A psychologist told me straight up years ago: Don't try and understand mental illness. Just be aware that it's almost everywhere.
That message, both complex and simple, comes to mind with the recent death of hockey player Rick Rypien. Neither his life, nor his death, can be easily quantified or explained.
He suffered from a form of depression -- as so many of us do -- and eventually succumbed to it. He did so with a life all too public and a hockey role that that had proven to be challenging and destructive on so many levels for so many players.
It can be no coincidence that deaths among young hockey players -- some drug-related, some depression-related, some alcohol-related -- have come from those who are employed to be the tough guy in today's game. In each of the deaths of Rypien at 27, Derek Boogaard at 28, and before that Bob Probert at 45 and John Kordic at 27 -- all men gone well before their time, all fought on the ice and fought personal demons off it -- there is an inate correlation between job description and personal problems.
There is nothing else like this in hockey. There is no list of young goalies gone, or young forwards of talent. But this is something both the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association must look at with a new-found vigilance.
What should happen first in hockey? The elimination of fighting or the elimination of designated fighters? That, and finding better ways to deal with mental illness inside the game, is the next real-life challenge inside the game.
THIS AND THAT
After a horrible 2-for-20 start with the Blue Jays, Colby Rasmus has demonstrated why Alex Anthopoulos was willing to give up nine organizational parts to get the centre fielder. Not only is he solid in the outfield, but Rasmus has hit .395 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs in 43 at-bats since settling in as a Blue Jay ... I fully understand the Jays wanting to lock up GM Anthopoulos long-term. The question is, knowing Anthopoulos, will he want a long-term deal? He is family man first, baseball man second. The way he talks, and knowing he's a workaholic, he's not likely to be a baseball lifer ... The way Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting in Las Vegas, he has to be a September callup with the Jays. Doesn't he? It won't be long before the Jays infield will consist of 21-year-old Brett Lawrie, 22-year-old Hechavarria and now the aging shortstop, Yunel Escobar, all of 28. All three acquired in different ways by Anthopoulos over the past two years ... Oh, to be at Sports Day at Maple Leaf Square on Saturday, just to get a shot at Richard Peddie in the dunk tank ... So, I have second pick in my fantasy football draft and am having trouble deciding between Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson (assuming he reports) and this year's flavour du jour, Arian Foster.
HEAR AND THERE
Eric Tillman stopped being a football genius the minute Fred Stamps went down with an injury ... Another strange aspect of Tim Connolly centring Phil Kessel: Connolly and Kessel both shoot right. If healthy, Matthew Lombardi, a left-handed shot, might be a better fit for Kessel. And Lombardi would be one of the few Leafs with Kessel-type speed ... If the American League season ended today, I'd have to vote for Curtis Granderson as the MVP. He's just a home run behind Jose Bautista, but leading the league in RBIs, runs scored, has 23 stolen bases, 10 triples and plays a mean centre field ... No genius, that Clinton Portis. He got a chance to work out for the New England Patriots, who love reclamation projects, and showed up out of shape ... If he wasn't a running back in New England, I suspect BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be my accounting firm of choice ... When you see Prince Fielder, you know he's Cecil Fielder's son. But I still can't get over the fact that big John Mayberry's son, John Mayberry Jr., plays centre field. Doesn't seem right ... So, if Chris Getzlaf makes the circus catch late Thursday night against the Argos, is Greg Marshall still coaching the Roughriders and would Jim Barker have replaced himself, or been forced to, in Toronto?
SCENE AND HEARD
I worry that Adam van Koeverden winning the K-1 1,000 metres at the world championship puts him in a favoured position for the London Olympics. Four years ago, the pressure of being a heavy favourite and the Canadian flag-holder in Beijing, ate up the impressive Canadian athlete ... The lobbying has started early. There are no signs the NHL will allow its players in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma is already lobbying for the head coaching job of Team USA ... It's nice the NHL runs a research and development dog and pony show every summer. But I'd be more impressed if years after Colin Campbell, Don Cherry and others publicly identified the problem of weapon-like equipment, something could be finally done about that. Maybe Doug Gilmour should bring his old shoulder pads to his Hall of Fame induction just to show what he played with. ... Another thing I don't understand: Why haven't the goalie gloves shrunk in size? Time was, you had to catch the puck. Now, the glove is so large the puck just hits it half the time ... Anyone who has been around minor hockey long enough has witnessed tournament games with 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 in overtime. Even 2-on-2. Funny to see the big boys stealing ideas from the little guys.
