The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

NBA Eastern Conference preview

There are three sides to the NBA season: what the teams want, what their fans hope for, and what actually happens.

Every year, 30 teams compete for 16 playoff spots and the right to battle for the most inconspicuous-looking trophy in all of professional sports. Every team begins the season thinking it has that right, and then reality takes over and the Clippers have competition in the draft lottery.

People are always eager to give their two cents about what team will win it all and who that team will beat. Why get ahead of ourselves? A guy I met on a bus once said it best: “Playoffs are anyone’s guess. The regular season, that’s for intelligent guessing.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Boston Celtics

The Buzz

You have to respect Rasheed Wallace, because you have no choice. He’s like that guy in high school who was sort of cool, but also really frightening, which is just what the Celtics needed. After Kevin Garnett went down last season, Boston experienced a waking nightmare with Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine. Wallace is a bigger nightmare in virtually every respect, but clearly the lesser of two evils where basketball is concerned. His toughness and playoff experience will shore up the Celtics’ lineup, and spare fans from another “Scara-brine” attack.


Garnett and Wallace injure themselves during a heated game of Wii Tennis in mid-February, sidelining both indefinitely. When questioned about his injury, Wallace’s only comment will be “Both teams played hard.”

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Buzz

Now that Shaq and Lebron are together, prognosticators won’t shut up about the same two storylines. Storyline one: Lebron James is a free agent next summer. Is it possible he might go to another team? Why yes, it is. And if you’re like me, you probably couldn’t decipher all those casual remarks he made about “exploring” his “options” next summer. Storyline two: Will Shaq foil the Cavs’ chemistry and sink them for good in the playoffs? Don’t count on it. Last time I checked, Shaq was a basketball player, not a villain in a Shakespeare play. Besides, if you followed basketball, you would know that he only sabotages teams after they trade him.

So what’s the bottom line? While every team would like to have its own Lebron James, Shaq’s defence against the Raptors had less plot and rhythm than an episode of Shaq Vs., and the Cavs do most of their player scouting at YMCAs across the Midwest. With two guys the Raptors didn’t want already in the rotation, Danny Ferry might be a bigger bust as a GM than he was a player.


Eating weak divisional opponents for breakfast, the Cavs waltz into the playoffs looking like the real deal again. Shaq takes all the credit and then takes Lebron’s idea for a reality show.

Orlando Magic

The Buzz

Rashard Lewis began the season serving a 10-game suspension for using steroids. But that shouldn’t derail the Magic with Dwight Howard and perennial sad-sack Vince “Grimace” Carter from carrying the team. Expect the Magic to get on a roll around the 30-game mark. That’s when Jameer Nelson should fully rebound from his injury and feel more in sync with the game.


Carter blows kisses to the Magic faithful when chants of “MVP” breakout during a home game. An embarrassed coach pulls Carter aside and tells him the chants are for his teammate Dwight Howard. Upset, Carter takes the game ball and goes home.

Washington Wizards

The Buzz

I must be crazy, right? The Wizards finished dead last in the East in 2008-09 and looked ’80s-Clippers bad (hell, current-Clippers bad) getting there. Fans in the D.C. area aren’t sweating it. Last season was a write-off for the Wiz, who relied heavily on their young players following an endless string of injuries. They’re back to the same lineup that won 43 games in ’07-08, and have added Mike Miller and Randy Foye to take some of the offensive load off of Gilbert Arenas’ shoulders.


Mike James starts 70 games for the injury-plagued Wizards, making them the only franchise in Washington that doesn’t get a bailout after this year.

Toronto Raptors

The Buzz

It was a busy off-season for Bryan Colangelo. After taking DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick in the draft, he masterfully orchestrated a four-team deal to acquire 6’10” “small” forward Hedo Turkoglu. Throw in a series of trades and free agent signings, and you’ve got the new-look Raptors—with a lot of the same problems. Despite one of the league’s biggest frontcourts, the Raptors rebound like the ball could release tear gas at any moment.


