Pan Am report: Handball


This is the second in a series of articles about the 2015 Pan Am games in Toronto. The first was here, and involved the Pan Am experience itself as well as beach volleyball. This article deals with handball, and the final one covers table tennis and soccer.

Unfortunately, I’m a sucky photographer so I only got one handball picture that was any good, and it isn’t all that good anyway.

July 23: Handball

I was not prepared for how cool handball was going to be. People in lacrosse frequently call it “the fastest game on two feet”, but I think the handball people could put up a good argument. With no exaggeration, the action is constant. There’s no faceoff after goals, so the goalie picks up the ball out of the net, throws it to a teammate halfway up the floor, and we have action again a second or two after the goal.

Handball is similar to other goal-oriented sports; the people on your team try to put the ball in the other team’s net, and vice versa. Obviously in this case, you can simply throw it rather than kick it, hit it with a stick, or throw it using a little net on the end of a stick. The ball is a little over half the size of a basketball, easily palmed. It’s even got some resin rubbed on it to make it a little more sticky. There are six players per side plus a goalie, and the goal is 2 metres (6’6″) tall and 3m (9’9″) wide. Around the goal (which is against the back of the court, so you can’t go behind it) is a huge orange “crease” area, in which nobody is allowed to step except the goalie. The defenders stand around the edge of the crease, and the attackers try to throw the ball over, between, or around them into the net, and there is almost constant passing in order to try to get someone open to do so. The attackers are allowed to jump into the crease, as long as they throw the ball before landing. This gives them quite an advantage (getting them closer so the goalie has less time to react), so it happens a lot; if you didn’t know the rules, you might think after watching a game that you must be in the air to score.

Puerto Rico warming up

To force the constant passing, players are not allowed to hold the ball for more than 3 seconds or more than 3 steps unless they are dribbling. I really didn’t see a lot of dribbling; most of the time it was run-pass-run-pass-run-pass-pass-pass-pass-(lots of passes)-jump-shoot. The game kind of reminded me of a lacrosse power play, in which the attacking team doesn’t give up the ball and passes it around until someone has a decent chance. But there’s also no shot clock so there’s no limit to how long a team can possess the ball.

It’s a very high-scoring sport – each team generally scores between 20 and 35 goals per game. There was one game with a final of 39-38, and the two games we saw were 29-24 and 34-24. In a preliminary game, the eventual goal-medal-winning Brazilian team beat the eventual last-place Dominican team 48-18.

Like I said, almost every shot on net comes from a player in the air. This was very cool and it was surprising how long the players seemed to remain there while deciding where to throw and faking shots.

Nobody is padded in any way. There were no knee, shin, shoulder, kidney, or elbow pads, no helmets, and no gloves, even on the goalies. There were some penalties called (they referred to them as 2-minute “suspensions”), but not many. I’m not sure if grabbing an opponent’s jersey is legal or not since I saw it a number of times with no calls, but it could be a judgement call or the refs (there were two of them) just didn’t see it.

Having said all that about how handball is very fast and high-scoring with constant action, I’m not sure how well it would do as a pro team sport a la hockey or baseball. As much action as there was, it was always the same action. In hockey or lacrosse, you have different strategies for trying to get an open shot – circle behind the net, pass back to players further away to try and draw defenders away from the net, stuff like that. In handball, it seemed like a frenzy to get to the edge of the crease and the only offensive strategies were “pass it to someone else if you’re not open”, while the only defensive strategies were “stand in front of the attackers and make yourself as big as possible”. I’m sure that’s not entirely true and there are strategies that I did not see, just like non-hockey fans who think that the puck bounces around at random and occasionally goes into the net. We enjoyed the games we saw, but I could see the excitement level wearing off quickly the more games you watch.

