Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cloud computing is like groovy, man

I downloaded a package from sourceforge.net this morning and saw an advertisement for a whitepaper from IBM on cloud computing. This line in the ad intrigued me:


I wonder what kinds of cloud computing initiatives IBM was working on in 1971, when TCP/IP (the protocol used by the internet) hadn't been invented yet?

Fighting in lacrosse

I don't like fighting in lacrosse. There, I said it. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, though I really don't consider this a problem. (Yeah, I know. Denial.) Let me clarify my position here. I do not think fighting should be banned from the game entirely, i.e. one fight and you're out for the season, or anything like that. I think the current penalties are fine, though I wouldn't be opposed to an automatic game misconduct for a fight. I absolutely do not want to take the roughness away from the game. I simply don't like fighting. I think it's rarely necessary, and despite being "part of the game", I think the game would get along just fine if it were removed entirely.

I know that this is not a popular opinion. Whenever I'm at a Rock game and a fight breaks out, the crowd instantly stands to get a better view, and the cheering volume reaches levels not usually reached outside of overtime. I generally don't stand up, but I know I'm in the minority.

Note that a number of places in this article talk about hockey rather than lacrosse because there is a lot more talk about hockey than lacrosse out there, and the fighting pros and cons are very similar.

OK, fighting enthusiasts, start up your pro-fighting excuse machine – here, let me help you by listing the most often-heard ones:

This is lacrosse, not ballet dancing. It's a rough game, suck it up.

I know that lacrosse is a rough game – that's one of the things I love about it. I talk to a lot of people who know nothing about lacrosse and think it's basically people who hit each other with sticks, and occasionally toss a ball around if it happens to come near them. I try to convince people unfamiliar with the game that it's a rough game but not a violent one, certainly no more violent than hockey. And what happens to bring lacrosse to the forefront of the local sportscast? An amazing behind the back pass from Tracey Kelusky to Chad Culp who dives across the crease and scores a beautiful goal? No, a bench clearing brawl between Toronto and Buffalo in a meaningless game. (You want to know how much I don't like fighting in lacrosse? The video of this brawl is all over Youtube and features my favourite team but I have never watched it.) Just about the only time the NLL makes it onto SportsCentre is when there's a huge fight. Thanks for supporting my claim, guys. Now I'm a liar, and the unfair reputation of lacrosse players as thugs in uniforms is cemented in more and more people's minds.

And no, it's not ballet dancing. But that doesn't mean it needs to be the WWE either.

Lacrosse players are passionate and sometimes that passion for the game spills over and things get rough.

Hogwash. Not that lacrosse players aren't passionate about the game, absolutely they are. But where is it written that passionate people cannot control their emotions? Seems to me that football players are pretty passionate about their game, and football is a far rougher sport than lacrosse or hockey. (Note to international readers that I'm talking about American/Canadian football here, not what we would call soccer. In soccer, the players don't fight, the fans do.) In fact, one could argue that football is the most violent team sport there is – almost every play ends up with numerous people being tackled and thrown to the ground - but you rarely see fights in football games. In the Super Bowl a couple of months ago, I watched a play where a player was tackled (legally, as far as I could tell) and got up and gave the opposing player a swat in the head. Rather than retaliate, the guy that was hit immediately got ran off. Call him a pussy or whatever you like but because the tackled player was not able to control his emotions, he (and therefore his team) was penalized and they now had an extra five yards to make up. If the other player had retaliated, which would have been totally accepted (and expected) if this were hockey or lacrosse, both players would likely have been penalized and both teams would have been worse off.

Now, sometimes you do see this in lacrosse – one player attempts to drop the gloves but the opposing player opts not to. I don't think that anyone would question that Geoff Snider is one of the best fighters in the game. But in a recent game, I saw an opposing player (David Morgan of the Rush, I believe) give him the old "You wanna go? You wanna go?" and a few shoves. Snider basically ignored him, Morgan went to the box for roughing, and the Roughnecks went on the power play. I don't remember if Calgary scored, but I do remember thinking that that was a very smart play by Snider. He didn't let his emotions get the better of him, and helped his team in the process. He did more for his team by not fighting that he would have if he'd dropped the gloves.

