Category Archives: Sports

Movie review: Crooked Arrows


There are lots of sports movies out there, and some are iconic for a particular sport: hockey has Slap Shot; baseball has Major League,The Natural or Field of Dreams; football has Any Given Sunday, Friday Night Lights, and Rudy; boxing has a ton including Raging Bull and the Rocky series; basketball has Hoosiers; and the list goes on. But lacrosse didn’t really have anything; there hasn’t really been a movie that included lacrosse as an integral part of the film. Any mention of lacrosse in movies such as American Pie was generally tangential, and usually involved US prep schools. And there has certainly been no film that looks at lacrosse from a Native American point of view. Until now.Crooked Arrows

The plot of Crooked Arrows isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It follows a relatively tried-and-true formula that has worked in a number of other sports movies, that of the underperforming team that gets a new coach / owner / manager who turns things around and makes them champions. Think Major League with middies. The difference here is that at the beginning, the coach doesn’t particularly want to be there either – so rather than Major League, perhaps A League of their Own might be a more apt comparison. Gradually the players start to adapt to their new playing style and gain confidence in their coach and themselves, and the coach realizes that he needs the team as much as the team needs him.

The coach in this case is Joe Logan (played by Brandon Routh, who has distant Native background), a half-Native whose father is on the tribal council. Logan is a former lacrosse star who is coerced by his father into finding his spirit by returning to his roots and coaching the reservation’s hapless lacrosse team. As you would expect, he encounters resistance and is pessimistic about his chances of success but gradually wins the team over. After that, it’s fairly predictable: most of what you might foresee happening does happen, and nothing really happens that you don’t see coming.

That said, I didn’t care how predictable it was. Even if you know the destination, how you get there can be entertaining and fun. There were a number of funny lines, particularly the stuffy rich mom of one of the prep school players who asked “when did the Indians start playing lacrosse anyway?” or the double-entendre “wisdom” of the coach – “if you don’t go into the forest, you don’t have any balls”. The characters you’re supposed to dislike (opposing team’s coach and players, greedy developer) are sufficiently slimy, and you do like the characters you’re supposed to like (coach’s sister and father, love interest, team benchwarmer). The scenes of lacrosse practices and games are exciting, and though they don’t go over the game in much detail (this is a film about the team and the community, not so much about the game itself), you do get a pretty good idea of how fast and exciting lacrosse can be. You find yourself cheering for the Crooked Arrows and are genuinely happy when they are successful.

When I saw the film, I was curious how accurately the Native issues in the film were portrayed. I have no Native blood in me, and I’m not even sure if I’ve ever set foot on a Native reserve, so I can’t personally speak to that. But I did talk to someone who can, and was assured that the movie was accurate and realistic. The reservation in the film looks like any small town in rural America, so anyone looking for fields of tepees and wigwams may be disappointed, as they would be on a real reservation. But the fact that Natives are featured so prominently in a so-called “Hollywood” film is somewhat unusual in itself. Another recent movie that includes Native Americans in a prominent role is the popular Twilight series, and indeed the actor that plays Joe Logan’s father in Crooked Arrows also plays Jacob Black’s father in Twilight. I did notice that the Native characters in this film seemed a lot more upbeat and generally happy than the grumpy werewolves in Twilight, though I suppose if there were vampires living nearby I might be grumpy too.

One thing I really liked was the juxtaposition of the scenes of Native warriors from 800 years ago playing lacrosse with scenes of the Crooked Arrows team playing now. This was a very effective way to remind the viewer about the history involved with the game and the fact that to the Native community, lacrosse is not just a fun game or a sport that they invented, but an integral and important part of their way of life, and has been for hundreds of years.

Those in the lacrosse community have known this movie was coming for a while now, and the @crookedarrows twitter account was quite active in keeping followers informed on the progress of writing, casting, filming, post-production, and when and where the movie was playing. The filmmakers even managed to squeeze in a few cameos including some of the biggest names in lacrosse: Zack Greer, Brodie Merrill, Paul Rabil, and Gary Gait (though Gait wasn’t mentioned by name as the others were).

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed Crooked Arrows, as did my sons (12 and 10). Lacrosse fans will enjoy the action, but you don’t have to be a lacrosse fan to enjoy the movie.

The Leafs and Raptors need a Terry


A little over three years ago, I wrote an article about the General Managers of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock. The Leafs had just hired Brian Burke as their new GM, and it seemed that the Toronto media had already decided that he was going to save the team; in fact, I facetiously referred to him as Our Saviour for a while after that. Bryan Colangelo had been the Raptors’ GM for a year or two, and had done a pretty good job of turning around the mess that Rob Babcock had left behind. The Rock still had Mike Kloepfer as GM, and the team sucked.