Other game notes:

  • We saw a couple of breakaways, and the goalies have almost no chance. They basically throw their arms and legs out as wide as they can and hope the ball hits them. This happened a couple of times, and it looks like a great save but in reality there’s just not enough time to see where the ball is going so it’s almost always pure luck.
  • Wikipedia says Goalies can’t come back into their crease while holding the ball but I’m sure I saw them do that a few times.
  • Not all the shots were straight into the net. A few times I saw them take lacrosse-style bounce shots. This was a clever play that was done infrequently enough to fool the goalie, who jumped to stop a high shot, only to watch the ball bounce underneath him. Similarly, there were “change-ups” too, where a player looked like he was going to fire a bullet but waited until the goalie jumped and as he was falling, lobbed a soft shot over him.
  • As in many other international team sports, the clock counts up. This has never made any sense to me. When a player or spectator looks at the clock, he’s never thinking “How long have we been playing?” It’s always “How much time is left?” so why not make the clock count down and show him exactly what he wants to know? Why make the players or spectators do the math?
  • The final score of the first game was 29-24 for Puerto Rico over Canada. One guy (Hector Hiraldo) scored 15 of Puerto Rico’s goals, while nobody else on the team scored more than 5.
  • This was the only event in which I was a participant, although unwillingly and during the warmup. While the teams were warming up, I went down to the court to take a couple of pictures. I was standing just off the floor taking a picture of the Canadian team at the far end when suddenly WHAM! An errant ball came out of nowhere and hit me in the left knee. I didn’t see it coming, and it hit me just as I was taking a picture. It was really moving and it hurt for a few seconds but that was it. I imagine it hurts more when you take 40+ shots each game.
  • Once again, there was nothing on our ticket indicating that we had paid to see two matches, but we did. The second game was a semi-final match between Brazil and Chile and Brazil won that one handily. Brazil ended up winning the gold medal, Chile the bronze. Canada finished 7th of 8 teams.

In the thrilling conclusion to our three-part series, we discuss Pan Am table tennis and the football (soccer) gold medal game.

Pam Am report: Beach Volleyball


When I first heard that the Pam Am games were coming to Toronto, my first thought was “Oh great, traffic is going to SUCK”, as if that were the biggest impact it would have on the city. I was probably right about the traffic, though we don’t drive into Toronto all that often so it doesn’t really affect us. But then when tickets became available, we took a look and found that they were quite reasonable. We figured this is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event, so we should check it out. Toronto has bid for the Olympics in the past and may be bidding again in the future, but they’re talking 2024. Ryan will turn 25 that year.

Your standard kazoo-playing land-based synchronized swimmersWe had each of the boys choose an event that they wanted to see. After looking over the events, Ryan chose handball and Nicky chose table tennis. I added in beach volleyball since I’ve been playing during the summer at work for the past 5-6 years. We ended up getting tickets for those three events, and for Christmas, I got tickets from my sister to see the soccer final with my dad. The tickets were $20 each (for each event) for adults and $10 each for the boys, so really not that bad. There were better seats for more money and the medal round games were more expensive too, but we figured we’re seeing the best players in the world anyway. If we end up seeing the 7th best handball team against the 8th best rather than #1 and #2, we won’t know the difference.

I was a little concerned about transportation, but it was not a problem at all. I knew the Pam Am organizers had arranged with the GO Train people as well as a bunch of municipal transit authorities (TTC, Mississauga, Markham, Hamilton, etc.) for signage and extra routes and things like that to make it easy to get places without driving, but I only found out a week or two before that it was all free as long as you had a ticket for a Pam Am event. This, plus the fact that 2 of the 4 events we were going to see were at Exhibition place, made it much easier. The table tennis was up in Markham and we could have taken the GO train there as well, but that would have been at least two hours each way so we ended up driving there. The soccer was in Hamilton, so I drove to a parking lot at McMaster (and pre-booked my spot, which cost me $5 instead of $10), where they had arranged busses to get you to the stadium.

On to the events we saw.