After another sluggish start, Colangelo adopts the phrase “We like our team’s chances” and uses it until the Raps are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Fans eventually figure out that Colangelo’s favorite line is doubletalk for “we don’t have a shot in hell,” begging an important question: Why don’t Toronto basketball fans like baseball?

Atlanta Hawks

The Buzz

With Tim Donaghy in the clink, the Hawks played hard and learned how to win on their own last season. They are a young and talented squad that would rank higher if their bench weren’t so spotty. That aside, Jamal Crawford and human hand-me-down Joe Smith will give the Hawks a strong veteran presence. But their biggest area of concern remains at point guard, surprise, where Mike Bibby has been on the decline in recent years and back-up Jeff Teague is only a rookie.


Mike Bibby’s joints disintegrate and the Hawks are forced to sign Stephon Marbury. The league suspends Marbury when his appetite for Vaseline gets out of hand.

Miami Heat

The Buzz

After a year and a half, the Heat convinced Michael Beasley to wake up from his nap, and were so elated they made him a starter. Beasley in a daze is a serious upgrade for Miami, who have been overly dependent on Dwyane Wade for too long. Recent history suggests that the combination of one superstar and a marginal star is usually enough to make the playoffs (see Cleveland, Dallas, New Orleans).


Wade tears his patellar tendon in the second week of the season and misses four months. In the third month, he runs out of ensembles and has a nervous breakdown.

Chicago Bulls

The Buzz

If you don’t know who Derrick Rose is yet, go to Youtube, take five minutes, and get familiar. Rose is that good and stands to get a lot better. Still, the Bulls are a hard team to figure out. On paper, they’re a strong team with excellent guards and good mixture of size and athleticism in the frontcourt. They’re also very young and may take a while to gel again this year.


Scandal rocks Chicago after it’s revealed that Derrick Rose’s birth certificate, Memphis highlights, and 2008-09 season are all forgeries. An infuriated Bulls management demands an explanation from Rose. He tells them Kentucky head coach John Calipari made him do it, to which they respond, “We thought so.”

Detroit Pistons

The Buzz

It was really swell of Joe Dumars to give Ben Wallace that contract. But starting him? Overlooking their problems at centre, don’t be surprised if the Pistons sneak into the playoffs this year. Hamilton, Stuckey, and Prince give Detroit a solid foundation, and Ben Gordon’s streaky shooting should generate more wins than losses. The X-factor for the Pistons may come down to former Raptor Charlie Villanueva, who showed flashes of brilliance with Milwaukee last season, but still hasn’t developed into a consistent player.


Head coach John Kuester encourages his team to embrace a blue-collar spirit and take more charges. Tayshaun Prince flops harder than Eminem’s new album, as the Pistons set a single-game record with 40 blocking fouls.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Buzz

In the East, the fate of teams on the playoff cusp is more often a war of attrition than a fight to the finish. The 76ers are perennial champs when it comes to being slightly less worse than their middling peers, but even passable mediocrity has to end at some point.


Sixers stick it to everyone and make the playoffs again. However, they bow out early, giving recently acquired Jason Kapono time to read Catcher in the Rye, have lunch with his uncle, and learn to play the guitar.

Charlotte Bobcats

The Buzz Kill

Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler are equally adequate centres, so why swap them? Ignoring all the claptrap about team chemistry and fresh starts, what the Bobcats are doing here is kind of cute. They’ve traded one so-so centre for another, because the new guy matches up “better” against Shaq and Dwight Howard and according to Bobcats GM Rod Higgins, “Tyson [puts] us in a position to compete night in and night out with the other quality centres in the league.” The Bobcats might be pathological.


Declining revenues compel owner Robert Johnson to pitch the Bobcats as a reality series to BET. Bobcat executives remind Johnson that he owns the network, prompting him to reply, “I can’t win, can I?”

