Monday, April 30, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
- Ray Whitney re-signs: Multi-year deal. Great clubhouse guy. Finisher. Most excellent.
- Jim Rutherford re-signs: Multi-year deal. Looks like a vote on confidence from PK despite the Jack Johnson and Anson Carter at the deadline deals this season.
- Andrew Hutchinson playing for Team USA = potential big ups for Spicoli-on-Ice's market value.
Now is the time on Sprockets venn vee talk about Dennis Miller
Like most males of our species, I treat the car radio dial a lot like the TV remote. I don't care what is on, only what else is on. We all know it's inherently dangerous to shave, put makeup on, or talk on a cellphone while driving. But I'm probably just as dangerous behind the wheel because I tend to get absorbed in rhythmically tapping the "seek" button every nanosecond. As early as two weeks ago, I used to cycle between NPR, Colin Cowherd on ESPN, the local agenda-driven yahoos, alternative FM (very heavy with chick music flavor), ever-reliable old school Soul, and Laura Ingraham.
I can't stick long on NPR because it's God-awful boring. Everybody on every broadcast seems deep into their daily Percocet fog. I can't stay long with Cowherd either. He's way too in love with himself, and feel like I'm stabbing Jim Rome in the back by listening to an unlicensed clone. Lost interest in the self-absorbed and serially cranky Imus years ago.
Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago, a local AM station lost the Laura Ingraham show. Never liked it much anyway. Shrill-er-ific radio, at best. Enter Dennis Miller Radio. Great mix of politics, story-telling, comedy, pretzel logic, obscure metaphors and surreal analogies. No political talking point regurgitation. No point/counterpoint between folks who have a list of grievances to get thru as loudly, and with the most venom possible.
For a guy whose got more cultural knowledge and obscure trivia packed into his lobes than 98% of the population, I love the lack of pretentiousness in Miller. I appreciate the fact that he admits that he's learning on the job. During week one, an overly-exuberant Miller took every opportunity to seize on what he thought were the essential elements of a caller's commentary to launch into a tangential rant. Now he's listening first, and there are fewer mis-riffs. How about a radio talking head whose not afraid to admit he's wrong? How about a radio host who brings on thoughtful people regardless of their political ilk? How bizarre, how bizarre.
My daily commute is around 45 minutes each way, and I laugh out loud at least once every trip listening to Miller. Sometimes he seems to be playing word association games - like he's got South Park Manatees feeding jokes into his earpiece- but I find his shtick to be very compelling radio. Today, he called Arianna Huffington, "The Smart Gabor." Two weeks ago he reflected on the possibility of Paris Hilton being sent to jail for violating probation and labeled it, "The Shaw-skank Redemption."
So here's my attempt at a Dennis Miller Radio Primer for CB readers - a few core references you will need to be familiar with in order to follow a few of a his recurring riffs:
- Rube Goldberg: Cartoonist and social commentator of the mid-twentieth century. Noted for what are called gold "Rube Goldberg Machines." These are overly complex devices designed to perform a simple task. Think of the board game Mousetrap.
- Isaac Asimov: Science fiction author who took a keen interest in robots.
- Ray Bradbury: Another science fiction writer and author of The Martian Chronicles.
- Ma-mood Aqua-Velva Zhad: DM's id. for the current President of Iran.
It's fair to say Dennis crashed and burned on MNF and CNBC. His stylings were just too divergent for the MNF crowd. As for CNBC, who the Hell watches anything on that pseudo-network anyway? I loved that CNBC show, especially the panel discussion segment. Now I think he's again found his niche. To steal from Elvis Costello, "Radio is a sound salvation. Radio is cleaning up the nation." To me, Dennis Miller is the new voice of reason on the radio, sans the treason.
Friday, April 20, 2007
For the most part, I'm not a pig-piler. I did my Thrash glow piece earlier in the week, and haven't followed that coerced piece of prose with any Don Waddell/Bob Hartley bashing. I know my ATL pals are feeling bad enough. Leadership took a gamble and the boys didn't deliver. My team is out of the Cup race, and I only seek one element of retribution.
