Friday, March 18, 2011

tell Kelly I said hi

Another day, another crushing loss. Turns out that the predictions I got wrong for the Canucks/Avs "game" mostly came true in the Avs/Flames "game", with the score ending up 5-2 and recent lord-I-hope-he-turns-into-a-franchise-defenseman acquisition Erik Johnson lost to injury in the first period.

Bored and angry, Avs beat writer Adrian Dater has begun trolling himself for amusement, last night "guaranteeing" an Avs win and Matt Duchene goal, and, most trollishly of all, repeatedly proclaiming his faith in Petr Budaj. Today there's one of his patented "rip jobs" on his blog, and it's a pretty good read with an absolutely terrific headline. Recommended.

Among more sobersided Avs bloggers, Jay Vean of the Avs Hockey podcast has retreated into Sega Genesis games and talking about favorite memories, while Jibblescribbits has put together a brilliant analysis of draft picks and their values.

But what I'm thinking about isn't the past or the future. The draft is zero fun in hockey1, and every list of highlights is the same—breathless you-had-to-be-thereisms alternating with smug and-that's-when-I-knew-we-were-great Whiggish takes on history. Feh.

What I'm concerned with is: what the fuck could this aimless bike crash of a season mean? I don't mind mouthing the shibboleth about adversity revealing who you really are; indeed, years ago on a bike tour, riding up hills, I first really confronted my essential nature as a negative, pissy, complaining person who absolutely no one wants to be around when shit's getting real/hard.2

(Author shown preparing to complain about something.)

Why bother thinking about this? Because there's more to sports than a final score. If there weren't, we'd just watch to see who was ahead at any given time, and celebrate them for more proficiently manipulating objects than their opponents. As we saw yesterday, after all, there's no way to root for the bland, featureless excellence of the Canucks. The Sedins may be good at playing hockey, but there's literally nothing else interesting about them: narrative scratches for purchase on their smooth surfaces and plummets away, like a goat falling off a glacier. The team cruises along, their fans clap amiably for win after win, and nobody has anything to say other than "they are good at winning games" or "their statistics clearly demonstrate their high quality".

From just-smart-enough-to-look-like-a-moron bully Ryan Kesler to world-class, gold-medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo, the Canucks are repellent and faintly inhuman, technocrats calmly floating above conflict and stamping out victory after victory without even enough personality to turn into villains.

Whereas the Avs are, charitably, motley. The Goat of Narrative finds plenty of crags to hook her hooves into, scampering about with the scrambly grace found only in nature and old footage of Tony Esposito. From a macro perspective, the story has mainly been one of failure to try, as the team "rebuilds" without spending any money on players or on player development3, and receives savage smackdowns from the universe when they do actually try.4

Any similarity to Every Modern Novel is probably pretty much unavoidable.5 So, wonderful. At least I know I won't be forced to endure the cloying indignity of a happy ending.

--Collision, locker room cancer

1Especially when you root for a team with an inept front office like the Avs. My faith that they can extract value from this year's shallow pool of picks is, essentially, nil. And, fuck: even if they do draft a couple beasts, they won't be ready to contribute for like 5 years anyways.
2This was several years after the initial epiphany I had—oft-recounted, this—that revealed unto me that, truly am I Hudson screaming "GAME OVER MAN" rather than Hicks cooly fingering his shotgun & whispering "for close encounters" in a bedroom voice.
3Is this claimed attempt to improve sans ducats in some fashion similar to our country's current pundit-fueled perception that nothing should ever be paid for ever? Who can say. But the Avs do seem to have decided that the problem with education is that teachers make too much money paying money for first-rate players and coaches is unlikely to advance their cause.
4Smackdowns include the guys they traded going on massive scoring binges for their new teams, and a guy they traded for shutting it down with blood clots in both lungs while another can't play all year with a broken head.
5I'm not yet sure what the micro stories will turn out to be—one of the odd ironies of watching sports with an eye to story is that the small, player-sized stories only become clear years later, in context, where the team-based stories are obvious over the course of single seasons.


pierre idiot trudeau said...

Oh, I get it, the old "My Team Is Better Than The Best Team (Even Though We Are The Worst Team) Because I Can Construct A Hard Luck Narrative That Sounds Better" argument. I've been there. The Canucks are easy to root for. The Sedins are interesting in that they became Ross/Hart contenders after 10 years of development, and that they can hold the puck forever while taking a ton of crosschecks. Kesler may be a bully to you, but you certainly seemed interested in him wearing an Avs jersey last summer, and why not? The guy is a freight train with 36 goals and a winning smile. But aside from the stars, it's a team made up of guys on their way up and guys on their way back. Guys like Torres and Malhotra working really hard every shift, only to have the media up their asses for not padding the lead enough. Glass, Raymond and Hansen, too. Or the D-Corps who at one time had six regulars down, and who kept it going (at .500 at least) The Canucks have used more players than anyone else in the league this year and have lost 300 man games to injury, a development that has likely given them enough frequent flyer milage to take the whole team to Australia and back twice. Not saying you should (or ever would) root for them, just don't reference my work to sell them short...

AvsHockeyPodcast said...

Thanks for the link Chris. The Sega and the other fond memories are the only things that are keeping me sane right now.