Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things to be thankful for....

Here are the things I'm thankful for:
A warm apartment
The mellowing of Charlie "the computer destroying cat" Chaplin
The fact that my car works (for the most part)
Having a job
Following successful sports teams (the current abhorrent state of PC hockey and Celtic's abysmal road form in Europe notwithstanding)
Early Christmas shopping
... and finally the three or four people who actually read this blog! Thanks, and keep up the comments!

Flotsam and jetsam:

- Um, Herald? “We’re the No. 1 defense. If we play like we’ve been playing, and our offense comes around and has a good game, and we’re clicking on all cylinders, we’re going to win the game.” How does this comment by Anthony Smith of the Steelers constitute "trash talk"? If the Steelers do indeed play up to their capabilities, they will win the game. That's not a trash talk. That's just patently obvious. I understand that Mr. Smith made an ass of himself last year, but this isn't even close to trash talk.
Shouldn't the Pats be desensitized to this silliness by now, especially after Joey "the Prince of the Land of Make Believe" Porter last week?

-There's radio, bad radio and the continued devolution of the Big Show. Last week, all of the Whiner Line (and really, shame of me for listening to the Whiner Line) was dedicated to one of the producers saying that he thought Nancy Pelosi was attractive. While the comment was certainly... insane, I can't help but note that in a sports climate where the Pats, Bruins and Celtics are all competitive - if not dominant - the Big Show is wallowing in politics. Again.

-The "Dead Zone" in the sports calender is usually the days before and after the MLB All Star Game. Well, New England went through it's own Dead Zone the past two days. While I appreciate that the Celtics and Bruins do need days off, the past two sports free days have been a bit odd. Especially since the Celtics play about a fifth of their schedule in November!

-Speaking of Celtic's baffling incompetence in the Champions League, while I'm unhappy with the 17th consecutive road game without a victory, I can't help but take solace in the phrases that get used in international football (soccer to the rest of you). Celtic didn't just lose out, they "Crashed out of Europe". I might have to use that from now on. For instance, PC is in the midst of crashing out of Hockey East.
It's probably a good thing there's no relegation in college hockey, or PC would be playing UMASS Boston and Middlebury next year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Imagination and broohahas!

"You've heard of the French nation? Well, this is the Imagi-nation!"
-Kris Kringle, A Miracle on 34th Street

Say this about Joey Porter, he has a healthy imagination. In his mind, he's already won 2 extra Super Bowl titles. I'm jealous: when I was a kid, they best I could imagine was owning a time machine! I'm just curious, in his fantasy kingdom, does he own a pony?

I know the Spygate flap generated a lot of goofiness, but is this true of other NFL players? Are there 300 people floating around the NFL all imagining they would have won multiple Super Bowl titles if only the Pat's hadn't used videotape? (because it's perfectly legal to use other methods of spying for some reason that will never - EVER - be explained to the general public. Yeah.)

Speaking of delusions, the Montreal Canadiens have somehow reached the rather bizarre conclusion that the team's some times somnambulant performances this year can be boiled down to one thing: Milan Lucic's refusal to fight Georges Laraque. Huh? Let's face facts - Lucic is a fun player. He can score goals, he can hit people and get under the skin of teams and he can certainly handle himself in a fight. But Laraque would kill him and apparently, the Bruins are aware of this and told Lucic not to fight Laraque on Saturday night. This is an amusing subplot. Unfortunately, it came back to bite Montreal in the rear as Lucic scored one of the goals that allowed the B's to earn an overtime shoot out "win" (I'm sorry, even when the Bruins "win" the shootout still sucks). So, not only are the Bruins 2-0-1 against a team they couldn't beat at all last year, but they now they're winning mind games against les Blue, Rouge et Blanc too.

I might be wrong about this - I haven't been alive for most of this one-sided rivalry - but isn't it usually the Bruins who are obsessed with "making points" and "dropping the gloves" and the Habs who go about actually winning the games? I know the Bruins were obsessed with winning fights against Montreal last year and their inability to get one win against les Habs last year proves this to be a poor strategy. So why is an intelligent franchise like the Canadiens buying into this circus sideshow? Am I missing something? Did the Canadiens establish their dynasty by scoring, defense, and goaltending, or were Rocket Richard, Jean Belliveau, and Guy LaFleur actually giant Hansenesque cementheads who pummeled everyone into submission? One of the criticisms against Laraque is that he doesn't do the requisite illegal hitting to initiate fights. Fancy that, he acts like a human being instead of a giant goon!

