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Like all Canadians, I was born with skates on, so when I heard the news, four years ago, that the President of Turkmenistan had decreed that his petroleum rich police state would become a hockey superpower I was delighted and fascinated.

birdy on ice

In 2012, the President of Turkmenistan, seen here, decreed that his nation would become a hockey superpower and ordered his minions ot sally forth and make it so

But Central Asia was a long way away, and I was delighted and fascinated with many things that day, as I am every day, so I thought little more about it until mid March of this year when my wife phoned home to report that she had been offered a promotion and transfer to the hermit state.

Six weeks later I found myself in the presence of the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, a fine fellow named Alan Mustard. The Ambassador and I were sipping a cold one at a Sunday afternoon tailgater that was hosted by one of my wife’s work colleagues. Since Canada does not maintain an embassy in the former Soviet republic that sits on the southeatern shores of the Caspian Sea, I decided to pitch Mr. Mustard with a mad idea.

“Hockey diplomacy,” I said to the Ambassador, as I shook his hand for the first, and last, time. His eyebrows rose. He pondered. He looked me up and down, which he had done a week prior, when we passed each other, without speaking, at another event.

The other attendees of the weekly grill and swill were dressed golf club casual. As is my wont, I looked like a fat Steven Tyler impersonator trying to crash a frisbee golf party hosted by Snoop Dogg. Clearly, the Ambassador was taken aback by my garish garb. Nonetheless, his mind invited me to elaborate.

“I call it The TurkmeniStanley Cup,” said I, perhaps slurring the curious moniker (Canuckistanis are cheap drunks when imbibing in 100+ degree desert  heat). Observing no objection, I carried on. “Every summer, the world’s hockey minnows, such as Mexico, Morocco,  Malaysia, Mongolia etc. , gather here, under Turkmenistan’s cruel sun, and battle to be crowned the kings of global mighty mite hockey.”

The Ambassador seemed amused, and I bleated on. “Kids in all age divisions. Hockey is an expensive sport, even in Canada, far more so where ice is mostly something you put in cocktail glasses, so those little silver spoon  kids are going to be the future leaders of their nations. They will form lifelong friendships, breaking down barriers to business and fostering diplomacy between disparate nations.”

Mustard, who is not  a Colonel, did not have to say what he was thinking. The Ambassador was not thinking, “Dang! I wish I was in the kitchen, with a knife, so I could prevent this peacock from squawking any further!”

No, dear reader, the Ambassador is a diplomat. He does not think murderous thoughts. Mr. Mustard, Mr. Ambassador, who has heard every dumb Clue joke ever, was thinking, “That’s all well and good, old chap, but, pray tell, what the Dickens does that have to do with the United States of America?” Actually, that might be more like what the British Ambassador would be thinking if he’d been cornered by a fat, drunk colonist with a heedful of gibberish, but I call poetic privilege, so let’s move on, shall we? Jolly good.

I told the Ambassador that I grew up 40 miles from the Minnesota border, in Thunder Bay, which is, pound for pound, the best hockey town on Planet Ice. I told the representative of the American people that I’d carved up a fair bit of ice, and chased more than my share of puck bunnies, in the land of 10,00 lakes,   when I was a youngster.

And I grudgingly admitted that my teams were bested when we traveled to tournaments in Edina, International Falls, Duluth, Grand Rapids… well, there’s no need to elaborate on this embarrassing confession any further, is there?

As he looked at his watch, I told the Ambassador that I’d spent an entire week watching the Minnesota State High School Hockey Championships on TV, every spring

I rambled on, as Mustard glanced at his time piece yet again, saying that I’d been envious, oh so envious, that kids my age were playing in front of 18,000 strong crowds at the St. Paul Civic Center. How, I wondered,  could the inferior Americans get so many people to watch their brand of shinny? “Was it the cheerleaders?”

It was, by then, obvious that Mustard was wishing that he was a Colonel, and that he had me over the kitchen table, with a knife in his quivering hand, so I cut to the chase:

“All to say that I understand that Minnesota is a bona fide hockey hotbed, and the kids there love the game as much as kids north of them do. All those kids, on both sides of the border, need to understand the righteousness of hockey diplomacy as much as the kids in the world’s hockey minnow states, no? Of course they do,” I assured him.

“So,” said I, “we also bring in teams from Duluth and Thunder Bay, not to contest for the TurkmeniStanley Cup, but to play a little shinny and make friends.” And then, the coup de grace, the money shot for every free market loving, red blooded American, “It’s all sponsored by Coca Cola. The two best things in the world on ice – hockey and Coke,” I slurred in conclusion, as I drained my beer.


Allan Mustard, the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, didn’t quite grasp hockey diplomacy.

Ambassador Mustard’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to parse it all. Alas, the dashing diplomat hails from Washington state, and all that Pacific Northwest rain does not freeze when it hits the ground, so he just didn’t get it. Thus, the diplomat muttered something diplomatic like, “I’ll talk to my people about it.”

I was not convinced, but nor was I overly pessimistic about his promise.What I was was thirsty, so I I let Mr. Ambassador off the hook and ambled away to fetch another beer.

The following week I happened upon the Ambassador’s second in command at the embassy, another fine fellow named Paul Poletes. The South Dakota native had gone to university in Minneapolis.  Surely he would fathom the genius, the simultaneous gravitas and beautiful absurdity, of hockey diplomacy, right?

Yes, dear reader, I am happy to report that he did, indeed. In fact, he seemed to love the idea, as did his compadres from the embassy.

So, why did the Golden Gopher ignore my follow up emails asking to parlez about the possibilities?

beach hockey

Having failed in his effort to become the Alan Eagleson of the 21st century the author has reverted to his traditional day job: drinking beer and pounding sand

Sadly, good friends, it is my duty to inform y’all that my glorious scheme died on the vine because yours is still a nation of hockey infidels.

Y’all don’t have ice in your veins and vulcanized rubber in your heads. Hockey diplomacy is beyond your grasp. Your collective will is not strong enough to submit to a marriage with your chilly better halves and give birth to a global brotherhood of puckheads, because you can never fully embrace a spot that you cannot own.

