Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Selective memory...

A lotta stupidity going on in the Oilers blogosphere and in online forums.  It seems hypocritical to me to call Tambellini an idiot while referring to the 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes as proof.  Did they think drafting Taylor Hall in 2010 would be the end of the rebuild?  One draft and BOOM!  Back to the Stanley Cup?

How short is the memory?  There WAS mention of 3-5 years needed to rebuild the franchise.  Nothing but bile and venom towards Tambellini and Lowe for creating a bottom feeding team while also crowing and bragging about the top talent on the team.  How did we get that #1 talent without the last place finishes?  We sure weren't getting that level of player thru the free agent market, at least, not without overpaying.  We were never going to build the Oilers into a championship team in a cap league that way.  The Rangers should have proved that by now.

*sigh*  too much stupidity for me now.  I feel like I'm surrounded by idiot Canuck fans right now.  So much for a well informed fan-base.  Feels more knee-jerk than ever.  If people looked in the mirror, and they were in the hypothetical situation of BEING in the Oilers organization, as a manager, I would have fired their asses!  Nothing but negativity and short-sightedness.

I can honestly say that I've worked with the best in the world.  I've been around Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Sharapova, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Vanessa Williams, Scott Hamilton, and many other people who have produced world class performances. Some of the "best of the best".  I have seen up close what it takes to be "elite".  Part of it starts with having a positive attitude.  I'm seeing NONE of that from Oiler fans right now and it sickens me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Part 5 China Trip 2005 Xian: The city wall, North gate

After we finished walking around the Muslim quarter in the southeast part of Xian, we went back to our hotel to meet up with our driver and our tour guide. The guide suggested we take a look at the city wall which was built when the city was an army post. The city of Xian is one of only a few cities in China to have a surviving wall around the original settlement. Many were destroyed during the cultural revolution as zealous communists tried to "create" a new history of their own making, by decimating historical artifacts. After a few years/decades, the zeal died down and now architectural landmarks such as this wall were rebuilt or restored to their former state. Unfortunately, many other monuments were too severely damaged to repair so this wall is a lucky survivor from that dark time.

When we got to the city, we entered thru the south gate. there was too much traffic and I was too tired to pull my camera out in time, so I missed that shot. We got to the north gate near sundown and walked around for a few minutes snapping off some shots. After we had our supper at a restaurant famous for it's "dumpling feast", we came back out and took some night shots.

Part 4 China Trip 2005, Xian...Muslim Quarter: The Great Mosque

After the Drum tower, we looked at our map and picked the next closest "touristy" item and according to the map, it happened to be the "Moslem Quarter" with The Great Mosque. I think our tour guide warned us that there was a little bit of a danger in pickpockets frequenting the area but we had no troubles. We wandered thru the grounds of the mosque and found it serene and interesting. After we left the Mosque, we went to a nearby street market and ordered lunch: onion pancakes with spicy ginger soup. Since it was a Ma & Pa "street" joint, I wondered briefly about "stomach" issues but when I tried the food, it turned out to be the perfect thing. The dreary day was very cool and damp but the spicy soup warmed both of us up and gave us a bit more energy to continue exploring this section of the town.

All sorts of students were on the grounds of the compound drawing or sketching parts of the scenery...

View from the first door...

Now looking back from the far end of the mosque compound...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Part 3, China Trip 2005 : Xian ...Drum Tower