Sometimes you need to fight to get your team fired up.

If this is true, then this is a sad statement on your sport. First off, your coach deserves to be fired because it's his job to motivate his players. Plus, what happened to this passion that lacrosse players have for the game? Why would such passionate people need a fight to get them going? These are the best lacrosse players in the world playing at the highest level of their sport – if they can't get motivated to play their best without watching a fight, then they don't deserve to be there.

Fighting is payback for dirty hits and is useful for protection of star players.

If this is your argument, I have two words for you: Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi (and the entire Canucks team) said publicly that Steve Moore would have to pay for his hit against Markus Naslund in a previous game (a hit that was perfectly legal, by the way) and Bertuzzi ensured that he did pay – with his career. You could certainly argue that what Bertuzzi did was not a fight and was far cheaper and dirtier than what Moore did, and you'd be right. But Bertuzzi was trying to pick a fight, even if we went about it the wrong way. (If you're trying to pick a fight, you skate in front of him and challenge him. You don't skate up behind him and slam his head into the ice.) If fighting wasn't so embedded in the hockey culture, or if the punishment for fighting was a multi-game suspension, Bertuzzi wouldn't have thought the way he did and the incident never would have happened.

Having said that, I can see the desire for revenge after a dirty hit, especially on a star player. In my opinion, however, a revenge fight needs to follow three rules:

  1. It must be done during the same game as the dirty hit. Once the game's over, that's it.
  2. This only applies to hits that are not penalized. If the player gets a penalty for the hit, that should be it. Though if Joe Superstar leaves the game with a possible concussion or broken leg and the player that hit him from behind gets nothing more than a two minute penalty, his teammates may feel that this was insufficient. I can't really blame them, so I'd be willing to waive this rule in some cases.
  3. You cannot get revenge for a legal hit. It always puzzled me why Dave Semenko would go after anyone who checked Wayne Gretzky with a legal check. Wayne's a big boy and a pro hockey player; he can handle being bodychecked.

Fighting builds team cohesion.

OK, this one I agree with. I remember a game back in early 2010 where Boston's Paul Dawson got into a fight with Toronto captain Colin Doyle. While both players were in the box, four different fights broke out at the same time and a bunch of people were tossed. As I wrote at the time: 'The unmistakeable message from the Rock was "You will not touch our captain."' Was it necessary? No. Was it over the top? Yes, four fights at once was too much. Did it handcuff the team for the rest of the game? Yes. But did it send a message? Yes – to Doyle. His teammates were telling Doyle that they were willing to fight for him, not because he couldn't do it himself (he actually held his own pretty well against Dawson, a seasoned fighter), not because he got pounded (he didn't), not because he's a superstar, and not even because he's the captain - just because he was their teammate. Again, it wasn't necessary, but that's the kind of team building that's just not the same as buying a round of beers after the game.

It's part of the game and always has been.

So what? Beheading the captain of the losing team was once part of the game too. Sports evolve over time. Rules change. Things that used to be part of the game are removed, and things that were never part of the game are added. Have you ever seen a lacrosse game without a fight? Sure you have. Did you walk away thinking "Wow, that game would have been much better if there had been a fight"? Probably not. If you are in any way familiar with lacrosse, I'm sure you would argue that it's certainly possible to have an intense, hard-hitting, and entertaining game with no fights whatsoever. So why again are they necessary?

For the most part, fights don't happen in Olympic or international hockey. Did you hear anyone complaining that the hockey during the Vancouver Olympics was boring? (Just mentioning hockey here because international lacrosse games are too few and far between and Olympic lacrosse is non-existent.) It's fairly well-documented that fights don't happen nearly as often in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. If fighting is so integral to the game, why does it disappear during the most critical games?