July 20: Beach Volleyball

As I said, I play beach volleyball in the summer so I was excited to be able to watch the best beach volleyball players in the world. We took the train in to Exhibition Place where the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre is located, right behind BMO Field. Obviously this is an outdoor venue, so we were a little worried that we’d all end up with heatstroke or sunburn, or we’d have to leave the game early because we were just too hot. Fortunately, we got lucky with the weather; it was mid-high 20’s and partly cloudy all day, so we didn’t bake in the sun. This was especially lucky since the previous two days were hotter and way more humid.

Chevrolet Beach Volleyball CentreAs I mentioned we bought our tickets months in advance, so we had no idea who we were going to see. It turned out to be a women’s qualifying match between Colombia and Costa Rica. The Colombians took game one, then Costa Rica came back and won game two, and the tiebreaker was close all the way until Colombia pulled it out right at the end. Obviously the teams were pretty evenly matched, and that made for some exciting games. One thing I noticed about these women – almost no volleys. I was expecting “bump-set-spike”, “bump-set-spike”, “bump-set-spike” on almost every rally and that’s what we got, but the sets were almost always bumps, not volleys.

Once the match was over, we expected to head out and tour Pan Am park a little bit before taking the train home. But before we left, we noticed that nobody else was leaving. A few people did get up and head to the stairs, but it looked like the same number of people who might head to the washrooms or go grab a drink at halftime. The guy next to me was reading something on his phone but hadn’t made any move to leave so I asked him, “There’s just one match, right?” He said no, your ticket gets you two matches. There was nothing on the ticket that indicated this, so we were pleasantly surprised and were happy to stick around for a second.

The second match was a men’s match between Puerto Rico and Uruguay. This one wasn’t quite as close as the first one; Uruguay dominated both games and we never got to a third game. The men volleyed a little more often than the women, but I thought some of the volleys were a little too close to catch-and-toss. Indeed, two men were called for lifts, while none of the women were. The men also jumped higher than the women, which was evident in the number of spikes that hit the net (the women had more) or successful blocks (the men had more). Both the men and women had a few beautiful rally-saving dives and players going way out of bounds to play an errant ball coming from such a dive – and even when playing one of those, they were still trying to set their teammate up for the spike.

My goal of watching the best players in the world and picking up a few tips to improve my own game may have been a little optimistic. Here are some of the tips I got: “don’t make mistakes”, “hit it where you intend to hit it”, and “don’t change your mind from bump to volley when the ball is only 2 feet away”. Seriously though, I did get one tip – bump further up your arms. When I bump, I have my thumbs overtop of my open right palm and I try to hit it on the base of my hands or my wrists. The Pan Am players were bumping it much further up their arms, halfway to their elbows in many cases. The part of your arms that hits the ball is much flatter in that case, so you have more control and less chance of hitting it way off to the right or left.

Other game notes:

  • There was a guy with a microphone who tried to get the crowd worked up during breaks in play and between the games. He did a good job, and one of his “bits” was something I’d never seen before and I loved it. They played some slow classical music and he got The Wave going, but really slowly – slow enough that you were raising your arms one at a time rather than together. Then after a while they switched to some fast music, and he had us speed it up, and then slow it down again when they slowed the music down. After having seen the wave at sporting events for 30 years, I’ve grown tired of it but I’d never seen it done slowly and I thought it was really cool.
  • There were some concession stands and a couple of food trucks inside the gates of the beach volleyball centre. Prices were expensive, but I’ve seen worse. A 500 mL bottle of water or Coke was $4, but the same thing will cost you $5.25 at the ACC during Rock games. We also got ice cream drumsticks for $4 each. Again, not great but we’ve seen worse.

Costa Rica (near) vs. Colombia (far)I have two more articles in this series. The next will cover handball and the last will cover table tennis and soccer.

The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a sporting event


I’ve been to close to 200 pro lacrosse games over the last 14 years. In that time, I’ve seen some weird things: a player sent off the floor by the referee because he was wearing Nike shoes instead of Reeboks, a player step on another player’s back while walking back to the bench, goalies fighting with non-goalies, the list goes on. The funniest was probably the time a goalie (Anthony Cosmo) made a save, then picked up the ball and while deciding which teammate to pass it to, didn’t notice the ball slowly roll out of his stick and bounce into the net. The guy who got credit for the goal was already sitting on the bench when it went in.