Well, nor can we Canadian Lords of the Ice, so forget about Turkmenistan, and the rest of the world’s hockey wannabes, because it’s time to drop the puck in Toronto and get it on, already!

Go Canada go!

Editor’s note: The author informs me that he has not been able to sell his frozen fairy tale to any publication north of the border, not even to the august daily of the alleged best hockey town on the planet, leaving us to wonder, out loud, just how much the Canuckistanis really love hockey. Lacrosse, after all, is the official national sport of the Great White North. U S A! U S A! U S A!


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A Canuckistani puckhead failed in his attempt to bring hockey diplomacy to the secretive police state, but at least he lived to tell the tale

Had I known there were no bookstores in Turkmenistan maybe I would have said, ‘No way,’ when my wife told me she’d been offered a job there. Any nation that bans bookstores is no place for a writer.

book building

Irony is finding a building that looks like a book in a country that has no bookstores

There were other signs that the Central Asian petro state was not going to embrace me as a comrade: I am an anarchist (funarchist, actually) – whereas Turkmen authorities once jailed a young man, for a year, for organizing a flash-mob dance party. The ultra authoritarian police state, known to expats who reside there as North Korea Lite, is a vast desert where the summer temperature usually hovers around 45 degrees – whereas as I am a tree-hugging, snow-loving Canadian whose genetic roots are buried in the Finnish permafrost.

But, even at 53 years of age, I am still the bug-eyed kid on the lookout for an electrical socket with a butterknife in hand, so instead of saying, ‘No way’ to my wife on that fateful day back in March, I said, “Let’s go!” after I stopped laughing.

Minutes after my wife nervously hung up the phone to ponder whether or not she wanted to be a stranger in the strangest of lands, I flashed back four years. I was pounding away at my keyboard, listening to BBC World Service, when the word “hockey” was mentioned. The Beeb does not mention the sport very often, and when it does it usually prefaces it with the word “ice”, so as not to confuse and disappoint the legions of grass/field hockey fans who listen to “the world’s news service,” so I gasped and listened intently.

The Beeb’s intrepid reporter, Rayhan Demytrie, intrepidly reported that the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known to expats who reside there as Birdy, had decreed that his country would become a hockey superpower, and ordered his minions to sally forth and make it so.

birdy on ice

Will President Birdy sack a cabinet minister when he discovers that he missed a great opportunity to put Turkmenistan on the international hockey map?

I was born with skates on, so the story delighted and fascinated me, but Turkmenistan was a long way away and I had many other things that delighted and fascinated me, so I thought nothing more of it at the time. But the minute my wife called back and said she had accepted the posting, my mind started to gnaw away at the BBC story. That night, at about 4 a.m., I awoke with my latest, and perhaps greatest, of absurd schemes – The TurkmeniStanley Cup.


Despite the fact that the summer temperature hovers around 45 degrees Turkmenistan’s 10,000 seat arena maintains pretty good ice.

By the time our flight touched down at Ashgabat International Airport on April 22, The TurkmeniStanley Cup had fully formed in my mad mind. Birdy is not the only world leader whose inner child dreams of hockey hegemony. Despite global warming, one might think planet Earth is turning into Planet Ice by looking at the list of nations that have joined the International Ice Hockey Federation. Nigeria and Namibia, Argentina and Armenia, Israel and Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Mongolia, Mexico and on and on the list runs. In this mad dream of mine all the world’s hockey minnows would come together every summer to compete for the ultimate prize in mighty-mite hockey – The TurkmeniStanley Cup (I do hope you’ll forgive me for repeating the name of my dream – The TurkmeniStanley Cup – repeatedly, because I am ridiculously proud of the moniker and I want it to stick in your heads forever – mwa hahaha!).

Kids in all age divisions – atom, peewee, bantam, midget, junior and senior – would compete for the TurkmeniStanley Cup.

No doubt, President Birdy’s mug would have to be carved into the mug itself. Perhaps the trophy would have shades of green to match the country’s flag. Overall, however, the TurkmeniStanley Cups would be almost identical to Lord Stanley’s cherished chalice.

The tournaments would last two weeks, giving plenty of time for the players to explore behind the veil of gas and sand, and get to know each other. Lifelong friendships would be formed, and renewed, in person and on ice, every summer. But there is so much more to The TurkmeniStaley Cup.

Even in Canada, hockey is an expensive sport. In places like Brazil, South Korea and Turkmenistan, hockey is largely a sport reserved for the offspring of the financial elite. Those silver spoon kids will, in all likelihood, become the barons of business, the captains of industry, the political powers of their countries for generations to come, so The TurkmeniStanley Cup would become a de facto act of  diplomacy. Hockey diplomacy!


Canada’s junior hockey ambassadors didn’t quite understand the meaning of hockey diplomacy when they went to the Soviet Union for the World Championships in 1986/87 and brawled with their hosts

But wait, dear reader, for there is even more to The TurkmeniStanley Cup; the all important Canuckistani angle.

I am not just another beer-bellied, armchair, powerplay quarterback. I played hockey throughout my youth. And, if I do say so myself, I was pretty good (a basketful of trophies will attest to my assertion). I won individual awards throughout my minor hockey career in the greatest hockey town on Planet Ice, Thunder Bay.

fw gardens

The Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay: Planet Ice’s Mecca.

Hockey was my life when I was a child. To this day, hockey is the only thing I am patriotic about. And while there is not much I miss about Thunder Bay, I still have dreams about playing shinny late into the cold winter nights on the Lakehead’s outdoor rinks. As I watched the Turkmen hockey championship game on TV, I realized that I could easily become the best player in the country, so I ordered a new $1000 pair of Graf (RIP) skates, a pair of $1000 Rollerblades, and started blading miles in the sweltering heat, which made the pavement soft and almost gooey.

As I bladed along Ashgabat’s  long, lonely highways I dreamed of bringing scores of Thunder Bay kids to play hockey in Turkmenistan. There would be no point in bringing the best minor hockey players from the greatest hockey town in the world to compete against the minnows of Planet Ice, so I resolved to work with old hockey friends in the Lakehead to form teams comprised of scholastic standouts who play the game, without necessarily excelling at it.

