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Super Bowl's Strangest Play

This year's Super Bowl (number XLVIif you're Roman) saw one of the strangest things in sports. No, it wasn't the the winning coach's predictable Gatorade shower being replaced by chocolate milk, or multi-million dollar commercials being replaced by text-only ads. It happened at a very critical point late in the game. And it almost seems unreal when you think about it. The defence let the offence score a touchdown, and the offence tried not to. Huh? Let me explain...

With under a minute left in the game, and the New York Giants trailing the New England Patriotsby 2 points, the Giants made an impressive march down the field and were in scoring position. Announcer Cris Collinsworth noted that he would instruct any player heading to the end zone to score a touchdown to simply fall down on the one yard line and NOT cross the goal line. Why? With very little time on the clock, you not only have to manage the seconds required for your team to score, but also the seconds required for the other team to come back and score against you before time runs out. In this case, it might be better to keep the ball deep in Patriot territory, wind down the clock, and save the very last play to kick a chip-shot field goal for 3 points and the 1 point victory.

As I listened to the announcer, I thought it was a strange, although very creative, strategy. Sure enough, moments later the Giants ball carrier is heading to the end zone, seemingly untouched, putting on the brakes at the one yard line. In a strange twist of fate, his momentum carries him over the line backwards, and he accidentally scores a touchdown for his team. It all works out in the end, as New England never scores again, but it still seems like the Bizarro world of sports to me.

It got me thinking....when else does the offence try NOT to score, while the defence wants them to? It never happens in hockey, or soccer. In baseball, you often see them walk a batter, but I don't recall ever seeing them intentionally walking in a run. And if so, I can't imagine the team at bat trying to NOT let them do it. Perhaps basketball comes the closest, if one team lets the other score two points so they can quickly try and come back with a three-pointer. But again, I can't imagine the team with the ball trying not to score. Yet that's what happened in this crazy Super Bowl. New York didn't really want to score the touchdown, but the defence parted like the Red Sea and cheered him on. It was quite the sight.

One of the best things about sports is that sometimes the physical part gives way to the mental part. The coaches and their strategy really can have a positive impact on a game. Like a last minute stick measurement call by coach Jacques Demers against Marty McSorley that eventually leads to a Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup in 1993.

No matter how much you exercise your muscles to be a better athlete, don't ever forget to exercise your brain. Sometimes the best play you can make, is to think creatively.



The Great Canadian ZIP Code Secret

I was recently in the U.S. on business. As a Canadian, I travel there quite often, and generally feel quite comfortable. Americans are similar to Canadians in many respects, and let's face it fellow Canucks, we all grew up on American television, so we're more comfortable with American culture than our own (It was years before I realized that Canadian Thanksgiving didn't involve pilgrims). But with all our similarities, the one place I get my Canadian difference thrust in my face more than any other is ... believe it or not ... at the gas pump.

Sure we Canadians prefer litres to gallons, and our money uses multiple colours (yes, I said 'colours' with a 'u'), but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when I take my rental car to the gas pump for that final fill-up as I'm rushing like mad to catch my flight home, stick in my American Express credit card, and the gas pump smugly asks me for my ZIP Code! Sorry, I don't have one. Unfortunately, "no thank you" is not a valid answer to this question. The pump requires a five digit numeric code. In Canada, we have six character alpha-numeric Postal Codes in the form letter-number-letter-number-letter-number. The keypad at the gas pump won't accept a 'K' I'm stuck. Sure, occasionally I'll pull a fast one and enter one of the only two ZIP Codes that I know: 10001 (New York) or 90210 (Beverly Hills, of course). Usually, it just stares at me....and laughs...and then tells me to talk to the attendant. I saunter off into the booth while other patrons merrily fill up their tanks and drive away.

"Excuse me....I'm sorry...but...I'm Canadian, and don't have a ZIP Code".

This is usually followed by a stern look. The attendant then often asks me how much gas I want. How should I know how much gas my rental car used during my trip? I feel like I'm on the Price is Right or something. My strategy is to pick a number higher than the amount I'll actually use. Then I have to go back into the booth and beg for the difference to be returned to my credit card. When I fill out my expense report, I have to make sure both receipts are accounted for. If they don't ask me how much gas I want, they usually just tell me to leave the card with them while I pump, which frankly doesn't make me feel any better.

This inferiority complex and time waster has finally ended. For I now know the secret! And for the loyal readers of this blog, you're about to learn it too. (you're welcome)

It seems the ZIP Code question is a security check to ensure that the card matches the mailing address of the owner. The theory is that if a card was stolen, it would be less likely that the user would know the mailing address of the real owner, so they wouldn't enter a matching ZIP Code. The pumps are far from 'standard', so they're implemented in various ways, but in general, they stick to this algorithm. So what do you do if you have a six-character Postal Code instead of a five-digit ZIP Code? Here's the answer...

Take the three numeric digits from the Postal Code, and add "00" to make five digits. That's it, that's all! If your Postal Code is "Z1X 2Y3", then you would enter "12300". If you are Santa Claus and your Postal Code is "H0H 0H0", then you would enter "00000". Simple, eh? (Yes, we Canadians DO say "eh?" a lot).

This 'trick' was mentioned to me as I drove a colleague to the airport one day in my rental car. I wasn't sure if I believed him, but I was willing to test it. And I have. And it WORKS! Since pumps are programmed differently by each franchise, your mileage may vary (or should I say 'kilometerage' if I'm Canadian?) Anyway, it's worked for me every time!

So the next time you're pressed for time, in a foreign land, with no ZIP Code in sight, use this handy trick and the Americans won't be able to spot you. Of course, the beaver-skin hat and Tim Horton's coffee mug might be a bit of a giveaway.