My article suggested that the Rock needed to get rid of Kloepfer and hire themselves a “Brian” who would overhaul the team and make them not suck, which Burke and Colangelo were obviously about to do with the Leafs and Raptors. One of the suggestions I gave for who could take over was Terry Sanderson, and another was Jamie Batley. Ironically, less then four hours after I posted that article, the Rock did fire coach Glenn Clark, who was at least part of the problem, and Batley was hired as coach. The rest of the problem was solved at the end of the season when Mike Kloepfer resigned. A month later Sanderson was re-hired as GM. The next season (2010), the Rock went to the Championship game and in 2011, they won it all. We’re now midway through the 2012 season, and the Rock are tied for first place in the Eastern division. I’d call that mission accomplished.

I could pat myself on the back for predicting the Rock’s next course of action (kind of – I suggested Sanderson though I said it was unlikely), but the original point of my article was lost. It wasn’t so much that the Rock needed a new GM,  it was that the Rock needed to do what the Leafs and Raptors did and replace their rookie GM who screwed the team up with a proven veteran who could turn it around. The Rock did that, but the Leafs and Raptors haven’t had nearly the success that we all envisioned when Our Saviours came to power.

In the 3 seasons prior to Burke’s being hired, the Leafs had 91, 83, and 81 points and missed the playoffs every year. In the two full seasons since, they had 74 and 85 points and missed the playoffs every year. This year they’re on pace for 83 points and missing the playoffs. They don’t have any first-round draft picks for a couple of years because of the Kessel trade, so the rebuilding process will be continuing for a long while.

Update: My timing was off. The picks involved in the Kessel deal were for the last two drafts, so that’s done now. Thanks Faisal for the clarification!

Bryan Colangelo was hired by the Raptors in February 2006, six years and a week ago. In the first couple of years, Colangelo looked brilliant. The Raptors finished first in the Atlantic division the very next year, and Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year and Colangelo Executive of the Year. The Raptors lost in the first round of the playoffs, but made the playoffs again the next year. They lost again in the first round, and then things went south quickly. They haven’t made the playoffs since and haven’t really been much of a threat at all. Last season they were a hopeless 22-60 and this year they’re not much better at 11-25.

Barring miracles, the Leafs and Raptors are not likely to win championships during the Burke / Colangelo eras. I’m not suggesting firing them now, though I think the Colangelo era has run its course and unless the Raptors start turning things around on the floor very soon, Colangelo should be done at the end of the year. I don’t think Burke has done a terrible job; he’s acquired some players who have been great like Phaneuf and Lupul. The fact that the goaltenders play like Turk Broda one week and a turkey sandwich the next isn’t entirely Burke’s fault. I’d give him another year or two to right the ship but unless obvious improvement is made, he’s gone too.

Three years ago, I said that the Rock needed to find their Brian, and they did. Now the Leafs and Raptors need to find their Terry Sanderson.

In Lax We Trust archive


I was part of the inlaxwetrust.com writing staff for almost five months, and wrote 23 articles in that time. Here are links to all of them. I’m not posting this because I expect you, dear reader, to read any of them. This article is mainly an archive for my own use so that if I want to link to one of them, I can easily find the link here.

However if you do want to read one or two, the Salaries of Lacrosse Players one was very popular (especially among lacrosse players!), and the entry draft one too. My personal favourites tended to be the funny ones – I had fun writing the “looking forward” one (more satire than comedy; let me know in the comments (here – comments on that article are closed) if you’re one of the few that got the “price is right” joke) and the one about lacrosse movies. For more analysis and less comedy, I also liked the NLL Awards article.

 

Update: In June 2012, In Lax We Trust changed hosting companies and became inlacrossewetrust.com. When that happened all of the archives were lost, and so none of the links below will work. I wish I had saved copies of the articles before this happened but I didn’t. As far as I know, all of these articles are gone forever.