Every winter Turkmenistan’s future hockey legends would fly to Thunder Bay to play hockey as it was meant to be played – outdoors, on a pond.


Would this be HockeyHalla for young Turkmen puckheads? Would they meet their first puck bunnies in those snow banks?

And still, gentle reader, there was more to my mad scheme. In addition to being a good hockey player, I was also a pretty good baseball player. A year or so ago, I received a friend request on Facebook from my Little League baseball coach, a guy named Pat McDonald. Years after I left Thunder Bay, Pat coached the AAA Bantam Kings to the Ontario Provincial Hockey Championship. The star of that team was a guy named Eric Staal, eldest of the Stall hockey brothers.

Eric won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He also won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I was convinced that Pat could get Eric, and the rest of the Staal brothers, to come to the TurkmeniStanley Cup to teach the coaches of the world’s hockey minnows how to coach their hockey minnows.


Would Eric Staal have become a global hockey diplomat in Turkmenistan?

Eric Staal would certainly know Patrick Sharpe, another Thunder Bayite who has made it big in the bigs. Sharpe won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and earned a Gold Medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. Surely, I reasoned, he, too, would be willing to plunge into the Heart of Oddness to do his part for hockey diplomacy.

But who would pay for all this madness? Despite the recent global slump in petroleum prices Turkmenistan is hardly a beggar state, and the total cost of the tournament would be chump change.


If Birdy wants the TurkmeniStanley Cup to happen, he can afford to pay the bulk of the costs.

In my mind’s eye, I could see Turkmenistan Airlines’ Boeing 777 200LR landing at Thunder Bay International and chartering 291 wide-eyed hockey kids, their families, and NHLers, past and present, off to an all-expenses paid adventure that none of them would ever forget.


Turkmenistan Airlines 777 could be the Airforce One of hockey diplomacy.

The TurkmeniStanley Cup would also host a business summit.  Companies from hockey minnow states that wanted to explore trade opportunities would converge on Ashgabat and do business while the kids were ripping up the ice. Those companies would help cover their teams’ expenses, but those expenses would also be offset by the tournament’s signature sponsor, Coca-Cola. Hockey and Coke: the two greatest things in the world on ice. Coke sells its products in every country in the world, save Cuba and North Korea, and this would be an incredible promotional vehicle for the global giant, garnering headlines the world over.

With a plan like that, even I, a bona fide political satirist whose words would strike fear and loathing into the hearts of the Turkmen political elite, would be able to convince President Birdy that the TurkmeniStanley Cup was a no brainer. Right?

The problem was, how could I, a man whose grade two report card had the words, “BRIAN HAS A PROBLEM WITH AUTHORITY”, scrawled across it, get my pitch to the authoritarian President?


Maybe the author was never meant to rule Planet ice?

Canada does not maintain an embassy in Turkmenistan, but Uncle Sam is all over the place like white on snow, so my first pitch was made to the American Ambassador, Allan Mustard (no, he is not a Colonel, I did not meet him in the kitchen, and he did not have a knife, but, yes, he has heard all those jokes before), whom I met at a Sunday tailgater.

Understanding that there would have to be an American angle to the idea, I expanded it to include Thunder Bay’s sister city, Duluth Minnesota, which is 200 miles down the north shore of Lake Superior from the Lakehead. I grudgingly admit that Minnesotans are just as rabid about hockey as Canadians. Including Duluth meant that we could attempt to bring Brett Hull  – who played his collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before winning Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings, being part of the only American team to ever best Canada at a best-on-best tournament (the 1996 World Cup), and being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame – to Turkmenistan.

The Ambassador seemed amused by my idea, but he hails from Washington state, which is not exactly a hockey hot bed, so he didn’t really appreciate the brilliance of it all.


Allan Mustard, the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, , didn’t quite grasp the gravitas of the absurd scheme.

However, the week after I happened upon Mustard, I happened upon his second in command at the US Embassy, a guy named Paul Poletes. Although he is not a puckhead, Poletes went to university in Minneapolis, so he understood the magic of it. At first, the South Dakota native was very excited about The TurkmeniStanley Cup. Sadly, my attempts to obtain a formal meeting with Poletes to explore the possibilities fell on deaf ears. Americans, even those who have lived in Minnesota, are still hockey infidels, after all, so I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.

Not easily deterred, I the turned to the wife of one of my wife’s work colleagues.

The woman was very well connected, not only in Turkemnistan but across Asia and Europe, not only in business, but also in politics. She’d dished out baksheesh like Scott Stevens once dished out bone busting body checks. And, even though she didn’t know a hip check from a wrist shot, she loved The TurkmeniStanley Cup.

No more than a week after pitching her the idea, this beguiling woman had arranged a meeting between ourselves and Kaakbay Seiidov, the Minister of Sports.

On the morning of the scheduled meeting I attended the luxurious apartment of this mysterious woman a few hours early to run through the pitch. She had given her servants the day off, and was busy doing dishes from an extraordinary dinner party the night before.

I was slightly nervous: the only meetings I had ever had with cabinet ministers came after I had occupied their offices. Conversely, my colleague was absolutely nonchalant. So nonchalant, in fact, that she blew the Minister off… without bothering to call his office to notify them… so she could enthrall me with tales of international drama and intrigue from her fascinating life… while she washed dishes… and I drank cognac… and laughed.

The following week I was summoned to a lunch meeting with the international woman of mystery. She informed me that the Minister was not willing to meet with me, a hockey mad Canuckistani of no import. At first I feared that the Turkmen government had discovered my past when doing its due diligence, and that I, and my wife, would be labeled persona non grata and deported on the next flight. But it wasn’t so.

birdy 2

Would Birdy have sent the author packing if he’d found out that he was not who he said he was… or that he is who he says he is… or that he really isn’t sure who he says he is?

While Brian Salmi is the name I was given at birth, and the name I use publicly, I have legally changed my name twice. The Turkmen authorities had not a clue that the name is Bond. James Bond. Wait, I’ve got that all backwards – James Bond is my legal name, so the Turkmen authorities knew not that I am, in fact, Salmi. Brian Salmi.

Well, that’s not quite right, either, but never mind all that jive for now.

