I Don't Like Mondays — February 15, 2016
Canadians — especially those located in the Eastern urban silos — are never so needy as when Americans stick their head into their northern attic to see just what’s happening up there. So this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game was made to order for those who think Drake, not Justin Trudeau, is the current prime minister (actually, Trudeau probably thinks Drake is the PM).
North America’s hippest sports league brought its swagger to Toronto, and you could almost hear the swoon of 33 million Canadians when Kobe Bryant talked about how warm the locals had been to him. Begging the question, what had he expected from people who have single-payer health care? An out-take from The Revenant? No matter, the Ben Mulroney Glee Club was thrilled.
The startled-tourist routine was as if the NBA had arrived in Toronto 20 minutes ago, not 20 years ago. Or that the Raptors were not a close second in the Eastern Conference. Every one of the hungover hoops stars and bitchy writers (did ya’ hear it it was cold in Toronto this week?) has been in the northern climes for years, yet you’d have thought they were living out The Martian, stranded on the red planet of hoops.
Still, the Torontois remained gripped by whatever Canadian tidbitsMarv Albert had gleaned between slam dunk contests. In case anyone missed the How Do You Like Me Now theme, Drake came out to whip up the corporate Toronto crowd (is there any other Toronto crowd these days?) with a 'This is our city, this is our year” insight. God bless ‘im, Drake has become one-man Rotary Club, selling hot takes on a cold country.
This probably fried Win Butler, the leader of the Montreal band The Arcade Fire. While players, execs and rappers could vomit forth any banality about their celebrity status, poor old Win (who’s an American) was cut off by ESPN when he sought to opine about U.S. politics. He was certainly the only person who didn’t get all the airtime he wanted and, in retrospect, was maybe the one we all wanted to hear out.
Then (because Don Messer is unavoidably detained) the NBA folks gave us Nelly Furtado doing Stardust or Bridge Over Troubled Waters to the accompaniment of a guy on a penny whistle. I think that was the song. If it had been the national anthem would Steve Nash have kept chewing gum? I think you know the answer to that.
Because John Scott is now back in Pulaski, Ill., or Cornerbrook, Nfld., or some other minor-league hell-hole created by Gary Bettman, the NBA stars had to play the game themselves. It was awful. Not that anyone cared. They were there for the bling. So TNT had nice little signs identifying the glitterati in the crowd. Spike Lee being Spike Lee.
And Sting dancing with girls dressed in the same black leather efforts as Beyoncé’s singers from the Super Bowl (yhat flushing noise was the final shred of Sting’s credibility being directed into Lake Ontario).
Being Toronto, much of the crowd had disembarked to the Go Train or Harbour 60 or the Brewery District by the time the scoreboard’s final lights blew out. But it was a big success. How do we know? Because Kobe said so. And really, isn’t his brand all that matters?
Mike Yeo was fired as the head coach of the Minnesota Wild this weekend. The Wild’s disappointing record has left them as one of seven teams bunched within seven points at the bottom end of the Western Conference’s playoff spots. The Wild, who are perennial candidates for the Coulda’ / Shoulda’ award, have simply stopped scoring enough.
In years past, fighting for a playoff spot at this point in the season might not be a death sentence for your coaching career. But that was before social media unleashed the Hounds of Hell. When your name is caught in the crosshairs of the Twittersphere you might as well start writing your obit.
The Montreal Canadiens are trying to defy this phenomenon but, in time, they’ll succumb to the voices in their heads and fire coach Michel Therrien or GM Marc Bergevin.
In the same manner in which the political elites are finding their business taken over by the forces of radical change, traditional sports officials are learning that if they don’t bend a knee to their online fan base when it demands a firing they will find themselves fired by nervous owners.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).