Title Description
NLL Season Preview: Philadelphia Wings I investigate the personnel changes and preview the offense, defense, and goaltending of the Wings in the (then-upcoming) 2012 season.
Other Stories from the NLL Hold Out List There was a lot of talk about the NLL Hold-out list because of the drama surrounding Anthony Cosmo, so I made up some other stories. Teddy Jenner didn’t like this one.
Salaries of Lacrosse Players Probably my most popular ILWT article – several NLL players retweeted the link to this one. I compare the salaries that NLL players make with those of other pro athletes.
Teachers and Firefighters in the NLL Almost all NLL players have jobs outside of playing lacrosse, but it seems that a lot of them are either firefighters or teachers.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Colorado Mammoth Review of the changes made by the Mammoth after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Buffalo Bandits Review of the changes made by the Bandit after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Calgary Roughnecks Review of the changes made by the Roughnecks after the 2011 season.
NLL Off-Season in Review: Washington Stealth Review of the changes made by the Stealth after the 2011 season.
Upcoming Lacrosse Movies Some ideas for movies that could be made involving lacrosse. Another fun one.
NLL expansion: Just say no Another writer suggested that the time might be right for the NLL to expand. I disagreed.
A look back: Looking forward to 2002 Satirical article on how the future of the NLL might have looked in 2002.
Trivia contest answers Former NLL player and current radio host Teddy Jenner won the contest.
In Lax We Trust Trivia Contest A year or two ago I won a lacrosse shaft in a contest, so I came up with some trivia questions to give it away.
Renaming the NLL Awards If the league were to rename its MVP, Rookie, Goalie, etc. awards after people like the NHL and others have done, who would they be?
Behind the scenes at the NLL entry draft I enjoyed writing this mock conversation among the GMs at the entry draft.
Parity in the NLL: Who do we make fun of now? Which team do we make fun of as the laughing stock of the league? There really isn’t one.
The biggest surprises from the dispersal draft Some surprising picks from the Blazers dispersal draft.
Farewell to the Blazers Kind of a post-mortem on the Boston Blazers.
More New Rules Being Considered by the MLL The MLL announced that they were considering using lacrosse sticks with heads that lit up to indicate who has the ball. This was such a silly idea that I came up with some other potential silly rules the MLL might think about.
Last year’s NLL blockbusters: John Grant and Matt Vinc Analysis of the trade that sent John Grant to Colorado and Matt Vinc to Rochester.
Last year’s NLL blockbusters: Tracey Kelusky Analysis of the trade that sent Tracey Kelusky to Buffalo.
Last year’s NLL Blockbusters: Josh Sanderson Analysis of the trade that sent Josh Sanderson from Calgary to Boston.
Lax Links 8/5/11 My first article for ILWT. Marisa used to do a daily list of links to stories from around the lacrosse world, and she asked me to put the list together on that day.

The Hockey Hall of Fmae


Considering I’ve lived in or near Toronto almost my entire life, and have been a hockey fan for that entire time as well, it’s somewhat surprising that I have only been to the Hockey Hall of Fame twice. The first time was in the summer of 1991, and I have a short story about that visit. The second time was this past weekend, and I have a few things to say about that as well.

Overall, if you’re a hockey fan the HHOF is a must-see, though I’m sure that statement surprises nobody. There are hundreds of pieces of memorabilia from over 100 years of the NHL and from around the world. Here’s a picture of the stick and gloves Sidney Crosby used to score the “Golden Goal” in the Vancouver Olympics, as well as the puck itself:

The Golden Gloves

There’s also this thing:

The Cup

Back in 1991, I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame when it was still located at the old Exhibition grounds. My friend Beth and I were at the CNE and decided to check out the Hall while we were there. When we got into the trophy room, the Stanley Cup was sitting in the middle of the room on a table similar to this one. There was no security anywhere to be seen; the closest thing was another table nearby where there were two teenaged girls siting. They had a Polaroid camera and would take your picture with the Cup for $10. I assume they worked for the Hall, but maybe they were just resourceful.

Beth and I walked around the Cup looking at the inscriptions, when one of the other visitors said aloud “I wonder how heavy it is”. He put his arms around the Cup and lifted it. Beth and I took a step back to let the security guys through, and put our hands over our ears to protect ourselves from the wail of the sirens, except… nothing. No security guards, no alarms, nothing. The girls with the Polaroid didn’t even look around. The guy who lifted it said something like “Huh! Not that heavy” and put it down again. Of course, I took the opportunity to do the same thing, something every Canadian kid dreams of doing: I hoisted the Stanley Cup. It’s not that heavy.

When we were there last weekend, I did not attempt to lift it, as there was a security guard there. I asked the security guard how many replicas there were, and if this was one of them or if this was the real Cup. He gave me an interesting answer: there are two Cups and neither one is a replica. There’s the “presentation Cup”, which is the one the winning players raise on the ice, and the one they take back to their home town. And then there’s the one in the Hall (he had a name for it other than “replica” but I don’t remember it), which is an almost-exact, well, replica of the presentation Cup, though there are a few names spelled differently on each one. To me, this sounds like there’s “The Cup” and “the replica”, but the guy at the Hall said that both are officially “The Stanley Cup”.

The Cup and the rest of the trophies are usually kept in a place called the Great Hall, but it’s closed for the next couple of months for renovation. They moved the trophies elsewhere so we could see them, but it means we didn’t see the complete list of Hall inductees. There were a number of displays for individual inductees like this one for Mario:

IMAG0220

There were stats and facts and a signature and jerseys and a stick and even a box of Corn Flakes with Mario on the front. There were similar displays for Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, Luc Robitaille, Roger Neilson, Ace Bailey (which included one of his golf clubs (?)), Borje Salming, and a bunch of others. There was a computer listing just about every town in Canada; you could select a town and find out what NHL players were born there. Guess who’s from Waterdown? Well, nobody. But I grew up in Pickering, Ontario, home of both Glenn Healy and… um, nobody else. OK, I guess I can admit it. I am from the same town as everyone’s favourite hockey douchebag, Sean Avery. We even went to the same high school, though he would have started at least five years after I graduated.

