Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Open Letter to Soccer Douchebags - Guest Post by Man of Mystery

When I am standing on a soccer field watching my children play, the last thing I ever want to hear is your grating voice.

I understand that you taught Pele and you were Ronaldinho’s personal mentor. I comprehend that your skills were at some point in time, “phenomenal” (and without a doubt still are), without you having to explain it to anyone and everyone within earshot. I do not doubt that your 5 foot 5 stature weighing in at 300lbs does indeed do little to mask the professional soccer prowess that is but barely contained within your 6-twinkie-at-a-time eating frame.

What I would like you to understand with all due respect and politeness is that I don’t give a crap. I am only there because my children are there. I’m not standing there because I like to stand in open fields during a downpour of rain. I’m not standing there because I like to suffer heatstroke and sunburn in bright sunshine all day long. And the last time I checked, I’m not there to be regaled ad nauseum by tales of your derring-do on the soccer field both real or imagined, past, present or future.

I am there because it is my duty as a father to be there for my children and take part in their activities. As well I take joy in their accomplishments and their joy makes me that much more joyous. Alas not everything on the field can be joyous all the time and again that’s where I come in to commiserate with their pitfalls and sorrows. You see this is something that I both HAVE to and WANT to do. Interacting with you on the other hand, there, Al Bundy… not so much.

I would take it as a personal favor to me and mine if you would stop your retarded comments about the skills or lack thereof, of any and all 8 year old players on the field, whether they be on your own child’s team or the opposing team.

It’s a game, they’re children, they’re here to learn and they’re here to play. It’s hard to do that with you screaming from the sidelines with your armchair coaching. If you would but stop and take a quick look around you’d probably recognize two people, one on either side- they’d be the respective team’s coaches. It’s not the World Cup. Do you see grown men running around faking injuries and dropping from imaginary invisible pianos falling on their heads? Relax yourself already. When it comes to children playing organized sports, really, if you’re THAT keen on winning, you should just go and buy a penis enlargement pump, then seek more private climes. Whatever it is, DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN MAKE ME HEAR YOUR VOICE INCESSANT OR SO HELP ME AT SOME POINT I’LL CHOKE YOU OUT WITH ONE OF YOUR OWN…I mean.. think of the children, yeah.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


“Hello, I’d like to book an MRI.”

“Okay, when would you like it?”

“How about next Wednesday at 5pm?”

“Okay. What’s your name?”

That’s it? When I call my regular doctor, I don’t get to just choose a day and time. I often have to wait days and days. I also notice that I don’t feel rushed on the phone booking this either, the way I do with the endlessly overworked medical assistants at my doctor’s office-- I always feel guilty bothering them because they are so busy. Here, after the receptionist gets my name, she uses my name. Over and over. Even for someone like me, who teaches customer service techniques in my hotel management classes, it was a bit much.

“My name is Cathy Collis.”

“Okay, Cathy, and have you ever had an MRI before?”


“And Cathy what part of your body do you need to have scanned?”

“My right knee.”

“Have you ever had knee surgery before, Cathy?” And on and on and on. You get the picture. I had to answer a lot of medical questions. She must have used my name 25 times in the phone call.

Today was the day. I drove up and parked the car in the parking lot at Granville and 16th, and choked a bit at the $9.00 parking fee I’d have to pay for an hour and a half of parking. But then I realized that I’m paying $900 for the MRI, so their thinking must be that patients won’t complain: that’s just 1% of that cost of the procedure. I make my way into the building and once again the difference between a private clinic like this and my regular doctor’s office is startling.

Here, the carpet in the entryway is plush. The doors to the clinic are made of really heavy glass, with rounded stainless steel handles. I feel as though I’m walking into a spa. And indeed, that is exactly what it looks like. The walls are painted with a pattern of stripes of various widths in shades of pale blue, cream, taupe, and chocolate brown. The floor is a dark brown bamboo, and is completely free of scratches. There are real oil paintings on the wall. The baseboards are deep and white and not one of them has a scuff or mark of any kind. The ceiling light came from Restoration Hardware, I’m almost sure of it. The chairs are chocolate brown ultrasuede and very, very clean. The magazines on the coffee table are all lined up in rows.

I ask to use the bathroom, which is down the hall. This is easily the nicest medical bathroom I have ever visited – everything is clean and newly tiled, and the paper towel dispenser allows me as many paper towels as I want. Plus, the mirror and lighting make me look tanned and thinner than usual. Perhaps I will move in here.

