Commentary

Why I hope Lance says he’s sorry.

Posted on by Callum Ng in Commentary, WRITING | 1 Comment

This week word spread that Lance Armstrong had made a long awaited confession regarding performance enhancing drugs during a taped interview with Oprah.

Which is no surprise. As a colleague pointed out, Oprah is one tough lady. She’s not going to give you airtime for anything less than the truth.

His full interview will air in a few days and I’m sure it will answer many questions. Did you Lance? For how long? Who did it involve? Why Lance?

I’m interested in the answers. His tale with its storied peaks and valleys would intrigue anyone, sports fan or casual observer.

But I want a lot more from Lance.

When I was a teenager I had big sport dreams. (I still do, they’re just different). For my birthday one year my Mom, a runner and cyclist, bought me Lance’s first book: It’s Not About the Bike.

I poured over its pages, re-read chapters and still finished it in mere days. I felt nauseous when I read about his bouts with chemo, grit my teeth when he described training on the Pyrénées in pouring rain when no one else would. I also liked the details about his family.

I cared about Lance.

One night a few years later I couldn’t sleep and so I pulled out the book again and started reading. I became so enthralled and fired up that I went to morning practice on no sleep. I think I even forgot to eat.

Up until fairly recently I didn’t believe he cheated. I think a lot of people didn’t because we didn’t want to. We accepted his story so organically that the suggestion it might be based on chemical elements was hard to absorb at first. But after time the evidence was just too much.

I hope eventually Lance will say he is sorry, and for more than the appeasement of our broken hearts.

His lie was so elaborate. We all wanted to believe in his ascension to history and he let it happen.

He also made a lot of money. Sure, he has raised hundreds of millions through Livestrong, but he sold the cancer survivor story and was paid handsomely for it.

He killed the bike. At least for the time being it is hard to watch a cycling event of any discipline without the slightest pause for thought. Pause to wonder about who rides clean.

More than anything I hope he apologizes for himself. The weight of such a dreadful scheme must be appalling. And then after some time spent self-loathing maybe he’ll do what I always thought he would and keep fighting. Not against the insurmountable evidence but to fix the sport that gave him so much.

And I don’t care why he does it. Someone who took a lease on our trust like that must be incredibly selfish. If he joins the anti-doping movement for the purpose of his own legacy, so be it.

I don’t believe in Lance anymore. At least what he used to stand for, but I do believe he can stand for something else. And I hope he does.

For me, an apology is just the start.

[Commentary] Revolting Against Yourself

Posted on by Callum Ng in Commentary, WRITING | Leave a comment

Last night I met with some top notch people. Actually, the official purpose of the evening was to review a book we all read called “The Start-Up of You”. That fully makes it a book club. I’m not even ashamed to say that. It was a Sunday night, whatever, no one does anything classically cool on a Sunday night.

More important is that I really enjoyed that little bit of time and it gave me the opportunity to talk with some interesting folk.

What does it mean to revolt against yourself? It means to constantly be challenging your own definitions and your own direction.

In “The Start-Up of You”, (written by Reid Hoffman who is responsible for LinkedIn), there is a section about having a Plan A and Plan B for your life’s direction.

I’d hereby like to throw out the phrase ‘career direction’ because no one has a career anymore. (Hopefully, just a lot of cool projects from graduation to physical death).

We all just have life, and within life we have work, love and play in all forms and expressions. Anyway, according to Hoffman, Plan A is your current direction and Plan B is a slight alteration based on market realities, changing passions and circumstances.

I figure the best way of managing this is always to be revolting against your current position and planned future.

And it goes beyond just questioning various aspects of your life. A revolution is careful, planned, passionate, sometimes violent, and occasionally sudden. A revolution is impactful because something almost always changes as a result.

And isn’t change needed all the time?

To clarify, I’m not suggesting you actually engage in violence. OBVIOUSLY. Haha, more so I am advocating some sort of passionate and acute effort against the grain, especially in your own life.

For example, if you’re a designer for an ad. agency and want to eventually be creative director, why not investigate being a marketing manager at one of the brands you work for? It will either eliminate this as a possible Plan B, or change the way you see your current Plan A.

Maybe Reid went into this in the book. I don’t know. I tend to skim read because Tim Ferriss told me to. (I take direction well).