There is also a large section of the Hall for international hockey, including the Canada Cup, the Summit Series, various IIHF tournaments, and the Olympics. There are jerseys from just about every country – did you know Ireland had a team? Greece? Mexico? South Africa? Canada won four hockey gold medals in a row at the Olympics from 1920 to 1932, but would you believe their streak was broken by none other than Great Britain in 1936 – the most recent of only two hockey medals Britain has ever won?

One thing that surprised me about my visit to the Hall is the number of mistakes I found. Canada didn’t win any hockey gold medals from 1952 until 2002? That can’t be right. Seriously though, thinking back to all the places I’ve visited including castles in the UK, various chateaux in France, museums and other touristy things in London, Edinburgh, Paris, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, and others, the number of mistakes I found was zero just about everywhere. I’m sure I’ve seen errors but I can’t think of any offhand, and I’m sure I’d have remembered if there were more than one in the same place. At the HHOF, I found at least four in the couple of hours I was there.

In the same room as the Stanley Cup was a big timeline, listing all kinds of events relating to the NHL. The timeline included not only dates of NHL events, but birthdates of future NHL stars, like this one:

Ken Dryden error

Winning the Cup first and the Calder second is a pretty impressive feat, but doing them 55 years apart is even better. This next one contains two mistakes:

FoxTrax

The first mistake is not so much a factual error as one of punctuation (“it’s” should be “its”). The second mistake was FoxTrax itself.

There was a display of the “lucky loonie” from the Salt Lake City Olympics, although in the middle of the description they spelled the word “looine”. I’m sure my dad pointed another one out to me but I forget what it was.

On a somewhat related note, there are also the misspellings on the Stanley Cup itself – a number of players have their names spelled wrong, and there’s even one team spelled wrong (Leafs is spelled “Leaes” in one place). Former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington famously put his father in the list of people to have their names engraved on the Cup, and when this was discovered his father’s name was X’ed out.

Anyway, as I said the HHOF is a must-see for any hockey fan. There are the trophies and memorabilia and lots of information and stats, a couple of short movies, and some simulation games for the kids – two where you are taking shots on a net, one where you are standing in a net where real pucks are flying at you (similar to the commercial below), and one where you’re standing in front of a virtual net trying to react to virtual pucks. There’s even a section on collectibles and NHL branded products – hockey cards, toys, lunchboxes, bobbleheads, cereal boxes, stuff like that.

My dad and I spent two or three hours in the Hall. QA issues aside, it’s quite the interesting place, and when combined with dinner at the Marché upstairs and a Rock game after that, made for a fun day.

HHOF TV commercial

The best lacrosse writers in the world… and me


I announced back in August that I was joining In Lax We Trust as a writer, and ended up as co-manager and editor as well. I enjoyed my time at ILWT and wrote lots of articles. A few of them got lots of attention: one on lacrosse players’ salaries from November is still getting talked about. Some I really liked and had fun writing: a satirical one about what the “future” of the NLL might have looked like in 2002, an imagined conversation among GMs at the entry draft, and some fictional movies about lacrosse.

In December I made the decision to strike out on my own, and created my own lacrosse blog, nllchatter.com. Around that time, I jokingly asked Teddy Jenner if they were hiring at ILIndoor.com, which is part of Inside Lacrosse magazine, and is pretty much the premiere indoor lacrosse blog anywhere. Rather than the expected “yeah, right”, Teddy told me to email Bob Chavez. I don’t know if Teddy was saying “That’s a great idea! Email Bob!” or if it was Teddy’s way of getting Bob to say “no” rather than doing it himself. I thought “what the hell, the worst they can do is say no”, and emailed him. He got back to me with a proposal, and now I can announce that I will be joining the staff at ILIndoor.com and will be writing a weekly column called The Moneyballers this season. My column will run every Monday starting on January 16.

ILIndoor.com has some of best-known names in indoor lacrosse, including the aforementioned Teddy Jenner, a former player and current blogger, radio show host, and in-game announcer for the Washington Stealth; Ty Pilson, sports editor for the Calgary Sun and former Tom Borrelli winner (that’s the NLL’s award for the best writer of the year); Brian Shanahan, another former NLL player who has done colour for many lacrosse TV broadcasts (and yes, he’s Brendan’s brother); Marty O’Neill, the former GM of the Minnesota Swarm; and other great writers like Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp and Casey Vock.

