Blood, sweat, and tears

As dusk fell over York Stadium on Sunday night, the star player of the York Lions handed the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s soccer team the 2010 OUA title in a dramatic shootout, sending them onto next week’s CIS championships not just as the hosts, but as the provincial victors.

The OUA Final Four tournament for the Blackwood Cup took place on November 6 and 7. The playoffs were Toronto-heavy this year, and out of the four teams vying for a spot in the CIS championships (set to take place at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium from November 11–14) the only non-Toronto-based spot went to the Western Mustangs.

This was the first time that all the Toronto universities had made it into the finals together, including the underdog Ryerson Rams, who snuck in during their quarterfinal win after an upset that knocked out the favored Carleton Ravens.

The rivalry between the University of Toronto and Western was nothing new, as the teams had previously faced each other in the OUA finals in 1996 and 1998, with Western taking the gold on both occasions. The teams were evenly matched coming in, with the Blues and the Mustangs ranked 5th and 6th respectively in the CIS standings.

The Blues last won a CIS championship back in 2002 and have won more national golds than any of the other three teams competing on the weekend.

The Varsity Blues entered the finals holding the number one spot in the Eastern Division and the number five spot in the CIS. While the team had been consistently strong throughout the regular season, their OUA quarterfinal match on October 30 against Queen’s was a fight to the very finish, with the Blues scoring two goals in the final minutes of the game to seal the win.
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“I could’ve checked into the hospital [after that game],” said Blues Head Coach Anthony Capotosto. “It was a very nerve-wracking game, and we scored two goals in an eight minute span right at the end. Not the position we wanted to be in during a quarterfinal game, but we’ll take the result.”

Although the team was slightly shaken after the tough match, Captain Darragh McGee saw the strength in the Toronto players.

“I think a lot of the guys are excelling, and I think that confidence is the highest it’s been since I came to Toronto three years ago,” said McGee. “I don’t think there’s any doubt on the squad that we’re going to do it, and that’s not confidence talking, that’s genuine.”

The Western Mustangs are no strangers to the limelight either. Rock Basacco, the current head coach, is a 15-year veteran to the team and has helped to lead them to OUA gold six times since 1996.

The match between the two teams started off with a bang. Blues striker Mario Kovacevic scored the first point of the game within the first four minutes, although the goal was later retracted after Kovacevic was called for goalie interference.

After Blues midfielder Dylan Bams scored the first official goal of the game later in the first half, the game kicked into high gear.

“We were more comfortable with that lead, and we knew that the game was going to open up that much more,” said Blues striker Alexander Raphael.

Unfortunately for Western, their perseverance didn’t pay off, with the Blues scoring two more points to win the game 3–1 in the end. Western was however able to get a single goal towards the end of the game, denying Toronto a shut out.

“I thought we played well in terms of passing of the ball,” said Capotosto. “But I thought we soaked up a little bit too much pressure in the second half and so we got away from things a bit.”

When asked about the Blues chances against the Lions if they were to meet up in the final on Sunday, Raphael said, “York’s a team that’s similar to us. They keep it on the deck and they move it quickly. Whichever team is more organized and whoever wants to battle harder is going to take that game.”

York entered the tournament as the favourites to win. Coming off a 12-game winning streak, the Lions were expected to dominate the Ryerson Rams in their semifinal game.

The previous match-up between the two teams had led to a 7–1 victory for York, and while the Rams were ranked third overall in the West Division, they had failed to place in the CIS top 10. York was ranked second in the country coming into the semifinals.

The Lions were confident heading into the game, and Head Coach Carmine Isacco predicted a “battle down to the final four. Nothing’s a given, and we have enough to get it done but that doesn’t mean we will. Ryerson’s a good team. We’re going to have to be at our best.”

Isacco was sure of what the team’s plan was going to be though: “Our strategy is to go out there and win the game. That’s it.”

The Rams, however, were coming in on the high of their best season in 40 years. Having not placed higher than fourth in the province since 1968, the Rams were expected to face a tough game against the Lions.

Coach Ivan Joseph is only in his second season coaching the Rams, and while the team has improved since his entrance, they were still seen as disadvantaged against the storied York team.

The match-up between the two teams played out with a fevered energy, and with the Rams pressing the whole way through. While the York team had a strong presence on the field, they spent most of the game in a back-and-forth battle against the Rams players, who refused to go down without a fight.

By the time Ryerson midfielder Adrian Mancini finally scored the first point of the game in the middle of the second half, the crowd was barely able to contain themselves. With the Rams fans screaming their praises and the Lions fans hurling abuse at the referees, the game looked like it could be an upset in favour of the underdog Rams.

But as the minutes ticked on, the Rams appeared to lose some of their edge, and after midfielder Ashkan Mahboubi was given a red card for an infraction, the Lions quickly picked up momentum and scored two goals within the last five minutes.

“I think the 10-man down was definitely a factor. It’s unfortunate. You play York at home, things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to. Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today wasn’t a good day,” said Joseph, gesturing towards his furry black boaters cap, “Maybe it was the hat.”

