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Why baseball did the right thing by elevating the Negro Leagues to ‘major’

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Major League Baseball righted a wrong

It announced today that it’s elevating the Negro Leagues of 1920 through 1948 to “major league” status. This means that the records and stats of many great Black ballplayers who were denied the chance to compete in the big leagues will finally be folded into MLB history.

Quick history lesson: the Negro Leagues is the collective name given to the set of seven independent circuits formed in the 1920s and ’30s, when segregation was still the law of the land in much of the American South. It was also an unwritten rule in Major League Baseball, where the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” prevented teams from hiring Black players. So the Negro Leagues represented the highest level of professional baseball available at the time to Blacks. Many Latinos also found a home there, making up an estimated 10-15 per cent of the rosters. Jackie Robinson played in the Negro Leagues briefly, before his breaking of the MLB colour barrier in 1947 started a talent drain that sealed their demise.

For many Black baseball legends, though, integration came too late. Josh Gibson, for example. Sometimes called “the Black Babe Ruth,” his mythology rivals the Bambino’s. Gibson’s plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame credits him with hitting “almost 800 home runs” in his 17-year career, and The Sporting News once reported that he smashed a 580-foot bomb during an exhibition at Yankee Stadium. Another is Cool Papa Bell, a prototypical lead-off man who hit for a high average and was said to be so fast that he could flip the light switch and be in bed before the room got dark.

The guy who invented that line, Satchel Paige, was the Negro Leagues’ greatest pitcher and best storyteller. He was lucky enough to still be playing when MLB integrated, and he debuted for Cleveland in 1948. Though he was already 42 years old, Paige managed to spend five quality seasons in the majors (mostly as a reliever) and came back for a stunt start late in the ’65 season — when he was 59! Pitching for the Kansas City Athletics against the Boston Red Sox, he worked three shutout innings and gave up just one hit.

Paige, Bell and Gibson were all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the 1970s. But that honour can’t make up for their exclusion from the majors.

Adding to the injustice of this shameful period in baseball (and American) history, an all-white panel in the 1960s decided to classify four defunct leagues as “major leagues” for record-keeping purposes — right up there with the current American and National Leagues. Not only were the Negro Leagues left out — they weren’t even discussed. This despite the fact that many baseball historians and statisticians (including sabermetrics godfather Bill James) consider the quality of play in the Negro Leagues to be close or even roughly equal to the AL and NL of the time. One historian even found that the Black teams had a winning record in their exhibition games against big-leaguers.

Calls for the Negro Leagues to be granted “major” status intensified this summer as MLB celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League (the first of the seven) at the same time that the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam. Today, MLB finally answered.

The next step is for MLB to work with statisticians from the Elias Sports Bureau to figure out how exactly to incorporate Negro Leagues stats. Record-keeping was spotty, so it’s unlikely that there will be enough documentation for, say, Gibson to surpass Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 762 home runs. But Willie Mays could have 16 hits added to his career total from his cup of coffee in the Negro Leagues, and it’s expected that Paige will add 146 more major-league wins. He’s currently credited with only 28.

Today’s move doesn’t erase the horrendous treatment of Black players for much of baseball history. But it’s the right thing to do. And it’s not often Major League Baseball comes through like this. So that’s worth celebrating. Just like the lives and careers of those players who never got a fair shake.


MLB found a more meaningful way than this to honour Negro Leagues greats. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Quickly…

Canada won its first two medals of the World Cup ski cross season. On the second of back-to-back days of medal races in Switzerland to open the season, Marielle Thompson took silver in the women’s event and Kevin Drury grabbed bronze in the men’s. Thompson is the 2014 Olympic women’s champion and 2019 world champ. Drury took bronze at the ’19 worlds. Reigning Olympic men’s champ Brady Leman was eliminated in the 1/8th final today. Read more about the races and watch highlights here.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer passed the legendary Pat Summitt to become the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history. VanDerveer earned her 1,099th victory last night when the No. 1-ranked Cardinal routed Pacific 104-61. The 67-year-old started at Idaho in 1978 before moving to Ohio State and then Stanford in ’85. She’s won both her NCAA titles and all four national coach of the year awards there. Summit racked up all her wins at Tennessee, where she won eight NCAA championships. Her career was cut short by dementia and she died in 2016 at age 64. Read more about VanDerveer’s record-breaking night here.