The Moneyballers will be a weekly look at the clutch players in the league from a statistical point of view. We have a system that assigns points to players for goals and assists that either tie a game or put their team ahead. Goals later in the game count for more than goals earlier, and OT goals count the most. Each week, I will tally up the points for that week’s games, and keep track of the league leaders as the season goes on. Here’s a link to last year’s season-ending article.

I am very excited about this opportunity, but very nervous as well. The Moneyballers is a series that has been on ILIndoor.com for a few years, and up to this year, was written by another legendary lacrosse writer, Paul Tutka. Tutka won three straight Tom Borrelli awards, so that’s a pretty tough act to follow. However, I am up to the challenge. But if you call me on a Sunday evening during NLL season, don’t expect me to answer the phone.

Three and one from the Jays game


Quick post about the Blue Jays game I went to with my dad the other day. Three weird things and one complaint – a complaint about complaints.

Weird thing #1: At one point, the Angels had back-to-back doubles, with no outs or stupid baserunning plays in between, and nobody scored. How do you hit a double with a guy on second and not drive him in? Glad you asked. The second double was a popup a mile high to the right side, so the runner on second had to wait to see if it would be caught. The batter, of course, just kept running. When it fell in front of Bautista and behind Lind and Johnson, the runner on second only had time to make it to third but the batter made it to second. Nobody blew the play so it wasn’t an error, so the scorer had no choice but to credit the batter with a double. I’m sure it’s not unique in the world of baseball, but with your standard double, you can usually assume that all the runners will move up at least two bases, and a baserunner scoring from first on a double is not unusual at all.

Weird thing #2: During Eric Thames’ third at-bat, the scoreboard showed that he’d flied out to LF in his first at-bat then flied out to CF in his second at-bat, so my dad and I decided that he should hit it to RF this time. I said “Put it over the right field fence!”. Thames hit the very next pitch over the right field fence.

Weird thing #3: “Batting ninth, the designated hitter, David Cooper.” The DH hitting 9th? Does someone not understand the concept of the DH? Yes I know: end of the season, the team is out of the playoffs, give the young kids some at-bats, and all that. Still weird.

The complaint about complaints involves Vernon Wells. Each time his name was announced, there were both cheers and boos coming from the crowd. The people booing Wells irritated me. Wells played several seasons for the Jays, and in some of those years he was very good and in the rest he was excellent. After one excellent year he was rewarded with a huge contract. Was he worth it? Probably not. But can you blame him for taking it? If someone said to you “We’re going to give you $125 million over the next seven years”, are you going to ask for less because you don’t deserve that much? Not on your life. So he took it and promptly got injured, hitting 20 home runs only once over the next 3 years. Then he returned to form in 2010, hitting .273 with 31 homers. Are these $15-million-a-year numbers? No but again, his inflated salary is not his fault, it’s J.P. Ricciardi’s. Wells was traded solely because his contract was so big. He never asked to be traded (Roger Clemens) never said he didn’t want to play in Toronto (again, Roger Clemens), didn’t sign somewhere else as a free agent (where do I start?) and never admitted to not giving his best during games because he wanted to play somewhere else (Vince Carter). I have even heard the tired old line about “now that he’s got the big contract, he doesn’t have to play hard.” I don’t buy that for a second.

Any player playing at the major league level has likely been playing baseball all his life because he loves the game. To get to the highest level in the sport, he’d have to have worked hard and excelled in Little League, high school, college, and several levels of minor leagues where he was making very little money. His hard work and determination paid off, and he made it to the majors where he continued to work hard and excel. And I’m supposed to believe that when he gets a huge contract that ensures that he can continue playing at the highest level, he suddenly doesn’t bother trying so hard anymore? The previous 20 years have been solely for the unlikely possibility of the huge payday? No. He’s been working his ass off and playing as hard as he can his whole life – he doesn’t know any other way to play. That refers to any professional athlete, not just baseball players, and not just Vernon Wells. Well, I guess it doesn’t apply to Vince Carter.

Hey Vernon, I was clapping for you.

OK, so that wasn’t such a quick post.

Spotlight: Marisa Ingemi


I have no statistics to prove this, but I would guess that there are far fewer women than men seriously interested in professional sports. By “seriously interested”, I’m not talking about those who don’t mind going to see a game once in a while, and can name some of the teams and superstars of whatever league. My wife could probably pick Sidney Crosby out of a lineup, but wouldn’t know Alex Ovechkin from Alex Trebek. No, I’m talking about women who are “real fans”. They know all the players and teams. They can look at a trade and give you an informed opinion about it. They can hear about a player being injured and analyze how it might impact the rest of the team. Before you start to compose your email calling me a misogynist, I’m not saying women can’t do this, I’m just talking about numbers. There are simply far fewer women than men that are interested in sports to that degree.

