Fresh baked “Fong Bao” from the oven – 方包出爐

Random musings & meditations straight from the oven. Hopefully some food for thought as well…

Archive for Professional Physical Activities – 方包看職業體育

The magic of October baseball


I’m a firm believer that to learn and gain an appreciation for a sport, one should always watch the post-season playoffs and/or the knockout stages of a major tournament. It is during these times when the spirit, passion and quality manifest themselves. The 1987 Canada Cup got me hooked on hockey. And the year before that, the 1986 World Series showed me the beauty of America’s past time.

Aside from learning the rules, strategy & intricacies of the game, I became a fan after experiencing the drama of an unscripted narrative. What happened to Bill Buckner and the Boston Red Sox that night at Shea stadium is the reason why baseball can be so gripping and entertaining.

And I’m sure there’s someone out there who just became a fan after watching game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

My connection with the All Blacks

Through the years I’ve come to accept my lot in life as a sports fan, one that’s deprived of championships and/or sustained success. There are exceptions like Team Canada in the 2002 & 2010 Winter Olympics but, by and large, I’ve endured a lot of disappointments and heartaches for the past twenty years. Despite all that, I’ve never been ashamed to be a supporter of the teams I’ve adopted: the Canucks, the Mariners, Everton, England (in footy), the Seahawks and the Whitecaps.

And then there are the New Zealand All Blacks.

What happened on Oct 23rd, 2011 was an event four million Kiwis have waited for twenty four long years: Their mighty and beloved rugby team has captured a second World Cup title. While I was not born in New Zealand nor have I ever visited this island country in the South Pacific, I consider myself a part of the four million since I am a dual New Zealand-Canadian citizen. It’s a little known fact that surprises a lot of people I know.

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Shortly after my dad finished grade six my grandparents decided to send him to Christchurch (to live with relatives from my grandmother’s side of the family) in search of a better education and set up the possibility of the family moving to New Zealand. The latter did not happen but my dad got naturalized nonetheless and returned to Hong Kong after graduating from university. A few years later I was born and had the option of attaching myself to one of my parents’ passports (New Zealand or the old British Commonwealth Citizenship) for traveling purposes. If I remember correctly I was asked about it and proudly made the “pledge” to become a Kiwi. The rest, as they say, was history. Granted I was around five at the time and didn’t really know what was going on but, in hindsight, I was glad I made that choice. Otherwise I would have gone through a period of uncertainty with regards to my citizenship status prior to the 1997 Hong Kong takeover. But that’s a story for another time.

I only started paying closer attention to rugby about ten years ago and frankly am still learning the nuances of the game. With my somewhat indirect connection to New Zealand, it was a natural decision to adopt the All Blacks as my team. A glory hunter, I am not. In some ways I feel fortunate to have a connection with countries where a sport is so engrained in the national fabric that it can lift the spirits of the people: Footy in England; Hockey in Canada; and Rugby in New Zealand.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup final was not the entertaining spectacle I had hoped for but gripping to the very end. Aside from being relieved of the outcome, I was proud the All Blacks, amid the pressure of playing on home soil, produced the inner strength to overcome all their mistakes and win a match they could have lost. Alas the Eden Park magic lives on and a sense of indescribable joy and pride went through me when captain Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Cup; a feeling similar to one I felt when Canada won Olympic hockey gold in 2002. Driving home from *Cdn Gooner’s house that morning, I found myself humming “God Defend New Zealand”.

I’m not sure why I have not made my way down to New Zealand but I know I need to visit the country my father spent his formative years in. Better yet, it would mean so much if I can go back with him.

This is what we live for – Game 5 – Western Conference Final

If I remember correctly, the last and only Canuck playoff game I attended was 10 years ago against the then-powerhouse Colorado Avalanche. It was the first time the local team made the playoffs in the Brian Burke era and I can still remember the electricity inside the building. Nobody cared that the Avs had taken a 2-0 series lead over the Canucks because people were just excited playoff hockey was back. Vancouver lost that game in OT – in fact swept in four by Colorado two nights later – but I witnessed my first “Sedinery” moment, live. The twins combined on a cycle and a no-look pass found a streaking Todd Bertuzzi (Yes, him, but in full gear.) down an open wing. He deked and scored a beauty goal which brought the house down. What made it so special was the crowd rising up to their feet as the play develops, realizing what was about to happen. And when it did, bedlam ensued.

And THAT is why I’m always willing to pay money to attend live sporting events.  Like most sports fans, I just crave for those moments where I can tell someone that, “Yes. I was there where so-and-so…….!”

