Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No appetite to eliminate head shots

As the old adage goes there is no such thing as bad press.
For about a week the NHL has consistently been at the top of the news cycle – even drawing in Air Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper into the debate – as a result of Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara's hit on Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty. The hit, which resulted in no discipline against Chara left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and fractured vertebrae.
The potentially career-ending hit last week is nothing new to the NHL. And each time it happens we hear players say more needs to be done, we hear from coaches, analysts, pundits, and we hear from Gary Bettman telling media it is a horrible situation.
And yet nothing ever changes.
Not surprising really. Bettman has received days of free press putting his sport as the hottest topic around water coolers, and just about everywhere else. Everyone has an opinion.
The NHL has had every opportunity to crack down on illegal hits, hits from behind, hits to the head, hits with intent to injure, and while there's no doubt some of the punishments handed down have become more severe, for multi-million dollar hockey players, the fines or lost salary is akin to a slap on the wrist.
Even Canada's most outspoken hockey commentator has spent years arguing for the need of enforcers and retribution in hockey. Don Cherry has not only promoted the fact that hockey needs big hits, he's made no fewer than 22 Rock 'Em Sock 'Em videos highlighting among other things – hits and fights. It shouldn't go unnoticed that the video series has become the biggest selling sports video franchise in Canada since first introduced in 1989.
Hits are a part of hockey, and players sometimes get hurt, and no one needs to remind the NHL brass of that fact. But trying to fill seats in too many southern arenas, trying to remain relevant and competitive against the onslaught of a host of other sports entertainment options for viewers – and their dollars – the NHL will take all of the controversy and free press it can get.
It's not in the NHL's best financial interest to crack down on big hits; if it were, lifetime suspensions for intent-to-injure hits would be a reality; multi-million dollar fines to teams, owners, and players would be a reality.
The NHL hasn't done that, and they won't. It just doesn't pay to punish the players the fans pay to see deliver the hits the NHL wants them to deliver.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Harper suffering case of Air Force One envy

For the last two years the Privy Council Office -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's department -- reportedly has been waging an internal battle with Defence Minister Peter MacKay over the paint job on the military's VIP Airbus.
According to newswire reports, the PCO has requested that the Canadian Forces' one VIP Airbus -- used by the Prime Minister in his travels -- be painted a distinguished white and red.
The CF, backed by MacKay, wants the Airbus to remain its current military grey. That's because it's one of only five Airbus transports in the CF fleet. When not on VIP duty it can be deployed for other duties, such as transporting troops.
MacKay, along with senior military officers, has reportedly suggested that the PCO's requested paint scheme would make the plane too visible when operating in unfriendly areas of the globe.
Sounds like a reasonable argument. Canadian soldiers are putting themselves in harm's way. They should have the best protection possible when deploying to the world's hot spots.
Does Prime Minister Stephen Harper have Air Force One envy? If so, he should keep it in check.
Painting the Airbus white and red would be akin to painting a bull's eye on it -- in effect reducing the CF's effective transport complement by one.
The reported tussle is interesting in other ways. MacKay is arguably among the most visible and qualified replacements for Harper, should his quest for a majority government fail next time round.
What does it say about the internal dynamics of the Conservatives' top leadership, if MacKay's wishes are continually rebuffed by the PMO?
If Stephen Harper doesn't like the advice he is getting from his defence minister, he should shuffle the cabinet.
Granted, that would be an unpopular move given MacKay's high visibility in the Conservative Party. Such a move would also further expose the PM to allegations that he is a micromanager.
The bottom line? Canada's military is one of the best in the world -- superbly trained and well-equipped. Our troops deserve to have the best protection, the best security, and the best chance for success every time they set foot on foreign soil.
Putting Canada's Prime Minister in a flashy red-and-white jet will not elevate his status any. Rather than worry about such trivia, the PCO should focus on how to better help Harper lead the country.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

$3 million for 30 seconds?