Given all that, it’s a little surprising that the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a sporting event comes from the world of football.

I’m not a football guy. I don’t mind watching the odd CFL game on TV but I don’t really pay much attention to the league in general, and I never watch the NFL. But I’ve been to a couple of Argos games over the years and one Tiger-Cats game too. It was at an Argos game at Skydome a bunch of years ago that this particular event occurred.

It’s not a long story, so don’t blink.

The Argos were playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and at some point during the game I heard a chorus of male voices chanting “Here we go Riders, here we go! <clap> <clap> Here we go Riders, here we go! <clap> <clap>” I remember noticing not only because the Riders were the away team, but because I’m used to hearing that chant as “Let’s go <team>, let’s go” rather than “Here we go <team>, here we go”. I figured it was a Saskatchewan thing.

Roughriders

I looked around for the group of Roughrider fans that made the trip to Toronto, or perhaps a group of Saskatchewan ex-pats living in Toronto, but couldn’t find any. Then I realized what was happening.

It was a recording.

The sound was coming directly from the Roughrider bench. They were playing a recording of people chanting “Here we go Riders”, presumably to get their team pumped up.

I’m no pro athlete but I would imagine that playing in front of thousands of people cheering for you or your team can indeed get you pumped. But that’s because of the people themselves and their obvious passion and enthusiasm, not the sounds that they are making. Were the coaches or whoever trying to fool the players into believing they were in Regina and those sounds they heard we the rabid Roughies fans cheering them on? Did they honestly think that would work?

Diet Pepsi caves to the ignorant


It had to happen. Somebody had to be the first. Maybe others will follow and maybe not but either way, this is a very bad idea.

What am I talking about? Pepsi has announced that they will be changing their recipe for Diet Pepsi to remove aspartame (“Nutrasweet”) and replace it with sucralose (“Splenda”). Diet Pepsi has been sweetened with a mix of aspartame and acesulfame-potassium (known as “ace-K”) for a couple of years, and the new formula will be a mix of sucralose and ace-K. Pepsi insists that they’re not doing it because of any problems with aspartame. They said “Decades of studies have shown that aspartame is safe. This is not about safety.” They say they’re doing it because their customers are demanding it, and because their sales are way down in recent years.

This statement is consistent with their actions. If it was about health or product safety, not only would they have said so (so they can be seen as being a company that cares about its customers), but they would be getting rid of aspartame in all of their products, not just Diet Pepsi. They have announced that only the various varieties of Diet Pepsi (i.e. caffeine free, cherry, etc.) would be changing; their other diet products like Diet Mountain Dew would not. Also, they are not removing it from Diet Pepsi in Canada, so it really doesn’t matter much to us Canadians.

As a type-2 diabetic, this is an important topic for me. Artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar level like real sugar does, so products that use them are very important for diabetics. And yes, I do drink diet Pepsi and other diet soft drinks, though I prefer Coke Zero.

The Science

Aspartame is probably the most heavily tested food additive ever. It’s been in thousands of products since the 1980’s and has been approved and deemed safe for consumption by not only the FDA in the US but the equivalent agency in 100+ countries around the world. Yes, if you eat a spoonful of the stuff raw, it’s dangerous. But the reason it’s used is because it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means you only need a tiny amount to sweeten whatever you’re putting it in. The amount used is so small that it has virtually no calories. If a person my size (~170 pounds) were to drink 21 cans of diet pop every day, that would bring him or her to the FDA’s level of “acceptable daily intake” (ADI) of aspartame, meaning he or she could drink that much every day for a lifetime “without appreciable health risk”*. Note that Health Canada’s ADI is lower than the FDA’s, so I could only drink 17 cans of diet pop per day. Awwwww.

* – This means no appreciable health risk from the aspartame. It’s not like there are no other health risks with drinking that much pop.

