Dragon boating with the WWE Superstars for Special Olympics

 

So, as if my sporting life in Special Olympics couldn’t get any cooler, me and my friends just had our crossover episode with the Raw and Smackdown Wrestlers from WWE.  No, I’m not making this up.

Let me put you into my shoes for a second.  This is how I got the invite.  For the summer, I was given the opportunity to work as a Summer Student intern at SOO [second year!].  So, when this first got arranged, two of my full-timer friends dropped by my temporary section of the office to tell me about the event.

“Hey Callum”, they asked, “do you know the WWE?”

To which I responded [somewhat confused and also very intrigued], “Uh, yeah?”

My many burgeoning questions about why we were randomly talking about the WWE were met with, “Would you like to meet some of the WWE Superstars?”

To which I also responded [this time with great enthusiasm], “Uh, yeah!”

To give a quick background, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is visiting my city of Toronto for a 5 day period, to hold exciting events such as the Raw and Smackdown.  While the Superstars are traveling, they like to do stuff out in the community, allowing them to give back and see the places they’re visiting.

And frankly, what better way could they have done that than by calling Special Olympics Ontario to ask them for ideas?  Since kayaking/canoeing is a a new sport for us that is a little more exotic, hopping into a couple of massive things called Dragon Boats seemed like the perfect way to spice stuff up with the WWE crew.

This morning, while I was riding with my friend Jeff to the Dragon Boat practice, my phone rang from our other friend named Ben who got there early.  I picked up and Ben asked to putt Jeff on the phone.

“They’re here!” he said.

I should mention that both these guys are huge Wrestling fans.  I wish I had a camera to take the look on Jeff’s face when he was told that Becky Lynch [his favourite Star] was one of the Wrestlers attending our practice.  The excitement alone made the day worth it, on top of how pumped up I was myself.

Actually meeting them was also really cool too

 

Four WWE Superstars came out to practice with us.  They are:

*Tony Nese

*Ali

*”No Way” Jose, and

*Current Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch.

Also at the practice were some of the regular coaches and paddlers from the Balmy Beach Canoe Club [since the SO program is partnered with them] and–of course–Athletes from Special Olympics Ontario.  We formed groups that went into 2 different Dragon Boats, so we could all go out onto the water together.  I actually got lucky enough to sit next to Tony Nese, with Ali right behind me!

Of course, I knew it was going to be fun, but I didn’t have an idea as to just how much fun it would be.  The Wrestlers are really nice and genuine in person.  You can tell they love meeting fans and hanging out in the community.  They’re also just as goofy, boisterous and over the top in person as they are on TV, which is just plain amazing.  Some of the Athletes in SO [especially Jeff] have pretty outwards personalities as well, so there was a lot of celebrating, chatting, and friendly trash talking on and between our boats.

We actually did a fair amount of stuff while out on the water including a technique called “feathering”.  This was my 7th time going out on the water [I learn quickly], but my first time Dragon boating.  One of the Balmy Beach coaches explained how the technique, and I even gave my own tips to Ali and Tony.

While on the water, both boats looped around the entire Ashbridges Bay we have to explore, and we also rowed out to where the bay connects with Lake Ontario to get a beautiful view of the Toronto skyline.  This was the time for us to get our sea legs [it usually takes a few minutes sitting in a boat until you don’t feel like you’re about to tip], talk with each other and learn the finer points of canoeing like the Vikings used to.

By this point, we were all having a blast.  You could tell the Wrestlers were loving it as well, even though they had never rowed in a boat before.  Like Ali said, “It’s nature, trees, water, and exercise but relaxed.”  [I’m paraphrasing a little bit].

 

People on both boats had a great time

Then, the challenges started.  Our first challenge involved each pair of rowers to pass a paddle between each other.  Sounds easy, right?  Yeah, we were passing the paddles from under the boat.  Even though the water was a little colder than something you’d want to stick your hand into, it was a lot of fun, and helped me get more comfortable with balancing in the Dragon Boat.  At first, me and Tony Nese couldn’t even reach the other’s paddle, but then we started to get some rotations going.  A very interesting learning experience about team work.

We continued training, with the objective of beating the other boat in a race.  This is where that beautiful, signature WWE smacktalk started to rattle off between the Superstars.  My friend Ben joined in by saying that Ali doesn’t even have a championship, which made Becky and Jose laugh.  After getting ready, we did a straight race.  Uh… we lost, by a lot.  Dragon boating is hard, okay!

 

After that, we started to do the spin challenge.  This is basically to see which boat can turn around the quickest.  Dragon boats turn pretty slowly, so getting dizzy wasn’t the issue.  We lost… again.  Then we trained to turn faster.  During our second race, the other boat started turning so fast that someone on our ship asked, “How is are they even going that fast?”  That sent a jolt of energy into all of us–especially Ali–to paddle with all our might and synchronization to speed ourselves up and rotate into Victory!

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After some more chilling and screwing around in the boat, we set up for our 4th and final race.  A straight run again, uh oh.  We went a lot faster, but unfortunately still lost.  And y’know what?  The race was still awesome and a lot of fun.

I never thought I’d meet WWE Wrestlers, let alone be racing with and against them in a huge Dragon boat, leaning shoulder to shoulder on Tony Nese for balance, but it happened.  It was a once in a lifetime experience and I feel lucky I got to experience it with my friends from SOO.

The fun didn’t stop after we hopped out of the boats. Jeff and I got to interview the Superstars!  If you want to watch our conversation, I’ll link to the videos at the end of the blog.  Here are some of my favourite moments during the interview.

As we were talking to Ali, Tony Nese and No Way Jose, I asked them what their favourite part of being a Superstar was.

Tony spoke up and said it was the crowd: how they sound when he’s first walking out to a show.  They all agreed with that, and said that fans–especially those they get to see at meet & greets like today’s Dragon boating event–made up their favourite part of being in the WWE.  Jeff built on that, and got Jose talking about how he loves meeting kids who say that he’s their favourite Wrestler, and how much he enjoys being a role model for young fans.

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I also asked Becky Lynch what her favourite part of being a Superstar was.  Her answer was pretty similar to the guys: the fans and participating in the community.  Appreciation of the fans definitely runs through the WWE culture.  I then asked about the first thing I noticed about her, which was, of course, The Belt.  Obviously I talked about how cool it was, and may have also asked what I’d have to do to earn The Belt for myself.  Her answer?  “Well, you’d have to fight me for it.”

She can keep it

The other other thing that happened was that every Athlete at the practice got a pair of tickets to the Raw that night!