Despite the loss, Joseph didn’t give up hope, and as he looked ahead to the Rams now-determined bronze medal game against the Mustangs said, “I’m hoping we can build our spirits up, and get ready. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, but if we do our job, we’ll be ready to play.”

There was a lot riding on this year’s bronze medal game, which is usually a relatively low key event. While it’s typically the top two finishers in the tournament that advance to the CIS championships, as this year’s hosts, the Varsity Blues automatically get a spot.

As the Blues were slated to finish either first or second in the tournament after their semi-final showing, the team that won the bronze medal game was to take one of the spots usually allocated for the title-chasers.

The game got heated quickly, and by the end of regular playing time, the end was nowhere in sight. The two first-half goals, scored by the Rams’ Kevin Souter and the Mustangs’ Niko Mavrikos respectively, were all that made it onto the scoreboard.

Playing two men down in the second half thanks to a pair of red cards, the Rams stuck it to the Mustangs.

“The second half, when [the Rams] had their two men taken out, changed the game,” said Basacco. “Sometimes you think it’s easier, but it tends to be a little more difficult.”

As the clock ticked away in the first half of overtime, Mustangs striker Pat Mroczek put their second goal of the game on the scoreboard, and the Rams seemed to be near the end of their surprising playoff run.

It was a last-minute attempt on goal from Rams defender Markus Molder in the final seconds of stoppage time that tied things up 2–2, and sent the game into a shootout round.

The Rams miraculous underdog story failed to continue beyond York Stadium as defender Jason Morgan lobbed a crucial shot over the crossbar. Joseph was nevertheless presented with the OUA East Division Coach of the Year Award after the game and wasn’t disappointed at all.

“To come back two men down and take it to PKs, that’s a testament of this team’s character,” said Joseph. “I feel real proud.”

As for the Mustangs, they’re “going to take this win and bring it to nationals,” according to Ryerson’s choice as Western Player of the Game, goalkeeper Andrew Murdoch.

Twenty minutes later, the Varsity Blues and the Lions — both ready to join the Mustangs in the CIS championships — set off on a significantly less eventful chase for the Blackwood Cup and 2010 OUA title.

The first half kept the fans in their seats, and when the referee blew the whistle, the scoreboard hadn’t moved. While the second moved at a relatively faster pace, it was still nil-nil at the end of regular playing time.

After playing out a frustrating overtime period, it was ultimately U of T who stole the show in an intense shootout round.

“We played a tremendous game, had a tremendous win, and I’m so very proud of our players, our team, and our staff,” said Head Coach Capotosto. “We’ve been on the receiving end of some bad losses in finals in the past. Today’s our day.”


Game 1: U of T vs. Western

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The University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s soccer team stuck it to the Western Mustangs 3–1 Saturday morning at York Stadium to advance to the OUA final the following Sunday afternoon.

U of T set the tone of the game just four minutes in, when midfielder Ezequiel Lubocki sent a corner kick out to striker Mario Kovacevic, who headed it into the net. Kovacevic, however, was called for interference and the goal was disallowed.

It wasn’t until the 41st minute of play that Varsity Blues midfielder Dylan Bams opened the scoring as he converted a pass from second-year midfielder, and the OUA East Division’s Most Valuable Player, Darragh McGee.

The Blues 1–0 lead over the Mustangs going into the second half meant that there was no mercy out on the field.

According to Mustangs Head Coach Rock Basacco, the turning point in the game came when the Blues star striker Alexander Raphael lined up for a penalty shot after Mustangs defender Paul D’Amario fouled Blues defender Michael Brathwaite in the box as he was driving towards the goal.

“I sent Braithwraite down on the wing. I knew we’d either get a cross in and finish like that, or he was going to draw the penalty, which he did,” explained Raphael. “As soon as that happened, I stepped up, sent the goalie the other way, and put it in the back of the net.”

A lob-shot from midfielder Jagger Hassan got the Mustangs on the board, but because it came only minutes after Kovacevic got the Blues a third goal on a breakaway, the moment was bittersweet. The game wrapped up with a score of 3–1 Toronto.

“You have to give credit to Toronto. They played very well,” said Mustangs Head Coach Rock Basacco.

Game 2: Ryerson vs. York

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In an intense do-or-die match up, the York Lions men’s soccer team proved why they were ranked number two in the country as they slipped by the Ryerson Rams 2–1 Saturday afternoon at York Stadium in the OUA semi-final.

The game was intense from the get-go and didn’t let up until the final minutes of play, as the teams battled for control of the field. Going into halftime, the scoreboard hadn’t moved at all.

Although it was Rams midfielder Adrian Mancini who stepped the game up a notch and opened the scoring in the 60th minute of play, it was the red-card given to Ashkan Mahboubi after his second infraction in the 77th minute that gave the Lions the advantage over the now 10-man squad. Only five minutes later, Lions defender Jamaal Smith was presented with a yellow card for hitting the sideline referee.

With just five minutes left in regular time, the Lions’ Adrian Pena turned the entire game around when he sent a penalty kick into bottom left corner of the net. Fourth-year defender Gerard Ladiyou sealed the win for the Lions in the final minute of the game when he beat out the Rams defense and scored a surprise goal, making the final score 2–1.