Have there been studies on rats that showed higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia with increased aspartame intake? Yes. But first off, those studies are a little suspect; some were testing rats ingesting amounts of aspartame equivalent to a person drinking a couple of thousand cans of diet pop per day. Secondly, rats aren’t people. Chocolate is deadly to dogs and cats but we don’t ban it for people and nobody says “this stuff will kill your dog, why would YOU eat it?”. There have been thousands of studies on the effects of aspartame on people over the past forty years, and none of them have shown any association between aspartame and various cancers. There have even been studies on people who claim to have “aspartame sensitivity” which showed that such a thing does not exist.

Zumwalt Meadow

(I tried to find a suitable picture for this article, but I did an image search for “aspartame” and the results were pretty much nothing but “aspartame is poison!” infographics containing incorrect information. So here’s a completely unrelated image of Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park in California. I’ve never been there but it looks lovely. This is from a photographer named Kevin Gong.)

There are people who have a genetic condition known as phenylketonuria (PKU) which causes the body to be unable to metabolize an amino acid called phenylalanine, which is one of the by-products of digesting aspartame. Those people are generally told to avoid aspartame, though they get more phenylalanine from their regular diet than from aspartame anyway. But this condition is rare and has other more far-reaching effects than just getting sick from aspartame – this is not the kind of thing you don’t know you have until you’re 30.

And no, it didn’t start out as ant poison until they accidentally realized how sweet it tasted. It started out as an anti-ulcer drug until they accidentally realized how sweet it tasted. I wonder if anyone has any idea how well it works to prevent ulcers?

Even better are the “oh yeah, who paid for that study?” people. First off, the fact that a study was paid for by a company doesn’t mean that company had a hand in the outcome. Second, good studies publish their data as well as their conclusions so that other scientists (who weren’t paid) can look it over and make sure it all was done correctly and the interpretation of the data makes sense. This is called peer-review and without it, studies are far less reliable. Third, studies that aren’t replicated by other scientists are also less reliable. And fourth, we have my standard question to believers of huge conspiracy theories: do you really think that 30+ years of peer-reviewed and replicated studies by hundreds of different scientists were all manipulated and falsified without anyone finding out or blowing the whistle? Show me the evidence for the conspiracy, and remember that things that are consistent with a conspiracy are not necessarily evidence of one.

The decision

So that’s the science. Nothing in science is ever 100% guaranteed, but as far as we can tell from a ton of testing, aspartame is safe to consume in the quantities that people are consuming it. Pepsi even acknowledges this. So why change? Due to customer demand. But why are customers demanding it? Are there really that many people out there with PKU who want to drink Diet Pepsi but can’t? No. It’s not PKU, it’s FUD.

FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) is something that people frequently use when talking about nutrition. Most anti-GMO and pro-organic articles you read on the web are based on FUD. The Food Babe makes her living off of it. (More like the FUD Babe, amirite?) (Dammit, someone else already said that) It’s essentially a logical fallacy that creates a false choice, then makes you afraid of one of the options (frequently using incorrect information or outright lies) to make it “obvious” that the other option must be the right one. But once somebody’s given you a reason to fear something, it’s very hard to see past it. So people end up avoiding whatever it is “just in case”.

Such is the case with aspartame. If hundreds (or thousands) of well-performed studies over decades show no association with any negative health effects (other than PKU), then it’s likely that there are none. But since science can’t prove beyond any doubt that it’s safe, people think that maybe it’s not. I suppose that’s technically true, but just because the options are “it’s safe” and “it’s not safe”, that doesn’t mean the two options are equally likely. Is it possible that every one of the thousands of aspartame studies showing that it’s safe are wrong or flawed? Sure it’s possible. But if you flip a coin 100 times and it comes up heads 99 of those times, it’s possible that you have a completely fair and balanced coin, but it’s far more likely that it’s not.