So when you hear that the host of the only radio show in the United States dedicated to the sport of lacrosse is female, you may raise an eyebrow. [Correction: One of the only lacrosse radio shows – there is at least one other] When you hear that she also runs the only lacrosse blog of the 300+ blogs in SBNation.com, co-hosts a baseball radio show, covers baseball for two different web sites, and covers hockey for another, you would think she’s not only pretty busy, but she knows her sports and is a seasoned sports reporter and writer. But when I tell you that she recently celebrated her 15th birthday, well, you can pick your jaw up from the floor.

Marisa Ingemi is a high school student who lives in the Boston area. Her first interest in sports came in 2007, when she followed her sister’s interest in the Boston Red Sox, and jumped on the bandwagon when they won the World Series. She became hooked on baseball, quickly followed by hockey, football, lacrosse, and basketball. Of course, if you’re going to be a sports fan, Boston ain’t a bad place to be since each of their hockey, baseball, basketball, and football teams have won championships over the last ten years. I live in the Toronto area where other than the Rock, any season your team doesn’t completely suck is considered a success.

After the 2008 MLB season, Marisa decided it would be cool to write her own web site, and began writing news for a fake website at home. She soon created a real website, bestbostonsports.com, which only got a few more hits than her fake one, but it got her started. She started following the NLL during the 2010 season and in an attempt to learn even more about the league, she started looking for lacrosse blogs. She couldn’t find one that contained as much information as she wanted so she created her own, simply called The Lacrosse Blog. A few months later, the blog was moved to SBNation.com, becoming the first lacrosse blog in that group, and she renamed it In Lax We Trust. Over 1000 stories and 50,000 page views later, it is one of the most popular fan-run lacrosse blogs on the internet. [Full disclosure: I am one of the eleven writers on that site.]

But just one blog wasn’t enough for Marisa. She also covers the Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, and Lowell Spinners (all minor-league affiliates of the Boston Red Sox) for both bostonsportsthenandnow.com and minorleagueball.com, and the Boston Bruins for Inside Hockey. She began her radio career in March 2011 with the creation of two different weekly internet radio shows: Lax Live and Beantown Breakdown. Beantown Breakdown features Marisa and a few other local bloggers talking about all aspects of pro sports in the Boston area while Lax Live is covers all types of lacrosse. But Lax Live isn’t just some fan yakking about lacrosse for 20 minutes; she interviews lacrosse reporters, bloggers, players, and coaches. She’s talked to such names as Andrew McKay, Connor Wilson, Teddy Jenner, Graeme Perrow (had to throw that in there), Dave Pym, John Tavares, Lewis Ratcliff, Ryan Benesch, and even NLL Commissioner George Daniel. Very few 15-year-olds even have a career highlight, but Marisa does, and it’s pretty cool: her first-ever interview was lacrosse legend Casey Powell after a Blazers game in 2011.

Considering she’s only been following the NLL for two years, Marisa is surprisingly knowledgeable. Ask her who the top goalie in the NLL is, and she’ll tell you (hint: it won’t be Chris Levis). Ask her who won the recent Brodie Merrill-for-Athan Iannucci trade, and she’ll tell you who and why (hint: she’ll say Edmonton and she’s right). She’s interviewed some big names in lacrosse and doesn’t sound all star-struck (none of this “OMG OMG OMG I’m talking to John Tavares! He’s awesome!!!!!1!”) and asks real questions that show insight. When she interviewed me for Lax Live radio last season, I mentioned that Toronto were having problems on transition, and she asked me if Toronto regretted trading away Ryan Dilks. I had completely forgotten that Dilks came from Toronto, so I was caught off-guard. I managed to sputter out some kind of answer and hopefully didn’t sound too silly. Before the interview, she had given me a list of questions she was going to ask but that wasn’t one of them, which tells me that when I mentioned Toronto’s transition, she thought about the Dilks trade on the fly. Despite being a touch embarrassed (which I know wasn’t her intent), I was impressed.

Marisa’s ultimate goal is to get a degree in journalism and then cover the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPN. There are thousands of people out there who share similar goals, and a good chunk of them likely have created blogs to get some experience and hone their craft. But I suspect the number of them who write for four different blogs, do two radio shows, and have press passes for the NHL, NLL, and minor league baseball years before even finishing high school is much lower.

Perhaps this article will be the first of many to cover this up-and-coming sports reporter. Hopefully she remembers me when she’s rich and famous.

My new gig as a sports writer


No, I’m not leaving the software industry to become an ink-stained wretch, but I will be writing for a bigger audience during the next NLL season. I started writing for the NLL Blog just before last season, and enjoyed being part of that team. Today we are announcing that the NLL Blog staff will be joining In Lax We Trust, one of the most popular lacrosse blogs around. It is run by Marisa Ingemi and features articles on not only the NLL, but the MLL, Canadian summer leagues (MSL, WLA), as well as the new CLax and NALL leagues and some college lacrosse stuff as well. There are now eleven writers for ILWT, myself included.