Last year, Paul Kukla was nice enough to pick up my Team Dillinger post and include a primer for it in his nhl.com blog. It was tongue-in-cheek and I tried to stress that I felt Columbus' pain, but that didn't stop the venom from Franklin County. I got whacked with Dinner Jacket-Fan emails and comment postings on CB about what a dolt I was. I was a stupie who knew nothing about hockey or their beloved Jackets.
The Jackets finished 23 points out of 8th place. Team captain, Adam Foote, finished the season -17. Six-Million-Dollar-Per-Season-Man, Sergei Federov, only tallied 42 points - finishing in around 160th place in the scoring race. And yesterday, the Doug MacLean experience finally came to an end in Columbus. I was right. I am The Amazing Kreskin of Blue Jacket hockey analysis, and you lot are not.
Now is the time to rebuild in Columbus. I see Mike Barnett coming to Columbus as the new GM. Then I see a trade of Rick Nash to the Hurricanes for Trevor Letowksi. I, your personal Amazing Kreskin, see a bright future on the horizon for his beloved Blue Jackets if they follow his sage counsel.
In yesterday's rant I teased my encounter last week with Clint Eastwood. Here's the back story. Left Tucson last Thursday and headed to SOCAL. This is one of the most mind-numbing trek's America's highway system has to offer. Highlights include:
- Gila Bend, Az-Just a Taco Bell, McDonalds, really expensive gas and Space Age Outer Limits Diner away from a real wild west ghost town.
- Quartzite, Az - McDonalds, Burger King, gas, tattoo parlor and an abandoned flea market.
- Blythe, Ca - State prison freeway exit on the hill above the Colorado River co-located with a rest stop...and a sign that reminds drivers not to pick up hitch hikers. Ya think?
- ????, Ca - The General George Patton Museum - Statue right out front of George in that synched down helmet, sheepskin lined bomber jacket, those troubling poofy riding breeches and knee high boots -you know, that sadistic gay Nazi from a Mel Brooks movie look. Also a lot of old tanks strewn about the yard. Reminded me of those images of an Iraqi Republican Guard base after the 3rd ID blew through them.
- Palm Springs - You come down off this barren plateau to a oasis rimmed by Indian casinos, mountains and thousands of wind generators.
So we decide to get off I-10 around 8:30 pm to eat in La Quinta. Only place we find that has no wait is a Japanese Sushi bar and grill called Okura. Raw seafood and Delmonico steaks - my kinda restaurant. I ended up having an all fried (Tempura) Sushi roll mix for dinner. Only thing missing was some good cole slaw and hush puppies.
Now I'm in my driving attire -visor, ratty old polo with bleach stains, khaki shorts, white ankle socks and Berkeley professor hippie sandals. The wife tells me I need to at least lose the socks. So I venture back to the mens room following this kinda nervous acting guy. Right before the door of the mens room he abruptly stops and I almost run him over. He says "Sorry, I really don't need to go to the bathroom, I just wanted to see Clint Eastwood." First thing I think is, "Junior thinks I look like Clint Eastwood?"
So I go back to my table and tell my wife about the encounter. After we are done eating, I decide to venture back to the head to wash the Wasabi and soy off my hands. As I'm leaving the restroom I walk by a table with a disheveled-looking grandpa and his family. Grandpa is Clint Eastwood. Naturally, I do the Three Stooges double take and almost immediately you can see his Play Misty for Me avoidance radar light off. In retrospect, I wish he would have hit me with that Harry Callahan knitted brow glare instead. What I got was not an icy stare, just a tired one that communicated in no uncertain terms, "Yeah it's me, but can you just leave me alone?" Fine with me Mr. Eastwood. In case you were wondering, he was having a wicked bad hair day. Picture Bozo without the red hair dye. He also wasn't nearly as tall and imposing as I would have thought.
Found out from the waitress that he owns a restaurant in the area. No other confirmed celebrity sightings last week in SOCAL. I did see this midget in a Pasadena breakfast joint who might have been in some Ron Howard movie, but he too just wanted to be left alone.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Short people got no reason....