Ok, that was a tangent, back to the point. Let’s all try revolting a little or revolting a lot, it can’t hurt and it will likely be fun.

What Sport has to do with Syria

Posted on by Callum Ng in Commentary, WRITING | Leave a comment

Image Credit: Reuters

It is entirely possible that for the month of August, my television will contribute to at least half of my electricity bill. That’s because it was always on. Right up until the closing ceremonies on August 12th my Samsung burned in the background, filling my office with the athletic feats of the world’s best.

I have to say, it was easy to get wrapped up in the rings. CTV’s coverage was visually stunning. Across all their networks and platforms, (fancy words for channels and internet), there was always something on. People loved it. According to the TEAM 1040′s Tom Mayenknecht, Canadians actually watched more Olympics on a per capita basis than our US buddies. We were into it and I definitely was.

But as my old Ma always says, everything good has to come to an end. She was usually throwing that around when my Dad was letting us watch hockey way past bedtime. In the case of the Olympics, it meant that I had a mini frazzleout on August 13th when I flipped over to Sportsnet and there was nothing cool on. (Actually I was pissed). (Then sad).

I defaulted to international news. Much less of a friendly friend to my daily work routine. At that time, I noticed something.

I paid attention to the nastiness. Syria blazed across my TV and I was struck by how real it was.

It’s obvious why this happened. For 16 days I was immersed in Olympic sport, a shimmering fantasy world of power and grace.

There were features on Oscar Pistorious, who has carbon fiber between his body and the track instead of flesh and bone. Mo Farrah ran a perfect 15 km over two races to win double gold in the 10,000 and 5,000. Then he did that heart thing with his slight runner’s arms bent over his head and charmed the world. Like every Olympiad, this paragraph could be a book, filled with the elation, tragedy and nonsense of the athletic pinnacle. Leading nonsense in my mind has to be the twitter indiscretions that led to Voula Papachristou’s ejection before the cauldron was lit. And of course that other Swiss fellow.

The days after the Games forced me to consider my awareness. It felt like an art gallery in a partially gentrified neighbourhood. Inside the gallery, under the lights and artistic impression everything is so beautiful and dazzling. Then imagine yourself later on street, the low income housing and ‘broken glass’ seems more ugly and real.

However, I don’t believe it is that simple. For me, it isn’t just the contrast. It is the slight shedding of my own insensitivity. My empathy is on higher alert. Taking Syria for example, I am more inclined to imagine what it might be like to lose my home, to sleep on the floor at night in fear of shelling, to carry the body of my brother through the streets. Holy hell that is sobering.

Under the lights of the Olympic Games I see faces and personalities from around the world, in the smoke of Syria I can see nothing but I know that humans are there, suffering and struggling. And I can feel them a little more.

Sport is often lauded for being a powerful vehicle for change. I’ve said this myself. The truth is that it isn’t really clear what that means. Sport can’t directly solve the Syrian conflict. Of course. Nor can it offer even a glimpse of how you might stop what is happening. Syria is a complex political situation, from a foreign policy standpoint, and inside the country’s borders religion and power are catalysts of sickening destruction. But, (and there must be a but), sport can teach us something about our humanity and what happens when we best relate to each other.

The Olympics reminded me that real people live utterly different lives. Whether or not that means I can do anything about Syria is both relevant and depressing. Nonetheless, getting lost in a sporting event helped me find something I’d forgotten, and I don’t think that is entirely insignificant at all.

My interview with Dan Mangan

Posted on by Callum Ng in Commentary, WRITING | Leave a comment

Pause on the sport for a second.  Last month I had the chance to interview Juno nominee Dan Mangan. Four nominations!  Songwriter of the Year, New Artist of the Year, Alternative Album of the Year and Video of the Year.  Oh so good for the Vancity product. (The Junos are April 1 in Ottawa BTW)

We were both hobbling around the ball hockey court for a damn good cause, Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer.
While Dan definitely has some actual hockey skills, I’m more of the talkative type, so we had a quick chat after the event.

I wanted to ask him how his community work makes him a better musician, and human being. Not to mention, why it’s so important.

It was an awesome interview, ever the songwriter, he delivers some unique quotes. And for a Canadian artist going up against acts like Drake and Feist it was super clear that all his talent and creativity will never eclipse one thing, his humility.

My interview with Dan Mangan: