Thursday, December 25, 2008

The 2008 Sporting Madness Christmas Gifts, Part I



Continuing in our proud 1-year tradition, and in step with everyone else who uses the meme, here's the Sporting Madness Christmas gifts for the world of sports:

Soccer:

- To the Vancouver Whitecaps and Bob Lenarduzzi: a nice, gift-wrapped MLS franchise. That could make the entire city happy. I'll have more on their chances soon.

- To the Montreal Impact: good luck for their forthcoming CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup against Mexico's Club Santos Laguna. Montreal's unexpected run has been tremendous to watch, and it would be great to see a Canadian team keep going.

- To Toronto FC: Well, they did already get one very nice Christmas present, but we'll send them a quality designated player as well and a playoff berth. This franchise has been great for Canadian soccer and the city of Toronto. They have so much support and so many tickets sold in advance that they really could just go through the motions, so it's refreshing to see them continue their involvement with the community.

- To Dwayne De Rosario: A happy homecoming and a tremendous time with TFC.

- To Manchester United: Some polish for that World Club Championship trophy [The Times] and good luck for their match against Stoke tomorrow.

- To Cristiano Ronaldo: Some better cleats so he doesn't fall down so frequently.

- To the Seattle Sounders of MLS: solid support from the local fans and media. After all, they're one of the only bright spots on the Seattle scene in what was possibly the worst sports year ever for a city [Jim Caple, ESPN].

CFL:

- To the B.C. Lions: An increase in the salary cap. That way, they wouldn't have had to part ways with the likes of Jason Clermont [Tim Switzer, Regina Leader-Post] and Tyrone Williams [Lowell Ullrich, The Vancouver Province] (no, not that one) for reasons that were probably more financial than football. The current cap is far too restrictive.

- To Lions' head coach/GM Wally Buono: Some good binoculars. He'll need them to find replacements for all those who have left or may be leaving, including Clermont, defensive player of the year Cameron Wake, defensive coordinator Mike Benevides [Ullrich, The Province] and Otis Floyd [The Province]. Fortunately, Buono is a personnel mastermind and there's a great supply of players out there now, thanks to the recent demise of the Arena Football League [myself, Out of Left Field].

- To the Calgary Stampeders: Congratulations on that Grey Cup and an increase on the scouting budget, so they can replace the likes of Brandon Browner and Sandro DeAngelis if they jump to the NFL [David Naylor, The Globe and Mail].

- To the Edmonton Eskimos: Relocation to the East Division, as well as a nice mention in TMQ. It's too bad they lost the East final: I would have loved a Battle of Alberta Grey Cup.

- To the Saskatchewan Roughriders fans: A sense of decorum, and some new gloves to give them a better grip on their cans of beer [Greg Harder, Regina Leader-Post].

- To the Winnipeg Blue Bombers: A diminished sense of propriety. Having cheerleader photos show up on The Big Lead is not really a scandal. Hey, at least you got the American press talking about the CFL! [A.J. Daulerio, Deadspin]. (By the way, can we please bring back Gourmet Spud's CFL D###-Joke Free Jambor-eh? It was my favourite Deadspin feature.)

- To the Toronto Argonauts: A good new head coach. I think Benevides would be perfect for the job, as much as it would suck for the Lions to lose him. The CFL needs a strong Toronto franchise to stay healthy, especially with the cross-border incursions from the Buffalo Bills.

- To the Montreal Alouettes: One healthy Mike Giffin [Neate Sager, Out of Left Field]. Insert at tailback for best results. Caution: Not intended for use as a fullback.

- Also to the Alouettes: Thanks for putting on a great Grey Cup weekend and delivering stellar TV results, even if certain anglophiles didn't like them.

- To the Hamilton Tiger-Cats: A winning season. We all know they need one.

NFL:

- To Plaxico Burress: A new suit, with a built-in holster. That way, he wouldn't have to go clubbing in his sweatpants [Rick Chandler, Deadspin].

- To the Dallas Cowboys: Some nice team-building activities! That way, you wouldn't wind up with crap like this [Dashiell Bennett, Deadspin] happening.

- To Terrell Owens: A little bit of maturity.

- To Bill Cowher: A nice new head coaching job (but not the Browns: he deserves better!).

- To the Buffalo Bills: A wealthy local investor who can buy the team and keep them out of Toronto.

- To the Arizona Cardinals: A playoff berth. It's been a long, long time coming.

- To the Pittsburgh Steelers: Another Super Bowl title. I'd love to see this one, especially considering that they barely have any offence; it would vindicate my love of hard-hitting defence.

- To Ben Roethlisberger: A new offensive lineman or two to give him some more protection in the pocket. Failing that, some extra padding to make all those sacks hurt a little less.

- To the New England Patriots: A quick playoff exit (or a failure to get in at all). I'm really sick of this team. Weren't they supposed to be toast already with Brady gone?

- To the New York Giants: My undying gratitude for ruining 19-0, making one of my predictions work and giving us possibly one of the best football games ever (and my vote for the greatest play ever, attached below).



Hockey:

- To the Vancouver Canucks: A nice, gift-wrapped Swedish star [Jeff Paterson, The Georgia Straight]. More on this later.

