In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

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The two wolves inside us

Donald Sutherland is one of a very large number of what I think of as stealth Canadians. Born in St. John, New Brunswick, he’s a Canadian who’s not widely known as a Canadian. This year, he was the voice behind the I Believe media campaign for CTV’s Olympic coverage. Seamus O’Regan interviewed Sutherland this morning and I want to tell you two things about it.

First, O’Reagan explained how Sutherland introduced Canada to many of the athletes through his voiceover work in the weeks leading up to the games. He then asked if Sutherland felt a catharsis because of his involvement in Canada’s olympic journey to Vancouver. Sutherland paused and said, “No.” He chuckled for a moment and continued, “I’m sorry.” He explained that he just did some voiceovers while the athletes did all the work. He did go on to say that his feelings of catharsis came again and again during the Olympic events that he attended. Canadians value humility and in this sense, Sutherland is a perfect spokesperson for our country.

Second, Sutherland told a Cherokee story. It was so moving that I cannot remember the context at all, so I can’t wrap this up nicely. I’ll leave it to the story. I looked it up and found the story on a site called First People — The Legends. They call it “Two Wolves.”

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Gold medal celebration

On Thursday, the Canadian women’s hockey team won gold after beating the United States in the final game. You can imagine that there was much rejoicing in the dressing room afterward. A half-hour after the game ended, the woman came back to the ice and continued their celebration.

Controversy erupted the next day because there were still some fans in the stands, including children, and the womens’ celebration included beer, Champagne, and cigars.

One issue is that some of the players were not of legal drinking age in British Columbia. Another is that some children see the women as role models and having one’s role models drink and smoke isn’t such a good thing.

Hockey Canada has apologized for the incident and the IOC will not pursue it further despite some early reports of their planning to launch an investigation.

Team Captain Hayley Wickenheiser said something in a CBC article that echoes my thoughts. She said,

it’s celebrating, it’s hockey, it’s a tradition we do. When we see a Stanley Cup winner, we see them spraying champagne all over the dressing room, you see 18-year-old kids there and nobody says a thing.

No one has ever raised a complaint about NHL players with Champagne. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of them drinking out on the ice, but they certainly have in the dressing room, with cameras present. Does it matter if it’s in the dressing room and broadcast or on the ice with some stragglers in the stands?

Jon Montgomery seems to have had an entirely different experience after winning a gold for skeleton. His medal was gold medal number four for Canada and after he left the venue, he enjoyed a cheering entourage as he walked through the streets of Whistler. One fan handed him a pitcher of beer, and he immediately took a drink. He carried it with him and continued to drink from it on the way to an interview.

Montgomery was far more public but there was no IOC comment and no apology. No only was there no controversy, but it seems he’s been invited to appear on Oprah next week.

While there were only photographs of the women, Montgomery was broadcast across the country drinking from the pitcher on CTV’s television coverage of the Vancouver games. Is this a blatant double-standard or am I missing something?

In my opinion, the women and Montgomery would’ve been circumspect to save the alcohol and tobacco for later. At the same time however, I’m willing to afford a gold medal winner a fair latitude in how they choose to celebrate. I have no problem with what Montgomery or the women did. The only thing that bothers me is how their celebrations have garnered different reactions.

Blue line

Even when I was very young, I had an eye for clever ads. This one still amuses me:

I can’t be sure of when the ad appeared, but it was sometime between 1978 and 1982. I used to go to the local Tier I Junior “A” team’s games from time to time and this ad was in the program.

I can set those boundaries with confidence. It was no earlier than 1978 because the article on the back is about the league’s player of the year awards and it lists the winners from 1975 to 1978. The article may or may not have continued past the page I have. If it did, further years may have been listed. I had originally set 1986 as the latest it could have been because that’s when the ‘stubby’ beer bottle stopped being used in Canada. I was able to pull the end-date back because the local team moved to North Bay in 1982 so I couldn’t have gone to see them any later.

Doesn’t the ad lack any hint of slickness? It’s a photo and plain lettering. But the photo! Yeesh! Although I love the concept, the colour balance needs adjustment. It looks like it was shot with daylight film because fluorescent lights typically produce a blue or green cast, as you see in the ad. And come on, the image is really crooked!

Still, I like it and it brings back fond memories.

Ad copyright the Labatt Brewing Company. At least I figure it must be.

A lack of vision

I read a CBC article yesterday, called “Podium disowned, but hope persists.” What’s that about, I thought to myself. So I started reading:

So that’s it.

The culmination of five years of funding and training under the ambitious Own the Podium program is upon us and, after 11 tough days at the Vancouver Winter Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee has admitted its goal of winning the most medals is out of reach.

