Jan 2011 05


Posted In Blog,Blue Jays

Like a lot of moms did, mine loved now Baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar.

In the pantheon of Blue Jays heroes, Robbie was the one beyond reproach in my mom’s eyes. Dave Stieb grabbed his crotch too much. George Bell was a hothead who thought he knew karate. And Joe Carter, although the 1993 World Series hero, struck out too much in the clutch. But Robbie could do no wrong.

In the field, no one played second base like Robbie. I can’t count the number of times we’d see an astroturf-inspired ball skipping into centerfield and then, out of nowhere he’d appear and grab the ball seemingly from the ether. That alone would’ve put him on the nightly highlight reels but there was more. To add insult to opposing-team injury, he’d append that with a 360 turn, a flash of his powerful throwing arm and still get the runner by a step.

At the plate, in the number two hole, he hit laser beam line drives to all areas of the park. A switch-hitter, he hit a home run from BOTH sides of the plate in one game. Then he did it three more times. In our two World Series years, he averaged 184 hits, 84 RBIs and 52 stolen bases.

And then of course, there was the HOME RUN (all caps intentional).

Some will say that the greatest hit in Blue Jays history was the other home run (no caps intentional). The one that sailed over the left field wall touch em all Joe blah blah blah. Maybe you know it. But those who followed the Jays through the lean years know it was the other one. The one that made the 1993 one possible.

It was Thanksgiving Sunday, 1992. ALCS, game 4. Ninth inning. The Blue Jays are down 6-4 and in danger of the series being tied at 2 games a piece. Was this going to be another 1985, 1987 or 1991 all over again? Were the Jays destined to be a team that choked in the clutch?

Devon White is on base with no one out and Robbie is at the plate.
Against Eckersley.
That fuckin’ Dennis Eckersley.
That fuckin’ mangey moustachioued side-arm throwing Jay Killing magician closer Dennis Eckersley.
1.91 ERA. 51 Saves. A Cy Young award nod for his efforts only a few months away.

And he owned the Jays.

The previous inning he had struck out Ed Sprague swinging to end a rally, his trademark fist-pump and glare into the opposing team dugout on display. Unfortunately we were very familiar with the shtick… Canseco, McGwire, Eckersley. They were the dynasty of the late 80s.

But then Robbie changes Blue Jays history with one glorious swing. A 2-2 pitch, he hammers it to deep left-center for a game tying home run. He stops to admire it for a moment and then raises both index fingers in the air to give a double barrel number one sign to Jays fans everywhere. And suddenly, we believe he’s right.

The Jays would go on to win in the 11th and two World Championships to boot, culminating with Joe Carter’s blast. Without Robbie’s HOME RUN (all caps intentional), I don’t believe there would’ve been a home run (no caps intentional). He showed Toronto baseball fans that we indeed, were winners. A seismic cultural shift.

Congratulations on your election today and thanks for the memories Robbie. I can’t wait to see you don that Blue Jays cap in Cooperstown this summer.

Mom would’ve been happy.

As not seen in The Globe & Mail
Dec 2010 10

I wrote this a couple of months ago, hopeful it would be published as the daily essay on the G&M Facts & Arguments page. Guess they thought it was tripe.
Well, their loss is your gain.

It’s about my colon. You have been warned.

The 40-year warranty.

It’s not unusual to dread turning 40 for the entire year you’re 39. I did, but not for the reasons you might think. I wasn’t particularly concerned about being called ‘sir’ by some kid working at Timmy’s or deciding to buy a Camaro and go cruising, blasting a band from the Casino Rama concert lineup.

No, I was trying to hold off my birthday because of something even more dark and sinister: a colonscopy.

Due to family history, my doctor advised that I should have one regularly starting when I turned 40. Every time the topic of my birthday came up, an image would flash into my mind – not of a party or gifts but of a long tube with a camera. Up there.

Sigh. Look, I don’t think I’m overly squeamish about my bodily functions. As a book my niece has reminds me: Everybody Poos! However, I do feel that what happens back there is between me and whatever I happen to be reading at the time. It’s sort of the last truly private area a person has.

My birthday passed and I reluctantly went for a physical last month. I admit I was hoping the doctor would forget all about it. Maybe just snap on a glove and take care of business right there. But no such luck. The sadist. I was booked in for the scope.

When you know you’re going to see the dentist in a couple of weeks, you can prepare: Buy a whitening toothpaste. Maybe a few extra strokes with the toothbrush. Floss more. But how does one prepare for a colonscopy? How do you pay more attention to the area in question? A vow to avoid certain spicy foods for a couple of weeks was the best I could do.