Hockey and lacrosse are the only North American team sports that allow fighting. If there are fights in a baseball game, multi-game suspensions are handed out. There was a fight in an NBA game a couple of months ago and while only a couple of punches were thrown, each player was suspended a game for the fight, and the instigator had to sit for an extra one. Note the penalty for instigating: not two minutes, an entire game. There was a fight in an NFL game back in November, and while neither player was suspended, each was fined $25,000. One of the fighters, Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan, had this to say after the fines were announced:

"This is the NFL, not the NHL, and it's a higher standard," Finnegan said. "That's the NHL. They fight. They get penalized for that. The NFL, it's not even heard of ... you do that, you're suspended. Hands down. That's what I've been taught."

"It's a higher standard." What does that mean? It means that pro football players look down on the NHL because of the fighting. Where are the people telling him that this is football, not ballet dancing?

Baseball and basketball get along just fine without fighting. Now neither is as full-contact as lacrosse or hockey, so perhaps that's an unfair comparison. But nothing is as violent as football, and even they get along fine without fighting. So why can't hockey or lacrosse players?

I almost made it through this entire article without even mentioning the injuries brought on by fighting. In December of 2009, an OHL hockey player named Don Sanderson died after falling and hitting his head on the ice during a fight. (To my knowledge, he is not related to the numerous Sandersons currently or formerly in the NLL.) This was, obviously, a huge story at the time and it seemed that rules may change because of it, but to my knowledge, nothing ever came of it. You could argue that it had nothing to do with the fight – his injury came because he fell. But if not for the fight, he would have been wearing a helmet. In early March, it was announced that the late hockey fighter extraordinaire Bob Probert had brain damage (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) because of his years of fighting. I'd be very surprised if the Troy Bonterres, Tim O'Briens, and Geoff Sniders of the NLL didn't pay serious attention to those findings.

Recently, the NHL has considered banning any hits to the head to try to avoid concussions and it's become a serious issue in the NLL as well – just ask Ken Montour or Merrick Thomson. Stephen Stamp wrote an excellent article about the problems that players face after experiencing a concussion – the article is quite long, but well worth the time.

With the proposed changes, if you hit someone in the head with your stick, even if it's accidental, you'll be suspended for at least a couple of games. But if players deliberately take their helmets off and pound each other in the head with their bare fists – five minutes.

Fans like fighting so it helps attract fans.

This thinking led to the old joke "I went to a fight the other day and a hockey game broke out". I can't disagree with the fact that many (if not most) fans enjoy fights. Does it actually bring people into the building that wouldn't otherwise come? Would fans stop coming to lacrosse games if they knew they would not see a fight? Personally, I'd say no to both of these questions, but I have no stats either way.

What a pansy.

Oh yeah? Ya think so? You wanna go? Huh? You wanna go? Actually, I can't right now. I have a quiche in the oven. It's almost ready.

He's never played lacrosse. He doesn't get it.

You're right. I haven't. And I don't.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Game Report: Buffalo 11 Toronto 8

Wow, did that game ever suck. The Toronto Rock squandered an opportunity to clinch first place in the Eastern division and keep pace with Calgary for first overall, losing 11-8 to the Buffalo Bandits, who move ahead of the Rock into first in the East. The game was the final home regular-season game in Bob Watson's hall-of-fame career, and the Rock organization celebrated it with a ceremony before the game, as well as video tributes from current and former Rock players including Kaleb Toth, Dan Stroup, Josh Sanderson (and his dad Terry), Sandy Chapman, and Pat Campbell. Captain Colin Doyle, Rock owner Jamie Dawick, and Watson's own daughter Sydney gave short speeches, and Watson acknowledged his teammates, Rock ownership and management, coaches, trainers, as well as the fans.