Indiana Pacers

The Buzz Kill

The Pacers somehow managed to win 36 games last year. What is more perplexing is how they managed to nap through free agency, while the rest of the league at least pretended to care. Let’s talk about the Colts instead.


Pacers dismiss Gene Hackman impostor Jim O’Brien mid-season and hire the real Hackman as the team’s interim head coach. The two-time Oscar winner inspires his players with muddled speeches about how “God wants them to win,” then switches his tune and insists that they’re already “winners in his books.” Confused, the Pacers finish the season with a 6-42 record under the three-time Oscar loser, who really needs a good role.

New York Knicks

The Buzz Kill

Knicks fans knew they were in for a long one when they saw “Welcome to the Darko ages” printed on their season tickets. As a franchise recognized for its mismanagement and sexual harassment lawsuits (or Isiah Thomas’s indiscretions if that’s easier), the Knicks really know how to tell a good joke.


Hopeless by the 25-game mark, the Knicks sign rapper Bow Wow to a 10-day contract. He and Nate Robinson square off immediately over who was lil’ first. Robinson backs down when Bow Wow threatens to play Like Mike on the team bus.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Buzz Kill

Over the last 15 years, the Bucks have had their share of talent. However, when it came time to play, they were as listless as a Coldplay concert. Now that they have significantly less talent and a starting lineup that includes veteran fossil Kurt Thomas, the Bucks are ready for a fresh batch of lottery picks.


Kurt Thomas refuses to board the team’s charter flight to Atlanta until he gets his Chex Mix and a new book of crossword puzzles.

New Jersey Nets

The Buzz Kill

It’s insulting when one of your owners can be seen courtside at the Knicks game, but won’t go near you or your team. The “Izod” Centre has always looked like something out of the Twilight Zone, which makes Rafer Alston joining the Nets kind of fitting. Alston, an eccentric grouch, is the third point guard on the team’s depth chart, behind stud Devin Harris and robot Keyon Dooling. While Harris should make fans shake their heads in amazement, Rafer is always a threat to twist them off. Either way, it’s the Nets that will have the state of New Jersey skipping to a loo somewhere.


Blowout losses become intolerable and Nets fans start pelting players with rubber marmots. Team officials collaborate with Papa Johns to give ticket holders free pizza when the Nets lose by 15 points or more. The pizza deal (known as “the thin crust compromise”) becomes the blueprint for dealing with truculent sports fans everywhere.

Obama takes aim at Fox

Many a time, the firewall between the White House and the media has failed to remain intact, and 2009 is certainly no exception. Earlier this month, Anita Dunn, communications director for the Obama administration, made an appearance on television decrying the propaganda spewed by Fox News personalities, like the blubbering Glenn Beck or Bush sycophant Sean Hannity.

This isn’t the first time the White House has attacked the media. Former Republican president George W. Bush fought mercilessly to suppress negative media coverage, and journalists who dared to voice their criticism were dealt some heavy blows, including illegal surveillance of telephone conversations and threats of criminal prosecution. Perhaps the most well-known and well-documented attacks against freedom of the press came during the Nixon presidency. Espionage, tax auditing, intimidation, and an “enemies list” were all part of a grand scheme to obstruct honest and objective reporting.

The Obama administration has continued to single out Fox for its conservative bias and alarmist claims against socialism. While many reporters and pundits disagree with the White House’s decision to take the organization to task, this type of public condemnation has long been overdue. The administration is not employing the same sinister, Nixon-style tactics to suppress negative coverage, but rather is standing up for journalistic standards.