So, in case you didn’t notice, the WWE being in town is a pretty big deal.  A big enough deal that they performed in Toronto’s biggest indoor performance venue, the Scotiabank Arena.  As you can imagine, all of us Athletes who attended the Dragon boat were pretty stoked about getting a free entrance to the spectacle of Raw.  Even better: we had pristine seats, in the 100 section.

This was my first ever Wresting event, and let me tell you, going with some close friends of mine who are WWE fans [and also walking hype machines] in a classy set up, after having met some of the big stars, is definitely the dream way to get introduced to the sport.  Honestly, Wrestling is sooooo cool to watch, especially in person.  Here are a few of the many awesome moments from last night that WWE fans tend to label “HOLY S@%!”

Usually, anything that runs for 3 and a half hours [7:30 to 11:00] starts to drag at a certain point, but not Wrestling.  The entire show is broken up and always finding new ways to keep you pumped, and each fight leaves you constantly guessing who will come out on top.  It was actually a bonus that the Raw went on for so long, because it was more time to have fun with The Stars, The Fans and The Guys.

I’d like to give a huge shout out to all the people who made this possible: A thousand thank yous to the Superstars who took time aside to come out to meet us, and their WWE Handlers, along with all the great people at Special Olympics International and Special Olympics Ontario who came together to make all of this possible.  As promised, here is the interview footage.

Special Olympics Ontario athletes Callum and Jeffrey interviewing @WWE Superstars [me and Jeff interviewing Tony Nese, Ali and Jose]

SO athlete Callum & WWE [me interviewing Becky Lynch]

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The Raptors are Winning Game 5

As an aspiring sports writer, I’m afraid I haven’t been very good at my job these last 4 weeks.  Like many residents of the chaotic, workaholic, big city that has recently made a lot of headlines–Toronto, aka The 6 or the thing that lies underneath Steph Curry’s bed–I’ve allowed my school, work and other very important commitments to get in the way of the things that truly matter.  But today, tonight, The Raptors are the only thing that matters.  I’ve waited too long for this to do anything else but be there for Game 5.  We all have.

The story of the Toronto Raptors, and how they got to here, is quite honestly something that will likely be made into a movie sometime in the future.  If not, then it should be.  For many years, we have been a consistently above average team that was frustratingly just shy of achieving greatness.

Season after season we’d put up respectable stats that matched many of our NBA’s contemporaries–earning Raps fans the honoury right to pick on every baller’s favourite target for teasing, the Clippers–but we would always collapse during the Post Season.  Shots would miss, calls wouldn’t go our way, players would get frustrated, and then Lebron would come knocking on our door to LeSweep us.  As someone who watched the Raptors for years, and idolized them as my all-time favourite players–on and off the court–it would be heartbreaking to see them get humiliated like that.

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DeMar Derozan’s shoes in their special place, featured prominently in my room.  And no, I haven’t ever worn them, especially not out in public where the ground is dirty.  What kind of monster would do that?

This season started very dramatically.  DeMar Derozan, one of the perennial favourites of the Toronto Raptors, beloved by countless fans [including myself; not to brag but I do have a pair of shoes with his signature on them] was traded.  Along with Jonas Valancuinas, Jakob Poltl, C.J. Miles and others.  Dwayne Casey was voted NBA’s coach of the year the same time he was fired!  To a lot of Raptors fans [again, including myself] it felt like nothing less than a betrayal.  But, the trades got us the athletes and coaches we needed to get this far.  While DeRozan and Casey built the foundation of the Toronto Raptors–and they will always have a special place in Toronto’s heart because of that–it was Leonard, Gasol, Green and coach Nurse that brought us to the next level.  They took that foundation and brought it to Finals.

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DeRozan referred to himself as Toronto’s“sacrificial lamb”, discussing how he helped build The Raptors to where they are today, and implying that the trade was also necessary for them to reach the finals.  DeMar is also rooting for his old team–which includes his best friend Kyle Lowry–to win the series.  Image retrieved, https://www.slamonline.com/archives/demar-derozan-raptors-deserve-play-christmas-day/

But enough about that.  If you’ve been following the NBA, then you know that story.  It’s old news.  It’s the huge gamble that paid off, or, has almost paid off, tonight playing a key role in just how successful the switch-up was.

As a Raptors fan, I’m honestly just ecstatic that we made it this far.  I’ve been announcing my fav team’s success to practically everyone that I know.  Toronto is abuzz.  As a city, we’re not exactly new to being in the finals, or even winning.  In Canadian Football, the Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup in 2017, which was the same year that the Toronto FC won the MLS Cup.  The Argos also lead the entire CFL in Grey Cup wins.   Ask any fan of these sports, and they’ll let you know that those W’s were pretty big deals.  But the Raptors?  This is something else.  It’s not just on the court and in the sports columns of the daily newspaper that is feeling the hype.  It’s the entire city.

I was refereeing at a Tae Kwon Do tournament last Saturday.  During one of the few breaks I had to actually talk with someone platonically, one topic of conversation that immediately came up was the Raptors.  Oh, and the tournament organizers were also selling Raptors gear, to practitioners of a martial art not typically associated with basketball.

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Not that Draymond Green doesn’t have the talents for both.

Everywhere you look, people are wearing Raptors gear.  Frankly, I think basketball is bigger in this city than hockey.  Toronto has a huge culture centered around the game, arguably more involved than a lot of other NBA cities.  I mean, how many other cities have a literal crowd of people standing outside the stadium just to watch the game on a big screen?  Let alone a crowd as big, and loud and supportive to actually cheer for their favourite players, no matter how desperate those players might get during a bad game?  Compare Jurassic Park to the courtside Warriors fans who left before the game was over, because their team was losing and had a slim hope of coming back.  That says a lot.

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Fans like these help their teams.  Fans that walk out from court-side before the game is over hurt their teams.  Don’t forget that players are still people, they have feelings too, which is why a loving fanbase can mean a lot to them during a hard season or 3.

I think I know why Toronto has seemed to be more invested in The Raptors than our city’s other, oftentimes equally successful sports teams.  In Canadian Football, the other teams are only from Canada, and there aren’t really any Canadian rivalries that fuel anyone’s passion [except Montreal and Toronto, that gets ugly], so The Grey Cup is essentially just about trying to be the best in a very clean, fun sport.  The same applies to any other mostly Canadian sport.

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Legend says that the rivalry between these 2 great Canadian cities began when a hitch-hiker from Montreal got in the car with a driver from Toronto.  When Drake’s latest autotuned song played on the radio, the man from Montreal politely asked the man from Toronto to change the channel so they could both listen to some real music.  Things have never been the same since.

