Friday, November 8, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Phoenix Coyotes, Seattle

Sorry, everybody. The CtC Punk Songs for Every Owner project marches on, but the work that the Phoenix Coyotes entry requires to do the topic justice is incredible. It's really the whole story of capitalism's uneasy alliance with governmental bureaucracy, plus the post-national aspects of sports fandom we discussed the other week, plus the weird disconnect certain capitalist enterprises impose between the quality of their ostensible purposes (making phones, or whatever) and their actual purposes (making profits).

So there's a lot going on, and it's actually, factually, requiring substantial research, and careful thought, and in lieu of those things, Clear the Crease would like to present this weird CtC Punk Song for Every Owner Special (very non-punk) Remix! Listen close and thrill to the incredibly weirdly appropriate first verse of this mediocre song that occasionally gets stuck in my head!!

That first verse, for the schoolmen and brutal pedants:

don't like the look of this town
what goes up, must come down
character is lost and found
on an unfamiliar playing ground

Or, to make it more pedestrian and clear and to explain the jokes and explain why I called that verse "weirdly appropriate" and everything...

don't like the look of this town
Phoenix is a self-evidently odd place to play a game that requires vast quantities of ice. Anybody sane who wanted to own this team would want to move them. A city in the Pacific Northwest has long been rumored as a good candidate for a hockey team, if one should need to be relocated, and the song is called, ahem, "Seattle".

what goes up, must come down
I got nothing

character is lost and found
Phoenix has one iconic player: Shane Doan. He has been with the team for longer than they've been playing in Phoenix. He's generally considered a good-to-excellent player and a so-called character guy.

on an unfamiliar playing ground
Back to "anybody sane who wanted to own this team would want to move unfamiliar playing ground.

—Collision, who is sorry this project is dragging on so awfully long

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Ted Leonsis, Small Man, Big Mouth

The Washington Capitals are a hockey team that plies their trade in America's broken and asinine capital. Sadly for that city and its unrepresented citizenry, it is run by the same clownshoe twerps who have happily set the nation's controls for the heart of the sun. And, sadly for the hockey team we were talking about, it is run by a pompous weenie with, apparently, nothing better to do than blog about blogs about blogs.

When people pay attention to the team, which is not infrequently, as the team is what passes for a glamour team in the increasingly second-rate NHL, they tend to pull stunts like the following:

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Professional Hockey Writers Association votes gave Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin two spots on the NHL All-Star Team roster: As a first-team right wing, a position he played throughout the 2012-13 season, and as a second-team left wing, a position he had played throughout his career.
(Click through and read the whole article, it's great. "We know we got this wrong".)

It's all too on the nose. A star-driven team, run by a self-centered and -satisfied rich dude, getting media coverage that is easily demonstrated to be factually incorrect. The Capitals are the Democratic Party; Leonsis is Reince Priebus; the media is the media. And we? We are all doomed.

—Collision, not fucking joking

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Francesco Aquilini, No Wishes, No Prayers

Clear the Crease co-founder and Chris Collision heterosexual life partner Pierre Idiot Trudeau is An Actual Canadian, and In Fact From Vancouver, so my initial impulse was to turn this entry over to him.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: I don't know. The Aquilini Brothers, man, I don't get 'em. Can't really hate on the guys, they opened the checkbook and produced a shit-ton of wins, but no Cups and none in sight. Yeah, this sums up our near future.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: But maybe not. That song is about atheism. Not about no hope. Hmmm.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau: I guess as a retort to evangelical's a good angle. One of the brothers is born again.

Collision: Well. The secret about this project is that it's actually not about the owners.

Some years back, Pierre Idiot Trudeau and I heaved ourselves off the couch and betook ourselves to Vancouver. His team was in the playoffs, and I was white-knuckling against a deep depression and desperate for anything that would pull me out of Portland for a couple days. So we drove up, and found P.I.T. a scathingly expensive ticket, but only just the one. We were fed outstandingly by his delightful parents, we drank preposterously, and, in time, soundly mocked a gentleman named "Rob"—who we were careful to call "Rod"—who kept making the NWO Wolfpack hand sign and howling "I just drove up from Kelowna, eh?"...

Eventually P.I.T. went to the game. I wandered around, looking for something cheap to do. Eventually, I found a coffee shop and listened to the game on AM radio. It was a rough night: the Canucks absorbed the full litany of ways to describe a loss that you probably remember from Infinite Jest, up to and including the St. Louis Blues—them again!—going back in time to prevent their parents from meeting...0-6 at home, first game of the playoffs; make up your own comparison, I guess, but you certainly wouldn't want that to happen to your sister. My own beloved Avs endured a similar fate, losing to the desperately mediocre Minnesota Wild in a game that would prove to pretty much mark the end of the Avs' status as a first-tier franchise. Sigh. Losing sucks. These are the things I was thinking as I trudged up the entrance ramp to GM Place.

I didn't mention that that 10apr evening, I happened to be wearing my favorite magic garment: a bizarre short-sleeved Patrick Roy jersey that is the only thing that survived my purge of Avs merch. I was wearing this as I salmoned against a neverending stream of exiting Canucks fans. A certain moeity of those fans took some notice of my jerkin and commented on it. For maybe a hundred feet I tried to laugh it off—"Haha, yeah, my guys lost too...rough night, right?"

