Hockey post! Feel free not to read if you hate hockey, although this post isn’t necessarily about the game, per se. The game is just the lens through which the story is told.
So, in summation: because Gary Bettman (NHL Commissioner) & Jeremy Johns (Boston Bruins owner) decided to be horrible and total dickfaces, the NHL players/PA were locked out until a week or two ago. they had a weeklong training camp and then got straight into a 48-game season, where it’s normally 82 games.
obviously this changes the complexion of the season and how the teams work. Some players played overseas in european leagues to stay fresh (the KHL & SM Liiga are two of them), while others just fucked around playing pond hockey. there’s more back-to-back games, and there’s less games overall, etc etc. so the ideal team to make is a little different, and some players will play more or less.
so, even with these caveats, all teams have expectations. the NY Rangers are expected to be good. Really good, esp. with Rick Nash there. And the LA Kings won the Cup so dominantly…who knew what they could do? And so on.
So enter the San Jose Sharks. They are my hockey team and I love them very much! The Sharks suffer from something many successful sports franchises suffer from: aging. Their core of players – Thornton, Marleau on the top line, Clowe in the 2nd line, Boyle as their top D-Man – are all 30ish. So the questions are always there: Do they still have it? Can Thornton still pass the puck like he’s got a remote control attached to it? Is Ryane Clowe still as feisty? can Dan Boyle play a zillion games and be a puck-moving defenseman and a generally manly man? Ok, not those exact questions, but you get the point.
So the Sharks, coming into the season, were sort of viewed as a “Cup potential window is closing” sort of team. They’ve been to the playoffs for a few years running but they keep getting ran out because they don’t score goals.
But you know, that’s why they play the games.
Enter, our hero and protagonist, Patrick Marleau. Marleau is 33 this year and decided not to play overseas, likely enjoying his time with his family and playing pick-up hockey and going to the gym. He is also the sharks francise leader in almost every offensive category the team has, having played every second of his career as a Shark. He is a successful top-line forward. Certain parties have made their opinions known about Patrick Marleau: that he plays without heart, and his compete level is too low. This is the great insult you can lay on a hockey player. Luckily, Jeremy Roenick, noted douchebag, is there for you. So there’s doubts about him all over: he hasn’t played overseas and might be rusty. He had a disappointing postseason. He’s a year older on a team that’s a year older. and while there’s some change – brad stuart and younger third/fourth lines, a brand new defenseman named matt irwin and two new special teams coaches – these aren’t on-ice giant changes. Rick Nash hasn’t been added.
So the sharks win their first game and marleau scores two goals. This is cool. This is fun, hockey is fun, sometimes people score two goals in one game. happens plenty, especially to all-star top line forwards. and the sharks power play decimates and converts relentlessly.
so then the sharks win their second game and marleau scores two goals. and two goals in two games in a row – that’s cool. like, who does that? way fewer people. it’s a pretty sweet way to start off the season, right? hell yeah it is. and the power play crushes the opponent’s penalty kill, over and over. 2-0, baby.
so then the sharks win their third game and marleau scores two goals. and two goals in three games in a row? THAT is a good time. THAT is a good start. THAT gets talked about on the networks, even if only briefly. that brings discussion to the team, to the player, to why he looks so good. and the power play does it again, creative and beautiful and effective, this nasty thing that will punish you for bringing it out. you took a penalty? your ass is doomed and you know it.
so then the sharks win their fourth game and marleau scores two goals. two goals in all four games to start the season. 8 goals in four games. eight goals in four games to start the season, which hasn’t been done since the 1917-18 season. at this point there’s national attention. and this guy, he’s amazing. he’s perfect. EVERYTHING is working out. the hockey gods are singing in his ears and moving with his skates and ever so gently diverting pucks to him, flicking his shots on goal to give them impossible bounces, drawing him next to an open net and giving him the puck.
and the power play? it is wrath and fury unleashed. it is ultimate power and an almighty flood of goals. it will overwhelm you like a flood and you are a sad little ant. it will crush your penalty killers and your team spirit like it is nothing, like it is an army and you are a resistance with no shoes, food or guns.
so here we are. this was a team that people are saying “the window is closing” to their cup chances. the Sharks are 4-0 to start the season. Not only are they 4-0, but they have won every game with confidence. Not only did they deserve to win every game, they obviously and wholly deserved to win every game. they were easily and without question the better team in every contest. the power play is the genghis khan of hockey. the attila the hun of hockey. the hilter in poland of hockey.