Where there is a big rivalry is between the United States and Canada.  When it comes to anything between these two nations, passions flare as representatives of the two try to prove which one is better.  Only Canadians will admit that there’s a rivalry though, because a lot of American culture seems to be dedicated to ignoring our existence, unless it’s for a joke.  If you ask an American about Canada, they’ll likely go “oh, it’s cold there right?”, or “don’t they say eh a lot” or “can you say a-boot for me?”  If you ask them about what our culture’s like, our politics, our history, they’re clueless.  Despite the fact that virtually every Canadian knows the significance of Independence Day, Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover and the 1st Amendment, Americans tend to conveniently forget about their northwards neighbours.

I think a lot of it [and this will wrap around back to basketball, I swear] is because, objectively, we’re a better nation.  I’m not even to mention that thing that’s running the White House right now, or the white supremacist movement because both would be low-blows.  Canada has socialized healthcare.  We welcome immigrants and have built our culture around embracing difference, not trying to strip it away in a “melting pot”.  Our citizens have longer life expectancy than Americans, and a statically higher quality of life too.  You can smoke weed here!

Winter Storm,

There is no downside to living in this country whatsoever!

As for the United States, which touts itself as being The World’s Only Remaining Superpower [that buys all their goods from China] and the Best Nation in the World, having a neighbour like Canada can be really frustrating.  Better to just ignore them, and make fun of their sh!tty basketball team.   And Toronto’s hapless hockey team.  Also, both nations silently agree not to boast too much about our prowess in soccer, because every 4 years is when the World Cup comes around to show us who’s really the boss.  As someone with experience playing soccer on the world stage, I too take part in this agreement.

But now, the story has flipped.  The Raptors have been on the rise, and when a team is consistently at the top of its conference, you have to talk about it.  When the NBA’s biggest and most promising superstar moves to Canada, you have to talk about it.  When an otherwise all-American league’s only foreign team comes to your superteam’s city and destroys them in their own home court, you better be talking about it.

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Kyle Lowry was practically blushing when a kid reporter from CBC called him a “Canadian icon“.

The reason why the Toronto Raptors are so popular, aside from the fact that Toronto loves a good game of hoops, is because they represent not just a city, but a nation.  A nation which has a friendly, not too serious but oftentimes aggrevating rivalry with its one and only neighbour.  A neighbour that’s the reason we all measure things in a weird combination of feet, inches and kilometres.

As for why I think the Raptors will win tonight?  We’re up 3-1, and even if Durant plays tonight, he’ll be coming off an injury and a month without practice.  They’d be fools not to make him a bencher, and straight up unfair if they expect him to play like his usual beast self.  The Raptors beat the Warriors in two games when they should have had home court advantage, which is just plain demoralizing.  And even if we lose this, we will win the series.  So… to all my fellow Americans and Canadians that are reading this [as I am a duel citizen], just remember one thing as we watch the last NBA game of the 2019 season.

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#WeTheNorth

 

 

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Quick Update: The Youth Games are here!

So, there’s a few loose ends I should tidy up.  This is gonna be one of those quick posts that just covers a few things while I still can.

The movie that’s gonna blow James Cameron out of the water

First, just to follow up on last post, I have seen Avengers: Endgame.  In short, I found it really enjoyable, and they definitely did a good job of making a beautiful sort of end to the last ten years of Marvel, with one hell of a payoff for longtime fans.  I don’t want to spoil things by talking about my predictions, but let’s just say that they had enough curve-balls to keep me and everyone else in the theatre on our toes, regardless of how much I “got right” or not.

Special Olympics Ontario Youth Invitational Games

Second, and frankly much more important: The Youth Games.  Remember that post I made that said they were 5 months away?  Yeah, that’s now less than 24 hours.

Because I live in Toronto, it’ll be a lot easier for me to get to than other international competitions.  Basically a streetcar and/or subway ride away easy, since I’m involved with the Unified College/University Basketball games which are downtown on Ryerson’s campus.  Me and the other locals will still be staying in the dorms, because it’s part of the experience and it just makes everything easier.  I’m really looking forward to this, if that wasn’t obvious, and I have a feeling it’s gonna be a blast.

If you want to watch the Youth Games’ Opening Ceremonies, TSN will be livestreaming it on any device that has access to their content.  There’s also more general information about the Games/Opening Ceremonies here.

I’ll also be blogging on the Games after they’re completed.  I might have a special way of going about that… but we’ll have to see how things turn out.  The post will be coming soon either way.

Other Basketball stuff I’m doing

I recently got involved with another form of basketball competition.  It’s still developing, so I don’t wanna say too much as of right now, because it would only be appropriate to post about it after the whole thing is done.  That will likely be months from now.  Yeah, it’s a long haul kind of situation.  What I can say is that it’s really competitive, I’ve joined it with a few friends from my regular basketball team, and it’s so far proved to be pretty eye opening.  In a good way.

There may be a research paper coming out on this blog

This is another [albeit just as much out of left field] thing that I can’t go into too much.  Suffice to say, it’s part of my school.  Unlike last time, it’s not a requirement that I post my work to here.  Instead, it’s part of how I have chosen to go about my current school assignment.  It’ll be a cool little thing–unrelated to Autism, for the most part–for you guys to read if interested, and it might hopefully bring some extra traffic to this blog as well.

 

That’s about it

If nothing else, The Youth Games are the big takeaway from this update, and the fact that I have seen the new Avengers movie in all its glory.  I’m sorry for being so vague and secretive on the last two points, hopefully you can understand my reasoning.  The basketball thing–like I said–is still developing, so it’s too soon to call things with a post just yet.  As for the school project, I have asked permission to post this content publicly online, and they gave me the go ahead so long as I waited until after the project was marked by my teacher.  Since I have yet to even finish said project, that’ll be a little while from now, so I’m just being cautious.

Well, yeah, the Youth Games are tomorrow so, I’m going to rest up and go out to have a great time on and off the court!

 

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My Avengers: Endgame Predictions

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So, this is one of the posts that doesn’t really have much to do with Autism, but… I really want to write this!  While most movies would’ve been too insufficient or tangental to discuss in a personal blog, I think The Avengers is different.  It’s a global thing, that all of us are experiencing.  I mean, look at the fantastic pro-African cultural movement that Black Panther spearheaded.  Look at how many times Marvel keeps breaking global box office records.  You could go up and talk to people in Japan, India, or those 6 dudes/ladies hanging around the International Space Station and they’ll have thoughts on how shocking the ending of Infinity War was.

Plus, I really want to have a record that I was right, and totally called things before the movie came out.