T-minus two days and I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up the ‘preparation materials’ – laxatives and a beverage marketed under different names, all variations of ‘colon dredger’. The Pharmacist advised me not to make plans the night I’m taking this, I’d want to be close to home. At least he didn’t call me ‘sir’.

It was a long evening. I’ll spare the details but let’s just say that after three litres of ‘Kleen Chute’ and a few hours, I felt substantially lighter. Surprisingly, I slept well other than a couple of trips to the bathroom to clear out the final resistance down there – things trying to be heroes. Maybe I was getting old. Ten years ago my colon would’ve put up a much better fight.

When does our warranty expire and things start to systematically go, like on a car? Just how old is ‘old’? I guess I really was worried that the downhill slide started at 40. I recall an 89 year-old relative who, while examining her own wrinkled arms said, “I saw other people getting old, but I never thought it would happen to me”.  Perhaps it’s human nature to be in denial of our own mortality.

Just to prove to myself that I was still under warranty, I decided to ride my bike to the colonoscopy.

“I’ll decline the sedative, thank you”.

The nurse looks impressed. Or she thinks I’m an idiot. It’s so hard to read expressions when you’re naked from the waist down, wearing a gown of 1-ply tissue. Yes, it’s game day and I’m on the examination table, stripped to the waist and being prepped by a young lady whom, I hope, will not be present for what is about to happen.

I didn’t know about the sedative beforehand but if I take it I won’t be able to bike home, and then I’ll have to stagger out and cab home like some old guy. No way.

This is going to be easy, I tell myself. The machine in the corner doesn’t look too menacing and there’s even a big TV on the wall for me to enjoy a cartoon. Fantastic.

“You don’t want the sedative?”

This is how Dr. Colonoscopy introduces himself to me. He’s a pleasant looking man in his 60s with the beginnings of Einstein hair. I tell him I want to bike home.

“Okay, we can start that way…”

Dr. C gives me the rundown. Basically all that real estate I cleared out is going to be filled with air that he’ll pump in, making it easier for a long, snaking camera to get through. If my colon isn’t twisted, like some people’s, I won’t need the sedative and we’ll be done in about ten minutes, assuming there are no polyps – growths that could signal cancer. Awesome. I’m at ease until I realize what the TV is for. It’s for a show entitled ‘LIVE from My Colon’.

I won’t lie, at times it hurt. Not the camera, but all that air being pumped in gets very uncomfortable. I felt like I had eaten a really bad burrito and I couldn’t relieve myself. Dr. C said that things were going great and I tried to avert my eyes from the TV which seemed to be showing a home movie of a trip through a waterslide tunnel – made of flesh. Ew. I was just determined to keep things moving so I wouldn’t need the sedative.

I could’ve done without the small talk from Dr. C, like hearing about the book he was writing or when he started to play the role of tour guide – over on your right, the appendix! And then suddenly, we were done. About ten minutes as promised. All clear. “You have a nice, straight colon, Andrew”. Definitely not something you wake up expecting to hear.

I got dressed and Dr. C shook my hand saying he’d see me in five years for my next one. Five years? I’ll be 45 then. An old man! Today however, I was a kid riding his bicycle home, triumphant – hovering over the bike seat all the way home to expel a lot of air but nonetheless, triumphant. A 40 year-old kid.

An article for Go! Team Freelance
Dec 2010 08
Rich Cooper, the freelancer behind Go! Team Freelance — an online resource connecting freelancers and agencies — asked me if I’d be interested in writing something about my experience going freelance. Here it is. I believe it exposes me as a complete wingnut. If you’re thinking of going freelance or just want to know how truly unstable I am, give it a gander.

Please secure all loose articles.

AKA Some thoughts on the delightful, queasy roller coaster feeling you can look forward to during your first months of freelancing.

Do you like that feeling of being on a roller coaster? Y’know, the uneasiness and anticipation as you creep over the first hill which is then transformed into freebased adrenaline as you’re suddenly being hurtled towards the ground at high speeds? And hey, is that your heart that’s suddenly decided to take refuge in your throat while it’s happening?

Well, then freelancing just might be for you.

Now, do you also like the idea that you have to ride this roller coaster with your eyes closed so you won’t know when the next hill, curve, valley, or corkscrew is coming your way? Oh and did we mention that you can never really get off this thing now that you’ve decided to quit your safe, cushy full-time job?

If you’re still with me, then freelancing might definitely be for you.
For those who aren’t, well, as one CD I had would shout in his British accent, “Everyone, go back to your cubicles!”

