By Aaron Hutchins - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
Phil Birnbaum, who along with “Tom Tango” is probably one of Canada’s two great gifts to quantitative analysis in sports, has been studying the NHL over the past few weeks. It was only after a second or third reading of his series breaking down luck versus skill in the NHL standings that I was able to really grasp what he was saying. I’m a fluent speaker of basic stats-ese, but not a native. Phil is a pretty approachable explainer of things (including some of the things devised by Tango), so usually I don’t have to bash myself over the head too hard with his findings. But I didn’t see how interesting the message was until now.
Probably all hockey fans know instinctively that the introduction of the shootout has injected a fair amount of randomness into the year-end NHL standings. Birnbaum, looking at the shootout-era data, has now shown just how much. In the old NHL that still had ties, it took an average of 36 NHL games for a team’s actual talent to become as important to its standings position as sheer randomness. “Talent” is defined here as repeatable ability, ability relevant to prediction: after 36 games, your team’s distance in the standings from .500 would be about half luck and half “talent”, and that would be reflected in your guess as to how they would do in the next 36 games (assuming nothing else about the team had changed). Over a full season, we could be confident that there was little randomness left in the ordering of the teams in the league table.
But in the new post-ties NHL, Birnbaum notes, the standard deviation of standings points has shrunk from about .2 per game to .15. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 7, 2012 at 11:35 AM - 0 Comments
Mercury has ice and golf is riding itself of belly putters
We’re not alone
NASA announced that its Messenger mission to Mercury has confirmed the existence of ice in deep, perpetually shaded craters at the poles of the planet nearest the sun. Neutron spectroscopy established the existence of hydrogen-rich deposits that must be water, but perhaps more interesting are signs that Mercury possesses chemically organic material: molecules containing carbon, captured from comets and asteroids. That could provide a crucial data point for measuring the extraterrestrial incidence of chemical preconditions for life.
A line in the ocean
The Canada-Denmark doomsday clock inched backward from midnight as the countries reached formal agreement on a maritime boundary between Canada’s Arctic possessions and self-governing Greenland. “Denmark and Canada are showing that we can settle our disputes peacefully,” said Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Søvndal. “One might wish the same for the rest of the world.” But keep your powder dry: the status of disputed Hans Island, lying athwart the sea boundary, awaits disposition. Continue…
By Scaachi Koul - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
For the first time in eight decades, the Augusta National Golf Club has female…
For the first time in eight decades, the Augusta National Golf Club has female members.
The über exclusive club had come under increasing criticism for its all-male membership. Today, though, it announced it has invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to join as the first women to don green jackets when the club opens in October. Both women accepted.
In 2001, Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations urged the club to bring more women into the fold. Former club chairman Hootie Johnson refused to budge on the issue, losing television sponsors for the Masters. He famously said that Augusta may one day have a woman in the club, “but not at the point of a bayonet.”
Rice and Moore were reportedly first considered as possible members five years ago.
By Gustavo Vieira - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:51 AM - 0 Comments
Across the U.S., hundreds of golf courses sit deserted—victims of the foreclosure crisis, and golf’s steady decline
When B.J. ran into the house yelping in pain, his paw bleeding, Lenny Leonov thought his 60-lb. dog had stepped on some broken glass. But when the brown and white boxer started convulsing and foaming at the mouth, Leonov rushed the dog to the vet. It was too late. B.J. had been bitten by a rattlesnake, and died in the emergency room. This wasn’t Leonov’s first brush with exotic animals at his suburban Florida home. A year earlier, a six-foot alligator had to be removed from his backyard.
Leonov doesn’t live in the jungle; he lives next to an abandoned golf course. His North Fort Myers home backs onto the former Lochmoor Country Club. It was shuttered in 2005 to make way for a lush new golf course, three condo towers and a marina. Then the financial crisis hit. The development was abandoned, another victim of the U.S. foreclosure crisis. The golf course has since grown wild. “It’s so bad,” says Leonov, “the weeds around the water hole next to me are 12 feet high.”
This post-apocalyptic scene is playing out across the U.S., where predictions of a boom in golf failed to materialize, leaving a trail of closed golf courses—and thousands of angry neighbours—in its wake. Starting in the mid-’90s, developers built thousands of new courses in the U.S., but the Internet bubble, 9/11 and the financial crisis, one after the other, ransacked Americans’ disposable income. Hundreds of golf courses have closed in recent years, many of them tied to grand real estate development plans, like the one behind Leonov’s home. “Most of these golf courses were built to sell real estate with very little due diligence as to whether the golf course could survive on its own,” says Greg Nathan, senior vice-president of the National Golf Foundation, based in Jupiter, Fla.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
Is the golf club giant’s venture into hockey a game changer or a marketing ploy?
Rinks across the country—which have seen their share of consumer fads—buzzed last month with news that TaylorMade, manufacturer of top-of-the-line golf gear, was getting into the hockey-stick business. The California-based company announced a long-term collaboration with Montreal’s Reebok-CCM that both firms say will bring “game-changing equipment” to Canada’s national sport. First up: an eye-catching carbon-fibre stick dubbed the RBZ, featuring a snow-white blade.