The Minister didn’t know, or care, who I was. He wanted nothing whatsoever to do with a man like me based solely on the photo I had submitted with my visa application. Not so long ago, it was illegal for a man to have long hair and/or a beard in Turkmenistan. Although the male cranial follicle ban has been lifted, men like me are still, evidently, not welcome in the company of the Turkmen political elite, no matter what we have to say for ourselves, no matter how glorious our ideas are, no matter how much their country could benefit from our deliciously crazy schemes.


Will there soon be a new face at the Turkmen cabinet table?

I was tempted to ask the international woman of mystery to inform the Minister that he should never judge a book by its cover, but in a country that bans bookstores the veracity of that maxim would be totally lost in translation.

I have now given up my dream of organizing The TurkmeniStanley Cup.

beach hockey

Having failed in his effort to become the Alan Eagleson of the 21st century the author has reverted to his traditional day job: drinking beer and pounding sand

Since my wife and I have left Asia it has come to my attention that Canada’s Ambassador to Turkmenistan, John Holmes, has recently met with representatives of the Turkmen foreign ministry to discuss economic cooperation. Perhaps Ambassador Holmes will champion The TurkmeniStanley Cup one day. I do hope so, because it would be a shame to let this dream die, and surely someone, someone who is not me, can make it come true.

P.S. – For the record I do not have a problem with authority… I simply refute/ignore anyone’s preposterous claim to have any authority over my sovereign self.

Editor’s note: The author, whatever the Hell his name is, hopes to complete his new book, Hockey Knight in Turkmenistan, by Halloween.

– 30 –

Tim Hunt has nothing to apologize for

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the crucifixion of nobel winning scientist tim hunt is the most horrifying and sickening pc witch hunt i have ever seen. for those who do not know, hunt said that female scientists can be a distraction to males, or lesbians i guess, working in the same lab, because you can fall inn love with them, which is very distracting. and if they fall n love with you, and you criticize their work, they cry

it was a joke. for this, he was forced from several posts and targeted byy all sorts of mental cases

marina and i met through work. i was editing two start up weeklies, one in kosovo, one in montenegro. i knew almost nothing about either country when i took the gig. nor did the two cubbies who were eventually hired as reporters. both countries were very politically sensitive. scrutiny of the papers by the powers that be was intense, given that they were the first and only english language papers in the market. the wounds from the most recent balkan wars were still open. getting stories wrong was potentially very dangerous. we were all working 100 or more hours a week in 35+ degree heat. the pressure was constant

and then the publisher hired marina. and i fell insanely in love with her, and her, i am happy to report, with me. i could not have been more distracted. if i was doing an interview, my mind would wander to marina. editing a piece? same thing. talking to a local to get a grip on the basics that must be known in order to report in a new area? same thing. it was marina, marina and marina all the time. and we were not even in the same country. this all happened by email, texts, chats and skypes

if i had criticized marina, as her superior, she may well have cried. she is a sensitive girl

that’s what tim hunt was talking about. love. the insanity of it. the magic of it. the beauty of it. for this egregious crime, people set out to destroy his career

maybe the people who are applauding the witch hunt have never fallen in love. maybe they have and were destroyed when it turned cheap. maybe their hearts are so blackened that they are no longer capable of feeling anything warm. i understand. i flirted with all that in my dark years before marina. i was emotionally malnourished, poisoned, for a decade before marina. an important part of me was dead

the vilification of tim hunt is a monstrous thing. anyone who supports it is either a monster, or well one their way to becoming one. they are sick. or dead. i’d feel sad for them, if they didn’t take such glee in hunt’s sacking, but they do, so they make me sick


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It was the day after the dark and stormy night when the battle of the band went down. It was a dark and stormy day. Riff n Raff walked into Ye Olde Clowne House, looking for BeanO. They found him sitting in a dark, back corner, by himself. He was nursing a cold one and watching the 24 hour news channel. He was fidgeting. Every story, from every corner of the world, was about acts of terrible violence. “BeanO,” Riff said, “What the Hell is wrong with the world?”

“That’s gonna take a while, son. How much time you got?”

“That’s a good question, BeanO,” said Raff, “How much time do we have? Things are getting really ugly, everywhere.”

“C’mon,” said BeanO.

“Where we going,” asked Riff.

“We’re going to Urda Castle.” The kids had no idea what or where Urda Castle was, but it sounded like an adventure, one that could be more fun than dangerous, so they followed the clown. BeanO opened his wallet, heading for the cash register, He stopped cold. All his money had disappeared. More accurately, all the ink on his money had disappeared. He had a wallet filled with blank pieces of paper.

“Either of you have any money?” he asked Riff n Raff. They, too, had nothing but blank pieces of paper. “Well, that’s weird, but we have bigger problems to deal with, right now. Wait fifteen seconds, then follow me out the back door. Look natural.” It wasn’t a first for Riff. Raff was nonplussed by the drink and dash.

Ye Olde Clowne House was located next to the train tracks. As luck would have it, a train was slowly passing our heroes. “Quick, jump on,” BeanO yelled, hopping into an empty boxcar. The kids scrambled aboard. “Why don’t we just take your clown wagon, BeanO?” Raff asked.

“There are no roads to Urda Castle,” BeanO told them. “The Urdas don’t welcome visitors. We’ll have to jump off the train at Ignace and hike ten miles to get there.”

“Is it dangerous? Asked Raff.

The clown hesitated a second before saying, “Dangerous? Yes, very, very dangerous.” Riff didn’t believe him. But he knew his father was up to something, so he kept his mouth shut.

BeanO had sold it well, and Raff had fallen for it. She was all ears as the clown explained, “We will have to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.” Raff squirmed and looked out the open door, as if they were rapidly approaching The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril. “There we will have to answer five questions in order to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”

“Three,” said Riff.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Three questions, not five.”

“Yes. Right. Three questions.”

“What happens if we don’t answer the five questions?” Raff asked, nervously.

“Three questions,” Riff corrected.

“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff.

“If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” said BeanO.

“Three,” corrected Raff.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Three questions, not five,” said both Riff n Raff.

