Ignore the snow on the ground for just a second. It’s almost the middle of March, and that means that the Major League Baseball regular season is only a couple of weeks away. I know that a lot of Montrealers haven’t cared about professional baseball since, oh, the 1980s and I also know that the Canadiens are having their best season since, oh, the 1980s. However, Spring Training has been going on since the end of February – and while a major snowstorm has made the city scoff at the idea of spring being on the horizon, the reality is that it is approaching.
Canadians don’t really care about baseball, especially at the beginning of the season when the NHL is in the middle of its stretch run or even the beginning of the playoffs, but the beginning of the baseball season brings a lot to sports fans everywhere. If nothing else, even for people who hate baseball and think it is boring or too long, it means that football season is approaching, and especially the NFL draft which has a season of its own.
Baseball has been decimated in the public’s opinion thanks to the two congressional hearings in the past few years about steroids and performance enhancing drugs in the sport and the Mitchell Report, which called out around 100 players for using the drugs. Baseball is faced with a major problem. The public does not trust the game anymore. Every player who hits a homerun is questioned. Every player who strikes somebody out is questioned. The greatest homerun hitter of our generation (Barry Bonds) and the greatest pitcher of our generation (Roger Clemens) are both being investigated by the United States Grand Jury for perjury. What did they lie about? They said they weren’t using steroids.
Now you could argue from now till doomsday about the role of the Federal Grand Jury in baseball’s war on steroids, but the fact is that baseball is losing in a couple of courts, and none more important than the court of public opinion. The homerun chase between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 may have brought the game back after the 1994 strike. But now that same chase, which lied to so many Americans about the purity of the game, is now keeping fans out of the ballpark.
The owners will have their pocket books as a reason why they shouldn’t have ignored the steroid problem in the sport for so long.
The end of the Concordia season
When the men’s basketball team fell in the Quebec final to the (sigh) Laval Rouge et Or, it ended the season for the last team still alive at Concordia. The CIS men’s basketball tournament (the final eight – a slightly scaled down version of the NCAA’s 64-team March Madness) has room for wildcard entries – teams that did not win their conference tournaments but deserve to be in the National Championships. Unfortunately for Concordia, they have not been ranked in the CIS Top Ten for the later part of the season, and their only chance to make the National Championships was to win the Quebec conference championship.
Oh, the originality
Some of you may know that Montreal is receiving a Canadian Hockey League team starting next season. The team will play their games at the Verdun Auditorium, and will fill a void left by the very sad departure of the Montreal Rockets who moved to Prince Edward Island.
What’s that? You didn’t know who the Rockets were? Ahh, the future is bright for these Montreal Juniors.
Oh, yeah. That’s right. The team is being called the Montreal Juniors. Imagine that. A junior hockey team being called the Juniors. This coming from the city that brought us the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Junior Canadiens – the originality is brimming.
Somehow, the Juniors, or les Juniors de Montreal as they will be known in the province’s official language, seems like the worst team name in sports history. Would you really like to see a professional team called the Professionals? I mean, who thinks of this stuff?
It really is idiotic. You’re in a city that has had several Junior hockey teams pack up and leave as well as two football teams, a basketball team and a Major League Baseball team.
What marketing school believes that the Montreal Juniors will sell in this city? What kind of catchy logo will you be able to make that will sell merchandise? A diaper-wearing hockey player? It is all doomed for failure. It’s like calling a team the Seniors. They can even share the same logo.
The Montreal Juniors? Ugh. The only good thing is that I won’t get a lot of time to hate it.
In less than three years they will be someone else’s Juniors.