The WHL postponed its season again. It hoped to open on Jan. 8 but has pushed the start date back indefinitely because of public health restrictions in Western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, where the league’s 22 teams are located. The QMJHL is the only one of Canada’s three major-junior hockey leagues to start its season, but it was forced to hit pause in late November. The OHL hopes to start in early February, but who knows? And yet, the world junior championship is still scheduled to start Christmas Day in Edmonton. Read more about the WHL delay here.

And finally…

This is a sacred date for Canadian curling. December 16 is the birthday of Colleen Jones, John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes. Between them, they’ve won seven Scotties, three Briers, four world championships and four Olympic gold medals. Hat tip to CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux for this factoid. His birthday is also in December, and he would add two Saskatoon high school curling titles to the list of accomplishments if these four formed a mixed team. Read Devin’s latest story, on the Paralympics adding a wheelchair mixed doubles curling event, here.

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Prince Harry Shares One Thing He’s Been Missing From England After Moving to L.A.

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Lance Armstrong Reflects on the ‘Worst Thing’ He Did in First Trailer for His ’30 for 30′

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Kylie Jenner’s Daughter Stormi Chanting ‘Patience’ in Candy Challenge Is the Cutest Thing You’ll See All Week

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‘Only thing he could do’: Why Prince Andrew stepped down. But will he stay away?

Hello, royal watchers. This is your biweekly dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.


In royal terms, it was unprecedented.

Prince Andrew’s “trainwreck” interview with the BBC about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was quickly excoriated for its arrogance and Andrew’s seemingly tone-deaf focus on himself, as well as the lack of empathy he showed for Epstein’s victims.

“None of it made sense,” said Mark Borkowski, a British public relations expert. “I watched it live and it’s better than the current series of The Crown for drama and action and content. It was unbelievable. It was equivalent to the naughty boy explaining to his housemaster why he’d been out of bounds the night before.”

For a few days afterwards, it seemed as if Andrew was trying to forge ahead. But in the face of mounting criticism and supporters of his charities fading away, Andrew bowed out of royal duties (reportedly at the behest of his mother, the Queen, and elder brother, Prince Charles). 

On Wednesday, Andrew issued a statement in which he said he deeply sympathized with Epstein’s victims.

“It was the only thing he could do. It was the right thing to do, because he would have become the elephant in the room,” said Borkowski. “At least he’s done the right thing for his nephews, his brother and his mother.”


Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew arrive at the Ascot racecourse on June 21, 2018. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Since Andrew’s statement that he was stepping down, there’s been speculation about what will come next for Queen Elizabeth’s second (and reportedly favourite) son. There is some thought that he will keep a low profile for a very long time.

“He’s persona non grata,” said Borkowski.

If the tabloids are to be believed, however, there’s a sense Andrew isn’t so keen on living in retreat. “Does the Duke STILL not get it?” The Daily Mail asked Thursday as it reported he was ready to fly off to Bahrain in connection with the entrepreneurial Pitch@Palace initiative he founded. Apparently members of his family suggested the trip wouldn’t be a good idea, and he stayed home.

There aren’t a lot of precedents for this scenario within the Royal Family, but after Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, there was a similar expectation that he would live a quiet life out of the limelight. It didn’t quite work out that way.

See a series of images of Andrew riding with the Queen on Friday:

Prince Andrew was seen riding a horse near Windsor Castle on Nov. 22 0:50

“That turned out not to be the case, as he made a very highly publicized visit to Nazi Germany in 1937,” said Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris.

“The Duke of Windsor kept trying to carve out a public role for himself after his abdication … [and] ultimately during the Second World War he was sent off to be governor of the Bahamas, which gets him out of Europe. He was never able to find that public role.”