patty marleau, still 33, still having not played an NHL game from nov-jan, still having been questioned by Noted Douchebag Jeremy Roenick as being heartless and gutless, has 8 goals in 4 games. he has 11 points. in every game he has played this season, he has 2 goals.
so here’s a question: when does this all make sense? when does patty marleau become a normal top line all-star center? when does the russian cold rise up and strike the sharks power play? where and when does the regression hit? how hard and how fast? will the sharks fail to score in a zillion games, at some point? will they go 0-for-39483 on the man advantage? will patty not score in 8 games in a row? 10?
how lame is this? how lame am i? here i am – my team looks UNBEATABLE, basically (with one small hiccup of their PK, which looked good in game 4) and has the potential to get better, what with some key players injured (mostly brent burns, here, though i’d be curious to see where demers fits in with irwin’s stellar play) and some actual improvement to their PK – and here i am going “well, eventually the shit they are dominating with will go away.” how fucking lame is that?
being realistic about sports really takes the fun out of them. patty marleau is GREAT at hockey, yes, but he is not THIS GREAT. this is not a sustainable performance and i know it, but i REALLY wish i didn’t. i wish i could wake up every morning the sharks play and go TODAY PATTY WILLS CORE 2 GOALS! rather than going ‘today is probably the day patty doesn’t score two goals and the sharks might lose and/or not go 3/4 on the power play.’ because YOU DON’T DO TAHT every game. you just don’t! the noise is so huge in hockey in comparison to the actual stats, especially when you consider a GRANT TOTAL OF FOUR GAMES Have been played.
(side note: I felt the same way when the a’s went to the postseason. i knew that the tigers were a horrible match up for them in a number of ways (a’s strike out a lot & can’t take advantage of bad tigers d; tigers K a lot of hitters; a’s have low BA….Justin Verlander.. etc. and had a horrible sinking feeling they couldn’t win, only briefly buoyed by their game 4 comeback that was then rewarded by Justin Verlander doing what he does.)
the only time i think patrick marleau will ACTUALLY score 2 goals in every game in the season is usually right after he scores his first and right after he scores his second (or after the a’s come back on the tigers in the 9th). in that moment of pure unadulterated joy, i believe anything is possible. there is no such thing is statistical variation and fluctuation, and 4 games is a perfectly good sample. of COURSE patrick marleau can score 2 goals in every game. but that belief doesn’t last long. usually a couple of minutes, while the goal horn is sounding and there are hockey hugs and joy and everyone is yelling (if the game is at home).
generally speaking, knowing that sports are subject to a massive attack of random variation/ ups & downs/streaks and slumps makes me a pretty even-keeled fan. it’s why i don’t really get mad when they lose. sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. that’s sports. but being even-keeled also makes me rejoice a little less outside of the actual even happening. I KNOW!! that alex rodriguez is not going to hit .400 on the season> I KNOW that derek jeter isn’t going to hit .330 this year (i don’t even know how he did it last year). i KNOW the sharks are going to lose. i KNOW patty marleau won’t score 2 goals in a game. BUT IT KEEPS HAPPENING. every time it happens i’m OVERJOYED. and then i know even MORE seriously this won’t keep happening.
but at the same time, even though 90% of me knows this is impossibly unsustainable despite how amazingly beautiful it is, there’s also a little bit of me going OF COURSE HE CAN DO IT! OF COURSE THE POWER PLAY WILL BLITZKRIEG THE WHOLE LEAGUE INTO SUBMISSION! OF COURSE THE SHARKS CAN GO 48-0! that’s the silly fan in me, always rooting for the best (or dreading the worst). that’s the part that cries when people win and stops everything to watch the “history will be made” commercials. and it’s part of me.
knowing a high level of success is unsustainable is irritating and horrible. it’s realism that sounds like negativity and ESPECIALLY frustrating because i’m directing it at my own team. i’m saying you’re worse than you look, and that’s frustrating and irritating because i want them to be the best. and i KNOW they can do really well – maybe even win the cup, who the hell knows? – but this well? i want to say yes. YOU CAN DO IT. YOU CAN SCORE 96 GOALS, PATTY MARLEAU. but the realistic part of me says come on, asshole. you know better than this stupid charade. you can celebrate this all you want because it’s going to end and potentially abruptly, not unlike a russian winter.
(the hitler metaphor is a really good one, as you can see.)
i love my sharks! they’re great! and they look AMAZING! but they can’t actually be this goo, and the power play isn’t going to convert 80% of the time, and patty marleau isn’t going to score 96 goals. i know it because stats. because numbers and statistics and charts.