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, you know that the Food Babe and Dr. Oz and a zillion other people will point to this decision as “proof” that aspartame is dangerous. They won’t mention the science (why start now?). They won’t mention that Pepsi said that it’s not about safety (or they’ll imply that Pepsi was lying). They won’t mention the fact that Pepsi didn’t change their other diet drinks (which is inconsistent with Pepsi lying about safety, but they’ll say it anyway). They won’t mention that a soft drink company may not be the best place to get your nutritional information.

I commend Pepsi for stressing that this decision had everything to do with making customers happy and nothing to do with product safety. Despite what I said at the top of this article, I can’t really say this was a bad idea, since I have no idea how it will affect sales – if sales go up, then it was a great idea since that was the goal.

That said, I really wish they hadn’t done it. All this decision will do is imply that all of the FUD about aspartame is justified. Honestly, Pepsi can say whatever they want about safety or their reasons for doing this but in two years, nobody’s going to remember any of that. They’ll just see the Food Babe and others spin it as “don’t forget, Pepsi refused to continue including aspartame in Diet Pepsi!”

And science loses again.


References:

American Cancer Society. (2014). Aspartame. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

Choi, C. (April 24, 2015) Diet Pepsi Will Be Aspartame-Free, But Not In Canada. Huffington Post Canada. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/04/24/pepsico-to-drop-aspartame-from-diet-pepsi-in-response-to-customer-feedback_n_7135950.html

Health Canada. (2005) Aspartame. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/sweeten-edulcor/aspartame-eng.php

Health Canada. (2008) The Safety of Sugar Substitutes. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/food-aliment/sugar_sub_sucre-eng.php

Horovitz, B. (April 24, 2015). Diet Pepsi to ditch the aspartame. USA Today (online). Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/04/24/pepsi-diet-pepsi-pepsico-aspartame-aspartame-free-beverages-soft-drinks/26297755/

National Cancer Institute. (2006). Aspartame and Cancer: Questions and Answers. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20090212130028/http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/AspartameQandA

National Cancer Institute. (2009). Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/risk/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet

Pomeroy, R. (undated). Study Finds No Evidence for ‘Aspartame Sensitivity’. Real Clear Science. Retrieved from http://www.realclearscience.com/journal_club/2015/05/08/aspartame_sensitivity_doesnt_exist_109214.html

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm397725.htm#Aspartame

Wikipedia. (2014). Aspartame. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame

We need healing crystals here, stat! Aquamarine quartz!


Proponents of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM – though I tend to add the word “So-called” at the beginning because that acronym is a little more accurate) rarely say “Never go to a doctor” or “you should always use naturopathic medicine”. They know that this could turn many people off of CAM, so they try to state their case as a preference. If you want to go to your doctor that’s fine, but if you prefer to go to a naturopath, that should be your right and your insurance provider (and the health care system in general) should be accepting of that, i.e. should support it and pay for it. This is, in my opinion, a false equivalency – they are implying that “traditional” medicine and CAM are equally valid and equally effective when in reality CAM consists entirely of “treatments” that either have never been proven effective or have been proven ineffective.

That’s the official CAM literature, anyway: it’s a choice. But in the real world, the CAM community is full of people who talk all the time about the medical conspiracy and how doctors are withholding cures for diseases and how you should never go to a doctor practicing “Western medicine” or allow them to pump you full of man-made chemicals. Alternative medicines are the only way to go. This is not 100% of all CAM supporters, but a very vocal subset.

CAM people want the right to use homeopathic “vaccines” instead of regular ones. They want the right for the healthcare system to pay for their reiki or acupuncture or other pretend magic remedies. But there’s one thing that I’ve never heard a CAM supporter fight for.

Why aren’t CAM supporters demanding the right to have ambulance workers provide CAM instead of “traditional” medicine when they call 911?

If you don’t trust Western medicine and you believe that doctors are all part of a conspiracy to keep people sick and that natural medicine is your best option, why do you accept the possibility of being taken to a traditional hospital to be treated by Western doctors after an accident? What if some medical emergency happens to you and you can’t communicate your beliefs? Hopefully someone will call 911 but then without asking, they’ll take you to a traditional hospital. They might even start Western treatment right there in the ambulance. How awful!