I'm not one of these people who wants to ban fighting from hockey, but the obsession with fisticuffmanship that the Habs are indulging in is at least as funny as Joey Porter and the Super Bowl rings he likes to look at while he rides his Pegasus over to Gum Drop Mountain.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rant of the week: Inspecting the white flag

There's probably little room for optimism if you're one of the dwindling amount of PC hockey fans who has had their hearts ripped out Mola Ram style by the awful start this team has had in Hockey East. Fortunately, I'm not stupid enough to argue that this ISN'T the worst season PC has had since the formation of Hockey East.

Let's look at the facts. The team is 0-6-1 and just blew their best chance of the season to get a win at home against a decent - but not spectacular - Maine team that spent all of last year in the basement. Coming up on the schedule is a UML team that might have some question marks, but that is certainly better than PC. Then we have the Skating Mother Theresas, playing at home in a place where PC never wins. Yeah, it looks bleak. It looks like PC is going to be 0-8-1 in the league and staring down a last place finish. And it's also entirely possible that this team will never win a game for the rest of the season. It's not LIKELY, but it could happen.

So at this point, I'm certainly not going to abandon the team. I've sat through my share of bad seasons. At most, I won't attend as many games - especially since I haven't seen this team win in almost 10 months (or close to it!). I'm not even going to call for Tim Army's head - yet. What I'm going to do is root for this team to get their heads out of their posteriors and not get too disappointed when it doesn't happen.

I look at it this way. I can acknowledge that the team has problems. But I'm not morally obligated to watch them struggle in each and every game. What I'd like to see happen is for the team to win a game in Hockey East. I want to see if this will lead to some confidence and maybe a modest winning streak. I don't think the Friars are a bad team: they just aren't playing well enough to win. They screw up too many offensive opportunities and give up too many scoring chances. And the special teams are awful. If the Friars can turn one or two of these things around, they MIGHT escape the basement. And that might entice a few of us back on the bandwagon. You've heard of cautious optimism? This is cautious pessimism.

Rant of the week:

-Again, on the trash talking: I sense people are stunned that the Patriots are not engaging in a war of words with mouthy idiot Joey Porter. Here's the thing: when your team wins by the margin the Dol-Frauds did the last time they were in Foxborough, you can talk all the trash you want. It's irrelevant because Miami won the game. I would have more of a problem with Mr. Porter displaying his vast lack of class had the Dol-frauds lost the game. Then, it's just pathetic. Besides, why get into a urinating match with a skunk?

-Hi Mark!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trash talking and competence do not go hand in hand

Knicks object to Celtics' trash talking

Are you kidding me? Are the Knicks the dumbest team in the NBA? You get beat by the defending NBA Champions playing WITHOUT Kevin Garnett and the first thing out of your mouths is that the Celtics are trash talking? Give me a break.

When you lose, then is not the time to complain about what the other team is saying about you. That would be the time to take a look in the mirror and find out what you need to do to NOT lose next time.

It's like when the losing team complains about running up the score or the "class" of fans or a "dirty hit". That's not the story. The story is, you lost.

Cripes, when did North American athletes start emulating whiny European golfers? I think trash talking is dumb, but stop trying to distract people from your ineptitude. If Brian Scalabrine is knocking down threes, you have a problem.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I like hockey, but some times I really don't understand it. In particular, I'm not really sure what constitutes a penalty. I used to be able to make that distinction - especially in regards to some of the crap calls PC used to put up with nightly. Now I do not. Maybe the problem is me. Maybe I don't understand hockey as much as I think I do. After all, I can't skate. It's easy to see how I could miss something that trained on ice official did not.

The idea that it's my fault for being uneducated about the finer nuances of the game - and a bit too quick to blame the officials for my team's lack of discipline - is a good one. But this hypothesis dies a quick death when the television broadcasters replay the penalty and I see NOTHING that would constitute a penalty. I'm not just talking about incidental contact or obvious diving by the opponent. I'm talking about players just brushing against one another and the color commentator making a remark that this is a "good call" that the official "had to make". I must be missing something, because for the most part, I don't see these penalties at all in real time or in instant replay.

