Archive for June 2009

Poor Sidney Crosby

June 26, 2009


Years ago somebody asked me about athletes endorsing peace and justice causes.I did not want to be rude–so I almost laughed.

Few understand the lives of those who inhabit Sportsworld. There are only two sportswiters who ever came close—Robert Lypsyte and presently Dave Zirin.

This came home to me with pictures which went viral on the Internet—the Stanley Cup party thrown by Pennguins owner Mario Lemieux.In a word nauseating.The guy lives in Versailles! The place was a hymn to conspicuous consumption. As was Gretzky’s Kubla Khan in California, a Xanadu which people mocked for bad taste,

Small town boys who hit the jackpot and who do niot know anything other than hockey, They are  not interested in the world ourtside their bubble. Every waking moment has gone into this dream world. No room for the rest of the globe!

You can count on your fingers any pro athlete —and don’t get me wrong, many are decent folks —who has taken a risk for a better world. Steve Nash the basketball player comes close, a very refreshing Canadian. Most  are basically irrelevent as citizens.One has only so much psychic energy and it takes thousands of hours to reach the level of any pro athlete. By then their lives are formed by the privileged company  they keep.

Poor Gretzky was a big fan of George Bush.Some guy wanted to tear down his statue in Edmonton.

What was he expecting?

Anybody who has ever vigilled for peace and justice, walked for social causes has added more to life than these guys.

I feel for young Sidney Crosby living in Versailles with Lemieux. Carl Jung sent condolences to anybody who got a huge promotion.Poor Sid despite his Nova Scotia roots does not know what he is in for.

The summer game

June 21, 2009


AJ Muste and Dorothy Day

So the great pacifist A.J. Muste  was an unregenerate NY Mets fan. That’s how the brother blew off steam.A healthy diversion. He really didn’t care who won but he loved the whole ambiance of baseball—the slowness of pace, the strategy, the extraordinary hand-eye co-ordination of the hitters, the grace of the fielders.

The summer game has been and is the great American pastime, For the first 50 years of the last century no game approached baseball as the most popular sport in the country. In many ways it reflected a more pastoral time, a game forged before the industrial revolution and  the manic pace of 20th century life.

Which brings me to Cito Gaston, the manager of our Toronto Blue Jays.

Nobody ever accused Cito of an overly intellectual approach to the game.He is and has been an average pedestrian manager—blessed twice by great teams. He was wise to let them play and they won two World Series. Now with less talent and an injured pitching staff  he must really manage to eke out runs. And Cito falls short in one huge area. He lets people have the “green light”, basball parlance for doing what they want on the base paths. A real dumb move as most of these gifted athletes have little sense of the game and how it should be played.That’s what a manager should be for.

“I’ll telll you when to run and what counts you will hit.”


But our Cito lets his guys run and hit almost at their leisure and inevitably he pays the price. last week he cost the team a game when he let the baseball-challenged Alex Rios run free—and he got tosssed out at third. Dumb move. Game over.

That’s not managing.

Carol Goar and the Common Good

June 17, 2009


I do not know is star editoralist Carol Goar has an Order  of Canada

but she should have.

Nobody in this country has so vigorously defended the Common Good as

her.The woman has been idefatigable in her persistent defense of one

of the cardinal points of Catholic Social Teaching. While never using

religious language Goar  always forges strong moral arguments on behalf

of a true national interest. Without naming enemies of the common

good, she  always manages to skewer the apostles of greed, male and


Her latest column in today’s Star is a classic.Entitled Business looks in mirror and winces, Goar begins like this

Contrition would be too much to expect of the corporate executives and financial wizards who tipped the global economy into a recession last fall. But there is some serious rethinking going on, judging by this year’s convocation at the Rotman School at the University of Toronto.

Read the column for yourselves but if there ever was a constituency needing to be taken to the woodshed it is the busines class and the catstrophe it has created.

I think we are all a bit sick of those MBA grads coming out of business schools with inflated senses of entitlement and compensation way beyond their contribution to society.

Goar summarizes Professor Michael Porter of Harvard’s remarks to the Rotman Business school like this

He placed most of the blame on chief executives who became so obsessed with shareholder value in the 1990s that they lost sight of the real economy in which goods and services are produced, profits are earned and people make a living.

They judged their worth by the appeal of their stocks. Bankers and brokers cheered them on, treating companies that beat investors’ expectations (even if they did it by cutting corners) as superstars and companies that produced solid, steady returns as wallflowers.

In a lovely understatement Goar described the response:

The audience of 300 – composed of corporate executives and Rotman faculty and graduates – listened attentively and asked a few questions. The applause was more respectful than enthusiastic.