Nearly every day now on nhl.com you'll find features on second-tier celebrities as devout hockey fans and scenes of same depicted in special moments with the Stanley Cup.
My wife and oldest watch some weekly drama about brothers and sisters. I think it has Sally Field in it. I can't deny the fact that they like her! They like her! And they really, really love her show. But I don't. I'm a devout hockey fan. They are not. So the NHL does a Web feature on cast members from this show and the Stanley Cup? Are they trying to broaden their appeal to the Grey's Anatomy-Fan demographic? A demo that will probably never embrace hockey? Yeah, yeah, I know there are a couple of you female hockey blogger types out there who probably live in both worlds, but you are the few, the proud..and you probably joined the NHL choir when Patrick Dempsey was just that dorky kid in Can't Buy Me Love (filmed in Tucson).
The other day, the "Frozen Moment" image was Christie Brinkley in an Islanders sweater. Christy Brinkley was turbo-hot before the cell phone, but ravages of time and failed marriages to Billy Joel and some pedophile architect in Colorado don't make her much of an appealing hockey spokesmodel to me. I really have no interest in what she would blog about...unless she were to drop a couple of "I remember the night Billy got so drunk he..." re-sets into her posts.
So how would NHL VP of Marketing, Me, market this sport?
1. Sell the stars, their unbelievable speed and athleticism, and their accessibility to us. I hearken back to that old Kovalchuk/Naslund ad. That ad was way cool and the focus was on the things I just listed. They climbed walls, whacked pucks out of mid air, and cinematically moved among us-the regular people-throughout their mad chase. Peter Forsberg lounging in a couple's bed or Sidney Crosby hiding in a hotel shower is just not the same. And Joe Thornton buttering toast? Hello!?! All those ads, except the ones with the Sedins and OV8, make me want to hurl. And these two only work because they were truly funny.
Fact is, NHLers are not just like you and me. The league should trumpet la différence instead of downplaying it. NHL hockey players can take and dish out unbelievable levels of pain. They blast around the ice at Warp Factor Eight and can still catch their breath in 15 seconds. They can deflect 100 mph slapshots thru tiny and moving five-holes. They can see through a tangled forest of sticks, legs and bodies well enough to launch a saucer a pass to a compadre pinching from the backside seconds before they get crushed by that 230 lb defenseman closing at flank speed.
Yes, these NHL stars are very different human beings, but unlike NBA stars and New York Yankees, they still mix with us regular folk. They drive their kids to school, take their wives to a local restaurant with no entourage, play street hockey in the neighborhood and get their heads shaved for charity.
I say leverage the fascinating tension between an NHL star's athletic exceptionality and their earthy sameness.
2. Invest heavily in building a grassroots hockey culture where it currently does not exist. I'm talking relationship and experience marketing. Clubs like the Hurricanes who sponsor extensive youth hockey programs are putting their resources in the right place. One of the things I've enjoyed while watching the Rangers dismantle the Thrash (as if that wasn't intoxicating enough) has been the highlight snips of the pee-wee hockey players in their between period scrums. Very smart Rangers media. We need more hockey moms and less soccer moms.
I say teach folks to love the game first and the loyalty (read $$season tix$$) will follow.
But no fundamental shift in sports culture happens over night...unless it's sole focus is on violence. Warm weather hockey towns get slagged all the time by Nor' Easters where hockey has been part of the culture for generations. Hockey was bigger at my high school in Connecticut than football. It was that way in 1980 (pre-Miracle on Ice), and it's probably still that way today. It took time for that culture to develop, but the snobs out there don't, or won't, acknowledge that it will take time for the sport to grow down south and out west.
Hockey will succeed if the league leverages the game's core strengths. Manufactured linkage to a series of pop culture icons da jour is not leveraging a core strength. It's false, shallow and dumb. Please God don't let some NHL headquarters marketing intern take a call from Paris Hilton's agent between now and the middle of June.
Speaking of the Shaw-skank Redemption (thanks Dennis Miller), I don't care if the actor who played Nuke LaLoosh is a hockey fan. Matter of fact it bums me out. The guy's a tool. But if Clint Eastwood (who I actually ran into last Thursday night at a Japanese restaurant in Palm Springs) or Dennis Haysbert were to publicly pronounce their love for hockey...now that would be cool. It wouldn't make me more of a hockey fan, but I would feel some superficial sense of a bond with actual mensch celebrities.