TaylorMade cemented its reputation as a trailblazer when it introduced metal drivers to golf in 1979. It’s now the second-largest maker of clubs in the U.S., with $1.3 billion in sales last year. Analysts applauded CCM for reaching between sporting silos with the deal, but these were not strangers spotting each other across a crowded room. Both companies are wholly owned by the global sports-goods behemoth, Adidas Group—a fact omitted from their joint press release and most of the ensuing media coverage.
So are kinematics geeks at TaylorMade about to, in their words, “redefine” hockey gear? Or is this just a cross-market promotional gimmick aimed to capture momentum in the hockey market? The Adidas Group’s 2012 outlook, after all, predicts low- to mid-single-digit growth at TaylorMade, whereas Reebok-CCM is expected to achieve “strong double-digit” increases, thanks to growing interest in hockey south of the border. Marrying the two labels gets TaylorMade in front of hundreds of thousands of hockey players, many of whom also play golf.
By Lyndsie Bourgnon - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 5 Comments
Two Canadian developers are helping Cuba use golf to boost its ailing economy
In a famous picture, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are playing a round of golf. Guevara, in military fatigues, is studiously preparing a putt, and Castro stands aside, scrutinizing his position. They both look serious, but the context is hotly contested among historians—were they practising for an upcoming meeting with U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower? Or were they actually taunting him?
Cuba experts tend to agree it was a taunt. In post-revolutionary Cuba, golf was a sport for the rich, the bourgeois. And for 50-odd years, it all but disappeared from the island. (There’s currently only one 18-hole course.) But now Cuban authorities have given preliminary approval to develop four luxury golf resorts. Two of those contracts have been handed to Canadian developers.
Of the four, Ottawa-based Standing Feather International is the closest to breaking ground. Their joint venture with a division of the Cuban tourism ministry has been approved, and they’re waiting for a final sign-off from Havana to begin building. Plans for the Loma Linda Golf Estates, in the eastern Holguin region, cover 520 acres and include two golf courses, a five-star hotel, and 1,200 townhouse-style condos.
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 1, 2011 at 2:59 PM - 3 Comments
Canadians are healthier in most every sense than a long list of wealthy, developed nations
At 144, we are in better shape in most every sense than a long list of wealthy, developed nations. Our Canada Day special is a reminder that by many global measures we are a blessed bastion of privilege, peace, freedom–and big roomy houses. Read on to find out the ten reasons why there has never been a better time to be Canadian and be sure to check out the full story here.
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 1, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 11 Comments
By many global measures we are a blessed bastion of privilege, peace, freedom—and big roomy houses
We are Canada. At 144 years we are neither young nor old, as nations go. And nations do come and do go, it bears remembering. You don’t have to be very old to appreciate that the world map that occupied a corner of your childhood classroom is a relic of another age; that borders once drawn in blood aren’t indelible at all, they are just lines to be moved, or bent or erased by popular will. Yet, here we are, still in this together, and doing rather well.
Like any worthy anniversary, it is deserving of celebration but also of the appreciation that future years together aren’t guaranteed, they must be earned, and mutually agreed upon. Back when Canada was a mere pup of 115 years, Ralph Klein, then the brash young mayor of a brash young Calgary, called Canada, “perhaps the only country in the world held together by curiosity.” He asked if such a confederation of interests and regions can endure. “[N]o one is quite prepared to give up on her yet,” he said, “as if we all have some lingering desire to see how this ongoing exercise in nation-building ends.”
And why not? No. 143 was not the easiest of years, but it was largely free of any soul-sucking existential debate on Canada’s future. There was a federal election, and no one died in the process. Economic uncertainty lingers, but we emerged stronger than the year before, and healthier in most every sense than a long list of wealthy, developed nations. And, yes, let’s not lose sight of that inarguable fact: we are rich.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
I grew up watching the Masters with Dad on TV. Actually going was another thing.
I’ve never drawn up a bucket list, for doing so would only remind Death that he eventually needs to claim me. But going to the Masters—as I did last week— would have ranked right up there with: a) seeing the Great Pyramids and b) sealing the inventor of Auto-Tune inside the Great Pyramids.
I grew up watching the Masters—sprawled on the floor as my dad cheered and cursed and snored in his chair. I remember Jack in 1986 and Tiger in 1997 and Greg Norman falling short in what felt like every Masters from 1942 to 2005. Plus, going to the tournament in person would save me from having to endure the TV guys going on about the damn azaleas. Such fragrant majesty!
Augusta National has so meticulously crafted its image as a place of tranquil, otherworldly beauty that it’s surprising to discover the club exists on our plane of reality, near strip malls and Waffle Houses and the like. I had anticipated moats and centaurs.