As I pressed on, drawing closer to the wellspring that would eventually disgorge my friend, the frequency and intensity of the comments increased. I bethought myself...self...if you're going to get your ass kicked for a shirt...let it not be a shirt about Vancouver, the Nicest City In The Land.

I zipped up my shitty windbreaker and kept beating on up against the tide. Eventually we went back to the Cambie to get obliterated. In honor of Vancouver, and my pal Mark Black, who wrote a book about Nomeansno that you should absolutely buy and read, here is a song about limitation by probably the best band Canada has ever produced.

—Collision, who didn't get his ass kicked (that night) but who knows one or two things about do the Canucks SICK BURN

Monday, October 28, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Geoff Molson, Alcohol

Nobody is really sure what exactly sports are for. Spectator sports, anyway—participation is its own reward, of course.

My best guess has always been that (spectator, team) sports are essentially metaphors for society; they're our society modelling itself for itself, probably mostly for the purposes of explaining social facts to people slash breaking people to the harsh realities that they must live under, if they are to live. This is, naturally, me essentially appropriating and redeploying Marx' Theses on Fuerbach in a fairly ham-fisted fashion.

...the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family...

That is, Marx noted that organized religions were (power-) structured in a way entirely analogous to families, and then went on to insist that both power structures should be dismantled and rebuilt.** And I'm claiming that our antagonism-riddled societies, brutally cleaved into Winners and Losers, are more or less modeled by the big spectacles we throw ourselves, with their own Winners and Losers, their own rules and enforcements, their economies and meanings, etc. The quickest way to limn this position might just be: as patriotism is to countries, so fandom is sports teams.

Anyway, I used to think that. Now I think that that's what watching sports is supposed to do—and what it maybe once did—but mostly now I think it's just another version of self-annihilation, another plastic form of escape like "T.V. and relentless masturbation"*, or excessive reading, or a purely aesthetics-driven life, or video games or model trains or men's fashion or any other micro-scale endeavor with lots of rules and moving parts and room for misdirected energies and passions and opinions... They're all great replacements for embedding oneself deeply and vividly into a community. They all offer tiny bursts of reward for minimal effort, and thus corrode our interest in the large-effort, little-reward parts of life; which is to say, the important parts. If you think I'm talking about a combination of bread and circuses on one hand and a craven and pathetic abandonment of everything that makes human, therefore social, life worth living, on the other...then you're right.***

Plus, all of those things are kind of easy, know what? Getting fucked up is 'way easier than any of 'em.

(Song suggestion by Major Dude Sam Reiss)

Which brings us to an interesting fact: Molson Beer and the Montreal Canadiens are owned by the same people. It all comes together.

So, for Geoff Molson and the entire Molson family, Clear the Crease salutes the beer you brew and the team you own. May your be-numbing products always enhance the experience of consuming each other. May the curdled and rancid low-stakes form of patriotic fervor known as "rooting for the Canadiens" continue to satisfy, and may it never spill over into the weirdo patriotic fervor known as "Quebecois Separatism". May your Coors-like beer be ever available for those dark, damp moments when real life sucks just a little bit too hard to take sober.

—Collision, who likes Gang Green a little more than he should

*From Hunter S. Thompson's introduction to Generation of Swine.

**I'm leaving some parts out.

***Another part of the decay I see in sports fandom is paralleled by the decay from "patriotism" to "nationalism". This seems essentially total, at this point: see for example the lengthy cri about the essential exceptionalism of the St. Louis Cardinals. Not every nationalist movement need be violent, it seems; some can just be endlessly self-congratulatory and quietly superior. It's the nobler approach—just ask them.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Jeremy Jacobs, Argh Fuck Kill

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is proof positive that savage, chiseling, union-busting nightmares sometimes finish first. This viper followed seasons of all-conquering team success by being one of the prime movers behind a lockout that annihilated half an entire season, thereby effortlessly obliterating the line between "hardliner" and "complete dipshit". Fuck him.

(Song Choice by Our Own Bogdan von Pylon)

Bruins' Achievements That Weren't Important Enough for Jeremy Jacobs to Refrain from Nuking a Season, in His Billionaire's Wisdom

  • 2008-2009 Vezina + Jennings Trophies for best goaltender + lowest goals-against average for a season
  • 2008-2009 Jack Adams award for best coach
  • 2008-2009 Norris Trophy for best defenseman
  • 2010-2011 Stanley Cup
  • 2010-2011 Vezina Trophy for best goaltender
  • 2010-2011 Conn Smythe Trophy for best player in the playoffs
  • 2011-2012 Selke Trophy for best defensive forward

Exactly how successful do these masters of the universe have to be before they stop fighting for the rules to be changed ever more in their favor? Exactly how much do you have to win before you stop cheating?

—Collision, who probably shouldn't've told his boss to eat shit

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: St. Louis Blues, I Don't Know What I Am

I didn't grow up knowing much about St Louis. For my first two and a half decades, though, it was relatively near, easy access to its charms afforded by my location somewhat to the west on the I-70 corridor, a not particularly delightful stretch of scenery created by the military industrial complex' simple desire to have some nation-spanning infrastructure suitable for shoving portable nukes around the countryside.

I have only one firsthand memory of the city, from my younger, dumber days. I was on a Greyhound trip, going...somewhere, in some summer after 1997. I was young, and unhappy, and in possession of no excess of ready cash, so my layover in St. Louis offered no options more enticing / available than sitting behind the terminal, vaguely staring at the police station I remember there. No option that I took, anyway. I just sat, and smoked, and took hits off my one-hitter, and sipped the occasional bit of GHB I'd made from a kit I bought off the Internet. Vile, poisonous stuff. Hard to keep down. I probably made it wrong from those mispurposed industrial chemicals, and I always choked on the foul taste, even before the inevitable nausea struck, and I never shared, because I didn't believe in poisoning people, even then. Other people, anyway.

It would pass for water, though, if nobody looked too close, and its primary effects were things I badly needed then: an hour or so of a drifty drunk / stoned feeling; about five hours of impenetrable unconsciousness; a hard transition back into awareness. A good mix for travel. Thick insulation against the press of humanity, the deluge of psychic stimulation, the spiraling and painful mind that always results from a confined body. (As I've mentioned before, punk zines by Aaron Cometbus & Al Burian told me to travel and go crazy, and (so) I did.) So I sat by my backpack, and I smoked, and I smoked pot, and I sipped GHB, and I stared through a couple humid hours of one St. Louis summer night. That's it. That's all I know. First-hand, anyway.

If I open up a little, and allow knowledge and feelings that are mediated by sports, instead of punk rock, drugs, and zines, I realize I always felt like I was supposed to hate St. Louis. I was—and am—a Royals man; thus from Kansas City must I oppose the Cardinals from St. Louis. And now I roll with a crew of sports smarks, who can't let any perceived conventional wisdom go un-snarked, and thus must Cardinals fans get demoted from "Best Fans in the Game" to "Intolerably Smug and Suspiciously White", and their uncontroversially excellent manager is reassessed as "Unpleasant Meddler, Possibly a Mean Drunk". All of which is fine. It's a big world, and knowledge of it must needs come from manifold sources far exceeding my firsthand experience; so, fine: sucks to St. Louis, sucks to the Cardinals, sucks to their satisfied fans, and sucks to Tony La Russa. I don't really give a shit.

Which brings us to the St. Louis Blues. This is truly a beautifully established franchise. Rich history, despite being founded as a way for savage chisler Bill Wirtz, who we met earlier in our series, to monetize an arena he happened to own in St. Louis, the team has a lot to brag about. Great goalies like Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall had tremendous success there. Brilliant pure scorer Brett Hull put up shocking totals in a Blues uniform. The team made the playoffs 25 straight years, an inarguable skein of mid-tier achievement.

I have to list these things because they probably don't come immediately to mind when someone says "St. Louis Blues". Indeed nothing probably comes to mind when someone says "St. Louis Blues". While the possession may be somewhat anonymous and more or less mediocre, the owner is far from a lightweight. His efforts may not have received enough attention, but when he's not busy being a union-busting booze-profiteer, he's fighting to make his beloved toy a success. Invisibly, he strives for the Blues to escape, to shed the insulation of their geographic isolation and historical lack of achievement. Unfortunately, his plan seems to be "be the New Jersey Devils of the Central Division". This means slow, boring hockey. And the Blues rather obviously lack the uniquely gifted goaltender who made it all possible all those years in Jersey...but, hey. Maybe overwhelmingly avuncular Dr. Phil life-alike John Davidson can craft a real winner in St. Louis, not just a team but a franchise with a perduring identity, stable and trans-individual, and qualitatively different than what came before.

It could happen. There's precedent: identities can change. That man who sat in St. Louis, desperate and numb, isn't the guy who's writing this. I'm no longer cut up by what's around me and what's inside me. I don't reflexively reach for something to blunt...everything anymore, and I don't read punk fanzines to make sense of my stupid life. I quit doing drugs, and I definitely quit punishing myself with cross-
country trips via Greyhound.

Or maybe things don't change that much. I wrote this on a plane, after chugging a bloody mary & a Yuengling. I'm carrying the same backpack I had on that trip through St. Louis a decade and a half ago. And the words that make the most sense of St. Louis still come from a punk fanzine by Aaron Cometbus. Anyway, good luck, St. Louis. Good luck, St. Louis owner. Good luck, me.
Little Johnny approaches with a big smile on his face. "To old-school St. Louis punk," he says. "Drink up. This round is on me."
And that's when I start to feel sick, though Little Johnny is a guy I've always liked...
I start to lose it.  Fifteen years of frustration well up inside me and threaten to break.
Why even try to put a positive spin on the story of our lives? Everyone we've ever loved has been wounded, and everything we've ever cared about has been turned into a joke.
I'm not bitter about it, I'm pissed.
Fuck old school St. Louis punk.
Fuck life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Punk Song for Every NHL Owner, corpse pose for the Jackets

Presumably, someone owns the Columbus Blue Jackets. It seems almost certain, in fact. We do, after all, live in a world with walls, and on those walls stand men with guns, and the job of those men is, of course, to keep other—lesser—men, with fewer things, away from the things of greater men, with more—and better—things.

Not that the Blue Jackets are necessarily such a great thing. On the black side of the ledger, they:

In honor of hope, and perseverance, and work, Clear the Crease hereby dedicates the following HEAVY TUNE to the owner of the Blue Jackets...whoever that is. The song is a slice of High Energy music from my all-time hero, Mike Watt, a man who has long since earned a MacArthur genius grant, tho' he has yet to receive it. Alas.