“We didn’t expect it that soon after, but we would have went into overtime with a man more for 30 minutes, so we knew it was coming,” said Adrian Pena, the star striker of the Lions and the Most Valuable Player in the OUA West Division.

“I thought we played really well. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out your way,” said Rams Head Coach Ivan Joseph. “It’s never about what’s best, it’s can we play to our potential, and we did today.”

“You have to give credit to Toronto. They played very well,” said Mustangs Head Coach Rock Basacco.

Game 3: Western vs. Ryerson

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Putting an end to the Cinderella story that was the Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team, the Western Mustangs stole the OUA bronze by one goal in a shoot-out Sunday morning at York Stadium.

With a berth in the CIS championships at stake, neither team showed any mercy and, as a result, the referee handed out more than just a handful of cards.

Ryerson opened the scoring when midfielder Kevin Souter blasted the ball into the back of the net in the 10th minute. Western, unable to penetrate the Rams defense earlier in the half, tied it up with five minutes until the whistle thanks to a goal from striker Niko Mavrikos.

At halftime, the score was tied 1–1, and the next 45 minutes brought nothing but a slew of cards for the Rams.

While the initial was a yellow dealt to Rams defender Dimitri Karopoulos in the first half, the next five included two reds and knocked the Rams down to nine men going into overtime.

The first 15 minutes brought a goal from Western striker Pat Mroczek, and as the clock counted down the final moments of the second, the 2–1 win was just within Western’s grasp.

It was in the last second of stoppage time that the Rams seemed like they might actually pull off the biggest upset of the soccer season. As Rams defender Markus Molder sent the ball barreling past Mustang goalie Andrew Murdoch, the referee blew the whistle, and the game was miraculously tied 2–2.

In an intense shootout, the final blow to the Rams came when defender Jason Morgan, who broke down immediately after, shot the ball over the crossbar and gave the Mustangs the CIS berth they had been hoping for.

“It’s finally nice to get a win and a chance to get back to nationals. We haven’t been there in a couple years and its been a long wait,” said Mustangs Head Coach Rock Basacco.

“We’re looking forward to [CIS]. This was our goal from the beginning of the year,” added Mustangs midfielder Dan Frankel.

And as for the Rams, “They fought, they came back hard, and I’m really proud of their efforts,” said Head Coach and OUA East Division Coach of the Year Ivan Joseph.

Game 4: York vs. U of T

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The last game of the OUA Final Four tournament ended in shoot-out victory for the University of Toronto men’s soccer team against the York Lions at York Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

As the two teams struggled to dominate the field for the majority of the first half, it became evident that this game was one of possession, and it wasn’t until the 36th minute that fans got to see some action.

Blues midfielder Darragh McGee was booked after a dirty tackle on Lions midfielder Selvin Lammie inside the box, and his standout teammate Adrian Pena lined up to take the shot.

“When I step up I’m very confident,” said Pena earlier in the tournament. “I just tune everything out, and make the PK.”

That wasn’t the case for the star striker this time — U of T goalie John Smits dove to block the ball as it flew across the grass towards the bottom left of the net.

At the end of the half, the teams were locked in a nil-nil draw for the OUA title.

In the second half, the Blues created scoring chance after scoring chance, but Lions goalkeeper Sotiri Varlokostas was up for the challenge. As the game moved into injury time, neither team had managed to make it onto the scoreboard.

Overtime brought drama for the Lions. Pena was given a yellow card for kicking Blues star Raphael on the ground, while his teammates D’Mello, Lammie, and Badat missed back-to-back-to-back opportunities to wrap up the game.

As anticipated, the game was the second of the day to move on to a shootout round. The Lions opened with a surprising miss from Branko Majstorovic, but Varlokostas kept his team in the game when he deflected the next shot from the Blues’ Geoffrey Borgmann.

It was a combination of a shocking tip-of-the-toe save by Smits, and another less than mediocre shot from Pena, that finally ended the Lions bid for tha OUA title, and gave the Blues their first since 2002.

“In the shootout, that’s when I’m most calm actually,” said Smits, who was honoured by the York squad as Blues Player of the Game. “When my teammates were out there taking the PKs, I wasn’t worried for a second.”

The Blues are set move on to the CIS championships next weekend, but Head Coach Anthony Capotostos admitted he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.

“We’re looking forward to the tournament and it puts us in great position as the OUA champions,” said Capotostos.

Hart House receives new mission statement

October 22 was a big day for Hart House. For the first time in 90 years, the university’s extracurricular hub released a new vision statement.

“Hart House is a living laboratory of social, artistic, cultural, and recreational experiences where all voices, rhythms, and traditions converge,” read the statement. “As the vibrant home for the education of the mind, body, and spirit envisioned by its founders, Hart House encourages and supports activities that provide spaces for awakening the capacity for self-knowledge and self-expression.”

“We’re not pushing aside the Founder’s Prayer,” said Louise Cowin, warden of Hart House, in an interview with The Varsity. The Founders Prayer references the previous mission statement, etched into the stone on the building’s east wall.
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Hart House was founded as a place for students to explore artistic, cultural, and recreational opportunities outside the classroom. Before 1972 it was restricted to only males.

