Destind to be a penguin

Cartoon image of man puking green If I hear one more disgruntled athlete bemoaning a lack of public funding to subsidize their sporting endeavours and over-inflated sense of hubris, I'm going to blow chunks. Gawds it's enough to gag a maggot. What possible benefit can a society derive when one of its members becomes the fastest person in the world to slide down a snow-covered mountain after strapping a couple of pieces of wood to the bottoms of their boots? And inasmuch as the noblesse oblige' see fit to herald dinosaurs like Nancy Greene with prestigious accolades like the Order of Canada or reward her with a cushy appointment to the Senate of Canada, I'd guess that you'd never hear two homeless guys, huddled over a smouldering refuse barrel in the dead of winter, wondering how cold it must have been on the poor darling's nose as she sped down the slope on her way to the gold.

What possible qualities does an Olympic skier possess which qualifies them to perform the duties of a member of the Red Chamber? I can already hear the pro-Olympic contingent arguing that athletes like Greene are deserving of such recognition because their efforts are demonstrative of hard work and determination. I'd argue that it's been a helluva lot harder for the two homeless guys, huddled over a smouldering barrel in the dead of winter, and that they've demonstrated a far greater amount of determination just trying to stay alive. As I ruminate on some of the other fine qualities an Olympic skier might possess I can't help but consider that, in light of the recent Senate expense scandal, the ability to travel quickly and slalom might come in really handy when trying to evade a persistent media, bothersome auditors or a warrant-serving RCM Police force. Had Harb & Brasseau been medal contenders, perhaps they'd have gotten away unscathed.

Now curling, a sport which for all intents and purposes is the gaming equivalent of shuffleboard on ice, is an entirely different matter altogether. It does take a great deal of skill and concentration to launch a forty pound rock down the ice and have it come to rest precisely at the intended location. The fact that the stone does not scoot right through the house (the name given to the painted target) and slide into oblivion has some real-world implications that can be imported directly into a career. There's a fellow named Bob working at the local Beer Store who exhibits the curling skill-set on a daily basis. Bob goes into the store's back cooler room, hoists a box of suds onto the delivery mechanism, and sends the product swooshing down the rollers and out to thirsty, waiting customers. With the utmost precision, the box of beer comes to a perfect stop, just inches from the end of the roller mechanism. I can't say whether or not Bob has "former Olympic curler" on his resume' or not, but I'd imagine that if he doesn't he'd certainly be able to offer up some good advise to prospective Olympic curlers. One thing I am certain of is that I've never heard anyone yelling "Sweep!" at the Beer Store.

I can't help but wonder if Ronald Francis, a Corporal serving in J Division of New Brunswick's RCMP, has been watching the snowboarding event in Sochi. Francis reportedly told the media that his medical marijuana prescription, which allows him to smoke nine to fifteen joints a day, helped him to calm down. "There's no policy in the RCMP that prevents me from smoking marijuana," Francis told the CBC, "There's no policy in the RCMP that says I cannot smoke in public. I have the right to smoke it in my red serge". Nine to fifteen joints per day? Sweet Jeezus! After nine to fifteen joints Francis' biggest worry shouldn't be whether or not he has the right to smoke dope while wearing his red serge... it should be whether or not a heater falls off his joint, lands on the polyester blend, and turns him into a fucking human flare! Inasmuch as I'd be the first person to advocate for the use of medical marijuana in therapeutic instances, no rational person could advance the position that a worker's ability to perform their duties is not impaired while under the influence of marijuana. I don't want the teller who's handling my money at the bank to be high, I don't want the operator behind the wheel of the bus I'm on to be high, I don't want the guy flying the airplane I'm on to be high (even if he can fly it upside down), and I sure as fuck don't want a gun-toting Mountie to be high. I suspect the reason there's no policy to regulate taser-bearing dope-smoking Mounties is because policy generally isn't written to regulate the incredibly fucking stupid. I doubt there's any policy in the RCMP manual which prohibits Ron from jumping off an 18-storey building while dressed in his brilliant red tunic either. The fact that there's no policy, and that his blood splatter would be camouflaged by the red serge, doesn't make it a good idea. I am confident many Canadians share the same sentiments and would offer Ron these words of advice: "Fer crissakes Ron... stay the hell at home, try to get better and fire one up for me brother! But pull-leeze... don't spew nonsense about pot not affecting your ability to perform your police duties. Your abilities are impaired when you're smoking dope and your assertions to the contrary make you as dangerous as the impaired drivers you must have pulled over in your policing career. I have little doubt they've made similarly ludicrous claims about their ability to drive a car. But what's worse Ron, is that your absurd claims are counter-productive to the efforts of medical marijuana advocates who have fought long and hard to make its use an acceptable therapeutic treatment alternative."

On this issue, there can be no debate: marijuana, whether used for medical or recreational purposes, is NOT a performance enhancing drug. Just ask Ross Rebagliati, a Canadian snowboarder who, following his gold medal performance at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, tested positive for marijuana. Rebagliati, who claimed that he had been exposed to second-hand smoke at a party he had attended less than a month prior to the Nagano games, told reporters: "Honestly, I didn't go to the Olympics with a bag of weed. I hadn't been smoking for months and months to pass the stupid drug tests", Rebagliata continued, "I wasn't into doping, and it wasn't like [marijuana] was performance enhancing." Although Rebagliatti was initially disqualified as a consequence of the positive test result, the decision was ultimately overturned, predominantly because marijuana did not appear on the list of banned substances, and his medal standing re-instated. Interestingly, THC has since been listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as a banned substance.