By John Intini - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:07 AM - 3 Comments
He’s plunged in the rankings, but Woods is still the undisputed fan favourite
A couple of weeks ago, hoping to catch a glimpse of “the old Tiger” Woods, fans descended on Bay Hill, the famous golf course in Orlando, Fla., for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Whenever Woods set up on the practice green or the driving range, it seemed everyone from preschoolers to guys who looked like they could have been around in the 1920s when Bobby Jones was the golfer to beat stood wide-eyed and still. Even when he was 10 strokes off the lead going into the final round, thousands of fans, many in their Sunday best—a red golf shirt, Tiger’s trademark—lined the edges of the fairways, eight rows deep in some spots. They all seemed to be clinging to the prospect that here, at a tournament Woods had won six times, he might finally put an end to his 16-month drought.
There were certainly flashes of greatness—a miraculous iron shot over trees from deep in the rough on the ninth hole; a 55-foot birdie putt on 18—but those looking for vintage Tiger came away disappointed. Instead, they saw the same inconsistent golfer who hasn’t taken home a title since the trashing of his Cadillac Escalade in November 2009. The fender bender that would lead to the shattering of Woods’s squeaky clean image, and the stranger-than-fiction scandal that included everything from porn stars to a Perkins waitress, and six weeks in sex rehab. Woods posted a never-in-contention -1 at Bay Hill, finishing in a tie for 24th. And his final tune-up for this week’s Master’s only fuelled the critics, who question if the 35-year-old, who has slipped to No. 7 in the world, will ever dominate golf again.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 3, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Björk versus Canada, Microsoft’s founder sues just about everyone, and Brian Orser exacts sweet revenge
He plays for Queen and country
Taking a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook, a buff British PM David Cameron went body boarding during holidays in Cornwall. He’d urged Britons to aid tourism by vacationing at home. While en vacances, his wife, Samantha, delivered their fourth child, Florence, another economic boost.
By M.J. Stone - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Swing coach Sean Foley has made believers out of golf’s young stars. That gets people talking.
Ten years ago, on a day in early April, a dozen coaches were gathered inside the Glen Abbey academy in Oakville, Ont., for a golf instructors’ seminar. Situated near the 10th tee of the famed course, the room offered a panorama of the sloping fairway beyond. To start things off, participants were asked to introduce themselves and say a few words about their goals. When Foley’s turn arrived, he cleared his throat. “In 10 years’ time,” he said, “I want to be the swing coach to five of the top 50 ranked golfers in the world.”
Everyone burst into laughter. Although the 26-year-old Foley was a distinguished enough instructor of Canadian junior golfers, his resumé with PGA Tour professionals was non-existent. No one believed his cachet as a junior coach could translate into a job with an established tour player. And with only a handful of Canadians on the PGA Tour, what were the odds that one of Foley’s junior players would make it to the big leagues?
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
The Mission Hill golf club on Hainan Island, China currently boasts six courses with a plan to build ten
This October, the Mission Hill golf club on Hainan Island, China, is hosting a pro-am event, the Mission Hills Star Trophy, where celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Phelps are expected to attend and professional golfers can win a US$1.28-million top prize.
This is no ordinary golf club, though. The billion-dollar property currently boasts six courses (the plan is to build a total of 10), 525 hotel rooms, an adventure park, a man-made beach, and what has been described as maybe the world’s biggest collection of women aged 18 to 24, with 3,000 young female caddies currently living on-site.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Never again shall I shank it, pull it, hook it, slice it, flub it, duff it, sky it, or just plain miss it
For the whole of my adult life, I have had a love-hate relationship with the game of golf: I love me and it hates me.
But no more, for I am giving it up. Let it be recorded in the pages of Maclean’s that I have played my last round, recorded my last triple bogey, and lied for the last time about it being a triple bogey when, let’s be honest, it took me five strokes just to get out of that sand trap. Fittingly, I am giving up golf “cold turkey,” which is what I’m told I resemble when I swing.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, April 12, 2010 at 4:29 PM - 14 Comments
The gods of golf decided to go for cheap melodrama on Sunday, letting Phil Mickelson walk away from the field and take a third Masters as his cancer-fighting wife Amy looked on. Well, maybe we shouldn’t credit it to the gods, but to Mickelson’s all-around game, which only Tiger Woods can match at times when his morale and concentration aren’t shot to hell.
Insofar as fate or divine intervention had anything to do with Lefty’s win, they seemed to be against it. He had an extremely makeable birdie putt on the 2nd hole, but on his backswing a stamen from a pine tree plopped directly in the path of his ball. This was creepy, as Bill Simmons would say, on a Blair Witch level. As Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist summoned their formidable intellectual powers to the task of figuring out what the hell happened, CBS cut to a wide shot of the hole. The day was sunny, without enough wind to stir a puff of pipesmoke; there were, and are, no trees within 70 or 80 yards of the hole. The offending vegetation appeared to have dropped vertically out of a clear sky. 81-year-old Dan Jenkins, the Twitterizing dean of the world’s golf writers, quipped “I’ve never seen that before, but this is only my 60th Masters.”
If Mickelson had lost by one shot, everyone would be making a big deal of the incident today; since it betokened nothing and is already being forgotten, let it serve an instructive lesson in how superstitions come about. But let’s also note that a stamen is the male reproductive organ of a plant. Apparently Phil has less trouble getting distracted by such things than some other golfers [rimshot].