What? I’ve certainly heard of the program to improve the performance of our athletes and garner more medals, dubbed Own the Podium. But certainly ‘winning the most medals’ means winning more than we have won in previous games, right? Apparently not:

“We’d be living in a fool’s paradise if we said we were going to catch the Americans and win,” CEO Chris Rudge said Monday.

I was stunned. Then I looked up a few things.

The own the podium program was established in January 2005, soon after Vancouver won their bid to host the 2010 winter games. This would be the third time Canada hosts the Olympics games. The first two times, Canadian athletes failed to win any gold. I was surprised to hear this and can certainly understand why no one wanted a repeat no-gold performance.

My understanding ends there. Rather than raise the bar for sport in Canada — to generate a higher level of training, coaching, and achievement over the long term — the goal was strictly short-term.

According to the organization, their goals, as shown on, are:

1. Podium Performance at Olympic and Paralympic Games


  • Place first in the total medal count at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games
  • Place in the top three in the gold medal count at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games


  • Place in the top 12 nations in medal count at the 2012 Olympic Games
  • Place in the top eight in the gold medal count at the 2012 Paralympic Games

2. System Development

Own the Podium with its partners will strengthen national policy, programs, the sport delivery system and commitment to excellence for winter and summer high-performance sport.

While goal two is laudable, you’ll note that it comes only after the first goal that promises high placement in the medal standings. Goal two is also mushy and frankly, it sounds like an after thought. There’s no vision here. The second goal should have been the only goal. Instead, they spent $117 million in five years hoping for a miracle.

It doesn’t work that way.

Even if it did, there would be no foundation for a permanent elevation of Canadian results.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this mess is how the organization was so free with promises, though they aren’t the ones delivering. The athletes are the ones who train and perform. This program didn’t suddenly make the athletes more serious. Canada’s always done comparatively well in the winter Olympics, but with the exception of the 2006 games, the best we’ve done over the last two decades of winter games was to win about half the number of medals of the standings leader. All considering, I think this is a respectable showing because with one exception in that time, we’ve been in the top five.

But in 2005 we decide to get serious, throw a hundred million dollars at the problem, and expect to be the medal leader. It didn’t happen. So now what?

As of yesterday, the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee was discussing our third-place medal standing as a failure. What a wonderful message that sends to the athletes. They couldn’t deliver on a promise that someone else made on their behalf. And I think it was an unrealistic promise.

You can expect that the Own the Podium program will be seen as a failure and it’ll be cancelled or gutted. About half of the money came from the government so politicians will certainly hesitate before spending more money on a program that didn’t deliver on very clearly defined promises. And where does that leave us? Worse off than we were in 2005, that’s where.

An utter lack of vision resulted in unrealistic short-term goals that squandered resources provided by a country eager to do better. We can do better, but not so quickly and not so easily.

IOC acting badly

The IOC is acting increasingly poorly, in my opinion.

Stephen Pate, a PEI blogger, wrote “Anger is mounting against IOC in death of luger” on the NJN Network, and since posting it on Thursday, he’s received a take-down letter from the lawyers of the IOC. Their issue is that he embedded a video of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash. He doesn’t claim ownership of the clip, but he does claim the right to embed it under the fair dealing provision of the Canadian Copyright Act.

It’s funny because on February 1, I wrote about fair dealing, and although I’m no lawyer, it seems to me that Pate’s use of the clip is a textbook example of it. The IOC claims absolute ownership of the clip, but Pate did not take it down. Good on him! I look forward to seeing how this all unfolds.

As an aside, many comments on the CBC story reporting this issue have brought up that posting the clip is in bad taste. This may or may not be true, depending on your feelings, but it’s not the issue. The IOC is trying to make it part of the issue as they claim ownership and protecting the athlete’s family as the reasons for their demand. If they were so concerned about the family, they would restrict news organizations from broadcasting the clip, which they have not done, and they would not have blamed Kumaritashvili himself for the accident. Make no mistake, this is not about the family. This is about control, and control is about money.

The IOC has received special treatment in Canada, above and beyond trademark law. For example, they’ve trademarked the phrase, “With Glowing Hearts” which is a line from the Canadian national anthem. I’m still fuming at the government for allowing them to do this. Now they’re ignoring the Copyright Act because it’s advantageous for them to do so. They certainly don’t ignore it when it’s to someone else’s advantage.

As for myself, I haven’t seen the clip and I do not want to. I’ll go out of my way to avoid seeing it. At the same time however, I’m firmly believe in Pate’s right to use the video under the fair dealing provision.

The first stated goal of the IOC, according to the Olympic charter is:

To encourage and support the promotion of ethics in sport as well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned

They may be doing this in sport, but I otherwise see them lacking in ethics and fairness.

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