Source: The Globe and Mail
Written By: Tamara Baluja
After much speculation over whether he would go or not, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford did in fact fly to Guadalajara, Mexico, and accepted the Pan American Games flag at the closing ceremonies on Sunday. With the traditional handover between host cities now complete, the countdown to Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games officially begins.
The Toronto organizing committee, TO2015, had about two dozen officials in Guadalajara for the Games, to study best practices, and learn from its mistakes. The team also had an eight-minute window at last night’s closing ceremonies to make a pitch to the world that Toronto’s Pan Am Games will be spectacular. The tougher challenge might be creating that enthusiasm back in Ontario.
The capital budget for the Games is $700-million, and TO2015 estimates the Games will generate 15,000 new jobs and draw 10,000 elite athletes and officials to the city for the July event.
37 per cent of Torontonians can name the Pan Am Games as a major sporting event coming to the city, according to an Angus Reid survey done for TO2015. It’s a figure that indicates a lot more work needs to be done to create interest in the Games, said Ian Troop, CEO of TO2015, in a phone interview from Guadalajara.
His team, he said, will be concentrating on four key areas over the next few next years to boost the event’s profile.
The organizing committee says it is on track to complete facilities by 2014, so there is time for rigorous testing to ensure the facilities are at international sporting standards. However most new facilities don’t even have builders yet. The hunt for a home for a new cycling velodrome hit a snag in October when Hamilton city council voted to cap the city’s commitment at $5-million. (It had been asked to commit four times as much.) Currently, TO2015 is looking at proposals from other municipalities, and although Mr. Troop wouldn’t reveal any site possibilities, he said he is optimistic a venue would be selected by the end of the year. He estimated that construction would take a year after shovels hit the ground. Meanwhile, a bidder has been selected for the Pan Am Athletes Village in the West Don Lands.
According to surveys by Angus Reid, only 8 per cent of Canadians named the Pan Am Games as a major sporting event without prompting. The Toronto figures were slightly better with 37 per cent of Torontonians identifying the Pan Am Games. That’s an improvement from last year when only 10 per cent identified the Pan Am Games, Mr. Troop said, but it’s still a long way from his 85 per cent goal. He said he was awed by the enthusiasm of Mexican crowds. “When Mexico was playing, it was absolute bedlam,” he said. “But the crowds were excited and supportive even when the other countries were playing.” He feels the city’s diversity will prompt fans to support not only the Canadian teams, but also other competing national teams. The group also plans to bring Canadian athletes to elementary schools to boost the profile of the Games amongst youth.
TO2015 has a target of $150-million in corporate sponsors, and last week, the committee announced CIBC as its first lead partner. Although he won’t say how much CIBC is committing to the event, he said he takes comfort in the fact that Toronto has the same proportion of its target achieved as the Vancouver Olympic committee had four years before the 2010 Games. The announcement of CIBC, and the partnership with another high profile sponsor which the TO2015 group will reveal in the coming weeks, will raise the profile of the Games and bring in more sponsors, said Mr. Troop.
Mr. Troop said his team has been extensively wooing international sporting federations in a bid to get as many sport disciplines at the Games to be the Olympic qualifier events for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While the Guadalajara games functioned as Olympic qualifier for a dozen sports, TO2015 would like to almost double that number. If successful in securing their ambitious goal of 20 Olympic qualifiers, TO2015 would set a new standard for the Pan Am Games, Mr. Troop said. Elite athletes are more likely to come to the Toronto Games if their event is an Olympic qualifier, and Mr. Troop said the Pan Am Games would also act as dress rehearsal, should the city make another attempt at an Olympic bid.
Source: Busted Racquet
Written By: Chris Chase
By winning his third qualifying match at the U.S. Open and playing his way into the main draw, the 26-year-old Canadian became the first man to ever qualify for all four Grand Slams in a single calendar year.
Ideally, a player experiencing such success would hope to have their ranking automatically qualify him for a Grand Slam. Dancevic’s rankings — No. 269 to start the year, No. 179 currently — don’t earn him that privilege. He has to go the hard way: winning three matches at each Slam qualifying tournament.