Hey, jus remembered a story from mmmmMasters Cup. The seats that the players sat in, the red Indesit benches, were constructed from scratch during the week before the tournament started. They were finished 6 days before the tournament was to start. Federer and Agassi were already onsite by then and sitting in the luxury boxes during their breaks. Things seemed ok with the benches as the tournament started but, I can't remember exactly when, the problem "occurred". Since we had doubles and singles play, the court had to be "reset" from singles to doubles setup or vise versa. So that meant moving the nets, the umpire's chair, the drink coolers, the ball canister and the players' benches ( I forgot to mention the last few in my previous posts). So we did a changeover on one of the first two days and during the movement of the benches, I thought I felt something loose in one of the benches. I wasn't sure so I stayed to watch if it was alright. Of course, the team that sits down on that bench is Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley. I met them the previous 2 years because they won the 2003 Heineken Open of Shanghai in Doubles and lost in quarterfinals in 2004 Heineken (my first 2 years as court service director). They were really great and down to earth (partying) Aussies and I had fun working with them. Wayne drops his bag by the chair and sits down, only to drop right on his ass as the seat cushion SNAPS off! Paul had dropped his bag and was checking out his racquet when he saw Wayne fall down. Paul looks stunned... Wayne jumps right up with this utter look of "what the hell!" He looks 360° and sees me behind the bench and gives me this look of "Shit! What'd you do this to me for??!!". My jaw drops and I try to say something but all I do is mouth "NOT ME, NOT ME!", and hold my hands up like "don't hurt me... I'm too cute to die...". I'm trying not to laugh and all but Paul starts laughing and then i can't help it and start laughin too. Wayne's such a good guy that he joins in and we all take a few seconds to get control of ourselves. Meanwhile, everyone else (from the organizing committee or the ATP) around the court is panicing and going "Ohmygod, ohmygod... this is live TV!". Someone thought fast and soon we took out the remains of the bench and took two of the seats from one of the front row box seats and put them into the outer frame of the bench. On TV, if you didn't see the incident, you really couldn't see the difference in the two benches but since I had the "front row seat" to the accident, I noticed it all night long... and laughed.

The Drum Tower near the center of Xian

We arrived in Xian at noon this day but it was cloudy/misty so we decided to rest up instead of doing too much. It was also only 2nd day after the end of Masters Cup and both Me and Nan were still on the edge of exhaustion from the 20 hour workdays during the tourney.

We took a 4 hour nap and then wandered to one of the major highlights of the city of Xian. The central plaza which had the Bell and Drum towers. We tried to get into the Bell tower first but we were turned back by the closed sign even tho' the advertised hours said they would be open til 5:30pm.

Looking back at the Bell Tower in the centre of old Xian (walled city). Our hotel was north of the Bell tower and this entire area was a large traffic circle around the tower. So if you followed the traffic in the picture 50 meters north, you would be at our hotel. Pretty good location I'd say :)

I'd wondered why it was called the "Bell and Drum Tower hotel" before I arrived...

Guess it was cuz it was between the two, DUH!

In the centre of the plaza, we took shots of the Bell tower behind us (above) and the Drum tower in front of us (right).

We were supposed to pay 1 Rmb to hit the drum but we waited a minute til someone else paid and took a photo of their kid hitting it instead :p

Photos of the interior...

The ever present gift shop; we actually picked up replica terracotta soldiers here for 50 rmb instead of the rate of 100 at the real tomb site.

On the 3rd floor... looking out at Xian...kinda dreary day...lotsa construction/ urban renewal

Later on... the view from below the Drum tower

... and then the street market further on down the road

A look at construction from up close...pretty typical of a chinese back alley undergoing change... red bricks and muck

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Part 2 China 2005, Masters Cup: Eye of the hurricane...

I gotta say "M" and "F" were the most uninhibited when it came to the "wearing of clothes" in the doubles locker room. I mean not even a towel....... sorry, all I can say is, I spy with my lil' eyes, not one, but two butt naked guys, and no disguise but blue sky and their....prize...between their thighs is how they surprise and EMPHASIZE their... pride... I can't surmise... to all who try do their best to minimize the damage to my fried... am i high... at least theirs were not..."HIGH"...I can't really say who or why... I can't think of a reply...I jus shake my head, do my job and walk on by..."bye", say I, without batting an eye

I'm scarred and I don't know why.
Dr. Seuss-like dialogue will be featured here again after my next encounter with too many shamelessly (fully) undresssed (athletic) males...

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog....

Ummmmmmmm... designer chocolates...
'nuff said

Actually, no... I thot the rum caramel and ginger chocolates were ... interesting but my fave was the mango...

The luckiest guy...