See, here's the thing: I complain about officials no more or less than a deranged Tommy Heihnsohn. When they replay calls in the NFL, 9 times out of 10, it shows that the official made the right call. When they replay calls in the NBA, 9 times out of 10, the refs blew the call. Hockey used to be somewhere in the middle. Now, I'm completely lost: I try to be fair to officials and wait until I see a replay. The problem I'm having is that the, replay doesn't help anymore.

The two referee system that the NHL uses was recently filtered down to college hockey. This means two things (neither of them good): more penalties and more people in stripes accidentally getting in the way of the play. I think people would like to see hockey evolve into a more free flowing game. They just don't want to see 9,000 ticky tack basketball penalties that always seem to favor one team over another. This was driven home on the Friday game where PC's complete lack of offense and special team play was further muddied by a series of completely random calls. The same thing happened the next night when my wife and our mutual friend and I watched UML shut out UMASS. A seemingly random play would result in a penalty and I had no explanation as to why.

In the third college hockey game of the week, I thought I'd hit upon a plan to figure out these seemingly random calls once and for all. Fortunately, I get the Mega Sports Package From Hell on my cable package and I get the home games for the Golden Gophers. It was fortuitous that the Gophers were hosting MTU in a 2 PM matinee. And it was doubly fortuitous that the WCHA head of officials Greg Shepherd was in the booth with the two announcers. Or you would think that it was fortuitous. Even with the head of officials there, not only did the calls still seem to not make sense (with the exception of some complete stupidity on the part of the Huskies)but the explanations didn't jive with what I was seeing in the replays either. I think I'm doomed to never understand hockey officiating on any level. So let me apologize in advance to any officials for any complaining I might do in the next year or two. Obviously, I'm missing something.

One comment was telling: Mr. Shepherd was asked point blank if the extra ref and rules changes were made with consideration to the fans. He said no. Later on the broadcast, he amended his answer to say that if the rules changes had the desired effect (less stickwork, less clutching and grabbing and thus a more fluid pace), the fans would be a direct benefactor. Still, I just wonder if these rules designed to free up the offense work because the game is opening up or because the entire game is played in the power play. Just wondering...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rant of the week: "Some people have REAL problems"

I recently read on USCHO that Providence College had descended into the ranks of a Atlantic Hockey. While I'm as frustrated with PC's performance as the next person, I think that's a little harsh. So here's some teams that have done less than Providence College in recent history.

AIC: You know what stinks? When you're the worst team in D-I hockey. Every year.

Army: Everyone loves Army, but they've never won anything and their arch rival is a Canadian school. That can't be good.

Bentley: The Falcons play in a rink that makes Merrimack look like a palace. And it's about 3 miles away from the campus.

Sacred Heart: Distinguished mainly by the fact they have a player named "Bear Trapp".

UCONN: The Huskies are successful in pretty much everything else. But not men's ice hockey. Inexplicable.

Western Michigan: At some point in the past five years, something awful happened to this team and the fans never recovered. I have no idea what, but I did catch the third period of their game against Miami a few nights ago and the rink was EMPTY. I guess their coach got an extension recently. Lovely.

University of Alaska: Death, taxes, and the Nanooks doing nothing. They have a lovely rivalry with the Seawolves and that's about it.

Yale, Brown and Dartmouth: These three schools have long glorious histories and surprisingly little to show for it. Dartmouth and Brown have played for the national title. And lost. Yale won the 1998 ECAC regular season title. And seemingly nothing else. With Princeton breaking away from the pack and Harvard and Cornell weighed down by recent hardware, there seems to be a divide between the haves and have-nots in the Ivy League.

Quinnipiac: They've been THE program on the rise for about 5 years now. Without actually doing anything.

Union: The general impression I get from the fans of the Skating Dutchmen is that the AD is happy to be successful 40% of the time. Ow.

RPI: It seems odd to lavish any sympathy on the team that beat PC for the 1985 National Title, but the Engineers have been stuck in neutral for quite a while now.

Merrimack: They play in a rink that is basically a high school gym with a sheet of ice in the middle. They remain the only team in Hockey East to never play for the title.