Speaking of LaLoosh, I think selling hockey is a lot like partisan politics. You have to keep the base happy before you can think about expanding the tent. I am the base and I am not happy. I say NHL marketing and their Madison Avenue Ad gurus jumped off the "keep it real" train way too early for the second straight year. It's still time to focus on a "tastes great/less filling" approach, but I guess the NHL's ad geniuses can't be bothered with that sort of stuff.
Last season Cuba Gooding and Kid Rock kept popping up for dopey between period interviews. Each time, I felt the urge to throw up in my mouth. Unfortunately, I expect more of the same this spring.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Way overdue, but possibly just in time (?), I seek to pay homage to the Southeastern Division Champion Atlanta Thrashers. This club rose like a fiery Phoenix from the ashes of a playoff run unfulfilled in 2006, and went on to lead the Southeast Division basically from wire to wire. The Thrash swaggered this season when others vacillated with indecision (CAR), struggled to find their chemistry (TBL), waited for some return, any return, on a bad investment (FLA), or searched fruitlessly for the ideal AHL lineup to compliment one of the league’s premiere stars (WAS).
“A large, skulking bird of thickets and hedgerows, the Brown Thrasher has
one ofthe largest song repertoires of any North American bird. An aggressive
defenderof its nest, the Brown Thrasher is known to strike people and dogs hard
enough to draw blood."
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before the recovery process can begin
Hi all - I know it's been crickets 24-7 here at CB since the Canes were eliminated. I know I owe the Thrash crew a heartfelt ode to the bird as well, and I will deliver soon. I've just been, well, uninspired.
So as of today, I'm off to the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for NHL Fans Wing of the Betty Ford Clinic. While I'm in Cali, I might also take in three days of the Southern California National Qualifier Volleyball Tournament.
Things for JR to get done while I'm gone:
1. Sign Ray and Scotty
2. Bring Joe Vasicek, and Anson Carter into the dimly lit boardroom and tell them they're fy-uhhh'd.
3. Schedule Bret Hedican's retirement banquet around Kristi's touring schedule.
4. Find somebody to take Trevor Letowski
Posted by M15D at 4/12/2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Her Imperious Majesty, the Acid Queen, takes a non-imperious and downright conciliatory tone with those still standing:
The gods favor the worthy, and if your team isn’t judged worthy, then you shake your opponent’s hand, congratulate him on a series well-played, and look ahead to next
Bubbaover at Canes Country saw a lot of what has ailed the Canes all season in their third period performance last night:
Carolina has been extremely consistent at being inconsistent all year long.
The team has looked tired on more nights than not and looked totally gassed in
the 3rd period again last night.
Joe Ovies at the Buzz Blog gets it too:
Inconsistency, desire, injuries, awful power play, goaltending…the list goes
on. Carolina could not get itself together for whatever reason, but what sticks
out most to me this season was the change in how the Canes approached their
games. Last season they dictated the style of play...
Davidis channeling Morrissey over at Red and Black. Somebody please keep him away from sharp objects and winner-take-all Scrabble competitions.
I know it's over
And it never really began
But in my heart it was so real
Well fought game - they tried their best, but it wasn't good enough. At
least my tickets for next season are paid for.
Until the first period of tonight's affair, I never realized that the Green
Acres theme* intro could be done in so many variations...and that's just on a
Herr Wuf,the proprietor of the Carolina on Ice blog is Caniac Nation's undisputed King of All Visual Media Manipulation. He uses a YouTube snip from Office Space as the vehicle to express his take.
The Magnificent Ms. Mer (not meant to be a Seinfeld allusion, although I guess that line was "spectacular.") offers a dead-on summary of the Canes path to mediocrity this year over at Paperwhites in Season. She closes with this gem sure to reinforce all the positive coverage we get for hockey-south:
If we're not in the post-season, then I want someone in the West to get the
Cup this year. Go Nashville. Keep Redneck Hockey alive.