“Only in a forty-year period has Hart House even admitted women,” said Cowin. “It isn’t a long time ago in terms of number of years, but there have been exponential changes in society since then.” She added that the new vision statement is an attempt to reflect those shifts by being “representative of the diversity and complexity of today’s student body.”

Cowin attributed the amount of time between the house admitting women and the birth of a new vision statement to the environment created by University of Toronto’s students. “I think it has to be directly related to the change in the body of students. My predecessors were able to talk about the Founder’s Prayer with it still having reference to today even though the language is somewhat dated. And I didn’t feel that we could continue to say that the sentiments were still true today.”

Hart House’s position relative to the University of Toronto can be hard to pinpoint. “The way Hart House’s operational budget comes together is that Hart House receives half of its operating funds from a student ancillary fee,” said Cowin. “So, really, it’s driven by the students who pay for Hart House.”

However, Cowin also describes the house as “a gateway between the university and the city. Our budget now is such that we need to rely on this external revenue to balance the books.”

The transition to the new mission statement will occur through programming. “We’re going to begin to work towards inclusion that is meaningful so that a greater number of students are identifying [Hart House] as a place to call home and to hang their hats,” said Cowan. “Hart House might become an umbrella or a coalition for groups to actually have opportunities to actually gain access to space and to dollars.”

Cowin hopes the statement will help Hart House be more inclusive, as opposed to what she describes as an institution that has “been very rigid and limited.”

Jamming in Bellwoods

Torontonian musician and comedian Maylee Todd stands stately in the middle of Trinity Bellwoods Park, strumming an acoustic guitar. Around her, lackeys in skin-tight fluorescent and metallic spandex wave ribbons and dance in an interweaving circle. Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club delivers a couple of songs solo, and takes some time out to show off a ladybug that’s just landed on his guitar case. Ruby Coast perform an acoustic set with raw vocals and melancholic harmonies. In the short time since Live in Bellwoods launched last August, the music video series has featured Toronto favorites such as Born Ruffians, Dinosaur Bones, and The Balconies performing stripped-down acoustic sets in various spots across the sprawling West Queen West Park.

The series began as the brainchild of the boys of Humble Empire, a self-described media organization that dabbles in producing music videos and making t-shirts. They also host HumbleMania, an event at The Ossington every other Wednesday night that features the premiere of the video and a live performance. Mike Juneau and Kyle McCreight, the twenty-something cofounders and creative team behind Humble Empire, sit down shivering in the November air at a picnic table in the middle of the park to talk shop and the state of the Toronto music scene.
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“It started out with me filming a friend of mine, Chris White, in the park with a guitar. I happened to have my camera on me,” McCreight says, his hooded sweatshirt shadowing his face. “We decided it was a lot of fun, so we just got some of our friends to get involved, and it took off pretty quickly.”

“It was lucky because our first [performers] were Dinosaur Bones, Born Ruffians, and Tokyo Police Club. For the Toronto scene, that’s a pretty good start, and got us some attention right away,” Juneau continues. “It started out for fun, and now that it’s become something, and people are watching it and enjoying it, we’re more aware of what it can be. It’s kind of about building a community of bands in the city.”

Though the initial performers were largely friends of friends, during this past summer, 19 bands — coming from places as varied as Texas and Iceland — have performed sets in the park. But at the end of the day, it’s all about Toronto.

“Every couple years there’s a new hash of great young bands who are starting to come up — like right now, Dilly Dally’s coming up, Nicholas Doubleyou’s coming up. All of these bands starting to play shows and get attention really quickly. […] Dinosaur Bones got big really quickly a couple of years ago and before them it was the Born Ruffians. […] It starts to be about more than just playing for your friends,” says Juneau.

“But the thing is that you can be relevant today and tomorrow you’re not,” says McCreight. “It’s definitely a tightrope walk.”

Juneau and McCreight recently filmed four bands in the park: Nicolas Doubleyou and the B-Squad, Catl, Inlet Sound, and Mothers of Brides. The videos’ releases will be staggered to correspond with HumbleMania, which features the premieres of the videos and an original acoustic set from a Toronto standard. Last week featured a solo performance from Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club.

“It’s really important to me that the bands who come out to play, play a different kind of set. So it’s not just the same thing you would see if you go to the Horseshoe [Tavern]. Maybe they play a stripped down set, maybe they play something that’s not in their set list — ideally, it’s another side to their music,” says McCreight. “I guess the next step is really beginning to take yourself seriously as an artist,” Juneau explains of the duo’s decision to take on more produced music videos. Earlier this summer they produced, editied, and directed Tokyo Police Club’s “Wait Up (Boots of Danger)” official video — in which a bunch of dogs break into a pool and having a pool party, while the band jams inside.

“That was a drunken brainchild coming from our talks of the summer and what we wanted to do this summer,” says Juneau. “I was just talking about how all I wanted to do was hang out at pools and play with dogs. I pitched it to Dave [Monks] and he was into it. And all of a sudden, we were shooting with 15 trained dogs, trying to get them to look like they were partying.”

“I mean, I guess it’s time to get legitimate. We’re even getting business cards now.”

HumbleMania at The Ossington starts at 10 p.m., Wednesday. $2.