I’m early, so I decide to look at CMI’s brochure. All the actors on it look quite old. Do I look that old? They also look considerably more well off than I do in my t-shirt, yoga pants and flip flops. The woman’s haircut and colour is expensive and the guy even has a sweater draped over his shoulders with the arms knotted at the neck. They are standing on a dock, at the seaside, presumably having just stumbled off of their private yacht, on their way to get an MRI for fun. They don’t look as if they need it.

Not only is she not overworked, the receptionist begins to make small talk with me about the weather. Then promptly at 5:03, I get called in by the MRI technician. She leads me to a little changing room with a door that locks, which also features flattering lighting and a mirror, with a leather covered bench and hooks for my purse and clothes. I change into my paper gown (Some things never change; everything up to that point had seemed so lush I half expected to be handed a silky lingerie bathrobe instead.) She locks up my things in the little change room. Then we go over to this area that has a door that appears to be an enormous bank vault. I think for a moment that this must be where they keep all the money they charge for these MRIs, but no -- inside is the MRI machine.

It looks like a huge, round, suntanning bed. I climb in as instructed by my technican, who is also named Cathy, and she asks me what radio station I would like to listen to during my procedure, and hands me headphones and a thing that looks like a turkey baster on a cord, and says if I need anything during the MRI I can squeeze the bulbous part to ring for her. And we’re off!

She leaves the room of course, and goes into her little glass cage area. Gently, I slide into the machine just like the patients do on House, although mercifully it is just my legs and not my whole body in there. She starts talking to me on the headphones. “Everything okay, Cathy?”

Yes, of course, I think to myself. I am lying down in a dimly lit, air conditioned room. How stressed out can I get? “Yup.”

“Okay, Cathy,” Again, with the names! “Are you warm enough?”


“Is the music loud enough, Cathy?”

“Yes.” Although I can’t hear it much because you keep interrupting it.

“Okay, we’re going to get started.” She says. And then, a second later, because she forgot to say it before, she comes back on the headphones again and just says “Cathy.” Is it some kind of rule here? The name thing is really over the top, especially since she has the same name as me, which always makes saying it even more awkward.

Suddenly the noise is really loud. Loud like an alarm telling you to get out of a building. It is startling and I start to panic and breathe a little faster and then I remember that I’m not supposed to move at all. What about breathing? Of course, I am sure it is fine if I breathe, they can’t expect me not to breathe for 25 minutes, for god’s sakes, but it is just so expensive, and I don’t want to come out at the end of this thing and have them tell me “It didn’t work because you breathed. That will be an extra $900 please.”

The noise goes off after a few minutes and she checks on me again. “Everything okay, Cathy?”

“Yes.” Although I realize it is just now that I can hear the music again. They can’t possibly have expected me to hear the radio over the sound of that machine.

This same routine goes on for 25 minutes. Sometimes the machine sounds more like the beginning of a punk metal song and other times it sounds like a horrible alarm. And just lying there, you can’t help but start to think of a few things, for example, why is this machine so huge? It is just taking an image of my leg. Shouldn’t something this big and loud also be able to fix my leg? When I think of all the technology in my iphone, and how small it is, it makes me wonder what kind of technology is in this enormous thing? The letters on the front of the machine, right above my face, spell out the unfortunate brand name of “SEIMEN” and each of the letters is as big as my iphone.

The front sides of the MRI machine also have some kind of buttons that light up. I can’t turn and look at them though, since I’m terrified of moving. The lights seem a bit much. Couldn’t they have gone with a machine without lighted buttons and knocked 50 bucks off the price? Since I can’t see them, I have to imagine what the buttons say. Perhaps “Cancer”. And “More cancer.” Maybe there’s a button that says “your knee will be fine if you push this.” If only I had peripheral vision like a horse. I’d push that button in a heartbeat.

And this is the crux of the whole thing, really. I feel guilty as hell paying for an MRI instead of waiting for my turn with the free medical system. I know that at my regular doctor’s office not only does no one use my name, but the floor has 30 year old linoleum and ugly wooden benches with orange knit upholstery that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1978 campervan. The baseboards there are rubber and the lighting is hideous and fluorescent and dreadfully unflattering. There are no tasteful oil paintings but freebee posters explaining your anatomy. But I believe in it. I want to be like everyone else and be able to walk in there without paying. But I will do anything to fix my knee so I can play again. I am old and cannot wait years to play soccer. It is my thing. You must have a thing too, right? So please don’t judge me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Announcement to Make: England Wins!

