Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Matters and What Does Not Matter

I remember last summer there was some point where I felt overwhelmed by it all for a short while. We live busy lives and I was out for pints one lovely hot night with a good friend and as we watched the city pass by I lamented my lot. He laughed and commented that my life was a tough one alright, day after day of hanging out with friends and family eating and drinking and enjoying what life has to offer.

Um yeah, that snapped me out of it. Gave my head a shake.

This year has been, if anything, even busier but I have my head out of my ass and while I'm exhausted I have to say its a good ride. We've had fantastic weather all year and good luck to top it off and everything culminated in our family reunion at Goulais River last weekend. There was some poignancy to the whole event. Dad and his siblings are all getting older and the past two years have seen some major health scares. One uncle had a major heart attack. Another had a heart attack and almost immediately afterwards was surprised by a dire diagnosis, cancer of the esophagus. It was touch and go for him for sure. We had a cousin diagnosed with cancer and then of course there was Mom, stricken by something (they never figured out what) that put her in a wheelchair, by all accounts permanently, and left her in pretty well constant, though manageable, pain.

There will be major sorrow for all of us at some point but not yet my friends, not yet. For all of those stricken low pulled through, some luck involved yes, but of course nobody cares about that. For the most part it was bad luck that laid them low in the first place.

And for Mom, told that she would never walk again just over eighteen months ago, triumph, the victory of a stubborn, tough woman who decided, I think, that sitting around was tiresome. And so she hit the pool and the bike and when I called home in February Dad said, without fanfare as is his wont, that Mom was indeed doing well, first the wheelchair and then the walker put away, walking for the first time since over two years ago.

So besides the usual festivities, the beer and wine and rum, the barbequed porchettas and turkeys, the games for the kids and the golf tournament and the tour of old family landmarks, there was a little more plain old joy at this event, some headshaking at the toughness of old women and men and some thankfulness for what we all got to enjoy.

After the dinner on Saturday night we gave a nod to Dad, who turned 80 this June, and to he and Mom, who celebrated 50 years of marriage this past April. I gave a little speech, apologizing for the inability to celebrate two great milestones in five minutes or less (Unpossible!) but I think I did ok. I spoke to the enthusiasm that Dad has for life and how more than anything I hope we could all learn from that and I joked that while 80 years is quite the milestone you have to have some luck to make it whereas 50 years of marriage, well that takes some real heavy lifting.

Marriage isn't easy of course, you need to work at it, even in the good times. The real measure of a marriage though is when times are a bit rockier, when your spouse's father is in a coma and touch and go for a month and you have to hold down the fort while she is a thousand miles away trying to keep it together, when the baby is three months old and still up through the night and the two of you have to try and survive the overwhelming fatigue without killing your other kids and each other.

The real measure of a marriage is when your wife's health falls apart, she loses half her body weight and ends up in the hospital for five months and you go each day to sit with her and then, when she comes home, you take on the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning and the errands without complaint. The real measure of a marriage is worrying, not about your own failing health, but about your spouse and the fact that they are doing everything and you, who did so much for so long, cannot contribute.

 The real measure of strength and character is when the one who cannot stand, who cannot walk, decides that she will and is able to do so, not only because of her own strength and willpower but because of her husband who gives her everything that he has so that she can do what she needs to do to come back and defy reason.

 So yeah we celebrated that and our wonderful crazy family. We had a great party. Its a great ride.

 That's what matters.


 In 2005 I was all for whatever it took to bring some competitive balance back to the NHL. Teams like Toronto and the Rangers and the Wings were spending three times as much on salaries as many clubs. While this didn't help the first two do anything of note the fact is things were seriously out of whack. I remember watching one game between the Oilers and Wings and the commentator noting that the Wings first power play unit made more in salary than the entire Oilers' roster.

 Good management might allow a team on a budget to make a surprise run (like Tampa and Calgary did the last year before armageddon) or to be competitive year after year (as the Oilers did from 1998 to 2004 despite some awful amateur scouting) but there was no staying power for those surprises and those teams that managed to compete were first round fodder that shipped their quality to the big boys as soon as they had to be paid.

 So yeah I wanted a cap and while it was shitty that a season was lost to it I felt that it was worth it.

 And now, seven years after that deal was signed we are facing another work stoppage. And this one, my friends, is all on the owners. They got their cap last time, they got their cost certainty, the fans didn't see ticket prices fall, as Bettman claimed they would (and nobody in their right mind believed) and yet here they are, again with their top hats in hand, looking for more.