AND ANOTHER THING
Let's see if we have this straight: The only reason the Ponzi creep created the University of Miami football scandal is he was feeling hurt and dismayed in prison that none of the boys he bought lap dances for bothered to call or visit after he was incarcerated. Is that about right? ... The forever-injured Canadian pitcher Rich Harden has been unimpressive this season, except in two starts against the Blue Jays ... The new National Basketball League is a wonderful idea that has no chance of success or survival. I say that with the knowledge that I made exactly the same prediction when Toronto FC came to town. And I was only half right with my prediction. They have had no chance of success ... For those counting at the knockdowns, the boxing great, Floyd Mayweather Jr., is being sued for failing to pay bills, not making car payments, not paying rent for his office, having his staff beat up fans, for allegedly beating up a security guard who asked to see his ID, and all that has nothing to do with criminal charges he faces for grand larceny and lobbery. Said Floyd: "Everything is allegations." ... Born this date: Toe Blake and Billy Reay. And a happy birthday to Jim McMahon (52), Archie Griffin (57), Josee Chouinard (41, really, how is that possible?), Craig Counsell (41) and Clarence Williams III (72) ... And hey, whatever became of Ernie DiGregorio?
Fight? What Fight?
Just how the fight on the sidelines between Cory Boyd and assistant coach Mike O'Shea near the end of the Argos' second win of the season was covered says much about the place the Canadian Football League holds in Canada's largest city. Were the names and teams different, say it were a shoving match between Luke Schenn and a Maple Leafs assistant coach, how prevalent would it be in the news? How much time would that event take up on talk radio? How much newspaper space would be afforded the inner battle? Instead, there was little coverage and almost no reaction to a fight between the Argos' best player and best-known assistant coach. For O'Shea, fighting in games is nothing new. He's had more than a few of those in his career. But now as a coach, his responsibilities change. Speaking just for myself, but I'd care a whole lot more about the Argos if they were covered with same energy, vigor and enthusiasm that the Maple Leafs are.
The Marshall Firing
Greg Marshall waited 17 years and all those second-place finishes in interviews before getting his first head-coaching job in the Canadian Football League -- a job that ended up lasting all of eight games. Maybe Marshall, the long-time defensive coordinator, was passed over all those years for a reason. Whatever the reason was, the situation for him in Saskatchewan couldn't have been worse this season and it seemed as though he did little to aid the failing team. His eight-game span as a head coach -- career record 1-7 -- will rank as one of the shortest in league history. Will he ever get another head-coaching opportunity? Unlikely. But as Ron Lancaster once proved after starting his coaching career at 4-28, there can be hope. Lancaster coached 14 more seasons after being fired in Saskatchewan, although it did take him 11 years to get his second opportunity.
The UFC And FOX TV
Quick: Name the UFC heavyweight champion. If you're like me, and had to look up the name of Cain Velasquez, and then wonder who he is, you'll understand why it was necessary for UFC to get itself on mainstream television in North America. The seven-year deal it signed with FOX-TV is precisely the kind of arrangement that can help grow the hugely successful niche sport into more than merely niche. What UFC currently lacks is a crossover star -- a Hulk Hogan, Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky -- a face that everyone knows (and please don't tell me that's the extraordinarily dull Georges St. Pierre.) Clearly, with its first free television card, UFC and FOX have targeted boxing fans with their marketing. The Nov. 12 show happens to be on the same night the largest name in boxing, Manny Pacquaio, takes on Juan Manuel Marquez. The Pacquaio fight is on pay per view. The numbers will make a statement of sorts that night.