I never liked the old Phil Mickelson much. Somehow, and I’m not at all sure this was ever a fair perception, he seemed to combine smugness, haphazard stewardship of his talent, and weak nerve; that he was liked by American galleries from the beginning only made matters worse. It was a source of wholly non-patriotic delight to me when fellow “lefty” Mike Weir beat him to a major-championship victory. (Weir, Mickelson, and New Zealander Sir Bob Charles, the only lefty swingers to win majors, are all right-handed in everyday life; the world is still waiting for a truly lefty Lefty.)
But in the face of the Tiger era, Mickelson buckled down, worked hard, and found another gear, without sacrificing his family, his cheerfulness, or his relationship with the fans. With each passing year he looks more impressive, more like someone who stands as a living rebuke to Woods—to say nothing of the Sergio Garcias, the David Duvals, and the Notah Begays, the players who had the innate gifts to match Mickelson’s tournament record but haven’t closed the deal. It’s doubly endearing that Lefty has been quietly trying to minimize the bathos of his wife’s and mother’s cancer diagnoses, subtly discouraging reporters from whispering at him as though they were huddled in the rear pews of a funeral Mass. (Journalists don’t equate cancer with death; they think it’s much worse.)
Before the fourth-round tee time, I heard some mike-wielding goofball actually approach Mickelson and attempt a lurid thumbnail sketch of a tumour-ravaged, vomit-flecked Amy feebly rising from her sickbed to watch Sunday’s golf from home. Mickelson, forgiving and full of pep, pointed out that the Mrs. had joined him in Augusta and would be in the gallery that very day. And so she was. She looked great.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 5:27 AM - 2 Comments
The Masters news tonight is full of Phil Mickelson’s astonishing Saturday hulkout on holes 13, 14, and 15, where he went eagle, eagle, birdie-that-came-within-18-inches-of-another-eagle to carve five strokes off Lee Westwood’s lead in about the time it takes to eat a bowl of soup. It’s easy to overlook that Westwood is actually still the 54-hole leader at 12-under. Mickelson’s sequence was like a grenade going off in the middle of a tournament that is, otherwise, being decided on the greens—i.e., the most carefully tended real estate, square inch for square inch, that exists anywhere on planet Earth. (I once interviewed an Augusta greenskeeper who had learned turf science at Alberta’s Fairview College; he was bound by non-disclosure rules so strict that Augusta employees can’t even talk about how many Augusta employees there are, but I was left with little doubt that he and his colleagues are intimate with those greens down to the level of individual shoots of grass.)
Westwood is playing steady, confident, error-free golf. It’s a shame that Masters.com hasn’t preserved video of Westwood’s second shot at the par-4 7th. Off the tee, he put the ball in light rough with a stand of trees between himself and the hole, as many do there; most golfers most days would hem and haw over the ball and consult their caddies for a half-hour, especially with a green jacket in the balance, but Westwood stepped coolly to the ball (“Whoa, what? He’s hitting?”) and just schwacked it nonchalantly through the pines and onto the green, stirring nary a needle. He has apparently decided that the order of the day is no fear, no contemplation, no overthinking.
I had high hopes for the Lee Westwood-Ian Poulter battle that Friday’s round seemed to set up; the two Englishmen, the cut-rate James Bond and the eccentric fashion-victim, would have made an excellent Sunday pairing. Alas, Poulter carded a 74 on Saturday. He might still be reading the greens better than anybody, and a lot of men win majors by keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs, but he doesn’t seem like a natural candidate to rally from six strokes behind.
Indeed, nobody does; 18 of the last 19 Masters champions have come from the fourth round’s final pairing, and Westwood and Mickelson will wake up with margins of four and three strokes, respectively, over their nearest competitors—the sturdy Korean bantam K.J. Choi and a certain philandering Cablinasian who, despite his high placing, seems to be having a tough weekend.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, April 9, 2010 at 1:35 AM - 11 Comments
In the spirit of Augusta National, maybe we should treat Tiger Woods as just another golfer today. Perhaps we all thought there was something unsavoury about Woods making his return in such a stifling totalitarian atmosphere, with the club refusing to bend its rules about television coverage and policing the galleries for the smallest demonstration of adverse sentiment. But you can’t deny it made for good viewing. The almost hysterical reserve of the broadcasters served to put the focus on Tiger’s golf, which remains exquisite despite his brief vacation.
(The one venue of protest was the sky—even Augusta National can’t control that—where planes hired by pranksters appeared trailing banners that read “TIGER—DID YOU MEAN BOOTYISM” and “SEX ADDICT? YEAH. RIGHT. SURE. ME TOO.” These struck me as disappointingly feeble wisecracks for someone to be spending that kind of money on.)
Woods’ 68 is his best-ever first round at the Masters, even though, unlike some players ahead of him on the leaderboard, his position in the next-to-last threesome on the course forced him deal with increasingly chaotic late-afternoon winds and even a smattering of rain during his time in Amen Corner. This didn’t stop him from making everyone else look helpless. Time and time again he’d swoop in on holes other golfers had all but vandalized and play approach shots that were the equivalent of declaring “THIS is how it’s done here, students.”