And on his blog, Carolina Hurricanes Blog Hokeyowy, our comrade in Poland, Rafal, announces what appears to be the expansion of Caniac Nation in Eastern Europe - now there are two.
Kibice aktualnych mistrzów NHL również doczekali się świątecznego prezentu! Od wczoraj pod adresem internetowym: http://carolinahurricanes.sileman.net.pl/I think this roughly translates to the Polish equivalent of, "Hockey in Carolina has bean berry, berry good to me...until today."
, działa strona poświęcona Huraganom z Karoliny...
Ashley is simmering and somber over at The Life and Times of a Caniac:
The worst part about them missing the playoffs is that the Canes let it slip
away. If they had won games like the Toronto
games, they would be in right now. But, no, they had to go into a nuclear
meltdown to end the year, and look where we are.
As for me last night, it was anger, sadness and relief all swizzled together in one big mixed-emotion cocktail...and around two bottles of wine. Last season was a rush, but by June I was a mess. I ended up watching game seven of the finals from the local rink in my gear, even after my C League game was cancelled, because I knew I wasn't going to be good company at home.
I'm not sure all the angst I went thru during the Cup run was worth what I got out of it. I think what I most got out of that experience was a equal parts perspective and serenity. I can now say I've been there and done that as a Carolina Hurricanes fan. My team owns a Stanley Cup Championship. Many of those getting ready to vie for that title won't get to ride that roller coaster after all is said and done. The Duke of Wellington is said to have remarked after the Battle of Waterloo that the only thing worst than a battle lost is a battle won. The Carolina Hurricanes lived that maxim this year. They started the season banged up and gassed, and finished that way last night.
I'm with Her Majesty. Let's see winning and losing with class. Let's see the love for the game trump the whining and venom. Let's see bravado balanced with humility and graciousness from all. Good luck boys. Good luck to everybody. Go Lightning. Go Rangers. Even go Sabres. The best thing that can happen this spring is for the Sabres to finally win that damn cup. No more Norwood and Hull re-sets may mean a kinder, gentler Sabre-Fan Nation...then again, maybe not.
And as always, intercourse the Thrash. I'm not ready to be that warm and fuzzy..until I have to.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
My buddy, Captain Dan, got back from Iraq last week and one of the things I think he most needed some normalcy immersion therapy. Well, for us that's either drinking excessively under the stars while we listen to Yes and Genesis, or playing golf. Sunday was golf day.
Our home course is the Santa Rita Golf Club, the site for many of the scenes in Kevin Costner's movie, Tin Cup. Sunday we were paired with John and Paul, a couple of Snowbird Canucks from Ontario. Great guys, regular guys, guys who will never be mistaken for octagenarian Liverpudlian rockers. Paul is a retired florist. He's about 65 and a former part-time scout for the London Knights. Only in Canada, or maybe France, could a guy be a florist and a hockey scout. Paul is a 60-ish retired railroad engineer with a physique like Greg Luzinski, circa now.
After he retired, John decided to take up golf. He took a shatload of lessons, and is now self-certified swing expert. John either killed the ball a mile high and a mile long, or he twisted a 20 foot topspinner into the cactus near the ladies tee. Luckily, John buys his golf balls in bulk from EBay. John's got all the right hybrid clubs and driver that looks like it was made by cutting a quarter swath out of a bowling ball. Paul's got similar swing issues, but without the girth to back up his rips. In case you were wondering, I shot in the triple digits...so did Captain Dan and the Canucks-the perfect foursome.
Both great guys. Sat around and had beers after our round and the boys wouldn't let us buy a round. If you only knew these two Canadians, you'd swear that like them, every Canadian has had beers with Don Cherry and watched Gretzky score 20 goals in one game as a 12 year-old.
Paul and I talked about the Canadian junior hockey system vs. the US college hockey. No wonder the majority of NHLers would rather see their kids at Boston U. rather than with the Halifax Mooseheads. That being said, I am always envious when I'm reminded of how intricately hockey is woven into the fabric of Canadian culture. Just watch HNC on any given Saturday night and you'll notice the difference.