Granted, the triumvirate of Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly—the leading opinion makers of the organization—have the right to voice their outrageous opinions. However, the “straight news” portion of Fox’s programming must be held accountable, because it is not as fair and balanced as they claim. Daytime anchors consistently make political statements fuelled by their ideological slant, and interview conservative guests without a moderate or progressive guest to balance the discussion. The network has purged liberal, or at the very least moderate, voices from airtime. Fox has also featured mind-numbing coverage of the Tea Parties—a series of rallies protesting health care reform, stimulus spending, and the legitimacy of Obama’s election—and one producer was caught on video rallying the crowds. It is clear that this “news” organization is not operating like a legitimate media outlet.

The purpose of Fox News is to advance a political agenda, and as Bill Shine, Vice-President of Fox News, willingly admitted, the organization is positioned as “the voice of the opposition.” How’s that for fair and balanced?

It is certainly the president’s prerogative to fight against the notion that Fox News is an objective, non-partisan member of the news industry. Those who suggest that Obama’s criticism of the media heavyweight is a distraction from other pressing issues ought to remind the heads of Fox News what exactly the issues are: health care reform, corporate welfare, and the military escalation in Afghanistan. The organization has never been highly regarded for its investigative journalism, and frankly, I’d fathom that hardly anyone there has the intellectual curiosity to discuss and dissect the pressing issues at hand.

One can certainly give rational and legitimate criticisms about the president’s policies—and there are plenty—by using empirical evidence and sound judgment. But Fox’s idea of news content consists of scare tactics, Republican talking points, and attention to the most inane details. In order to have any constructive dialogue, the mainstream bystanders and passive supporters of Fox need to quit giving the big news bully a free pass.

Good things can grow outside Ontario

“Buy Ontario” is part of the $12.5-million Pick Ontario Freshness strategy aimed at increasing the demand for Ontario produce in both our stores and restaurants. It’s seductively crafted by policy-makers to ensure you, the consumer, feel healthier, and socially and environmentally virtuous. “If we buy Ontario, everyone wins, because we are supporting our farmers, processors, rural economy, environment, and ourselves with healthy food from here at home,” said Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. But does everyone really win?

Of course, buying local reduces packaging, increases bio-diversity, supports local small farmers, and minimizes energy consumption and pollution. But increasing the demand for Ontario produce may put foreign agricultural imports at a disadvantage, threatening the livelihoods of the people who produce them.

Many developing countries rely almost entirely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Even slight fluctuations in the market can have major socio-economic effects on these countries.

The economies of developing countries are already at a great disadvantage with regards to market access to Canada. Canadian farmers received approximately $3.3 billion in subsidies in 2008, according to the department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. And Ontario spent $717.1 million in direct subsidies to its farmers in 2008. Canada does not import very much from developing countries. In 2001, 0.1 per cent of our agricultural imports were from Africa and zero from the world’s least developed countries. Most of our agricultural imports are actually from the United States.

Some economists argue that buying local might benefit developing economies. By decreasing trade between the global north and south, poorer countries may be encouraged to trade with one another. Over time, this would promote sustainable agricultural development, food security, and a variety of other benefits.

But because of the current global economic set-up and the wonders of “free” trade, many developing countries actually import more than they export. Protectionist measures such as agricultural subsidies make it very difficult for a country like Uganda to sell its rice to Kenya or Mozambique. It’s much cheaper for Kenya to buy its rice directly from the United States. Buying local in Canada would thus only disadvantage these countries further.

These road blocks need to be removed in order to promote intra-regional trade between African nations. According to the United Nations African Recovery Program, African countries must first eliminate trade barriers within the African community for agricultural export to become viable. They must diversify their produce, increase agricultural development initiatives, include the informal sector in their economies, and improve transportation, infrastructure, and distribution. There’s a long way to go, but intra-regional trade is on the rise and it’s changing lives. However, until those road blocks are obliterated, many people in developing countries will depend heavily on international export opportunities for the bulk of their income.

It’s not just Ontario and Canada that are developing armies of locavores. The United States is also urging its citizens to buy local produce, and the boom in Europe is astounding. If this eating local trend continues to explode on a global scale, it could further marginalize and harm developing countries. Good things grow in Ontario, but great things grow all around the world, too.

