The Irrelevant Olympics

33% of Canadians don’t know where the 2010 Olympics are.  That should be a clue to the organisers about the current relevance of the Olympics.

I’m not even sure what the Olympics are supposed to be any more.  Amateur sport?  Not even technically since the US “Dream Team” in basketball at the 92 Summers, and the men’s ice hockey teams comprised mostly of NHLers has sealed the deal.  (Funny how the rhetoric switched from “the purity of amateur sport” to “but it’s not the best players in the world” once we wanted the pros in.) We now explicitly pay for medal wins, not that athletes weren’t receiving sponsorship deals essentially based off wins anyway.  Anybody remember those Alex Baumann commercials that he did for the Egg Council?  Suppose he did those for free?  Think they’d have been made with somebody else instead if Baumann hadn’t won?  Even if athletes weren’t paid, the Olys have been smirched for some time with the political aspect – boycotts galore in the 70s and 80s, Cold War tensions leaking out through the seams.

So why are the games still held?  Most people I know watch one or two events (men’s and women’s ice hockey), sometimes count the medals as if they mean something personally, and that’s it.  In Vancouver, it seems to be mostly about the local business the games generate.  Oh, and sweeping up the trash.  For China, it appears to be a way for the government to show the rest of the world that it’s not really all that bad.  Oh, and sweeping up some more trash.  Besides, the rest of the world really doesn’t care anyway, as long as the Chinese keep selling us cheap consumer goods.

This is not intended to disrespect Olympians in particular or “amateur” sport in general.  I understand that to the athletes, the Games are the ultimate competition, the aspiration and dream of a lifetime.  I just wonder about everything else, and if having the Games continues means the everything else must escalate, as it seems to be doing, then the price is too high.  “Swifter, higher, stronger” means “more, more, more,” and it’s sickening.

Speeding

A rare political post. I used to get ranty on the subject of politics, and I still occasionally do in private – root knows my wife has been the recipient of more than a few – but, well, it’s so charged that I mostly don’t bother posting about it. Anyway, on to the post.
NASCAR logo
CTV has been reporting on the numerous accidents on the 400-series highways this year, particularly nearer to Toronto.
Well, as OPP commissioner Julian Fantino says:

It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “People have to take more responsibility for what they do, and so many of these things are preventable. They’re not accidents — they’re a caused occurrence.

I’ve been a fan of that sort of pedantry for quite some time now. Something that’s easily preventable (say, by putting one’s foot down a bit less) is not an accident. It’s not deliberate – only the most anti-social set out to kill somebody deliberately – but it’s not an accident either, when somebody gets killed because they, or somebody else, were doing 180km/h. The same article quotes a traffic sergeant as saying “Whether the police catch you or not, physics is enforced all the time, and there’s a death penalty for speeding.” Preach it, brother. Same article, same man:

When I joined the OPP 29 years ago, drinking and driving was somewhat socially unacceptable, and then the tide turned and people would no longer accept the preventable deaths and injuries from drunk drivers.

I think we’re at the same point now that we were 30 years ago. Society acknowledges that there is a problem, but (currently) nobody is really willing to admit that they might be part of it. On the 401, you risk death if you don’t go at least 110km/h – speaking from very personal experience, even that is too slow. You can do it in the far right hand lane, but you don’t want to be there anywhere near an exit, since some schmuck doing 150km/h+ will cut you off as they fly across 3 lanes of traffic to take it. Also, that’s where dumptrucks hauling gravel and such tend to sit, so you risk getting hit by flying gravel, or being rear-ended by the same schmuck doing 150 as he weaves around traffic. 20-30 years ago, I’m sure it was “those bastards shouldn’t be driving drunk, we need to crack down on that, but I’ve only had 3 beer so I’m not drunk.” Now I watch traffic on the 401, and I’m sure half those soccer moms and dads doing 140km/h in their Mercedeses and BMWs and Porsche SUVs are screaming at the people doing 160 saying “slow down!”
The Ontario government has passed legislation limiting commercial truckers to 105, which frankly surprises the hell out of me. It’s a start, I guess – part of the reason less than 110 is death on the 401 is truckers like tailgating you if you’re in one of their two lanes doing less than 120. But it’s not the truckers that are doing 150+, it’s the soccer moms and young men driving daddy’s sports car – or the daddies themselves. It’s especially fun on long weekends. I call those people the “hurry up and get the fuck out of my way so I can get to my cottage and RELAX!” types, and I’d laugh at them if they weren’t endangering my life in their urgent need to get to their chalet on the Muskokas 15 minutes earlier.
I’ll admit it – I’ve done 190km/h driving a Mustang on a highway. It was stupid, and I could have easily killed myself (bad), or somebody else (much much worse). I did, in fact, get tagged for doing 90 in a 70 zone once, and another time for doing 75 in a 50 (that wasn’t as bad as it sounds given the road there and the conditions, but still). The first time I had to do a defensive driving course, since I was 18 – else I’d have possibly had my license suspended. The course was eye-opening, not because of what we “learned” (I already knew the dangers of speeding, I just didn’t care), but because of what I saw in my fellow enforced course takers. One fellow was a 50ish year old man, who got nabbed for his third offense, and was in the same situation I was – take the course or risk a suspension. He was pissed off because he’d been chosen from a line of traffic doing 130km/h on a 100km/h limit highway. He was annoyed because he wasn’t the only one speeding, and had been chosen arbitrarily. “All those other guys were speeding too!” If you’re caught speeding egregiously, pay your dues and shut up, I say. All these hints and tips (“contest the ticket, chances are the cop won’t show up and you’ll get off”) make me sick. Yes, speeding tickets are a source of revenue for the province. So are taxes, and lots of people hate paying those but do so anyway. It’s not “just a money grab”, if you’re doing 150km/h on roads designed for 100 – and everybody else is doing 120 or so – you’re not just risking your life, you’re risking the lives of a lot of other people too. Paying your $150 ticket is the least you can do for penance.
One of those many CTV articles talks about cameras designed to nab speeders, and says 2/3 of Canadians polled supports the cameras, so why doesn’t the McGuinty government put them in? I’ll say why, loud and clear, what Dalton McGuinty won’t say because it would be political suicide: because the general public thinks the problem is everybody else, not them. It’s the same reason why something like 60% of Canadians think of themselves as above average drivers (mathematically possible, but unlikely): the cameras won’t work until people admit that *they* might be the problem, because those same people will take the generally accepted advice and fight the tickets – and win more often than not. Why? Because yes, the police really do have better things to do than to catch speeders, they’d dearly love to be catching murderers and thieves.
Our speeding and racing epidemic will not go away until people start looking in the mirror when they’re looking for the source of the problem, and admitting that maybe, just maybe, they might be contributors.
(Image shamelessly stolen from NASCAR’s website, in case you were wondering. Slightly edited and changed to a PNG.)

Ranks – PSA

Hockey because this is directed squarely at the CBC commentators, *especially you Don Cherry*.
We’re not American. We don’t pronounce the rank spelled Lieutenant “loo-ten-ant”, that’s how the Americans do it. We do it British style, “lef-ten-ant” or “left-en-ant” (depending on your cadence).
Cherry, you say you love the troops – learn to pronounce their ranks correctly.
Just something small, but it’s important, y’know?
Ron MacLean got a pass earlier this season, but Cherry ripped into people for calling the Memorial Cup “the Mem Cup” – hypocrisy is one of the worst sins in my book.