Earlier today in New York City, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist decided to hang up his chances to compete for a Stanley Cup. ”Carefully orchestrated roster moves and a well managed cap just aren’t my thing,” the attractive goalie said to the press. ”I’m all about the entertainment. I’d rather see a team blow its cap space like an eight year old who found a twenty on the floor of a candy shop.” It’s reported that Rangers General Manager Glen Sather simply left a dump truck parked overnight at Lundqvist’s New York City home. ”By morning most of the money was gone, but he’s got a cool dump truck,” Sather said.
Rangers fans seem thrilled by the move. ”Eight point five million for a 38 year old goalie? That’s New York Rangers Hockey!” said one street meat vendor who boasted of inventing The King. It’s nothing more than a fine looking tube of sausage, he just stops selling it in mid-April. Another regaled us with a long list of successful New York Rangers signings. ”Chris Drury did wonders for this city and for my establishment in particular,” said the bar owner. ”Here, have a blueshirt. It’s an ugly drink that I only sell a lot of because there are so many friggin’ people in this city, but if you ask around, no one really cares about it.”
Here at BBG, we would like to congratulate the Rangers and their fans on a job well done, and welcome them to our Stanley Cup watching parties for the next eight years. It’s always nice to share with fans that have no stake in the outcome.
Usually I save the anger-laden hit pieces for teams like Detroit and the New York Rangers. And yes, while Detroit is more Whinertown than the ridiculous corporate “Hockeytown” and New York City might be a den of hubris and arrogance, tonight I want to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs and their gutter trash fans that make the two hour trek from Toronto to Buffalo to watch their beloved Maple Leafs get curb stomped on a pretty consistent basis. I don’t really hate the Maple Leafs, I pity them, but their fans need to learn a few things.
This might be the first game of the year that the forwards won. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he was great, but it wasn’t the sort of head-standing forty save effort that has usually been required to get the Sabres two points. That being said, and it still being Black Friday (on the west coast), let’s give some stars away.
“The day would always come when we would have to say goodbye, sometimes she would cry.” (Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Thirteen)
Oh, hey. It’s been a while. Sorry about that. Things were weird this summer, and I was working two jobs for a while, and now I’m not (yay, new full-time employment!). But I will be starting a new full-time gig on December 2, it is 35 minutes away from where I live, and I spend a lot of time in my car shuttling back and forth. I listen to a lot of podcasts, some hosted by people y’all don’t like, but I like them, and I probably won’t stop. Besides, I’m going to marry Jeff Marek one day, and none of you (well, maybe Canadian law enforcement) can stop me.
The year was 1995. I was in 7th grade. I was 12. I was also helplessly in love (or so I thought) with my best friend since kindergarden, who just happened to be a Sabres fan. So, I became a Sabres fan. I wanted to impress him and earn his love (what the hell), and I was going to be the best Sabres fan I could be. I had been an Amerks fan my whole life, so this was a logical move. Right? Oh, sure. Guess what happened? Said best friend never fell in love with me back (not even the 7th grade kind), and he eventually ended up moving away in high school. We are still friends, however. The boy left, and the hockey stayed. I continued to throw myself into the game, learning as much as I could and gathering sweaters, hockey crushes, tidbits, trivia, blog jobs, and friends along the way.
That’s where Jeff Marek and his pod-partner Greg Wyshynski come into play. In one of last week’s casts, Marek used a quote, and I apologize for not having it perfect or being able to give credit to the original author, that essentially said that sports will never be as good as they are when you’re twelve years old. I got to thinking, and I concluded that I could certainly agree. There could be a solid argument that the 1998-99 season was better than the 1995-6 season, but I would have to disagree. I fell in love with my first player that I wasn’t actually in love with. I loved his style. I loved how he played, how he led the team, and how he looked on the ice. Mike Peca was everything I could’ve wanted in a player. Matt Barnaby was my goon of choice (I’ve since revised that notion, thank you social media). Dominik Hasek was nasty in net, and my boys Marty Biron and Steve Shields were hanging out in the wings, waiting for their time to shine. Scott Nichol got to play two games with the big boys, which tickled me to no end.
I grew up in a time when hockey was patrolled on the ice, and the goons did their jobs. It was a different time, not necessarily a better one, but a different one. Barnaby, Rob Ray, and Brad May combined for 917 penalty minutes. Again, I’m not saying it was a better time, just a different time. But it was what I grew up watching, and I loved it. A small part of me, even though I now know of the dangers and bad things that can come from a long career of blows to the head, misses those days. Most of me doesn’t, though, and can appreciate the finesse game my favorite sports has grown into. You can hate my opinion if you want, but I’m allowed to have one. That’s the beauty of blogs.
I’ve seen a lot of things change in the last nearly 19 years. Coaches, GMs, players. Teams came and went. I’ve seen them be better and much, much worse. I fell in love with a guy named Ted Nolan. I was sad when he left, no matter what the reasoning was (and I’ve heard all of them). I was excited to see him and Pat LaFontaine come back. I know a lot of people, both local and national, think that this is an owner trying to relive the glory days, but I don’t know that I agree. I think that Ron Rolston got the crap end of the stick, and I’m hopeful that Nolan will be able to get things back at least little above water. The only thing that any of us can do is sit back and watch the hunt for a GM and hopefully at least a .500 season. But just remember: it’ll never be as good as it was when we were 12.
There’s no real need for an intro (I am however going to fix the grammar and blend together three tweets (that were meant to go together) into one quote):
“Good http://SI.com piece on women in sports media from @richarddeitsch. Check out question No. 7. [Why have we not seen a woman calling play-by-play full-time in the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL?] For me, women calling games isn’t about skill [or] knowledge, [because] there are women who can talk circles around current, terrible men [play-by-play announcers], but [they] play a role. Women’s play-by-play voices on NFL/NHL changes [the] viewing experience for me. Personal preference. (Doesn’t apply to analysts).”