But upon receiving an invite to go to game five of the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and the Canucks, I hesitated for a moment. Not that I didn’t want to go but was surprised that I actually thought about it before accepting. I suppose it had to do with my attitude towards this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. For whatever reason, I decided to stay even keel, especially after that surreal first round series against Chicago. When the Canucks won, I was content. When they lost, I simply shrugged my shoulders & waited for the next game.  Sort of like the old British WWII slogan: “Keep calm and carry on.”

Well, so much for that on the day of the game. As time slowly ticked away at work, my anxiety level would increase accordingly. Next thing you know I bolted out the door when it was time to leave and my heart was racing as I drove into downtown.

I met up with Dr. B (THANK YOU!!!) outside the CBC building where someone brought in a life-sized plastic /foam/whatever-the-material shark for display. It garnered a lot of attention as fans lined up to take funny pictures with it. Right next to the shark was the public viewing area the CBC had set up to screen the broadcast and it was 80% filled just an hour before face-off. Numerous street food carts also made their way across the closed-off street to take advantage of the crowd. Dr. B and I grabbed a quick dinner from one of the carts and eventually made our way into Rogers Arena.

As we settled into our seats up in the nose bleeds, the folks sitting around us made their way up the stairs. After one quick look at them, Dr. B & I figured the night would get quite interesting. Reason? Each person was holding 3-4 cups of beer.

Without getting into too much detail, the following, in no particular order, happened as the night went on: One guy wouldn’t stop bragging about the fact he caught Kesler’s game tying goal on his camera; Someone sitting behind Dr. B spilled some beer on him, twice; a mouse the size of a chicken McNugget made a short & sweet appearance in our section; The dude on my left got drunk and started talking gibberish while I tried to watch the game; That same dude (and his friends) all stood up during both OT periods forcing me to do likewise; AND THAT SAME DUDE literally grabbed me by the waist and picked me up to celebrate the winning goal…….Yeah, it was a memorable night alright……..

As for the game…….

Despite the 54-saves performance, I couldn’t get over the fact how poor Luongo looked on those two San Jose goals.

The officiating was a joke and everybody in the building made sure the referees knew how we felt.

I might have witnessed the most dominating playoff performance by the Sedins, to date.

I don’t think I’ve ever screamed as loud or jumped so much like an idiot as when Kesler tied the game. That was until Bieska scored.

The game winning goal was still a blur to me. All I remember was: 1, A bunch of people behind the net; 2, The puck went missing; 3, Bieska winding up and 4, Seeing the puck in the net & everyone inside the building going nuts.

I’m not sure if there’s anything more I can describe about this game given the context and how it unfolded at the end. Suffice to say I’ll be hard pressed to find another one that’s as dramatic and memorable as this one.

This is what we live for

* = Lingo alert

Cheering and keeping up with your favorite sports team(s) while away on vacation is a neat experience. Last April, Pie Pie Lo* & I made a sojourn – with Little Drumstick* & family – toDisneylandduring the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the L.A. Kings. We couldn’t fit a game at theStaplesCenterinto our schedule but was quite happy the Canucks prevailed before we headed home. Interestingly, the decision was made to travel once again – this time toHong Kong– before the start of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. With a +15-hour time difference, watching Canuck games live was not an option as there were things to do in the morning.

Thank goodness for technology – iPhone and Twitter in particular – as Pie Pie Lo and I kept up with all the joy back home after Vancouver took a 3-0 series lead against Chicago. It also became a topic of conversation when I met up with friends – who used to live inVancouver- as they were all excited about the prospects of a post season break thru. I wore my Kesler tee inHong Kongwith pride whenever the team played thus I didn’t feel as out of touch as I first thought. Like many, I honestly expected the series to be over long before the end of our vacation.

Of course, we now know what happened in games 4 and 5. While waiting to board our flight home, I could only think of two things: 1, It’s going to be hard switching back into work mode after a wonderful vacation, and 2, I actually get to watch game 6 upon my return. The flight touched down shortly after12pmand by the time Pie Pie Lo and I got out of YVR, our taxi had the Canucks “pre pre-game show” on the radio. It was fascinating to hear how ecstasy has turned into angst in the span of six days.

Game 6 was a very good game to watch but I found it hard to stay awake as jet lag was setting in. Funny enough, the Canucks scored every time I doused off. How I wished I had slept during overtime after the Blackhawks potted the winning goal to force a game 7. At that point, the frustration, negativity and self loathing Canuck fans have come to expect all surfaced: Our boys are on the verge of blowing a 3-0 series lead – after the greatest regular season (EVER) in team history, no less – against their playoff nemesis.

Inconceivable at first.

Yet a distinct possibility.

An unbearable thought, for sure.

