Ron MacLean, French referees, and public outrage

First of all, GO HABS GO! Great series, boys!

If you’re a fan like me, you watched games 1-4 attentively, with excitement. You would have seen a young French referee in Game 3 named Francis Charron make a very gutsy call to disallow a Tampa Bay goal. You would have seen the shock that followed from the Tampa bench. You would have expected, from experience, that the fact that this referee and the Montreal coach and GM spoke the same first language would be brought up. Sadly.

You’d have been right.

Then, in Game 4, another French referee, Francois St. Laurent, is involved in another goalmouth decision. This time, he decides in favour of Tampa Bay. Phew. Crisis averted, right?

Nope.

At the intermission, CBC’s Ron MacLean opines that the NHL should not have assigned a French referee to this game, given what happened in the last game.

Okay. Interesting.

Then, within hours, outrage from people in various parts of the country at this comment.

The Montreal Gazette, in its typical habit of promoting controversy to sell “papers”, publishes a letter to the editor written at lightning-fast speed (so fast he didn’t even care to check facts or understand context) by Calgary native Kevin O’Connor, who criticizes, well, everyone at the CBC, saying this:

Ron MacLean’s comments regarding the inappropriate use of French referees in the Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay game was insulting to all Canadians who respect diversity and who live in a country that claims this as a value.

To think our so-called national broadcaster allows such divisive rhetoric is deplorable and just reinforces the fact that the CBC should have its funding cut (even though I do not support the political reasons the government uses to justify its cuts).

The CBC should be ashamed of itself! I know my family and I are.

I would love to have someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?”

(…)

Once again, shame on the CBC. Hopefully Rogers will provide a more balanced coverage and keep divisive ignorant behaviour to a minimum.

A soon to be RDS customer …

Kevin O’Connor, Calgary

Since he asks so nicely for someone to provide an explanation to his 6-year old son, and since I love to help, here’s one I wrote just for him. I invite him to share this with his young child.

To Kevin O’Connor, outraged Habs fan:

As a proud Habs fan myself, I watched last night’s Game 4 with interest and excitement, and heard the comment that Ron MacLean made about French referees during the intermission.

As a parent, aware of my child being a proverbial “sponge”, soaking in comments from all around, and her being very inquisitive, I am sensitive to your call for “someone from CBC provide an explanation to my 6-year-old son, who asked “why is Mr. MacLean saying they should not have French referees?””

Since I doubt that the CBC would take the time to provide such an answer to you, please accept mine.

First, I would tell your son that Mr. MacLean did not actually say they should not have French referees. I would tell him that it is important to listen carefully before criticizing. What Mr. MacLean actually said was that he doesn’t think the league should have assigned a French referee for Game 4, the game following one where a French referee made a marginal call in favour of the Habs that had a huge impact on the game.

You could use this opportunity to teach your son the meaning of the term “unfortunate coincidence” given that you must, like all reasonable people, understand that professional hockey referees do not stand to gain anything by calling a game in favour of one team or the other.

You could further teach your son that whether we like it or not, people will judge. They won’t take the time to understand the context of the thing they are complaining about, to get the full story, or even make sure that the story they tell is true. They will judge anyway.

Oh, wait. You did teach your son that. You proved to him that his own father is the worst example of that, by writing this letter.

Now that you have received my explanation, Mr. O’Connor, I would ask you to provide me with an explanation of why you are so outraged by MacLean’s so-called generalization of “French referees” (that you have wildly misinterpreted, by the way) while finding it completely acceptable to generalize MacLean’s personal comment to be representative of the entire CBC. I actually read what you wrote (“The CBC should be ashamed of itself!) and again later (Once again, shame on the CBC!) before criticizing. Why should an entire network be ashamed because of a singular comment made by one person during a live broadcast?

Finally, you could teach your son that people make mistakes, and that the honourable ones take responsibility and apologize, just like Ron MacLean did. The sad part, here, is that you criticized so quickly that you didn’t give him the time to teach your son the most important lesson of all – that when you do wrong, or might have, to ultimately do what is right.

Mark (Unleashed)

Good riddance, ex-Premier Marois

I understand that politically correct offers of thanks to outgoing Premier Pauline Marois for her “service” to Quebec will happen. Still, I am confused when I hear them, given that Marois’ version of “service” was to divide Quebecers, sow hatred, and create space for people to “not be afraid to be intolerant” (her words).

However, reading Gazette columnist Jillian Page’s “appreciation” is simply shocking. To attempt to credit Marois for “putting herself in the line of fire,” literally, is to re-write what happened on the night of the 2012 election and what led up to it.