Also, MASSSIVE F%CKING SPOILERS! FOR LIKE, THE ENTIRE MCU BEFORE THIS!  PROBABLY ENDGAME AS WELL BECAUSE I’M TOTALLY RIGHT!

Captain Marvel will take on an entire army [and only an army]

 

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Deus Ex Machina: an old plot device from Ancient Roman plays where a God from the Pantheon–played by an actor on a rope–would show up to save the heroes from an impossible situation.  These Gods typically had no role in the story up to this point, making them a cheap, outside factor.  You can read more about it here.

Ok, there’s a lot of controversy [vitriolic, misogynistic hate] surrounding Brie Larson and her character, and I’m just gonna gloss alllll over that.  I’m not here to talk about what she may have said, what others may have said back, or who supposedly has some nasty agenda.  Not my wheelhouse.

I will say that I was a bit skeptical of Captain Marvel coming out after Infinity War and before Endgame.  Especially because she’s supposed to be the most powerful superhero.  To me, I feel like the core conflict–Marvel’s heroes vs Thanos–should be resolved internally.  As in, we had 10 years developing all these characters and building up their antagonist, so the resolution to everything should come from what we’ve already seen before Infinity War.  Having a last-minute juggernaut show up felt a little too close to a Deus Ex Machina for my liking.

But, I also have faith in the people who wrote these movies.  Y’know, the ones who have been setting box office records, and turned an omnicidal maniac into a surprisingly deep and sympathetic character [even though, the more you analyze his plans, you see that he’s tripping monkey balls].  So, Captain Marvel is super powerful–that’s already been established and should be consistently shown here–and she’s helping the good guys.  But, it would be cheap and anti-climatic if she killed Big Baddie Thanos after having no interaction with him prior. So, what do the writers do?

Have her deal with the big obstacle leading up to Thanos, freeing our more familiar heroes to take him on by themselves.  Captain Marvel gets her badass moment taking on a huge army [or giant monster, whatever], proving her necessity to the plot, but also gets too tied up to kill the big purple man by herself.

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“Flying God from ancient Myth shows up in the third act to save everybody.”  Hmmm, that sounds familiar

Adam Warlock won’t show up either

There’s a fan theory that Adam Warlock–a heroic character that’s possibly even more powerful than Captain Marvel–will appear and take the fight to Thanos himself, straight from the comics.  A throwaway line from Guardians of the Galaxy hinted at his return, and as we know with Marvel, they don’t do throwaway lines for nothing.

I don’t think he’ll show up just yet, however.  If he does, it’s either to deal with a new villain showing up in Endgame, or he’ll have a bit part like Dr. Strange did in Thor: Ragnarok.  My reasoning is because having him suddenly appear and pose a major threat to Thanos would be equally as anti-climatic as Captain Marvel doing him in [unless the whole movie is about seeking out/summoning this mythical Adam].

There’s gonna be an Antman/Thanos joke

 

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This is tame.  Others suggested Ant-Man crawl up where the sun don’t shine.  Hope that suit has a gas mask.

So, a popular meme has been going around about one way to kill Thanos.  I think it’s popular because a lot of people [including myself] have wondered this after learning that Antman will show up in Endgame.  Can’t Antman just shrink and go inside The Mad Titan’s ear/nose/butthole, only to suddenly expand, killing him?  Logically, it wouldn’t work: aside from being as anti-climatic as Captain Marvel killing Thanos, Antman would also die from being crushed by the Titan’s super-strong body [god that sounds wrong].  But, Marvel is full of humour, and the actors themselves have made jokes about this theory, so why not add a gag-line?

Black Widow is grieving too/Why Hawkeye won’t be Robin-Hooding anymore

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The face of a broken man.  A dangerous broken man.

So, everyone who’s still alive lost an important friend/family member.  Hawkeye, whose super power is disappearing during really important battles, is shown in the Endgame trailer.  It is strongly implied that he lost his family in the Thanos Snap, catalyzing his transformation into a katana-wielding edgelord.

But, in Age of Ultron, we learned that Hawkeye’s family is Black Widow’s family as well [the two are best friends and his kids referred to her as “Aunt Nat”].  So, they’re all grieving.

Also, in one of the later Endgame trailers, we saw Hawkeye teaching his teenage daughter how to shoot a bow and arrow.  I think this is the exact moment The Snap happened, and when he watched her turn to dust.  This was probably too traumatic a memory for him to be an effective archer anymore, which is why he no longer carries a bow.

Hope you have tissues.

Gamora and the dusted people didn’t actually die

So, Reddit made a cool subreddit [if you don’t know what these things are: social media website and chatroom, respectively] called https://www.reddit.com/r/thanosdidnothingwrong/.  On July 9th of last year, they re-enacted the Thanos Snap by randomly banning half of all the subreddit’s subscribers.  Those who were “killed” by this “snap” joined a new subreddit called https://www.reddit.com/r/InsideTheSoulStone/.

While it may just be true for reddit, I think that’s where the victims of Thanos’ snap went in the movies as well.  It would provide an easy way to undo the events of Infinity War [we know that happens because Spiderman and Black Panther just couldn’t wait to advertise their new movies], other than time travel which admittedly may also play a role.

We may have even seen the soul stone.  Remember when Thanos talked to the child version of Gamora after he snapped his fingers?  Some fans believe that he actually died and went into the Soul Stone, but more on that in my next–and arguably biggest–prediction.

Iron Man Dies

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“Mr. Parker, I don’t feel so good”.  Also, don’t panic, this is from the scene when he asks for Shwarma.

Okay, this is kinda complicated, so hear me out.  Let me start by saying something pretty obvious: Iron Man is key to beating Thanos.  Remember how Dr. Strange gave up the Time Stone in exchange for sparing good ol’ Tony, because he somehow factored in to the 1 out of 14 million possible futures where The Avengers win?  Yeah, that’s part of my argument.

There’s also a genius fan theory I found that may or may not be relevant to my own idea.  You can watch its original video here.  The crux of it is that Thanos is even stronger than we’ve been lead to believe, because Soul Stone.

Even if we disregard that, it’s clear that Thanos is pretty near unbeatable even with a damaged Gauntlet.  He’s big, he’s bad, he probably still has some army left [not all of them died in Wakanda, or from The Snap], and he still has all six Stones.  Now, the theorist I linked to has his own idea about how The Avengers win–which hinges on the Soul Stone’s temperament–but I have a different, arguably simpler and more poetic way.

They don’t kill Thanos, they don’t take the Stones from him, and they don’t beat him in conventional battle.  The Avengers convince him that he is wrong.