Hi. My name is Andrew Bradley and I’ve been a freelance copywriter since mid-2008 – it sounds like I’m getting up and admitting an addiction, doesn’t it? I thought I’d share some of the night sweats, I mean ‘feelings’, I had during my first year of going solo to help out any of you that might be weighing whether to get on this crazy ride with us. Or maybe you already have and are experiencing exactly what I speak of right now! Lucky you.

Now, your experience might turn out to be nothing like mine of course. We’re all built differently. Like my friend, the talented freelance art director Sam Sitt probably never felt any of this cause outside of Chuck Norris, he’s the calmest man in the Universe. But over and over, the question I get from people thinking about going freelance is something along the lines of…

“How do you get used to the uncertainty of not knowing when your next paycheque is coming?”

Incidentally, the second most-asked question I get as a freelancer is “Hmm, are you sure you’re on the guest list, sir?” but that’s another article about freelancing, entirely.

Well, the answer to the first question is it took me at least a year.

I didn’t know about the roller coaster when I quit my agency gig. I was cool as a cucumber at first. I wasn’t over-confident necessarily, but I had saved a bit of money and knew I could ride out a few months of not working if I had to. Not helping the matter was on my first day of being home, the front page of the national newspaper declared “North American Recession Coming”. Gulp. It was then I could feel a couple of adobe bricks trying to squeeze out.

Luckily, I found my first gig after a few weeks. Man, was that exciting. I felt like a legitimately self-sufficient, renegade, lone wolf, fish swimming against the stream and whatever other crappy metaphor we want to throw in here, freelancer. Freeeeedommmmm!!!!

By the way, depending on your age, that was either a Braveheart or Aretha Franklin reference.

Anyhoo, after a couple of long gigs back-to-back (that can happen by the way), I decided to take time off and not look for another contract for a bit. After all, one of the benefits of freelancing is doing just that. You know — kicking back, sleeping in, going to matinees and generally letting yourself go to the point that even you aren’t sexually attracted to yourself when you’re alone. But I digress…

Seriously though, my opinion is that if time away from advertising to work on other things (a pet project, education, travel) isn’t appealing to you, you might not want to go freelance – just stay on staff, you’ll be happier. And by the way, you may want to make sure you haven’t been declared legally dead and you missed it.

I was excited to have time off to do other stuff. And then a weird thing happened… instead of enjoying my planned, self-orchestrated time off, I found myself preoccupied with THE NEXT GIG. I was worried…

What if no one ever calls again?

What if I just took myself off the advertising map?

What if I’m away so long that I’m obsolete?

What if I don’t make another cent this year?

Does that mole look different all of a sudden?

I had to fight the urge to grab the phone and start making cold calls to Creative Directors. Man, I felt so panicked that I could barely concentrate on playing Wii, eating chips, or other planned activities for my sabbatical.

And this was after a COUPLE OF WEEKS.

Am I neurotic? Those of you who know me might say I am. But after 12 years of being on staff at various agencies, I had a punch-clock mentality.

Punch-clock mentality: Thinking to be in by 9:30 every day (wink). Work at least 5 days a week, usually 6. Take 2 weeks vacation at some point (not back to back!) each year, IF you don’t cancel your holiday at the last minute because it’s so busy. Take possible 3rd week vacation that you worked hard to negotiate for and kiss it goodbye, hoping they’ll let you roll it over to next year. Repeat.

Anyhow, after 12 years of that, I was trained like a race horse to always be in a state of readiness for the next project. Now that I had time off I didn’t know how to enjoy it. Vacations while on staff are different – you always have a partner holding down the fort or you know what your next project will be when you get back or maybe even email you have to check. There’s always something happening in subtext in the back of your mind while you’re sipping that Tequila Sunrise on the beach.

Not when you’re freelancing. Sip away in naïve bliss, my friend.

It’s both amazing and terrifying.

I was letting the latter get the better of me. Luckily, I had a trip booked already and got out of town before I did anything rash like take another 3 month contract.

And then something very cool happened and it changed everything. You’ll have this moment too. The next gig came without me having to look for it. I had a message waiting for me and it turned into a contract. I knew I wouldn’t have to eat my dog.

The next time I had time off I felt a bit less anxiety than the first time. And the next time even less. And less after that. If I can get used to it, anyone can.

So in closing, cause I’m rambling on here and this site probably only has so much bandwith:

1. Advertising won’t forget about you if you take a bit of time off. Unless you suck and you should milk that full-time gig as much as you can, you hack.