And, less kindly, a classic slice of horrifying noise, in honor of the 323 dead people associated with the building where the Blue Jackets ply their trade.

—Collision, who got badly fucked over by Evernote several different times while writing this on a plane to Columbus

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Rocky Wirtz, Budd

The man who used to own the Chicago Blackhawks was named Bill Wirtz, and Bill Wirtz was one of the most hated men in both hockey and Chicago for decades. A strident believer in ticket sales, he notoriously refused to allow his team to be shown on TV, apparently reasoning

"why would anybody leave their house to go have an amazing live experience if they could sit in the fetid squalor of their Midwestern hovels filling the emptiness inside them with beer and drowning out their howls of anguish with the Tube?"

Eventually, however, his terrifying portrait was found in the attic, each of his terrible sins written upon the disfigured face hidden away there. At the age of 77, "Dollar" Bill's claw-like grip on life finally failed.

Because Wirtz was, though a terrible businessman, very very rich, his possessions naturally went straight to his son, "Rocky" Wirtz. Rocky, in the way of sons everywhere, proceeded to make his life's work undoing that of his father. Free TV for everybody! Championships! A sometimes shaky grasp on the workings of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement!

In honor of Chicago, TV, and rich guys doing things for money, we dedicate to you, "Rocky" Wirtz, a tune celebrating the power of live television, performed by Chicago's greatest musical exponent, Mr. Steve Albini.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Punk Song for Every Owner: Stan Kroenke, Slack Motherfucker

The story of the Avs is a pretty simple one: a team gets stolen from Canada and relocated to a second-tier American city. The new town is aggressively proud of its sporting credentials: when I was there (roughly 1986 to 1997), they missed no available opportunity to tout their status as the smallest city with all four major sports represented. The hijacked team responded well to its new digs, winning a championship in their first season in town. This further embittered Canadians, and endeared the franchise to its new Denver fans, who had never seen a team win it all before (unless it was an opposing team beating the Broncos in the Super Bowl, which happened more or less yearly throughout the 80s).

Four years later, Stan Kroenke took ownership, and a year later, his team won it all. History, as we know, repeats.

The most repeating thing about history? Bosses gonna boss. As today's song for an owner puts it, perfectly:

you haven't moved from that spot all night 'cept to ask for a light
you damn' smokestack
you've wasted my time, I'd like to see you try to give it back
I'm working...I'm not working for you
slack motherfucker
Stan Kroenke has been bossing away for a decade and a half now, largely without success or an apparent plan, recent massive, sudden, and decisive public relations moves notwithstanding. (While bringing back team legends may well work, it remains a transparent sop to nitwit fans pining for their glory days...)

In the spirit of bad bosses, Clear the Crease hereby dedicates to Stan Kroenke my favorite version of "Slack Motherfucker", a song that's "about working for an asshole". Stan: I'm watching—but I'm not watching for you, slack motherfucker.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

season preview: another year of a crappy per diem

It has been a long summer, but the season of heat and pleasure has come to an end, and now we must confront the shortness of day which mirrors the shortness of our own days; yes, it is fall, and every dying leaf failing now and earthbound is like you, withering, dying, eventually to decay and rot.

Also it's hockey season.

At Clear the Crease, hockey season means just one thing: gimmicky listicles Puck Daddy runs as filler during the August doldrums HEAVY TUNES and a hell of a lot of angst. We convened hockey's angriest men to look at the season of decline and death to come.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau:

New Divisions! Yay!


  • Canucks are the Sharks.
  • Sharks are probably still the Sharks, a sad and over team.
  • Ducks are still Selanne'd, so better than I give them credit for.
  • Flames are 5 years away from being a good team, but probably 3 months away from being likable.
  • Oilers are playoffs.
  • Avalanche are middling.
  • Wild still suck.
  • Chicago still owns.
  • L.A. is back to contending.
  • Phoenix is still Phoenix, still some confusing combination of both under- and over-achieving.
  • Jets are sniffs playoffs, crashes, burns.
  • Blues are continuing to exploit the birthright Colorado sold to them for a bowl of lentil soup.

Is there still a team in Dallas?

Bogdan von Pylon:

I'm gonna watch this fucking season—even if it kills me.


Avs: The Avs were the second-worst team in the league last year. There are 30 teams in that league: Last year, the Avs had the 27th-worst defense, and it felt like it. What I hadn't realized until I started researching the season1 is that they'd had the 26th-worst offense in the league! This is puzzling, a little, as most observers seem reasonably complimentary about the Avs' forwards, and fairly dismissive of the Avs' defensemen. The assessments given to the Avs' goalies are more complicated:

  • Some observers are enthusiastic about the potential and leadership of the Avs' 'tenders;
  • Other observers are acquainted with the performances and #s put up by the Avs' goalies for the past few years, and are therefore inclined to use language like "bottom of the barrel" and "masked nightmares".
In case you think I perhaps exaggerate a little: There exists a made-up statistic for goaltenders called the "Quality Start". This metric grants a QS to a goaltender who finishes a game with either a save percentage above league average (.917 right now) or fewer than 3 goals given up. (More or less.) Semyon Varlamov last year had a Quality Start percentage of 33.3% (worst among goalies with 30+ appearances). Meaning in 2 of every 3 games he started, he ended up with more than 3 goals against, or a sub-average save percentage... For a team that gave up 31 shots a game, and only scored 2.38 goals a game...either of those outcomes was obviously pretty difficult to overcome.