Princess Eugenie, left, Prince Andrew, and Princess Beatrice arrive for the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018, in Windsor, England. (Chris Jackson/Reuters)

For Andrew, there’s a sense that his standing within the Royal Family might already have been on a downward trajectory.

“I think there’s already a trend for when the next reign takes place towards a streamlined Royal Family, and Prince Andrew’s behaviour is simply accelerating that process,” said Harris. 

But what about the impact on his family? Elder daughter Princess Beatrice is engaged to be married next year. Might that be postponed, or would she find herself with a wedding smaller than the rather lavish nuptials of her sister Princess Eugenie last year?

The sisters do private charity work, and Harris said it will be “interesting to see if they quietly take up any of their father’s charitable patronages.”

How real is The Crown?


Olivia Colman has assumed the role of Queen Elizabeth in Season 3 of The Crown. (Sophie Mutevelian)

Warning: A spoiler or two ahead.

Fans who had been living with great anticipation for the return of The Crown have been chatting amongst themselves over whether they prefer Claire Foy or Olivia Colman in the role of Queen Elizabeth.

While the actors playing that part may have changed with the arrival of Season 3 of the Netflix series, one thing is still the same: the signature mix of fiction and reality that the show offers up.

Take, for example, episode two.

“We have the fact that Princess Margaret attended an official dinner at the White House with President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson,” said Harris. “Then The Crown introduces speculation regarding how that dinner went and what was going on behind the scenes and how she bonded with the Johnsons.”

News reports of the day about the dinner were rather unremarkable. The Crown‘s version of the dinner isn’t.

The press coverage of that dinner does not mention sing-alongs and dirty limericks,” said Harris. “The Crown takes some dramatic licence to give us a sense of the characters and what they were like and Princess Margaret’s personality.”


Marion Bailey portrays Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, left, and Helena Bonham Carter portrays Princess Margaret in a scene from the third season of The Crown. (Des Willie/Netflix via The Associated Press)

In any dramatic retelling of a real story, choices are made — some characters and events become the focus, while others fade away. Harris wishes, for example, there was more of Princess Anne in the series, and thinks it’s a shame they haven’t done more with the Commonwealth.

“We don’t see Commonwealth tours, which is a shame in the Canadian context, as there were some very interesting, dramatic ones during the time period that is shown during Season 3,” she said, noting the Queen’s visit to Quebec City in 1964, when protesters greeted her.

Still, the series does offer up the tantalizing prospect of what life may have been like for Queen Elizabeth, an enigmatic figure that in many ways the public doesn’t really know.

“There’s a tremendous amount of curiosity about what the Queen is like behind closed doors. And also what it is like to live in that environment” and be a member of the Royal Family, said Harris.

“It will be very interesting to see what [the show’s producers] do with Diana and her public appearances in subsequent series.”

Where are Harry and Meghan?


Prince Harry salutes after he and his wife, Meghan, each placed a cross of remembrance as they attended the official opening of the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London on Nov. 7, 2019. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Don’t expect to see or hear much of Prince Harry and Meghan for the rest of the year.

After months when they were the focus of much scrutiny — and made headlines of their own over a controversial television interview — it seems they’re taking the next six weeks or so for themselves.

Still, they were making headlines the other day when it was announced they wouldn’t be spending Christmas with the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family at Sandringham, her estate in Norfolk.

Speculation has suggested they may or may not be spending time in California with Meghan’s mother, perhaps over U.S. Thanksgiving later next week.

Christmas will also be spent with Meghan’s mother, location unknown.

It won’t be the first time one of the Queen’s grandchildren spends Christmas with the other side of the family. William and Kate have spent Dec. 25 with Kate’s family.

Royally quotable

“This is not the emasculation of men. What we are trying to do, though, is to give opportunity and support for the other 50 per cent of the population to have meaningful, successful and fulfilling careers.” 

— Sophie, Countess of Wessex, speaking at the 100 Women in Finance New York Gala, on Nov. 13.  

