Category Archives: sports

The Cheating is Now a Feature

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It’s strange but this is the second week in a row that I’m writing about sports. Even weirder is that I’m writing about a sport I’m not particularly fond of.

My wife has been following the Dodgers for years now, ever since Ryu Hyu-jin started pitching for them and Korean networks started playing MLB, particularly Dodgers games on a regular basis. These days, as long as there is a Korean player in the team, you’re sure to find their games in Korea. Anyway, due to my wife’s fandom, I’ve watched and casually observed the Dodgers play, to which I have absorbed quite a bit of baseball knowledge by osmosis.

In 2017, the Dodgers were set to win the World Series. After missing the chance to finally win a ring for several years, I thought I was time for Kershaw to get one. I remember them looking to be the favorite to win despite the odd move of suddenly bringing outfielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Yu Darvish into the roster.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers didn’t win that year. Houston Astros beat them and won the World Series. There was a bit of drama during the game as well. Yuli Guriel was seen making a racist gesture in reference to Yu Darvish. He was penalized with a five-game suspension for 2018, but that racist gesture and the rather light punishment is still fresh in the memory of most Korean baseball fans. I remember feeling quite upset at Yuli Guriel. It didn’t help that he had that cocky Michael Madsen look and he peddled a BS excuse that he used to play in Japan, giving him the racist immunity idol. I felt bad for Yu Darvish, but I can’t help but blame him for the Dodgers losing the World Series that year. He seemed to be giving away the easiest throws. And despite him not delivering for the team, head coach Dave Roberts kept him on.

For over a year, I thought it was stupid to have brought Yu Darvish on. They could’ve let anyone pitch in his place and the Dodgers would’ve won the World Series.

Fast forward to 2019 and we learn that the Houston Astros were in fact cheating. They had cameras set to catch the signals of the other team. Then they would warn the batter if a fastball was coming by banging on trash cans. It was a set-up that they had in Minute Maid Park. Yu Darvish pitched for the Dodgers in 2017 in Minute Maid Park. They knew what Darvish was going to throw. The Astros were cheating. And in the process of cheating, Yuli Guriel had the grace to be racist as well.

So what happened next? After months of deliberation, the Astros’s manager and general manager were suspended for a year. The club was fined $5 million and will be deprived of their first and second round draft picks for two years. The Astros later announced that they fired their manager and general manager. No players were punished. They get to keep their championship.

This is shit.

MLB’s reason for not taking away their title was that sign stealing or predicting the pitcher’s throw was always a part of the game. The Astros used technology to give them an edge during the game but the tradition was the same. If the league was to take away their title, then it would start a cascade to other past scandals. Remember the 90s when players started to look like wrestlers and were batting home runs regularly? Also, there have been many instances of alleged sign stealing, but not as systematic as the one employed by the Astros.

This reason is also shit.

While it’s justice to fire the manager and general manager for orchestrating the cheating system, the players themselves carried out the sign stealing system. Whatever happened to sportsmanship? The players knew that they were playing with an unfair advantage. Winning and losing in baseball has consequences. It affects a player’s stats and their standings. For over a year, Yu Darvish had to suffer the blame of losing the championship for the Dodgers. He even had to change the way he pitched. Players were traded due to their performance and their bottom lines were probably affected due to losing to the Astros. The Dodgers might not even have the same line up now if they won that year. That was probably Kershaw’s closest opportunity to win that gold ring. He got robbed. People got robbed. The manager and general manager weren’t the only culprit. The whole team participated in the robbery.

That is not to say that the Astros are bad athletes. They’re world class athletes. But the fact that they needed to cheat in order to win the championship casts a dark shadow on their talent and their achievements. If I were an Astros fan, I’d probably feel pretty bad at this moment. It’s like being a Milli Vanilli fan. Yeah, maybe those guys can actually sing their songs, but it’s too late. They were caught using voice doubles. But unlike MLB, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences actually took away Milli Vanilli’s Grammy.

This sours the whole sport for me. Unfortunately, MLB is hoping that by force of habit, people will still continue to watch baseball and that this scandal will soon be forgotten. But for me, it shows an organization that is willing to allow athletes to cheat in order to become stars, and once they become stars, they can no longer be taken down. I can’t help but think of the phrases, “too big to fail” and “we don’t look backwards, we look forward.” I’m trying to think of any other sport outside of WWE that allows the game to continue despite cheating, that allows cheaters to keep their medals. But unlike WWE, MLB will still pretend to be a “real” sport and not sports entertainment. It’s disappointing. And for what? Because it’s too much of an inconvenience to look back? Too many injustices have to be corrected? If this is “America’s favorite pastime,” then it sends an awful message about what America is and its tolerance for unfair advantages.

