She’s 86 years old, sits on the United States Supreme Court, and might be the last thing standing between our destabilizing populist reality and a cinematic dystopian future. Kudos to Betsy West and Julie Cohen for bringing forth a documentary for the ages; “R.B.G.” is a viscerally stunning and existentially playful look at how a Jewish girl from Brooklyn changed the way an entire nation treats women. Her epic battles against relentless gender discrimination and deployment of rapier-sharp legal opinions are legendary, along with an indomitable will that defies her octogenarian reality. Ruth Bader Ginsburg transformed the highest legal battleground in the country with her fiery dissents all predicated on the (shockingly) moral foundation of equality, fairness, and historical justice. She’s been involved with landmark cases that required her to be bold (US v. Virginia in 1996), prophetic (Bush v. Gore in 2000), and unwavering (Artis v. District of Columbia in 2017). She works out twice a week with a personal trainer and is known these days colloquially as “Notorious R.B.G.” after becoming an internet sensation overnight. She’s beaten two forms of cancer (colon, pancreatic), and once said that “reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” God bless you, Ruth – you didn’t just break the mold when you were born, you redefined it for the rest of us.
It’s looking as if the Toronto Blue Jays are hell-bent on trading away Marcus Stroman, and this leaves me tremendously irritated and unnervingly agitated because it doesn’t make one iota of sense. Look, I get that fans of this team have flip-flopped their opinions on this player as often as they’ve switched from Bell to Rogers and convinced themselves they’re somehow ahead of the curve (hint: you’re not), but it’s become a local baseball rite of passage to bemoan Stroman’s social media behaviour while demonizing a player with the usual reactionary sensationalism which tends to follow a remarkable athlete. So why is there an issue with this particular player? The season isn’t half over and he’s on pace for 5+ wins above replacement which will almost certainly eclipse his career high back in 2017 during his top ten Cy Young campaign. What’s the problem? I mean, seriously – why would a rebuilding club rid themselves of an all-star fan favourite who, at 28 years of age and coming off a multitude of hellishly unfair arbitration settlements, is precisely what you need to contend in the future? A player whose innate flamboyance and time-honored knack for pitching successfully in big game situations has never been in question. An employee who quietly watched as his former best friend (Aaron Sanchez) was chosen to be the franchise golden boy and financially backed by an entire marketing department while he was left to fend for himself (for the record, the HDMH brand is inspiring and worth exalting whereas Westjet jumped the shark a long time ago). Stroman’s love of this city not only endeared himself to the fans but also amplified his emotional presence in ways that should celebrated, and yet we remain privy to a steady barrage of blustery front office sound bites and asinine talking head punditry that makes little or no sense. My namesake can try all he wants, but there’s no way Mark Shapiro receives anywhere near the value in parting with this player that he would otherwise receive by standing pat and offering him a contract. But in this blasted era of retrogressive personnel management and corporate-driven bullshit, you can rest assured he’ll have an optimally nauseating explanation for all of us.
I ran a twitter poll last week and posed a rather innocent question: “Is Mitch Marner as valuable to the Toronto Maple Leafs as John Tavares or Auston Matthews?” And much to my surprise, only 42% of respondents replied that he was. Now, I’ll be the first to concede that Mitch was up against some serious anchoring biases to begin with when it comes to fan perception; he’s not a centre, wasn’t drafted first overall, and lacks that certain stone-cold ruggedly handsome hockey exterior that appeals to both genders and multiple demographics. But the “young Gandalf of hockey” as I officially call him is awfully respected for his cerebral approach to the game of hockey that many loyalists consider is second to none. And as someone who has interviewed a plethora of reputable hockey minds over the past few weeks to help figure out the score, it’s hard for me to take a stand on what’ll happen next. We could see a bridge deal, some kind of back door finagled short-term arrangement, or even an epic seven-year outcome with a more reasonable financial hit; either way, this will end with the team having three (3) players on their roster taking up almost 40% of available cap space. Since this is also the year that the Buds will be expected to advance past the first round of the playoffs (along with a presumable Nylander renaissance, a Spezza reclamation, and a Barrie-Muzzin smorgasbord of goals scored), I’m preparing for what should be a year to remember and one that will permanently influence how we really feel about the vaunted “Shanaplan.”
He was only on this planet for 32 years, but that was enough time for me to know that he’d be one of my patron saints for life. Bill Hicks would have a field day with our modernized and manipulated addiction to social media alongside our global love affair with authoritarianism. While we sputter out of control against all forms of uncivilized behaviour and double down on nationally compounded ignorance, I often stop and wonder how he’d see this world and what it would have done to his soul. It wasn’t enough that he was taken from us far too soon or that his sublime talent was brutally plagiarized by Denis Leary; William Melvin Hicks was born into this world like the perfect mad genius of self-actualization that he was. This was a human who once said that: “Life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves” thus cementing his place in my heart as not only one of the greatest comedians ever, but as a profound soothsayer whose material resonated with the kind of urgency and honesty that is sorely lacking today, everywhere. But perhaps the best way to honour his memory (aside from checking out classics like Arizona Bay, Rant in E-minor, Relentless) is to look back at those last weeks where his health had failed him and he could no longer use vocal chords to fully illustrate the joy he had brought to so many – especially yours truly. For not a day goes by that I don’t revel in his final written words left behind for an entire generation: “I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.”