As for the game itself, I thought I was heading to a Rock/Bandits game, but must have missed the paper handed out in the lobby saying "For tonight's performance, the role of the Toronto Rock will be played by the Colorado Mammoth". Good goaltending, with periods of great goaltending, solid defense, and absolutely no offense to speak of. I don't want to take anything away from the Buffalo defense, which was also solid, and Mike Thompson was great (with periods of outstanding), but the Rock O was just not there. They missed passes all over the place, frequently decided to pass rather than shoot (at one point Kyle Ross had nobody between him and the goalie five feet away, and still passed), and were just generally anemic all night. The Bandits offense wasn't an awful lot better – there were more dropped balls and passes to nobody in particular on both sides than you'd expect from 8-4 and 10-4 teams and as a result, this was not a very entertaining game.

After the touching ceremony for Watson, the Rock and the Bandits got down to business. The Toronto crowd of over 15,000 was pumped and it was nice to see that level of attendance again. The Rock haven't announced the attendance at a game in a couple of years, and haven't hit 15k for at least that long. It didn't take long to make the crowd happy, as Jon Harasym was given a bogus cross-checking penalty less than two minutes in, and Kasey Beirnes scored his first of three on the resulting power play. Pat Merrill scored on a breakaway a minute later, and it seemed that the Rock were also pumped and might just run away with this game. Not so fast. At 4:48, that was it for the Rock scoring in the first quarter. Tracey Kelusky scored 30 seconds after Merrill's goal to get the Bandits on the board, and Brett Bucktooth tied it a couple of minutes later. John Tavares and Chad Culp scored to give the Bandits a 4-2 lead before the Rock finally got their third goal (about 22 minutes after their second), and their fourth goal was a beautiful passing play. Colin Doyle passed to Kasey Beirnes standing on the left side of the goal, but rather than one-time it in from there (which Thompson expected), he passed it cross-crease to Stephan LeBlanc who buried it. Props to Thompson who managed to change direction quickly and actually have an attempt at stopping the shot.

For the rest of the game, it seemed that the Rock were trying to replicate that goal, and passed the ball as much as possible rather than take shots. Unfortunately for them, this led to a bunch of wasted possessions, as they just passed until the shot clock ran out. For a Rock fan, I'm giving props to the Bandits quite liberally today, but they deserve them – this time they go to the Bandits defenders who seemed to read the Rock attackers really well, and just put their sticks in the air and blocked I don't know how many passes. Once or twice the ball went into the stands and give the Rock a fresh 30, sometimes they actually intercepted the ball and had a transition chance, but most of the time they just deflected it harmlessly away from the Rock players.

The Rock took a two-goal lead early in the third, and then things fell apart. The Bandits scored seven unanswered goals to take a 11-6 lead. The desperation set in early for the Rock, and they started pulling Watson for the extra attacker with four or five minutes left in the 4th. It did pay off, as Garrett Billings and Kasey Beirnes scored with under a minute to play, but it was way too little and way too late. Once again, the Rock went about 24 minutes between their sixth and seventh goals.

Not exactly the way Bob Watson likely envisioned his final regular season game at the ACC, but he wasn't the reason for this loss. The good news for the Rock is that they already made the playoffs. The bad news is that they no longer control their own destiny with respect to home playoff games – if the Bandits win out, they grab first in the east regardless of what the Rock does in their one remaining game. If the Rock lose to Edmonton next week and Rochester wins out, Toronto could even find themselves in third, and could potentially have no home games. The Bandits are in action tonight against the Knighthawks, then Boston next Saturday and Rochester again the week after that.