My first day back at work was the day of game 7 and the tension in the city was palpable. You can hear it from the callers of sports-talk radio and you can see it on the faces of pedestrians – a lot of them in Canuck attire – walking the streets. Expectations of my work colleagues all varied but one thing was certain: No one has any idea how the game will turn out. It’s a massive contest that will either electrify or ripe the heart out of this town.

As much as I tried to relax and simply enjoy the thrills of a game 7, it was easier said than done. It’s foolish, I know, to think certain “gestures” have an effect on the outcome yet I found myself sitting a certain way and laying out the remote controls towards a certain direction, like I always do when my favorite teams play important games. As the night went on – with the Canucks clinging onto their slim 1-0 lead – I was practically frozen on my couch, fearing that any sudden movement would trigger something negative.

Despite the jet lag I was glued to the telly* as this game was eerily similar to the Olympic gold medal final in terms of intensity and drama. So when Alex Burrows scored the winner, I was finally able to exhale with a loud “YEAH” and a fist pump/wave. It felt great knowing: 1, The Canucks exorcised their playoff demons; 2, It was a much needed wake up call for the team; 3, The quest for 16 wins is alive & well and 4, No riot on Robson street.

But the best part?

I was so exhausted emotionally and physically that I slept through the night.

Isn’t that what we live for? A good night sleep after a Canuck victory?

Item du jour

During my recent trip to Hong Kong I found this street in Wan Chai. Sadly there’s no 14 Burrows Street. After that OT winner, maybe the city should name a street after him.

The summer that was

Today was the second day of fall and in typical Vancouver fashion, it rained. Hard to believe the driest summer to date has slipped by rather quickly and quietly. Even though it wasn’t an eventful one, the summer of 2010 was sprinkled with some noteworthy happenings.

The start of July marked another season of the AIBC walking tours. Having enjoyed four of the six tours last year, Cdn Gooner and I were looking forward to the conclusion of the series. There is something to be said about being a tourist in your own city and thru these tours I’ve managed to learn and discover so much new facts and information about Vancouver even though I’ve spent 2/3 of my life here. Now the search begins for some new walking tours for next year.

From the world of food, I was fortunate to have sampled the offerings from the likes of Grub, Havana, La Taqueria, Bon Chaz, Deer Garden, Gyudonya, Kiriri and Dougie Dog. Not exactly household names but certainly little gems I would recommend to anyone looking for some new food options.

I did manage to squeeze in a few sessions of footy during and right after the World Cup. Conclusion: There is a reason why most athletes retired in their thirties. As well, I should count myself lucky that, knock on wood, I have yet to hurt myself playing sports of any kind.

Suffice to say I understand and appreciate the affinity a lot of Vancouverites have with Empire stadium even though it was before my time. That being said, I’m certainly not in a position to make any comparisons between the old Empire and the new (and temporary) Empire Field. Billed as a better, more intimate venue I was quite impressed with closeness to the field of play and the sight lines even though I sat in the end zone on two occasions.  Had the weather co-operated, I would have enjoyed the experience more but there was little to complain about.

This summer was also about reconnecting. Whether it was Anime A, an old high school buddy of mine who was in town for a short visit or Rubber Ducky, who moved back from Edmonton, we had a great time catching up and reminiscing about the good old days. I wished we had more time but was grateful for the time we had.

Lastly, some recent events have tested my faith in unexpected ways. It was a lesson on humbleness and patience as well as a reminder that I do need to let go and allow God to take control. Things happen for a reason and things happen in His time.

The Decision – Steve Carrell version

Thank you South Africa for everything except the Vuvuzelas…

I woke up Monday somewhat sad because for the first time in a month there were no World Cup matches to look forward to. Hard to believe another tournament has come and gone so quickly. Euro 2012 couldn’t come soon enough.

The Final was a disappointment for me as there was hardly any rhythm or flow to speak of. Once Holland started to play physical, referee Howard Webb lost control of the match and players from both sides took advantage of the situation. It was unfortunate that a side as skilled as Spain would resort to theatrics but there were, in my mind, some questionable fouls being called. Both sides had good chances to take the lead but give La Roja full credit for converting the one that matter the most.

Two things I shall remember about this World Cup.

For all the talent that was on display in South Africa, pragmatism was the definite showstopper. Perhaps that’s to be expected with so much on the line for all the countries involved. But it’s a shame someone like Leo Messi was unable to fully replicate his club form at the world stage. Don’t get me wrong. He was very good in South Africa but the lack of goals has prevented him, at least now, from joining the likes of Maradona and Zidane in the legendary category.

And the last word – or in this case, last sound – goes to the Vuvuzelas. They sounded like a swamp of bees. They were annoying. They were loud. But they sure made South Africa proud. Love them or hate them, they are one of the legacies of World Cup 2010.

Item du jour

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