Let me be clear: I am not condoning shooting people one doesn’t agree with. We should not be surprised, however, that when someone runs a campaign meant on creating animosity between people and exploiting cultural and religious differences, and for what – personal, political gain – that someone would resort to extreme measures to stop it.

While die-hard Pequistes will claim that Premier Marois dedicated herself to Quebec, Monday night’s result shows clearly that most Quebecers understand that Marois’ only service was to her own narrow self-interest, at the expense of everyone who did not think like her or want what she wants. Rather than congratulate her, let us get right to the difficult work of building the bridges she destroyed and undoing the vast damage she caused to our communities and to our province.

Celebrity with a Deadly Past

As we approach the Paralympics, I find myself conflicted.

I witnessed much of the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games first hand as an employee of the the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and can attest to the remarkable nature of and perseverance shown by these athletes in overcoming their physical limitations in order to excel in sport, and for some, in life.

That being said, some of the disabilities are not as unexpected as others. This story talks about how former Canadian Paralympic sledge hockey player Herve Lord admitted that on the night he lost his right leg in a car accident, he was driving drunk. The accident killed 2 parents and left 2 kids orphaned.

At the end of the video, this reporter calls Lord “an incredible guy” who has “been through an awful lot”.

  • Do you think he is incredible?
  • Does “being through an awful lot” count for as much when the hardship is of your own irresponsible causing?
  • Does someone like this deserve to be celebrated (in a report, as a representative of a country, in a session with the country’s leader) after what he did?
  • Does the fact that he served 16 months in prison make up for killing 2 people and leaving 2 others without their parents, AND allow him to live a normal life within his new context, an opportunity not afforded at all to the two he killed?
  • Does his remorse affect your opinion at all? How?

I am having a hard time forgiving this action and justifying cheering this guy on. Thankfully, he’s no longer part of the team, so I will be excitedly cheering on Canada these Paralympics in hopes of Triple Hockey Gold in Sochi. But I would love your opinions on how this guy’s past actions affect how you see him, and people like him, today.

Let’s build bridges in Quebec

The identity and Charter of Values debates in Quebec have definitely increased tensions on both sides of this province’s linguistic divide. Personally, I am sad and angry at this state of affairs. I am scared for the future of this province. The separation debate is one thing, but trying to win an election by instilling fear of your neighbours is much, much worse. 

Much of the support for these divisive policies seems to be coming from Quebec’s “regions”. Areas outside of the big cities where the population is very homogeneous. They don’t see Muslims very often. Most of them don’t have Muslim friends, and I dare say that many might never have even met one. 

It seems that there are 2 plausible explanations for the 40%+ support of these  policies. 1) that the people who support them are truly hateful, or 2) that they are scared, insecure, fearful of what they don’t know or have much experience with. I fear that it could be #1, but I hope with all of my heart that it is #2. 

One friend told me that he is disappointed that through all of the complaining about these laws, we are seeing very few solutions being proposed. He’s absolutely right. I would like to propose a solution, one that I need your help in making happen. 

Let’s build bridges in Quebec. 

The media hasn’t been effective in getting people to see other viewpoints. Harmony doesn’t sell newspapers and ad space; conflict does. Sensationalism does. And I certainly don’t trust this government to help. It is in the PQ’s interest to sow division, fear, and discontent in its base. 

So what can we do? 

We need to go straight to them. We need to travel to where they are. We need these people to meet real live anglophones, real live allophones, real live Muslims, face to face.

We need to create a direct dialogue to show them what we contribute to Quebec and to make it patently clear that, contrary to what the PQ will have them believe, we are partners, not enemies. 

We need to organize town hall type meetings where we can pass along a positive, unfiltered message. Where everyone can learn about the other in a way that isn’t biased by government propaganda or media hype. 

We have a problem, and direct dialogue is the only way that has a chance to solve it. 

We need to do this now. Yesterday, in fact.

I don’t personally have the resources to make this happen, but many interested Quebecers do. If you believe that this plan might make a difference, please share this post on your social networks in hopes that the right people will hear about it and help make it a reality.

Thank you.

Gold Medal Olympic Breakfast

WOOHOO!!! Congratulations to the Canadian men’s hockey team (and the women, and men’s curling, and women’s curling, and… ) on their incredible GOLD MEDAL performances!

I am not a fan of waking up before 7am, but if I am going to do it, it’s going to be for a good reason (Canadian Olympic hockey GOLD!) and I am going to have a great breakfast. Here’s what I made and served this morning:

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

CAN 3-SWE 0 for Olympic GOLD, Sochi 2014 Feb 23/2014

All you need:

For the Olympic rings: bagels (Montreal bagels, the best in the world), cream cheese, red, blue, green, and yellow food colouring (mix red, green and blue to make the “black” for the middle ring),

For the gold medal: scrambled eggs and bacon (ran out just before 11pm last night for this ingredient)

Cut steak into the shape of a maple leaf for a Canadian finish.

