Roller Derby Rundown: Brown University, Getting Gored, and ECDX!

2015 has started out tough for the girls, but as the weather heats up, so does action on the flat track for Providence Roller Derby! PRD’s travel team the (#79) Rhode Island Riveters will skate for the first time on the rink of Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium to battle against Colorado’s (#93) Pikes Peak Derby Dames. Also as part of the double-header, PRD’s Rocky Point Rollers will go hip-to-hip with Boston’s down C-Team. It’ll be on Sat, April 25 at 5:30pm. Tickets are cheaper in advance online at ProvidenceRollerDerby.com.

The weekend doesn’t just end there! The following morning, Sun, April 26, the girls will be putting on the horns and be on the prowl through the streets of downtown Providence. Why? Because it’s the annual Get Gored For Good: Running of the Bulls – a festival to raise money for the Amos House, a charity helping to combat hunger. Registered runners will make their way through the streets and obstacle courses while being hunted down by the roller girls acting as the bulls and getting “gored” (tagged with red paint). It’s an all-ages event that is still taking donations and registrations. For more information, go to GetGoredForGood.org.

Finally, more great news comes PRD’s way, as for the second year in a row the Riveters will be traveling to Philadelphia on June 19-21 for this year’s East Coast Derby Extravaganza, which is three days of derby featuring selected teams and skaters from around the world. Last year, the Riveters had the opportunity to take on some of the ladies from across the Atlantic: (#60) Tiger Bay Brawlers (Wales) and (#82) Crime City Rollers (Sweden). Their opponents this year are TBA, but for this and all other upcoming bouts and news, go to ProvidenceRollerDerby.com. Don’t forget to add them on Facebook and Twitter!

*Rankings are as of Feb 28, 2015.

Roots Report: Take Me Out of the Ballgame

Okee dokee folks … I am going to preface my column by stating that much to my father’s disappointment, I do not like baseball at all. Last week I received a mass e-mail that must have been sent to every musician in the state (they didn’t blind cc the e-mail) from the Pawtucket Red Sox. They asked performers to play before each one of their home games. Sounds like a good gig, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It pays peanuts. Actually, it doesn’t pay at all. They only offer a hot dog and general admission to the game that you perform for. You provide your own sound system and play for almost two hours. So, in essence, with set-up, you work about four hours for free, err … for a hot dog. In Motif‘s Oct ’14 issue, I wrote a bit about musicians performing for free. I guess the PawSox didn’t see that column. Before I go on, I have to admit that last year I agreed to go play this gig. Why, you may ask? As I mentioned before, my father is a HUGE baseball fan. He actually tried out for the Red Sox after he got out of the Air Force, but was told that he was too old. He ended up playing softball on Sundays for most of his life — until the artificial hip benched him!

I wasn’t crazy about doing the gig. It was kind of sketchy, but they agreed to let me sing the National Anthem before the game. I thought that it would be worth doing for Dad. After confirming the gig, I never heard back from the person who booked me. The day before the game, I still had heard nothing. I fired off an e-mail to the PawSox that said if I didn’t hear from them that day I would not be able to do the gig. I had no idea where I was going to set up, what time I had to be there, and how many of those general admission tix I was going to get. I don’t work like that. I PLAN gigs. I ALWAYS get the info up front, but in this case I was told that it would be sent to me. I received a response to my e-mail on the day of the gig. They wrote that they told me I wouldn’t get info until the day of show and that I WAS NOT going to be performing the National Anthem. I replied that I never would have agreed to that arrangement and the only reason I was going to play the gig was so I could sing the National Anthem. It was already too late to make arrangements to have my father attend and I would have had to rush to get there in time to perform. The PawSox were not happy, and they told me I was blacklisted from ever playing there because I left them without music that day. I figured that I would never hear from them ever again. Wrong. In addition to the recent mass e-mail about this year’s PawSox offer, I received a phone call asking me to perform. Had they forgiven me? I didn’t call them back; I didn’t want to play for them. I was just going to blow the whole thing off until the other folks who received the e-mail began sharing their disdain for the gig offer via “reply all” and by posting on Facebook. I love a good controversy. I chimed in. I told folks about my experience with the offer. Others voiced their concern about setting a poor example for musicians by playing for free. It sparked a firestorm of back and forth e-mails and Facebook posts.