“Yes. Three questions, not five,” said BeanO. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” BeanO said, before pausing to see if either of the kids was getting annoyed. This time, the kids let it go, so BeanO continued. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly, we will be cast into The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”

“By whom, exactly?” asked Raff, who was catching on.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Who will ask us the five questions,” asked Raff.

“Three questions, “ BeanO corrected.”

“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff. “Who will ask us the three questions and cast us into The Gorge of Rternal Peril if we get one of the five questions wrong,” she asked.

“Three questions,” Riff corrected.

“Yes. Three questions,” agreed BeanO. The kids stared at the clown and awaited an answer

“Ummm,” said the clown, stalling for time as he scanned his memory banks for the answer to the all important question. “Ummm… it’s… ummmm, it’s…. it’s The Old Man from Scene 24,” he said with a smile.

The smile was a little too much for Raff, and she called the clown’s bluff. “Give me your finger,” she demanded of the clown.

“What? What for,” BeanO asked, knowing the gag was all but done.

Raff jumped on BeanO, grabbed him by the wrist, forced his clenched fist open and pulled his finger. Nothing happened. She did it again, and again, and again, and nothing happened, nothing happened, and nothing happened. “We’d all be dying of laughter, right now, if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24.”

“No,” Riff corrected his friend, “we’d still be sitting in Ye Olde Clowne House if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24 between us and Urda Castle, but we have time to kill, and dad am here to amuse us, so….”

Raff laughed and gave BeanO a big bear hug.

“Who are these Urdas?” asked Riff.

BeanO thought. How could he explain what an Urda is? “An Urda is someone with an answer,” the clown answered, finally.

“That’s pretty cryptic, dad.”

“You know when you ask an adult why something is happening, and their only answer is ‘because’?”

“Oh, I hate when they do that,” said Raff.

“As you should, Raff. You should hate it because ‘because’ is not an answer. It’s a cop out. It just means they’re too lazy, or stupid, to figure it out. Or they don’t want to face the ugly truth.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ve always thought,” said Raff.

BeanO elaborated, “When people are young, when they are children, they are filled with curiosity, always asking questions; Who? What? Where? When? And most importantly, why? Their hunger for knowledge seems inexhaustible. But it’s not. Adults beat that curiosity out of them by answering ‘Because’ all the time. When you hear ‘Because’ enough times, you start accepting it as an answer. And you stop asking ‘Why ?’And then, just like that, you’re an adult. And when a kid comes along and asks you ‘Why?’ you tell them, ‘Because’. And it goes on and on and on. And that’s why the world is such a mess.”

The kids were enthralled.

“The Urdas never answer ‘Because’. In order to become an Urda, you have to have been asked ‘Why?’ by a kid, a million times, and never once answered ‘Because’. Urdas have answers. They are thinkers.”

“So, the Urdas will know what’s going on? They’ll have an answer?” asked Riff.

“If anyone can make sense of what’s going on, it will be the Urdas,” said BeanO.

“How do you know about the Urdas?” asked Raff. “Why doesn’t anyone else know about them?

“People do know about the Urdas,. Or they are at least vaguely aware of them. They choose to ignore their existence. And the Urdas are reclusive. They prefer to be left alone.”

“Them what makes you think they’ll talk to us?” asked Riff.

“Because the leader of the Urdas is an old friend of mine. A guy named Gair. He was on his way to becoming a great clown, maybe the best of all time, when he decided to become an Urda, instead.”

“Wow!” said Riff.

“Cool!” said Raff.

“What do you think, BeanO?” Raff asked. “Why is the whole world going violently cuckoo bananas?”

“I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with the ECGs?”

“The who?” asked Riff.

“The what?” asked Raff.

“The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe,” said the smiling clown.

“More friends of yours,” asked Riff.

“Friends?” said BeanO. “Kinda. But, no, not really. But… yeah, kinda.”

“You’re a very cryptic clown, today,” said Raff.

BeanO got to the story. “Clownlore. Legend. Although some swear it’s all true, and it’s hard to argue with them.” BeanO pondered, then asked, “Do you ever wonder where crazy ideas come from?”

“Where?” asked Riff.

“Your crazy ideas, my crazy ideas, everyone’s crazy ideas. “

“Where?” asked Raff.

“You know when you wake up, in the middle of the night, with an insane idea in your head?’

“It’s always at four in the morning,” said Raff.

“Yeah, it is,” said Riff.

“Yes, it is,” the clown confirmed. “The legend of The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe has it that the universe is… well, ruled by evil clown gods. And Earth is a prison planet for the miscreants of the universe. All the beings that are criminally insane and/or morally bankrupt. When they die, they are all reanimated, in human form, here on Earth, where the Evil Clown Gods continually test them, to see if they have earned a pardon.”

“That’s brilliant!” exclaimed Raff. “It makes so much sense. What else?”

“The Evil Clown Gods identify the most likely to succeed, and use us to mess with, and test, the rest. When they have another assignment for us, another test for the rest, they look down and see us, sleeping peacefully, and say to each other, ‘Look! There’s BeanO, sleeping so peacefully. Let’s wake him up and put this insane nonsense in his head!; And then they laugh like lunatics as they watch me sit bolt upright in bed and ponder exactly why I am thinking of doing something that will marginalize me from the majority of the inmates here.”

“Why is that evil?” asked Riff.

“Because, if you do what they tell you to do, it drains your popularity.”

“Everyone hates on you?” asked Raff.

“No, not everyone. Some people get it. Some even find it wildly hilarious. That’s the test. That’s how the Evil Clown Gods pass judgment.”

“Do they ever get you to do really horrible things?” asked Riff.

“Not me,” said BeanO. “But, yeah, they do. But they never force anyone to do anything. They allow us all free will.”

“Wow! Urdas and Evil Clown Gods,” said Riff. “The world just got a million times weirder.”

“No,” said Raff. “It’s all starting to make sense.” BeanO smiled at Raff. Then he nodded. Then he stopped smiling.


BeanO, Riff n Raff had a somewhat long and semi arduous journey to get to Urda castle, but it wasn’t exactly The Lord of the Rings, and we like to keep things barreling along here, so…

“BeanO, my old friend, hurry up, get inside, it’s a dark and stormy night,” said Gair, leader of the Urdas, when our heroes arrived at the castle.