Other game notes:

  • Watson was the first Rock player through the post-game handshakes, and it was nice to see how many Bandits players took an extra second or two and said something more than just "good game". Many even gave him a hug or a stick bump. Classy.
  • When the team started their "victory lap", which they do regardless of whether they win or lose, Colin Doyle stopped and let Watson go first. Again, classy.
  • At least three Bandit names were mispronounced by the Rock announcer. He pronounced Kelusky two different ways on the same goal announcement, and also got Harasym and Tavares wrong. How does anyone familiar with the NLL over the any part of the last twenty years say Tavares wrong? What we need is a list of frequently mispronounced names and their correct pronunciation. Oh wait, we have one. Tracy Kelusky is not on that list though – I believe it's "kuh-LUH-skee", not "kuh-LOO-skee".
  • Why do they still have TV timeouts even when the game is not televised?
  • The Bandits had a 5-on-3 power play for about a minute and a half in the first, and Bob Watson made some outstanding saves. Creighton Reid did a nice job on the PK too, getting the Bandits to chase him around the floor and eating up time.
  • I'm all for being optimistic and playing a full 60 minutes, but when you've been playing like the Rock were, you're down by five, and there's only a minute left in the game, I'm not sure pulling the goalie for the extra attacker is really necessary. Yes, the Rock did score twice within the last minute, but is it realistic to even dream of three more in the last 33 seconds?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Game Review: Toronto 13 Washington 12

The Rock kept hold of first place in the East with a thrilling 13-12 overtime victory over the Washington Stealth in Toronto last night. Toronto has made it known throughout the season that they had "unfinished business" to take care of thanks to the Stealth stealing the Championship last year – not that the Stealth didn't deserve the victory, but that they were the only team standing between the Rock and their sixth Championship. This rematch was not only important to the Rock to stay in first in the East, but as a little payback.

Colin Doyle led all scorers with 2 goals and 5 assists, while both Garrett Billings and Rob Hellyer had 5 assists. Blaine Manning was held to a single assist and was having trouble hitting the net. He had 15 shots and the scoresheet says that 10 of them were on net, but I don't think so. Lewis Ratcliff led the Stealth in scoring with 3 and 3, while Paul Rabil (holy crap, he's good) got a goal and four assists and Rhys Duch had two goals and two assists. Ratcliff also had a game high sixteen shots on net – nobody else had more than 11.

As I said in last week's game report, I've tried to hold back on complaining about NLL refs. I've tried to give them the benefit of the doubt for years, but I'm starting to lose my patience, and last night's game didn't help. The Rock had seven power plays (scoring 5 PP goals) and the Stealth four, but a number of the calls made little sense. Craig Conn was given five for an illegal cross-check, but two would have been sufficient. Once out of the box, Conn then punched Kyle Ross in the face after the whistle right in front of the ref who called nothing. When Troy Cordingley expressed his displeasure with that, the Rock were given a penalty, leading to several beautiful Watson saves before Matt Beers buried one with 5 seconds left in the first half. There were people on Twitter saying that the refs were trying to give the win to the Rock, but that goal lands squarely in the other court. Five minutes into the third, a Jeff Moleski was approaching Stephen Hoar, who had his stick turned, ready to make a (completely legal) cross-check on Moleski's arm or mid-section, when Moleski suddenly dropped his head and tried to go around Hoar. Hoar's stick made contact with Moleski's head and Hoar was given an illegal cross-check penalty. It should have been obvious what happened – I saw it from the other side of the arena 17 rows up. I just watched it again (thanks to TSN!) and it looked the same – a total accident with no intent. What's the point of penalizing Hoar on that play?

Bob Watson had another good outing, and will be a serious contender for goaltender of the year. Only once has a goaltender ever been named league MVP, that being Steve Dietrich in 2006, but if Watson leads the Rock deep into the playoffs, that could be a possibility as well. At the other end of the floor, Tyler Richards faced 66 Toronto shots, and had a better game than the 13 goals scored against him might indicate. Not that 13 goals against is terrible, but I can think of several unbelievable saves Richards made that kept this game from being an 18-12 Rock win – particularly one on Kasey Beirnes in the second when Beirnes was right on the edge of the crease with a wide open net and Richards somehow got a hand up and deflected the ball into the crowd. Richards made another save in the 4th that actually made me and others near me applaud. Note to Richards if he's reading this – it seemed to me that a lot of the Rock goals went in over your left shoulder. May want to look into that.