U of T publication alleges financial misconduct

Matthew Gray, editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globalist, has alleged that UTSU has acted improperly, shifting their publications funding policy without going through the board of directors or consulting with the relevant publications.

“I had talked to Corey [Scott, VP Campus Life] informally, where I was trying to gauge exactly how much money we would get, and what he said was that he felt that publications didn’t contribute to campus life as cost-effectively as cultural organizations do and basically because of that they were going to be cutting funding,” said Gray.

Scott doesn’t recall saying that publications did not contribute as cost-effectively as other organizations, and “certainly doesn’t think that’s necessarily true.”

“From my understanding,” said Gray, “which I’m not entirely sure of, you would require some sort of modification of clubs funding policy which would have to pass through the board of directors of UTSU. That’s what I thought was going to happen and I thought there would be space for all of us publications to rally and say ‘This is going to kill us.’”

According to Gray, in a meeting earlier this year Scott told him the Globalist should expect “in the range of $500 to $750, maybe $1000.” Though this figure would be an increase from last year, when the Globalist received only $500 from UTSU, it is a cut from the year prior, when they received some $1500.

“Basically our total budget has been between $4000 to $5000,” said Gray, “and the contribution from UTSU has been roughly between $1500 and $2500.”

According to Gray, the cut to $500 “kind of destroyed the organization.” The last time they printed an issue was spring of 2009, “because the UTSU dragged their feet” in giving last year’s funding. “[Last year], we just weren’t receiving any responses from UTSU and I actually had to personally figure it out because I knew Adam [Awad], Corey [Scott], Danielle Sandhu, so I went to them and sort of asked what was going on with that,” apparently receiving $500 in “emergency funding” shortly after.
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Still, Gray maintains the “question is, why has there been a shift in UTSU policy that hasn’t gone through the board of directors?” He argues there is “no accountability as to how it shifts, they’re not really answering to anybody, just changing UTSU policy.” He added that “Corey is in an appointed position, so it is not a democratically elected position, so I’m kind of weirded out as to how they’ve done this.”

In fact, the process for funding clubs is formally delineated, and according to Scott, has not been varied from in this instance. Upon receiving a proposal, UTSU determines the funding for each organization first in the clubs committee — a nine-member unit with representation from UTSU and the clubs community. The figures the committee agrees on, based on the application funds granted in previous years and amount available that year, must then be ratified by the board of directors before being granted.

“So what we did, what I did last year, was count the amount of funding that was allocated to all the publications who had specifically requested funding for the publication. So that’s not including like The Muslim Voice which is funded by the MSA, or other clubs that are housing magazines. I counted up that number, I counted up the number from the year before, and kind of figured out a good even point between that, and then we added a little bit extra even to that, so that’s just kind of our informal number.” Though the Globalist funding has yet to be ratified, Scott maintains the unofficial figure “hasn’t gone down from last year.”

“We’ve tried to foresee as much as possible this year,” said Scott, “and I think that for a couple of the publications funding has gone up, and for some of them it’s gone down. the Globalist, not officially, has gone up a little.”

Confusion on UTSU’s publication policy may stem from Scott’s plan to create a formal policy for publications funding this year. As of now, publications are treated like all other clubs, and Scott hopes “to create a term of reference so publications know [how much funding they can expect] at the beginning of the year.”

“The funding is just not there to cover these huge costs, these realistic costs, these costs that kind of just can’t be avoided,” said Scott, citing a substantial growth in the number of groups applying for funding over the past two years, with the amount available — roughly $160,000 — staying constant.

“So we just had the concern that there were a lot of these executives going into debt, with the UTSU’s hands being tied behind their back because the funding’s just not there. So earlier in the year I talked to several of the publications, and talking about the idea of setting up a publications funding, so there’s a set amount of funds that would be put aside […] specifically for publications, but also so that we could create a policy around the set way to fund publications,” said Scott.

“The problem is that once you start giving out a lot of publications funding you become a beacon for publications, so if we give funding to the Toronto Globalist and then Footprint, Chinese Magazine, Green Health Discovery Magazine, Urbane, all these different magazines that are operating on campus which, you know, deserve funding, will come to UTSU and also ask for funding, but if you give $1500 to the Globalist and then there’s like six other magazines also applying next year because they heard about it. That’s like, $9000 out of the budget there, and it just becomes a lot tighter and a lot harder to decide.”

Scott maintains that this policy has yet to be enacted, and will be the result of extensive consultation with publications, likely in January or February.

“We do want to create a really good policy that is built by publications, and that has those opinions and those experiences within it, so that it works for everyone, but that it also doesn’t set up a false hope for exorbitant funds to cover the really high costs,” said Scott.

New NHL rule has roots at U of T

The NHL’s latest headache won’t be coming from the University of Toronto, that’s for sure.

Official NHL Rule 48: Illegal Check to the Head, has been implemented to reduce incidents of concussions thanks to research from U of T.

Under the guidance of Professor Paul Comper, who is a neuropsychologist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and an NHL Players Association consultant, PhD student Michael Hutchison — a member of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health’s concussion research group — conducted a video analysis project that studied the kinds of hits that cause concussions in the NHL.

