Suzanne takes him back to a classroom at York

In a Sept. 24 column inspired by Leonard Cohen’s 70th birthday, Windsor Star writer Marty Gervais remembers seeing the Montreal troubadour for the first time in a York University classroom: “My earliest memories of Cohen go back to the 1960s when he was flogging his poetry and a novel called Beautiful Losers, a watershed work that some claim changed the physiognomy of Canadian publishing because of its daring themes. But there I was, a couple of rows up in an amphitheatre at York University. It was 1966, and Cohen – then not known for his songs – read from Beautiful Losers. He then asked for our indulgence because he had a song he wanted to try out on us. He picked up an acoustic guitar, slung the shoulder strap over his head, then proceeded to unfold a paper bag upon which he had scrawled out this song. ‘I just wrote this, and please have patience with me, because I’m not sure of this yet, and I’m not sure that it’s finished.’ Cohen started into the song. That song would become a signature of his – a song that launched him as a singer. That song was Suzanne. And the first public performance of it.”

Owners inept, players shrewd, says researcher

The National Hockey League lockout is a battle between “inept billionaire owners and pretty shrewd millionaire players,” says York University researcher and lecturer Julian Ammirante, reported CanWest News Service in a story printed Sept. 24 in the Edmonton Journal, Vancouver’s The Province, Montreal’s The Gazette, Saskatoon’s The StarPhoenix, Regina’s The Leader-Post, and the Ottawa Citizen. Ammirante’s comment also appeared in The Windsor Star.

Ammirante, who has studied the business history of professional sports leagues in North America and Europe, said he’s surprised that players have generally been portrayed as the bad guys in the dispute. He also said fans must strip away their passion for hockey and look at the NHL for what it really is: a business monopoly, where players are highly skilled entertainers capable of dictating their market value. “As much as I would like to say the NHL is part of Canadian culture, it’s essentially an entertainment business, guided by market principles,” Ammirante said. “In this view, professional athletes are the performers, not that much different from Celine Dion or actors who are paid annual salaries exceeding $30 million to $40 million. Entertainment is entertainment, it’s about supply and demand, and, when you look at athletes as entertainers, they have unique natural abilities.”

The popular sentiment is that players should be willing to accept major pay cuts because they’re lucky to be making millions for playing a game. However, Ammirante says it’s only natural that players have shopped themselves around within the business environment in which they are involved. Even though his views sound as if they come out of the same handbook as those of NHL Players’ Association executive director Bob Goodenow, Ammirante says his opinion is simply the result of looking at basic business principles and the operation of sports franchises. “The NHL is a monopoly, with a group of monopolists competing among themselves, and that’s the way it has always been,” he said. “It’s not the players who increased the amount of money available to them. The owners were happy to give out that money in the past, but then they overextended themselves by expanding too fast. All of a sudden, they realize it’s not working. If this was Algoma Steel or Inco, all the papers in the country would be writing about what a bad business it was. It’s kind of like Air Canada asking its employees to help them out after their own mismanagement.”

On air

  • A report from York University researchers linking a shortage of nursing staff to poor quality of care for seniors was the topic of the open-line “Dave Carr Show” on CFOS-AM in Owen Sound Sept. 23.
  • Earth and space science Prof. Peter Taylor of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering discussed the impact of cutbacks at Environment Canada on weather forecasts, especially for farmers and fishermen, on CBC Radio’s “Radio Noon” in Montreal Sept. 23.
  • Wandering Boundless and Free, a Visual Trajectory is an art exhibit at the Art Gallery of York University by Doris Sung, student in York’s Master of Fine Arts program, which explores Taoism and the relationship between humanity and nature, reported “OMNI Culture” on Rogers TV in Toronto Sept. 21.