It’s an impressive achievement. Qualifying matches are every bit as important to its participants as the second week of a Grand Slam is to guys like Djokovic and Roger Federer. Getting into a Grand Slam and reaping in the rewards it brings (money, rankings points, experience, exposure) is what players on the outer fringes of the top 100 need to propel their tennis careers.
With each match brings additional pressure and bigger stakes. Losing in the first round of Wimbledon qualifiers brings players around $2,800 (probably not enough to cover expenses) and no rankings points. Losing in the final round of qualifying nets competitors $11,000 and 16 rankings points compared to $19,000 and 35, respectively, for making the main draw. For players who bring in around $100,000 a year before paying expenses, the difference between winning and losing a few qualifying matches is the difference between being in the black or the red for the season.
Yet there’s a hint of emptiness in Dancevic’s achievement. It’s sort of like being six-time reigning MVP of a minor league baseball team or starring in a longest-running Off-Off Broadway play. Success on a smaller scale isn’t kick-starting a jump to the next level.
Dancevic hasn’t been able to keep the momentum going in the main draws. In each of the four majors, he failed to win a match, including on Tuesday when he lost in straight sets.
Source: CBC Sports Written By: Elliotte Friedman
About a month ago, I ran into one of the Vancouver Canucks at a golf tournament. As much as we both tried to avoid it, the Stanley Cup Final ultimately came up in the conversation.
One of his comments: “Obviously, Tim Thomas was great. But Patrice Bergeron also killed us.”
Think about that when you’re considering Sidney Crosby’s future.
The Penguins released an injury update late Wednesday indicating Crosby continues “to visit leading specialists” and that he started having headaches “when he got to 90 per cent exertion in his workouts” this summer.
It doesn’t sound great. But it didn’t look good for Bergeron, either.
On New Year’s Eve 2009 – about 24 hours before the Boston Bruins were to play the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park – Bergeron walked by as I was talking to Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman.
“What a story he is,” Wideman said, looking at his teammate.
Bergeron was en route to his first concussion-free season in three years. He missed 72 games in 2007-08 and 15 more in 2008-09 due to this increasingly serious scourge on the game (Tim Wharnsby wrote more about Bergeron’s battle here).
I don’t have the exact quotes anymore, but Wideman told a story about showing up on an off-day for treatment during that first Bergeron injury. The room was dark and quiet. When he did see a trainer, all talk was at a whisper. Wideman wondered why there was no light, no music, no normal conversation.
Bergeron was there. And he couldn’t handle any of it. He was 22 and there was serious concern about his future.
But he recovered to play 73 games in 2009-10 and 80 last season. He added 20 points in 23 playoff games, including two goals in Game 7 – the first being the Stanley Cup winner. (The best news was that Bergeron made a quick recoveryfrom a concussion suffered during the series sweep over Philadelphia. He missed two games).
The point is, as Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, said on the Penguins’ website: “There is not a finite recovery” time when it comes to concussions. The 24/7 news cycle lacks patience. We want our answers and we want them now. Bergeron is proof, though, that, even if Crosby misses the beginning of this season, he can make a successful return.
The honest truth is that it makes zero sense for Crosby to make any firm declaration about his future. There’ve been a lot of declarations to retire, some public (doctors, columnists), some undoubtedly private (family, whose vote should matter most after his own).
What Crosby has, though, is time. He just turned 24. Even if he had to take the year off, a full recovery could mean another decade (at least) of high-level play. And you have to believe he will do anything possible to try and come back.
The best description of Crosby came from former teammate Rob Scuderi, who described him as a “superstar with the work ethic of a fourth-liner.” He’s so competitive and loves the game so much, it’s hard to see him walking away at such a young age without exhausting every option.
The idea he’s got nothing left to accomplish? The best don’t believe that. Just ask Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Nicklas Lidstrom.
Bergeron won gold medals with Crosby at the 2005 world juniors and 2010 Olympics. No doubt they’ve talked. No doubt Crosby knows everything Bergeron went through and how hard it is to recover.
But it can be done. And with Wednesday’s brief announcement, Crosby let everyone know he’s going to make the smart play – taking all the time he needs.