Royals in Canada


Dr. Kevin Smith, CEO of the University Health Network; Sophie, Countess of Wessex; and Nicole Cancelliere demonstrate a minimally invasive robotic surgery for stroke or aneurysm treatment at Toronto Western Hospital on Nov. 14, 2019. (Andrew Downs Photography)

Before Sophie became a member of the Royal Family, she had a career in public relations. But a visit to Toronto last week suggests she might be well-suited to work in another field.

Sophie was in the city on a two-day visit following her time in New York, and spent much of it at Toronto Western and Toronto General hospitals. During the visit, she took part in demonstrations of robotic surgery and using radiology to remove clots.

“She’s extremely talented when it comes to hand-eye coordination,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, president and chief executive officer of the University Health Network. “She would have made a fantastic robotic or minimally invasive surgeon.”

Sophie has been hospital patron since 2005 and visited several times, the last being four years ago.

The most recent visit focused on highlighting “cutting-edge areas of care and science,” Smith said, and gave Sophie the opportunity to meet patients and staff.

She spent time talking with critically ill patients and showed a “great warmth” and a “real, genuine skill in listening,” Smith said. Patients’ faces lit up when they saw her. “It was wonderful to hear the exchange between the countess and patients around the [Royal Family] and the Queen particularly, who people talked about with such high regard and respect.”


Sophie chats with stroke program patient Murray Rubin at Toronto Western Hospital on Nov. 14, 2019. (Andrew Downs Photography)

Sophie was also “remarkably warm” with staff members and spent a lot of time talking with them, Smith said. 

“She was really well-informed, I think, about the challenges of what it’s like to be a frontline nurse or doctor or food service worker or housekeeper.”

Sophie was impressed by the impact philanthropy in health and science has had at the hospitals, particularly because it may not be at the same level in the U.K.

“She was, I think, quite bowled over by the amazing generosity, big and small, by patients and families and philanthropists who allow us to do things well beyond what the public purse would permit,” said Smith.

All told, Sophie’s time at the hospitals was a huge success, Smith said.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased with her visit.”

Royal reads

  • The fur will be fake on any new outfits designed for the Queen, and that’s left some trappers in Canada’s North disappointed. [CBC] 

  • British stage and screen actor Imelda Staunton is reportedly in talks to take on the role of Queen Elizabeth in seasons 5 and 6 of The Crown. [Harper’s Bazzar] 

  • Fashion in The Crown is doing a lot more than sprinkling some royal stardust. [The Guardian] 

  • Nov. 20 was the 72nd wedding anniversary for the Queen and Prince Philip, but they reportedly spent the day apart. [Forbes] 

  • The scandal surrounding Prince Andrew’s friendship with Epstein is only the latest in a long line of royal controversies. [New York Times] 

  • Prince Charles was welcomed to New Zealand’s founding site of Waitangi during a visit to the country’s far north. [Reuters] 

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Brad Marchand did a very Brad Marchand thing (and other fun NHL stuff)

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Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

There’s a bunch of random, fun NHL stuff out there today

Such as:

1. The season is less than two weeks old and we’ve already had three individual four-goal games. Boston’s David Pastrnak scored the hat-trick-plus-one last night, joining Detroit’s Anthony Mantha and Edmonton’s James Neal. Only twice in NHL history has there been this many four-goal games through the first 13 days of a season: in 1992-93 (also three) and 1917-18 (six). ’92-’93 isn’t surprising because that was a crazy year for a lot of reasons. But the other one is. That was the NHL’s inaugural season, and a lot of people might picture World War I-era hockey as low-scoring. But it was the opposite. To this day, the NHL’s four highest-scoring seasons ever (by goals per game) are still its first four. The average game in the inaugural season had 9.5 goals. For context, it was six last season. Another fun fact about 1917-18: Joe Malone scored 44 goals in 20 games, which would be like someone scoring 180 today. The high-scoring environment obviously helped, and so did Malone’s ice time. Back then, it was common for the best players to stay out almost the entire game. Malone explained how this was possible to The Hockey News in 1961: “We’d hustle when opportunities presented and then we’d loaf.”