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The Hockey Transporter

Circle Game

I haven’t been following the World Juniors much due to its awkward time in relation to Seoul, but I’ve been able to catch bits of it, especially key moments like when the Canadians first lost to the Russians with an embarrassing 6:0 right before the New Year. It was much to my sleepy delight two days ago at around 5:00 am in Seoul when the Canadians faced off against the Russians for the gold and managed to beat even after an early lead. The manner at which the Russians were beaten at the end was something else as well. At the very last minutes of the third period, the Russians were desperate to catch up to Canada that they were making crucial errors, leading to them being two men down at the end. It was our 18th gold at the World Juniors and the fifth time we bested Russia at the finals.

Overseas, when I see the Canadian hockey team beating the Russians or the Americans, it always brings me home. It’s like a magical moment that transports me back to some unknown time and place in Canada, because God knows I didn’t watch hockey with my family. The sport was just something I absorbed via osmosis and I was made aware of just like other Canadiana like ice skating, the Guess Who, and ketchup chips. They were all there. I didn’t sought them out, but living in Canada, I just happen to absorb them. Of course I watched important games back then, but I don’t particularly have any memories of family with it… just hazy memories of old furniture, cold outdoors, and Canada.

Seeing Canadian hockey is like a rush of nostalgia and patriotism all at once. There is a Canadian love affair with the sport. So much so that the Tragically Hip, one of the most important unknown Canadian musicians of all time, had two popular songs about it. And speaking of music, watching it is much like listening to a familiar tune. It’s like listening to Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’ or ‘OK Computer’ and being immediately transported back to younger days along with the old angst and insecurities I used to feel.

There is glee at the prospect of victory while watching the players battle it out on the ice. It’s like being in an unfamiliar airport outside of the United States and feeling a rush of possibilities. “This could be good. This could be good.” The air smells and feels a little bit different. Things (ALL THINGS) could be better if I, or in this case, the players, play their cards right.

And sometimes the emotions turn to misplaced emotions, hate against the other team, great disappointment against the goalie who keeps letting the other team score. “C’mon! We must win, dammit!” And I get caught up in all of it. But for what? To brag against who? To win against who? No one in particular. I’m not here and I’m not now. I’m somewhere in an odd undefined Canadian space along with most people in a country I happen to not be in at the moment.

After all of that. After all of the players got their medals and skated around the ice with the tiny silver cup hoisted above their heads. After all of the commentators finish their final analyses and my online stream is cut off, it takes a few minutes to get over the rush of victory and get ready for work. Congratulations, boys!

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On Don Cherry and Europeans in the CHL

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Hockey talk. CHL banned European goalies back in 2013. It was meant to force Canadians to develop their own goalies instead of drafting talent from Europe. CHL still allowed two imports per CHL team, but those were limited only to forwards or defense men. I personally don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with the way Canada has been developing goalies, it’s just that we’re not giving them the chance to step up to the next level, and prior to 2013, teams have just been opting (safely but lazily) to draft European talent.

Don Cherry, a Canadian hockey legend, recently came out and said that he’s all out against Europeans playing in the CHL. He says that ultimately, despite the Canadian spirit of embracing foreigners and immigrants, each team has two spots that are leaving out Canadians, with their own dreams of making it big in the sport, in favor of Europeans. Now, I’m trying to understand the protectionist and conservative attitude that he’s taking, but some people’s reaction to his comment is bit overblown, in my opinion.

First off, racism and bigotry are heavy charges. So I would need more egregious evidence of this before I start calling Don Cherry names. I think Don just simply sees the CHL as a development tool for Canadian talent, a means to an end, and that we should be using that tool to develop our own talent, to reward our own. We shouldn’t be giving that opportunity, how little that may be, to players from other countries. Thus, the argument of “it’s just a game, let the best player play” doesn’t hold water when you’re trying to get the Canadian players to be the best. That is exactly the logic behind the CHL goalie ban. Canada wanted to develop its goalies. I believe Don Cherry’s comment was made in that spirit. I also don’t see connections between this protectionist attitude and Canada’s open-arms approach towards immigration. We welcome immigrants from all countries thinking that they’ll prosper and be wonderful Canadians. Everyone CAN be a Canadian. I’m not sure if Radim Salda who hails from Czech Republic and plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs would be applying for a Canadian citizenship anytime soon. That’s not what the Europeans are in the CHL for.

With this in mind however, if every other country started taking Don Cherry’s attitude, we won’t see Canadian players play anywhere else. As a compromise, I think the limit to two players per team is fine enough as it is. It allows Canada to develop talent where it needs to develop and brings in talent overseas without overcrowding the teams with foreigners. The CHL, much like any other sport with free agency, is still fans basically cheering for clothes. Not everyone from the Halifax Mooseheads hail from the province much less the city (I think there’s only one player from Halifax.).  It’s not a ridiculous situation where no one in the team is from the country they’re supposed to be representing as implied by their team name. I read some news yesterday about an eSports team, the London Spitfire, which despite having “London” in the name, is owned by a company in Los Angeles and 100% composed of Korean kids. Now, I don’t blame them for just having Korean kids. ESports is unavoidable here, and Korean kids happen to be the some of the best in the world. But the London Spitfire is obviously aimed solely at winning. It does not share the patriotic notions that Don Cherry has. It couldn’t care less about British kids playing videogames unless they’re better than Koreans.