It seems perfectly clear to me that there are some real career opportunities for former Olympic athletes with known ties to marijuana. I'd have thought that those opportunities, if not directly as law enforcement officers, might have at least included instructional positions at the RCMP Training Academy. "So, like, cool Dudes, I'm, like, your new instructor. And welcome to Canabis 101. We're gonna, like, puff the magic dragon and, like, get totally blasted. Okay, so who knows how to fill a prescriptio, er, I mean this bong?" Of course that didn't happen. Ross Rebagliati didn't get a job at the RCMP teaching new recruits how to pack bongs or roll the perfect joint. He has, however, along with business partner Patrick Smyth, gone on to launch Ross' Gold: a medical marijuana endeavour. The business' primary objective will be to establish the brand and gain a strong market-share in the industry when the new federal regulations come into effect in April this year. Under the provisions of the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, patients will be able to access marijuana just as they can any other narcotic based on a prescription by a health-care practioner. Now that's going for the Gold!

No discussion of the link between athletics and job-related training would be complete without discussing Olympic skating events. Don't get me wrong; I'm not adverse to watching scantily clad, nubile young women flitting and twirling about, doing the splits and getting all sweaty. But what kind of sick and twisted mind would introduce skates into an otherwise subtle display of pseudo-erotica? Nevermind the double axle, the triple salchow or lutz nonsense.... the average guy just wants to see suggestive pelvic thrusts or nether bits rubbed up against a brass pole. To this end, if there's one career skaters should pursue after their Olympic amateur endeavour, it's burlesque. Take, for example, Russian speed-skater Olga Graf who, after her three kilometre medal jaunt in Sochi, demonstrated her true calling. Give that gal a stage, dim lighting, peeler music and a cheesy introduction and I see some real potential here. "Alright Gentlemen, put your hands together and let's have a warm Chubby's welcome for our Eastern-block beauty.... Natasha." Unfortunately for Olga, and for Canadian strip club patrons, Ottawa lowered the curtain on foreign strippers through changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, so Olga's Canadian job prospects are seriously diminished. Mercifully, if you want to hear Olga saying "moose and squirrel" between lap dances, Ogdensburg is a short hop from our nation's capital.

Image of Liz Manley It would be a damned shame to examine the post-Olympic job prospects of skaters without mentioning the insufferable Elizabeth Manley. In a recent CBC Radio 1 broadcast entitled it Takes a Village to Launch an Olympian, the Lizster spoke only briefly about a handful of individuals from her village who served to launch her Olympic career. I'm always amazed that few commentators ever seem to mention how much public money is spent fostering the ambitions of starry-eyed athletes. Of course the casual listener may not have even noticed that the vast majority of the Lizster's ramblings didn't deal with the contributions made by others. Instead, the Lizster rambled on about her poor taste in cosmetics, her disappointing attempt as an autobiographical author, mental health struggles and depression-induced hair loss, disappointing post-Olympic product endorsement opportunities and a career as a performer in the ice circus.

My views on the Lizster are derived from a position of indifference; not ambivalence. I suspect very few people care, or remember, the "bad blue eye shadow" she wore a quarter of a century ago. Why she feels it necessary to mention so often, or its relevance for that matter, totally escapes me. Admittedly, I was unaware that the Lizster has written a few books. I was not, however, surprised to learn that sales of the aforementioned did not meet her expectations. I'd venture half my stuffed armadillo collection and two bottles of Wild Turkey that if the Lizster had pursued a post-Olympic career as a stripper and maintained a modest cocaine addiction that book sales might have gone through the roof. Call it a hunch, but I'd guess that a writhing Liz Manley performing an erotic Mr. Juicy routine might have netted her a shitload more money than anything she received for her McCain's product endorsement.

I certainly don't mean to undermine the seriousness of mental health. It is no laughing matter. But I can't help but wonder, if the qualifications on your resume' read "figure skater", if depression is a predictable outcome when your job prospects are pretty much limited to "circus performer".

"So Miss Manley", questioned the interviewer, "I see from your resume' that you have a silver medal in Olympic figure skating. How do you feel that prepares you for a career here at the Ice Circus?"

"I am a dedicated individual committed to hard work!" a nervous candidate responded. "I am a capable skater, ready to pursue a professional career and believe I would be a fine addition to your celebrity cast".

"Hmmm... yes... well...," the interviewer paused. "Tell you what. We have an opening as a fairy princess. The costume is not that different from what you're accustomed to wearing. If you work out and you're still with us in six months, Penny the Penguin is retiring so we'll need a new Penny. Make no mistake. The demands of skating about as a six foot penguin are far greater than anything you've done to date. Only a handful of people make the grade. Normally, we only consider gold medalists as penguin candidates but there's something about that blue eye shadow that just screams 'destined to be a penguin'"

Submitted by Norm de Plume, 28 February 2014