In Infinity War, Thanos and his army would travel the universe, wiping out 50% of every populated planet they came across.  This was part of Thanos’ ridiculously over simplified and insane ideas on resource allocation.  He thought it made things better, but as we see in the Endgame trailers, Earth has become an empty, depressed shell of its former self.  Because that’s what happens when half of your engineers, farmers, scientists, politicians and livestock suddenly die, and the other half are too busy grieving to keep the trains running on time.

Whereas before, when Thanos left the worlds he culled behind him, the effects of this devastation are everywhere.  He can’t escape the reality of his actions.  But, being a stubborn sonofab!tch, he’ll ignore it.  “They will move on,” he’ll say, “things will get better in a couple of generations.”  Even though they won’t.

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Thanos never watched Life After People, in other words.

This guy is grieving.  He lost all but one of his children.  He’s killed the very people he was trying to save, and knowingly inflicted his grief onto an infinity of suffering, alien souls.  His only way of coping is bull-headedly convincing himself that he was right.

We know he respects at least some of adversaries.  We know he respects Iron Man: Thanos outright said it.  He probably likes Tony, and maybe would’ve liked to have been friends with him, in different circumstances.  Imagine if Thanos got this man killed during the final battle: another tragic loss due to his actions.  It would break him.  It would make him see the light.  He’ll snap his fingers one last time, and bring back all those lives trapped in the Soul Stone.

But not Iron Man.  He wasn’t dusted, so he’ll die a conventional death.  In my opinion, if Robert Downey Jr. is going to retire from his role as Iron Man, this could be a beautiful and respectful way of honouring his part in 10 years of Marvel movies.

Oh, and as a final piece of evidence to my theory.  Watch the trailer for Spiderman: Far From Home.  A lot of Parker’s old friends and family return, even Happy Hogan.  Isn’t it weird how Tony isn’t anywhere to be seen?

The Infinity Guantlet and/or The Infinity Stones get destroyed

Okay, quick last thing, I just realized something.  If The Avengers win [either by turning Thanos to the good side, or just defeating him], they’ll get the gauntlet.  Then, one of them [probably Thor or Dr. Strange, maybe Black Panther or not-dead Iron Man] will be put in charge of it.  Then every movie involving that character which comes out in the coming years will be plagued by the commonly asked fan question, “Why doesn’t [whoever owns the Infinity Guantlet] just use the Infinity Guantlet?”

So, obviously the Guantlet gets written out.  Maybe the second Snap to bring everybody out of the soul stone does it in–I mean, the Guantlet was already pretty fried when Thanos used it to wipe out half the universe, and you could practically hear the Soul and Mind Stones screaming in over-taxed agony.  Or, one of the goods guys–possibly a recently-turned and horrified Thanos–decide that the Gauntlet is too dangerous to keep around, so they destroy it themselves.  Good guys tend to do that a lot in movies: destroying villainous tech that would be supremely useful to them.  I guess it just makes things fairer for the new bad guys, gives them a chance to shine without getting Snapped.

 

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This is what happens when you unplug your PS4 while it’s installing a new update, even though the words on the screen said NOT to!

Maybe I’m full of Sh!t

Maybe Captain Marvel beats Thanos to a living pulp and finished him off by giving him a wet willy with Antman on her finger. Maybe everyone but Iron Man dies.  Maybe I’ve ruined Endgame for you by promising a totally different experience than what the movie actually is.  That’s what I’m worried about.

Look, I have my ideas on how the movie will/should go, you have your ideas on how it should end, somewhere in the middle is the actual product.  I think a big problem with movies today is people go in with their expectations set too damn high, only being satisfied if they see things exactly as it panned out in their imaginations beforehand.  I think Star Wars has a big problem with this, since people expect the new, completely average films to wow and shock everybody.

Avengers: Endgame isn’t going to be perfect.  It isn’t going to be bad.  Avengers: Endgame is going to be what it’s going to be.  Let’s clear our minds of any expectations, ignore the bumps, and enjoy the ride.  And we’ll share the experience–whatever it is–together, as a world of movie-lovers.

But, I was totally right, wasn’t I?

Rest in Peace Stan Lee.  You were a wonderful man, with a beautiful imagination.  Thanks for the countless hours of inspiring, thrilling entertainment you’ve provided us.  We will remember you.

 

 

 

 

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The Special Olympics 2019 World Games are here!

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4 Years in the making, The Games are here.  Image retrieved, https://www.abudhabi2019.org/

Just saw the Opening Ceremonies on TV [bless whoever invented DVR], and they were a-mazing.  Seriously, they were way better than I expected.

First off, the United Arab Emirates really put on a show.  More so than they would have needed to in order to look like they cared.   Which means they actually cared.  From the quality of showmanship and presentation I saw on TV, I can say to you that the Emirati people behind this saw no distinction between hosting a Special Olympics event compared to a “real” Olympics event: the Special Olympics is just as important to them.

As a disabled person, it’s so incredibly validating to see.  We’ve moved beyond tokenism, and into genuine acceptance.

The second thing that impressed me was how many nations showed up, and the diversity of the countries represented.  Every corner of the globe [except Antartica, poor penguins] was shown.  Asia, Europe, The Americas, Oceania and Africa all had numerous teams sent, including lots of those tiny island nations/commonwealths you’ve never heard of before.

A lot nations sent large teams of Athletes which, frankly, I wouldn’t have thought would be a part of Special Olympics, based on what I know of the world–and think of certain countries–as a Westerner.  I know that sounds prejudiced [it is] but I think it’s important I say that.

A lot of us Canadian/American/British people don’t expect much out of certain nations because they’re different than us and they may have some kind of issue(s) we don’t struggle with.  So we start to make negative assumptions about someone else’s culture.  And then we grow a stupid gut feeling that some parts of the world will never have a culture which accepts people like myself, people with Intellectual Differences.

Then seeing that nation or culture do something unselfishly positive–like taking part in the Inclusivity Movement of Special Olympics–it makes you challenge those assumptions.  It made me realize that no matter what part of the world you go to, people still hold the same values.  And they act on those values, not in spite of their culture but because of it.  That’s why Special Olympics was able to go global: it’s not just a luxury enjoyed by those living in geographically elite, privileged nations.  It’s everywhere.  Equity has transcended culture, and the false, degrading traits we have associated with national borders.  Truly, watching the World Games was eye opening to me.

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The amount of people in the stands alone was mind-blowing to me.  Image is screen-cap of a video, time stamp 307:27. Retrieved, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zjaTIkKGNws

The inclusion of 3 teams–2 nations and a commonwealth–particularly inspired me.  I’m not saying that I ever thought anything bad about these parts of the world, quite the contrary, but their ability to send Athletes to these Games is nothing short of a triumph in the face of adversity.  I’m talking about Syria, Haiti, and Puerto Rico.