I will remained focused on the NLL and the Toronto Rock in particular, and I have also decided not to post each lacrosse article here as well. I may post links to the ILWT articles I write, or maybe a weekly digest of my ILWT articles, but for those readers of mine who are not lacrosse fans, fear not. Next winter, you won’t get deluged with lacrosse articles like last year, just my regular drivel compelling reading.

Baseball is awesome too


A while ago I wrote an article listing some awesome things about lacrosse. I love baseball too, so here are some things that make baseball awesome. Some of these are about playing, some are about watching, and some are just about the game in general.

The opposing team has the bases loaded and nobody out and you get out of the inning without giving up any runs.

When playing the outfield, that feeling you get after thinking “Oh crap, I’m not going to get to this fly ball” and then realizing that you can.

Watching one of your favourite players hit a walk-off 3-run home run to left field to win the World Series. (Note: may not be awesome to Phillies fans.)

An outfield assist.

Weird scoring plays. The best are the ones that involve a rundown. Combine this with the outfield assist, and you could have a 7-6-5-4-5-4 double play.

Seeing a ball game in a park you’ve never been to before. Places I’ve seen baseball games: Skydome Rogers Centre, Exhibition Stadium (RIP), Fenway, (New) Comiskey, Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland), The Kingdome (formerly in Seattle – RIP), plus one spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida.

No lead is safe. If you’re down 5-0 with 5 minutes left to play in a hockey game, it’s technically possible that you could come back and win, but I doubt it’s ever happened in the NHL. In baseball, there’s no time limits, so as long as you keep getting on base, you can do it. I’ve seen the Jays come back and win after being down 10-0. The other night I saw them lose 5-4 after going into the bottom of the 9th up 4-0.

Again when playing the outfield, running in on a short pop fly that nobody thinks you can get to, making the catch, and then doubling a runner off. (This has only happened to me a couple of times but is especially awesome since I don’t have a strong throwing arm, so baserunners who test my arm generally win.)

When a pitcher strikes out the last batter of a complete game victory. I love complete games in general, but when the last out is a strikeout, you can tell that the pitcher is still in command after nine innings.

A perfectly executed double steal.

When the ball is hit so sharply to the right fielder that he throws the batter out at first. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this in an MLB game, but it’s happened a couple of times in games I’ve played in.

Watching a milestone happen live. Doesn’t need to be a huge milestone, but when the PA announcer comes on and tells you that you’ve just seen the first-ever <something>, that’s awesome. My wife was in attendance at Dave Steib’s no-hitter in Cleveland, but those kinds of milestones are few and far between. Milestones I have seen live:

  • The Blue Jays’ first triple play in 1977
  • Manny Lee’s first major league hit (a single)
  • Dave Steib’s first one-hitter
  • Pat Hentgen’s last start as a Blue Jay
  • Roger Clemens’ first start as a Blue Jay (and his opening day start the next year too)
  • Cal Ripken’s first game after ending his 17-year streak

Seeing a kid bring his glove to an MLB game. It’s the only sport where nobody thinks twice if they see you bring your own equipment to a game you’re watching. Nobody brings a hockey stick to an NHL game or their own tennis racquet to Wimbledon. I must say I have seen lacrosse sticks at NLL games, but it’s generally young kids bringing little plastic sticks, not adults bringing full-sized ones.

A straight steal of home. You gotta have cojones.

When a batter watches strike three go by and then smiles because he knows it was a great pitch.

Watching the last out of the last game of the World Series. I love watching the players celebrate, even if it’s not my team. Though it’s better if it is.

Did I miss any?

Bleacher Report’s dumbest list ever


The other day I read an article on Bleacher Report by a guy named Shawn McPartlin about the 50 most overrated baseball players of all time. Now, I understand that different people are going to have different opinions on a player’s value and whether he’s overrated or not. People’s definition of “overrated” may also differ. But some of these choices are either misguided or just plain wrong and the whole article ends up as a complete joke.

Some of the choices for this list are a little weird. For example, everyone knows about Brady Anderson’s 50-HR season but nobody thinks that was normal for him, so I wouldn’t call him overrated. Nobody except the most die-hard (and delusional) Yankees or A’s fan thinks of Scott Brosius as anything other than a pretty decent 3rd baseman. McPartlin specifically says that Lou Brock “belongs in the Hall of Fame”, so how can he be overrated? In addition, we all know that Brock is in there primarily because of his outstanding base stealing ability – nobody thinks it was because of the hundreds of home runs he didn’t hit. Who thinks of Omar Vizquel or Ozzie Smith as anything other than excellent defensive shortstops? Joe Carter was a good player, a good hitter, and a good guy who had one outstanding and unforgettable at-bat, but nobody would list him among the greats, so calling him overrated is unfair – and I’m a Blue Jay fan, the most likely to put Carter on a pedestal.

