Friday, May 31, 2013

On the Passing of Bob Barlow

Wednesday night seemed normal.  Nothing exciting.  Nothing special.  Then I got the message from my friend, Scott Marshall (yeah, that guy from CWD!).  Bob had a heart attack on the way to a ball game.  He didn't come back.  Bob Barlow had died at the age of 47.

Bob and I go a long way.  From the moment I met him, I saw his calling in life.  It was bowling.  We bowled together and in a sense, we grew up together.  We bowled and we even worked together.  He was a remarkable coach and a talented 5-pin bowler.  He had the skill and the ability to make us better bowlers.  He was among many coaches that taught me the art.  He organized many tournaments which became successes in both bowling and baseball.

His most notable achievement was the tournament no one dares speak of, which I will, the Ontario YBC Invitational, a tournament featuring graduating junior bowlers.  It was a major success for the six years it was held at Bar-Don Lanes in Stoney Creek, a bowling alley owned by his grandfather, Wilf Barlow.  The final game had television coverage featuring the kegler-reporter, Bob Coulter.  Then all that changed.

It began with a fallout between Bob and his uncle, Jim.  Wilf retired in 1986, leaving the bowling alley with Jim.  A few months later, Wilf passed on.  Disagreements in the way the place was run resulted in Bob picking up his stakes, to take his tournament to a new venue.  That venue was University Lanes in Dundas.  I'm not sure on why Bob Coulter didn't do the play-by-play as Bob did colour commentary.  That's the way it was done at Bar-Don.  All that know was that Bob Coulter wasn't going to do the tournament final.  But I have to say that Bob Coulter not doing the show was not a big deal.  After all, we had a mutual friend who would step up.

That spring in 1988, a star was born and his name was Scott Marshall.  But I digress...

It was that year that everything began to unravel.  Money went missing and Bob couldn't satisfactorily explain where it went.  The treasurer at the time, Paul MacDonald, was struggling for an answer from Bob on where the money went.  It was a quarrel that took place in the parking lot of Taco Bell on Queenston Road.  Eventually it went to court and he began getting garnished.  But that was only the beginning.  It was for the misappropriation of those funds that Bob was suspended for life from 5-pin bowling.  He was not to bowl in any tournament and association members were forbidden from participating in anything involving him and 5-pin bowling.  By that time, Bob burned so many bridges that his tournament and everything he touched having to do with bowling went down in flames.  It was a tragic end to one of his lives.

For all his frailties, Bob was always trying to contribute to society in some way and he eventually found that way after leaving Taco Bell and bowling behind.  He organized the Canadian Big League baseball tournament with then Stoney Creek cable sports guru, Glenn Allan in 1994.  The tournament went fine, but a lightning strike which killed teenaged baseball player Matt Krol in Ancaster, was a major factor that did in the possibilty of a 1995 tournament.

I always knew him to be a passionate Dipper and eventually he would figure it out and begin his foray into politics.  After losing his first run in the civic election in 1997, he ran for School Trustee three years later.  And yes, I voted for him.  From that point, he became a school trustee. 

When Hamilton amalgamated, he ran for city councillor for ward 10 in 2003 and lost.  Eventually, he would be asked to return to the school board to help out before being elected back as a trustee in the 2006 election for wards 9 and 10.  And he was school trustee ever since.

He moved up the ranks and his leadership skills were eventually recognized to the effect that he became vice chair of the Board of Education. 

Thankfully, Bob's fall from grace didn't stop him from making a difference in our city, in public education and in the progressive movement, of which we stood on different sides.  There remain many challenges to public education.  South of the border, public education is under siege by market interests worshipping mammon over mankind. 

We are not just bystanders in this war either.  We all have a duty to ensure that our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters and even cousins are getting the best education we can give them through our tax dollars.  We do that every four years by simply voting.  For Bob, it was a job he was asked to do for us. 

Rest in peace, Bob.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meet Johnny Heisman

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel now belongs to a brotherhood like no other.  He is now a Heisman trophy quarterback.  I'm sure everyone knew that barring a major catastrophe, the trophy was his.  And that brings about another one of those uncomfortable truths of college football.

Traditionally, an offensive player is traditionally the favourite to win the trophy.  Manti Te'o was actually the best candidate, because his play elevated the Fighting Irish to finally vie for the national championship for the first time since the BCS system was brought in.