“You keep more illustrious company than you did when we were juvenile delinquents running wild, BeanO,” said Gair, bowing to Riff n Raff. Rising from his bow, Gair addressed the kids, “On behalf of all Urdas, past, present and future, I thank the two of you – and you, too, BeanO – for saving the world, not once, but twice now. We are not yet certain that was a good thing, but we thank you for the opportunity to find out. I suppose you’re here to seek help in saving the world for a third time, yes?”

“Yes, we are,” said Riff.

“Right, let’s get down to it,” said Gair.

Yes, of course the Uradas fed our famished troika, but Gunther Grass is not ghost writing this, so we’re not going to go on and on and on, for pages and pages and pages, about the food they ate. They had pizza, okay? BeanO had a couple cold ones. No, no one bothered to take pics of their pizza and post them on Instagram.

“You want to know why the world is in a state of high anxiety, why there is no joy in Mudville, why everyone everywhere is filled with fear and loathing” Gair said, more than asked.

“Do you know?” asked Raff.

“We are the Urdas. We keep asking questions until we have answers. The answer is, in fact, complicated and multifaceted. But there’s no immediate need to get into the psychology and philosophy of it all right now.

“Just the facts, ma’am,” said BeanO with a smile.

Gair returned the smile and replied, “Yes, of course, Sergeant Friday.” Gair and BeanO looked at Riff n Raff. Neither of the kids recognized the line. The adults shrugged their shoulders. Gair carried on:

“We monitor the planetary population’s energy, the same way that meteorologists monitor the weather. About a month ago the balance between positive and negative output was obliterated. It was as if Fat Albert came to the playground, pushed Mushnouth off the teeter-totter and sat down across from Dumb Donald.”

“What happened,” asked Raff. “Why did this Fat Albert dude push Mushnmouth off the teeter-totter?”

“We don’t know. It could have been something as simple as some idiot doing a dine and dash. That’s how delicate the balance has always been.” All of a sudden, our three heroes were very interested in their footwear. Gair made a note of it, but let it pass, and moved on. “Within 24 hours a tsunami of ill will rolled across the planet. All the fun was sucked from the world. Every city in the world contracted Vancouveritis.”

“Ewww,” said BeanO. “No Fun City. I tried busking there, once. The cops beat me up and City Hall passed a bylaw against clowns performing in the parks, or on the streets, under punishment of death.”

“Oh, I know,” said Gair. “Horrible place. So much potential, though. They really should have elected that smart-ass Rhino funarchist when he ran for mayor. He’d have given them the funema they so desperately need. Anyway… things have gotten progressively worse since then.  And it’s gonna get way way worse, way soon.”

“Why?’ asked Riff.

“Yeah, why?” asked Raff.

“We are constantly searching for concrete evidence of the existence of the Evil Clown Gods who Rule the Universe. We are trying to contact them. So, we study the stars.

“The constant drone of chaos, sorrow and hate that is being emitted by humanity has attracted the attention of the Vogon Reptiloids, and they have dispatched a Death Star to come and destroy us all.

“The Vogon Reptiloids feed off negative energy. It’s oxygen to them. They search the universe for any kind of negative emotion. They create fear, anxiety, hate, and misery wherever they roam. They may well have placed us on Earth, all those years ago, knowing that one day we would be ripe for the picking. A garden of sorts. And now they’re coming for us, and we have no idea how to stop them

“The Death Star is destroying everything in its path. Like a black hole, it sucks in entire solar systems, and spits out the debris. If it keeps advancing at its current pace, we will be sucked into its vortex in about a week. The closer it comes to us, the more insane and violent we become. The crazier we get, the faster it comes.”

Raff had the solution right away, and you probably do, too, “If negative energy attracts them and makes them stronger, positive energy will repel and/or kill them.”

“Yes,” Gair confirmed.

“So, all we have to do is fill the world with positive energy,” Riff said, as if it was as simple as making a cat purr. No one said a word. Everyone understood the enormity of the task. “Well, you’re the Urdas, you have all the answers,” said Riff.

“We are not omniscient. We do not have all the answers.”

“We can start by telling everyone. Once they understand, they’ll get with the program,” said Raff.

“The powers that be will tell you you’re crazy,” laughed Gair. “Your popularity is not yet so great that you can challenge the powers that be. Even if Sid and the penguins were here, you’d be hard pressed to reverse thrust.”

“You tell them, then,” said Raff.

“No. We’ve rejected them. Their egos will not allow them to even consider the possibility that a bunch of weirdoes, who have rejected their ways, could be right, especially about something as large and strange as this. When you walk away from society, you do so knowing that they will never take you back.”

BeanO understood.

“It will take an unprecedented demonstration of human solidarity,” Gair told them. “And, even if you get everyone in the world to believe you, it won’t do you any good if they are all afraid. Fear is a negative energy. It paralyzes people.”

“What to do?” said BeanO.

Gair answered, “You’ll need to generate enough energy to break the inertia. If, that is, you can convince everyone that the planet is near doom. If you can do that, then you have to come up with a spark that will start a fire. A catalytic event, perhaps. Something that will reach and empower enough people to turn the tide. And I do mean turn the tide quite literally, because if the Death Star gets close enough, it will start sucking us into its vortex, causing tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. etc. The first sign will be drastic changes in tidal activities.”

“What do you mean when you keep saying ‘you’ rather than ‘us’?” asked Riff. “Are you going to sit back and let the planet be destroyed?”

“We have already done our part by telling you all this. We will do everything we can. We will continue to study the problem. We will hive our minds and search for solutions. We have already done all this. But so far, we’ve come up with nothing.”

Gair noticed that as enthralled as the kids were, they were fading. They’d had a long day and needed sleep. He knew that they had yet another incredible battle to wage against the human race, to save the human race from destruction, and they needed to be well rested before they left Urda Castle in the morning.

Riff n Raff were too exhausted to be scared, or even alarmed. They knew better than to panic. They knew they had to keep clear minds, but first they needed to clear their minds of the fog that was gripping them. They’d come up with a plan, of sorts, in the morning. But right now, they desperately needed to sleep and told Gair so.

