Perspective is a Wonderful Thing
[For my regular worldwide audience, this week’s column is Vancouver-specific. But don’t let that stop you from reading it and bookmarking for two weeks later when I’ll be talking about Brazil 1970.]
Trust me, this is a soccer column. All right, then why am I jumping on the “let’s complain some more about the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Team bandwagon”? Well, stick with me and you’ll see the connection. I should point out at the outset that I consider myself a limited hockey fan with limited knowledge and yet a limited appreciation of the finer points of what is a great game.
It all started just a few short days ago when I had the good fortune to be offered at the last minute two club seats to the NHL game at General Motors Place between Vancouver and the Chicago Blackhawks — free gratis. Now these seats are worth $150 before popcorn. So I jumped at the chance and brought my 10-year-old son (a soccer fan but interested in hockey too) for some quality time at GM Place. The scene was set nicely. A full house in good Christmas cheer. The usual pre-game anticipation of entertainment and excitement. Well, as is sadly customary these days, the Canucks showed their incredible teamwork with the entire bunch taking another night off in perfect tandem while displaying a callous disregard to the paying customers who presumably were made up of a fair sprinkling of home team fans. Quality time, indeed. As a soccer coach to young kids, I was completely unable to explain to my 10-year-old what was happening right in front of our eyes.
Not only did the home team lose 5-0; not only did the Blackhawks have the first, second and third star ratings in an away rink; not only was Vancouver dominated in every area of play by a team that was not superior in talent but simply wanted “it” more, but the rather lame performance I saw rewarded, by my calculations, Mark Messier to the tune of more than $70,000 for his “efforts.” Now I could just as easily have said Pavel Bure’s $60,000 or Trevor Linden’s $50,000 or Kirk McLean’s whatever, (Kirk only had to sit in a seat and watch like the rest of us that night) or etc., etc. — wouldn’t dream of just singling out Mighty Mark.
I’m thinking it could well be that you still don’t see my point. After all, the same Canucks take off 50 per cent or more of the time they’re supposed to be working, and as long as the seats in the stadium are sold, this behavior is apparently acceptable. Nobody in a position to do anything about it is going to care what quality of product is on display. On this particular point, I will mention in passing a suggestion I have for the Big Whales at Orca Bay. Pay your players a set game rate (to be determined by John Macaw) but along the lines of $1,000 each. If Vancouver wins, give the guys a bonus equivalent to the difference between $1,000 and the individual’s current game rate. In other words, Pavel collects considerably more than Gino, and so on. If they lose, they just collect the base $1,000 — after all, I wouldn’t like to see them starve. In a season such as this one with a record way below .500, the Orca could save $15 million in silly payments to these pretenders. Maybe ticket prices could reflect this and ordinary folk could afford to go watch them if they wished, but I realize that’s stretching it a bit.
OK, here’s the thing. More money was paid to these hockey players (for want of a better word) that one night than it took to make up the deficit in the Vancouver 86ers Soccer Club for the entire season last year. In case I’m offending any hockey fans, I may as well point out that Vancouver Grizzly “Big Country” Reeves current contract could run the entire Vancouver 86er organization for the next century. Don’t mention Michael or any other Bull for that matter. Perspective is a wonderful thing.
Billy Bremner died a couple of weeks ago at 54. He’s not the first great sportsperson to pass away prematurely but especially at this time of year, events like this help put perspective on life for us. Billy was a tough competitor whose “efforts” influenced many a game. The title to his autobiography said it all for Billy: “You get nowt for being second.” He was skipper and a big part of a magnificent Leeds United team that ironically finished second an inordinate number of times in the late 60’s and early 70’s. For a nice Bremner story, read Tony Waiters’ “‘Boot Room’ Perspective is a wonderful thing,” out last week.
Liverpool boss Roy Evans finally brought American goalkeeper Brad Friedel to Anfield and promptly announced that it was great to have serious competition for David James. Personally, I thought James spot was already under enough pressure but I couldn’t help wondering if the same David has the same perspective on things. You see, Brad has to play 75 per cent of Liverpool’s remaining games this season to have his dodgy work permit renewed!!! Fair competition??? Perspective is a wonderful thing.
See you in two weeks.