Oh, and well-respected backup J-S Giguere? 21.4%.

[Editorial Interlude: Say, friend: did you know Chris Collision wrote a short rock opera about J-S Giguere? He did! You Can Read It! Just mosey on over to The Classical! Tell 'em Clear the Crease sent ya! Or don't, and be forever damned.]

Fans were rewarded for sticking with this bottom-feeding franchise for the last half-decade of bad decisions poorly executed, as the Avs put together a huge off-season!

  • Giant new scoreboard.
  • Old players = new front office management types.
  • Goodbye David "Nickname" Jones, you semi-reliable winger coming off a world-historically shitty shooting percentage; hello, Alex Tanguay, best described as: skilled; moderately productive; pillow-soft; deathly dull!
  • First pick in the draft! Hello, doughy-faced young guy exciting new center Nathan MacKinnon! What's that you say, new coach Patrick Roy? You are so enamored of this doughy-faced young guy exciting new center that you are going to take arguably your best young player Ryan O'Reilly and play him out of position so you can play this new kid? Great!

The defense and goaltending, so notably solid last year, needed no attention, and therefore got none.

Wait, that's not quite true. Two veteran defensemen were cut loose: Greg Zanon, who was never good, and Matt Hunwick, who actually saw 21:31 of ice time per game over 43 games... On one hand, this move made sense, because the worst thing a team can do, personnel-wise, is to fall in love with major contributors to bad teams, and Hunwick certainly was that (and so was David "Nickname" Jones). Still, though: I have a feeling that this is a team that could use some professional-grade mediocrity along the blue line, and I have little to no faith that the defense is any less of a glaring weakness than it was last year.2

To sum up, it is not simply my own hackishness and desire for attention that leads me to suggest that this year for the Avs will be like the piece I wrote for The Classical's Being There issue, a piece called "The Old Ways of Defeat". It's gonna be a long year.

—Collision, starting the season in the minors

1Partially to prepare for the year, partially to prepare for the fantasy hockey league I'm in with Mark Black. Is fantasy hockey stupid? Indubitably. Is studying for fantasy hockey a colossal waste of time? But of course! But when I'm socializing with the guy who literally wrote the book on one of the greatest bands of all time, I'm going to do a little homework to avoid embarrassing myself.

2Hunwick cleared waivers, I think, and is thus still with the team, but one suspects the team's brain trust doesn't plan to deploy him particularly robustly.

Monday, August 5, 2013

these guys are a fuckin' disgrace

Being an introduction to the Clear the Crease bloggers.

Pierre Idiot Trudeau (AKA JeffCanuck):
Canadian. Canucks fan. Loather of all Canadian media. Deep opinions about early Def Leppard.

Bogdan von Pylon: Doesn't care what you think. The man who squats behind the man who runs the soft machine. Sharp mind and sharper tongue behind the whole CtC operation.

Chris Collision: Avs fan. Writes about hockey a lot for The Classical. (Also basektball, base-ball, and bears.) You may have seen his work on Deadspin, or on FreeDarko. He writes about HEAVY TUNES for Negative Fun Records. Sagittarius.

You can hear Jeff and Collision on the new No Headline AudioZine podcast, released Sunday. Collision and von Pylon got hella liquored up on Saturday. Go Avs Go!

Jew Grimson: Long-lost token Blackhawks fan. Instigator/sensitive soul type, not entirely unlike Sean Avery. DJ. Not particularly interested in hearing your nonsense.

Clear the Crease enjoys the musical stylings of Lord Dying.

See you in the streets.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

does fire stop pucks?

9. Martin Brodeur, asked if we [Ed note: sic] could consider retiring: "Why would I? I've still got the fire."

Martin Brodeur's Save Percentage vs. (NHL Average Save Percentage) by Year

2013: .901 (.912)
2012: .908 (.914)
2011: .903 (.913)

—Collision, who notes that the fire apparently stopped stopping more pucks than the league average three full seasons ago

Friday, April 26, 2013

rubbish and gold bought with ruin and sold at a loss

here there is none that can guide me aright in the pathless wood.—
If I've had to howl 'neath the lashes of fate, trust me to find folks I can lash in my turn—
The corpses all laugh. But their laughter is forced;
Enough for the day is the evil thereof,—
and further: Discount not thy funeral.—

Not long ago, the NHL team from Colorado—dead last in the league—hosted the one from Calgary, second-to-last. The game itself was uninspired but inspiring, in that it led well-regarded veteran goaltender J-S Giguère to go ham on his squad after the game. All this has been more-than-adequately covered elsewhere, of course. Over to The Classical, however, I came at things from a slightly different angle: Losing Again: A Play in Verse. It hosts probably the piece of art I'm proudest of having had a hand in ever: Bogdan von Pylon's pitch-perfect reworking of Raymond Pettibon's cover for Black Flag's Jealous Again.

