February 23, 2009
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Stajan said. He had the look of a beaten man.
Reporters challenged his vague comments and Stajan budged for a moment, stating “[it] probably started around the fall of 2007”.
As both a journalist and a Leafs fan, I wasn’t satisfied. I decided to get in touch with Stajan to find out what really happened. After days of prying, he is finally letting me tell his story.
It was September 12, 2007.
The Leafs were nearing the end of camp, just under a week away from traveling to Edmonton to kick-start the pre-season.
Matt took the long walk down to his mailbox. It was here. NHL 08: Electronic Arts Sports’ magnum opus. Stajan mumbled something about a Staal being on the cover and made his way back up to his apartment.
His adrenaline glands were firing on all cylinders. Apparently, Matt saves his competitive edge for the virtual ice surface.
He booted up the disc, pure excitement pumping through his veins. Matt was going to be a 50 goal man this year… this was his time.
Three shifts later, Stajan scored his first goal of the season.
What happened next would eventually push him to the edge of sanity.
Something went wrong. Horribly wrong.
“That’s not right”, he thought. He rotated his plasma to get a better look at the audio cords. Everything was in its proper place.
Perhaps he had heard it wrong. He wondered if during the celebration, his own screams had affected his hearing.
Convinced that he was to blame for the miscue, he continued playing. Two periods passed before Matt got a little careless with the poke check and tripped his opponent. There it was again.
There was no mistaking this. He heard it clear as day. “Matt Stay-an”. NOT “Stage-en”.
They were using a soft “j”.
“How could they screw that up?”, he raged. Within minutes, Stajan had his agent on the phone.
“Fix this NOW”, he ordered.
A few more phone calls later and a PR rep. from EA Sports was apologizing for the mistake. They had admitted that they had never heard of Stajan and were sorry for the mispronunciation.
Matt was distraught. Though he couldn’t help but continue to play ’08. It didn’t take him long to notice that he wasn’t the only Leaf being disrespected by EA. Nik Antropov was being butchered.
“Maybe this wasn’t about him”, Stajan thought. Maybe this was something bigger.
Could this be a subtle ‘dis’ to Canada’s favourite team? A virtual slap in the face? Stajan decided to keep quiet. After all, EA had agreed to rectify the blunder in their next game.
Everything was going to be okay.
And then, NHL 09 was released.
He was still Matt Stay-an.
It was personal now.
Stajan decided to travel to EA and solve the problem once and for all. Matt would not relate the details of this trip to me, however, he left EA Studios with the understanding that a patch would be released (for the name pronunciation) and that he would be honoured with a character in their new “3 on 3 Arcade” game.
“Three on 3 NHL Arcade” was released a week ago. Matt Stajan was not a selectable character.
Nik Antropov, however, was. Apparently Nik tried a more respectful approach with his complaint and thus, was chosen for the game.
“Enough is enough”, Matt stated, obviously choked up. “I need a new team, a new city… I need to go somewhere where everybody can pronounce your name”.
When I asked Matt where that might be, he conceded that “[he] wasn’t sure”.
“Maybe Colorado… if they can get Wojtek Wolski then Matt Stajan should be a breeze”.
For Matt and his family’s sake, I sure hope so.
February 20, 2009
The great Jermaine O’Neal experiment is officially over. Three months of DNP’s and lackluster numbers was all it took for GM Bryan Colangelo to send the former superstar packing.
The O’Neal acquisition, however, may not be considered a complete bust. The Raptor faithful will have to wait and see how the Shawn Marion chapter unfolds.
In a press conference held earlier today, Marion was careful to hit all the right notes, making certain to seem excited about the trade and the ‘new opportunities’ he would have in Toronto.
By opportunities, I am assuming Marion means a chance for personal numbers, since the Heat currently sit in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, while the lowly Raptors are holding down second last.
He did his best to put the abysmal season in a positive light, stating “we’re only five games out of the playoffs. It’s not unreachable for us. We’ve got 27 games to go and I think it’s very obtainable.”
As a long time Raptor fan, I have two immediate feelings.
The first comes from that pathetic but hopeful fan who thinks that the perennial all-star will help turn the tide for this season (unlikely). Moreover, this feeling turns to delusional fantasy when I consider the possibility of Marion taking a pay cut and staying with the Raptors (highly unlikely), allowing for the re-signing of Chris Bosh in 2010. Calderon, Bosh, Marion… shades of the run and gun Phoenix Suns?!
The second, and more realistic feeling goes like this: Bryan Colangelo made this deal to free up cap space next season. Shawn Marion will put up serious numbers in the remaining 27 games of the season. I can see him averaging 21 and 8 (particularly with Bosh sidelined right now).
The Raptors will finish in 9th or 10th spot in the East. Marion will seek an expensive, multi-year contract elsewhere.
Wait a minute. That first feeling is clawing it’s way back into my brain. What if Marion continued to put up mediocre numbers? (ex. 12 ppg). What if Marion’s options were limited and he wasn’t in the market for the lofty pay day he so badly wants? Nah, not happening.
Even if money wasn’t the issue (which it almost always is), Marion won’t want to stay in Toronto. No one does. Camby, T-Mac, Vince; they all wanted out. If the rumours are true, and Bosh is leaving for Chicago, Colangelo better make damn sure that Amare wants to be in Toronto.
Because if he doesn’t, no amount of winning, ‘competing’ or money will keep him here.
This is morphing into a different article altogether; “Why Toronto can’t keep its franchise players” … I guess that’s my next assignment.