in American) of light rail recently, right down the middle of the road for the most part. For anyone still insisting that LRT isn’t fast or it impedes traffic or is second class, they are simply admitting that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Metro Rail Line stops almost exclusively only to pick up and/or drop off passengers. Traffic flows easily in and around it and there are stretches when cars simply can’t keep up to the train. Not because of congestion but just the natural flow of traffic lights and the competing demands of other private vehicles.

Wait. How did I get onto that subject? There I was, minding my own transit business, driving around, watching baseball, hating on Phoenix.

Think of it as a passing observation on a city steeped deep in car culture and how it learned to share the roads with public transit. Phoenix is living proof of the horrors wrought by building a city around the primacy of the automobile. If it thinks LRTs are the way forward, what exactly are we here in Toronto so afraid of?

grand canyonly submitted by Cityslikr


Arizona Wants Me

March 16, 2012

So while all you are mobilizing the troops for next week’s transit battle, I’ll be heading out for an extended weekend trip to find me an honest to god LRT. Ride it. Test it. Confirm my bias. Conduct an objective analysis. See if they’re as spiffy as all that plus a bag of peanuts.

Off to Phoenix, I am, to ride the Metro Light Rail. Our friends over at Spacing wrote about it three years ago.

And if said LRT takes me past a ballpark where Cactus League is well under way, well, I just might have to hop off and check it out. A game or two or five. What’s the harm in all that? Why would I possibly turn down the chance to check out baseball where, scuttlebutt has it, even the worst diamond is better than the best diamond over there in the Grapefruit League in Florida? You can’t ride an LRT for 3 days straight, dammit! Although, you could if the only alternative was a subway.

I will be back in time to speak of what I’ve discovered firsthand of this technology called LRT before city council makes a decision on Wednesday. And maybe discuss how Albert Pujols looks in a Angels uniform. Or, if I’m really lucky, what could’ve been if the Blue Jays landed Yu Darvish although, their projected starting rotation is looking just fine without him at the moment…

And of course, who doesn’t want to spend at least one St. Paddy’s day in the Arizona sunshine before they die?

grand canyonly submitted by Cityslikr


The Age of Ralph Kramden

July 27, 2011

A wise person (with a tendency for using somewhat salty language) once said to me: If you want people to stop calling you a dick, stop being a dick and stop saying dickish things. Ahhh, granny. Never one to pull her punches.

Seems straightforward enough but I guess some people can’t help themselves. Being a dick is just part of who they are, it’s in their DNA. Dickish by nature.

On a completely unrelated note, what a past few days for Mayor Ford and Brother Doug, eh? The mayor driving around, talking on his cell phone, and may or may not have given another driver the finger when confronted about his illegal activity. Not to be outdone Councillor Ford continued his War on Books, slagging Margaret Atwood (who he may or may not know of), making up any old shit about the usefulness and numbers of libraries in his neck of the woods and just generally running neck-and-neck with his brother in a race to earn the biggest WTF?! headline.

Most people might be a bit, I don’t know, embarrassed by such glowing for the wrong reasons behaviour. But embarrassment doesn’t seem to be a particular Ford family trait unless it’s foisted upon them and then reluctantly mouthed because there is no other way to worm out of it. Enforced contrition, let’s call it, rarely worth the paper it’s printed out on.

Back in my day, such willful disregard of the truth, criticism and civility was greeted with a large degree of disdain and righteous mockery. I’ll even use a big word here. Opprobrium. In fact, such displays on my part might mean me, granny and a switch meeting behind the woodshed. People were not celebrated or esteemed for ignorance. Well thought out, well articulated ideas weren’t scorned as being elitist or out-of-touch egghead-y.

Or is that just me, looking back foggily through misty nostalgic eyes?

I don’t remember anyone arrogantly touting their know-nothingness. Except, of course, for the actual Know-Nothings, and they were a little before my time. We didn’t shy away from leaders who were smarter than we were. We didn’t resent them for their knowledge, education or erudition. Even the inveterate liar and all-round snake, Richard Nixon, knew stuff although it should be noted that he was a trailblazer in stirring up and appealing to the resentment that fueled his Silent Majority. Nixon was many things but a dummy was not one of them.

Not so, our current crop of politicians. They stumble over themselves to prove that they are as ill-informed, myopic and just-one-of-youse as the part of the electorate they successfully woo. We’re no politicians, they assure us, as they seek public office. Elect me and I’ll see to it that nothing smart, innovative or progressive is ever enacted while I’m in charge.

Let me confess at this point that I am not a Margaret Atwood reader, having never recovered from the imposition of Surfacing upon me against my will as a schoolboy. In fact, my fiction reading over the last few years has been in shockingly short supply. Neither do I attend the theatre much anymore. Atom Egoyan be leaning on my last nerve, yo. I’ve never been a fan of dance, modern or classic. And don’t get me started about opera.