Unleash the inner Iggy

Are Canadian politics dull? It’s a criticism lobbed at the folks in Ottawa on a regular basis and at those of us who are actively engaged in politics in this country. Canadians gaze longingly at the rough-and-tumble politics of our American neighbours. We hang “HOPE” posters of Obama on our walls, and secretly watch clips of Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann on Youtube. Canadian politics just aren’t as sexy. Even Stephen Harper believes as much, having recently admitted to the Toronto Star that he watches American newscasts exclusively.

Our lacklustre political situation is one of the reasons why I was so excited about Michael Ignatieff’s entry into politics. This is a man who has written 17 books, who has shown to possess an imaginative political mind, and has built a career thinking about matters of identity, human rights, and national projects. This is a man who has never shied away from controversy or bold statements on public policy.

In other words, I have always felt that Ignatieff had an inspiring political imagination. And nowhere is this more evident than in Luke Savage’s excellent interview, published by The Varsity, in which Ignatieff shows himself to be an eloquent and nuanced thinker on matters of federalism and national identity.

So what the hell happened? Why is Ignatieff sitting 15 points behind Harper, whose only capacity for political imagination is how to envision his next propaganda scheme to divide Canadians and dismantle our national institutions?

Former prime minister Paul Martin was at an event at U of T last week, and he offered some insight. I was used to Martin being dull, but at the talk, his ideas were compelling. Martin offered an inspiring vision for a truly global commitment to Africa, a commitment that has been abandoned by a number of Western countries including our own. He also offered a pragmatic and game-changing approach to how the government treats Aboriginal Peoples, and how through a number of initiatives—including an education project co-sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—Martin is continuing to make an impact out-of-office. Yet where was all this when he was Prime Minister?

When both men lamented on-stage that youth were not getting involved in politics, I asked if maybe the reason for the lack of interest was that our leaders aren’t giving us the kind of proposals that Martin had just outlined.

When Martin was prime minister, he was criticised on a daily basis for being dull. He was even called Mr. Dithers by The Economist. However, now that he’s out of office, he’s anything but.

Compare this with Ignatieff. If the Canadian news media is to be believed, the once-bold Iggy has become the hopelessly banal Iffy. Sound familiar?

But I have hope. Actually, I have a great deal of hope. The Liberal leadership has been shocked into action by the doomsday scenario in which they are currently living. It is time for the calls of columnists across the country to be answered, and for Ignatieff to present some bold policy proposals that will help Canadians recognise his national vision as one unmatched by other Canadian political leaders.

The risk-averse Liberal strategy that has characterised the past few months doesn’t work. Plain and simple. It’s time to be bold. And I have faith in Ignatieff, faith that he will stop deferring to cautious advisors. Faith that he will engage Canadians at the level where he is strongest: that of our political imagination.

The country’s most successful and time-honoured leaders have been the ones who have presented us with a vision for the future. They have known, as leaders, that Canadians need first to believe in it to see it. They know that our country is existentially rooted in a national vision.

When Ignatieff starts to engage Canadians at this level, I have no doubt that he will achieve enduring success.

Gabe De Roche is the president of Liberals at the University of Toronto

Oh, the places we’ll go

A Pentecostal church, the dance floor, and a high-end restaurant kitchen are a few of the settings for ethnographic research by anthropology students at UTSC. Field work isn’t just for grad students—after a successful pilot project conducted by the Centre for Ethnographies, it will be a requirement next year for the specialist program in anthropology.

The project had students conducting independent research in various Toronto locations. Last Thursday, five of them presented the highlights of their work at an ethnographic research seminar.

Students turned up a different side of familiar places. Fifth-year student Andree Vashit centred his research on challenging the assumption of Canadian multiculturalism on campus. Vashit found that many UTSC students felt more comfortable hanging out with those of a similar ethnic background, but they also have what he calls “cosmopolitan confidence,” being “better equipped to travel, work, and live in other countries based on their multicultural environment and cross-cultural experiences.”

