My "Panamania" Special, with comments on women's soccer

For any readers of this blog who are not living in South Ontario; we have the Pan Am games going on in Toronto. I have a good look at them because I live in central Toronto close to many sites.

For any readers of this blog who do live in Toronto and are inclined to sneer at this show as "bread and circuses" and a corruption of sport and so on; yes it is bread and circuses, and so what? People need not just "bread" but "circuses" to live, to not merely exist. The games are run by crooked business people for their own profit, like almost everything else in the world is. What are you going to do, move to a desert island?

So sit back and enjoy the circus. It is possible for people without a lot of money, like me, to get a lot out of this show. I can watch most events on cable. If you like watching things on a two inch cell phone screen, you can do that too. I have gone out to a couple of events, but I generally prefer to see games on TV with commentary, in my own comfy chair.

Also, my medical conditions are such that I do not tolerate heat and sun well, and have a limited capacity to sit outside and watch beach volleyball or sailing. The latter was free and only a short walk from my house. But the short time I was able to make it down there, it was pretty slow.

As for volleyball, the only tickets I could get were the women's Columbia-Costa Rica game and one men's game. Beach volleyball seems designed for dirty old folks like me. I watched the frisky young gals from team Canada in their pink panties, as they ran, jumped, and dived after the ball. They came fourth, but first in my heart and other places.

can't always get what you want

I really would have loved to have seen the women's Rugby sevens, especially the gold medal game. Or, the basketball gold game. I like seeing women play sports, Canadians win sports, and Americans lose.

I have blogged enough upon my thesis that women's sports have far more entertainment value, but not enough attention. That is because sports are run by white male business men, whose object is not to make money, but to maintain control. In other words, just like all of capitalism. These business men tend to be much more misogynistic that the general population.

Canada seems to be gradually getting over the loser culture and beginning to enjoy winning. That cannot be anything but good. Sports helps create a positive kind of nationalism which Canada needs more of, to counter the thought conditioning nonsense supposed to prepare us for US integration.

Damn it, I do like to see Americans lose something. They have the worst kind of chauvinistic entitlement mentality. I have often put forward the idea that the US should be banned or boycotted from international competition because of its aggressive foreign policies. Just like South Africa once was, and Israel is now at least partly under. So far nobody is responding, even to troll at me.

I did not want to go far afield to see games. Yes, a ticket gets you free travel on TCHC and, I think, the GO train, but transit outside core Toronto is not so efficient and I do not want to spend all day trundling out there and be tired by time I arrive. Otherwise, I would have gone out to Hamilton and watched some women's soccer.

Some funding transfer problems prevented my from seeing Rugby sevens, which finished early in the games. I am getting interested in that and would like to see more of it on the tube. It is like American "football" but without the overly restricting rules and focus on brutal force. Women are able to play it and the Canadian women demolished the Americans fifty something to I think seven at the gold medal game.

It was at exhibition place. But I did not get some money into my debit account in time. By that time medal games were all sold out. I decided I could afford to see one game, but what?

I asked the ticket booth guy about women's bullfighting events, which drew some laughter. But I settled for beach volleyball. Well, they are both done on sand.

welcome to Toronto

Some of the entertainment was of the unplanned variety. I live only a few blocks from the athlete's village and have encountered some of them walking around the neighborhood, to see how we live in Canada.

A group of about half a dozen females were walking by my front door talking in Spanish. They were accompanied by this tall guy, probably their coach. All had passes around their necks and "Venezuela" on their backs.

"Hello, Venezuelans" I said from the bench in the patio. They looked at me nervously and started giggling.

"Viva Maduro" I said.

They stared at me scornfully. "No!" they shouted in unison.

I waved and looked away.

They seemed fascinated by our "count down" traffic lights and tweeting pedestrian signals.

So, I try to enjoy the games while they are here. I have been to "Pan Am" park and got my monogrammed coke can and a picture of myself holding the relay torch. I made it to Nathan Phillips square but there was not much there.

remembering past games

Actually, this is the second time I have had an international sporting event happen right in my neighborhood. In 1988 I was living in Calgary, a few blocks away from the stampede grounds where much of the winter olympics of that year took place.

These were the games of the Jamaican bobsled team and ski-jumper "Eddie the Eagle" who both finished last but came first in our hearts. There was also the figure skating duet between Elizabeth Manley and Katerina Witt, both doing an interpretation of "Carmen".

I was very poor at that time but I got a few days work in cleaning up the saddledome. I saw some of the figure skaters doing practice. These people frightened me a bit; so self obsessed. Like, if somebody offered something that would insure they won but might kill them in twenty years on, they would do it.

But I had to stop that gig because my knees and feet, even in those days, could not stand going up and down concrete steps 200 times a day with water buckets. I eventually saw nothing live, but caught a lot of it on TV.

lords of the games

The management of the games was a sleazy mess then, too. The chief of the organizing committee was a real estate developer called Frank King. Some political cartoons portrayed him as a "very fat snake in very short grass".

