Random Thoughts from Sweeney’s Corner – Sept 17th

OK, week 2 of this blog thing.  Lots on the mind, but on a rainy and gloomy day, it is a good time to bang out these thoughts.  Trying to add a couple of “running themes” this week, as I am sure that will aid me in writing this…or at least give me a little structure as a launch point.

Such a crazy time of year, with CFL in the second half of the season, MLB in the stretch run, NFL kicking off, and NASCAR entering playoff season.  In the “real” world we get into the kids school routines (which for us means the craziness of dance and hockey is upon us!) and the days get a little shorter.

If you are anything like me, I hang on to the last breath of summer as long as I can.  I refuse to wear pants outside of work for as long as I can, leave my pool open a little too long (hey, as long as it is in the 70’s, life is good for this polar bear!), and generally squeeze as much golf in the next 6 weeks as I did the months of June thru August.

Have found myself feeling a little nostalgic this weekend.  I think the coming fall always brings that mindset for me.  This summer has seen me make a couple foray’s into my past, as for the first time in several years, I went to the racetrack.  For those that don’t know, stock car racing was the playground of my youth.  Most summer weekends from the time I was 5 or 6 through my mid twenties I was at the track.  And then, as I hit my mid-twenties, I burnt out.  It is funny, because I have watched so many of my friends who were in minor hockey hang up the skates, and I couldn’t understand it.  Hockey has always been a love of mine, and I didn’t play any minor hockey.  I played a ton of ball hockey, but never had the joy of being handed a jersey and socks from “the team”.  Yet so many of my friends who played Rep no longer skated, and here I was playing twice a week.

And then recently it hit me…it was the same burnout that took me out of racing.  Sometimes, when you sacrifice all the other joys of youth in pursuit of something, you reach a point of life where you seek balance.  You try to discover all those other things that you missed.  It is not that you don’t still love your childhood sport. It is not even a sense of regret.  I know for me, I loved every minute I spent at the track.  Then I hit a wall…and little things started to bug me.  I saw “what others were doing” and sort of wished I was doing some of that.

But this year, I found myself being pulled back towards the race track.  I still have plenty of friends in that world, and I found myself interested in the events again.  Two distinct storyline’s had me following along with great interest.

The first has been building for a couple of years, but really “redlined” this year.  My old racing team, Fastline Motorsports, has had a phenomenal year.  The seats have been turned over to Jeff’s two sons, Cayden and Treyten, and the results have been historical, and that is not hyperbole.  Cayden at 16 years old is just waiting for the call of “Drivers, start your engines” to claim the Nascar Pinty’s series title.  This will make him the youngest touring series champion in Nascar history.  That is not “Nascar Canada” history, but Nascar history.  He will break Joey Logano’s record by almost a year.  It is big folks.

cayden

I could write an entire article on this historic run, but I know that this is not my audience.  Few of my friends follow racing. What I will say is this – the narrative will be about the age at which Cayden has accomplished this, beating a roster full of racing lifers to take this crown.  And that is a great story.  Some will cite “overnight success”, and that is where I would disagree.  This story has been decades in the making at Fastline Motorsports, going back to the days when Jimmy and Jeff (Cayden and Treyten’s father)  were 16, and paying their dues racing across the country.  This is the vision of “Papa Joe” finally coming to fruition. It is a story of immense sacrifices of the Lapcevich family, and all the “guys back in the shop” who put in the late nights (and early mornings) to get cars to the racetrack over the years.  Having been part of that, a long time ago, I can tell you that the amount of work that goes into the sport at this level is on par with the life of the hockey parent. Instead of “early mornings in the rink” it is “late nights in the race shop”, but the same dedication and perseverance is present.

And all the while, Cayden’s younger brother Treyten has wrapped up a rookie season at Sunset Speedway that will see him finish third in points, and breaking Cayden’s previous record for youngest winner in the Super Stock division.

treyten.jpg

The picture doesn’t lie folks. Treyten is 12 years old.  He is winning features against adults, in perhaps the most competitive division in the province.  And you will not find a more well-spoken, humble 12-year-old anywhere.

To say it has been an amazing run simply sells it short.  And I will have to sell it short, because I am running out of time.  Let’s just say I am proud to be a “Fastline Alumni”!  I hope that corporate Canada will step up and help these two young men pursue their dreams.