Canada is moving on to the next round at the Little League World Series after upsetting nemesis Taiwan in a must-win game.
Yi-An Pan pitched five innings and added a home run Monday in a 5-3 victory for the team from Langley, B.C. It’s the first time Canada has beaten a team from Taiwan at the tournament in 17 tries.
“Less mistakes today,” said Canadian coach Jason Andrews. “We’ve got two wins so far this tournament, for a Canadian team, that’s the most we’ve had in a while.
“We are starting to get more comfortable with the crowds. The kids seem less nervous. I’m less nervous as coach.”
The victory improved Canada’s record to 2-1 and earned it a spot in the next round, where it will face Japan on Tuesday after the defending champions beat Saudi Arabia 13-4. The loss eliminated Taiwan from the tournament.
Pan allowed two earned runs on nine hits over five innings of work before leading off the top of the sixth with a homer to give Canada a two-run lead. Pan’s homer was Canada’s first of the tournament.
“[Pan] is a gem to coach,” Andrews said. “I call the pitches for the team. He was hitting his spots really well today. We’ve been working with Yi An with getting him to drive the ball and he did a pretty good job of it today.”
Cole Cantelon recorded the final three outs to get the save.
“I was really nervous,” said Cantelon, who went to a 3-1 count on his first batter, but came back to strike him out. “Getting that out really calmed me down.”
Canada opened a 2-0 lead in the first with back-to-back hits that saw both players score after Taiwan’s pitcher threw a wild pitch followed a passed ball.
Canada added another run in the second before the Taiwanese batters capitalized on two wild pitches and a passed ball of their own to tie the game 3-3 in the third.
Connor McCreath’s leadoff hit in the fourth resulted in the go-ahead run thanks to a sacrifice bunt, a Taiwanese error and yet another passed ball.
Taiwan had the chance to tie the game at four in the bottom of the fifth with Chi-Ling Hsu on third base with two out. Hsu attempted to steal home on a passed ball but Ian Burns collected the ball in time to throw to Pan, who tagged Hsu.
That set up Pan’s solo shot in the sixth to cap the scoring at 5-3.
Canada has participated in 52 Little League World Series, including the last 46. Canada’s lone appearance in the title game was in 1965, when a team from Stoney Creek, Ont., lost 3-1 to Windsor Locks, Conn., in the final.
Canada’s team at the Little League World Series will need another upset in an elimination game to continue their run in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The team from Langley, B.C. faces Hamamatsu City, Japan today in a game you can see on TSN2 at 4pm et/1pm pt.
The team from Langley defeated Saudi Arabia 6-5 in the first game of the tournament before dropping an 8-0 decision to Venezuela on the weekend.
Japan defeated Aruba and lost to Mexico before beating Saudi Arabia yesterday.
The winner of the today’s game will move into the International Bracket semi-final on Thursday against the loser of tomorrow’s Mexico-Venezuela game.
Source: Shutdown Corner
Written By: Doug Farrar
The Chicago Bears were one of six NFL teams that reportedly voted against the new rule moving kickoffs to the 35-yard line of the team doing the kicking. The rule, which moves the ball up from the 30-yard line and should cause more touchbacks and fewer exciting returns, was implemented by the league’s competition committee at the owners meetings in March as a move to improve player safety. The thought was that those exciting returns also involve too many high-speed collisions, but the Bears weren’t buying it.
In their Saturday preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Bears refused to accept the new rule, and instead lined up their first two kickoffs at their 30, as had been in the past. Apparently, the officials on site didn’t catch it, because no penalties were called and it took a call from vice president of officiating Carl Johnson(notes) to “put a stop to it,” according to the Twitter account of Johnson’s predecessor, current FOX Sports analyst Mike Pereira.
Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who’s had return teams among the league’s best for a number of years, seemed unaffected by the violations and any potential fallout. In other words, it wasn’t a mistake.
“[Bears kicker] Robbie Gould(notes) … we can put it on the 35 and he can kick it out each time,” Smith said. ”We’re not really getting a good evaluation of what we can do coverage-wise on some of our players. That’s what we were trying to do with it.”