The controversy still burns. Some folks agreed to play for free while others continue to protest. Some musicians don’t understand their own worth. I know that I should have never agreed to play last year. It was wrong of me, but I was going to do it for Dad. In a way I am glad that the gig didn’t happen, but where else am I ever going to sing the National Anthem before a baseball game? Fenway Park? Yeah, right. If the PawSox WANT music before a game they should PAY the performers a proper amount for the gig, put them in a decent place to play (not a parking lot for people to hear them only as they walk by), and treat them with AT LEAST the SAME amount of respect that they show the ball players. They should save their money, keep the stadium that they already have and pay people what they are worth! Enough said, for now… Read on…

If you want to learn about navigating your way through the murky waters of the music business, mark Sun, May 3 on your calendar when the first annual Southern New England Music Expo premieres at The Crowne Plaza in Warwick. The event includes anything having to do with music and is geared toward the average to adept music creator. The expo will feature celebrity meet and greet/book signings and guest speakers, including Ken Caillat, who produced and engineered several Fleetwood Mac albums. A keynote panel featuring Joe Belliotti, who was on Billboard’s “Power 100” list of the most powerful players in the music business; Josh Burke, VP Strategy & Major Accounts for Music Dealers — a music agency that works with brands, agencies, TV networks, and film & game studios; and Jeff Rabhan, Chair of The Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music at NYU and artist manager. Also expect hit songwriter moderated workshops/seminars, song critiques, and a songwriter, performance and pitch session. Equipment, recording, instruction, used vinyl and other music memorabilia will be for for sale, as well as any kind of musical service of interest to music lovers. This event was founded by local musician Greg Lato in partnership with Rob Marin. Lato says, “I wanted to create the type of event I always wished existed while growing up as a music fan and musician in Rhode Island.” For more, treble over to snemusicexpo.com

On April 28, you can enjoy an evening of solo, acoustic music from Richard Thompson. The award-winning guitar master, songwriter, performer, former member of Fairport Convention and member of the Order of the British Empire (this is not a band, it’s a title bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II) will be swinging by The Met in Pawtucket. Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. Probably his most famous and most covered song is the moving “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” Having co-founded the groundbreaking group Fairport Convention as a teenager in the ’60s, Richard Thompson and his mates were one of the innovators of British Folk Rock. At age 21, he left the band to pursue his own career, followed by a decade-long musical partnership with his then-wife Linda and then 30 years as a highly successful solo artist. Thompson’s massive body of work includes over 40 albums and numerous film soundtracks. Don’t miss this opportunity to witness a musical genius live on stage.

I am out of room so I will just mention a couple of other shows worthy of your time and the ticket price. Stone Soup has two shows up their season’s sleeve. On April 25, catch Mustard’s Retreat, with Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli opening. On May 9, it’s Martyn Joseph. Spread over to StoneSoupCoffeehouse.org for more. Motif’s Best Americana Act nominees Longshot Voodoo and guests Crocodile River Music will be at the Blackstone River Theatre on May 9. As a part of this show, there will be a Drum Workshop led by the Crocodile River Music drummers at 4pm. The last time these two bands played together it resulted in a sold-out, standing-room-only show, so get your tickets early. Paddle over to riverfolk.org. Get your Contra Dancin’ shoes on! The Greater Providence Contra Dance gives you a chance to dance on Fri, April 17, at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pawtucket. David Eisenstadter will do the calling with Jon Cannon on fiddle and Max Newman on guitar. Sashay over to providencecontra.com.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Photo Essay: Proposed Area for New Paw Sox Stadium in Providence

Lawyer James J. Skeffington took a walking tour Thursday of the former Route 195 land in Providence where he and other owners of the PawSox hope to build a new stadium for the team. Brown University owns a northern parcel of the land, where its Admissions Office is currently located. The southern section had been slated for a public park. Get a better sense of where exactly this parcel of land is and take a look at some pictures taken from the site:

DSC_0087 DSC_0089
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Hunting in the Woods of RI

hunt1I am alone, it’s about 11pm, and I am drinking a gin and tonic on my couch while watching The Outdoor Network. I am pondering a strategy for tomorrow. In the morning, I will go hunting.
A lot of planning goes into hunting, and there are many variables involved.  A crucial detail is who you go with. It is important that you go with someone you can trust with your life in case anything goes wrong. Where to hunt and the species you are targeting are some other major factors to consider.
For tomorrow, I have a spot in mind in the Exeter/West Greenwich area. I called my friend Jay on his landline (he doesn’t use a cell phone) to see if our loose plan for tomorrow would come to fruition, but he has to work. Too bad because he is a valuable guy to have in the woods. I then texted my friend Nate to see if he was down for a hunt, and he replied about a minute later with, “Yeah, boy!” He is also a good guy to have with you in the woods. One way or another, he and I are going hunting tomorrow.
It won’t be long until I am sitting by a tree in the stunningly silent woods. Fall is beginning to feel like winter. There are still people riding bikes through trails, hiking and even riding dirt bikes. Most of them are wearing orange to be more visible to hunters as required by law. As you walk, you try to be quiet, but every step you take causes leaves to crinkle. You may hear an occasional bird in the distance, light wind, or maybe your own breathing, but for the most part, it is silent. The sound of an occasional leaf falling to the ground is enough to turn your head in anticipation of a game animal.
As I sit and ponder the plan for tomorrow, there is a decision that has to be made. Will I hunt for deer with a black powder rifle, or go for small game with a shotgun? Going for small game would be more of a social experience. It includes you and your buddy walking in short distances from each other while trying to kick up small game animals. If you have good aim, and hopefully you do, you might be eating rabbit that night with a few friends, drinking beers, and retelling the stories of the day’s events.
Hunting with the black powder rifle would be a more serious endeavor. We would, after all, be hunting for deer. They are a large mammal similar in size to a human. They smell and hear you before you see them. With a bow and arrow, I would have to get really close to get a clear shot. With black powder, I can be farther away and still have a good shot. The idea is to post up in a spot that seems opportune and wait for a deer to come by. If nothing comes by for a while, I’ll quietly move to the next spot and wait. If any of us are successful in securing a deer, we will have a long night ahead of us where we will butcher the animal. The whole experience from beginning to end is more involved, but the result is much more meat in the freezer than you would get from small game. There could be enough venison to last my family a few months.
This will be my forth hunting season, and up until now, I’ve only gone bowhunting for deer. This is because my friend Forrest happens to teach the safety course that is required to go bow hunting. I have shot archery since I was 9 years old, and he convinced me to take his course. I scored a 100 on the test, bought a license and some deer tags, and ventured into the woods. To this day I still haven’t managed to harvest a deer.
In my defense, I am usually stalking deer on the ground with a recurve bow. That means I have to get really close. I’ve seen plenty of them out there, but have yet to be presented with a clear, ethical shot. They are usually too far away or behind branches, bushes or other obstructions. Taking a clean, ethical shot is a major focus of the class that Forrest teaches.
Year after year, I considered taking the hunter’s safety course. It is mandatory nationwide for hunters, and teaches very important information about safety, ethics, and the laws regarding hunting. Completion of the course would allow me to hunt with a shotgun or black powder rifle at various times in the season, instead of only being able to hunt with my bow and arrow. My issue with taking the course has always been a matter of time, and not having enough of it. It is hard for me to find a block of nine hours on a Sunday.  Like the millenial I am (just barely), I waited until the course was offered online. It is a course that is designed to make sure you understand how to safely and ethically harvest an animal before you wander into the woods with dangerous weapons. Once you pass the online exam, you have to physically drive to a DEM location to take the written test. From there, you need to buy your licenses, tags and stamps for whatever hunting endeavor you want to pursue. There are different licenses and tags for different animals, weapons and parts of the season. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart are good options for getting squared away with all of that in my experience. The counter person in the outdoors/sporting section should be more than happy to help you with questions and details.
I am now fully legal and ready to enter the woods tomorrow. I have made the decision to go with my 20 gauge shotgun. It will be equipped with ammo made specifically for small game.
I finish my gin and tonic and get ready for bed. I am packed and ready for my adventure. It will be hard for me to sleep as I will be thinking about strategies, what to bring, and the excitement of spending the day in the majesty of the outdoors. I feel like I did as a child on Christmas Eve, too excited to fall asleep. Tomorrow should be epic.
If you are interested in hunting in Rhode Island, you can pick up the abstract at various locations. The abstract is the set of rules and regulations typed out in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand way. It varies year to year and I usually pick mine up at Dick’s Sporting Goods. You can get more information on line at dem.ri.gov, or you can always try to talk about it with a stranger who looks like they  hunts. In my experience, most hunters are passionate about their sport and follow the regulations. It is an important part of maintaining the balance of various habitats and part of an important heritage and tradition. Good night and good hunting.