2. There’s only one perfect team left. Edmonton suffered its first defeat of the season last night, falling to 5-1-0. That leaves Colorado (5-0-0) as the only team without a loss. Not a shock — a lot of smart people predicted a breakthrough for this exciting young Avs team after their impressive showing in the playoffs. More surprising is the only other team without a regulation loss: 5-0-1 Buffalo. We’ll see if the Sabres can make it last this time. For a brief time last November, the perennial non-playoff team had the best record in the NHL after winning 10 in a row. Then they lost their next five and limped to the fifth-worst record in the league by the end of the season. This year’s run is being led by Jack Eichel, who has nine points in six games, and Victor Olofsson, whose five goals have all come on the power play. He’s the first player in NHL history to score the first seven goals of his career with the man advantage since the league starting keeping track of power-play goals in 1933-34.

3. On this date 30 years ago, Wayne Gretzky broke the all-time record for points — and then played for another decade. Add that to the list of mind-blowing Gretzky facts. The all-time scoring record should be a late-career accomplishment. But Gretzky topped Gordie Howe’s 1,850 points in just his 11th season and piled on another 1,007 before he retired in 1999. Twenty years later, no one has even come close to Gretzky’s 2,857 points. The No. 2 all-time scorer, Jaromir Jagr, is 936 points behind him. Read more about Gretzky’s record-breaking night on Oct. 15, 1989 here.

4. Brad Marchand did a very Brad Marchand thing. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Bruins star ranks eighth in the NHL in goals, fifth in points and first in opponents’ faces licked. No one in hockey (in all of sports?) combines elite skill with elite jerkiness quite like him. That’s why his run-in last night with Anaheim’s Max Comtois was the perfect Marchand moment. He starts it by cross-checking Comtois, then when Comtois tries to come back at him with a forearm shot, Marchand ducks it with a stunningly athletic defensive manoeuvre that would make Floyd Mayweather proud. Look:


Quickly…

The Washington Nationals are one win away from the World Series. The Cinderella team of the baseball playoffs can get there tonight by completing a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. This would be the first World Series appearance for the franchise, which was the Montreal Expos until it moved after the 2004 season. It looks like it’ll take longer to decide the American League’s representative in the World Series. Houston and the New York Yankees are tied at one game apiece heading into Game 3, which starts right around our publish time. The Astros’ pitcher today is Gerrit Cole, who hasn’t taken an official loss since May 22. Houston hasn’t lost a game he pitched in since July 12.

The Detroit Lions can’t buy a break. Since winning their last NFL title, in 1957, football’s pre-eminent sad-sack franchise has exactly one playoff win. This year’s Lions actually look pretty good, but they keep giving away games in spectacular fashion. In Week 1, they led 24-6 in the fourth quarter at Arizona before settling for a tie. In Week 4, they may have upset Kansas City if not for a 100-yard fumble return on a play that everyone thought was dead. Last night, they were on the wrong side of some questionable penalty calls that helped Green Bay beat them by a point. There’s an alternate universe where the Lions are 5-0 and tied for the best record in their conference. Instead, they’re a much more Lions-y 2-2-1 and in last place in their division.

It’s a brutal year for CFL quarterbacks. B.C.’s Mike Reilly was the only opening-game starter in the nine-team league to play in every game this season. But that streak will end after he had surgery yesterday for a broken wrist suffered Saturday and was lost for the rest of the year. The Lions have only two games left and they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Read more about Reilly’s injury here.

The Canadian men’s rugby team did a good deed. Their World Cup matches did not go well. They got trounced by Italy, New Zealand and South Africa, and had only a meaningless match against Namibia left when Typhoon Hagibis hit the host country of Japan. The match was cancelled, but the Canadian team stuck around to help with the clean-up efforts in flood- and mudslide-damaged areas. Some players helped shovel mud out of the streets, and others cleaned the homes of elderly people who had “literally four or five feet of water in their house the day before,” according to the team’s media-relations manager. Read more about how the Canadians gave a helping hand here.