….but can they, can it, and maybe the most outlandish and amazing possibility… can he?
I moved to the Bay Area in May of 2010. This year is important, so remember it.
At this point I had no particular feelings about the Giants at all. I felt they were an okay team. Low-offense, definitely. Great pitching. But they were sort of a generic team to me at this point, and I’m sure to many others.
Then came 2010, which featured the 2010 Giants: Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brian Wilson. Supporting cast of Barry Zito, Sergio Romo, and beards. I went down to San Jose to watch them win the World Series with the guy I was currently with, and we got drunk and screamed and cheered because Fuck Texas, seriously. Fuck Texas. Anyone but Texas. And thus, go Giants. This was convenient for me. We high-five peopled and ran out into the streets yelling and people were honking their horns. It was grand.
At that moment, I was a Giants fan. (What being a fan of a team to me is sort of a complicated manner – see below.) Lord, was I glad that team won. And so was everyone else.
I think my favorite part of almost any event is being with people who enjoy it as much as I do. This is one of the reasons that, if I am at an event where my teams, I will almost always root for the home team (unless I’m in Fenway/Texas/Vancouver). I like being surrounded by people who enjoy what’s going on. I feed off that. (Related: I also enjoy being in the mosh at a concert, and hate concerts where everyone sits.)
I was a Giants fan because everyone was a Giants fan (also, Fuck Texas). Call me a bandwagoner if you so desire. It was fun, for a week, to be a Giants fan. After all, it’d been a week or more since my team had been eliminated, so having someone to root for for real was nice. Nothing is like rooting for one’s sports team. Nothing is like rooting for something.
And then I attended the parade. Now, take what we know about how much I like being around people who are enjoying the same thing I am, and multiply it by a crazy city tripping over it’s own joy. Wanting something for so long, and so passionately, and finally getting it. And getting it in style too – with Huff’s rally thong, and Wilson’s beard, and Tim’s long hair, and everything else. It was a crazy way to win a world series, and the real Giants fans, and the whole fucking city of San Francisco – they loved it. They were nuts. It was really hot that day, and me and my then-boyfriend had walked forever, and I had work later. But we stayed as long as we could, in the packed throng that was the city. I saw Huff hoist that rally thong above his head triumphantly and, as sports fans tend to feel, like I was just as victorious as he was. Me and Aubrey Huff – together, we were Giant.
Afterwards, there was a lengthy speech in which all the keys and celebration was given. There was yelling. There was even yelling for Travis Ishikawa. It was amazing. I had to leave early because I had work (and I was even late to work), but I would have stayed there for hours if I could, soaking that up. Being with people who enjoy something so much it just leaks out in screams and through pores. You can’t be there without having a good time.
This is an important point, so just put it to the side for a while.
So, then comes that period where everyone must have a Giants hat and a Giants shirt. And everyone must be a Giants fan. Everyone must acquire and then clutch their panda hats in their brand new park with their flashy, personality-laden team. (I had a coworker even say to me “I got a Giants shirt because you know, they won, right?” and i nodded and tried not to be irritated.)
Then I started to dislike the Giants. Not hate, really.
You see, I went to A’s games. I wasn’t really an A’s fan – not in 2010 and not in 2011. I was an A’s season ticket holder, yes, but not really a fan. I don’t know if I was a fan then, but I wouldn’t say I was. Yes, I had season tickets, and yes, I scored every game I went to, and yes, I stayed to the ninth inning even if they were losing 12-0, but I didn’t really care if they won. The reason I became an A’s season ticket holder was because the tickets were extremely cheap, and it was more convenient to me than the Giants. I didn’t care what bay team was mine. the Yankees were really mine, and screw both these teams.
But anyway, after the Giants won, everyone was a Giants fan, and no one likes a bandwagoner. This was my primary impetus to not like the Giants. Additionally, I fostered a “little brother complex” towards the Giants because I liked the A’s/was an A’s fan*/went to their game. Like Mets fans to the Yankees, with the west-coast ease of it.
So, fuck the Giants. It was easy. It’s easy to not like things. (Liking things is harder, which is why I think there are so many mean people in the world). And it was easy to “fuck the Giants” all through 2011 when they got beaten into the playoffs by the Diamondbacks (ha ha, suckers, I said. Fuck the Giants.). I liked the Diamondbacks because 2001 seemed like so long ago and Mark Grace and Daron Sutton, usually both drunk, would make the games fun. Make idiots out of themselves and make everything interesting. I liked personality on my team (unless it was the Giants. Fuck the Giants.) So I liked that. But yet again, my Yankees were booted from the playoffs- this time by Justin Verlander, a Yankee Stadium Special by Delmon Young, and a Rafael Soriano blown save. (AJ Burnett won his ALDS Game.)