I will also admit, going back to the racetrack a couple of times allowed me some chance to reflect.  It was my Dad that brought me to the racetrack.  So many hours each summer, when I worked with him, were spent talking about racing.  I wish I could have spent some time this summer talking about these runs.  He wanted to go to Sunset this year, I wish we could have done that.  I miss him greatly, and today is his birthday.  I hope he enjoys my ramblings.

OK, I better get back into my lane, which is “stick and ball sports”, before l lose the last of my four readers.

World Cup of Hockey:

Was amazed the other night on my 2 night stay in Detroit to find hockey on TV.  I know, for a Canadian, this is a universal right to see hockey on television every night.  We have talk shows that go year round.  TSN shows repeats of hockey all summer.  Training camp draws TV crews.  In the U.S. however, finding a hockey game on TV is a challenge. I have spent many a night driving around U.S. cities (especially come playoff time) to find a bar with a game on.  Hotel TV – good luck!  It simply doesn’t happen. As much as my good friend Gary Bettman goes on about his great TV deal in the U.S., NBC Sports is NOT a cable network.  It is a specialty channel in the U.S.  So finding the game on a TV is a challenge.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel…maybe, if Bettman doesn’t mess it up.  ESPN has jumped in to cover the World Cup. I am sure they are trying to gauge interest of the american viewer.  I saw both Team Canada and Team U.S.A pre-tournament games on live TV.  They have Chris Chelios and Brett Hull as in studio analysts, which brings some cache and entertainment value.  And the broadcasts have been excellent.  One can only hope that this succeeds, because the game needs a presence on ESPN. Last spring, trying to find highlights or updates on scores even across the ESPN channels was akin to finding a full set of teeth in the Come by Chance.  If you waited around a couple of hours, it might happen. But you were more likely to get a 7 minute segment on Lebron James breakfast than a playoff update.

In terms of the tournament, I am going to have to change-up my predictions on this tourney a little bit, as I was unaware of the pools or the structure.  I couldn’t find a proper image, but here are the groups:

Group “Easy Street”

  • Canada
  • USA
  • Team Europe
  • Czech Republic

Group of Death

  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • North America

So based on these groups, and top 2 teams moving on, I am compelled to go back on both of my previous bold predictions: the USA will not miss the playoff round, and Team North America will.  If you switched their places within the pods, or simply swapped Europe and North America, I would stick to my guns.  The tournament organizers clearly want Canada and the US going deep in this tournament, as that is the best case for ticket sales.  And make no mistake, this tourney is all about:

So, here is the way I now see it.

Group “Easy Street”:

Canada is first, USA is second.  After that, I expect that Team Europe has a little more juice than the Czech’s.  I know it is always dangerous to count out the Czech’s, they have a long history of upsets in these formats.  I just don’t see it here.  I think the only question here is will the US be able to upset Canada in the round robin.  For the answer, I turn to Meghan for the answer:

 

The Group of Death:

I so badly want to be call Team North America here.  I do.  It would be great for hockey.  It would (sadly) justify this farce of a tournament on some level.  I just hate the odds.  It would require this team of limited facial hair to knock of 2 of the Russians, Swede’s and Finn’s.  Mr. Bush, what say you?

Are they going to end one of those countries dreams though?  Yes, yes they are.  I feel it.  They are not going 0-fer here.  Who is it going to be?  That is where I struggle.

OK, are y’all ready for this.  (Yes, that song is playing in my head!)

Russia.  They are going to beat Russia.  I think their defence is better than Russia, and i think they can score with Russia.  However, it wont knock Russia out.  It’s the Finn’s who are going to be the victim, because when Russia loses to McDreamy’s crew, they will then be in a must win versus Finland.  And they will sneak in the back door, as the Russian’s so often do.

I think this group could be very close.  I can see goal differential coming into play here, as I can foresee all of Russia, Sweden and Finland finishing up 2-1.  In fact, there is still a part of me that wants to put North America through.  I just don’t see them sneaking up on these good teams.  So I will go Sweden first, Russia second, both knocking off Finland on goal differential.  North America though will give these teams some scares.  They could just as easily knock off Sweden or Finland, as neither team can dangle with them…but neither team will try!

CFL:

OK, what in the name of Montford is going on with the Ticats.  Labour Day has passed, it is time to get serious about this season.

OK, last video I promise.  I am getting carried away.  But really, last second field goal to beat Montreal.  Me you and 10 friends (CFL, 12 guys on the field dumb dumb!) can beat Montreal.

I think there are a couple of issues.  The secondary is bad.  Has been for a long time.  The bigger issue though, in my opinion, is the offence.  There are too many mouth’s to feed.  On top of that, I think the loss of Coach Condell is proving bigger than anticipated.