And finally…

The L.A. Kings are blaming Taylor Swift for their failures. Actually, not even Taylor Swift. A Taylor Swift banner. There’s one hanging in the Kings’ arena commemorating the pop star for having the “most sold out performances.” Now, that’s a pretty flimsy reason for a banner (right down there with this one by the Nashville Predators). But some Kings fans think the Swift banner is a curse because L.A. hasn’t won a playoff round since it went up in the summer of 2015. Worse, the team actually took these people seriously and announced the banner will be covered up during games. Seems like an overreaction. Maybe next time just… uh… shake it off? (sorry).

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‘The first thing is food’: But aid pledges fall short after Mozambique cyclone

An unprecedented cyclone hits a devastatingly poor country. At what point should other countries intervene?

For India, the answer was made easier by serendipity: it happened to have three naval vessels on a training mission in the Indian Ocean when Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique on March 14, killing more than 500 people in southern Africa.

New Delhi ordered the crews to divert. Three days after the cyclone hit, Indian naval officers were knocking on the shattered port of Beira and jumping into action. They helped rescue nearly 200 people and treat and feed many others. They also immediately started rationing on board to share their food and water with those affected.

Captain Varun Singh, a senior Indian naval officer, is convinced it was destiny: For one, on his own bucket list was the wish to save the lives of at least 200 people.

“Oh, I completely believe in destiny,” said the 48-year-old, a survivor of both combat and cancer.

He likely survived, he said, to help “the destitute of this particular place.”

The aid effort was a little less predestined where other countries further afield were concerned.

As the scale of the loss in Mozambique and other affected countries became clear, many nations began to mobilize funding or other support to help ease the recovery of a country long ravaged by poverty and corruption, and now overwhelmed by fresh catastrophe.

The number of cholera cases in Mozambique is climbing fast. The total number of cases reached 271 on the weekend.

More than a week into the crisis, Canada pledged a modest $ 3.5 million Cdn to humanitarian organizations working on the ground.

Aid shortfall 

Still, international aid organizations acknowledge the immediate needs far outstrip what global donors have delivered or promised so far.

Some ascribe the shortage in funding to widespread international distrust of Mozambique’s government due to high levels of corruption in the country.

Captain Varun Singh helps deliver aid to Buzi, Mozambique, with other members of India’s navy. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC News)

Others blame a distracted world that isn’t focused on a southern African nation in crisis.

“I’ve been fussing with the media around the world that all you want to talk about is Brexit, Brexit, Trump, Trump, and we’ve got people dying,” David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, told reporters during a visit to Beira last week.

Of the $ 140 million US the WFP requires to feed the needy for just three months, only $ 57 million US has been pledged so far. Of that, only $ 3.9 million US has actually been delivered. As a result, the organization has had to rely more heavily than usual on its own reserve emergency fund.

“Children are going to die and families are going to starve to death if we don’t get the supplies they need,” Beasley said of the situation in Mozambique.

Watch as CBC’s Nahlah Ayed reports on Indian navy aid efforts:

Cyclone Idai was the worst weather-related disaster to ever hit the southern hemisphere, killing more than 700 people across southeastern Africa. Following the devastation, getting into the hardest hit areas has been a massive challenge. Mozambique, however, has got a helping hand from an unexpected source: India’s navy. 3:35

That partly explains why, even three weeks after the cyclone, Singh and his 650 men are still busy delivering aid to isolated communities, helping in the cleanup, and providing medical care.

Their main focus from the start was Buzi village, home to tens of thousands of people who were stranded and besieged by rising flood waters.

‘All the people were scared’

Initially, the only means to reach the village was from the air — with nowhere to land — or by water. Indian boats have made the five to six-hour roundtrip journey between Beira and Buzi at least twice a day since they arrived. They allowed a CBC crew to ride along to assess the damage.

At the entrance to the village, houses have been destroyed and abandoned, a tree leans heavily into the road, and a thick electric wire droops overhead.

“When the floods came … everything we had was damaged,” said Mohammed Gamu, a resident of the village.

Dulay Abdul Mamadi and his family survived the cyclone and the subsequent flooding. His house did not. He is now living with friends until he rebuilds.