A Game to Define A Season: The Mob Squad Take the 2014 Trophy

mobTen points! That’s all that separated the Mob from the Old Money Honeys in their Championship rubber match. In a season where the Mob dominated, the Honeys, who lost earlier in the season to the Mob, defeated their nemeses in the last bout before the Championships earlier in September. Then on October 11 at the RI Convention Center, this year’s home season trophy was put center track against the two teams.

Calls on track-cut (skating out of bounds) were very frequent this year, but not in this bout as we saw more “direction of gameplay” (blocking while at standstill or skating clockwise) and “out-of-play” (actions outside the pack or illegally separating the pack). And that intense blocking was felt into the first half with a score of 39-66, Mob leading.

For the remainder of the bout, the Mob held the Honeys at bay by roughly 30 points until a 17 vs. 12 point jam caught the Honeys up. However, the Mob held out with a 138-148 win. Top scores for the Honeys were #424 Jigsaw with 48 points and #75 Smoke N Mirrors with 33 points. The Mobs lead point ladies were #32 Shotz of Petrone with 62 and #12 Varla Gunz with 44. Some of the standout blockers that balanced good offense and defense were #F34R Scared Stiffany, #729 Roxy Elbow Ya, and #138 Skate Middleton for the Honeys and #08CT Beat-Trix LeStrangle, #3 Ruca Salt, and #1000 Baby Fighterfly for the Mob.

It’s been a truly amazing season all year round in Providence Roller Derby from the Mob, the Honeys, and the Sakonnet River Roller Rats. With bouts ending in a single point to going into overtime, all of the skaters gave some of the most exhilarating moments in the Providence’s roller derby history. After the upcoming winter break, the new travel season, featuring teams from around the country and the world, will start up around early spring (dates to be announced). Check regularly for upcoming season schedule and special public events at providencerollerderby.com or follow Providence Roller Derby on Facebook!

Downtown Goes Derby

For the first time since 2009, the wheels of Providence Roller Derby will once again be rolling on The Providence Rink at the Bank of America City Center. On August 23, the second game of the home season will be played between The Old Money Honeys and The Mob Squad. Then the Honeys will take on The Sakonnet River Roller Rats on September 13.

Going from indoor to outdoor skating rinks is a complete change of atmosphere and environment for fans and for the skaters.

“The surface is actually great for skating, with the only drawback being that it requires slightly more push to go faster,” said Rhoda Perdition of the Old Money Honeys. “There is exactly no give to it, though, so when we fall, we fall hard!”

Even changing to the outdoor rink requires a complete change of equipment and additional attire.

“The crappiest wheels possible, because the concrete eats them up like an industrial grinder. It also works great for removing skin from our bodies, so we tend to wear more spandex than usual,” said Rhoda.

However, the tough roller derby girls overcome those challenges with the help from the fans new and old.

“The energy at an outdoor bout is completely different and better. There’s just something about outdoor sports that gets the crowd more involved,” said Sis Boom Bonnie of the Sakonnet River Roller Rats. “I’ve bouted in roller skating rinks, arenas and warehouses, but the Bank of America Center is by far my favorite place to play derby. Because it’s located in the heart of Providence, there is a real sense of community at BOA bouts. It’s also a time for passersby to discover roller derby for the first time and that’s always exciting.”

