Sunday, July 22, 2007

BIG SPORTS WEEKEND


(Pictured: the ChampCar girls.)

It was a big weekend in the world of sports up here in frozen Canada.

The ChampCar race went today in Edmonton, and while I was not there for the actual race I was definitely there for the practise sessions and qualifying on Friday.

Comparing the ChampCar event in Edmonton to the event in Toronto, the people living in Edmonton have a much better situation. For one, the event is still fresh and brand-new, and feels more like a top-notch auto racing event. In fact, the NASCAR Canadian Tire series also ran here and people were excited about that, even though it's only the Canadian Tire series and not the main attraction. People in Edmonton seem genuinely excited just to have a bigtime auto race in town.

As for Toronto's event, though, the glory days are definitely behind it. All the best cars and teams, all its history, departed for the IRL a few years ago. Even the sponsor, Molson, left. So it kind of seems as if the event there has totally gone in the tank. Which it has, frankly. It's turned into nothing more than a big excuse to go drink beer. Anyway, the Edmonton event isn't suffering from nearly the kind of baggage the Toronto event has going against it, just because it is so new.

The second thing about the Edmonton track is that you can actually SEE the TRACK! In Toronto, the street course winds around all these grandstands and buildings. Even though you can get very close to the action you can only see a small part of the race course at any one time. In Edmonton you can see these cars racing all around the entire track, even way out in the distance. So you actually can figure out who's leading! It's a really good setup for the spectators, you can follow the event without having to watch the big TV screens all the time! In fact, you have to wonder why people in Toronto put up with that obstructed-view street-track that they have at the exhibition grounds there.

It's kind of neat to hold the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton at an actual airport. There were planes landing at the same time that these cars were racing all around the track! The ChampCar event held in Cleveland, Ohio is set up the same way.

Beyond the differences with the track, though, it's the same event as what I was used to in Toronto. The same people selling souvenir stuff, the same Miss Grand Prix competition featuring the cute ChampCar girls, and the same beer gardens. I met the adorable ChampCar girls. I gotta say Alberta women are nice, and also a lot less ethnic than the girls in Toronto.

It would have been nice if they had an actual indoor facility somewhere in the area so that people could beat the heat, but what do you expect for an event held at an airport. At least in Toronto those indoor facilities provided proper washrooms instead of these disgusting portables that were in Edmonton stinking the place up. Yecch.

All in all, I learned an important lesson in returning to the prairies this year--- the things I enjoyed the most about living in Toronto were never exclusive to the city. They could be found in other places as well-- movie multiplexes, bookstores, and ChampCar races. I think it's great that the prairies have a ChampCar event to look forward to every year, and it's going to be around for a long time.

Oh, and Sebastian Bourdais won today.

SOCCER WEEKEND IN CANADA

This weekend wrapped the Under-20s with a 2-1 Argentina win over the Czech Republic. The big story, though, was that clash with the police involving that Chilean squad. People in Canada are shocked to see this type of thing go on, but in fact this seems to happen all the time in South America, we are told. Sort of like hockey fights.

Anyway, the Under-20s were a big success in Canada. I notice, though, on the radio, these fans were all complaining about how poorly Canada did. People are mad that Canada got hammered! This is why soccer has an uphill mountain to climb in Canada. It does well in these multi-ethnic cities, but how will people care in the rest of the country if the national team continually does so poorly?! That's why hockey is so popular as a sport in Canada--- because Canadians are able to win at it.

BECKHAM IN LA

David Beckham had his big debut event down in LA, with the Galaxy taking on Chelsea. He made a 12-minute cameo appearance, playing on his busted ankle, and his new team lost 1-0.

A ton of celebrities were at that soccer game-- I notice that uncontrollable media whore Eva Longoria was there with Victoria Beckham, drinking the champagne and all that. Katie Holmes was there, too. Aren't you fed up seeing these celebrities again?! I fully expect to see Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears at LA Galaxy games, soon.

What a joke. I dunno if the rest of America is going to warm up to soccer if this is what we are in for, David Beckham throwing his big celebrity weight around all the time. People want to see the GAME, not these big celebrities! This is why soccer will never catch up to baseball, football or basketball in the 'States--- these other sports do not require big celebrities to provide all the entertainment. When Wayne Gretzky went to LA to play with the Kings, he was humble enough to work hard at building the sport of hockey. But I get the impression these Beckhams are just there to hang out in Hollywood with the A-list.

This isn't going to build soccer up. In fact, people in these other cities tend to be turned off by celebrities acting as if they are bigger than the game. At least when Pele was in New York playing pro soccer with the Cosmos, the guy wasn't there being a celebrity--- he was there being an athlete! David Beckham isn't going to help soccer in the USA as much as he's going to help himself.

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Non-sports news; Chuck and Larry finished first at the box office despite 14% at Rotten Tomatoes.

That's it!!

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