Dave Stewart won 20 games four years in a row (from 1987 to 1990), and then never won more than 12 in a season after that. McPartlin says of Stewart, “Consistency makes you a great player. Glimpses of greatness makes you overrated.” Nonsense. Glimpses of greatness makes you a good player who had, well, glimpses of greatness. If people latch onto those glimpses and think your whole career was like that, that is overrated. Overrated refers to how you are rated, i.e. how people remember you. If people were to think about Dave Stewart as the most dominant pitcher of the 80’s and 90’s, then yes, he would be overrated. He was very good, and maybe one of the most dominant pitchers of those four years, but anything more than that is a stretch. But who thinks of Stewart as anything more than that? Nobody I know.

The listing of Nolan Ryan as the most overrated player of all time is just funny. If you get to 3,000 strikeouts in your career, you’re almost a lock for the hall of fame, and here’s a guy with well over 5,000, almost 1,000 more than second place. He won over 300 games, was an All-Star 8 times, and threw seven no-hitters. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He averaged better than a strikeout per inning over his 27-year career. He struck out 301 batters in 1989 when he was 42 – only three pitchers have beaten that total in the 21 years since (Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson). And McPartlin’s argument that he’s the most overrated player of all time is that he only won 20 games twice? He’s not known for being the best pitcher ever, he’s known for being the best strikeout pitcher ever.

We need to decide what “overrated” really means. The way I think about it is as follows: if you asked someone to list the best baseball players of all time in order of overall greatness and a player that you deem to be around #50 is on their list as #30, they they have overrated that player in your opinion. For a player to be generally considered overrated, he would have to show up on most people’s lists higher than he really deserves. But who decides where he deserves to be? You also need to ask why a particular player is where he is on someone’s list. If someone lists Lou Brock high because he had 3,000 hits and a zillion stolen bases, then the fact that he didn’t hit 500 home runs is irrelevant.

Obviously nobody keeps an ordered list of the best baseball players and there isn’t a canonical list to compare with, so you can’t decide whether someone’s overrated based solely on a numerical comparison. You have to look at how people in general think about a particular player in general and subjective terms. McPartlin says:

Some players reach greatness, while others fall short of the hype.

Some players have mediocre careers, but are talked about for decades because of their postseason exploits. 

Some players were so gifted in one facet of the game that their shortcomings are overlooked.

Whatever the reason is, all sports have these players—the overrated ones.

The first one I completely agree with. The kid who comes up from the majors and is touted as “the next great shortstop / catcher / base stealer / home run hitter” and turns into a decent player but not a star is definitely overrated (or more accurately, was overrated). The second and third cases are more iffy and depend on who you’re talking to and how the player is described. Wade Boggs comes to mind – he was an incredible hitter, one of the best hitters ever to play the game. He was a good defensive third baseman, had a bit of power, and no base speed to speak of, and if everyone remembered him as “one of the best players ever” or even “one of the best third basemen ever”, then yes, he would be overrated. But nobody does. Anyone who saw Boggs play remembers him as one of the best hitters ever. Nobody has ever called him a five-tool player. Does his batting average make up for his lack of power and speed? That’s a matter of opinion, but I think it does.

He also lists a number of players who have tested positive for (or admitted to using) steroids, as if that immediately makes the player overrated. I’m no fan of steroids or steroid users either, but let’s be fair. Would Jose Canseco have hit 40 HRs three times if he had never taken steroids? We’ll never know but assuming he wouldn’t is unfair. Similarly, to simply dismiss Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire as overrated solely because they took PEDs is unfair. And considering this obvious bias, it’s odd that neither Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds shows up on his list. Perhaps that’s because he decided (correctly) that they were two of the best players in the history of the game and were Hall-of-Famers before they ever touched steroids. The fact that the last number of years of their careers were chemically-enhanced doesn’t take away from the first decade or so when they were clean.

The take-home message, Mr. McPartlin, is that you can’t call someone “overrated” just because he wasn’t a five-tool player. Yes, some players are well known for being great at only one facet of the game, and the other facets weren’t that great. Some players are well known for a single season or even a single event, and the rest of their career wasn’t any big deal. Whether or not they are “overrated” depends on how people remember them. If people thought of Joe Carter as the greatest outfielder the Jays ever had simply because of that one home run, then I’d agree that he’s overrated. But even Jays fans don’t think of him that way – they rate him as a pretty good power-hitting outfielder / 1st baseman who happened to hit the most important home run in Jays history. That doesn’t make him overrated.

Having said all that, I can’t disagree with including Vernon Wells on the list.