(Jiggy's eyes are the fountain of the bitter and searing lye of tears)

Aside from the best art you will see today, the piece trickles from a lot of different sources. One is our own semi-tradition of bets here at CtC: Bogdan von Pylon and I renewed our whimsical wager of Shopping of Photos by him or Crafting of Poems by me in the event of "our" team losing. "My" team lost, naturally, and so I began to guide my pen across page—carving and wheeling like the plodding skates of an Avalanche defenseman getting beaten wide—then other, darker roots of influence manifested and from the thick taproot of menace and despair began to bloom weird leaves. I thought of the faces of the goaltenders who worked that night, and thought of their losses and reversals: It instantly seemed that a few short stanzas were inadequate to the task of capturing the spirit of the thing, the meaning of this late-season trudge through the slough. The obvious solution to this perilous lack was a play in verse.

Probably this seemed very necessary because I have of late been reading Peer Gynt, in the aftermath, for all is aftermath, of an interesting staging thereof I attended with the Lady Noodles not long ago. It was, in the words of the program, "a hybrid Peer Gynt [combining] parts of ... three scores—Grieg, Schnittke, and Holloway—with a semi-staged multimedia production". The staging was somewhat light, playing much for laughs and eliding essentially everything from the third quarter of the book, which contains Peer Gynt's attempts to sell himself as a prophet, some still-disturbing scenes in a madhouse, and a sequence of actually horrifying cruelty on a ship. The book used for that performance did elide these sections, anyway. The rather superb Robin Holloway piece "Ocean Voyage" did seem to evoke/embody much of the tumult and sad human shittiness Ibsen built into those passages, though it was incorporated clumsily into the show, being very long and more than a little flow-breaking.

One of the primary themes of Peer Gynt is the frank evil causing/caused-by the philosophy demanded by the Motor City 5: "let me be who I am". This philosophy is of course ascendant now, and not merely in our politics! It has poisoned our writing, too. Essentially every writer within 10 years of my age sallies forth misunderstanding the lessons of confessional poetry/Lester Bangs/David Foster Wallace/Joan Didion/Herman Melville/whoever strikes you as what Ibsen called "Old fossil Highnesses who make it their pride to keep plebeian blots excluded from their line's escutcheon", and reduces every topic to "a written monologue by that most interesting being, myself". But these writers aren't Alice James, or Ibsen, or even Bangs, and the spring of self is stagnating badly.

It's here, sir, that one is oneself with a vengeance; oneself, and nothing whatever besides. We go, full sail, as our very selves. Each one shuts himself up in the barrel of self, in the self-fermentation he dives to the bottom,—with the self-bung he seals it hermetically, and seasons the staves in the well of self. No one has tears for the other's woes; no one has mind for the other's ideas. We're our very selves, both in thought and tone, ourselves to the spring-board's uttermost verge,—

And, well, fuck that. Since I wish to speak of the rough infinity of things more interesting than myself before I speak of myself, the formal play of a play in verse seemed Just The Thing. Plus the third and fourth influences plaguing, or maybe blessing, my every word; I speak, naturally, of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and of Thomas Pynchon—or at least I speak of the urge so potent in them to STOP

(Let's put on a show!)

everything and break into song. And so what was conceived as a pair of poems turned into a play in verse turned into a rock opera—or at least a musical. Which, again: you can read over at The Classical: Losing Again.

But why goalies in particular, you probably aren't asking. There are several reasons. First, as I learned from Manufacturing Consent—not that one, the other one—the name of the game is to try to build up an analysis of the whole structure of capitalism by looking closely at the shop floor; so why not start my look at the shop floor with a look at the goalies? (Charles Fort is instructive here: all life is connected and "One measures a circle, starting anywhere.") Second, if hockey itself be of interest, then surely goalies are of interest, for as one brilliant observer querulously asked "Is [the goalie] not worth between 50 and 60 percent of his [sic] team?"

Okay, so that brilliant observer was legendary goalie Jacques Plante, who perhaps is not the disinterested historian one would wish most for. Nevertheless, goalies do seem important. Third: their helmets are colorful and interesting and draw the eye.

Perhaps, despite all good faith and honest craft, the project failed. Perhaps the result was still and all more an autobiography than an analysis, revealing only my needy vanity, my own failure(s) and rotten (mis-)appropriations of the work of others as an attempt to reclaim what the world stole from me. Perhaps my foolish project is too much like Peer Gynt's, self-serving always, ignorant and arrogant, doomed to an inherent and meaningless uniqueness that can never be special; nothing more than my identity in prose form, a portrait of no more than a shallow and sickly self.

It's true—my grounding's by no means thorough,
and history's wheels within wheels are deceptive;—
but pooh; the wilder the starting-point,
the result will oft be the more original.—

Thanks for reading, everybody!!

—Collision, sidelined

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

too dumb to play with themselves issue one billion

I am on record as liking and respecting the hell out of Adrian Dater. I think he's among the best beat writers in the business, and his opinions are usually interesting and well-argued. He's got skin thin enough to block me on Twitter, but that's no big deal: I'm a redhead myself, and I know from temper. Anyway, I'm glad he's my primary conduit for Avs information.

All that said, there are in this 240-word piece "David Quinn takes Boston University coaching Job three separate claims that I want to talk about for a second (all presented verbatim):

  • I knew this a couple days ago, but couldn’t say anything. Oh well, I kept my promise to my source. Which is a poor answer to the question: why be a reporter and grant sources their wish not to publish things in the paper? Well, it’s a long story, but it happens sometimes. Let’s move on...
  • Avs policy is not to have assistant coaches talk with the media at all. Hey, it’s their policy, and I don’t have a problem following it.
  • Guy Boucher? I think his availability is intriguing right now. I think there’s a chance he could be the next Avs coach. But that’s all: just a chance. Nothing is immediately imminent.