He posted two eagles, along with three bogeys that no one could reasonably regard as a sign of “rust”. I was most impressed with the birdie on the par-five 13th, where he played his second shot onto a geometrically perfect spot on the rising back surface of the green and watched it back up to within ten feet of the hole. He literally couldn’t have done that more elegantly if he had the ball on a string (not without teleporting so that he had a different angle on it after it landed, anyway). More often than anyone else, Tiger plays shots that are more impressive, even to a near-total golf ignoramus, than flukily putting the ball directly into the hole would be.
But I’m much more happy about the early tentative vindication for my thesis, developed after Tom Watson’s down-to-the-wire battle for the British Open last year, that there might be no such thing as an old golfer anymore. Why should there be? We have LASIK, a growing buffet of anti-inflammatories, and what amounts to cheap consumer bionics now. There’s probably a golf use for Botox, though I don’t know what it would be. (I’m no pharmacist but I suspect it would kill you if you took enough to keep your head still during your swing.) Watson’s Open run followed mere days after he received a double hip replacement. People joked about this, when he led at Turnberry after the first round, as if it were a liability. They’re bound to stop joking and start booking operating-room time any minute now.
Watson himself declared before the tournament that he is too old to stay in contention on a course as long as Augusta. Fans should be aware that it’s only 3% longer than the Ailsa Course he dominated at Turnberry. But maybe he should be taken at his word and expected to succumb to some upstart punk. Like clubhouse leader Fred Couples—who at 50 has the extremely rare distinction of having outlived two ex-wives—or 52-year-old Sandy Lyle, three strokes behind Couples and two behind Watson, whose game has been in the wilderness almost as long as Watson’s was.
Note, too, that Watson’s Open good-luck charm, British Amateur champ 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, is playing at Augusta for the last time before going pro. Manassero shot 71 today, which leaves him T-22nd with Mike Weir and Ernie Els and on pace to make the cut easily. Maybe there’s no such thing as a young golfer either?
By Colby Cosh - Friday, February 19, 2010 at 6:23 AM - 17 Comments
1. “…and so, in an effort to avoid temptation, I will henceforth be devoting myself exclusively to golf in its underappreciated, family-friendly ‘miniature’ form. See you at the windmill!”
2. “I’m sorry to announce that I will not be appearing at The Masters in 2010. I will, however, be using that weekend to perform in a golf-themed adult film entitled The Masturs.”
3. “Yes, people of Earth, I have most assuredly been in some sort of bizarre sex jail for the past three months. NOT preparing for a reptoid invasion of your… sorry, our planet. It was definitely the sex jail thing.”
4. “Do you people realize what kind of messed-up childhood I had? You should be grateful my sex life doesn’t consist largely of infantilism, bondage, and urinating on Babe Zaharias lookalikes.”
5. “After a lot of painful introspection I’ve become convinced I made a mistake marrying so young. To just the one woman.”
6. “I’ve asked you all here today so I could tell you about a friend of mine who saved my life. A friend named L. Ron Hubbard.”
7. “Nooo, not the science-fiction author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. That’s just a weird coincidence. This Ron Hubbard is a bartender who pulled me out of a malfunctioning hot tub in a VIP room. Believe me, poor bastard’s heard all the jokes.”
8. “Basically, as I grew up, I found myself superbly prepared for everything about a professional golf career… except the overwhelming, fatal tide of sexy double-entendres.”
9. “And so I apologize to fans everywhere for my blatantly obvious use of outlawed performance-enhancing drugs. …Wait, what? This is about the screwing? Seriously??”
10. “Above all, I hope my troubles won’t lead to unjust prejudice against my fellow Cablinasians. Stay strong, my people.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
It takes a village to raise an idiot
Jacques Rogge and the rest of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee have relented and will allow the Australian International Olympic Committee to fly its iconic “boxing kangaroo” flag from a balcony of the Vancouver Olympic Village. The flag was ordered removed because the IOC bans unauthorized commercial symbols, and the cartoon ’roo is trademarked, albeit only to the Australian Olympic Committee. The dispute ﬁred up Aussies everywhere. Deputy PM Julia Gillard called it a “scandal.” Vancouver radio phone-in callers raged at the IOC’s bully tactics. IOC spokesman Mark Adams called the issue “a storm in a teacup.” Meantime, athletes are streaming to the Oz sector of the village for a photo with the giant ’roo.
He did it for the kids
It was death in the afternoon for any bull that Jairo Miguel Sànchez Alonso faced Saturday at an arena in southwest Spain. The 16-year-old killed six bulls without mussing his sparkly white suit of lights. He returned to Spain after several years apprenticing in Mexico, where there is no minimum age for fighters. He almost died there in 2007 when a bull gored him. Alonso holds no grudges. “I feel quite bad when the bull has been good and you see the expression on his face, the innocence,” he says. “He has given you his bravery.” The event, while bloody, had a softer side. It was a fundraiser for children with autism.
Bad times for burkas
French Prime Minister François Fillon announced this week he’ll deny citizenship to a Moroccan national who forces his French-born wife to wear a burka. “If this man does not want to change his attitude, he has no place in our country,” he said. Meantime, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a law banning full burkas is gaining steam. He has declared the full veil and body covering “not welcome” in France, and inconsistent with the country’s values. It’s certainly not welcome in Paris post offices. Two burka-clad robbers walked into a post office in the Paris suburb of Athis Mons, an area with a large immigrant Muslim population. They pulled out handguns and stole the equivalent of $6,000.
Blades of glory
Germany’s Katarina Witt and Canada’s Elizabeth Manley met on the ice in Vancouver Sunday, 22 years after the Teutonic bombshell and Canada’s sweetheart squared off in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Witt won gold but Manley, under enormous home-country pressure, pulled off the skate of her life to finish second. Both women are doing television colour commentary in Vancouver, but they took a turn on the Robson Square ice rink with young members of the Coquitlam Skating Club. “We’re not here for a rematch,” joked Manley, 44. “Not at our age, I’m 20—plus tax.” Replied a razor-sharp Witt: “Oh, my God! How much are taxes here?”
Tea time in Tennessee
Cranky country singer and musical comedian Ray Stevens’s flagging career was ready for a death panel. Then the 71-year-old singer of such novelty hits as Ahab the A-rab and Gitarzan wrote We the People, a lighthearted attack on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative. The video, which shows Stevens strumming a bathroom plunger and singing, “You vote Obamacare, we’re gonna vote you outta there,” is a YouTube hit and an unofficial anthem of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Stevens sang at the group’s convention in Nashville on the weekend, where Sarah Palin raised eyebrows with her $100,000 fee for giving the keynote speech. “That’s a lot of damned tea,” grumbled one delegate.
Do as I say, not as I…ahh-choo!
As deputy health minister for the Czech Republic, Michael Vit has the job of deciding whether to impose mandatory swine flu vaccinations on “all people indispensable for the functioning of the country.” The day after receiving the assignment, Vit came down with H1N1 himself. “I have muscle problems, a headache, simply all symptoms of the flu,” he said. The deputy health minister admitted he had yet to receive the vaccination. “As you see, I’m a living example.”
‘Funeral’ for friends, and strangers
Canadian orchestral rockers Arcade Fire made it to the Super Bowl last weekend, when the group’s stirring anthem Wake Up, from their hit CD Funeral, was used in a series of NFL promo ads. While the group is protective of licensing its music, they had their reasons in this case. They turned over the fat licensing fee to Partners in Health, an agency with deep roots in Haiti. Band member Régine Chassagne’s family came from the island. She expressed her grief in an article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time.”
Broom versus stick
Icy, obsessed with winning and not above the occasional cheap shot. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and hockey are a match made in heaven. Hockey is “deeply reflective of the character of the nation,” he explained in a pre-Olympic interview with Sports Illustrated. Harper, who has studied the origins of the sport, said it contributes to “a uniquely Canadian sense of belonging in a community across the country.” Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff waxes poetic about a different sport: curling. Naturally, he identifies with the skip. “It’s the leadership and the precision, and the quiet,” he told the Globe and Mail. Apparently he’s not the sort of skip who shouts unseemly commands like, “Hurry, hurry hard.”
Very, very teed off
A Kelowna, B.C., entrepreneur is cashing in on Tiger Woods’s extramarital mayhem. Mike Caldwell has produced the Mistress Collection, a boxed set of 12 golf balls, each bearing a portrait of one of Woods’s mistresses. “He likes to play a round with them…and now you can, too!” notes his website, tailofthetiger.com. Caldwell says he sold 1,500 sets at US$54.90 in the first six days. Less than impressed is Joslyn James, an adult film star and alleged Woods mistress. She called a news conference to denounce the balls as hurtful and in bad taste. “It bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands hitting a ball with my photo on it,” she said. She then showed her sensitive side by releasing 100 tawdry text messages she said she received from Woods.
You don’t want a visit by Oscar
Oscar the cat has a near infallible ability to detect which of the patients in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., is next to die, says Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician. When Oscar curls up with a patient, staff know to phone the next of kin. “It’s like he’s on a vigil,” says Dosa. Such insight would come as no surprise to cat owners, who are themselves terribly smart. Certainly smarter than dog owners, according to a study by Dr. Jane Murray at the University of Bristol. Winston Churchill was a cat lover. Paris Hilton loves dogs. Want more proof? Cat owners (if anyone really owns a cat) are 1.36 times more likely than dog owners to hold a university degree. They’re also 100 per cent less likely to have to follow behind their pet and scoop droppings off the sidewalk.
Gay but not cheerful
The headline in the Seattle Weekly says it all: “Gay, mentally challenged biracial male cheerleader claims discrimination.” All that high school student Benjamin Grundy wants is to shake his pom-poms like the girls on the squad at Garfield-Palouse High School in tiny Palouse, Wash. Instead, the cheer coach suggested he’d make a great mascot. He was eventually given a cheerleader’s top but denied the rest of the uniform, pom-poms, and the right to join the dance routine. “I was reduced to standing there and moving my arms,” he says. The school board denies discrimination, but Benjamin’s mother, Suzanne Grundy, is pressing the case with the ACLU and her congressman. “The combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them,” she told the local TV station.