Tickets for both events are available at: providencerollerderby.ticketleap.com

Providence Roller Derby’s Hot Summer on the Flat Track

Rhode Island’s Hottest Contact Sport

The air is warmer and the kids are off from school: What is there to do? Take in a few bouts of the hard-hitting, fast-skating Providence Roller Derby, of course!

riverratsHere’s a quick primer: Roller derby is a contact sport played on a flat track where players and the referees are on roller skates (not blades!). In this game, there is no ball to score points, just a human body. This human body is called a jammer and after getting past the other team on the track, the jammer scores points by passing each of her opponents again and again! However, the other team has a jammer who also is trying to score points. And each team also has three blockers and a pivot on the track who play offensive and defensive coordination against the opposing team. It’s wild! It’s fierce! It’s one of the fastest growing sports worldwide!

In RI there are two seasons played: travel (national) and home seasons. PRD’s travel season is represented by the all-star team called the Rhode Island Riveters and supported by their B-teams of the Killah Bees and the Rocky Point Rollers. Home season spreads out the roster into three teams: the Mob Squad, the Old Money Honeys and the Sakonnet River Roller Rats.

The Roller Rats, last year’s home season champions, are captained this year by Craisy Dukes! The mean team in green features Axe A. Dental, Cleo Patronize, Dark & Stormy, Freedom Fight-Her, Mary Slayne, Max Slayer Stone, Misfit Merida, PEZ DispensHER, Puma Thurman, Raquel Welts, Ruby Red Scissors, Sis Boom Bonnie, SmackGyver, Strawbury Shortskate, Trannie Oakley and Trophy Knife.
The black and gold, gun-toting Mob Squad is led by their captain Freak’n Awesome. Going along for the ride are All The Way Mae, Baby Fighterfly, Beat-Trix LeStrangle, Boones Harm, Checker Pulse, Citizen Toxie, Death Ro-chelle, Elsie YaLater, Luce Cannon, Rose Creeper, Ruca A. Salt, Shotz of Petrone, Smashley Olsen, Sun Scream, Sweet Tease and Varla Gunz.

Being fabulous in the red and black are the Old Money Honeys. Leading the pack is captain Cindy Lou Screw with her party of Breakbeat Betty, Delta Bravo, Hit and Run Paulene, Jetta von Diesel, Jigsaw, Malady D’Amour, Mortician Addams, Raggedy Ann-eurysm, Rhoda Perdition, Roxy ElbowYa, Sass E. McNasty, Scared Stiffany, Shelby Bruisin, Sinnamon Splice, Skate Middleton and Smoke ‘N Mirrors.

When these athletes are off the track, they openly engage the public with some of the most fabulous celebrations. Meet and greet skaters and officials at this year’s RI PrideFest parade on June 21. An even larger gathering to celebrate PRD’s 10-year anniversary of athletes old and new will be held at The Spot Underground in Providence on Saturday, August 2, at 9pm ($5 cover at the door).

So bring out family and friends for a night you’ll never forget!
William H. Thayer Arena, Warwick; Saturday, June 28, 5pm; RI Riveters vs. Lehigh Valley Rollergirls, Rocky Point Rollers vs. Mass Attack Roller Derby All-Stars

William H. Thayer Arena, Warwick; Saturday, July 19, 5pm
; Killah Bees vs. Hartford Area Roller Derby, Mob Squad vs. Sakonnet River Roller Rats (Home Season Opener!)

Bank of America Skating Pavilion, Providence; Saturday, August 23, Time TBD; Old Money Honeys vs. Mob Squad

Bank of America Skating Pavilion, Providence; Saturday, September 13, Time TBD; Sakonnet River Roller Rats vs. Old Money Honeys

Also if you happen to be in the Philadelphia area between June 20 and 22, head over to the Sportsplex in Feasterville, Penn., for this year’s East Coast Derby Extravaganza. There the RI Riveters will face the Crime City Rollers and the Tiger Bay Brawlers!

Tickets are available for all events at ProvidenceRollerDerby.com

Bicycle Repair Stands Unveiled Around Providence


Convenient Pit Stops for your Commute

Imagine you’re biking to work or just out for fun, enjoying the sun on your arms and the wind through your hair. Maybe you’re even patting yourself on the back a bit for the good you’re doing your body and the environment. But suddenly, your bike just doesn’t feel right or even worse, you get a flat, making your breezy bike ride a whole lot of work. Now imagine a repair stand with all the tools you need to inflate a tire or adjust the bike beckoning from across the street. Sounds heavenly, right? It’s also the new reality in Providence.