But apparently Johnny Football's story was the one that won the day.  A freshman winning the Heisman for the first time ever was more important than a senior having the best season of his career, finally realizing the dream that every Notre Dame football player has.  It comes down to the fact that offense has more sex appeal than the defense.  But what wins championships?  Defense, of course.

Forget the fact that Manti Te'o was a spark plug that challenged others on his team to rise to the occasion.  Forget the fact that it was his leadership and play that others played under and in some cases ascended to his level.  He was an inspiration to his team and to the program as a whole.  It is because of him that others will follow and aspire to play like he did.  Isn't that the true embodiment of the sport?

One thing is for sure.  Not only did the votes forget about Manti's performance, they forgot about the youthful indiscretions committed by Johnny Football.  They fell for the hype and in the end, they were more interested in a news headline than they were about maintaining the integrity of the sport.  Furthermore, Texas A&M has proven that their decision to join the SEC was a good one.  These don't bode well for the future of college football.

College football has been consistently behind the times and can barely find the way forward.   One can only hope that at some point progress can be made at a faster pace.  Penn State's indiscretions, the Cam Newton incident, Ohio State and USC sanctions and a half-assed four-team playoff system have shown that the NCAA still has quite a ways to go to clean up their biggest cash-cow in all of collegiate sport.

One can only hope that changes for the better will come sooner rather than later.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Disappointed, but not Surprised

Once again the opportunity for Hamilton to think big has once again left a bad taste in our mouths.  It's that same taste of an expressway that was almost studied to death.  It's that taste of a promising vision of an rapid transit system in Hamilton, to have it shelved at the last minute by our mayor.

The best metaphor for this would be in the form of a monarch butterfly.  It looks beautiful, almost as majestic as its name purports itself to be.  It is resilient and unique.  Next thing you know, it all goes south, leaving you with that incredibly bad taste in your mouth, that birds recognize enough to leave alone.  But then there's always that one stupid bird that decides that maybe things will be different.  That bird is us.  We take another kick at the can and come out sickened.

The stadium reveal and design should have been meant to give us something special to look forward to.  It should have been an exciting moment.  But it ended up more of a dog than a dog and pony show.  I watched the reveal on Tigervision at Ivor Wynne Stadium.  And it was indeed a disappointment.

Gone was a grand vision of a cathedral of a stadium, one which the White Star Group actually dared us to dream of.  Gone was the number of seats, from a 30,000 seat stadium, degraded to a 22,000 seater.  Gone was the parking, from over 500 spots, to 200 spots, if you're lucky.  As usual, our city took an opporunity to dream big, turned it right on its head and just left it in shambles.  It was a rude awakening indeed.  And it was just as depressing see the disappointment during a disappointment in itself, namely watching our Hamilton Tiger-Cats, once the home of defensive legends, dishonour that great tradition by getting shredded left, right and center by a virtually flawless BC Lion passing attack.  It was barely Tiger-Cat football, at least it wasn't the kind of football we've all been accustom to seeing.

Yes it was a disappointment and it was not surprising at all either.  We knew that as soon as the conversation returned to Ivor Wynne, it wouldn't end good at all.  We would return to the same problems that plague the current stadium.  And that has all been confirmed.

Yes, this city desperately needs a mayor that will dream big.  Bob Bratina doesn't cut it.  Fred Eisenberger will bore us to death.  And Larry DiIanni would still make a better kingmaker than a king.  The past belongs in the past.  Time to move forward.

So who is it that has the audacity to think big?  Maybe the picture will become clearer in two years.  One thing is for sure - the next mayor still needs to be an outsider.  All that mayors that were previous councillors have done is simply disappoint.  We don't need to settle for this.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Severe, but Appropriate

So Penn State has lost all their wins since 1998, they've lost scholarships, they won't appear at a bowl game for the next four years, fined the value of their TV revenue last year and afterwards, they will be on probation.  The Joe Paterno legacy continued to unravel over the last 72 hours, as 48 hours earlier, the statue of Joe Paterno was removed from the site.  The saddest thing about this is that Mr. Paterno is not among the living to watch this happen before his eyes.  But at least Jerry Sandusky will be behind bars for the rest of his natural life.
Yes, this goes beyond everything I suggested, but the intent behind these punitive sanctions is very much there.  As much as I hated to say it, they needed to be hit hard.  After all, this situation up to now was unprecedented.  And a lot of us know that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

People in a position of trust have a responsibility to the community they reside in and to the organizations they have a part in.  But of course, people will denounce it, saying that Joe didn't deserve this and neither did the university as a whole.  The man responsible was punished and that's where it should end, they say.

