Why Sidney Crosby shouldn’t go to the White House, in terms he can understand

If you haven’t heard, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they would be accepting an invitation to visit the White House. They did this despite Donald Trump’s expletive-filled, racially-motivated tirade about black NFL players not standing for the anthem. To make this move even more tone deaf, Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby revealed he supported the visit and thinks it’s “a great honour.”

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That Crosby said this despite everything that’s happened in the last week is not very surprising to me. Aside from ingrained white privilege, the real trouble, I think, is that Sidney Crosby does not understand life outside of hockey. Have you ever seen an interview or documentary footage from his day-to-day life? The man does not look comfortable in his own skin unless it’s adorned with a jersey, pads and skates.

So allow me to try to explain to Sidney Crosby why he shouldn’t go to the White House the only way he’ll understand: with hockey terminology.

Hey Sid, look alive now.

Going to the White House is an offside. Your team won’t be advancing the play here. It’s actually like you’ve iced the puck and you have to go all the way back down the ice. You’re as far away as possible from where you want to be.

You’ve got to understand, Sid, that as a white guy, you were born on the power play. There’s a whole lot of people out there with different colour skin who live their whole lives like they’re defending a 5-on-3. And right now, Donald Trump is doing a whole lot of unsportsmanlike conduct to make sure they stay on the disadvantage. The refs have put their whistles away and they won’t be calling any roughing on him.

If you go to the White house, that’s gonna put you in the box. And we’re not talking about a double minor here. You’re looking at a game misconduct. Heck, you could be facing a suspension. Sure, you’ll still be able to put your stick on the ice in an NHL game, but you’re not likely to find yourself playing centre in many street hockey contests.

You’re putting yourself on the away team roster here, Sid. Everyone’s rooting for the team trying to play their way out of the 5-on-3. Going to the White House is like you taking a dive to break up their shorthanded rush. You’re not going to light the lamp playing like that. Your plus-minus will take a big hit after all this.

I know politics isn’t your style of play. But it’s time for you to do some serious backchecking away from this White House visit. You’ve got a chance to change the momentum here. If you give it 110%, you just might bounce back from this.

No more bonehead plays now, eh? Let’s go.

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Spoiler Alert: You Might Be A Dick

I am a slow TV watcher. I have only binge-watched the entirety of a TV show once (All five seasons of The Wire in eight days) and crammed in a single season over a weekend a handful of times. I understand that in this day and age, that doesn’t really fly. Every TV show is available to be watched practically instantly all of the time. But I’m not always up-to-date on what’s happening on a TV or Netflix show until a few days or even weeks after it airs. Yes, even Game of Thrones.

So, naturally, I get a lot of stuff spoiled for me. Sometimes it’s because I haven’t watched the latest episode of a show by 9AM the next morning. Other times it’s because I haven’t even starting watching the show that’s four seasons deep. But being a person that has to leave his house for work and interacts with a number of people throughout a normal day, I can’t avoid spoilers.

Because now, not only can we instantly watch a show, we instantly need to talk about it. I’ve started to wonder if I watch a show because I’m worried I won’t have anything to contribute to the conversation at my next dinner party. Do I really want to watch the fifth season of House of Cards? It doesn’t feel like I do.

The problem is if I don’t watch any show within a week or two of its release, there’s about a 75% chance I’m going to have a major plot point spoiled for me. That’s because people don’t want to talk about how great a show is, they want to talk about the few crazy, unexpected moments that happened during a season. For example, I bet you might not immediately recognize the name Gregor Clegane, but you do know what I’m talking about when I say “Red Wedding.” Even though those are both references to Game of Thrones, you’ve likely either seen that appropriately-titled episode or overheard some loudmouth drunkenly gushing about it at a bar. (I should know, because I’ve been that loudmouth.)

Is it unreasonable to ask people to never talk about shows and movies they like in public? Yes. But I have a harder time with people who seem to almost want to spoil a show for you. It’s as if their enthusiasm for the piece of entertainment they just watched needs to be expressed immediately or no one will be able to ever watch that thing again. These people either don’t care or aren’t aware that saying too much robs another person of acquiring that same enthusiasm. And they absolve themselves from guilt by saying something like, “Well it aired last night at 9PM and it’s already 10AM today so you’ve had lots of time.”

I’m not going to pretend I have more important things to do than watch TV all the time (I don’t) but that doesn’t mean I plan my week around the air time of the latest episode of Fargo. All I’m asking for is a couple of days. Maybe even a week. It’s easier for you to go into a room with a door you can close than it is for me to unhear what you just said about Wallace from The Wire. It is not your responsibility to inform me of what happened on the most recent episode of some show you and I both love, but only you have seen. Spoiling it for me does not make you a bigger fan. Binge watching the second season of Master of None on a day I’m not home does not make you a more serious appreciator of television. It means you had less things to do that week.

If you want me to get excited about some new TV episode, let me watch it without knowing what to expect. Or I will be the one who knocks. (That’s not a spoiler. Just a reference. You have to have watched the show to know what I’m talking about.)

Reality Sets In

It’s been ten days since the U.S. presidential election. Given the outcome and what’s been happening in America since, the last thing anyone needs is another thought-piece by a white male with an upper-middle-class upbringing who lives in Canada. I’m writing this anyway for one reason: I expected Donald Trump to be elected.

I was told from a young age that I was too cynical. My retort would always be that I was, in fact, realistic. I don’t think it’s cynical that, even in 2016, I thought Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be elected president because she’s a woman. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I think that falls under a realistic point of view.

Before I go on, I should make it clear that I would have voted for Hillary. But I don’t think it’s realistic that a woman can’t be president. I think it’s realistic that far too many people in the world struggle with the idea that a woman is as qualified (or so, so much more qualified) to do a “man’s job.” Or that women can be confident. Or that they can be opinionated. Or that they can make mistakes. Or that they are entitled to respect. Or that they are men’s equal and often much more.

I would call all of this realistic thinking, but I think I need to explain why. My parents divorced when I was very young and through joint custody I grew up primarily under my Mom’s roof. My mother came from a very traditional family yet knew that being a woman did not dictate what job she might have or how she might live her life. This was the example I was raised under. It’s why I remember from an early age thinking it strange that boys would make so much fun of girls. It’s why I’ve had never thought twice about having a woman as my boss. Most of all, it’s why I’m dumbfounded by the casual and ingrained sexism I witness on a near daily basis.

I’m sure any woman reading this is rolling their eyes at another man being “surprised” that sexism exists. But being raised by a woman that made her own way meant that I, by default, looked up to women. I looked up to my Dad as well, but I honestly can’t remember distinguishing between the two. My exposure to men believing themselves to be superior to women came from everything else I experienced outside my home. I became aware that it existed, even if I couldn’t always understand or appreciate what I was seeing.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never taken it as a given that a man takes precedent over a woman. At least not consciously. But certainly unconsciously. Because that’s our world. The world where a man can openly question a woman’s ability to do a particular job. (I heard this 14 days ago.) The one where a man openly scoffs at the idea that women can have their own conferences to address sexism and the wage gap in their industry. (Less than two months ago.) And the world where some random man on the internet is going to find this post and try to say sexism isn’t real.

This is the world we, as men, live in quite comfortably. Because we always think we have the upper hand. Or we think we’re aware of the problem and that in itself is enough. To that, I plead guilty. But seeing my prediction about Trump come true has left me with a deeply unsettling feeling that’s made me know being aware isn’t enough for me anymore.

This election should be a nasty wake up call for my fellow men that misogyny and sexism is alive and well in our world. If you have ever questioned it or believed that you never participated in it, the fact that a bigoted, dangerous buffoon has been made president because he has a penis should make you believe. If this election result isn’t the best reason to question all of your own thoughts and actions, then things aren’t likely to get better. That’s just the reality of our world.

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[Note: that’s not quite the exact quote, but you get the idea.]

A right to life. And to choose.

A few months ago, I happened upon an article in Toronto Life about assisted suicide. Specifically, about a man who had helped people take their own life in secret. At the end of the article, there is a very long and heated “debate” going on in the comments section. I know, I know, don’t read the comments. But this is a subject that is important to me, as I believe assisted suicide should be a legal option for the terminally ill. So my curiosity got the better of me.

Naturally, there are strong reactions to the idea of being able to take your own life. Many people (like myself) who have witnessed the suffering of family and friends see assisted suicide as an act of compassion. Opponents of the idea label it as a coward’s way out, or something that will be a slippery slope and abused my those who don’t actually need it. And then there are those who think it’s wrong in the eyes of God.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in God. I “practiced” religion until around the age of 12. Then my Mom allowed me to make my own decisions. I have no problem with those who do believe, though. In many ways, I admire their faith and commitment. What I do have a problem with is using the idea of a God as a reason to not allow something to become law.

In my (admittedly very subjective) experience, many of the opponents of assisted suicide invoke the idea that all humans have a “right to life” and therefore we cannot allow people to take their own lives. There’s a concern that people will be wrongfully coerced into using assisted suicide when they don’t really need to, or that they will die shortly before a drug was discovered that could have cured them. This is, in fact, exactly what was suggested by the most outspoken opponent in the comments on the article.

Most of his arguments stemmed from a column he wrote where he outlined the following scenario:

“A strong, healthy man suffers from a disease. He wastes away to a shadow of his former self. He is all skin and bones. Death is imminent. The doctors are telling him there is no cure, no treatment left. At this point, he considers assisted suicide to avoid the pain and suffering and maybe to save his family some of the money being spent on his care. He goes through with it. In a short time, he is killed by a physician. And the very next week, a new drug is discovered which could have allowed that man to make a complete recovery.”

Of course, that is always a possibility. But is it a realistic one? Or even remote? To me, this reads like a fantasy. It is talking in absolutes. If only someone didn’t kill themselves, a miracle drug would have been created a week later!

I will admit that this is a possibility, however remote. But if the terminally ill have a right to life, don’t they have the right to choose death? The idea with assisted suicide is that the patient chooses to end their life rather than endure an excruciating death. And yes, they are eliminating the unlikely possibility of being saved by a miracle drug. That’s their choice.

There seems to be a theme from the right to life crowd, which is that they claim making this law will make suicide and assisted suicide one in the same. I have yet to see any convincing argument as to why that would be true. I also find it interesting that they say you have a right to life, but apparently you don’t have a right to choose.

To me, our right to choose is as ingrained and essential as our right to life. In Canada, we have the privilege to make choices about our lives. I think, in the case of terminal illnesses, that should include being able to choose to die. It is not cowardly and it is not morally wrong. It, ideally, is an informed choice made because of the finite nature of existence. We don’t have to have our suffering and our death decided by nature. Certainly not by God.

Personally, I am thankful that our government is basing our laws in the reality in front of us. They are acknowledging that to be human is to have the right to live and, eventually, the right to choose to not.

If you’re interested in the subject of assisted suicide, I suggest you watch the documentary How To Die In Oregon. For or against, it’s moving to watch.

This Budweiser Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA Isn’t An Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA

Budweiser just released their 2016 Super Bowl commercial four days ahead of the actual game, as now seems to be commonplace. The commercial itself, labelled as a drunk driving PSA, stars Helen Mirren telling any would-be drunk drivers that they are, basically, the lowest scum on the earth. The problem is, this isn’t an anti-drunk-driving PSA.

Have a look for yourself.

The commercial starts with Helen Mirren saying, “Ooh, my beer, lovely” after she’s been served with a Budweiser. So the first thing the ad is hitting the viewer with is beer. And not just any beer, but a fresh, sweet, sweet, frosty Budweiser. The King Of Beers, lest you forget.

Mrs. Mirren goes on to make some very frank declarations about how dumb and useless you are if you drink and drive. And I agree with all of them. Drunk driving is a very serious problem that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or have nearly harsh enough consequences.

However, I can’t help but feel that most people watching this ad will agree, too. No one ever comes out in support of drunk driving. So it’s not like Budweiser is doing anything notable here. They’re just doing what they know they have to do every once in a while, as one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers. But I can’t remember watching an “anti-drunk driving” PSA that so actively advertises beer. In fact, this drunk driving PSA makes me thirsty for a beer.

Forget the fact that Helen Mirren gets all matter-of-fact and tells potential drunk drivers that the whole world will thank them for not drinking and driving. That’s the middle bit of the ad. People are going to spend more time thinking, “Hey! It’s Helen Mirren gettin’ sassy” than they will actually listening to what she’s saying. They’ll see the perfectly lit bottle of Budweiser sitting next to a deliciously styled burger and fries. They’ll notice the beautifully staged pub she’s sitting in. And they’ll most certainly remember that this drunk driving PSA starts and ends with Helen Mirren talking about how great cold, fresh beer is.

This is a beer ad camouflaged as a PSA. It’s basically saying, “You shouldn’t drink and drive, but you should definitely drink. Isn’t beer delicious?” The ad features no suggestions for how you might avoid drinking and driving, it just says you’re an idiot if you drink and drive. No shit. How about giving people a reminder to call a cab, or a friend, or take the bus, or even walk home? You might plant that seed in their mind. Instead, this ad just tries to be memorable by having a famous woman with an English accent say some pithy things. All while enjoying a beer. Yes, that definitely makes me want to drive and not drink.

This is a PSA for Budweiser and how awesome it is. The company is down with Helen Mirren. She even drinks it! Maybe even in real life! You should drink it too! That’s why this alleged anti-drunk driving message ends with her holding a Budweiser saying, “Cheers. Ah, nice and cold.”

I don’t know about you, but I could really go for a beer.

I’m Young But I’m Not

There’s always going to be someone older than you. It starts with your parents. Maybe an older sibling or two. But you’re never going to be the oldest person alive. (Barring your ability to live to be 120.) You might end up being the oldest person you know, but realistically, there will always be someone to tell you that you’re not really that old.

This might sound a bit rich coming from a guy that’s only 31. My age is still puts me well within the “young” category, at least in relative terms. I’m not “starting out university” young or “backpacking in Europe for six months” young, I’m the “still building up a career” kind of young. That really means that only teenagers and 20-somethings wouldn’t think of me as young. And yet I’ve had a 35-year-old tell me I’m still young. So which is it?