Dulay Abdul Mamadi, a resident of Buzi, says he lost his home in the deadly cyclone. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC News)

“It’s a bad thing. A bad thing. The wind was high, very, very high,” Mamadi said. “All the people were scared.”

Using high speed boats on constant rotation, Indian officers ferried nearly 200 people to Beira, a city that is also devastated, but had more to offer survivors than their own waterlogged village. Early on, the Indian teams always had more people trying to get into the boats than they could carry. 

“People needed help,” said Singh. “Our presence, it was a great relief for them. The sight of somebody – they were sure now the relief will start coming in.”

Not enough food

Help did start arriving. Helicopters have started landing in Buzi with supplies. Those Indian boats are now using their twice-a-day visits to deliver much needed food and other supplies.

But residents say it’s still far from enough to feed everyone.

It is a problem everywhere you look in Mozambique.

At a quickly constructed displaced people’s camp near the Beira airport last week, a food distribution truck operated by World Central Kitchen handed out its last hot meal, with more than a dozen people, some with plates in hand, still waiting. An armed man in uniform tried to calm their anger.

Local residents carry aid from a World Food Program helicopter in Garangoza, Mozambique. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC News)

Many of the residents of the camp, named camp Ifapa and home to hundreds of people, are from Buzi. Survivors of the flooding there, both those who left and those who stayed behind, are joined by need — and frustration — over the wait.

Just a short walk away, the Beira airport is buzzing with aid workers, planes and helicopters trying to get supplies to where they’re needed.

The airport started off mostly abandoned after the cyclone, running on emergency power. It has evolved into a 24-hour nerve centre of international relief — home to foreign soldiers sleeping on cots, humanitarian groups working late into the night and medical tents set up on the grounds next to the terminal.

On the tarmac, a Russian Antonov plane sits a stone’s throw from a small U.S. jet, and a few steps from a South African helicopter.

The camp nearby reflects the international presence: U.K. aid tents, a water bladder provided by UNICEF, and food provided by World Central Kitchen.

Camp residents still have many needs, including help finding family members they lost in the chaos of the crisis — a problem exacerbated by the loss of electricity and downed telecommunications.

‘It could have happened to anyone’

At the camp, a group of local Red Cross workers provide telephones and a charging station, taking names to upload to a website that helps families reconnect – if they have access to the internet.

“Getting in touch with your family members is one of the basic needs people have,” said Diana Araujo from the Red Cross. It’s too early to know the extent of the separation problem, she added. 

Children displaced by Mozambique’s Cyclone Idai sit at a school as relief efforts continue. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC News)

The government is still trying to count all those affected; the displaced, the separated, the unaccompanied children, the missing, and the dead. They are trying to open roads and restore communications. They need help with all that too.

They also need help with the estimated one million children affected in this crisis.

UNICEF was in Beira early and provided fuel and chlorine to help restore the water system city-wide, as well as distributing water and tents for shelters.

Yet in its own appeal to member countries, it has only managed to raise one-third of what it needs urgently for the next three months.

And it’s only secured a tenth of the $ 102 million US it needs to provide assistance for nine months, said Michel le Pechoux, deputy representative at UNICEF Mozambique. The longer term plan is essential, he said, given so many people have lost their livelihoods.

Donor countries are still assessing the situation, le Pechoux added.

“So I think over the next few weeks there’s going to be some responses,” he said in an interview after leaving Beira. “But of course we’re not the only crisis. … Humanitarian response budgets are not stretchable.”

In addition to immediate needs, the $ 102 million figure UNICEF has appealed for is also aimed at emergency repairs to schools and health centres.

But for now, food remains the priority. 

“The first thing is food,” said Gamu from Buzi village. “There’s no food for these people.”

As helicopters buzzed overhead, Singh joined his three boats as they made the morning journey last week to Buzi to bring more food and to assess the situation for himself.

They arrived carrying rice, sugar and oil to add to previous deliveries they made that included bedsheets, blankets and baby clothes.

“We need to be humble enough to understand the pain of others and … provide whatever assistance we can,” said Singh.

