York Lions are not running out of lives on gridiron

Feel bad if you must for the York University Lions football program, but know this: There’s no internal pity party going on up at Keele and Steeles these days, wrote Sun Media Aug. 29.

Not with head coach Mike McLean in charge. The former Edmonton Eskimos linebacker had the deck stacked decidedly against him in his rookie head-coaching season last year, a forgettable 0-8 season for the Lions, who didn’t once manage to dress a full roster.

McLean had next to no time to recruit last summer after a late hiring and he inherited a program that was in free fall.

Fortunately for the Lions, McLean and his offensive coordinator Beau Mirau, who was with him for five years with the Edmonton Huskies of the Canadian Junior Football League, have been down this road before.

The combination of the woeful on-field performance with the tarnished reputation York carried after a three-month strike, made recruiting anywhere close to the GTA a near impossibility. “We’re basically persona non grata in our own back yard,” is how McLean puts it.

A less experienced coach might throw up his hands, but McLean knew just what to do. “We went through that in Edmonton taking over a team that had not been successful and had a bad reputation in town,’’ McLean said. “We went out of town and got kids there and eventually the in-town kids figured out what we were doing was solid. All of a sudden, we had an outside network and an in-town network and that’s when we started winning national championships. Hopefully, that is the process here.”

Out of town for McLean has meant a good portion of his summer in northern Ontario, where he spent time building relationships with coaches and players alike.

Cream of the crop is a guy McLean believes he can build the program around for the next five years. Six-foot-three, 320-pound offensive guard Austin Roy, who was courted on both sides of the border, liked McLean’s approach and opted for York. His signing and that of offensive guard Matt Snyder are the kind of building blocks any coach covets.

McLean also got a little lucky when a kicker, all the way from Australia, landed in his lap. Adam Moretti isn’t your typical-looking kicker, but a booming leg – teammates swear he was good on a 70-yard field goal attempt at practice on Thursday and he apparently punts the ball a mile – should be the solution to the long fields McLean’s office was continually facing last season.

Love, kids and a passion for knockout stories

Jennifer Holness (BA Spec. Hons. ’92) and former student David “Sudz” Sutherland’s new two-part CBC miniseries, "Guns", which airs next Sunday and Monday, follows the trail of illegal arms in Canada, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 30. Starring Colm Feore and Elisha Cuthbert, it opens with a stunning aerial pass over Toronto and a shocking midday shooting of a child on Yonge Street, an echo of Jane Creba’s 2005 Boxing Day murder at the same location.

“We were wondering where the hell guns come from,” says Sutherland. “So we want people to watch this with their kids and ask that: Do you know who to call in your high school to get a gun?”

The fruitful partnership of husband and wife, producer and director, mother and father, has its roots in their years at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Two days after Sutherland, then a 22-year-old film student, proposed marriage – “I could not live without this woman” – Holness was struck by a subarachnoid hemorrhage, an aneurism. It felt like a pop in her brain. When the ambulance arrived and there was some debate over whether she should go to hospital, Sutherland insisted. “He actually saved my life,” she says.

He was devoted, sleeping at the hospital, sharing her bed as she mended. Recovery took seven months – she had to learn to read, walk and talk again. “You get very clear-eyed about things and realize it all can be taken away…so you try not to sweat the small stuff,” says Sutherland.

Sutherland, who didn’t complete his degree at York, cut his teeth working at Trinity Square Video, a filmmaking collective, and volunteering on various films.

Holness and Sutherland are a rarity in any business – a couple who work, live and raise a family together and, after nearly two decades, have kept the love alive. “I need him totally,” Holness says.

Theatre traditions live on, even as companies struggle for support

Toronto has spawned immigrant theatre as long as it has had immigrants, with a shifting foundation of support both internally and officially, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 31.

Soheil Parsa (BA Spec. Hons.  ’89), co-founder in 1984 of the professional, polished and multicultural Modern Times Stage Company, combines contemporary and classical European plays with original and translated Iranian works. He has trained in his native Tehran and in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. His playwright-in-residence is Guillermo Verdecchia.

The culture straddling works. Modern Times has won dozens of Dora Awards and nominations.

Runner blazes bronze trail

Mississauga sprinter Tyrone Halstead captured the bronze medal in the 200-metre race yesterday at the Canada Summer Games in Prince Edward Island, wrote The Mississauga News Aug. 28.

It was the second medal for the York University athlete, who won silver in the 100-metre sprint earlier in the week. Before the event, Halstead set a goal of recording a new personal-best time, and he did just that, crossing the finish line in 21.03 seconds to shave 0.13 seconds off his previous best.

Fellow York Lion and Mississaugan, Kristin Obrochta, won bronze yesterday in the hammer throw with a toss of 52.89 metres.

Tornado might revive political fortunes of Vaughan’s controversy-prone mayor

Where some politicians might have laid low, Lorna Jackson seized an opportunity and hasn’t let go, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 29 in a story about the mayor of Vaughan and her efforts to help victims of the tornado that swept through her city Aug. 20. The effort has raised a question – can her handling of the tornado and its aftermath earn the beleaguered mayor a second term?