The Rock are idle for another <checks watch> three hours and play in Philadelphia tonight, while the Stealth head down the QEW to Buffalo for a battle (aren't they all?) with the Bandits. Hopefully Cam Sedgwick makes it to the game – according to a couple of his teammates on Twitter, he left his passport in the hotel in Toronto and the team bus was delayed at the border.

Other game notes:

  • Early in the 4th, Cliff Smith scored a goal while falling into Watson. The goal counted and Smith was given a goaltender interference penalty. WTF? If there was goaltender interference before the goal, the goal shouldn't have counted. If it was after the goal, unless it was an intentional punch or something, there should be no penalty. I just watched the replay again and it was a complete accident – Smith fell into Watson after a nice diving goal. Again, what's the point of this penalty?
  • Weird rule: In the NHL, a shot on goal is loosely defined as any shot that goes in the net or would go in the net were it not for the goalie stopping it. In the NLL, a shot that hits the post or crossbar and doesn't go in is also considered a shot on net. This is probably because of the shot clock – so they can simply say that any shot on net resets the clock. The weird thing is that in this case the goalie (who was beaten) gets credited with a save. I guess they decided that any shot on net must result in either a goal or a save, so if they're going to make hitting the post a shot, they also need to make it a save. Still weird.
  • After goalie Tyler Richards left his net to set a pick on Jeff Gilbert (what was Gilbert doing at that end of the floor?), Gilbert pushed him down. Chris McElroy took exception and jumped Gilbert, getting two for instigating, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. Gilbert was given two for goaltender interference and five for being the recipient of several punches. Isn't it true that you are allowed to hit the goalie if he's out of the crease? If it's not, it should be. The goalie has a "safe zone" where nobody can touch him and if he makes the conscious decision to leave that safe zone, he should do it at his own peril. Plus, he's the most heavily padded guy on the floor.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Roughnecks on the move

By Loof Lirpa, special correspondent

The drama is finally over. A spokesman for the Calgary Roughnecks announced this morning that the team has been sold and will relocate for the 2012 season. Following in the league's decisions to try new markets and to move to smaller towns outside of major cities (Hoffman Estates IL, Everett WA, Glendale AZ), the Roughnecks have been sold to a Mexican company called Ándale Arriba. The president of Ándale Arriba, S. Gonzales, has already stated his intention to move the team to Chimalhuacán, a town of just over half a million people near Mexico City. The team will begin play in the 2012 season, and will be known as the Mexico City Menudos.

NLL Commissioner George Daniel said that he is "sorry for the Roughnecks fans in Calgary who have to watch their team leave, but at the same time, very excited for the people of Chimalhuacán and Mexico City. This is a big step for our league, and we are happy for the mill— um, thous— um, dozens of Mexican lacrosse fans who will be able to watch the best lacrosse players in the world right in their own back yard. Seriously, until the arena gets built, Mr. Gonzales will be hosting the games in his back yard. Not much in the way of seating, but the tequila and burritos are really cheap. And I guarantee that snowstorms on game nights will be less of an issue than in Calgary."

After a private meeting with the players, Menudo captain Andrew McBride issued the following statement on behalf of himself and his teammates: "We're going where?"

In an exclusive interview with The NLL Blog, former Roughnecks owner Brad Bannister explained his financial reasoning and how he came to the difficult decision that this was the right move for the franchise: "Some dude gave me a coupla hundred grand and a bottle of Cuervo Gold. More than the Flames offered."

The movement for next season may not be over yet. There are rumours that the NLL may become the first professional North American sports league to have a team in Iceland, as the Rochester Knighthawks become the Reykjavík Hrútspungars. We will keep you updated on this story as it develops.