The City of Providence had a plan in the works to purchase and install some bike repair stands around the city. But when Dash Bicycles and Julian, of Julians fame, got wind of the plans, they worked their magic to make the project a local one. They pulled Steel Yard into the mix and asked them if they could make the stands at a price comparable to other providers the city was considering. Steel Yard won the contract to build the bike repair stands and the project stayed local.

On May 16, Bike to Work Day, Mayor Angel Taveras dedicated three bike repair stands located in Burnside Park, Roger Williams Park and Riverside Park. At the dedication, Mayor Taveras said, “Creating the necessary infrastructure for bicyclists will help Providence support another viable, affordable and healthy transportation choice for our residents.”

Each stand can inflate a tire and also has tethered in a protective box all the tools you’d need to do anything from making minor adjustments to the seat to tweaking the brakes. The stand itself can hold a bike upside down to make repairs much easier than they’d be if you had to balance it on the street or work on it upright. Bicycle commuting suddenly sounds a lot more practical, right?

The city plans to install more bicycle repair stands in the coming years. “Not only is biking a healthier alternative than driving, but I think the economic downturn in Rhode Island made people look at ways they could save money,” said Jackson Morley of Steel Yard. And bicycling to work or around town certainly saves gas money. “Providence is doing a lot to promote biking, like creating bike lanes, and the city is working to make the streets even more bicycle friendly,” continued Morley. “Now we just have to educate people on sharing the road.”

So keep an eye out, drivers — these new repair stands might encourage even more cyclists to hit the streets. Or better yet? Leave your car in the driveway and join them!

Packing the Bowl – Super Bowl XLVIII


The sport of football becomes intertwined with the marijuana movement as Washington and Colorado’s NFL teams head to the super bowl.

This year presented football fans with the very first cold weather outdoor Super Bowl in NFL history, and by the time you read this article, the game will have already taken place. My hopes are that the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos for the elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy. Yet this is the Super Bowl and as all New England fans know – all too well – anything can happen on any given Sunday. So for the sake of not offending anyone, I hope the team you rooted for was victorious, for I don’t believe that either team can be considered the true champion when all is said and done. 

Of course, you already watched the big game and you already know who won, but did you know that more than 110 million people also watch the big game each year? This scale of an audience created a billion dollar industry, spawned from Super Bowl sponsorship and advertising alone, justified by the event’s world-wide exposure. This is the only event I can think of after which viewers discuss the commercials long after the conversations about the occurrence itself end. I am actually willing to bet that you have been involved with a Super Bowl half-time commercial conversation this week. My heart tells me that this advertisement involved Doritos, but that is neither here nor there. Not even the billions spent on glamouring us can purchase the victory of the true Super Bowl champion.

So the stakes are set and judging by what actually took place on the day of the Super Bowl, you are thinking that I am either a genius or an imbecile. Let’s go with genius, because I am about to blow your mind. Remember that as I write this article, the game has not yet taken place, but the memes are already out and they suggest that this will be one of the best tailgate parties ever! This is because the true victor of the 2014 Super Bowl is the marijuana legalization movement.

Both of the competing teams hail from the only two states that ended marijuana prohibition – Colorado and Washington State. Though it is an obvious coincidence, this fact has already sparked much conversation among NFL fans, players, coaches and executives alike. Communities everywhere are discussing the topic, whether for the sake of humor, politics, science or sheer irony. Even people who don’t like football are talking about football! The amount of exposure being generated for the marijuana movement is mind boggling and it is all being given for free. That is the sign of a true champion.

In fact, just this month, Andrea Kremer of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” did an extensive report on marijuana use in the NFL. In this interview, athletes admitted to regular marijuana use, stating that it is more effective for pain management than traditional drugs prescribed by team physicians. Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson supports this claim, and suggests that more than 50 percent of NFL players use marijuana regularly. Unfortunately, league regulations dictate a prohibitive stance on marijuana use, as its medical benefits have not found unanimous support from the medical community.

Fortunately, though, the current stance on marijuana use in the NFL is not set in stone.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expressed a willingness to examine the effectiveness of cannabis as a viable treatment for concussions, a major complication within the NFL, if the medical community is willing to endorse it as such.