He was considered a leading exponent of the "Joseph Stalin" school of management. That is, keeping everything compartmentalized so only he and his closest cronies knew what was going on. Then executing everybody else when they had been around long enough to start to realize things are not what they seem.

That was, that all these venues seem to be owned by property companies connected to Frank King. At least he ran the games effectively, but he must have made a hell of a killing out of it. The Toronto Pan Am games also seem to have been organized effectively, although with its own scandals. Especially, somebody who was only part of the management team for three months and seemed not to have actually done anything, but who left with half a million dollars.

But that is life under capitalism. Things get done if the right people get to make money out of it. If something works and nobody is allowed to profit from it, that is a threat. Most international sports associations are run on a capitalist model.

But that is changing. It is getting harder to find cities who want to spend so much money. Increasingly, candidate cities are telling Olympic and other organizations to shove their rules and let them do it in a democratic way. That is, with publicly built assets staying in public hands and returning a profit to the public treasury after the games.

That requires a strong democracy where private capital is not allowed to block things until it gets its way. This normally requires strong public banking institutions. I believe the Lillehammer olympics were a good example of this. I think even the olympic organization is starting to get it that publicly run games tend to come off better that ones run by business consortia.

The decline of capitalism is reaching international sports as well. Meanwhile, life goes on and it is not all about politics and class war. Relax and enjoy the bread and circuses.

addendum about the women's soccer team.

I have done some twittering about the Canadian women's team. They are a sad disappointment. They have the raw materials there for a gold medal team. They had it for a medal at the world's cup. The chance was blown both times for the same and opposite reasons.

At the world's cup they relied too much on the old war horses, especially Christine Sinclair. She was not at her best in the tournament. Except for Buchanan the defender, the younger players who have been coming up did not get a real chance.

Then at the Pan Am they did the opposite. They threw away the old players and threw a lot of teen agers into the meat grinder. They did very well all things considered but they just could not get into position to score goals.

There was much twitter debate about this with many people promoting the Sports bureaucracies rationale that they want to build for the "future" and give the new players experience. But experience at what? Getting clobbered by more experienced teams, without any experienced players on their own side to provide a core? And with coaches who sat in the freaking stands, refused to even talk to them?

I have seen this in the Canadian national sports bureaucracy for many years. They are always destroying what they have and trying to build over again from scratch. They keep talking about building for the future but the future does not arrive. It seems like they want athletes they can control and not experienced people who can raise their own money and control their own training.

As I said, this loser mentality is declining in Canada but is still alive in the Canadian soccer department. They want to treat the players like lab rats. They want control, not success.

I remember Elaine Tanner, the swimmer. Find her site at http://www.elainetanner.ca/index.html I recall a few other instances where sport bureaucrats pushed other competitors aside to focus on some bright "future" prospect, although I can't recall names. Usually they would crack under the pressure and be unable to compete.

A big problem with the women's soccer program is the lack of funding for amateur sport, for the "farm teams" that develop talent. Especially, for a professional league where the players can polish their skills while earning a living. Canada's team has had a few really good players who were able to go to the US to play. But there has been no depth of talent.

That is changing now, at least at the amateur level, but the best Canadians are still having to go and play in the states, in the women's pro league and the university league. No Canadian league can get started without subsidization. The powers that be in Canada want to reap the benefits of others efforts but contribute nothing.

So it is surprising that our national team has been as good as it has been. It is said that it has been carried for years by one super player, Christine Sinclair. That is an exaggeration. Sinclair has done a lot to promote women's soccer in Canada, to get young girls interested in playing.

However, she seems to step on official toes a bit. At the 2012 Olympics, she even got fined for some remarks about the refereeing. At that Olympics, they got the bronze. The year before, they were demolished at the world's cup.

At the world's, they were stuck with a coach who wanted Sinclair to be deemphasized, and to get the other players scoring goals. This coach had some sort of system she spent months drilling the team in. But this brilliant system fell apart on contact with opposing teams, and the Canada gals went back to letting Sinc lead, feeding the ball to her.

This is what allowed them to get Olympic bronze the next year. They had a better coach by then in this John Herdman. He did not imagine the team he would like to have had, but worked with what he had. That was, a team built around Sinclair. Sinc understood this limitation as well as anyone and worked to develop the younger players.

That is why we have some much better players there now. But the process is not complete. A good leader builds an organization that survives without her. Sinclair is not finished.

Yes, she will not be around forever. That is a reason to bring her back in, so she can teach the younger players. Let us hope that, once again, the blockheads in charge will have learned that by the time the olympics come around.

To conclude, the best teams are a blend of older, experienced players and younger, energetic players. It is not one or the other, like the old women's team versus what we saw last night at Pan Am in Hamilton. Canada has the elements of such a team but the blockheads in charge don't want it. They are more interested in control.

Meanwhile, I think I would like to see more women's rugby sevens. It is a fairly new sport. It hasn't become totally corrupted and ossified yet. Along with the men's it is run by people doing it for love of the game and the players seem to have some real control.