Northeastern: 14 years without making the Hockey East semi-finals.

Bemidji, Niagara, Robert Morris, and Alabama Huntsville: Because the CHA is about to die.

Saint Cloud State: Sure, the Huskies have been a much more successful team than PC over the past decade or so, but 0 NCAA wins? That has to be frustrating.

Alaska Anchorage: Sometimes, playing in a really good league does nothing for you. UAA always seems to be an okay team, but they can't get out of the basement.

Yeah, this season has been brutal. But some perspective would be nice. This list certainly isn't exhaustive.

Random rants:

-How much fun is it to be a Bruins fan these days? 6-1 over Les Habitants? I can't even believe this.

-The Patriots are not winning the Super Bowl this year, and the culprit isn't Tom Brady's knee. It's defense. 31 points should be enough to win any game.

-I keep hearing about the Celtics and the "short window" they have to win another championship. All the more reason to enjoy the opening of this season.

-Hi Mark!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday randomizer

A few random thoughts:

-Anyone depressed by the end of the Red Sox season (to a team that didn't win the World Series, no less) must be happy with the play of the other three teams in town (shame about the Revolution). The Pats are playing well despite picking up a season ending injury in every game and being down to their fourth string running back. The Celtics are proving that last season was not a fluke by streaking out a 7-1 record. The Bruins are playing fun, exciting hockey and getting great goal tending. This winter might be a lot of fun - save for the listless state of PC hockey.

-Speaking of the World Series, am I the only person who doesn't care that the ratings sucked? Why would anyone care about the ratings? Sorry Fox, that doesn't interest me at all? If there were entertaining baseball games being played, why would you care about ratings?

-I grow weary of the constant whining in college football whenever someone from outside a BCS conference puts together a season with one win or less. The "how dare" they attitude is so elitist it makes me glad that PC isn't fielding a football team. The main goal of a college football team is to win games: if a team from the Mountain West or Sunbelt or MAC or WAC is putting together a good season, they're not doing that to screw over whatever team it is in the Big 12 or SEC that the college football talking heads have fallen in love with that calender year.

I have no proof to back this up, but I've always gotten the impression with the amount of money big time boosters pump into these programs, college football's problems might actually dwarf the Tim Doneghy/Spygate/MLB and Olympic steroid scandals we've been dealing with over the past couple of years. Just a hunch.

-"The Big Show" used to be the best show on WEEI, mostly because with a rotation of a dozen or so hosts meant you weren't stuck listening to the same opinions all the time. Well, now it's just as bad as Dennis and Callahan, and the problem is once again politics. When will WEEI get it through their heads that when all of their hosts are waxing poetic about how awful Barrack Obama is that listeners will eventually start to tune them out? The post election whining from the Big Show (especially the two resteraunteurs they bring in for football season) has been the off the charts and the twits on the Whiner Line have proved to be just as bad. I can't wait to see what other programming gets ruined by this new, boring format!

-Speaking of formerly great radio: Mike Francessa talking to himself for 4 hours every day? Maybe I'm better off not getting that signal on the ride home.

-The shuttering of CN8 doesn't bode well for sports in this region on multiple levels. We can only hope the Emmy award winning John Carchedi ends up getting his due because he's awesome. There, I said it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rant of Week: PC's greatest rival?

One of the great frustrations in being an alumni of Providence College is the lack of a true rival. Friar basketball fans might dislike UCONN, Syracuse and Georgetown, but all of those schools have more impressive rivals to feud with and - let's be fair here - PC can't beat any of them on a consistent basis. Except maybe UCONN, and that was only last year. Similarly, URI fans dislike PC with the fire of a thousand suns, but not even I would go out of my way to lavish a similar feeling on the Rams. So finding a basketball rival is a bit of a problem.