What we need is the CAMbulance. You call 911 (or possibly a different number so you don’t get a traditional Western ambulance by mistake), describe the problem to the operator, and say you want the CAMbulance, and they’ll send out a different vehicle to take you to a local acupuncturist or homeopath or faith healer or something. That way you won’t get horrible things like painkillers or penicillin, which are of course made up entirely of CHEMICALS. I’m sure your acupuncturist can repair the internal bleeding and the homeopath can give you something that will clean up the plaque in your arteries that caused that heart attack. Your faith healer can re-attach that severed arm and if he can’t, well God must not have wanted you to have it anyway.

Even better – CAM people should sell Medic Alert-type bracelets saying “if in an accident, take me to a naturopath, not a hospital”. That way even if you’re incapacitated, your feelings can be made clear. Or perhaps they could just take you straight to the funeral home and skip the middleman. The CAMbulance is really a hearse.

Or perhaps the CAMbulance would take you to a place like this:

(Note “A&E” stands for “Accidents & Emergencies” which is the British term for what we in North America would call the ER.)

Opting out


March 4, 2015

To whom it may concern,

I would like to opt out of your diabetes program.

I was first accepted into your program a little over two years ago, in January 2013. I don’t remember actually volunteering for this program; I think it must have happened when I was in the hospital with pancreatitis five years ago. I did spent a lot of time on painkillers then so who knows what I signed up for. Anyway, I went on the medication and cut down on sugary stuff, and it really wasn’t that big a deal. My wife had been in your program for three years already, and she’s doing just fine. She doesn’t even test her blood all that often anymore since her sugar numbers are under control. For a while, mine were too, but then near the end of 2014 I noticed them going up again. I attributed that to Christmas and a couple of weeks of less-than-healthy eating. I started eating better in January but the numbers didn’t come back down, so I went to see my doctor and she advanced me to level two of your program.

I first injected myself with insulin on January 23, 2015. I started with 5 units per day and was told to keep testing my blood 4-5 times a day, increasing the dosage by one unit every two days until the blood sugar numbers were where they were supposed to be. Six weeks later, my fingers are all bruised from pricking them with needles before and after almost every meal, and I’m at 22 units per day. The numbers have come down a fair bit but they’re still not quite in the range they need to be.

I miss you.I lost 10 pounds at the beginning and I’ve been maintaining the new weight ever since, but I’m getting tired of feeling hungry all the time. I’m tired of deciding between oatmeal or eggs for breakfast every day because they’re the only things that don’t spike my blood sugar. Luckily, the turkey sausage breakfast sandwich from Tim Horton’s isn’t bad either so I treat myself now and again. But what I wouldn’t give for a bagel or a regular old bowl of cereal, which I’ve lived on for breakfast for the last 45 years. I was never a Froot Loops or Cap’n Crunch kind of guy, but even a bowl of Cheerios shot my blood sugar up over 6 points. When the acceptable range is 4 to 7 and you generally start your day around 9, adding another 6 is not helpful.

Oddly, the insulin injections aren’t that big a deal but I’m tired of having to have a bedtime snack that contains protein, carbs and fat. I know that helps slow down the insulin absorption, which helps it to last all the next day, but sometimes I just want to go to bed and not think about what would be an appropriate snack. I suppose if I thought about it 20 minutes before I want to go to bed that would work, but it’s not part of my routine yet.

I’m tired of looking at everything I eat and wondering how it will affect my blood sugar. I’m tired of my eyesight getting worse and hoping it’s because I’m 45 and not because diabetes is making me blind. I’m tired of being scared with any change in my body, wondering if it’s caused by the diabetes or if it’s the beginning of another round of hospital visits. Or worse.

And of course, I’m tired of skipping desserts and cookies and anything that has sugar in it. We had to throw some cupcakes out the other day because they got stale; that would never have happened a year ago.