Deliciously GOLDEN!

Congratulations to all of Canada’s athletes. So proud of how you represented us on the world stage!

See you in Pyeongchang in 2018!

2014 Super Bowl Commercials

Thank you for visiting Mark Unleashed, a blog dedicated to truly speaking freely, even when the opinion is not common or mainstream, and personal development.

Please check out some of my posts by clicking on the links to the right and subscribe to receive future posts right in your inbox. Thank you!

If you’re like me, the day after the Super Bowl is a day to check out all the commercials that you missed during the big game. Or, in Canada, all of the commercials that our immature national TV regulator prevented us from seeing in a bid to promote Canadian content. Here’s a link to simplify your search for all of the 2014 Super Bowl commercials. Thanks to Mashable for simplifying my search this year. Enjoy!

Which commercials did you like best? Post in the comments below!

http://mashable.com/2014/02/02/super-bowl-2014-commercials/#gallery/super-bowl-2014-ads/52efe04097b2f85182003580

Love, Mark

The case of Richard Sherman

In honour of the Super Bowl this Sunday, a football post!

If you’re a football fan, you’ve probably heard of Richard Sherman. Yup, he’s the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who made a phenomenal last-minute play to seal the Seahawks’ berth into the Super Bowl. And then, when reporter Erin Andrews asked him a simple question, he’s the guy that went, well, psycho.

Now I’m not a fan of the standard pre-, mid-, and post-game interview that we all have heard thousands of times, where a player rattles off tame clichés to keep everyone calm and avoid giving the opponent any ammunition or fire for the game. I feel like I waste precious moments of my life when I hear interview answers like: “they’re an excellent team”, “they’ve got some talented guys there” and “we’re going to have to play for a full 60 minutes to come away with this one” when we all know that in their locker room, among themselves, they were talking the height of smack.

So on one hand, it’s refreshing to hear, as Andrews herself called it, Sherman’s “raw emotion.” It puts some reality back into the boring sports interview. But,  in proclaiming his superiority and his opponent’s “sorry-ness”, he crossed a line between professional and, well, childish.

It has been widely reported that Sherman and Michael Crabtree (the intended receiver on that final play and target of Sherman’s outburst) have an acrimonious history believed to be from an interaction at a charity event. It is easy to believe that this fun fact played a role in Sherman’s behaviour. Sherman claims that his outburst was about his opponent’s incompetence meeting his superiority. I believe that this was personal.

In response to people bad-mouthing Richard Sherman with names like “thug”, his supporters are quick to point out how he came from the projects and excelled academically, graduating top of his class from Stanford, and that he’s very involved in his community.

On the other hand, in judging a person, I am compelled to consider the whole person. Richard Sherman is also someone who has brashly and unapologetically  gone off on and make personal attacks against sports writers who dispute his “I’m the best” rants. Frankly, when someone or something is truly “the best”, they don’t need to say it – or scream it – especially not like a deranged psychopath.

There’s no disputing that, in terms of his academic achievement, he’s a model worth emulating. In terms of his behaviour with people who disagree with him though, he’s classless, arrogant, and ignorant. And for that, I can’t respect him – no matter what his GPA was.

Richard Sherman was nice and honourable when nobody was watching – which is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. But now that people are watching, and given that he has demonstrated his ability to be selfless (community service) and a good role model (excellent student), NOW IS THE TIME to really be those things and make a difference. Seems to me like his success has made him feel entitled to forget all the great things he’s done and been, like his celebrity offers him some sort of tacit permission. I don’t agree that it does. In fact, his celebrity amplifies the attention that he gets and thus, the possible impact that his actions can have on impressionable people who watch him.

Richard Sherman needs to decide whether he wants to be emulated for his commendable off-field service, drive, and commitment to education, or whether he wants to be the poster boy for vindictiveness, personal attacks, and petulant resistance to criticism.

Richard, you can be intense without sacrificing your dignity. You’re at the beginning of your career. You are obviously busy preparing for the big game, but starting Monday, you might want to give this some careful consideration.

And on the topic of sports writers criticizing you, consider the case of the much-maligned Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman and Norris-trophy winner P.K. Subban, who plays in probably the most demanding hockey market in the world. He has been the subject of a tremendous amount of criticism, especially in commentary leading up to the selection of the Canadian Olympic hockey team. After he was selected, he was asked whether he believes his selection would silence his detractors. His response: “I hope not because they’re the people that make me better, so I hope they keep critiquing and finding things to talk about.”

There you have it: proof that passion and intensity can exist with class and intelligence. And that, we can all respect.