Last year, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Bears ranked first in average starting drive position — their average drive began just after their own 33-yard line. The Houston Texans were the worst team in this category; their average drive started just past their own 25-yard line. With almost a first-down’s difference between best and worst, and given Chicago’s recent history of great return men from Devin Hester(notes) to Danieal Manning(notes) to Johnny Knox(notes) (the picture above shows Knox taking a kick 70 yards in that very same Bills game), you can understand why Smith and the Bears aren’t pleased about giving up an advantage they have obviously built their personnel decisions around.
The decision to move the ball up would actually help the Bears’ kick coverage teams — FO notes that Chicago ranked 24th in average drive start allowed, allowing opponents to start at about their own 30-yard line. The Atlanta Falcons backed their opponents up to about the 24 on kicks last season, so there’s the team that should be upset that the skill element has been taken out of the equation.
The rule seems like an overreaction built to take fun and excitement out of the game, and there have already been fairly serious effects. In the first preseason week alone, according to Paul Domowitch of Philly.com, 43 of 127 kickoffs, or 33.8 percent, were touchbacks. Throughout the 2010 season, the touchback rate was 16.4 percent.
It doesn’t take a math major to understand the effect on the game, and why the Bears want to go rogue on this rule. Will they continue to do so, and what might the penalties be?
Source: Puck Daddy Written By: Greg Wyshynski
Rick Rypien’s(notes) death on Monday marked the second time this year someone has arrived at the home of a young NHL player who fought his way into the profession — literally and figuratively — to find that player had suddenly died.
Being that we’re hockey fans, the third reaction to these stories, following shock and bereavement, is inevitably defensiveness.
Down Goes Brown probably spoke for the masses when he wrote:
We expect that criticism of the more physical elements of the game, and their debilitating effects, because we know it’ll arrive from outsiders who crack their knuckles over their keyboards when there’s an opportunity to paint hockey as barbaric. The basketball columnists who think the NHL “should be more like the Olympics.” Those guys.
But what we’re seeing with more frequency are completely reasonable people within the hockey community openly questioning how fighting and physical play affect guys like Rick Rypien that are battling their down demons. These aren’t questions from the accepted pacifists in the community like Adam Proteau of The Hockey News, but from people who essentially state the following:
‘I like fighting. I just don’t know if I can stomach it any longer.’
As of Tuesday morning, the motivations behind Rypien’s death aren’t known. But the fact he passed away after playing a role in the NHL that as seen its share of tragedies is enough to influence that sentiment.
“Symptoms of CTE include depression and suicidal tendencies. We don’t know anything about Rick Rypien’s death today but if anybody wants to place a cash bet that it wasn’t suicide and he didn’t have CTE I’m willing to give you good odds. Ultimately we, the fans who pay for tickets and cheer for fights, are responsible for the men who sacrifice their brains for our entertainment.
“This isn’t intended to be a sanctimonious lecture on the evils of fighting because I stood up for every fight I ever saw in a hockey rink.
“I don’t think people who like fights are troglodytes because when I woke up this morning I was a fan of hockey fights. Speaking as someone who’s had some serious brain trauma though the stories of Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert and others have been on my bruised mind for a while. I like watching fights and I like it when players fight but I just don’t think I can support it anymore so count me out.”
Peter Raaymakers of the Ottawa Senators blog Silver Seven penned an eerily timely post called “The Human Toll of Fighting” that published the morning before Rypien’s death. The case against the quasi-legality of fighting included the physical toll and the use of drugs to help with pain or anxiety; as for what the NHL should do:
“If others, like me, come to the conclusion that a couple minutes of hockey fights simply isn’t worth it, then we need to look at what we can do about reducing the frequency of fighting in the league, and reducing the number of players who join the league strictly as enforcers. The first and most obvious step is harsher penalties for fights.
“Although the Olympics and US College hockey are vastly different from NHL hockey, play at those levels is evidence that if strict penalties are placed on fighting, fighting will decline. Were the NHL to make the penalty for fighting a five-minute major plus a game misconduct, staged fights–which even the most ardent supporter of fighting would likely agree are meaningless and unnecessary–should decrease.