I think it is a year of transition, we know Coach Austin is a control freak, and has his finger’s deep in the offence.  I do think he gave Condell a lot more freedom than he has given new Coach Ptaszek, which is difficult.  More than X’s and O’s (I am resisting the urge to add a song here), it is the relationship side that “haunts” Austin.  I think Tommy Condell was a buffer for the players for the very intense Austin.  I think Coach Ptaszek is cut from the same cloth as Austin. They are blunt, and demanding.  The players are not getting any break from these two coaches now.  And it is hurting the performance on the field.

Good news is this is the CFL, and the East division is not deep.  Only the silly boys in lumber jackets stand between our Ticats and a return trip to the Grey Cup.  I will still take my chances with that!  Would love a chance to wipe that smile off of Henry Burris’ face.

NFL:

I’m going to do a bit of a quick fire “Notes and Nuggets” from the NFL each week.  I want to start each week with a couple topics…let me know what you want to see.  Here we go.

Surprise of the week?

For me, the surprise of the week, for the second year in a row, was the San Francisco 49ers white wash of the perennial 7-9 Jeff Fisher.  28-0.  Really, is this the way we are going to welcome the Rams back to LA?  Maybe this is not the surprise of the week though, maybe the news later in the week of an extension for Jeff Fisher for another 3 years was.  Let’s just go ahead and reward mediocrity.

Trend or Aberration?

The Minnesota Vikings won their opener over the Tennessee Titans, on the strength of their defence.  That will be a trend.  Adrian Peterson being held to 31 yards, and an average per carry less than 2?  I hope that is not a trend.  Drama of his parenting skills aside, this is a generational player we are watching here, and I sincerely hope we are not witnessing the end of an era.  We will learn a lot more when Minnesota open their fancy new stadium against the Green Bay Packers.

Something that really bugged me this week?

The first half of the Kansas City Chiefs season.  Yep, awful.

Chris Collinsworth’s ability to make every player in his weekly telecast “the best in the NFL”?  Yep, I otherwise enjoy Chris as a television analyst, but please stop telling me how great (insert otherwise unknown player’s name here) is this week, on every broadcast.

Something that made me smile?

Surviving week 1 in my Survivor Pool, as I more often than not lose week 1.  My old “Stelco” pickem league makes us take 2 games in the first two weeks.  Though there were scares for both Seattle and Houston, I got through.

Scary this week too – I have Panthers and Bronco’s.  Yes, I gag in my mouth saying Bronco’s.

A few things I think I think:

  • I have grudgingly been saying it for a few weeks now, but the Oakland Raiders are on the rise.  They finally have competent management, evidenced by no longer throwing money around like drunken sailors to every free agent, and drafting well.  Khalil Mack is a legitimate difference maker.  Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are going to be making plays for this team for years to come.  A sleeper in the AFC.
  • So when I see the Patriots as 6-point underdogs last week, I thought “when did that happen last?”  Answer apparently is 2009.  Then it went to 9.5 points in Vegas.  So of course the Patriots won.  In Belichick we trust, the rest pay cash.  Of course, the rest of the AFC East lost…so already, one week in, and the AFC East is the Patriots to lose.
  • They did it with Tom Terrific sitting his first of 4 games of his “Deflategate” suspension.  This is an absolute joke, which I will not waste much of your time on.  Everyone knows this is a farce, if you don’t, go back to Mr.Yakimov’s Churchill Grade Nine science class and ask him about the Ideal Gas Law.
  • Speaking of farces, how much longer will Rex Ryan be flapping his gums and masquerading as an NFL Head Coach?  He is a clown show, and brought his brother to the show this year.  Rob Ryan’s last good defence?   2013 New Orleans.  And this has not been a trend, beyond that one season, he has been nothing but mediocre.  So Rex’s solution to an 0-2 start – fire Greg Norman, the Offensive Co-Ordinator.  Yep, it was his fault that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker shredded your defense.

Game of the Week:

Has to be Pittsburgh and Cincinatti.  This is rivalry at it’s worst, as evidenced by the debacle that was last years playoff game, where the Bengals simply imploded in impressive fashion.  This will be a throwback game, with big hits, and a ton of chirping on both sides.  What will decide it though is which defence can do a better job of limiting the star wide recievers – Antonio Brown and AJ Green.  Let’s just hope we don’t see this again:

AB twerk.gif

I broke my promise, I couldn’t resist adding this.

Once again…I have said it all, I have said too much.

 

 

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