It’s not like it’s all bad, I do want to acknowledge the perks. The free annual eye exam is nice, and the fact that I can seemingly eat all the crackers and cheese, eggs, and peanut butter I want and not gain weight is OK too. But the bit about “eat a cookie now, and we’ll wait 20 years before chopping some toes off ” is a little harsh.

In conclusion, I appreciate your interest in having me in this program, but I would really like to opt out and resume my previous lifestyle. Thanks for your attention in this matter, and please let me know how we proceed from here.

Yours,

Graeme Perrow


This “letter” was written with tongue firmly in cheek. Sure this whole diabetes thing is a drag but quite honestly, I’m managing it fine. This was kind of fun to write and allowed me to whine about aspects of having diabetes that that bug me, but if it sounds like I’m moping around the house all the time thinking “woe is me, it’s so hard“, I’m really not.

I know full well that there are many people that have it far worse than I do. There are type 1 diabetics who have it worse. There are people with things like colitis and lupus and depression and cancer and a hundred other things, and those people have it worse. I have a wonderful wife who I adore, two great kids who I am very proud of, family, friends, a career I enjoy, and other than the diabetes, my health is pretty good. At the end of the day, my bed is very comfortable. I really do love my life.

In which I admit to myself who I really am


It’s time for me to come clean and admit it. I’ve been fighting this for years, but it’s getting harder and harder to hide it and pretend that I’m something I’m not. I just can’t go on living this lie. The irony is that I’ve become that which I have been making fun of for years. I suppose the easiest way would be just to come out and say it.

I am a fair-weather fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Whew, I feel better already, just having gotten that off my chest.

I was never one to watch EVERY SINGLE Leafs game on TV, but I would watch as often as I could. I paid attention to where they were in the standings. I knew most of the players’ names, where they played, and how they were doing. If they made a trade, I at least had some clue whether it was a good one or a bad one. But none of these things are true anymore. I know they’re having a terrible season and have decided to begin the rebuilding process, but not much more than that. I hang my head in shame.

Way to go Dion! And, um, #42!I blame lacrosse. I started watching the National Lacrosse League in 2001 and have gotten deeper and deeper into it every year since. I started blogging about it in 2005, and have since written for three lacrosse blogs (including what are probably the two most popular indoor lacrosse blogs anywhere) and started my own. I wouldn’t call myself a lacrosse expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am reasonably knowledgeable about the NLL teams and players. But paying that much attention to lacrosse has taken up all of my sports-related free time in the winter, and hasn’t left me much time for hockey. The rest of my free time is spent with my family and none of them are hockey fans. If I have to choose between watching the Leafs lose play and watching Elementary with my wife, well, the Leafs lose (pun intended). But if there’s a Rock game on, sorry honey.

It’s also easy to blame the fact that the team has been anywhere from not very good to terrible for the last decade.

I still pay some attention to the Leafs. Though I may not know all the players, I know Dion Kessel and Phil van Reimsdyk and such, the big names. And I have watched bits of games here and there, just not as much as, say, 10 years ago. But I know that if the Leafs were to go on some crazy winning streak, I’d be right back there, watching the games, talking about them on social media, and maybe even blogging about them.

Don’t get me wrong: I have been a Leafs fan all my life, and that will not change. When they win the Cup in 2021, I will watch every game of the playoffs and I’ll be as excited as everyone else. I know there are people who lose their passion and are all “I used to be a Leafs fan, but now I don’t care if they win or lose” and I can’t imagine saying that, especially if the team starts doing really well. I do still care, I just don’t have the time to pay as much attention as I used to. But given the way the team has been playing this season (so I hear) and the fact that they’re rebuilding, I imagine I’ve got several more years of suckage before they have a chance of really contending. And that’s assuming the rebuild is actually successful. So it seems unlikely that I’ll be watching much hockey until then but when they’re good again, boy, I’ll be right there. As long as the weather remains fair.

Not a word of a lie: There’s a Leafs game on right now, and I’m going to watch it.

Update: Watched it. They lost. Sigh.