Is an average of 75 concussions per season an acceptable number?

According to Comper, “The League has felt rather bombarded by the issue for the last four or five years, so we proposed a project whereby we could give them objective information on how concussions happen.”

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Comper and Hutchison had tapes for 199 of the 260 reported concussions sustained in the NHL between October 2006 and January 2010.

“There’s no particular position that is at greater risk, and it’s pretty much an even distribution between open ice and along the perimeter of the ice,” said Hutchison. “The general pattern was the fact that, not surprisingly, hits to the head caused the majority of concussions in our samples and we found that there seemed to be more from the lateral side.”

The research also found that concussions occur quite often when the player doesn’t have the puck.

“There seems to be a time of vulnerability; whether they’ve just shot it, whether they’ve just passed it, or they’re just about to get it. That speaks to the fact, for educational purposes and awareness, that [the causes of concussions are] not necessarily vicious acts,” said Hutchison.

So how do you alter the behavior of the players without fundamentally wrecking the competitive nature and the physicality of hockey?

“The NHL certainly sets the tone for conduct for contact hockey,” Comper stated.

In March, Comper and Hutchison travelled to Boca Raton, Florida for the NHL’s annual general managers’ meeting to share their findings. Afterwards, the League drafted its first rule against illegal checks to the head, which is now in force.

“We gave our information to them and said: here are the general circumstances under which many of these injuries could happen, and therefore [this information] suggests that a percentage could likely be preventable,” said Comper.

“We were just one piece of the puzzle,” added Hutchison. “There were a number of different factors at the same time. There was more research coming out from the sports related concussion community, there was more public attention to the fact, and it happened that once we were done wrapping up our video analysis, there were major events in the league where people were seriously injured and it all just pointed in the same direction.”

On March 7, the night before the general managers’ meeting, Boston Bruins Marc Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins after taking a hit to the head from Matt Cooke.

It helped their case “in a tragic kind of sense,” said Comper. “It heightened awareness more than anything else.”

Comper and Hutchison were also invited to the prestigious Mayo Clinic’s ice hockey summit. Action on Concussion took place in Rochester, N.Y. on October 19–20. There, they presented their video analysis findings to physicians, peers, and the public.

“The consensus [of the clinic] was that all contact to the head should be eliminated in sports,” said Comper. “The approach that Mike and I have taken all along is baby steps.

“We are of the opinion [that] to say all contact to the head should be banned or eliminated from hockey is not realistic.”

Although the exact long-term effects of suffering concussions are still unknown, according to Comper, “There is an association between brain changes that are thought to be due to trauma and repetitive head blows.”

He believes that what we don’t know about head injuries might be equated to the harmful effects of smoking that were unknown to people before.

“Fifty years ago everybody smoked, including doctors, and it wasn’t such a big deal. Now there’s this realization that smoking causes cancer and we sit here and say ‘How could they smoke 30 or 40 years ago?’

“We don’t want to be there in 30 or 40 years with head injury, which is why there is all this proactive research going on right now.”

So what’s next for the duo?

“It would be nice to look after the fact and say, was there an effect to this? Was it beneficial? Has the mechanism maintained throughout this time? Has there been a reduction in the frequency?” said Hutchison. “You have to now monitor and evaluate the potential effect of this change.”

A good sport: Getting WILD

Less than a week after the final out of the 2010 World Series was recorded, it feels like baseball’s offseason is already in full swing. A flurry of managerial hirings and firings have kicked things off, and some big-name free agents are already thinking in dollar figures.

The MLB has alluded that expanded playoffs could be upon us in the near future and, for the better, will affect the sport profoundly.

Commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged during a World Series news conference that he likes the idea, and the players’ union is also receptive. Selig indicated that while he doubts it will be decided in time for 2011, it’s not out of the question just yet.

Compared to other sports, baseball’s playoffs have long been an elite affair. A mere eight out of the total 30 teams make the playoffs each year, and many teams begin the season knowing they have no hope of making it.

The model being discussed right now would add one extra wild card team to both the National League and the American League. A total of five teams from each league — meaning ten in total — would then make the playoffs: three division winners, and two wild cards.

Potentially, the two wild cards will play a short best-of-three series to begin the playoffs, with the winner then moving on to join the other three teams to play a Division Championship Series and a League Championship Series, as is currently done.

An extra playoff spot means more meaningful games late in the season for more teams, thus increasing revenue and viewership. Fewer teams would begin the season with no hope of making the playoffs and there would be more do-or-die games on the last weekend of the regular season.

Traditionalists object to changing the game in any way and feel there is strength in baseball’s elitist playoff system. However the same objections were raised about both the implementation of an eight-team playoff in 1995 and the creation of the World Baseball Classic tournament several years ago. Both moves have been great for the sport.

While a best-of-three series following a 162-game regular season does seem a bit silly, it’s the best available option. Teams refuse to shorten the regular season to allow for earlier and longer playoffs, and Bud Selig does not want the World Series to continue into November. The expanded playoffs might not be perfect, but would be a very positive change. Here’s to hoping for it.