L’état c’est moi
Quebec’s Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne has revived a tradition that ended 44 years ago—awarding medals, in gold, silver and bronze, and bearing his coat of arms, to those making contributions to their communities. The practice of awarding such medals ended in 1966 after Quebec nationalists condemned the symbolic tie with the monarchy. Duchesne has no such qualms: he also invoked royal privilege to avoid testifying before a national assembly committee on how he spends some $1 million annually in taxpayer money. His refusal to testify was condemned by all sides of the legislature.
Disharmony in the house of Wang
It was Hong Kong feng shui master Tony Chan’s skills in arranging buildings to create a positive life force that drew Chan to the eccentric, pigtailed property magnate Nina Wang. He began a 15-year affair with Wang, 23 years his senior. Now, he’s accused of arranging her $4-billion fortune in a manner auspicious to himself. When she died at 69 in 2007, he claimed to be her sole heir. Her family contested the will, and he’s charged with forgery.
She also has a Ph.D. in thankless tasks
Leila Ghannam, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, is the first woman governor of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank. Her challenge is to quash a resurgence by hard-liners in Hamas. “My intelligence experience, like my degree in psychology, helps me carry out my job,” she says.
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM - 0 Comments
This week’s newsmakers
Britain’s royal family doesn’t travel lightly, but not always by choice. Just look at the swag Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, collected on their recent Canadian tour. The list of books, jams, and teapots, recently catalogued on the Prince of Wales’s website, tops out at more than 100 items. It includes his and hers BlackBerries from the premier of Ontario and a bottle of “Victoria gin” from the mayor of Victoria. Meanwhile, Prince William, who visits Australia this week, was asked to help recover the missing skull of Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy, who was shot dead in 1802 and whose head was sent to England in a glass jar. Elder Michael Mundine says the prince will appreciate the importance of the request because he “has his mother’s heart.”
The manly art of cabinetry
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s larger-than-expected cabinet shuffle Tuesday didn’t advance the thin ranks of women. Lisa Raitt (she of the “sexy” isotope shortage) is bumped from the natural resources portfolio to labour. Rona Ambrose leaves low-profile labour for the giant public works department. Diane Ablonczy becomes minister of state for seniors, going from the equally obscure small business and tourism. Marjory LeBreton remains government leader in the Senate. Expect Harper to give her a Tory majority there to push through his agenda.
Yup, still crazy
Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, the man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, emerged from a Turkish prison Monday and checked into a five-star hotel. In typical bizarre fashion he called himself the “Christ eternal,” proclaimed the coming “end of the world,” and angled for a huge book deal to tell his story. Agca has never revealed why he tried to kill the pope, or if he was acting alone.
Putting the hate in Haiti
U.S. President Barack Obama’s rapid response to the earthquake in Haiti won praise from former president George W. Bush, but it isn’t playing well with America’s extreme right. Radio host Rush Limbaugh said Obama is using the crisis to “burnish” his image “in both the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.” He also advised against donating to the Red Cross relief fund through a link on the White House website, claiming donors could end up on Obama’s mailing list. Meantime, evangelist and former nominee for the Republican presidential ticket, Pat Robertson, said Haiti suffers because its people made an 18th-century pact with the devil to free themselves from French rule. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs labelled both comments “stupid.”
Fore, and after
Golfer John Daly is a shadow of his former self. The hard-living 44-year-old has lost 116 lb., about the poundage of some women playing the LPGA circuit. Daly credits lap-band surgery, an implanted balloon that constricts the stomach. The results are so striking no one recognized him as he tried to enter a recent party after a pro-am event in Honolulu, where he was serving as host. “If I weighed 300 lb. and had four chins, I’d have no problem getting in,” he said. Fans can share Daly’s attempt to get his life and his game on track. His comeback is the subject of a reality show, Being John Daly, premiering on the Golf Channel in March.
It was an assignment to cover an Elvis convention that hooked Delta, B.C., photographer Brian Howell on the wacky world of celebrity impersonators. From there, the frequent Maclean’s contributor travelled North America searching out faux Mick Jaggers, Johnny Depps, Marilyn Monroes and a southern-fried Colonel Sanders. His exploration of celebrity obsession resulted in a photo book, Fame Us, and now a portrait exhibition at Vancouver’s Windsor Gallery. One who escaped his notice is Annette Edwards. The 57-year-old British great-grandmother spent $16,000 on surgeries to replicate the look of slinky Jessica from the animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. “I just think she’s a very sexy cartoon,” she said.
Guess who’s a big soccer fan?
It’s been years since predominantly Muslim Egypt ﬁelded a World Cup-qualifying soccer team, and coach Hassan Shehata seeks the glory of a higher power. “Pious behaviour” is essential to selection on his team. “I strive to make sure that those who wear the Egypt jersey are on good terms with God,” says Shehata. Speaking of which, a near miracle played out on the cricket pitch in New Zealand. Canada earned its first ever World Cup cricket win Friday, defeating Zimbabwe at the under-19 World Cup. “This is the start of hopefully a great future for Canadian cricket,” said team captain Rustam Bhatti.