So the story goes, Roger Federer didn't have a practice partner for some reason on the 13th and so he asked the tournament bigwigs if they could scrape up someone to hit balls with him on center court. Don, the general tournament volunteer and college tennis player was volunteeered on behalf of our bosses, because both Mike and Charles felt they were too old and wouldn't be able to keep up. This was a total surprise and shock to Don but he was sooooo there!

So Federer did his workout/practice and Don ran for his life. Afterward, Don remarked that it was amazing to experience the workout that a professional player would go through but that he was soooo dead tired... and happy... and lucky!

First day of matches, we had the singles match first and then went to a doubles match... these are snapshots showing the controlled chaos and activity to get the court ready and change the nets.

Even tho it was the first day, we did pretty good and changed the court over to doubles setup in about 10 minutes.

So, ready for Bob and Mike Bryan (U.S.) to start their first round robin doubles match.

Above: Daniel Nestor (Canada) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) pleasing the fans after their match. I got to chat with Dan and found that he's like me... a Canadiens fan living in Toronto whereas I'm an Oiler fan living in Calgary (for allu non-hockey fans... think Yankee fan in Boston, ya get it, eh!). Also, since we're both Canadian made it easy for us to talk about anything... Dan was great. A new buddy, jus what I wanted!

Left: Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia/Montenegro) and his partner Leander Paes (India) sign autographs after defeating Nestor/Knowles

Nan, Bruce and me goof around on the umpire's chair

Above Left: Wayne Black (Zimbabwe) and partner Kevin Ullyett (South Africa)

Above Right: in foreground Michael Llodra and his partner Fabrice Santoro both of France

Below Stephen Huss and Wayne Moodie of Australia in post match interview with Jason (our oncourt announcer) and the tournament mascot after their win in doubles over Max Mirnyi (Belarus) and Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden)

After the doubles matches, the facilities staff had to replace the doubles net with the singles net and after they were done, my court service crew had to move the umpire's chair to the "regulation distance" about 1 foot away from the net post. This all was being done while the post match interview was being conducted. The two older gentlemen, Stephen (to the left) and Thomas (white haired man on right), are the two ATP/ITF supervisors... "supervising" our efforts to get the court ready for the upcoming singles matches. I'm the skinny guy on the front right of the chair draggin the 300lb paperweight...

Marat Safin of Russia couldn't compete due to an injury but he had been to Shanghai for the 2002 Masters Cup and he apparently liked it enough to come back for another visit. He watched Agassi's match and took a few photos. He noticed that he had the exact same camera as my sister and he asked her to take a photo of his butt for all the women out there so, my sis did as he asked. ENJOY!

Agassi versus Nikolay Davydenko; Agassi has TONS of fans in China, the only problem is that his career record for tournaments in Shanghai is 0 wins and 5 losses. He lost this match 6-4, 6-2 I think...

Rafael Nadal of Spain was the meteoric star of our sport having won more tournaments as a rookie than anyone had seen for a long while and reachin #2 in the rankings only behind Roger Federer. I got to see him practice for almost a week before the actual start of the matches and I saw that he was a dedicated worker and he had a true passion for the sport (as all his fans know). It was fun just seeing him practice! His uncle and coach was also a gentleman and I had no problems dealing with Nadal's small entourage. On the 14th, Nadal was scheduled to play his first round robin match but early in the morning, there were whispers that Nadal was injured and would pull out.
The news was entirely true and so he came on court after the doubles matches and talked to the fans. He apologized for his departure and he thanked everyone for their support and promised to be back next year. So with that shock, Mariano Puerta of Argentina, the first alternate, took over Nadal's spot in the tournament and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile became the next alternate and we made a flash call to Thomas Johansson of Sweden to hop on a plane to be our next alternate. The thing to understand is that the players get ~mid 5 figures in cash JUST being there; they don't even have to play! Everyone gets a base appearance fee and then they get paid for every win. Simple, eh!

The Bryan Brothers after they had won a match, run the gauntlet of fans, awaiting them by the LED display boards.