So what the hell is journalism?

  • Talking to people and not telling anybody what they say
  • Not talking to people that somebody doesn't want you to talk to
  • Heavy hinting and speculation masked as opinion—or maybe this is a journalist being used to float a trial balloon by somebody in the institution he's supposed to investigating...

It's all pretty gross. And, as I've said before, since there's so little at stake with professional sports—it's not like we're being fed a series of bad reasons to spend trillions of dollars invading Iraq, we're just trying to figure out if it's a goalie's groin or hip that's hurt, and how badly—there is absolutely no reason not to do it right. Go ahead, protect your sources. Seems reasonable. But could you at least act like it bugs you that you're being told who you can and who you can not talk to?

—Collision, who literally nobody wants to talk to anyway

Monday, March 25, 2013

Semin Back as 'Canes Get Cocky

We've had a lot of fun with Semin around here, to the point where some have even complained about seeing so much Semin in the 'Crease, but the Internet exploded today with the news that the Carolina Hurricanes have decided they need Alexander Semin in their jersey for five more seasons. While his production has been spotty for the past few campaigns, he's really come on for the 'Canes this time around, and his fast hands really fill a hole for a team that often struggles to punch it in.

Some observers may choke on his cost, but right now it certainly appears as though Carolina wants to put Semin on their ice for another five seasons. For now, we can all quit worrying about where Semin will end up. At least until next year's trade deadline, when, surely, scoring wingers will be a sizzling-hot commodity and Semin will be on everybody's lips once again.

To commemorate this new consummated deal, please enjoy the sloppy, slapped-together Photoshop that our own Bogdan von Pylon expelled before a quick cigarette and a nap.

—Collision, hoping von Pylon will call, later

Okay, okay. It isn't all dick jokes and making fun of Ryan Lambert's inability to figure out what he's trying to say around here. Other notable moments from the CtC Thread du Jour include finding our next book club book:

And, spurred on by the Onion, I prepared a list of the five awesomest things ever said on the clock.

# 5: Reported by Pierre Idiot Trudeau, eavesflirting at the Red & Black some years ago:

"Hey, why didn't Tracy put away this delivery?"
"Because she sucks?"

This Onion article is # 4.

# 3 is some dude I knew who once asked his boss

"how big a diagram do I have to draw you, using how many colors of crayon, to explain that what you're asking for can not be done?"

# 2 is of course Bogdan von Pylon:

"this is important, so I'm going to use profanity. Please don't take it personally".

#1: Noodles reply-alling an entire work list—every on-site employee got this—with

"I'm sorry, but this 'no-vacation, everybody-needs-to-pull-together-and-work-harder' stuff is ridiculous, when you fired a third of us—our friends and co-workers—last week. Now you have too much work to honor time off requests? You not being able to manage the workflow is not a reason we need to work harder."

Smash the state, fuck your boss, all power to the people and ban the fucking bomb.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how is this better than "a chink in his armor"?

One suspects there will be minimal outcry over this. But it's still annoying.

Curry Spices Up Bollywood Night for Warriors

Haw haw haw, see, Curry—Bollywood—Indians love curry, which is a spicy food, probably the national dish of India, which is where Bollywood is, and also Curry is the name of the best player on the Warriors, so it writes itself!

Except it doesn't write itself. Somebody wrote it. (Presumably not "Ryan Leong", since that's the usual dodge used by reporters when some internet jerk gets upset about a headline.) Somebody wrote this cheap pun because they thought it was funny, and, sure, okay, it works on whatever level it works on, and I guess we should be happy the Warriors are doing some minimal kind of cultural outreach with a Bollywood night. But would they have run an essentializing and at least borderline offensive pun with any of their other cultural outreach nights?

"David Lee Fries Glen Rice on Asian-American 'Sorry for the Internment Camps Thing' Night"

"Jarrett Jack Racks Up Steals on African-American 'Free Basketball Tickets Might Stop this Crime Wave' Night"

"Andris Biedrins Makes a Lot of Cabbage on 'Eastern Europeans Like Borcht, Right?' Night"

"Jolly Swagman Andrew Bogut Slaps Shrimpy, Barbie-Like Team Around on 'Waltzing Matilda and Fried Wallaby Night'"

Sure, all these jokes are bad, real Borcht-belt level stuff, and most of them even require explanatory links; this is because the jokes I made rely on slightly more obscure cultural references and connections than Bollywood/Indians/Curry/curry. But the connections are there, and, in my fake examples, would obviously preclude their publication. So why are these precluded when "Curry Spices Up Bollywood Night" isn't?

—Collision, humorless dink

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ryan Lambert Sucks

(Non-optional soundtrack to this post.)

Here is an edited version of three grafs from Ryan Lambert's latest column. (I include unedited originals below.) I've used strikethrough to eliminate the weasel words, pointless asides, or things irrelevant to my main point.

Scott Howson, for all the talk about how hard he tried and how his firing was more about going in a "different direction" than his personal job performance, was simply not a good NHL general manager. That much was obvious to anyone who saw how pathetically bungled the Rick Nash saga was, or his draft record, or most of his other trades, and the vast majority of his free agent signings.