This lead to a STL-TEX World Series. Fuck Texas. I didn’t watch some of it. The Game 6 Nelson Cruz David Freese magic happened while I was on a date (I watched the TV instead of talked to the guy and there was no second date). I watched Game 7 with eno sarris & pat newman (also known as NPB tracker). We drank. It was fun. (You can read more about my opinions on the STL/TEX WS here). But whatever, at the baseball. Texas lost, which is always grand. FUck Texas.
So, let’s come to this year. I went to all 20ish of my A’s games. They lost, most of the year. Sometimes they won. It was a normal season until August, and I wasn’t really an A’s fan until they turned from the 100-loss Oakland Athletics into the Team Of Destiny (feel free to give me a hard time). And my Yankees of course – my real team, my heart, my yelling and screaming and frustration – they did good (until they scraped the division out by one fucking game).
The Giants could have all died at that point and I wouldn’t have cared. My A’s fandom* is post for another day. Anyway, when the playoffs show up you try to figure out what your ideal matchups would be. I actually didn’t want the Yankees to play the Giants in the World Series because then I would have to hear it from my coworkers.
I don’t know what my ideal matchup was. Anyway, I didn’t think the Giants could beat the Reds. And I definitely didn’t think they could beat the Nationals. And the Cardinals would probably whip out that shit-ass Cardinal magic they had. (Fuck the Cardinals).
But they beat the Reds in five games and Detroit was in the way of the world series.
At this point, I didn’t like the Giants or Cardinals. I would have preferred Detroit beat both of them. I could get behind cheering for Justin Verlander (for one damn series, out of three) and Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera. And yeah, Delmon Young is a fuckface and a half, but so is Pablo Sandoval. But fuck the Giants, and fuck the Cardinals too.
So, I’ve decided at this point I’m rooting for the Giants. For the parade, really. There’s no reason to spite myself out of something I want for essentially no reason – no one else cares if I root for the Giants or the Tigers. I want to root for the team that I will enjoy rooting for the most – that’s the best part of being on the bandwagon. no misery included! Just leave when it makes you upset. Regardless of this, I don’t like the Giants. I’ll be just as glad if they lose.
Originally, this post was going to be about how happy I became upon seeing how happy Marco Scutaro was, drinking raindrops. I don’t know what it’s about now.
Just remember everyone: Fuck Texas. Fuck the Giants. Fuck the Cardinals. But parades are awesome. And like more stuff, if you can.
I made a great joke at Joe Pawlikowski’s expense. It was a terribly sick burn.
I’m gonna try to make this quick. this is how i feel about baseball boyfriend.
-the point of any corporate entity, such as cbs sports/mlb is right now, is to make money.
-baseball boyfriend MAY attract NEW fans to the game – exactly the type of people we (we being baseball chicks such as myself, emma span, amanda rykoff, caeryn rose, ec) disdain. those fans will buy jerseys and tickets.
-in cbs’ case, this makes them publicity (hits), and fans (new baseball ladies)
-both of these generate revenue.
-everyone makes money.
-the campaign is successful
how offensive it is to people who ACTUALLY play fantasy or previously liked baseball or know how many triples alex rodriguez had in 2007 is not a criteria for success. so they don’t care. and if they don’t care, meh, i don’t feel like giving a shit either.
Over five games or so I’ve managed to catch probably somewhere between an hour and two of footage of actual baseball going on. I’ve been on Twitter for about 99% of the action, but there is an obvious difference between watching the game and watching people liveblog it.
important note: the games start at 5pm PT, and i usually work till 7, sometimes later. that means by the time i can turn *on* the game, it is usually about halfway to three-quarters completed. i’m fairly sure this plays a role.
anyway, i’ve struggled with this. does this make me a bad baseball person? do i have to put back in my crazy fan card because i haven’t watched most of the world series? this is the championships of baseball, hannah! get your act together and watch it! but every time a game is on i just… i don’t care. really, i don’t. and sitting here at 1:23am pondering my potential unemployment (my employer is folding in late nov) i think i have realized the point.
i do not like these two teams. it is not because they are not the yankees. there are lots of other teams i watch on a fairly routine basis that are not the yankees that i would have watched: MIL, BOS, TBR, DET, PHI, ATL, NYM, WSH, PIT, COL, ARI are the ones i can think of off the top of my head. these are teams i like to watch even when they don’t play the yankees. either they hit/pitch well or i’m just, one for way or another, attached. i watch their meaningless september games and their exciting leads and god knows what else.