- To Roberto Luongo: A magical healing chamber. His team needs him back [Iain MacIntyre, The Vancouver Sun], and fast.

- To Trevor Linden: The best wishes of all Canucks fans. It was great having you here, Trevor, and you'll be sorely missed.

- To Mike Gillis: A mild raspberry for canceling my interview earlier this year, but congratulations for creating a solid Canucks team out of other people's castoffs.

- To Kyle Wellwood: A Stairmaster, so he can stay in shape and keep this great run of form going.

- To the Phoenix Coyotes: Some money to delay their inevitable failure. Oh wait, the league already gave them that [David Shoalts, The Globe and Mail]. How about an even more favourable arena deal? [Scott Burnside, ESPN].

- To the Fresno Falcons' players: New contracts somewhere else. A franchise folding in mid-season [James Mirtle, From the Rink] is bad enough: it's worse when it comes right before Christmas. They were leading their ECHL division, but they couldn't overcome their franchise's off-ice incompetence.

- To Washington Capitals' web producer Brett Leonhardt: A very merry Christmas, and a new lifelong dream (as he got to achieve his old one this year) [Lindsay Applebaum, D.C. Sports Bog].

- To Kirk Muller: A nice Golden Gaels tie so he can remember his time at Queen's [former sports editor extraordinaire James Bradshaw, Queen's Journal]. Hey, it might bring good luck as well: the McGill tie worked for Mike Babcock [Earl Zukerman, McGill Athletics]!

- To Brian Burke: An extra layer of thick skin: he's going to need it in Toronto.

- To Dave Nonis: Some new Leafs clothing. Great to see him get another important job. I thought both him and Burke weren't treated terribly well in Vancouver. Both are great hockey guys and will do well with the Leafs.

- To George Parros: A mustache-grooming kit, so he can maintain his excellence in facial hair.



[Photo from SI.com]

CIS:

- To Laval: Some champagne to sip from the Vanier Cup. They had a great year, and they fully deserved the trophy.

- To Benoit Groulx: A fair tryout for quarterback at the CFL level. He won't get it because he's Canadian, and that's a shame; his play in this year's Vanier Cup was better than several quarterbacks currently in the CFL.

- To the CIS organizers: Inspiration to put the Vanier Cup back with the Grey Cup. That worked brilliantly last year, but this year showed that having the games back-to-back in separate cities isn't the best for the university game from any point of view. With the games together, that's plenty of free promotion for the university game, and you'd also get much more media interest. There aren't a lot of football-savvy media types in Canada, and splitting them between the two events means that many organizations will opt to only cover the Grey Cup in person. Laval will do an okay job of hosting, but I would have much rather seen the Vanier again linked with the Grey Cup.

- Also on that front, it would be great to get some clarification about the amateur/pro rules in CIS sports, especially soccer. As Srdjan Djekanovic himself informed me in a comment (which he then removed), basically the only thing that made his participation in CIS championships after playing professionally legal and Andrea Lombardo's illegal was a couple of pieces of paper that allowed him to retain his amateur status. There's nothing wrong with that if everyone's on the same page. However, the press release about Lombardo only mentioned him playing professionally and didn't discuss the distinction at all; that leads to unnecessary speculation and controversy. The Byzantine nature of the eligibility rules and the differences for each sport make it way too hard to understand who can play and who can't, and that's probably why we keep seeing these violations in different CIS sports; most of them are honest mistakes or misinterpretations of the rules rather than attempts to cheat. Let's make it simple and easy for everyone to understand.

- To the sports information directors across the CIS schools: A sincere thanks for all that you do. Your work makes things a lot easier for all of us who cover the league. Special thanks to Mike Grobe of Queen's, Dan Carle of Ottawa, Ari Grossman of Laurier, Earl Zukerman of McGill and Mary Beth Challoner of the University of Toronto. One thing that would be nice would be to see consistency in statistics, though; some schools do a great job, but there's far too many mistakes in other cases.

- To the University of Toronto football team: Hearty congratulations for snapping the losing streak. It's great to see the Blues back on the road to success. Also, congratulations to Greg DeLaval on the removal of his interim tag [Neate Sager, cisblog.ca].

- To the Gaels' men's soccer team: some coaching continuity. They could use it.

- To the Queen's bean-counters: Some extra alumni donations to dissaude them from moving the new hockey rink to West Campus [myself, Queen's Journal]. This is an incredibly bad idea. The hockey rink was going to be a focal part of the new building, and that's why our teams have had to put up with the constant travel last year and the antiquated Memorial Centre this year. You owe it to them to give them the promised new state-of-the-art rink in a central location where they can draw fans, not a prefabricated building out in the boondocks of West Campus.

- To the Gaels' rowing teams: Some craft beers to celebrate their excellent season. Year in and year out, they are probably the most successful teams at our university despite little publicity or funding. Keep up the great work.

- And finally, to Queen's football: Framed copies of all the records shattered this year. It didn't turn out the way many had hoped, but it was one hell of a ride. Best of luck to you all.

That concludes the gifts for the sporting world. Part two, featuring gifts for those who cover it, should appear tonight or tomorrow.

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