A&S Dean pledges collaboration

Faculty of Arts and Science Dean Meric Gertler acknowledged the distressing response to his academic plan and pledged to work collaboratively to deal with his faculty’s near $60-million shortfall.

“I understand many were worried,” said Gertler. “I’m glad people were engaged, it proves they care.”

The faculty council had its monthly meeting last Monday at the Munk School. The week before, Gertler told faculty heads that all but one of the amalgamations proposed in the plan, which was published in July, would be put on hold.

The School of Languages and Literatures, which would have amalgamated almost all area studies programs, will not be created. Instead, faculty will work together on four key areas: increasing enrolment, collaborative learning, shared recruitment methods, and reorganizing administrative services.

Gertler promised to publish a memo within the week detailing the changes. The document, released Friday, can be viewed online.

Former East Asian Studies chair Andre Schmidt read a resolution composed the morning of the meeting and signed by GSU, UTSU, UTFA, and United Steelworkers 1998. The public statement called on Gertler to “suspend indefinitely the implementation of the major structural changes of the current plan until a proper democratic process is established.” There was applause after the statement was read.

Comparative Literature PhD student Ryan Culpepper asked Gertler to reconsider future review process methods “to save time and antagonism.”

One professor said the plan had been “distressing” and “made many anxious.” He thanked Gertler for working collaboratively but said he should have done so sooner.

Gertler acknowledged the process was “causing a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of people” and that he could have communicated more clearly that his ideas were solely proposals. He pledged to implement timelines that work swiftly but leave enough time for ample consultation.

Robert Baker, vice-dean of research and graduate programs, mentioned that the faculty will look at establishing first-year programs like Vic One for all constituent colleges. He also said college registrar processes would be streamlined with the Office of the Registrar to ensure greater efficiency and a “deeper level of advising.”

Gertler said his budget committee has been formed and he hopes to give an updated report at next month’s meeting, as requested by many at this meeting.

When asked if the committee would clarify how much money moves in and out of the faculty among other university units, he joked that U of T money circulates like federal equalization payments and that his faculty would be Ontario. He added that this information is already publicly available.

Gertler noted high amounts of engineering students in his faculty’s courses who pay almost double in tuition. “We’re following the money,” he said.

While many thanked Gertler for now working collaboratively with his faculty, CUPE 3902 Liaison Officer Patrick Vitale said students were “busting their asses this summer” to defeat the plan and asked Gertler to not “take credit for our work.” There was applause.

Part-time Undergraduate Representative Andrew Agnew-Iler scolded council members for thanking the dean.

“Our job is to question [the dean’s] proposals, it’s not to accept them based on some consultations,” said Agnew-Iler. “[These are] vague ideas. It’s not our job to say ‘yeah that’s great;’ it’s our job to say ‘okay, let’s make sure this works.’

“Are we so scared for our positions that […] we have to give thanks to the dean so we hold our positions [sic]?”

Gertler replied that he gets plenty of criticism and that he encourages open speech.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that CUPE 3902 had authored a letter read during the Faculty Council’s monthly meeting. In fact, the letter was published on behalf of individuals representing a diverse array of organizations. The Varsity regrets this error.

Movies of the Asian persuasion

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is Canada’s largest Asian film festival, showcasing East and Southeast Asian cinema from Canada, the U.S., and around the world. Several of the festival screenings take place at U of T’s own Innis Town Hall, and if the festival’s close proximity to campus doesn’t persuade you, what about the discounted student pricing? Throw in some karaoke and Asian-pop psychedelia parties, an industry series, art gallery receptions, and filmic responses to the question “What is your Chinatown?”, and you have a full week of entertainment to distract you from the ten months left before that other monolithic film festival returns… you know which one. Here is a preview of Reel Asian’s 2010 roster, so make sure you catch the rest of this cultural dynamite when the festival gets underway November 9 to 15.– DAMANJIT LAMBA

BI, DON’T BE AFRAID

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The primary concern of Bi, Don’t Be Afraid is not really Bi or his fear: the boy is more puzzled by the strange adult world of frustrations and lies, diverting himself in ice factories and grassy fields. Other films embellish childhood imaginations as a coping mechanism for stress (Pan’s Labyrinth) or make light of the dark for the child’s sake (Life is Beautiful). However, first-time director Phan Dang Di does not shy from the sad lives of unfulfilled men and women in Hanoi, letting Bi prance obliviously in the Vietnamese sun. His mother (Thi Kieu Nguyen) waits for her husband Quang (Ha Phong Nguyen) to stumble home drunk every night, quiet and unaroused by her caresses. Bi’s aunt Thuy (Thuy Hoa) is unmarried and obsessed with one of her students. A May-December relationship unfolds between Quang and his teenaged hairdresser, who playfully rebuffs his advances. Putting a strain on the whole family is Quang’s father, a retired diplomat who returns home in a stretcher — in Quang’s opinion, the only way he would have returned to Vietnam.