I feel more old than I feel young. I don’t have kids but I bemoan how kids act today. I don’t have the physical problems that come with advancing age, but I do have some of the financial concerns. I still like going to bars but only if I leave before midnight. I have unreasonably ambitious dreams that conflict with the ever-increasing reasonableness of a steady paycheque. I can have regrets about the life I didn’t live while I’m still living it.

I know I’m young enough that I could make a drastic life change if I wanted to, but I would have to think long and hard about if that was the responsible thing to do. The reality is that we’re always going to be younger than someone else, even when we’re older. There will be moments where we feel young and others where we feel old (I’m looking at you, Vitamin C supplement). And yet we still always seem to want to compare our lives to those of younger people.

It can be people just two years younger than you or ten years. But if you see someone doing something at age 25 that you hadn’t achieved by 30 it can start to feel like you missed some kind of opportunity, regardless of whether it was one that was never presented to you or one you were never interested in. It creates that feeling of “If only I had done that in my 20s, I would be doing this other thing in my 30s or 40s.”

I find myself more envious of people who achieve some quick level of success in their mid-20s than I am of someone in their 50s with a lengthy, sustained career of success. And that’s ridiculous. For almost everyone, success doesn’t happen overnight. That applies to success in work, relationships, hobbies or any other pursuit. It takes a lot of hard work and lot of trying and failing (insert generic DIY mantra here). So why do we idolize young people who have achieved some title or other token of accomplishment when we really don’t know much of how they came by it?

According to a lot of other people, I’m still young. If I achieve one of my life goals by the time I turn 35, there’s going to be some 45-year-old out there who will be envious of me. Same goes if I achieve something at 50. There will be a 60-year-old who only sees a failure in his own life. But he’s not that old. He’s still got time. Just like everyone else.

John Madden Is Everything Wrong With Sports

I don’t know how many of you reading this are baseball fans, but I assume at least some are Will Ferrell fans. So you might have heard about him playing every position for 10 different Major League Baseball teams in one day. It’s important to point out that he was playing in Spring Training games. It’s even more important to point that he did this to raise money for charity. Because as much as this was a media stunt, it was for a good cause.

Now, I’m usually the first person to let his cynicism make him question whether he’s allowed to enjoy or approve of something like this. I’ll admit that when I first heard about Will Ferrell doing this I figured he was just doing it to promote Semi-Pro 2 or something. Or he was using his celebrity status to fulfill a childhood dream. But then I watched some video from the day.

Will Ferrell look ridiculous out there. Of course he did. He’s in his 50s. But he still made the play. And more to the point, I enjoyed watching him and clearly so did the players on all the teams. Why? Because it’s Spring Training. The games don’t mean anything. The games are meant to get players tuned up for the season. Sure, some players are competing for rosters spots, but Will Ferrell played for one out at each position. He hardly had any impact on the future of any fringe big league players. He had fun and so did they.

So why, exactly, is John Madden — former NFL head coach and current video game shill — chiming in? Because apparently he thinks what Will Ferrell did “lacks respect” for the “game.” That’s right, John Madden is complaining that a famous comedian isn’t respecting a child’s game played by adults for ludicrous sums of money.

John Madden probably doesn’t care that Ferrell raised money for cancer. Realistically, he probably doesn’t even know. The man’s a fossil that travels the country by bus because he’s afraid of flying. No, John Madden only cares about “respect.” Even though he plays in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am golf tournament which, at its core, is the same thing. But he dismisses the comparisons by saying Pebble Beach has tradition that goes way back to Bing Crosby (himself a shining example of respect).

And with that, John Madden shows why he represents everything that’s wrong with professional sports right now. All the old timers (players and media alike) constantly whine about how things aren’t like they used to be. They say there’s no respect, honour or integrity. Tradition has been forgotten.

Baseball players are too flashy, show too much emotion and look as if they are enjoying being paid millions of dollars to play for three hours a day. NHL players are soft now. There’s no grit in hockey anymore. No fighting. NFL players run their mouths during media scrums when really they should keep quiet. They talk too much shit after games. They should obey the code of silence so they don’t humiliate the losing team.

Put simply: no professional player is allowed to do anything that might give them a personality, make it seem like they enjoy their job or use all of their skill to their full potential.

As a sports fan I ask, where’s the fun in that?

We all watch sports because they are fun to watch. We watch for pimped home runs, end zone dances, emphatic dunks and even breakaway goals. We watch because players that show off are either the ones you love (when they’re on your team) or the ones you love to hate (when they’re not). We don’t watch for cliched quotes, stone faced benches and gentlemanly handshakes after a championship win.

That’s why people were excited to see Will Ferrell to play baseball. It was silly. It was harmless. It was fun.

Fans don’t care about respect. They care about enjoying the game. Something I doubt John Madden (or 95% of sports media) could ever really understand.