Posted by M15D at 4/03/2007
Her Majesty's Florida Panthers
(Hey McJokinen, cover up those naughty bits, will ya?)
The Canes need to run the table on three SE rivals and then pray for some good karma. Other folks offer a number of scenarios that could result in a playoff berth for the Carolina Hurricanes, but it all starts with a three game winning streak against two teams with nothing to lose and one with a lot to lose. Where are the Flyers when you need them? Ooops, the Canes already played that card and came up empty.
The Canes won the other night in Miami because they were a wee bit more focused in their aggression. As previously reported, the Panthers quit playing to win in the third, imploded in the OT and whined right the post-game activities. The Kitties are the NHL's version of Monty Python's Queen's Own McKamikaze Highlanders. They are oblivious to the consequences of their own behavior and seemingly fixated on self-destruction. Yes, Ray Whitney's unsportsmanlike minor in the third was real dumb, but not a late David Tanabe crosscheck, or an Eddie Belfour (insert anecdote of your choice here) dumb.
You wanna win this war on terror? I say get Belfour good and liquored up, slap a kilt on him and drop him on Tehran. Unlike the Scottish Kamikaze the Python crew dropped on the Kremlin, Eddie is sure to explode.
Focused aggression for 60+ minutes is the key tonight. That sloppy crap from Sunday won't cut it any more. Give up the odd-man rush to Frodo and Vinny and it's lights out - allow Danny Boyle and Brad Richards time to find campers in the slot and the Cup defense is probably over.
First the Bad News:
No Laddie, Walker, Wesley, Hedican, Cullen, AWard, Francis, Shanahan or Pronger in the lineup tonight.
Now the Good News:
Trade deadline savior Anson Carter will be in the lineup...
......Ok, we're doomed. Time to call in the Kamikazes.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Eddie, Tie Domi and Friends at Recent Mensa Convention
(H/T to JP over a SeSo who got the following rant rolling)
Another blown Panther lead, another Kitty rant about diving. Who would have predicted that Bryan Allen, one of the league's most penalized defensemen - a guy who plays every shift on the edge of a boarding or roughing penalty - would take a tripping penalty in OT? Who would have guessed that a cranky old Eddie Belfour with a history of going ballistic even when he's not blind drunk, would lose his cool in OT and open the door for the Canes with a 5-3? I suggest that it was very predictable because stupid is as stupid does.
Every organization takes on the personality of it's leadership. Where you find intelligent and focused leadership, you find the same in the culture of the organization. From the top down, the Florida Panthers rank among the top three the dumbest and most easily distracted teams in hockey (I'd put the Coyotes and Islanders in there as finalists as well). Even with the departure of Mike Keenan, the Panthers are still a team with more venom than vision. Look beyond Marty Gelinas and tell me where you find seasoned and mature leadership on that team. Jacques Martin? Pleeeze. Martin the GM still makes decisions on how much of a grudge he holds against the teams he thinks have screwed him in the past. Eddie Belfour? A mean drunk with a history of brawling with cops and teammates? Olli Jokinen? He's the chief spokesmodel whenever this diving thing comes up. He's also second only to Zdeno Chara in penalty minutes among the league's team captains.
Because the Panthers lack intelligent and focused leadership, they often crack when things start to go wrong. Things started going wrong when the Hurricanes made it a one goal game mid-way thru the third. From that point on, the Panthers played like a herd of panicked Wildebeesties. Face it Olli, Jacques, Eddie, et al, the story-line from last night's game was the implosion of your Florida Panthers - end of story.
And now for something completely different. A Center Ice rant
Thanks to some glow over at The Fanshouse, CB is getting a nice bump in traffic today. Perfect opportunity for a rant. Some nights, I'll record a game and the friggin DVR box will keep recording emptiness for four hours after the game concludes. Other nights, my recording gets killed when one of the kids wants to record a cartoon or pre-teen show. The latter is an easy one to explain. Kids and remotes-a deadly mix. Last night, there was nothing else in the queue - it just cut off immediately after the third period horn. Now I may well be dumb as a Florida Panther, but WTFO?