Syria, of course, has been undergoing war for years, and has what one might call a “corrupt” government.  Haiti is dealing with a severe poverty crisis, which the earthquake made worse.  Puerto Rico lost power, infrastructure, and people to a hurricane before essentially being abandoned by the U.S. government.  Yet all of them set aside time, resources, and affection to be spent on people who needed it, for a good cause.

In my eyes, the fact that struggling parts of the world sent Intellectually Disabled Athletes on an expensive trip to a really fun sports competition sends a message to their own people, and the world.  Through doing this, the Syrians, Haitians and Puerto Ricans involved are saying, “After all we have been through, we still can love unconditionally.  Despite being put through the worst things that Nature, God and Humanity can do to us, we will still take look after those who aren’t the strongest, and give help to those who need it.  Even when we’re fighting to survive, we will do our damnedest to help those who are fighting harder.  And, we will always have our fun.”

That’s not what they said, of course.  It’s what I thought they said.  The message that popped into my head watching the TSN stream.

So, to the Special Olympians of every nation that was represented at the Games, thank you.  Thank you for doing what you do best, being yourself, and showing the best possible side of your home countries.  Thanks for proving that humanity isn’t nearly as screwed up and evil as many people–including myself–think that it is.  Thanks for the dream that single-handedly put me and countless others on the path towards self-improvement.

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A soccer [foot] ball.  It is so simple, yet somehow does so much.  Over 1,000 Athletes in Abu Dhabi are there for soccer [football].  Image retrieved, http://kickthescale.com/mordy-the-soccer-ball/

I didn’t make it to the Games in Abu Dhabi, but maybe I’ll be at the next one.  Even if I don’t, the journey will be more than worth it, because the destination will assuredly be a great one.

By the way, when I said “Special Olympian”, I was including the non-Disabled people who made the journeys of those Athletes possible.  Even the bus driver who is as courteous and polite towards a passenger with Down Syndrome as she is to every other person she meets in life.  That’s what they mean by Inclusion.  It means coming together to forget about all the bad stuff, to build something better.

Writer’s notes

Yeah, the post is over.  Could have ended like 3 or 4 times before, but I don’t know when to quit.  Uh, this is just stuff I wanted to say on why I wrote the post the way I did.  It was a bit weird, so I felt I could clear some ambiguity.

I know some parts of this post were a bit… darker, and more political than normal for something in relation to Special Olympics.  Especially considering the more positive and joyous message that SO represents itself with.  That felt sinfully wrong, but, those traits are part of me, they’re how I see the world.  I don’t like that but, I don’t like a lot of things about myself.  Like my receding hairline, or the freckled skin that turns painfully red after 3 seconds of sun exposure.

In seriousness, my experience and view of the World [with a capital W] would likely be a lot more gray if it weren’t for Special Olympics and organizations like them.  If it weren’t for people like those who work in Special Olympics and organizations like them.   Since I was talking to you about an SO event I was watching–instead of participating in, like most of these blog posts–I guess I finally saw that in myself.

That’s why… I said “thank you” 3 times.  Because it’ll never be enough.  But I can try to repay those who helped me by spreading their message, and understanding it myself.  By becoming a little less prejudiced, and a little less dark, day by day.

#SpecialOlympics2019 #SpecialOlympicsWorldGames #SpecialOlympicsAbuDhabi

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Other people’s nostalgia: the most annoying emotion ever

Alternate title: Remember the good ol’ days when society didn’t pander to people’s fond memories of boring, trite shit?

Okay, obviously the title is a bit of an exaggeration, given that–y’know–anger and hatred have done a lot more terrible things for the human species than nostalgia has, but I’m not saying nostalgia is atrocity-free, as I delve further into my madness-fueled ramblings.  Merriam-Webster defines it as either homesickness, or “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition”.  Geez Merriam-Webster, that was needlessly vicious.  Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Most of the time, getting into nostalgic conversations with people is pretty enjoyable, sometimes boring, but always a little cute if nothing else.  Like listening to older people discuss their favourite early to mid-20th century era movies, and the impact they had in terms of story, special effects, and magnificent acting chops.  Their memories of that time period are about how wonderous it was to have a window into parts of the world, in their very own living room.  As someone who did not live in that time–looking at it only retroactively–my thoughts tend more towards how it takes my eyes around 10 minutes to adjust to a black and white movie, and wondering why every audio recording of any man’s voice from before the 1970’s sounds like Superman talking into a tin can.  Truly we each live in our own worlds.

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Also, why does the Wizard of Oz look so much better than movies made 20 years later?  Image credits, https://reneelouise21.wordpress.com/dorothys-day-with-the-wizard-of-oz/

Like everything in the world, nostalgia is good in an appropriate dosage.  A little bit re-establishes your history, and brings some warm comfort.  A lot can be bad, it might to someone taking drastic, questionable measures to make their nation great “again”, or worse, make a career out of satirizing popular movies on YouTube.

Movies.  Movies, movies, movies.  I was going to go somewhere with that.

Ah yes!  You notice how basically everything that comes out in theatres is a remake, sequel, prequel, adaptation or other form of plagiarism inspiration of a previous work?  It’s logical: less creative effort, capitalizing on nostalgia as a marketing ploy, and if people keep buying it, it works.  So as an internet and media-based culture, we’re constantly being bombarded with coldly designed, corporate packaged nostalgia trips.  Even for things we didn’t even give a shin guard about when these things were in their hey day.

It’s like I’m browsing the internet [suspend your disbelief, I know], and Hollywood texts me using an inescapable pop-up text, reading, “Hey Callum, do you remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?”

“Yeah,” I reply, “But I never watched it.  My mom thought it was too violent for me to watch cartoons about martial artists beating people up.  So instead, she put me into Tae Kwon Do class, and my sister did Kung Fu.”

“Uh, so you did watch it then?”  Hollywood asks persistently, sweating at the thought of another $100 million dollar investment going down the drain.

“No, although I did watch Jackie Chan movies and all the Karate Kid entries.  I guess my mom thought that if I ever had to fight, I at least would know how to properly fight, instead of dressing up like a Renaissance-era painter and–”

WATCH THIS MOVIE IT WILL BRING YOU BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD!” Hollywood interjects, bombarding me with images of CGI’s characters oozing fake charisma.  And then I see the ad again.  Over, and over, and over.