“Add the caveat that, should the fight happen in the final 10 minutes of the game, that ejection carries forward to the next game, and say (for good measure) that they team can’t dress anyone in your place if you fight and we’re making progress at eliminating most of the fights we see in the NHL today.”
Here’s where we are as a hockey community in 2011:
For several years, news about brain injuries and concussions has gone from a necessary evil for professional hockey players to what’s considered an epidemic. Calls for player responsibility and respect were ineffective; so the NHL had to step in and ban blindside hits before further banning pretty much any non-incidental contact with the head.
Meanwhile, on another bottom line, fighters were still beating the hell out of each other.
The concern for one class of players over another made for a rather uncomfortable situation for the NHL and for fans: How can one passionately call for the League to create rules that protect stars from brain damage while allowing two guys to bare-knuckle punch each other’s skulls with negligible penalties?
We’ve reached a crisis of faith for some fans that have admittedly enjoyed fights for the entirety of their hockey lives, but who now are having second thoughts.
But for other fans — and I count myself among them — the brain injury epidemic is a product of an inherently violent game.
I’ll never apologize for being pro-fighting. It’s the game I grew up with, and I’ve always felt that players enter the NHL accepting that it’s part of the gig. In some cases, players would have never made the show without fighting. It can be said that Rypien was one of those players.
As Jeff Marek wrote on Sportsnet, Rick Rypien “was a troubled person.” Every sport has them. It’s just that the more physical sports seem to have them end up dead. The NFL has had suicides of current and former players. Boxing had four of them in the span of a year. Try watching a professional wrestling pay-per-view from the last 20 years without seeing a wrestler who’s died tragically since then.
Banning fighting is seen as an easy fix because its detractors see it as superfluous: Red meat tossed to bloodthirsty fans, as much a gate attraction as Alex Ovechkin(notes). They see it as a macabre form of entertainment rather than having a “place in the game” as so many pro-fighting pundits can reasonably argue.
If the NHL banned fighting tomorrow, would another player ever take a painkiller? Or a sleeping pill? Or both? Would another NHL player drink a bit much to calm his nerves while popping a pill? Would another NHL succumb to depression given the agony and ecstasy of his profession and the excruciating time away from family that comes with the gig?
To say the physical toll of fighting doesn’t exacerbate the problems for a hockey player is a head-in-the-sand position. But to say fighting is at the heart of these problems is also naive.
I still feel we’re in the treatment phase of these issues, and the NHL and the NHLPA need to really examine how they go about educating players about their treatment options.
But the more tragedies we witness, the more science tells us about CTE and other brain damage, the more likely it is that the NHL will stop waiting for the culture to change and legislate most forms of fighting-for-show out of the game. Even if many of us feel it will fundamentally change the product.
Last season he was shooting down suggestions of steroid abuse. This season he’s defending his team against allegations of sign stealing.
Jose Bautista wonders what he and the Toronto Blue Jays will have to answer for next.
In the latest twist in what has become an ongoing saga, an ESPN report says at least four members of an opposing team — identified by Bautista as the Chicago White Sox — claim the Blue Jays stole signs from outside the field of play during games at Rogers Centre.
“This is just ridiculous and fictitious,” Bautista said. “I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to come up with next week or next year to try to decipher why we’re playing good or why we’re doing good or something,” the Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder said before Wednesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.
Bautista has 33 homers this season, tops in baseball, and led the majors with 54 last season. As his home run total mounted last year he had to listen to suggestions that steroids might be involved.
“Doing things that are illegal in the game of baseball, this has not happened here and it won’t happen,” Bautista said. “That’s not the way I do things. That’s the same answer I gave last year about the whole steroid thing.”
Players in the visiting bullpen noticed a man dressed in white in the outfield at the Jays’ stadium in April of 2010. According to the website’s report, the players said the man made signals from the outfield stands to Toronto batters, apparently alerting them to what pitch was coming.
“I don’t see how you can look at the ball and look at that at the same time,” Bautista said. “It’s impossible in my head. From reading the article, I have no idea how they claim this is done. … It would help anybody to know what’s coming. Of course it does.”
The all-star was supported by Toronto’s front office.