2. There will be times you aren’t working either by choice or because there’s no work. Luckily I think we’ve had a couple of solid years where extended periods of this was rare for freelancers.

3. It’s normal to feel a bit unsettled when you have time off for the first time. Use it wisely because the next thing you know, you’ll be back on a contract and stressing out like you never went freelance in the first place.

4. Charge the proper rates (There is an article about this somewhere on GTF). If you do, you should be fine financially even if you’re working only half the time you’re used to. Of course if you have two ex-wives to support, you’re effed.

5. The peaks and valleys never go away. You just don’t notice them as much as you gain freelance experience. You too can eventually be as cool as Sam Sitt between jobs.

As I write this in December of 2010, I’m nearing the end of the longest period I’ve ever taken off. Five months. I’m very, very lucky that once again it was by choice to work on some personal projects. That’s the # 1 perk of being freelance. I haven’t worried much that I won’t find another gig or I’m irrelevant after a bit of time off. It’s pointless. There’s lots of work out there and we’re all talented people. The work will find you. If I haven’t starved yet, you won’t either.

It’s a great ride. Just sit back, secure all loose articles, and keep your hands & feet in the car at all times. Hope you enjoy it as much as I am.

And please look forward to my next article in a few months entitled “What was I thinking? Spare change, sir?”

Maybe a bit of worrying is healthy and motivating of course.

For Mark Dailey
Dec 2010 07

Thinking about Mark Dailey of CityTV today, who died yesterday after a battle with colon cancer.

I’ve always thought it dangerous to put our media personalities on a pedestal, cause let’s face it — we don’t know if they’re actually nice people or complete jerks in real life. But in Mark’s case, anyone who watched CityTV got the feeling that you really knew him. That he was a nice guy. And his love for this city and its people was genuine. His voice was the ‘voice’ of Toronto, whether he was saying his (shoulda been) trademarked ‘CityTV… EVERYWHERE’, introducing a Late Great Movie or delivering a crime story from the mean streets of Queen West (and hopefully scooping Jojo Chintoh in the process!), it was distinctively ‘him’ and became kind of the persona that I attributed to Toronto itself while growing up in the early 80s. Because of him, Toronto was smart, a bit sarcastic, good-natured, friendly, politically and socially aware and open to multicultural ideas and faiths.

The city has changed a lot the last 10 years and CityTV has changed with it. Maybe neither for the better but a little bit of my Toronto disappeared when CityTV moved from Queen West earlier this year and took up shop at Dundas Square. It seemed odd to tune into CityPulse at 6 (I shall always call it that) and see Mark Dailey anchoring the news from a new studio across from the Eaton Centre. He, and City, really belonged on Queen West, where the ‘real’ city was and not in the tourist ghetto. I guess personalities from City agreed and over the last years we’ve seen the departure (their doing, or the stations) of Jojo Chintoh, Peter Gross (twice!), Jim McKenny, Harold Hosein, Ben Chin, Anne Mroczkowski, Laura DiBatista, Lorne Honickman and of course the late Brian Linehan and Colin Vaughn. And whatever happened to Peter Silverman? Silverman Helps, you know! But even with all that change, you could always count on seeing Mark Dailey as the City anchor — literally. I never thought about it until now, but it was actually comforting to see that no matter how much our city or that channel transformed, Mark Dailey and ‘the voice’ were constant and unchanging. We were going to be all right. Toronto was still the same. The station moved, but maybe its heart was still in the right place?

Well, he and a bit of that naivety about the city are gone today. Only time will tell whether it’s fitting that he died the day before Rob Ford was to be sworn in officially as the Mayor. Some of the things Mayor Ford is threatening to do may have gone completely against what Mark Dailey’s (and mine and any other person who remembers that time in the early 80s) Toronto is all about. As an aside, I personally like to think of the Parachute Club’s ‘Rise Up’ video as a real time capsule of what that era was about. Seeing that from the suburbs of Toronto as a geeky 13 year-old in Rexdale, it represented a city I wanted to be in: safe streets, the grit of Queen West and Spadina, people embracing who they really were — whether it was sexual orientation, religious faith or their heritage from a far away place. Will Rob Ford put the final nails in the coffin of that, albeit idealistic and unrealistic, Toronto that Mark Dailey represented?

Well again, who knows how he would’ve felt? It really is dangerous to project an image onto a stranger on TV. They could be raging alcoholics, wife beaters, mean to old people and animals and who knows what else… But with Mark, I’m willing to bet that what you saw, was what you got.

Anyhow, so long Mark. Late Great Movies and Toronto will never be the same.