“We will obviously follow signs,” Goodell said. “We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that. Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, one of the leading experts on medicinal marijuana, has already theorized that cannabis can not only treat pain associated with concussions, but also may have a healing effect on damaged brain tissues. This theory is drawn from his extensive testing on mice, where medicinal marijuana produced remarkable results in his test subjects. Mechoulam believes that these benefits could also translate to human subjects. With a number of other supporting studies, mostly conducted in Israel, the leader in medicinal marijuana research, it is reasonable to believe that the time for revisiting this subject is not far away.

At this time, more than 20 US states, including Washington, DC, legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Should these states follow the lead of Washington and Colorado, would this also propel their teams to a Super Bowl appearance? It’s highly unlikely, but as more states with professional teams join the movement to end prohibition, it is reasonable to believe that the NFL, one of the most followed leagues in the world, will be compelled to make changes to its rules regarding marijuana use by its athletes.  Though this may not make all of them champions, it could prolong the careers of those who are.

Curling — Like Chess on Ice


 Editor’s note:  With the Winter Olympics taking center stage for the month of February, Jim Hummel gets a primer on an emerging fan favorite: the sport of curling.

A strategic game carried out on ice, however ice skates need not apply.

It is a polite sport for the most part. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of yelling.

And plotting.

“I love the strategy behind it,” said Kathy Brady, who helped found the Ocean State Curling Club five years ago after watching lifelong curlers in action on a vacation to Quebec. “There’s a lot of thinking and it’s chess on ice. I like the strategy, but I also like that you get exercise.”

That you do. And after spending a couple of nights watching club members in action, it seems more like aerobic chess on ice. The club, which has grown to about 70 members, takes over the Cranston Ice Rink for two hours every Thursday and Friday between October and March.

“Anyone can learn it,” Brady said. “The first time I was on a team, I played with an 85-year-old man who still got down on the hack and delivered a normal stone.”

The curling lingo can be a little intimidating, so we decided to get a rundown on what to expect when you tune into curling during the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The heavy round thing that takes center stage in a match is called a stone or a rock. It’s made of granite and weighs 42 pounds. In Canada curlers enjoy rinks made solely for them, but here they have to share the ice and usually follow hockey practice. So club members spend the first 20 minutes or so preparing the ice, which is crucial to a good night of curling. The Zamboni does the initial clearing, then a pebbler waters the ice to create the surface the rock will slide on.

Then somebody who knows his way around a blow torch heats the rubber hack, which is imbedded in the ice and is used to push off when launching a rock.

The first order of business is to get the rocks, which are stored in wooden crates adjacent to the rink, out on the ice and cooling. Teams have four members that include the skip, which is the captain, and a vice skip. Plus two sweepers. Every match begins with a handshake before the players settle in. Each throws two rocks per match.

“It’s very genteel. You start by shaking your teammate’s and your opponents’ hands and you end by shaking as well,” said Brady, assuring us there is no trash talking.

The object is to get as many rocks closest to the center circle of the house, which means there is a lot of bumping. In some cases the last rock thrown – by the skip – can determine a match. The center circle itself is called the button.

And what about all of that sweeping? When a player throws the rock it has a natural curl. Brady says the sweeping can affect speed and direction. “Sweeping causes friction against the ice and it actually makes the stone go farther and straighter.”

Gordon Walsh is the current club president. He is a golfer, and never tried curling until he came to one of the club’s learn-to-curl nights back in 2009.

Jim Hummel: What was it that intrigued you about curling?

Gordon Walsh: The strategy. There’s finesse to it – you’ve got to think about what you’re doing.

JH: When you first started, was it what you expected?

GW: It was a lot harder. I thought it was going to be a fairly easy sport and a couple of minutes into it, I knew it was going to be a lot harder than I expected.

JH: What was the challenge?

GW: There’s some physical challenges to it. You see them on television they get into that graceful slide down on the ice. Some of us aren’t that graceful, but you can make it work. The difference between throwing it not far enough and throwing it too far is not much; it’s a lot of touch. It’s like putting on a putting green.

Walsh admits it’s not for everyone, but encourages people to give it a try – and he expects increased interest when the Olympics get under way. “When I walked in I said, ‘I want to play.’ At my age, I’m still making new friends because new people join the club each year.”