“It could do her some good, and I think it will, to have people watch her doing her job,” said Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “But November is a long way away.”

R&D strategy a recipe for more scandals

I was struck by the irony that Ron Freedman’s piece (Canada needs new paradigm for research, innovation, Opinion Aug. 26) appeared in the same issue of the Star as an article praising the U of T philosopher, Ian Hacking, for receiving the prestigious Holberg Award and an article on McGill University’s psychologist, Barbara Sherwin, who is caught up in a US scandal about studies on hormone replacement therapy done in association with a ghostwriting firm with ties to a pharmaceutical company, wrote Janice Newson, York professor emerita, in a letter to the Toronto Star Aug. 29.

Freedman argues for “a desperately needed commercializing strategy for publicly funded research in university social sciences, humanities, arts and design,” and for “business engagement strategies” that will provide private companies with “a spectrum of university resources” including summer student internships, executive education, research contracts and research and technology licensing. How’s that for taxpayers footing the bill and private corporations receiving the benefits?

Sadly, none of these benefits will fall to today’s young people who pay higher and higher tuitions for a lower and lower quality undergraduate education. If Freedman’s recipe is followed, we can be sure that there will be fewer academic careers driven by intellectual curiosity, like Ian Hacking’s, and more scandals about university professors, like Barbara Sherwin, being caught in the web of corporations laying claim to publicly funded intellectual property to enhance their profit margins.

Clinton’s a tough sell for the CNE crowd

Yesterday, less than a day before the speech, the CNE had sold fewer than 9,000 tickets and had dramatically scaled back the number of seats on offer to 10,000, leading some to question whether former US President Bill Clinton was the right speaker for the CNE and if his talk was properly promoted, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 29.

“When I go to the CNE, I’m in the mood to be entertained, I’m probably not in the mood for a serious conversation,” said Ashwin Joshi, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, himself a Clinton enthusiast because of the ex-president’s humanitarian work. “This is not, in my mind, the best venue for (someone of) his stature.”

The novelty value of seeing Clinton has been diminished by the former president’s frequent visits to Toronto and the CNE would have had to find a new angle to sell his speech, Joshi said. “I would like a persuasive reason to go and see Bill Clinton – is there some new thinking he’s talking about? Is there a new envelope he’s pushing?” he said.

Joshi suggested that if the CNE plans to bring in celebrity speakers, it makes more sense to book ones with entertainment backgrounds, such as Bono or Bob Geldof.

Osoogde grad joins Ontario Superior Court

A swearing-in ceremony will be held in Pembroke on Wednesday when Sudbury lawyer Martin James (BA ’76) takes on the duties of an Ontario Superior Court Justice, wrote The Canadian Press Aug. 29.

James is a graduate of the University of Ottawa where he received his law degree and York University where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. While his background is in civil law, James expects to be handling both criminal and civil cases.

Grad’s venture in corporate karma makes dollars and sense

Her passion is community building. It seemed only natural that passion would be translated into working in and with the non-profit sector over the years for Gena Rotstein (BA ’96), founder of Dexterity Consulting, Canada’s first and only philanthropic brokerage firm, wrote the Calgary Herald Aug. 30.

Rotstein helps individuals, families and businesses donate their money, matching their social values with the most effective charities for them. “My model is called karma and cents. Basically what that looks at is what are social value drivers that help us make our everyday decisions and what are we doing to mirror those social value drivers with our community activities,” says the native Calgarian.

The 34-year-old Rotstein was born and raised in Calgary. After graduating from Western Canada High School, she did an undergraduate degree at York University in history and Jewish studies. She then went to graduate school at Brandeis University in Boston. There she studied non-profit management and Jewish communal service.

Rotstein says her degree from York was a “very useful” one and she came back to Calgary in 1996 for a few months “to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up because what do you do with a degree in that?”

She got a job working at the Calgary Jewish Centre running its senior adult program and managed to take the little department and turn it into a viable program within the centre. “The idea was to come back to the Jewish community and bring the management skill set that I learned there and integrate it into effective business planning for the community,” she says.

In my first year of university I wish I had…

In my first year of university I wish I had made those friends that are supposed to be your friends for life, wrote Lynn Crosbie (BA Hons. ’86, MA ’87) in The Globe And Mail Aug. 31.

As a frosh at York University…I met no one, other than one smoking-hot guy I, um, studied with. Oh yes, there was a nice girl who drew me pictures of squirrels in tree knots, and there was a fashion model who told me that when she was in Paris over the holidays at a New Year’s Eve party with Mick Jagger, she “never felt so alone”. And there was the huge group of Italian babes who tossed me the bird every time I begged them to be quiet during our excruciatingly tedious and mandatory science class.

I wish I had befriended some of those girls in front of me because I failed science anyway.