Back to hockey. North and South Korea recently agreed to compete as one team for the women’s Olympic hockey competition. Now this is a good olive branch for both countries, especially after months of escalating tension stoked by Donald Trump. But a part of me can’t help but feel bad for half of the South Korean team who not only have been working hard to be part of the team, but they were bound to compete in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where South Korea, a country where hockey is not popular, is guaranteed a spot in the competition for being host. The Korean equivalent to Don Cherry must be going nuts.

I share Don Cherry’s sentiment. I feel bad for the Canadian kids left out in favor of foreign talent. Those are kids who will have to work harder, settle for other things, or just simply give up on the sport. But in the end, those are just two spots in big teams in a big league. They’re small sacrifices in the altars of inclusion and good hockey.

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Like Ghosts

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So the Winnipeg Jets are out. We barely made it in the playoffs. I was hoping one win would at least legitimize our team being included the playoffs, but being swept by the Ducks kinda says it all. We weren’t ready for the playoffs at all. I’m a little bit disappointed, but following the Jets, I kinda expected something like this going in.

Looks like Keith Olbermann is also in the camp against Mayweather. I hear ya, Keith. But before you generously label Pacquiao as the better man, let me remind you that he is part of what keeps his home country poor, a “governor” who doesn’t know a thing about politics, someone who was used by former president Arroyo, another president whose years were plagued with corruption and fraud.  He’s one of the most absent congressman in the country. But when he’s not training or promoting fights, he’s voting against women’s rights and contraception. There’s no good man in that ring on Sunday.

An old episode of This American Life introduced me to the wonderful musical stylings of Jo Carol Pierce. In an episode titled “Teenaged Girls,” she talks about suicide and her relationships with men and Jesus. Rennie Sparks also tells the story about a girl growing up and dealing with peer pressure. She’s one half of The Handsome Family band which many people would know from the opening theme of True Detective. It’s great radio if you could find it, an enlightening look at the fairer sex, some awkward tales of growing up, all without getting too unsophisticatedly feminist about it.

Now I’m off to get my period.

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Suddenly Sports

Winnipeg_Jets

NHL playoffs.

Five Canadian teams have made it to the playoffs. To pairs have been set against each other, so regardless of the outcome, two Canadian teams will make it to the next round. Surprisingly, the Winnipeg Jets made it to the playoffs as well. They made it despite the Evander Kane controversy, and how many fans were predicting doom and gloom after they star was traded to the Sabres. Unfortunately, despite making it to the playoffs, the Jets have so far lost the first two games, all due to dumb shenanigans on the ice. The games have been quite physical, but the Ducks have been playing it smarter, keeping their defense tight and taking advantage of power plays.

A good friend of mine said that the Jets goalie, Pavelec, reminded her of their goalie from almost twenty years ago, Khabibulin. Both are stars, and the team hung on to them as their key to doing well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, goalies only keep the other team from scoring, and they can only block so many shots. The Jets have dragged behind the Ducks in shots taken. And if they don’t step up their game, and maybe keep the shenanigans to a minimum, then maybe we won’t be repeating the last time the Jets underperformed at the playoffs.

Here’s hoping we learn from our mistakes and score a win next game.

I don’t talk much about sports, but there’s only hockey, which I’ve grown to love the longer I’m away from Canada, and boxing.

The problem with the boxing is that as impressive as Wladimir Klitschko is, there just isn’t much media hype over heavy weight fights despite him being the undisputed heavyweight champion.  And as for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao match, I can’t  push myself to root for either fighter for reasons outside of the ring. Mayweather just comes off as a scumbag. There’s the domestic violence stuff, but there’s  also the obnoxious way he talks and flaunts his money around.

As for Pacquaio, I would argue he is worse than Mayweather despite maintaining a rather clean image. This is a man who doesn’t appear to be able to say no to anything. Who made him a congressman? No wonder the country is where it is at the moment. The man dropped out of high school (albeit due to poverty) and has no legislative background.  I realize the Philippines has a habit of electing celebrities to politics, but at some point a person has to say no and not take everything he’s offered. Also, his politics is dumb and disgusting. He is against same-sex marriage. He is also against the use of condoms, and abortion. That just won’t work in a country that’s over-populated and with high unemployment rate. I realize the country is mostly Catholic, but governments should be run by learned leaders, not by close-minded athletes and religious zealots.

Excellent fighters, horrible human beings.

Oh well. Back to hockey!

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