I tell you this with no sense of pride or in boast. In fact, I consider it a serious character flaw on my part. Something I should try and rectify if only I could stop watching so much baseball on these sultry summer nights.

But I am not suspicious of those who are fiction fans or opera enthusiasts. On matters that I am interested in, I seek out those who know more about subject than I do. I want to learn from them to increase my own knowledge. To better myself as a thinker and citizen. Sure, it can be intimidating and you have to let go a little of the ego that keeps telling you you’re the smartest guy in the room. I’d like to think it’s worth it, though, in the long run. How can striving to be more intelligent or, at least, informed be a bad thing?

Or wanting that inclination in our elected officials? Where exactly does dumbing down get us? Into a litany of quagmire wars and occupations throughout the world. An economy teetering on the brink of insolvency. Anti-innovation. Antiquated urban development. Regression, regression, regression at every level of public policy.

This jonesing for anti-intellectualism is seemingly impenetrable too. Any questioning of it is seen as an attack from snobby elites. It’s not a debate or discussion. It’s denigration. You think you’re smarter than me? Yeah well, go fuck yourself. I knows what I knows and nobody’s going to convince me otherwise.

So being bull-headed and mentally intransigent is not a vice but a virtue. Honest deliberation and compromise is a weakness to be exploited. Gut beats brains, hands down. Dickish behaviour is now a proven winning formula. Girls swoon. Boys emulate. A Nation forms behind it.

Where once we succeeded in sending a man to the moon, we now endeavour only to send Alice to the moon. One of these days, Alice. One of these days.

gleasonly submitted by Cityslikr


More Of The Mayor’s Magical Musings

January 24, 2011

“To be a world class city, at least a North American world class city, we need an NFL team.”

– Councillor Doug Ford, older, allegedly smarter brother of Mayor Rob Ford.

If there’s another statement that would better reveal this administration’s horrifying ignorance about what makes a city vibrant, livable, “world class”, it would have to be grunted by a speaker who’s covered in their own feces. Assuming the mayor agrees with his brother’s view (a fair one to make, I think, given the cover of the newspaper the story appeared in), we bear witness to yet another dimension in the realm of the mayor’s magical thinking. You can cut taxes and not cut services. If you absolutely have to have public transit, subways are always better than any alternative. Professional sports franchise equals civic health.

Look down there at Detroit. After decades of on-field futility, their Lions showed signs of life this past season. Can recovery be far behind for the city?

It seems the mayor and his brother headed off to Chicago this weekend on a fact-finding mission to take in the NFC conference championship game. Because, it stands to reason, that if a world class city needs an NFL franchise, having a winning franchise will make a city even more world classier. Why, winning the Super Bowl just last year, turned every Hurricane Katrina induced disaster around for the city of New Orleans.

Hopefully while in The Windy City, the mayor and his brother managed to find time to take in some other sights outside of Soldier Field that contribute to Chicago’s vitality. Just down the lake from where they would’ve seen the Packers defeat the hometown Bears, there’s the Art Institute. A little further from AIC, there’s Millennium Park with its Frank Gehry Pritzker Pavilion, built on former industrial railroad land. It’s all part of a renovated waterfront that reclaimed the lake. A familiar sounding problem, Mayor Ford?

Or maybe the mayor and his brother rode around for a bit on the Chicago transit system, just to see how other cities of comparable size move their people around. Not being knowledgeable enough myself to know how it matches up to ours, I’ll assume neither is the mayor. It’d be nice to think that he took the opportunity to help enlighten himself further on the pressing issue of public transit.

And while they were at it, I wonder if the mayor and his brother sought the advice of anyone who could give them a hands-on account of how the privatization of parking in Chicago has worked out. Since his budget chief has mused publicly about the necessity of the city being in the parking business, the mayor certainly needs to take some time to weigh the issue fully to see if other places benefited from such a move. Some due diligence done on either side of a football game.

On the other hand, maybe this whole call for an NFL team was simply a dog whistle that only the mayor’s supporters could hear. After a week of sometimes bruising public consultations over the proposed budget where it became crystal clear that the mayor wouldn’t be able to maintain his campaign promise of holding the line on taxes without cutting services, they needed a diversionary tactic. Hey! Look over here! The NFL! Remember? The mayor loves football. Just like you and me.

As cynical as that would be, it’d still beat the mayor and his brother actually believing that having an NFL team in Toronto puts us on the road to world classiness. The simple-mindedness of that is a little too much to bear on a cold Monday morning after a weekend where the Raptors lost their 7th game in a row, the Leafs further mired themselves out of playoff contention and the Blue Jays traded away their center fielder in what was little more than a salary dump. By professional sports franchise standards, Toronto’s sitting on the corner of Shithole & Crack  Alley, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere’s Ville on a rail line that no longer stops here on its way to Classy Town.

abracadabraly submitted by Cityslikr


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