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Maybe it was because attacking your enemies with swords is too violent, but kicking them in the face is okay.  Image credits, https://valleyrelicsmuseum.org/uncategorized/valley-cinema-the-karate-kid-2/

But it’s not just the Adolescent Erroneus Members of the Family Testodines*, it’s our entire pop culture.  Star Wars came back, every Disney movie is being remade into a live action version [just like the original!], Harry Potter came back, Batman and Superman came back.  TV shows, YouTube [which I definitely watch more than TV, and is definitely much more infested with the nostalgia blight], newspapers, everybody’s talking about things they loved back in the day, why it was so great, and why I should spend some of my limited time on this Earth thinking about it.  It’s madness.

*barely longer than their actual name

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Mario’s last game came out in 2018!  He’s been around 37 years.  That said, if this game ever came onto PlayStation, I would buy it in a heartbeat.  Image credits, https://www.technobuffalo.com/2017/06/17/super-mario-odyssey-modded-64/

I could go on about the pop culture angle, and I guess I should touch on it briefly before moving on to the bigger picture.  Nintendo–while also in many ways more creative than other video game companies–has been using the same characters, settings, and gameplay mechanics for years; even when they create something new, it still uses a lot of very familiar archetypes and tropes.  While I appreciate the artistry, creativity, and truly all-ages nature of their work, this aspect has made me a little uncomfortable for a while.  Except I haven’t really put it into words until now.

[By the way I’m a playstation and mobile gamer.  And I honestly do not care what you or anyone else chooses to game on, Nintendo or otherwise.]

It’s also important to remember that, at least some of us, care way too much about pop culture.  It’s all a money making enterprise based on exchanging our money and our time to consume whatever media they produce for us.  That even goes for the endless amounts of internet articles, newspaper articles and snarky YouTube videos intended to merely discuss a singular or multiple work of fiction.  Ad revenue, it truly makes the world go round.

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I was very excited when they announced a fourth Jurassic Park film.  And I enjoyed seeing it.  Everyone is susceptible to Hollywood nostalgia trends, and we’re entitled to enjoy it.  I just think we just need to control it better.  Image credits, http://www.immersiononline.net/film/Jurassic-World-review

So you watch or read one article for about 10 minutes, enjoy the creator’s content, and then spend time on another article that takes 20 minutes.  Or maybe you’re more interested in learning more about a particular game/movie/book/moisturizing product, so you digest a different creator’s piece discussing that same work.  The cycle repeats.  I mean, hey, it is your and my free time, right?  It’s not like you’re foregoing work or personal improvement to enjoy this nostalgia binge, right? Well no, you’re not, but you are letting them get into your head, and pilot the emotional centre of your brain for profit.


Well, I could’ve ended it there.  Probably should, but I never really know when to quit, do I?  Here goes.

Politicians use nostalgia as well.  I would argue that since Conservatism can be summed up with “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and learn from the past”, while Liberalism is more like “let’s improve the system, and what’s new it usually better”, the former are easier to trick with this than the latter.  Not that both aren’t completely force-fed nostalgia.

I joked earlier about how Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan banks on nostalgia.  But, doesn’t it?  I imagine the “again” refers to sometime during most voter’s lifetimes, since America had slaves before the 1850’s, and women were only given equal voting rights in 1920.  But, and I’m not just saying this to fulfill my duties as a Canadian, America was never great.

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We never had moon cities in the past.  So why is the past so great again?  Image credits, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Holidays-on-the-Moon-and-Mars-and-travelling-in-drones-could-be-possible-in-100-years/

When it wasn’t in a depression, it was fighting some kind of war, oppressing people of colour/sexual minorities/disabilities/religious minorities/you get the picture, on the brink of creating an extinction-level event due to a little disagreement with Russia, and things have generally been improving since then until around 2016-ish.  Don’t get me wrong, The United States is a beautiful country full of good people and vibrant culture.  It’s also a nation with amazing potential.  But that potential can’t be built off falsehood, or mis-remembered truth.

Outside of being yet another pointless discussion on American politics, I hope that’s a message that you and I can walk away with.  To use in our daily lives.

I believe that we should learn from the past, but we shouldn’t love the past.  The past is an old spirit, perhaps like the memory of a past family member, or the dead author of a beloved book.  They’re gone, they’re never coming back, but they left us a legacy to cherish and work with.  The future is more like a new born baby, it exists only in what it’s potential could be, and if we don’t give it enough attention–if we care more about what was than what could be–it’ll die.  And then we couldn’t revive the future anymore than we could rebuild the past.

 

 

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Buy TMNT: Out of the Shadows NOW on Blu-Ray!  It’ll take you back to your childhood before you had responsibilities and three kids to take care of!  Also, don’t forget that progress is bad, and the good ol’ days were when we used sharpened sticks to fight off man-eating bears!  Image credits, https://flickdirect.com/movies/2235/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-out-of-the-shadows/movie.ashx

 

 

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The Special Olympic Youth Invitational Games 2019

Writer’s Note: This is one of the posts that I created and worked with the good people at Special Olympics Ontario during my summer job at the office.  I was waiting for a good time–the right time–to post this so that its content was timely.  Given that this is a new year, I figured it would be perfect to showcase a little of what SO has been planning for some of the months we have ahead of us. 

The 2019 Special Olympics Invitational Youth Games. I’ve heard and seen mentionings of this for a while now, and some people in the office are planning the Youth Games out right now as we speak. There is a lot of anticipation around this event. But what are the Youth Games?

They are an international sports competition for SO Athletes between the ages of 13 and 21. It is in similar scale to Special Olympics’ regular World Games, but managed out of Special Olympic Ontario’s School Programs department instead of the community-level Games section of the office. 2,300 Athletes from School and Youth Programs are going to be invited: 1,200 from Ontario, 300 from other parts of Canada, 500 from the United States, and 300 people from other countries around the world. This is the first event of its kind, making it a new opportunity for youths in SO.

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Ontario, it’s huge.  Image retrieved from, https://www.ontario-canada-travel.com/map-of-ontario.html

What sports are going to be played? The usual 5 suspects in School Champs: basketball, soccer, bocce, track and field, and floor hockey. Unified and Traditional events are offered, among multiple divisioning levels to ensure fair competition.

2 different floor hockey tournaments are going down: the regular Youth competitions, and a separate tournament sponsored by the NHL. This NHL-sponsored tournament is for adults in SO. It is designed to honour and recreate the original Canadian floor hockey team that participated in the 1968 International Games in Soldier Field, Chicago.

Post-secondary Unified Intramural teams are welcome as well, and will be having their own tournament alongside the other 2. As if that wasn’t enough, an elementary school sports festival is going on during this time as well. Intermediate programs are the only ones not being represented here, probably because they’re so new [not even running yet at time of writing].