2012 Resolutions

Welcome to the New Year!

2011 was another wonderful year in the paradise I live in. The world is full of problems, conflict, and tragedy, but by comparison, my life continues to be a blessing. There really isn't anything worth complaining about, it would all just seem too petty. So let's not look back, and stare straight ahead into 2012.

As is tradition for many people at the dawn of a new year, I'm going to make some resolutions. Often, New Year's resolutions are strictly a means to try and establish some ground rules for ones life. They are often 'broken' within the first week. I believe that you shouldn't wait until New Year's to adopt the lifestyle changes you desire, but it does have a sort of formal beginning to it, so it's as good a time to start as any. Here's mine for 2012...

  1. Kindness and Compassion - How many times do we step out of our own selfishness and really reach out to others? Really? The world is a collection of individuals living together in constant interaction. If we want the world to be a better place, then why not start by improving our own interactions with people? I'm struck by the words of the late 'King of Pop', Michael Jackson, who said "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change." Sounds like good advice to me. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture. Every time you keep someone else's best interests in mind, you create a better world for us all. No matter how small. My first 'tweet' this year wasn't a "Happy New Year" message. I had seen a tweet scroll by from a woman who was having a tough time with health problems in her family. I reached out and gave her my best wishes. Several hours later, she responded. I think it meant something to her that I had contacted her. I think in some small way it helped her. Was it worth the 30-seconds it took me to reach out? You betcha!

  2. Health - We have very little control over how long we live on this earth. No matter how much we might desire it, our time here is not entirely under our control. But there are some parts of the equation that rest with us. If you want to stay here for as long as possible, I would recommend driving carefully (and sober), looking both ways before crossing the street, staying away from abandoned elevator shafts, and not carrying a lit torch into a fireworks storage facility. And, oh yes, eat right and exercise regularly. They're all simple common sense, but faced with the choice to look after ourselves, we often turn a blind eye. Why? Our bodies are 'machines' that take in fuel in the form of food, and transfer it into energy in the form of heat, muscle movement, etc. Anything excess is simply stored as fat. If we think about both sides of this balance, we can easily improve the workings of the machine by giving it better fuel, and by giving it the ability to tone and improve its output. Both are equally important. Both need more attention. Both play an important role in keeping us on this planet, and with our loved ones, for as long as possible.

  3. Special Projects - What does that mean?'s not just about 'being', it's also about 'living' and 'growing' as people. If we do the same thing day in and day out, we really aren't expanding our horizons. I believe that our own mind is the greatest limiting factor in accomplishing something great. It can also be our most useful ally. If we set our minds to it, we can accomplish anything. And there are, no doubt, countless things that you've wanted to accomplish in your life, but kept yourself from them. I know I have a list of them. Even small ones. I have had an 'idea' for a simple video that I've wanted to create for many years. Too many years. I have everything I need to create it. The only thing I'm missing is enough self assurance to just do it. Perhaps I'm afraid that it won't turn out as good as I see it in my head. It needs to get done. I'm tired of carrying it around with me. Now's the time. On the 'grander' side of the scale, I have a very special project in mind. It involves some dear friends of mine. It could impact many others. I'm very excited about the possibilities. I'm excited about the adventure. I'm also scared. I think it might be what my life has been training me for. But what if I don't succeed? What does that say about me? It's time to find out by diving in with both feet. Stay tuned...I'll let you know, once my toes hit the water.

  4. Time Management - Time is critical to everything we do. How often have you said "I'll start that thing, as soon as I have the time"? There's more time than you think, it just takes a bit of management. Too much time is wasted doing trivial activities. To some, wasted time is spent watching TV, or playing video games, or sleeping. It doesn't matter how you waste it, the key is to recognize wasted time, re-prioritize it, and accomplish something with it. Keep a calendar, a daily agenda, a to-do list, whatever helps. Just stop wasting this precious commodity. I'm not yet having one of those I'm-middle-aged-and-time-is-running-out moments, but I still need to manage my time better. When you look at my entire list of resolutions, they all require time. I'll bet yours do too.

  5. Organization - Our house is generally neat and tidy. At least in the common areas. That doesn't mean that we always take the time to put things in their place. We've just become better at 'hiding' the clutter. The other day, I awoke to find my wife had organized a collection of papers all over our living-room rug. She had worked hard on it for hours. It was just a start, but it was a great one. I started pulling out papers from various drawers and cabinets. The massive filing task had begun! I went out and bought 250 file folders. We didn't need 250, but we needed to make sure running out of file folders would NOT be an excuse to delay the task. We came up with a re-filing strategy and got to work. It has taken days. It's now almost complete. When it's done, we will have accomplished something that needed doing, and we will feel good about it. I'm sure you have similar organizational tasks to accomplish. Now is the time to do them. This year, strengthened by our filing success, I plan to tackle our basement. When I see an episode of "Hoarders", I ask myself, "Who gave them permission to film in my house?" My basement is a collection of all those things we either genuinely thought we'd use someday, or never got around to throwing out. This year, they get the boot! There is a Salvation Army Thrift Store right beside a United Way not far from my house. Anything appropriate gets donated to them. Anything without value gets recycled or thrown out. I want my basement back! And the satisfaction that comes with reclaiming it.

Those are my resolutions for this year. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm sure you've got similar ones. I'd love to hear about them. Whether you're comfortable about sharing, or you simply want to attack a few insecurities in your life in a personal way, there is no time like the present. The new year gives you an opportunity to reflect on your life, and choose those things to work on. We all need to work on something. If you need some help with yours, just let me know and I'll see what I can do. And if you feel like cleaning out a basement full of junk, feel free to drop by and give me a hand.