 The league is broken of course, hard to believe considering the huge increase in revenue since 2005, but it is broken and its the owners that broke it, greedy for expansion fees and the US TV money that they have chased since 1967. And so there are teams all over the US that won't draw flies and short of returning the league to the 1950s when each player was the property of whichever team signed him as a teenager until he retired there is no way to fix this. Revenue sharing is the partial answer but when teams lose twenty, thirty, forty million dollars despite being relatively successful (as Phoenix has been recently) and receiving revenue sharing already, well, no measure of revenue sharing is going to save those franchises. They can cut the players' share of HRR and limit contract length and increase revenue sharing and the zombie franchises may be propped up momentarily but this is not the NFL where TV and merchandising money means each team can make money and compete. The NHL is smalltime. Always has been, always will. There are haves and have nots and the haves don't make enough money to prop up the have nots and make a tidy profit themselves. (I may not like the owneres here but I'm not against them making money on the whole venture). I'm not a commie like Horcov.

If the owners win, and its a question of when they win and by how much really, they will all get more money but it won't fix what is broken and all of Bettman's smarm won't change it. Of course Bettman is the perfect villain in all of this. He's just doing his job really and I certainly can't get worked up about him like I used to do so but its hard to believe that anyone could make Donald Fehr look warm and fuzzy. Gary Bettman manages to do so though. The arrogance is unbelievable. As we saw from the whole Phoenix mess he cannot be trusted to tell the truth for one second. And the ego is massive.

And so he makes a good villain. ;)

There will be no hockey this fall and then come late November there will be movement and in mid December there will be an announcement and it will be a fifty fifty split of HRR and on New Year's Day the season will kick off with the Winter Classic. This time the fans are on the players' side, with the exception of those who believe the players shouldn't make anything, the 'I'd play the game for nothing' crowd. (Although seriously if you were one of 690 men good enough to play in the NHL in the world why would you be that dumb? That's elite company right there. Under 700 guys good enough to play in the Show and out of that how many are good enough to have real careers? Maybe 450 of them? Think about that the next time you complain about how much a guy who scores 'only' 50 points in the NHL makes. There are so very few of them and they are in a big money business. Fucking rights they should get paid very well.)

 But the fans, well the fans don't mean anything to the NHL and unless they were organized in a way that is impossible then they never will. So there will be a lockout. There will be hockey come 2013. The fans will return (the greatest fans in the world as Bettman calls us) and in a couple of years clubs will figure out a way to get around this contract and salaries will get goofier and teams where people don't care about hockey will struggle all the while as Bettman goes on about record revenues and how no franchises are on any difficulty.

 So this fall I'm going to watch soccer, just as I did back in 2004/2005. I'll watch some junior hockey. I'll drink some beer and help the boy learn how to play hockey and I'll chase Jenn around the house. So business as usual in a lot of ways. ;)

 But I'm not going to worry about Bettman and his cronies' latest money grab. Its a garbage league and so with the hockey comes the garbage. This is one of those times. Best to enjoy the things that matter.


Halfwise said...

True dat.

Anonymous said...

Never been to this site before and won't again, but amazing how written out this is and apparently well thought out. Not what I expected after an embarrasingly bad article about the Oilers on yahoo.

Chappy said...

So you liked it? Yes?

Scott said...

The state of the league in my opinion can be directly traced back to the hiring of Bettman as Commissioner. Since then it's been badly thought out expansion, ill-advised moves, dumping millions into non-hockey markets that have no chance at ever supporting an NHL team, bad TV deals, and cronyism at the highest order. How many more years of this crap do we have to sit through before we can get someone who is at least a little competent?

Black Dog said...

Scott - for sure it can be traced back to him being hired but he is an employee of the owners. Now granted he is the guy driving the bus but enough of them (the vast majority?) are happy with the expansion money and the cap that they overlook what drives us crazy and gave him big money.

Anyhow he will be around for a while more unless this fall is a disaster (and it won't be) and then the new guy will come in. Bettman is not a charismatic guy, for example Bill Daly comes across as being 'friendlier', so a new face may help there. Otherwise I would not expect much to change.

I could be wrong though.

Bruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce said...

Three lockouts and yer out, I say.

Black Dog said...

lol Bruce, I would say one and done

Bruce said...

Agreed. Just as long as nobody uses the word "strike" and sees these things for what they are.

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