The quote was then followed up with what is really a tremendous amount of backtracking:
“[Play-by'play] is a role, [and] male voice better fills it, for me, for now. Open-minded about it. I wanna see woman Doctor Who. And Angelina Jolie as Bond.”
“As @chiparm notes, a lot of [male] [play-by-play announcers] don’t have that voice either. I could die a happy man if I never hear Ian Eagle call another NFL game.”
“@tcita You’re confusing analysis w/ narration. I’d love for women to crack analyst role in sports. But the real Old Boys Club is in studio”
“@tcita I apologize if there was confusion here, but I was never arguing women shouldn’t get a shot on PbP. Just my preference.”
“@theycallmedubs “I would rather listen to a male voice in that role, but I’m open minded about it” Let me narrow down your generalization.”
“@theycallmedubs That said, kudos for being the first to call me a misogynist. Should have taken the under on that bet.”
“@theycallmedubs Check my feed. 140 characters doesn’t really allow for the details in a single tweet sometimes.”
Wyshynski’s error was twofold. First he did an awful job at articulating what I assume was supposed to be his actual meaning, that he hasn’t yet found a female play-by-play announcer that he likes. Unfortunately, what he said was that he does not like women play by play announcers because they are women. Second, he failed to understand that neutrality on the issue (or open-mindedness) as he calls it, is reinforcing a status quo that is currently unequal. He’s saying he’s open to change if it satisfies his undefined criteria of what a makes a good female play-by-play announcer (we can already see that it’s exclusive of knowledge and skill), but he’s also fine if the current sexist system remains in place. I believe him when he says he doesn’t think he’s a misogynist, at least I believe that he isn’t a willful, intentional misogynist, but he’s still a misogynist. In fact, he’s the kind of confirmation-bias misogynist that makes progress so difficult.
Part of the reason (probably a large part) that male voices shape Wyshynski’s “viewing experience” is because of the misogyny and sexism that was present in the system to begin with (and still is). That sexism has brought Wyshysnki’s brain to make “male” and “play-by-play announcer” inextricably linked. So much so that Wyshynski couldn’t even do the bare minimum to head off the growing rage-storm, that is, admit there is a problem in the first place. It’s not affirmative action, and it’s not propping up the under-qualified for the sake of diversity to admit that regardless of all other factors, it’s kind of a disturbing trend that there are so few female play-by-play announcers. And if you really aren’t ready or willing to listen to a female play-by-play announcer, admitting that there is a problem doesn’t conflict with that.
In fact, in his zeal to backtrack, Wyshynski doesn’t ever admit there is a problem with female representation anywhere. Sure, he’d love to see Angelina Jolie play James Bond because, thanks to her roles in various action movies, she embodies many of the stereotypically male-identified traits that we associate with Bond, athleticism, charm, reveling in violence. (Get back to me when you want, say, Rooney Mara or Natalie Portman to play a willowy, feminine Bond and actually try to break stereotypes.) He wants to see her play Bond because it’s an amusing novelty, not because it’s a small step in reversing the trend of male-dominated action movies. (Or the representation of women in movies in general.) It is in fact counter-productive for Wyshysnki to cite so many examples because each and every single one of them is coming from a perspective of male dominance.
The best he can do is call his words “personal preference” as though that allows him to gracefully step out of the conversation (a Wyshynski trait if you’ve ever gained the upper hand on him in an argument before). He can’t even admit to the possibility of there being subconscious bias in his thoughts, instead growing combative with detractors and throwing out examples of his definite non-sexism in the hopes that one of them sticks. It’s not weak to admit that you’re lacking perspective…we’re all lacking perspective on one thing or another, it’s weak to continue to stand your ground out of a need to prove…something.
The wort part is that he seemed genuinely baffled that his own poorly chosen words had ignited such a firestorm, as though it was somehow okay to say that he doesn’t like female play-by-play announcers solely because they are women (going so far as to explicitly say it isn’t about knowledge or skill) and that the “personal preference” of a major hockey columnist is something that 1). people should let be, or 2). isn’t an enormous part of the problem.
You can certainly be sure, no other team wears jerseys that look like those that the Buffalo Sabres put on Sunday evening. Oh sure, Nashville has their yellows, but they don’t quite have the effect of what essentially looks like a superhero outfit; garish yellow front, gray cuffs, and a navy blue cape. They’re certainly better than the outdated trash that the Red Wings were wearing, jerseys that look so old you half expect them to vote for George Wallace and curse Abe Lincoln’s name. No, the Sabres third jerseys are certainly trying, which is more than you can say for any of the original six franchises, and throw the Devils and Islanders in for good measure, whose decaying looks so well encapsulate rust belt failure and the ‘afraid of new things’ mindset of those in charge of the NHL.
To the hockey part of things, you expect an old-but-still-good team like Detroit to do exactly what they did to the Sabres. They might have five players on their roster (Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Franzen, Weiss, and Zetterberg) better than any skater on the Sabres and that says nothing of their defense that, while somewhat unknown, keeps getting results.
Too High: Every team? Okay, Montreal and Detroit for different reasons. Montreal I just don’t see the star power there. Detroit, I see it, but it’s old.
Too Low: No one. I honestly have trouble picking someone from this mess and saying they’re better than any of the other teams.
Too High: Colorado. I feel like this fall back to being a mid-tier playoff team is coming.
Too Low: Chicago and San Jose, the classes of the West.