There is a gaping hole in my life where the World Cup used to be. But I also really miss the World Cup announcers. The English fellows who did the play-by-play had such an elegant way of talking, that I began to write down some of the things they said. Here is a montage (who doesn’t love a montage?) of some of their better comments, taken from a variety of games. For the full effect, imagine this being read aloud by an upper class English gentleman, something like Hugh Grant before the prostitute thing. Okay, scratch that – how about a male version of Emma Thompson? Got your accent ready? Read on:

“Here’s Boateng with a silky touch....this is a game with really sumptuous qualities. Their football is fascinating, breathtaking, enthralling at times.....There’s no rhythm to the England game at the moment....given away cheaply by Rooney....this is a rather ponderous buildup that isn’t going to bring England any reward. It’s all pretty untidy and shapeless.....well there’s Gerard showing a little bit of industry as he makes strides toward the Algeria goal.....he’ll not be dispossessed. This was meant to be a sumptuous feast, but we’re still munching on the bread rolls. Well there’s an encouraging ball....now it’s coming to a bit of a boil....it looks like there’s a little bit of an argy-bargy down there on the touchline. There’s the predictable quintet in the 18 yard box.“

Isn’t it lovely? One of them even used the word obdurate. Can’t all announcers talk like this? I want them to narrate my life as I wander around watering the garden. “Here she goes....well those geraniums are looking a little worse for wear....she seems a bit troubled by her right knee as she steps over the hose.....I believe she’s spraying a squirrel there.....well she’s certainly thwarted his ambitions....”

I wanted to compare the World Cup announcers to another sportscaster so I decided on Don Cherry. (It’s much harder to find a comparable soccer sportscaster in this country, so he seemed like the best option.) This is taken from a Coach’s Corner this spring, and isn’t a montage but a direct quote. Now, I know you know Don Cherry’s voice already. Perhaps it already haunts you at night while you try to sleep. I found it fun to put on a bit of a rednecky accent instead. Read this while pretending you have buck teeth, a bit like Cletis from the Simpsons cartoons.

“Now watch this one. It’s exactly the same thing. What a guy! Look at dis. What a hockey player. Look at him. He does that. Remember you guys in Vancouver, it’s the same thing – little (incomprehensible mumble) look at that. Zinger in. What a hockey player!”

England may not have won the World Cup, and Canada may not have even made it to the Cup at all, but I think we know who won this contest.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Paul the Octopus and his World Cup Predictions

Have you heard about Paul, the Octopus living in a German aquarium who has successfully predicted the outcome of 100% of this year’s World Cup games? Neither had I, until I read about it on Facebook. Yup, this soccer loving cephalopod chooses his food from different feeding boxes marked with flags from World Cup teams and so far, has amazing odds at choosing who will win in certain matches. In this Sunday’s final, he has predicted Spain will win. Yippee!

Why on earth would something like this start? Obviously, the octopus feeders at the aquarium have something to do with it, but after reading up on octopuses (yup, it is actually octopuses, not octopi, you can go ahead and look it up), I realize there are a lot of connections to make between an octopus and this year’s World Cup. For example:

Because he chose Spain as the ultimate winner, as I have done in my World Cup Pool, I can see why Wikipedia says octopuses are highly intelligent. And I learned that Paul, like all octopuses, moves by jet propulsion – much like Carlos Puyol did when he scored that delicious header against Germany on Wednesday – there’s just no other explanation of how he flew through the air like that. (Of course, an octopus also has a ‘hard beak’ which is another thing which allows an easy comparison with Carlos Puyol, but perhaps I should leave that one alone for now.) Also, octopuses have keen eyesight like the Spanish goalie, Iker Casillas, who has made some amazing saves. I could go on and on.

There’s always a chance I may be slightly biased in finding Paul the Octopus to be so gifted, since I do want Spain to win. I must admit that if Paul had predicted the Netherlands as the ultimate winners this Sunday, I would have written a comparison, backed up with facts, that both an octopus and the Netherlands soccer team are known to be spineless, tend to flee quickly and have a short life expectancy.

Kidding aside, do you think perhaps the biggest joke is on us? An octopus has arms bearing two rows of suckers, and you have to admit that Paul the Octopus has sucked in a lot of soccer fans with his predictions. Including me. ¡ Vaya Espa┼ła!