“This is stupid,” said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos who denied that his team stole signs in the article and did so again before Wednesday’s home game against the Oakland Athletics.
“There’s zero truth to this,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “No one’s ever contacted me. No GM has picked up the phone and called me.
“The way I was raised, if I have an issue, if I had a concern, if I think someone on the other side is doing something I’m going to call, I’m going to walk across the field (and) go talk to someone. I’m going to do something like that. No there hasn’t been anything like that at all.”
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested last month that the Blue Jays might be stealing signs at Rogers Centre. Yankees catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., said at the time he suspected the Toronto players were stealing signs from second base.
Girardi had little to say when asked to comment on the latest allegations against the Blue Jays.
“People have been stealing signs since the beginning of time,” Girardi said before the Yankees hosted the Angels. “It’s your job as a club to protect your signs.”
Asked about the matter before his game at Baltimore, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen acknowledged being aware of Toronto’s reputation for sign stealing.
“People talk about it,” Guillen said. “If it works, they should be in first place.”
The Blue Jays entered play Wednesday at 58-57, fourth in the AL East and 14 games out of first place. They’re 28-27 at home, where they were no-hit by Detroit’s Justin Verlander in May, and 30-30 on the road.
Verlander’s May 7 no-hitter was one of four times the Blue Jays have been shutout this season, with three of those coming at home.
Both Guillen and Girardi said protecting signs is the responsibility of the catcher.
“If you have stolen signs, you have a dumb catcher,” Guillen said. “If you see guys stealing signs, change the signs.”
Blue Jays fans and players had some fun with the allegations during Wednesday’s game. Several fans in the outfield seats wore white shirts, with one holding a sign that read “FASTBALL.” Another a few rows back held one that read “I’m stealing your signs.”
Seated in the bullpen, reliever Casey Janssen fashioned a pair of binoculars out of two paper cups and a roll of tape, and wore them around his neck.
Still, not everyone was laughing. Anthopoulos wondered why former Blue Jays players or personnel weren’t contacted for the story.
“To do something like this would take a whole lot of work by this organization to keep everybody quiet,” he said. “I just wish people would look at the common sense component first and say ‘Is this really realistic?’
“Think of what would have to go into all this stuff. Really that’s as far as it goes. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to our players, I don’t think it’s fair to the organization.”
Added Bautista: “This is sad, funny and ridiculous at the same time,”
The right-fielder could not recall any past issues with the White Sox.
“To me it’s unprofessional,” Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia said. “It’s a joke. It’s somebody discrediting our success. As a baseball player, I think there’s zero chance of it working. I’m very upset about it, because I take it personally.”
Catchers often use multiple signs to try to eliminate any chance of an opponent picking up on something — usually a runner at second base — and using it to their advantage. Stealing signs from outside the field of play is generally deemed to be unacceptable.
According to the ESPN report, some visiting teams have started using multiple signs between catcher and pitcher at the stadium, even when no Blue Jays are on base
“First of all I think that the statements that were made — and all I can speak to were the recent statements — they’re completely misguided,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “And it’s to suggest that if a player does well it’s for other reasons rather than hard work and making adjustments. Players change. We see it all the time, Players will make fundamental adjustments and they’ll reap the rewards of those adjustments and the work.”
Michael Teevan, the public relations director for Major League Baseball, said there are no electronics allowed in dugouts or team areas. However, when it comes to sign stealing, there are no clear rules on the issue.
“In terms of sign stealing, I’m not aware of anything that’s in our rules about it,” Teevan said. “Traditionally as the old saying goes, it’s something that teams kind of police themselves.
“But in general I would say that if a club calls us with something to look into, then we’d look into it.”
Teevan added that MLB has not received a complaint.
Farrell, who was the Boston Red Sox pitching coach for the previous four seasons, said there were no suspicions that the Blue Jays were doing anything abnormal in attempting to steal signs when he was with Boston.
“Nothing outside the norm of location might be being relayed from second base or something that I would venture to say to a certain extent every team does,” Farrell said. “It’s the same reason why we equip our pitchers either there or here with multiple sets of signs.”
“It’s a story for today,” Anthopoulos said Wednesday. “But for me it’s, a non-story.”