Heck of a yard sale
Disgraced Montreal money manager Earl Jones, 67, pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding his clients of $50 million over 30 years. Both defence and prosecution are recommending an 11-year sentence, although the 67-year-old will likely serve only a fraction of that behind bars. Jones’s clients face a lifetime of poverty. A charitable assistance fund is spending $5,000 a week in temporary assistance to help 50 seniors whose savings were wiped out. They may see a small share of their money after the sale of four properties previously held by the high-living Jones and his wife—and their contents. A long list of possessions from their Dorval condo, including golf clubs, a golf cart and a Rolex watch, are being auctioned off.
An offer she didn’t refuse
Jackie Collins, the 72-year-old British author of such steamy novels as Hollywood Wives, knows of what she writes. She told U.S. tabloid The Globe she had a fling with actor Marlon Brando when she was just 15. She was attending a Hollywood party with her older sister, actress Joan Collins, when Brando, then about 29, pitched his woo by proxy. “He sent someone over to say, ‘Marlon thinks you’re great-looking and have a great body and would like to meet you,’ ” Collins said. “We had a very brief but fabulous affair. He was at the height of his fame, and gorgeous.” Brando, who died in 2004, could have faced a Roman Polanski-style world of pain had the affair been made public.
Don’t ask me, I’m just the biographer
Rocker Ozzy Osbourne has released I Am Ozzy, his autobiography— or the bits he remembers. As he notes in his introduction: “Other people’s memories of the stuff in this book might not be the same as mine. I ain’t gonna argue with ’em. Over the past 40 years I’ve been loaded on booze, coke, acid, Quaaludes, glue, cough mixture, heroin, Rohypnol, Klonopin, Vicodin, and too many other heavy-duty substances to list in this footnote . . . I’m not the f–king Encyclopedia Britannica, put it that way. What you read here is what dribbled out of the jelly I call my brain when I asked it for my life story.”
Her father’s development of the Frisbee and hula hoop made Elena Marano a wealthy woman, but her ex-husband Peter Marano’s investment in the yo-yo market of London commercial real estate has cost her $8.4 million. Marano is appealing in a British court a settlement requiring her to pay her ex’s real estate losses. He already got an equal share of their $32 million in assets when the 20-year marriage ended in 2007. She claimed her ex’s property portfolio has since rebounded, in a case of “boom, bust and boom again.”
No head games
Just weeks ago Patrice Cormier was the plucky pride of Canada as captain of the national junior team. On Monday, the 19-year-old Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward was suspended indeﬁnitely by the Quebec hockey league for nailing Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts with an elbow to the head. Tam lost teeth, and went into convulsions. It’s the second ugly head-shot in a week to earn a suspension. On Thursday Zach Kassian of the Windsor Spitfires concussed Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts.
Jack Benny goes back in the vault
It’s been almost 35 years since the death of comedian Jack Benny, but his international fan club carries on—or tries to. These days, it is spitting mad at CBS. The network had discovered 25 original Benny TV shows long thought lost. The fan club offered to pay to digitize the tapes, which date from the 1950s, and Benny’s family approved the release. But CBS announced it won’t release the prized shows from its archives; there are “issues” blocking their release. Benny received similar shoddy treatment when the network cancelled his show in 1964, says club president Laura Leff. “Sadly, 46 years later, CBS has repeated the sentiment by condemning these shows to permanent silence.” M
By Colby Cosh - Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7:47 AM - 19 Comments
I think we have a runaway winner in the 2009 “Brand That Had The Most Difficult Month” sweepstakes. (Some interesting background from the Financial Times.)
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 7:35 AM - 64 Comments
Like Scott and millions of others, I’ve been sitting here trying to imagine possible conditions under which the story of Elin Nordegren using a golf club on the rear window of an SUV to “rescue” her husband from a fender-bender could hold up in a way that will eventually have us all saying “Yeah, of course, that makes perfect sense.”
OK, best shot at it. Ready? Premise: Tiger Woods obviously doesn’t drive an ordinary SUV. C’mon, did you really think he would drive the same car you drive and every other schmuck drives? Are you kidding? Do you know how many Travis Bickles a celebrity with even one-tenth of his visibility attracts? And didn’t you see what happened to the Princess of Wales? Christ, no. Tiger obviously drives some kind of crazy military-hardened skunk-works SUV. It’s a given!
What I bet happened was, when he hit the hydrant, it tripped all the secret security features. Collision bars made from high-tech composites on the side doors, chemical sealants, alarms, fire-extinguishing gas, external flamethrowers in the wheel wells. Who knows what-all. Elin had been briefed by the manufacturer; she knew that the only way into the vehicle was through the back. It was designed that way!—that’s the access node for the first responders! “If you ever need to get out of the vehicle, ma’am, just grab a niblick and go medieval on that window.” She was just following her training! She did exactly the right…….
No, huh? Well, heck, I tried. Anybody else got anything?
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 2, 2009 at 1:58 PM - 0 Comments
The best pictures from the last seven days