How do get you invited to these Games? In Ontario, they’re going to be using the Regional Qualifiers as a tryouts for these Games, just like how the Qualifiers usually determine who is going to Provincials. This year, the Invitational Games are replacing the Provincials in School Championships and joining with the Floor Hockey Provincials. I don’t feel like anyone will have a problem with that.

Now, hopefully you can see why there is so much excitement around these Games. However, the School Championships were not started with international competition in mind. They were not started with the idea that some of their athletes would be picked for a large scale event meant to celebrate the 50 years that Special Olympics has been around, nor were they created with anything other than the local scale in mind.

4 Corners was the original name of School Championships. Competitions did exist in high schools for quite a bit of time before then—School Programs began in the year 2000, and 4 Corners officially started in 2011—but honestly, the Secondary School Programs didn’t have the same energy or passion like they do now. The competitions that went on before 2011 were isolated; there were no qualifiers for athletes to try and cinch a spot in a big Game like the Provincials.

It’s a large part of how Special Olympics works, the Games. Dreaming of going to a big, festive competition—just like the Olympians do on TV—it really gets you moving. Especially when there’s no limit until the International scale, when you’re probably being flown on a plane somewhere, and everything just feels so big. It motivates you to train, and improve yourself physically, mentally and socially so that you have a chance at winning.  This is everything that Special Olympics was designed to do: improve its athletes in all parts of life.

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The dream of getting to compete in the World Games–such as the 2019 Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE–are one such example of motivation.  Image retrieved from http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302643942

Take it from me. I grew up a little more health-focused than most kids, my mom is a nurse, and one of my favourite movies was Super Size Me. I’ve been physically active as long as I can remember, first starting in Special Olympics when I was 8 years old, through swimming. Now I’m also involved with basketball, soccer, and track; as someone with a competitive personality, I work hard in all of them. Outside of SO, I do Tae Kwon Do and currently have a first degree black belt in it, which was one of the hardest things I’ve earned.

Even then, 2018 was the year that I pushed myself even further, and my body has improved as a result. Why? This was the year that I knew in advance that I’d be competing in Columbus for the Unified NIRSA league, Chicago for the 50th Anniversary Unified World Cup, and the Qualifiers for Provincials are coming up this 2019. Because I wanted to do the best I could, it motivated me to do in-house exercises—taking what I knew from my years of experience with martial arts and Special Olympics sports—so that I could increase my endurance and cardio*.

By the time I went to Ohio, the first Big Game that I was training for, I noticed that I was running around a lot longer without getting tired like I used to. I still enjoy the benefits of my improved health, long after these tournaments have past. My story, like a lot of my Special Olympics stories, is not unique. Across all the ability levels, ages and backgrounds, the drive to compete in our division of our favourite sports motivates all of us to improve ourselves. And it works.

*Side note: Healthy Athletes is running the educational Fit Five program, for other Athletes in the same boat as me who might need some help in figuring out exercises for themselves.

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These are some of booklets that they sometimes hand out at Special Olympic events.  You can also find information online by searching for “Special Olympics Fit 5”

Long story short, the problem with the old secondary School Programs is they didn’t have that big goal to reach, so there was no reason to train. People would show up for the one-day tournament, and that was it. The 4 Corners introduced a Provincial Games, that people could only get into if they made it past the Regional Qualifiers. And that’s when all bets were off.

So, I talked with James Noronha, who was one of the 5 people who sat down at the table to discuss the School Championships—then the 4 Corners—in its early planning stages. He said that, “We always intended it to be big. I don’t think we expected it to be so big that quickly.” Talking about how people in the SOO office had to basically catch up with the success of their work, he said, “It was, still is to be honest, a bit of a runaway train.”

That being said, it is obvious to me that James and everyone else in School Programs likes riding this runaway train, and maybe—on some level—they might not want it to stop.

The Youth Invitational Games are really exciting. They’re basically the 50th Anniversary Unified World Cup that I went to, but for the School Programs. It’s not just me and the other athletes who are excited, but the people who work for Special Olympics as well.

Glenn MacDonnell [Special Olympics Ontario’s CEO] has been hoping for an event like this for a long time. It couldn’t have happened if not for School Championships’ massive growth. The people who work in School Programs—from long-running veterans like James and Glenn, to those who just got in this year—get to see the fruits of their labour in the joy that Athletes and Partners experience thanks to their hard work.

For the Youth Games, that labour fruit is even more special. Because while most Special Olympic programs have at least some standing in the rest of the organization, this is entirely new. It just started 6 years ago, in 2011. But you don’t have to take it from me. During my time as a summer student, I interviewed Kirsten Bobbie, who is the manager of these Youth Games, and was also one of the people who saw the early stages of School Championships long before I even knew they existed.

Kirsten described this growth by comparing two Provincial Opening Ceremonies: the 2012 Opening at Wilfred Laurier—which 40 Athletes attended—to the 2018 Ceremonies in Peterborough which were witnessed by 900 SO Athletes. She said, “We’ve grown from James standing on a table at East Side Mario’s, to live on television in a whole arena, this year in Peterborough.”

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While this is probably not the exact restaurant that the 2012 Opening Ceremonies, it probably looked similar to this one.  Image retrieved from https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g154995-d793785-Reviews-East_Side_Mario_s-London_Ontario.html

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This is a pic I snapped of people who were sitting on the sidelines around the large crowd of Athletes that I enjoyed the 2018 Opening Ceremonies with, to give you a sense of scale.  And it doesn’t even show most of the arena.

“It’s grown drastically.” Kirsten says, “Having said that, all of our main concepts are still the same, and they’re the same at all the Games. Our Athletes get to march in, we light the cauldron, The Flame comes in, the LETR [Law Enforcement Torch Run]. All of the main people are the same, we’ve just expanded the number of people that are there,” As someone who went to the Peterborough Games, I can completely attest to her statement.

It’s this growth that Kirsten hopes the Youth Invitational Games will help spread to other parts of Special Olympics, across the world.

“These Games, in my mind, are an opportunity for Ontario to showcase to the rest of the world all the great things we’ve been doing in the past six years.”, she explains. Kristen also pointed out that Special Olympics Ontario is the only chapter to hold a School Provincials every year, and one of the only SO chapters to do so holding Unified and Traditional competitions side by side for their schools. “This is our chance,” she says, “to invite everyone in to see it. […] for them to go home and tell all their friends about how great it is and start Special Olympics programming just like [Ontario’s Programs] in their schools in their hometowns.”

To me, it feels quite fitting to end Special Olympics’ 50th Anniversary, by starting an event that could help build its future for the next 50 years. A future that is an inclusive, unified, accessible place for all the world’s youth.

 

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