Those of you thinking this, give your heads a shake.  Once again, Joe Paterno had a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the program.  Did he do that?  No.  He passed the buck, letting someone else make a decision that was really his to make.  And when he passed the buck, did the next guy do something about it?  No.  From the athletic director, it went to the university president who, just like other two, did nothing.  When the integrity of your college or university is in danger, you don't cover it up.  You get rid of the problem, before it gets worse.

For that reason, Penn State is being punished for the actions of their previous administration.  Unfortunately, no sanctions were given to the people who were responsible for the perpetuation of this atrocity. 

But was the punishment right?  Some have said that the punishment is too severe, citing USC's and Ohio State's transgressions.  Theirs is about an ongoing issue with student football players who are continuously worshipped by the boosters and fans alike.  Even Miami, Auburn and several other colleges have experienced the same problems and a lot of it happens behind the backs of the administration.

But in this case, crimes were committed and the university had a duty to its community and their residents to report the crime and ensure the perpetrator faces the music.  The university, its administration and its athletic department didn't take these steps.  They didn't cooperate with the law and hoped that it could be swept away like it always was then.  That was then.  This is now.

Now Penn State will pay the price for not doing the right thing.  This is not about money, like other colleges and universities.  It's about the cover-up of a heinous felony.  That is why they now face the punishment dealt to them, and rightfully so.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gross Negligence at Penn State and the Solution

I'm sure those of you following the investigation on Penn State regarding the Jerry Sandusky affair are still digesting the information that investigator Louis Freeh provided to the university trustees.  And it all points to one conclusion.

The Penn State athletics department and the university president conspired with Joe Paterno and the football program to protect a pedophilic predator from prosecution and "bad publicity."  They did everything they could to hold on to someone who they knew could not be trusted around young boys.  They knew this almost 20 years ago.

When confronted with the information, Joe Paterno swept it under the rug and carried on as if nothing happened.  So the wagons were circled before the allegation was made public last winter.  Even worse was the arrogance shown by Paterno when he said that he would retire after the end of the season.  He was rightfully dismissed, but by then it was too little too late, even on the university's part.

By definition, the university was grossly negligent in their duties to the students, the trustees, and to the community in which they reside.  They know that Jerry Sandusky should have been dismissed and reported the very moment they found out what happened, but they didn't.  They knew that letting this matter go on could have been far more damaging to the university and its reputation, but they went forward, perhaps hoping that Joe Paterno would leave and with him, his coaches.  But he didn't leave and the atrocities continued.  Somebody had to know that things would get worse if they continued to avoid taking action, but asking why at this point won't help in the healing.  The horses have already left the barn.

But we at least know that all the actions taken against Joe Paterno were justified, including the removal of his name from the Big Ten conference football championship trophy.  Not even his unfortunate death would bring any form of redemption.  It simply leaves a chasm of credibility where the firm ground of a strong reputation once sat.

So as the one part of the closure process will commence the moment Mr. Sandusky sits behind bars until the end of his natural life, another part will commence.  And it will be on the part of the university.  A logical start is putting the football program on probation, followed by the dismissal of all remaining people who were in the position to act, but didn't.

As callous as it is to say, Penn State needs to be made an example before the NCAA community.  They need to atone for their sins as a whole.  They need to be punished.

Closure won't be achieved until all the surviving people involved in this debacle are appropriately sanctioned for their actions and inactions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bob Rae does the right thing

Bob Rae did the right thing today.

He has confirmed that he will not seek the leadership of the Liberal party.  Some will be disappointed and some will be elated.  In the last almost 150 years that this country has been around, there hasn't been a prime minister who was previously the premier of a province.  The major reason for this is that there is always a point in time in a leader's reign when the leader ceases to be an asset to his party and begins to become a liability.

Bob Rae had that moment, as did Mike Harris, who resigned before he could face the music.  So did Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau.  A former leader carries a history along with a record of everything that happened on his watch.  So such history can be explosive to the party.

That is why leaders need to stay fresh.  Once the decomposing begins, there is no stopping it.

Don't get me wrong.  I think Bob Rae would have made a great Prime Minister, but his history will always be his greatest liability.

Monday, June 4, 2012


It's time to talk about what's really going on in Ottawa!