“Of course,” Gair said, “I’m sorry to have kept you up so late. Do you require two bedrooms, or will one suffice?”

Before Riff could say anything, Raff said, “No, one will do thank you.” Gair had an Urda show the kids to their room, where they showered and went to bed.

BeanO was not as calm as Riff n Raff. It was clear to Gair that the cowardly clown was terrified. “We make a very nice Hefeweizen. I’m gonna have a couple. Would you care to join me?” It was a rhetorical question.

The two old friends stayed up late into the night getting caught up, discussing life, the universe and everything, and searching Facebook to see what had become of all the girls they’d loved before.

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Let this be the last year of the NHL

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It’s one of the oldest jokes I know. Every hockey fan in Canada has heard at least as far back as when I was a kid, back in the 70s – You know it’s autumn when the Leafs are falling; you know it’s spring when the Leafs are out.

Bye bye Trawna.

leaf fairy

See you next year, losers.

Despite the fact that the only thing I like about Trawna is Rob Ford

ford shirt

I would like to see the Leafs make the playoffs a little more often. And fuck me dead! the last time a Canadian team won the cup was when my Habs beat the Gretzky Kings in 93. Gretzky’s Kings beat the Leafs in a semi final that went to seven games, depriving Canadians of a Habs/Leafs final.

habs kid punches leafs kid

There has not been an all Canadian Cup final since original six expansion in 68.

original six

12 teams

That sorry story has to change.

Yes, I do have a plan. My plan would mean that there would never be another all Canadian Cup final, but it would also mean that there will always be a 50/50 chance that there would be at Canadian team facing off for hockey’s Holy Grail.

But bear with me a minute, while I give y’all some background.

Between 68 (expansion past the original six) and 93, Canadian teams won the Stanley Cup 16 times.

68, 69, 71, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 86, 93

68, 69, 71, 73, 76, 77, 78, 79, 86, 93

84, 85, 87, 88, 90

84, 85, 87, 88, 90



In the same period, American teams won 10 cups.

In that time span Canadian teams lost in the finals twice.





Canadian teams won the Cup six straight years, from 86 to 90.

Since the Habs skated away with Lord Stanley’s silver chalice last, in 93,

habs 93

Canadian team,s have reached the finals only five times. Four of those five times, our champions broke our hearts n game seven (Canucks 94 and 11, Flames 04, Oilers 06 – the Sens lost to the Ducks in five games, in 07).

This year, the only Canadian team to make the playoffs are the Habs. Who will win the Cup this year. But, if I had my way, there would be four Canadian teams, including the Leafs, in this year’s playoffs. And there would be four Canadian teams in the playoffs every year.  And four American teams. And four Russian teams. And four European teams.

I first came up with this scheme when it was evident that the 05/05 lockout was coming to an end. Tampa Bay had beaten Calgary in the 04 finals,

I don't ever wanna see that filthy rodent laying his greasy claws on the stanley Cup ever again. I'd rather see him molesting children

I don’t ever wanna see that filthy rodent laying his greasy claws on the Stanley Cup again. I’d rather see him molesting children

before the relationship between owners and players got very cold and the ice melted.

The work stoppage created a fantastic opportunity to make significant improvements to what had become a god-awful product. And even with all the “improvements” invoked since hen, we are still stuck with the same mediocre, damn-near-impossible-to-follow league we had when the Lightning skated off the ice with the Stanley Cup.

The idea that a team from Tampa Bay could win the Stanley Cup is proof positive that the NHL has mutated into a creature that no hockey fan can understand. That Carolina and Anaheim have won it since gives me an aneurysm. The Tampa Bay – Calgary series was a great final only because Calgary was in it. But would anyone have watched so much as a period if Tampa Bay had played Nashville for the Cup? The answer to that question is FUCK NO!

Can any hockey fan get excited by the prospect of one day seeing Carolina playing Anaheim in the finals? How about Phoenix vs. Columbus? Doesn’t that give you goose pimples just thinking about it?

As can be said for many things in the world, the biggest problem with the NHL is Mairka.

To steal your shit, rape your women and kill you?

To steal your shit, fuck your women and kill you?

There are far too many teams in places they don’t belong.

Hockey is never gonna make it in markets where it has to compete with this for the attention of males in January

Hockey is never gonna make it in markets where it has to compete with this for the attention of males in January

That fact, more than even the neutral zone trap, has made an NHL season an eight-month borefest. If hockey is going to gain back its title as the world’s greatest game, radical steps have to be taken because expansion into places like Florida, California and Arizona has made the NHL the worst professional sports league in the world.

The solution is simple — scrap the NHL and start over. Create a truly International Hockey League by having a North American conference and a European conference. Twelve teams in each conference, two divisions of six within the conferences.

Kill off the Canucks (Vancouver isn’t really part of Canada, anyway. If you can’t, at noon on January 1, flood the main intersection of a town and play hockey an hour later, you’re not in Canada and you sure as Hell can’t do that in Raincouver). Move the Sens to Quebec City (The Battle of Ontario is a Herlequin Romance

battle of ontario

compared to the Battle of Quebec).

battle of quebec

Nuke all but Chicago, Detroit, New York (Rangers), Minnesota (make them the North Stars again), Colorado and Philadelphia south of the border.

(Yes, Boston fans, no more big, bad Bruins. What’s the point? They’re never going to beat the Habs in the playoffs again, anyway, so why bother?)

Six teams in Russia.

Plus Stockholm, Helsinki, Prague, Berlin, Munich, Zurich.

euro hockey

Another problem with the NHL is that there are too many games in a season. We don’t need 82 games.

The IHL season would be 68 games long. Each team plays its conference rivals twice at home and twice on the road, for a total of 44 conference games. All teams make one swing through the other continent, playing all 12 teams once.

This will create a genuine sense of expectation for each and every game for the home fans.



Wouldn’t fans be happier to shell out their money to see a team from mysterious and exotic St. Petersburg, Berlin or Prague than a bunch of lunch-buckets from Columbus, Dallas or Washington?

At the end of the 68-game season, four teams in each conference are eliminated. Canadian champs play the American champs for the right to contest the Stanley Cup against the European champs.