You will always represent Toronto, circa-1983 for me. The Parachute Club video is on for the umpteenth time on Toronto Rocks with JD Roberts. I’m stuck in boring Rexdale but imagining that under the CN Tower — which I can see teeny tiny out my bedroom window — Toronto is alive, vibrant, and full of hope. Soon I’ll be down there, riding the Spadina Bus that the Shuffle Demons made famous. Exploring Sam the Record Man, Rockwell Jeans, and the seedy arcades of Yonge Street which I’d lie to my mom about hanging out in. Watching Tony Fernandez turn two, unassisted, while enjoying a hot dog at Exhibition Stadium. Kensington Market. Church Street. Hoofing it on foot to some out of the way record store. Summer, summer, in perpetual summer. And reporting about it all, anchoring the city at 299 Queen West, are CityTV and the CityPulse crew including Mark Dailey.

Is that Toronto gone forever? I fear it is. But my rare, hopeful side says it’s just changing. Maybe as Mark said, and he will always be now, it truly is EVERYWHERE.

Another offseason, another Ace gone
Dec 2010 06

So the Blue Jays made their first big move of the Winter Meetings – before they even started. So long Shaun Marcum. Hello Canadian Brett Lawrie. The deal is pending physicals, but they rarely fall apart at this stage.

Now, let me say that I am a Shaun Marcum fan. No, he didn’t have the most overpowering stuff – I don’t think he threw north of 90 that often – but he sure had some cojones. The guy blew out his arm, had Tommy John (aka Blue Jays pitchers) reconstructive surgery and came back to be arguably the best pitcher on the staff last year. I think he could’ve won 15 – 19 games if he had some better luck. He was the Ace. The stopper. The Bulldog. Good movement on his stuff and wasn’t afraid to throw any pitch at any time in the count. I also liked the way he handled himself with the media. After the Mike Wilner suspension, I was afraid some players would be afraid to criticize Cito or their roles with the team. Marcum wasn’t afraid to tell it like he saw it even if there was some not so subtle subtext to his comments.

He had only two years left before free agency, and rumours were that he wasn’t going to re-sign with the Jays. Amazingly, he made only $850,000 last year. A lot to you and me, but in baseball terms that’s very underpriced. And at 29, he may only have one big future multi-year contract to bank on. Hope he has a killer year and glad we won’t have to face him regularly. Good luck Bulldog.

As for the player coming our way, Brett Lawrie, I admit I didn’t know much about him prior to the trade. He’s from Langley, BC, 20 years old and evidently quite renowned for his bat. Which is part of the problem it seems because he hasn’t settled into any position thus far. He has been a Catcher, outfielder and the Brewers organization tried him at 2B last year. Sounds like it had mixed results as the article I read said he lead his league in errors at the position, but he was named to the mid-season and post-season All Star teams for the South League.

So, this should be interesting.

In any case, Alex Anthopolous has once again shown that he’ll do the unexpected (and perhaps unpopular) if he thinks it will make the Blue Jays a better organization as a whole. On the surface, casual fans might think this is another trade a la Halladay — a player that wanted out and the Jays getting rid of a marquee name, but I think it’s for the best for the future and I don’t think it will even affect next year.

Starting pitching was certainly the area the Blue Jays could afford to deal. They have Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek, Rzep and some other surprise contenders for starting roles next year including the injury returning Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch. And with doubts starting to swirl about Aaron Hill’s future with the organization, maybe it’s not a bad time to find a middle infielder for the future (although some scouts say that Lawrie is destined to catch or play an OF corner).

For what it’s worth for the three people who are reading this, I like this deal. This is a possible top-third of the order kind of guy that can get on-base and has some speed. If there’s one thing we were missing last year, it was guys that were just trying to get on base instead of swinging for the fences. And he’s only 20 and controllable for the next 6 years. If he turns out to be a 15/60/15 guy that can hit .280/.350, I think it’s a huge win — even if Marcum faces Doc in the playoffs next year and outduels him to give the Brewers the NL crown.
With the Winter Meetings just beginning, it’s possible that this is just part of a bigger deal AA has in the works. The Zach Greinke rumours continue, but I’d be surprised if that one happened — we need bats, not pitchers. In any case, the team could look very different this time next week.

With Boston making a lot of noise with the Adrian Gonzalez deal, there’s no guarantee that the Jays can move up in the standings next year as a lot of fans think. Not yet anyhow. We need a third baseman, first baseman and some bullpen help — including a closer. But it’s another piece that AA thinks will get them there and so far, the guy hasn’t done much wrong.

Go Jays, Go.

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