A similar situation exists in hockey. I thought I would go down the list of potential rivals. Here are the teams I'm eliminating right off the bat: UML (I actually like them), UMASS (not enough water under the bridge), Merrimack (last year notwithstanding), NU (too much in common), UVM (too new), and Maine (teetering towards complete irrelevance). This leaves the following four schools:

Brown: Bruno makes the cut because the over all series is pretty much dead even (I think the Bears have a one or two game lead) and the results of Mayor's Cup usually have nothing to do with the record of either team. There are several problems here. The first of which is that PC is not Brown's arch rival. That would be Harvard and that particular rivalry dates back to the 19th century. The second problem is that if you compare the strengths of the two programs, PC is out in front by a very wide margin. PC has more ECAC titles that Bruno, and they haven't been in the ECAC since 1984. Third, as horrible as the attendance is for PC home games (probably due to the LOUD SPEAKERS!) the attendance at Meehan is actually worse. That thought always give me pause. How can you lavish hate on a team with a smaller fan base than yourself? The only fans who even deserve a smidgen of dislike are the people in the band. Fourth, and most importantly, I like Brown. And I really shouldn't be able to say that about a rival.

New Hampshire: One of the main motivators for finding a team you hate is jealousy and it's easy to covet certain parts of the Wildcat's program. UNH has a much larger fan base, a lovely rink, a program that's always ranked in the top 10 and gets home ice every year, and a period of competence that dates back to the 70's. The problem with UNH is that "competence" doesn't quite equal dominance. The Wildcats have the smallest series lead of any of the teams PC plays in the Big Four. They also have LESS tournament titles than PC (four is greater than three) and have never won the national title either - even with many more Frozen Four appearances. The other problem is that the days of Kitty fans constantly complainng about how "dirty" the Skating Goons of PC are seem to be in the past. In fact, UNH's constant inability to win the national championship seems to have depressed the entire fan base. How can a team be a rival when their fan base is almost as unhappy as your own? And who in their right mind would want to get rid of Dick Umile?

Boston College: It's much easier to envy BC: better rink, larger fan base (although not as big as UNH), countless conference titles, a massive overall advantage over PC and three national titles. Yet, there's still plenty to dislike. The school considers itself a Football School, which means that as much as some of the fans really like hockey, most of them are more interested in football or even basketball. Also, the band plays "For Boston" about 90 times per game which puts them in the same category as Michigan (but still ahead of MTU and their catchy yet toxic Penalty Kill Ditty). The Eagles seem to enjoy nothing more than ruining my evening, which is an excellent reason to dislike them. The piece de resistance was last year when PC won the season series 2-0-1 against BC only to get drubbed in the playoffs. I hate it when that happens. BC also seems to have at least one completely unlikeable yet insanely talented (and usually diminutive) player on their roster each and every year.
It would seem that BC would be perfect as PC's rival. But there are a few problems. First of all, PC will never be considered a rival with BU around. And certainly not with the Eagles in the ACC. Superfans might take the Friars more seriously if they had a football team. Secondly, we have Jerry York. I have yet to find anyone in college hockey who doesn't love this guy: he's a great coach, a brilliant recruiter and he practically generates class. If the AD at the Heights ever loses his mind and fired Jerry, I will personally drive him to Schneider Arena.

Boston University: The Terriers are the most successful team in the east - nevermind Hockey East - so there's plenty to be jealous of an dislike. The huge fan base, the fantastic rink, the plethora of hardware and that meaningless tournament they keep winning. No team - not even BC - has done more to ruin the Friar's season as BU. If BU isn't actually beating them in the playoffs, they're dragging out the proceedings for two overtimes. It does help that BU has played PC in the playoffs more than any other team. So BU is an excellent choice, even if you disregard the hairy half naked men and Jackie Parker's voodoo mind hold on whatever official Hockey East cares to put on the ice.
But as always, we do have problems. BU has more enemies than any other team in college hockey: ALL of Hockey East, plus Harvard, Cornell, and - for some reason - Minnesota. Clearly, PC is not alone in disliking BU. But the BC rivalry is the biggest in the east - if not all of college hockey. The second problem is the near obsession that the team has with winning the Beanpot. Clearly, it's tough to take a rivalry seriously when your "rival" is looking forward to the first and second Monday in February.

I think that for PC fans, BU and BC are probably the two closest thing we have to "rivals", even if neither team would care to see PC in that light.

Random Rants:
-I'll keep it short... HI MARK!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Opie and Anthony Part Deux?

D and C get called on "stunt".

This is why we ask that they stick to sports: the politics and "shock jock" silliness don't work for them. This reminds me a wee bit of the "Mayor Menino is dead" hijinks from years past.