Rafael Nadal was great. He stayed in China to do some promo work and to do some sightseeing after his withdrawl... unlike some other unnammed player. Nadal showed a lot of class and humilty in his stay (a total pro) and I totally respect the way he carried himself throughout the event.

Federer after winning a round robin match

The entrance to the stadium court, as the players would see it. I'm on standby to the left with my court service staff flanking the "cattle chute".

In between the doubles matches in the morning and the singles matches in the evening, there would be a 1-2 hour lull. So a scheme was devised to announce the arrival of the evening matches... DRUMMER GIRLS!

The beautiful, Laura Wu, was in charge of the oncourt entertainment and so I was the unlucky guy whom she had notify about the scheduled "acts" and presentations between the matches... GOD my job SUCKS... not

Gaston Gaudio and Ivan Ljubicic arrive for their round robin match

Players' carpet sucked cuz it wasn't heavy enough to lay flat ... so when I ran... over that left corner that you can see in the pic... WHOOSH... BAMMMM... I slid right into the opposite wall (Not shown). Didn't hurt anything but my pride; I always slowed down at this corner afterwards...

Argentinians, Gaston Gaudio (L) and Mariano Puerta(center) make some more sponsors happy

Leander Paes and Nenad Zimonjic walk off after their round robin loss to the Bryan brothers

Skippy (red silk shirt) and the camera guy (sorry can't remember his name, Mike?) harass Kirsten during the changeover between matches. The post match interview with the Bryan brothers is occurring in the left background. Also in the right background, we're helping to set up the radio controlled car race between one of the Bryan brothers and one lucky fan...

Fernando Gonzalez doin the marker thang in his dressing room... So this is the mildly funny story to go with dis...

Before the tourney we were scheduled to have Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick,
Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Guillermo Coria, Nikolai Davydenko, and Ivan Ljubicic as the top 8 seeds with Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Puerta, Marat Safin and David Nalbandian as our initial pool of alternates.

Two weeks to the tourney, we knew Roddick couldn't make it because of his injury and we weren't sure if Roger could come back from his ankle injury in time (he told us he was still on crutches at that time)... lookin grim. Next we got confirmation that Lleyton wouldn't come due to the impending birth of his first child, so it looked like we might not have 3 out of our top 4 seeds... DOH!

Roger made a miraculous comeback so the field became Fed, Nad, Ag, Cor, Davy, Lju, Gaudio and Nalbandian with the alternates being Puerta and now Gonzalez. Safin was offered one of the two last slots in the main draw but declined to play, due to a nagging injury.

So now imagine you're one of the facilities staff who has made up all the nameplates for the individual dressing rooms two weeks before the event... The phone call comes," ... Hi, uhh, we're throwing away Roddick and Hewitt, could you make up Gaudio, Nalbandian, Puerta and Gonzalez..." Now, that doesn't seem all that bad but now imagine that you are telling this to a native Chinese speaker... it seemed like hours but was only an hour to "explicitly" spell out each name and get a readback over the phone for confirmation. Being that this was China, we still found a way to misspell something (Gonzalez/Gonzales s z ... iz same, yes?)....DOH!

So after we got all the correct nameplates, the next phase of our adventure began.. you all know about three card monte, right?

We (tournament staff) thought that the left side rooms were nicer in that they had windows looking outside (we didn't find out til later that the public bathrooms faced these windows ... oops). So (#1) Federer was pencilled in for the first left side dressing room at the end of hallway nearest to the exit and Nadal (#2) was given the first right side room across from Roger. Now with the withdrawls, Agassi became #3 and Coria #4; we put Coria next to Federer on the left and Agassi across from him. Agassi's party initially asked for a room farthest from the exit door and away from the "window" side but due to the uhh construction malfunction (see post below) we had to move him to the spot beside Nadal. So next to be placed were Ljubicic (#6), Gaudio(#7) and (#8) Nalbandian all along the left side right after Coria. Davydenko was placed in the last room on the right side across from Gaudio. The two rooms furthest from the exit (and closest to the centre court) turned into the first alternate's (Puerta) room (left side) and the physio/massage therapist's (right side) rooms. The physio room was, as stated, Agassi's first choice and so after we moved him, we ... creatively draped the inside to hide all manner of ...things. Along the outer hallway, we put up a banner, 10' high by 20' long to disguise ummm the concrete "shattered glass" look of the wall. These placements were all decided by Iggy and I in the day before Federer and Agassi arrived (the first two).