An estimated one-hundred million viewers will tune in for Sunday's Super Bowl match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. But for a handful of company executive's, there will be many anxious moments to see whether or not their multi-million dollar gamble pays off.
Thirty-second commercial spots are costing companies $3 million this year, and you really have to ask yourself why.
Does anyone remember what the top commercials were last year or the year before? I know I don't. But if I was really curious I'm sure in about 3 months one of the TV networks will have an hour long special JUST on Super Bowl commercials.
But beyond the $3 million for 30 seconds, I have to ask if that money really couldn't be better spent on something else, like ummmmm feeding the hungry, helping provide clean water to communities and countries that don't have any, or better yet simply making their products less expensive for everyone.
Let's face it, if Ford or Chevy (which will be utilizing the Bumble Bee Camaro in their Super Bowl commercials) can afford $3 million a pop, maybe they can afford to drop the price of their vehicles so that more people could actually buy one.
Sure the argument is the advertising works. I'm sure it does to a degree, so does advertising on radio, in print, online and none of those places are going to cost you $3 million - unless you want a full page ad in just about every major daily newspaper in North America.
But it's the glitz, the glamour, the "buzz" created as a result as it were.
I just don't think it's all that responsible.
We live in a world where the gap between the haves and have nots is growing. It is harder for people to make ends meet, it is harder to find a job as more and more people find themselves unemployment and their skills outdated.
It strikes me as a slap in the face to workers at a chevy plant who have been told their jobs are being cut only to find that on Super Bowl Sunday, the company who just said they couldn't afford me is paying $3 million for 30 seconds.
We have become so completely out of touch with reality, we don't know what it's like to be the ones with nothing, or very little.
While millions are being bet on the outcome of Sunday's game, many more millions is being spent on commercials very few will remember in a week or two, and the hungry will stay hungry, the poor will stay poor, and the unemployed will remain unemployed.
Wouldn't it be great if all of the money that just went into advertising during the Super Bowl went to helping our communities, our countries, our residents. Wouldn't it be great if the corporate giants that can afford to spend this money actually spent it on something that's going to matter?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

If Only Politicians Could See Their Shadows

While many people will be waiting and watching Tuesday morning to see if any number of affectionately-named groundhogs see their shadows - or not - to determine whether they can start pulling out their beachwear, it occurred to me, how great would it be if politicians in an election year could see their shadows?
While the federal Conservatives,  Liberals, and NDP are busy trying to prove who wants an election less (anyone want to buy some swamp land in Florida?), the provincial Liberals, Conservatives and NDP in Ontario are busy in their own right campaigning for a vote that won't take place for another 9 months. NINE MONTHS!
How nice would it be if Tuesday morning instead of furry rodent-type animals testing the length of the remaining winter days, if politicians across Ontario decided they'd be further ahead to continuing governing rather than muddying the waters with election rhetoric.
One need only look at headlines in papers across the province to keep tabs on Dalton McGuinty visiting would-be voters in Windsor, while Tim Hudak has been busy attacking the Liberals on their Hydro debt issues, a column by the Niagara Falls Review's Corey Larocque points out the tactics already being employed by the parties asking for our trust, support and votes.
When did a four-year term become a three year term with a year or so of campaigning? And when did campaigning go from what a party is going to do for their constituents to how bad their opposition is for the constituents?
I'd like to know what the parties are going to do to attract jobs, real jobs, long-term jobs in this province and in the communities hardest hit by blue-collar job loss over the last decade.
I'd like politicians to recognize and admit that not everyone that has lost their job after 30 years can be retrained in an entirely different field - or even have to be for that matter.
I'd like to know what the parties are going to do to ensure that the next four years will improve for every person in Ontario - students in schools, parents struggling to raise their children, seniors trying to make ends meet.
Stop telling me why the Conservatives are the wrong choice; stop telling me why the NDP can't lead Ontario in the direction they need to go; stop telling me why the Liberals need to go.
Start treating the electorate like they aren't a child that needs to be protected from the truth, and start coming up with real answers to real questions.
Oh how nice it would be if on Tuesday morning I could wake up to find that in fact a groundhog somewhere did not see its shadow (and I could get my beachwear ready), and politicians in Ontario saw their shadows and decided to go back to bed for a few months. Wishful thinking. Sighhhh

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Political Attack Ads: Playing to the lowest common denominator

So neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals say they want a federal election this spring. And yet, both have spent the better part of the last two weeks firing salvos across the bow of each party's ship so to speak with attack ads usually reserved for election campaigns.
Stephen Harper's Conservative's got the ball rolling with a series of ads attacking Liberal Michael Ignatieff - Conservative Attack Ads - before the Liberals fired back with  a shot of their own - Liberal Attack Ad.
But at the end of the day what is the nature, the purpose, the point of an attack ad? Is it simply to point out the flaws or voting record of an opponent? Or is it a desperate hope that the electorate that you're playing to is so stupid they won't recognize the misquoted, taken out of context, years-old footage, used to make the ads look somehow relevant to them?
For years politicians north of the border have, by and large, taken the high road to their American cousins to the south who take attack ads to a whole new level.
But it seems with too many failed attempts by Harper to end up with anything better than a minority government, and Ignatieff's lacklustre showings - and the Liberal parties for that matter since Jean Chretien stepped down - both sides are looking for an edge that will cast them in a better light with the electorate; even if that means offering nothing more than why the opposition is the worse choice.
Politics is a funny business. In an idealistic world it would be nice for different parties to present different views and leaving the electorate to make up their own minds; but I suppose some things are too important to leave to chance, and to the electorate.
Attack ads while undeniably effective - to a degree - are also a parties own worst enemy and the easy, cheap points gained by such tactics, are come at a cost.
The only question now will be if either Harper or Ignatieff will see enough in their internal polling numbers to pull the trigger on a snap spring election, and whether their attacks win more friends than they lose.
Stay tuned and time will tell.