By Rob Ficiur
On the last day of school, children race home to share their marks with their parents (sometimes). If the sporting world got report cards, some would want their parents to see their marks; others would intentionally forget to share their final grade.
A+ Canada – (Alberta) (South East Alberta) – We live in one of the best places in the world. Yes, we have legitimate concerns about numerous issues – but before we list our valid concerns, do we (I) count the good things we have? If you are in doubt, just watch the news, and see what other place you would like to live.
A – Toronto Blue Jays – At the moment of this writing the Blue Jays (that is the Toronto Blue Jays) have a 1.5 game lead on top of the American League East Division. The last the last time the Jays were in first place this late in the year was in 1993. Yes they are 4-6 in their last ten games – but after the slump they are still in first place.
Why are the Toronto Blue Jays ten games better than they were a year ago? Their pitching has been steady – and steady wins games. (Blue Jays had the best earned run average for starting pitchers – guess that is not too bad – best in the league). Hitting has been hot; and fielding has improved. Since the improvement has been a group effort, then it is more likely to be sustainable for the next two months. If so, there will be meaningful baseball in Toronto in September.
B- Calgary Flames – Last season the Calgary Flames finished 26th in the 30 team NHL. Yet, as they entered this week’s entry draft – and the free agent frenzy that follows July 1 – Flames fans and reporters are excited about the team’s future. For the first time in a decade the team has a core of young players that could develop into a solid team. Last season their work ethic made them competitive, even when they lost more games than they won.
C- Canadian Football League – This week the CFL season got off to a start with a unusual clouds and sunshine hanging over it (at the same time). For the first time since 2006 there is a team playing in Ottawa – we are back to the traditional 9 team CFL. Ottawa and Hamilton will be playing in brand new arenas – a sign that the CFL is on solid financial footing.
The cloud over all this is the recent labor dispute between the league and the player’s association. The players wanted a higher salary cap – giving them a higher portion of the increased revenue in the league. Eventually a deal was struck, but many players were unhappy with the deal. Unhappy players in a sports league is not new – but for the CFL to be at a point in history where it is strong enough for a labor battle to occur shows promise for the future.
C – LeBron James – In his four years with the Miami Heat, LeBron James took the team to the finals every year; winning two championships. Within his legal rights, this week LeBron exercised his contractual option to go to free agency. Fans and the media are fickle in how they slant things. LeBron James can sign with whatever team he wants. He can invite all of his free agent friends to sign with that team as well. He did this four years ago – he can do it again. Fans don’t mind teams collecting the players they want, why can’t players collect their friends on the team they want?
The problem with LeBron James and Free Agency #2 is that he milked the media the last time. He made the free agent signing a show case about him. While we all knew his signing was about LeBron – when a player goes out of his way to bring attention to himself – we either like him or hate him. It is easy to hate the player at the top of the league, no matter what he is doing.
F – No failing marks this on Canada Day. Refer to item #1 – imperfect as it is, we live in the best country of the world.