I’ll bet.

Bread and circuses

June 15, 2009


iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.

(Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

Juvenal, the Roman satirist, who lived circa 200 CE has given us a memorable phrase: bread and circuses, a sardonic expression which says that people have surrendered their birthright as citizens for cheap entertainment.

We heard a lot of nonsense of this type in Detroit recently. The baseball Tigers as a team were dedicated millionaires who swore to run out all grounders and do their working class best for the battered folks of Motor City.

And yes let us not forget the hockey Red Wings.

In theory their failure to capture the Stanley Cup was a psychological blow to the suffering citizens. They needed something to be proud of after the Big 3 auto makers and Bernie Madoff and crowd so badly let them down.

Sports as “bread and circuses.” Sports as a poor substitue for critical thinking and an engaged citizenry.

Poor Toronto I guess is in a permanent funk. Our side has let us down too often.

We are depressed and hurting.

Tom Berry dies near Trinity sunday

June 7, 2009


Thomas Berry, Passionist priest, named by TIME as one of the top 100 thinkers of the 20th century died this week at 94 leaving behind an inspiring corpus of work as yet poorly integrated in Catholic theology.

Calling himself a “geologian” Berry was one of the prime movers away from the depressing “fall/ redemption” story of original sin which has held reign for far too long  in Catholic circles. The idea that creation is mired in original sin until it was rescued by the sacrificial death was far too negative and short sighted. As John Spong reminded us “Contemporary atonement ideas have succeeded primarily in turning God into a child-abusing heavenly parent. They have also turned Jesus into being the ultimate, perhaps even the masochistic, victim of a sadistic father God.”

Not having the benefit of Hubble telescopes and our modern understanding of the earth’s  evolution, our predecessors  were mired in a blinkered scientific view of the world . No fault of theirs so we just kept repeating this tired salvation story until cosmic prophets like Berry and Teilhard forced us to think long and deep. Aquinas in the 13th century understood well that Creation was and is the first word of God.

We became consumed with words and books, lived in our heads instead of looking at the stars and the miracles around us. So Berry told us 

To preserve the natural world as the primary revelation of the divine must be the basic concern of religion.

Berry was among the growing band of theologians who wish to refocus theology away from “the personal saviour orientation” of the last two thousand years. These thinkers are stating the obvious: God’s intimacy with the earth has been there since the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago. God has never not been present. As this evolutionary thinking has advanced and become known to a growing educated community of believers, ecclesial leaders caught in static institutions and centrally controlled feudal structures, began to get very nervous. The Catholic Church which has always regarded itself as the primary arbiter of revealed truth seemed paralyzed. Ironically, through the ages, it had shown remarkable resilience adapting itself to new currents of thought and quietly abandoning outworn ideas. It is cathching up to Berry.

Aided by the new physics which has moved away from individual atoms to a more relational and interdependent idea of the basic structure of life, that everything is relational, nothing stands alone, scientists now are more open to people like Berry who see universe and God as inextricably intertwined.


And on Trinity Sunday where Christians acknowledge the Divine as relational, Tom Berry’s life and work remind us that we are all in the midst of a new and exciting Story:

 The Universe story is the quintessence of reality. We perceive the story. We put it in our language, the birds put it in theirs, and the trees put it in theirs. We can read the story of the Universe in the trees. Everything tells the story of the Universe. The winds tell the story, literally, not just imaginatively. The story has its imprint everywhere, and that is why it is so important to know the story. If you do not know the story, in a sense you do not know yourself; you do not know anything.


The anti-Rushmore exposed

June 2, 2009

The Nobel laureate economist Paul  Krugman once again shone the light on the second worst president of the 20th century, the anti-Rushmore, Ronald Reagan. Hard to believe but American mythmakers have presed long and hard to have the neocon Reagan chiselled onto Rushmore.


Krugman simply pointed out inan NY Times column on June 1  that Reagan must share the goat horns with Ayn Rand acolytes  Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman.


In 1982 the Gipper who knew as much economics as he did theology signed into law the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act. “All in all, I think we hit the jackpot.”  he exulted. The bill was desigbed to stabilize thrift institutions—which were clobbered in the  regime of Bush One.It was called the Savings and Loans scandal.


Krugman writes:

“On the contrary, the bill turned the modest-sized troubles of savings-and-loan institutions into an utter catastrophe. But he was right about the legislation’s significance. And as for that jackpot – well, it finally came more than 25 years later, in the form of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Private debt exploded umder deregulation. As we now know the US true believers caused a world wide recession. And as Krugman sardonically observes: “it is the gift which keeps on taking.”


Time to end the myth of the Gipper.