It’s melodrama, and it’s not melodrama. Most conversations are carried out casually over house chores, like excerpts from the films of Ozu. Phan has been criticized for graphic eroticism, but here the sexuality is slow building, oozing as the film paces sedately through its plot. Meanwhile Bi, played with great depth by Thanh Minh Phan, watches wide-eyed. He does not reflect much on all the misspent lust, and neither do the adults who, good or bad, ultimately go to bed with unhappiness.– ALEX GRIFFITH

GALLANTS

In a (rare) quiet moment of Gallants, Master Pong (Chan Wai-man) remarks, “It’s not the time of fights and fists anymore. It’s the time of packaging and promotion.” Gallants, nostalgic yet urgent, has both the fists and the packaging: the film is steeped in veteran Hong Kong talent but injected with syringe after syringe of snappy, postmodern style. It’s probably more of a celebration of kung fu movies than a kung fu movie, albeit one yearning for a revival of the Bruce Lee era.

Exposition is given liposuction by writer-director duo Clement Chang and Derek Kwok. No time is wasted introducing well-dressed loser Cheung (You-Nam Wong), a real estate agent assigned to negotiate leases in a remote village, where he meets Tiger (Leung Siu Wong) and Dragon (Chen Kuan-tai), aging brothers waiting for their master to awake from a 30-year coma. Leung and Chen both rose to fame during the 70s, as did Chan, famous for his Triad roles, and Meng Lo, another Shaw Brothers alumnus. Cheung’s apprenticeship to Dragon and Tiger takes a back seat when Master Law (Teddy Robin) wakes up. Robin — another veteran — is clearly having fun: he walks into a strip club, holding a cigar taller than himself, only to find his favourite girls have entered retirement. When the Law club decides to take on Pong’s team at the tournament, the elements are there (pupils, underdogs, betrayals, duty) but the heart of kung fu isn’t. All the animated flashbacks and cartoonish sound effects don’t mask the nostalgia in this film — and in the Hong Kong industry in general — for a youthful, vibrant martial arts genre. — AG

GOLDEN SLUMBERS

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Golden Slumbers tells the story of a naïve, jovial delivery man named Aoyagi who gets caught up in a Lee Harvey Oswald scenario when he is framed for the murder of the Japanese prime minister. The film is more concerned with the psychology of the main character and the unexpected individuals who come to his aid rather than with action sequences that are commonly employed to fill narrative space. Aoyagi is easy to root for from the start, as his unwavering trust in individuals proves to be a salient factor in his survival. The Beatles song “Golden Slumbers” is a thematic device that ties the film’s characters together, as Aoyagi and his friends use their memories of school days filled with fireworks and hijinks, to give this unexpected hero more time to figure out an exit plan. The song reinforces the importance of memory and maintaining relationships with those you care deeply about. Although one’s attention can be stretched thin by the numerous subplots, Golden Slumbers’ satisfying ending is tinged with elements of both sadness and joy, a refreshing departure from the majority of on-the-run capers. — DL

THE MOUNTAIN THIEF

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The Mountain Thief chronicles the ordeals of Julio and his son Ingo in the town of Payatas, Philippines. Julio has lost his wife to the war in the southern Philippines, and now his best chance for survival is selling scraps of odd metal at the largest garbage-collecting settlement in the world. Director Gerry Balasta shot the film at the actual dumpsite and was able to cast real-life scavengers thanks to an acting workshop he conducted when he first began working on this project. None of the characters are at peace with their life: Paula, Julio’s love interest, collects images of far-off locations and hopes to leave the shanty-town someday; Julio is waiting for the war to end so he can go back to the south with his son Ingo; Ato, the village villain, begins competing for leadership of Little Hope when it is revealed that the village leader is ill. Julio’s son, Ingo, who is portrayed by an actor who suffers from an actual vision impairment in real life, was the most captivating actor in the ensemble as he was able to see beauty in the mountains of trash that the characters were trying run away from. The creative narrative structure of The Mountain Thief allows for crucial events to be represented from various points of view, giving greater significance to the interactions between the characters. The non-professional actors give impressive performances, not having to look far for inspiration, and Balasta’s ability to create fluidity and suspense with interchanges between the past and present make The Mountain Thief an educational and absorbing experience. — DL

TOILET

Featuring an all-Canadian cast and set in Toronto’s west end, Toilet follows three incredibly dissimilar siblings who have to deal with the cultural barriers that get in the way of having any significant relationship with their silent yet perceptive baa-chan (grandmother) after their mother passes away. Ray, an engineer who sees life as something you just have to get through, decides to live at home with his siblings, Lisa and Maury, until they can get a handle on day-to-day life. Lisa is simultaneously interested in prose and air-guitar, while Maury suffers from severe anxiety and hasn’t left the house in four years. Ray gets frustrated when his new living arrangement impedes on his systematic lifestyle, and his grandmother shows no signs of opening up to the family. When Ray notices that baa-chan lets out a heavy sigh every time she uses the washroom, he becomes obsessed with finding out why such a daily routine is the only thing that elicits any kind of response from her. As the film progresses, the initial caricature-like quirks of the characters, reminiscent of Wes Anderson personalities, fade away to reveal relatable individuals and a de-mystified baa-chan who wasn’t as cookie-cutter as the three siblings originally thought. A charismatic cast, a cute cat named Sensei, and Naoko Ogigami’s craft with the camera make Toilet a top-of-the-list festival entry. – DL