The Best Game You Can Name?

Vladislav Tretiak

They may revoke my citizenship, but I can’t bring myself to care about the lack of a the Stanley Cup this year.

I do sympathize with ardent sports fans. Given the fact that my own distant attitude towards sports is a self-defence mechanism designed to prevent me from giving myself over totally to the game (and losing all perspective), I can understand how much it hurts average sports affectionados, much less affectionados with as little perspective as I.

However, in the wake of the cancelled season, too many people are rushing to blame the players and their union for the failure of negotiations. I realize it is hard to sympathize with people who make more in a single game than we make in a year, but it is interesting how many red-blooded capitalists turn against the free market system when it doesn’t suit their needs.

What right, people ask, do players have to make over a million dollars per year for whacking a puck around with a stick? It seems to go against all reason, particularly when nurses and teachers struggle to make ends meet. But the fact remains that the free market gave these players that right.

Nobody complains when Arnold Schwartzenegger receives $25 million for third billing in the movie Batman and Robin. Nobody questions the right of Mike Myers to earn millions making a movie flop based on the works of Dr. Seuss. This is because Schwartzenegger and Myers are the reason the audience is in the theatre. People don’t pay to hear the writers sit down and read out their scripts.

Likewise, the National Hockey League could have declared an impasse and brought in replacement players long before now, but they didn’t. This is because few people out there want to watch an inferior product. Hockey fans come to watch the players play, not to look at robots in jerseys. We don’t come to see Gary Bettman stickhandle and get crosschecked — though that might be worthwhile for the comedy value. The players are the reason we fork over $100 or more on tickets, and by forking that money over, we’re saying that the players are worth it.

It may gall us to think that the lowest paid player in the league is a nobody in Buffalo receiving enough in a year to buy a house in Toronto outright, but the league owners brought this onto themselves. Those that pine for the old days of the original six should remember that the number of players playing in the NHL at that time was less than 200. Now, thanks to a drive to produce television deals and grab the American market, there are thirty teams competing for the same pool of talent. Thus the talent has been diluted, and more teams are competing for worse players.

Of course that’s going to drive up prices (wages). That’s the nature of capitalism.

And ultimately, the responsibility for this mess passes beyond the players and the owners to the fans. They have had ample opportunity, if they thought that the financial situation was wonky and the talent dilution was severe, to register their displeasure in the time-honoured capitalist method: by turning off the g-d t.v. and turning in their seasons tickets.

Complaining about the greed of the owners or the greed of the players, especially by those on the right side of the political fence, is tantamount to whining about the rules of the capitalist game when the rules produce a sour result.

I know, capitalism would work so much better if we weren’t quite so greedy. I’ve said that for a very long time. We can try to shame the owners and the players into taking more reasonable positions, but otherwise these are the rules of the game.

If you’re not willing to play by the rules of capitalism and registering your displeasure by refusing to pay for an inferior product, then go ahead, declare North America a socialist paradise, and impose wage and price controls from above.

Maybe then we’ll give our nurses and teachers their due.

The Bonehead Maneouver

I have to say that I have great respect for the position of Governor General here in Canada, and I think that Ms. Clarkson has done an excellent job, in general, in elevating the stature of the post. No, I don’t feel that her budget is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

However, when the office allows incidents like this to occur, you go looking for somebody in charge to slap upside the head.

Jeremy Patfield, 15, was touring the Governor General’s official residence, Rideau Hall, when he actually spotted Adrienne Clarkson — and wondered aloud about her spending habits.

“I said, ‘Is that the woman that spends the money on the Queen when she comes?’,” Patfield recalled in an interview with CTV News.

Considering the controversy Clarkson’s budget has spurred in the past, the question was not that unusual. But, in light of the fact it was uttered within earshot of the Governor General herself, it was particularly ill-received.

A tour guide who overheard the teen’s comment took swift action.

“Our group got kicked out for my comment towards the Governor General,” Patfield explained. “It was supposedly my fault that we got kicked out.”

Hat tip to Bound by Gravity.

Unless I hear evidence that the school group was more disruptive than initial reports indicate, all I can say that this was a substantially boneheaded move on the part of officials, and a black mark on the office of the Governor General.

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