The field work took students about a month to complete.

“I got a taste for research, and now I want more. Being able to have the opportunity to research and discover a topic I am passionate about at the undergraduate level is a dream come true,” said Vashit.

Henry Au, also in fifth year, titled his study “Nightclub Culture: Asian Events, Class, and Sexuality.” According to Au’s research, aside from giving students a chance to explore their independence and cope with stress, clubbing is a place to “reproduce their classist identity.” Clubs, he found, allows students to present themselves as the middle-class individuals they aspire to become. Au also introduced the concept of “Dance Floor Capital,” the ability to sustain the attention of the opposite sex. “Men have less Dance Floor Capital,” Au said during his presentation.

“I’m very proud of [the students], they’ve all done really good work,” said anthropology professor Girish Daswani. Along with professor Maggie Cummings, Daswani obtained funding for the project from the Student Experience Fund, set up by U of T in 2006 to enhance undergraduate experience. “The presentations show how talented and promising the new [undergraduate] scholars are,” agreed Cummings.

Student union holds mock GC meeting

If you don’t know much about U of T’s Governing Council, the U of T Students’ Union wants to loop you in. After GC cancelled its first meeting of the year saying it didn’t have enough business to attend to, UTSU decided to hold their own mock GC meeting in the Sidney Smith lobby last Wednesday. GC is the university’s highest decision-making council, and student leaders argued that their input is limited.

“Students have eight seats on [Governing] Council out of 50. If we do show up, we get outnumbered on any vote and all of the Governing Council decisions affect us in some way or another,” said Carol Rodrigues, who sits on UTSU’s Board of Directors as one of the Woodsworth College representatives.

On Wednesday, demonstrators played the roles of various GC members, giving a performance of how they saw this year’s implementation of flat fees for full-time arts and science students—that is, without any real say from the students directly affected.

Jessica Denyer, volunteer coordinator at the Sexual Education Centre, said she could easily think up multiple items for the GC to discuss. “Flat fees, the details on the current state of the endowment that were revealed by their Business Board, discussing the various programs being dismantled right now, the impact of the economy on admissions … that’s four just off the top of my head,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity.

UTSU filmed the mock meeting and intends to show it as widely as possible. “We’re hoping to raise awareness and have people really [get involved with] the Reform GC campaign, which we will be launching shortly,” said UTSU president Sandy Hudson.

After three elections, still no student president at Mount Allison

Mount Allison University has held three elections already. In April, the previously elected president resigned before entering office and the results of a September election were discarded due to ballot problems and appeals. A subsequent runoff election in October was also dismissed after neither of the two candidates was able to garner the 50 per cent plus one required to win.

Alex MacDonald, VP external of the council, notes that the perpetual elections have been taxing on students, particularly their patience and attention. “Student opinion has been fairly split all over the place, from what I gather. It seems like there are a lot that would just like it done and over with, and have a president,” MacDonald told the CBC. Pressured to “follow a very, very strict letter of the law,” McDonald has raised the possibility of a presidential election for a fourth and fifth time this year.

Reverse trick-or-treating

You know the drill. They ring the doorbell, say the line, and get their candy. But this Halloween, some trick-or-treaters may have given you a piece of chocolate back, with a card that has a bracing message about child labour in cocoa fields.

Reverse trick-or-treating has made its way to Canada from the U.S., though it’s still a “relatively small event in Toronto,” said Michael Zelman, director of communications at TransFair Canada, to the Toronto Star. A thousand chocolates were distributed in Toronto on Saturday.

San Francisco resident Adrienne Fitch-Frankel launched the campaign. She wanted to promote fair trade chocolates, which ensure fair wages and environmental stability.

According to Fitch-Frankel, “We are starting a new Halloween tradition.”