Now, when Nadal pulled out, we were going to move Puerta into Nadal's old room but he declined (guess he was comfy). We contemplated moving Coria or Ljubicic or Gaudio into Nadal's room but found that they were all satisfied with their locations. So Gonzalez got to move into the larger and nicer dresssing room right across from Federer after we tidied up (found some souvenirs!). He and Puerta had been sharing the sparse alternate dressing room before. After Agassi withdrew, we knew we had Johansson on the way and so we cleaned it up (found some underwear behind the door but I didn't want to touch that souvenir) but he never used it, as he just carried his gear to and from his car to the practice courts. So throughout all this player movement, I'm putting up and taking down nameplates... more running around, just what I needed.

On the last day of the round robin, Nan, Kirsten and I head up to the roof ... it's 9am and no one's around yet but us, a few stadium staff and a few journalists in the press room

View from the upper catwalks ... if they open the roof, I'll be on the "biggest" carnival ride ever...

Bruce in the upper concourse. The nice thing about havin Bruce as Transport dude, was after the long days were over, we were able to snag one of the Mercedes for the 1 hour ride back to the city from time to time. Imagine getting up at 7am each day to make it to site by 8-9am, working til midnight/1am (I had to stay til ALL players had left... we had matches go until near midnight) and then scrounging for a ride or calling a cab for another 1/2 hour of useless waiting. This usually meant that on the "bad" days I didn't get to bed til 2-3 am. I got up tired and went to bed exhausted. So when we got to sit in the luxury cars (heated seats....ummmmm felt soooo good for my sore muscles) with their professional government drivers ( given to diplomats,VVIPS and special functions... like ours), it felt soooo good and I could even relax enough to get amost an extra hour of sleep during the rides home. Plus it didn't hurt that the cars were SMOKIN nice!

Kirsten and I with the sponsors' "loot" after the players have made their mark...

My court service team... relaxing between matches

The winners of the semifinal sign the camera in a now familiar ritual...

Zimonjic and Paes, more sponsor stuff to sign...

Press row... across from the player benches

Roger Federer autographed hats ready for the sponsors or other lucky people...

Finals Day

Llodra (pictured here) and Santoro, after winning the doubles title, proceeded to start throwing their items into the crowd, starting with their equipment, then the game used tennis balls, towels and ending with most of their clothes. They whipped the crowd into quite a frenzy and then Llodra got a hug and kiss from his father as I got this "magic" shot. I remember the Lacoste rep (V.P.) frantically sent some of his people to sprint back to their storeroom for ANY Lacoste shirts for the two winners to wear since they were now ... "brandable". That's how the two winners ended up wearing only... "delicate blue" Lacoste golf shirts and the shorts that they came in, for the ceremonies. During the trophy presentation the pair announced that they were splitting up and playing with new doubles partners for the next year; shocked everyone in the crowd, dat's fer shure! Btw, that's the official tournament photographer in the background. He almost got into a fist fight earlier in the tournament with another photographer who didn't know that only "one" official photographer was allowed to go everywhere... our guy verbally bitchslapped the other guy and that was that...

Added Aug.16th... found this online jus toolin around; this should give y'all an idea of what I had to endure seeing in the locker rooms at the Masters' Cup :o

Iggy and Kirsten share a nice moment on the last day

The two finalists, Federer and David Nalbandian. Federer was well in control til early in the 3rd set where he suddenly he asked for the doctor. I heard the call over the ATP radio and rushed to the court to help escort the medical staff through the crowd. The doctor and trainer looked at his ankle for a few minutes but when they resumed play, Roger was never the same...

This was my view of the proceedings; right on court trying to stay out of the way of the fans and their picture taking...