TEX/STL are two teams i would not watch in the regular season. i have no interest in these teams. it just never happened. i hate texas, which i suppose counts as an interest, but i’m not interested in actively turning a game on FOR texas. the same for the cards – if STL is playing PHI, i’m rooting for PHI. if STL is playing….PHI, WSH, PIT, COL, ARI, MIL…i’m not rooting for the redbirds.
and there is nothing special about this game independently. the game has the same rules, the same wierd shit happening, the same predictability. there is stuff on the line – the world championship – but… i don’t really think i care who wins. i mean, i want texas to win less than st. louis, but i don’t really give a shit. i’ll know, of course, for my baseball repository of knowledge, but i don’t care. unless it’s the yankees (or maybe boston, tampa or detroit), i really don’t give a shit who wins it. these are fairly evenly-matched teams. medium starting pitching. rebuilt bullpens. power hitters. overmanaging. it’s not like offense-heavy texas is vs pitching-crazed san francisco, here.
so, i don’t care who wins the world series. so what inspires me to watch the games? to see the players? you want me to watch this game so i can see lance lynn come in with two on and no out? you want me to watch mitch moreland hit a homer? this is what is supposed to be thrilling? marc rzepczynski? octavio dotel? really? there is a kind of pleasure in watching the absurd succeed, i’ll give you that. but there is really no suspense, in my opinion. watching mariano rivera face david ortiz with a man on third and two outs has a suspense: amazing pitcher, amazing hitter. watching 2011-improved lance berkman face scott feldman has no suspense. if napoli wins, i go ‘of course.’ if feldman wins, i go, ‘well, in baseball, 30% is considered successful.’ am i jaded to baseball? have i come to rely too much on the stats that the surprise no longer matters? is there something wrong with me? i am still impressed with pujols’ power. i still love how napoli screwed the angels. i love watching pitchers helplessly swing and miss, ian kinsler plays, and so forth. but to wait for those plays i have to see these pitchers i don’t care about. tony la russa overmanaging. bunts. TOOTBLANs. I have to listen to joe buck and tim mccarver. it seems like the bad outweighs the good.is there something wrong with me?
what’s the best matchup – for suspense of good player v good player factor – that you can think of in this series? hamilton vs motte? napoli vs carpenter? feliz vs pujols? wilson vs berkman? i don’t know. none of those sound like halladay vs m. stanton or m. rivera vs bautista or strasburg vs jose reyes.
what i care about is good baseball at this point. and rzepczynski and dotel and feldman… those don’t strike me as “good baseball” names. and yes, they could throw some good ball. and they have. and you can’t predict baseball. but the name factor is almost overwhelming for me, combined with how i judge samples. it’s cool that marc rzepczynski got hot at the right time. that doesn’t make him good.
i don’t need the postseason to tell me who the good ballplayers are. the regular season is there for that. and i know who they are: bautista, granderson, ellsbury, kemp, braun… halladay, rivera, hamels, kershaw, sabathia, verlander, and so forth.
and on top of that, i have to listen to this shit broadcast?
a couple of people have told me that this is a “great series.” i don’t know what that means. is it like a tv show, where you watch the first, second, or eighth episode, and then you’re hooked? i don’t have time to watch a three hour ballgame to persuade me to watch more. i watched the entire baseball season for that (assuming i watched 200 games x 3.5 hrs a pop – an extremely conservative estimate – that’s over 800 hours of baseball not counting live games). maybe there is some great baseball coming in here. but to me, arthur rhodes loading the bases in the ninth inning so neftali feliz can get albert pujols to ground into a double play is not “great baseball.” that is “dodging a bullet.”
to summarize…for me, watching the world series mean i would be:
-watching two teams (neither of which i like) win an award (that i don’t care who gets it between them) while listening a terrible broadcast (that i don’t like) and watching players (which i am not invested in) do things. and while i may miss some good baseball, i will avoid the compulsive overmanaging, awful broadcast, eye-rolling names to make the playoffs, and downright bad baseball.
maybe i am being too hard on the rangers and the cardinals. maybe i have some subliminal east coast bias. maybe i am just spoiled/blessed by the the yankees and, overall, the AL East. but that doesn’t change the fact that i certainly don’t *feel* like i’ve missed much. and this is the world fucking series. i love baseball. i should be pining for every game. why don’t i?
if you’ve read all 1100 words, feel free to tell me what you think about my conundrum in the comments.