In the IHL, a Canadian team would do battle with a pack of hockey infidels from the good old U.S. of A.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 14 - United States v Canada

for the honour of battling the champions of Europe for the greatest and most prestigious trophy in sport every year.

That’s drama, intrigue, rivalry, patriotism. That’s what can make this once great game great again.

And, even if the Canadian champions were to lose to the hated Americans once in a while, a final between Minnesota and Moscow is still going to be more compelling than a Florida- San Jose final.

Let’s face it, hockey fans, the NHL sucks. Hockey deserves better than the NHL. Hockey fans deserve better than the NHL. Hockey fans on both sides of the Atlantic deserve an International Hockey League.


Hoping PSG, a team I hate, will beat Chelsea, a team I hate more, and other weird political football logic

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Despite what I told you lat week about having nothing but disdain for Bumblefuck, and wanting very much to see Manchester United play through to the final of this year’s Champions League, so their fans can suffer greater agony by losing to a German team, I am cheering for Paris St. Germain to win their quarter final over Chelsea.


If Chelsea manages to overcome a 3 – 1 deficit and eliminate PSG tonight, they would play Man U in one semi-final. That would mean that at least one Bumblefuck team would make it through to the final, where, hopefully, they will be crushed.  Logically, then, I should be cheering for Chelsea tonight, right?  Wrong.

Why? Because as much a i hate Bumblefuck, I hate French football even more. Why? Because the French don’t give a flying fuck about football and no team that comes from a city or country that does not care about the sport they play should ever beat a team that comes from a place where their fans live and die with them. For all their faults, the Bumblefucks love football. The French? Com se, com sa.

I was in France for World Cup 98. En route to St. Etienne, to watch the England vs Argentina round of 16 match, I stopped in a small town for the night. Every municipality in France had at least one big screen TV set up in the town square, so everyone could gather and watch the world’s greatest sporting spectacle together.

wc 98

The French were playing Paraguay in their first elimination round match. It was beautiful, sunny Sunday. A perfect day to do nothing but watch football. There were not more than a dozen people watching the match with me. When Laurent Blanc scored, in the football equivalent of double overtime,


no one cared.

Le yawn.

le yawn

France, of course, went on to win that World Cup by stunning Brazil 3 – 1, after they drugged the Brazilian superstar Ronaldo  the night before the game. And then the French were all about football! Fair weather fans. Fuck ’em!

So, I want to see PSG triumph over Chelsea tonight and go on to meet Man U in the semis. Because I want those fair weather Frenchies to feel the crush of an English football cleat on their fickle Frenchie faces when they are even closer to glory.

french cry

I also want to see PSG beat Chelsea because Chelsea is owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.


The multi billionaire bought Chelsea back in 2003. He did so with money that he purloined from the Russian people by being Boris Yeltsin’s bum buddy, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

When Yeltsin turned over ownership of the Soviet Union’s business assets to his sycophants, Abramovich was at the front of the line. Call me a Marxist, if you want, but I find that kind of out-and-out theft from the poor and downtrodden reprehensible.

Abramovich has poured money into Chelsea bu the whell barrow load. He’s buying his stairway to heaven. Actually, he bought his stairway to heaven, when Chelsea defeated Bayren Munich in the 2012 Champions League final.


And I hate it when people buy championships (although I would not mind if the Vikings could buy themselves a Super Bowl at some point in my life, preferably before Adrian Peterson is still a one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people-eater).

Now, some Arab oil sheiks are trying to buy their own stairway to heaven with PSG. The Qutari governemnt – through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qutar Investment Authority – purchased majority ownership of PSG in 2011. Qutar will play host to the 2022 World Cup. I suspect that the Emir won that honour for his country by greasing a lot of FIFA palms.

Now, the Qutaris are cutting corners to pay for all that FIFA baksheesh. The de facto slaves they’ve imported from the poorest countries of the world  to build the infrastructure needed to host a World Cup, in insane 40 + degree heat, are being worked, literally, to death.


I’ll get around to posting about this horror show at another date but suffice it to say that I find it difficult to get behind any team owned by such monsters.

The only thing I like about PSG is their star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović. The big Swede – yeah, I know, funny name for a Swede – is a magician. He scored one of the three most spectacular goals I have ever seen, in a Sweden vs England friendly on November 14, 2012

FYI, the other two unbelievable goals I’ve seen live (on TV, not in person) are:

Diego Maradona, Argentine vs England, World Cup 1986

Everyone knows the infamous Hand of God goal from that game but watch what he did to follow it up

My favourite is the Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp’s gem from the 1998 World Cup Holland vs Argentina quarter final.

I love this goal not only for its brilliance but because Holland is my favourite football country and it’s against Argentina, who beat the Dutch in the final of the 1978 World Cup. That tourney was staged in Argentina and it is widely accepted that the Arhie-Bargoies  bought their way int the knockout round

It’s also alleged that another wedge of cash had to go the Peruvian government, as the Argentines resorted to bribing Peru in a their final group game, where Argentina needed to win at least 4-0 to guarantee progression to the semis. Peru were no means a bad side, and when they lost 6-0 eyebrows were raised.

The Sunday Times broke this story on the eve of England’s clash with Argentina in 1986, claiming that Argentina had shipped 35,000 tons of free grain to Peru, along with free arms and unfroze $50m in credits that the Argentine national bank was holding. With Peruvian generals short of money and happy to help a fellow junta, they were happy to assist.

 Anyway, here’s the Bergkamp beauty:

Tonight’s other quarter final match is between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. I explained last week why I want Dortmud to win it all this year. Alas, they lost the first leg against Real 3 – 0, in Madrid and will need something akin to a miracle to go through to the semis, but it’s not beyond belief. Should Borussia knock off Real I will further explainwhy I like Dortmucd. Should Real triumph, I will explain why I hate RealMadrid.

And I will endeavor to preview tomorrow’s other quarter final match-ups on the morrow. Last week Manchester United fought Bayer Munich to a 1 – 1 draw on their home field at Old Trafford, and Athletico Madrid managed a 1 – 1 draw against mighty Barcelona, in Barcelona.

You’re not worthy

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If you don’t think you can do better than “The Gods”, go stand in line to take communion with the rest of the idolators