I was asked to be available to help unroll the red carpet or help in any other way with the final ceremony and also to safeguard the "souvenirs"; monogrammed towels, used game balls and even the players' equipment as they went through the trophy/prize presentations. This "down" time gave me an opportunity to grab a few photos for the 1st time... from right behind the winner, Nalbandian

BIG Jake (6'7" i think.. and about 230 lbs) the tech in charge of the LED display boards pointed out that the back walls were just rectangular metal skeletons covered by a blue stretchable vinyl fabric and they were not meant to take any large degree of weight on them. The LED board was constructed of "lego-like" interlocking blocks, two high and in multiples of four(?) long, (so each mini-section was 8 connected blocks) across the length of the courts. The backing on the boards was only supposed to give a little support to keep the LED screens straight/upright and to protect the passersby from the large amount of generated heat from the back of the display blocks. He stressed that people should be strongly discouraged from leaning on the back wall at all times. For the entire tournament, we had few problems with the crowd control around the wall and the area was safe ... til the singles final.

After David Nalbandian won the last match of the tournament, he hoisted his trophy aloft amidst the flying confetti. The fans saw that the doubles team had gone to the LED boards and leaned over to get hugs from their friends/family earlier in the day and now they anticipated David would do the same. The post match crowd along the board surged forward to try to get an autograph or photo and all of a sudden we heard ominously large crackin/creaking sounds, loud even above the noise of the clamouring fans. My court service team and I were on standby inside the court, just in front of the boards, and we all immediately jumped up (Damn the ruined pictures!) and braced the suddenly tilting boards. I remember that I started yelling at the crowd, "MOVE BACK! GET BACK!". The crowd was tightly pressed against the wall trying to get as close to the court as possible and some of the closest were pinned and I could see in their suddenly scared faces that they couldn't move if they wanted. I noticed that my staff were bracing the boards by using their knees to push against the middle of the boards and I remembered Jake warning me that each of the board "blocks" was about 40-50 lbs. He said that if it was going to fall over, that I'd best get out of the way lest I get my legs crushed or my knees severed by the hundreds of pounds that would fall over.
I frantically yelled at my staff to" Step back! Get your legs back..." and brace the wall in the "pushup" position, legs well clear of the electronic board if it went over. I then yelled at the security on the "crowd" side of the board to "MOVE!!!" and I continued to gesture at the fans to move back. This all took less than 10 seconds but I remember it seemed like time slowed down and I had only moments to try avert a major disaster. I watched/heard about a 20'/1000+ lbs section of the display board leaning dangerously towards my staff and a large number of VIP's standing nearby as Nalbandian walked around his newly won Mercedes. He was coming towards us and was about 10 feet from the crowd... and realized the possible danger of the situation and backed away. I remember the terror/relief/gratitude/rage that I felt at that moment as David spun around and jogged over to the other side of the court. It seemed that the wall stopped flexing towards us/the security got between the crowd and the LED backing/ and my crew stopped pushing, happened all at the same time. The crowd quickly dissipated as David celebrated with the large Argentinian bloc on the far side by the open camera bay... no LED boards. So that was my most intense memory of the tournament; not the great people I met even though I thought Daniel Nestor ('Mazin Canadian / Canadiens!), Rafael Nadal and Guillermo Coria's coach (a true spanish gentleman) were 3 of the coolest guys I've met on tour and then ... there the girls.... . As well, I'm not burdened by the memories of the strenuous early part of the 2 weeks where I did most of the setup and court services without any university volunteers or even the "quirky" new facility that went through it's growing pains as we christened it with it's first big event. The memory that I could have been a victim or very close bystander to a lethal tragedy is my most vivid recollection and it stays with me...

Mike and Charles, "Yeeeaaa baby... another great tournament done..."

Our motto should be
... "Catastrophe Averted (again)!"

Richard Lu and Leo... "Ha ha... job's done

and we don't have to clean this up..."

Can u hear it..." Naw's tha time fer tha paaarty hats" sez Charles in his exaggerated home New Englander accent