“It could have happened to anyone.”

Watch as CBC’s  Nahlah  Ayed reports on aid issues in Mozambique:

The CBC’s Nahlah Ayed discusses aid efforts in Buzi, Mozambique, as well as what’s next for the region and village that experienced the worst of the flooding after Cyclone Idai. 5:27

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Why 'shortening the bench' in competitive youth sports can be a good thing

It was the playoffs. The game was tight and the clock was winding down.

A player on the other team was just about to step on the ice when one of the coaches grabbed his jersey and held him back. Another player quickly manoeuvred around him and stepped out on to the ice.

It was clear to everyone in the arena what was happening: as they say in sports, the coach was shortening the bench. He was choosing to reduce the ice time of some players in order to put out what he thought were his best players.

But this wasn't an NHL game — it was a competitive youth hockey game. I felt bad for the young players who were being held back. I could see their parents barely able to contain their disappointment.

I was glad it wasn't my son, I thought to myself.

And then it was.

Development vs. results

My son is a 10-year-old goaltender on a competitive hockey team. There are two goalies who usually rotate game by game. Except for this key playoff game, the other goalie would start in his place.

I immediately thought of my son and how upset he would be. Never mind how angry I was.

Was shortening the bench necessary in a hockey game being played by 10-year-olds?

Whatever happened to all of that talk about development over results?

And then I cooled down and thought about it. I also spoke to some fellow hockey dads.

'A better chance to win'

Aaron Rosenthal has two young sons who play hockey. He says when parents sign their children up for competitive sports, it should come with certain expectations.

"I think if you're playing competitive hockey then at times it's okay to shorten the bench. I don't think shortening the bench for the whole game is appropriate but certainly in tight games and third period," Rosenthal says. "I have no problem if we shorten the bench to give the kids a better chance to win and move on to play more games."

Jeremy Mandell Is a hockey coach and a dad. His son, on occasion, has been the victim of a bench shortening. As rule, he doesn't think it's a good idea but acknowledges it does have a place on occasion.

Mandell says shortening the bench should be used as a disciplinary tool or to get a player's attention.

"If a player isn't listening or screwing around, that might be the time to miss a shift but I don't think players should miss shifts based on perceived skill," Mandell says. "I am the coach. I chose them to be on the team because I thought they were good enough. If they aren't in a position to succeed, that's my fault."

I know what many people will say. It's not only about winning. But as Rosenthal points out, there are lots of place to be play where winning isn't as central. There are hundreds of house league programs where shortening the bench isn't an option for the coach. Everybody plays no matter what.

Would my son be permanently scarred by being sidelined for one February game when he was 10 years-old? Unlikely. But maybe he could learn something. Life isn't always fair and sometimes you have to earn things you may think are rightfully yours.

"If you're playing competitive sports at some point, it's OK to tell your kid you know do you need to work harder. You need to continue to grow as a as a player and cheer on your teammates as well. That's all part of the game."

Stunted growth?

He also might learn that it is important to strive for something, that it's okay to not always be the best. And that sometimes making sacrifices isn't a bad thing.

"I don't think it has stunted kids' growth. You're talking about one or two shifts at most," Rosenthal points out.

"It doesn't have a huge overall impact. And I think it builds team camaraderie. I think winning those games allowed us to make it to the finals and all the kids I think enjoyed the joy that experience overall."

The obvious villain in all of this for parents is the coach. But, for me, that wasn't the case. For one, he communicated his plans throughout the season and this was always a possibility.

I also didn't envy his position. It's a hard job at the best of times. I give him full credit for the time and dedication he's devoted to developing my son as a goaltender and a person. As a fellow coach, I also know the pressure – both spoken and unspoken – he is under.

I know the temptation is great to put out your best team in the most important circumstances.

I also understand the pressure to win. For the coach (who isn't a parent), winning can justify to parents that the hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars that have been invested in the season have all been worth it.

Will my son play the next game?

I don't know. Would I like him to? Of course.

But if he doesn't, it won't be the end of the world.

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