But you have to give Howson this: He just set his successor up for an hilariously successful future.

Howson's drafting and trading over the last few years has accumulated a decent number of prospects that range from "good" to "very good," though to be fair maybe only one can be considered "great." They're mainly defensemen, like Ryan Murray (the benefit of picking second, one supposes), David Savard and Tim Erixon, as well as goaltender Oskar Dansk. No overwhelming prospects, but a good group nonetheless. Grabbing guys like Cam Atkinson hasn't hurt either. But overall there's a reason Hockey Prospectus and Hockey's Future have the Blue Jackets in the bottom half of the league when it comes to prospects.

So, what we have here is an argument that runs:

  1. Scott Howson was not a good NHL general manager
  2. His draft record was bad
  3. His successor is in a good position to succeed
  4. Because there are a decent number [Ed. note: whatever the hell that means] of good/very good prospects, and one great one
  5. But their prospects are bottom-half of the league

The contradiction is clear: Lambert is simultaneously saying that Howson was bad at drafting (1., 2., 5.) and good at drafting (3., 4.). How could a patently self-contradictory claim get made and published? I mean, I'm not misrepresenting him or his arguments in any way: all I did was try to shave away the cruft and reveal the argument he was making.

My theory is this: it would be easier for Lambert to understand what he himself was saying—and for his editors, if he had any—if he'd cut down on the weasel words and pointless semi-conversational asides.

(Earlier this week, his lede was this, again with the weasel words eliminated:

On Monday night, the Flames went down pretty quietly in a home game against the Minnesota Wild that pretty much all observers agreed was in every way a dreadful, unwatchable hockey game.

That description fairly accurately covers most Flames games this season,

That's 42 words, 6 of which are pointless qualifiers that only blunt whatever statement he's trying to make. Fairly accurately. Most. Pretty pretty much.

Maybe he gets paid by the word, so 14% filler is working well to line his pockets thickly with hockey-blog-troll stacks of cash. Maybe he doesn't read his own results, and what we're reading are first drafts. Maybe he thinks he trolls effectively enough without removing all the equivocations—the etiology doesn't matter, though, because it's clear that his obfuscations are legitimately getting in the way of his ability to communicate, as they so, so brutally did in his little Howson riff.

It doesn't really matter. I don't read Lambert much: even when his point isn't buried under fearful hedges, that point is rarely more interesting than "X sucks and Teemu Selanne is great and I saw a lacrosse goal on YouTube" or, very occasionally, "Y should get more credit and Teemu Selanne is great and I saw a lacrosse goal on YouTube". Even if it has a Simpsons quote at the bottom, I can skip a column that doesn't do any more work than that. But if the dude is going to get big-boy real estate on the only hockey blog that matters, I'd like to see him do better work.

—Collision, who loves Titus Andronicus as much as Lambert does

Scott Howson, for all the talk about how hard he tried and how his firing was more about going in a "different direction" than his personal job performance, was simply not a good NHL general manager. That much was obvious to anyone who saw how pathetically bungled the Rick Nash saga was, or his draft record, or most of his other trades, and the vast majority of his free agent signings.

But you have to give Howson this: He just set his successor up for an hilariously successful future.

Howson's drafting and trading over the last few years has accumulated a decent number of prospects that range from "good" to "very good," though to be fair maybe only one can be considered "great." They're mainly defensemen, like Ryan Murray (the benefit of picking second, one supposes), David Savard and Tim Erixon, as well as goaltender Oskar Dansk. No overwhelming prospects, but a good group nonetheless. Grabbing guys like Cam Atkinson hasn't hurt either. But overall there's a reason Hockey Prospectus and Hockey's Future have the Blue Jackets in the bottom half of the league when it comes to prospects.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is Semin on the Rocks in Carolina?

Alexander Semin made a splash this summer by following a couple mediocre years of decline with a risky one-year deal for $7 million. Clearly, he's banking on his ability to have a resurgence that would tantalize some GM into splurging on him. This takes real spunk. Not every player could convince his agent to swallow a deal like this, but Carolina Hurricanes head honcho Jim Rutherford didn't want to let such a potent opportunity slip through his fingers, and, unusually for the notoriously tight-fisted decision-maker, he didn't dicker, he didn't try to soften the deal or harden his terms, he just took it on the chin, and paid Semin a load of money.

However, to this point in the season, Semin has scored only a single goal. So far, some Hurricanes fans have felt that this $7 million they sprayed on Semin was shot, wasted. Some have even spat that he may be choking. It's probably best to ignore the anxious ejaculations of these fans—they're drips, and their protestations are certainly at this point premature. If you only look at numbers that are, so to speak, raw, "dog" is what you'll conclude—but this would be a mistake.

While it's true that he hasn't finished like most people had hoped, to call him a bust would be nuts: Semin's been on the ice more than half the time when the Hurricanes have scored 5-on-5. Cooler heads insist that while most of his production has come in spurts, it's reasonable to expect that he'll find his stroke as he gains familiarity and comfort with his new linemates.

He may not have been wielding the hot stick, but he's been all over the ice, including mounting a surprising defensive performance, and the production expected to come off of his stick has spilled over into his teammates' numbers. If the coaching staff can spread him over multiple lines, that should help keep opposing squads from swallowing him up defensively. Eventually, this should allow him to get off better shots, in the face of lesser competition. The 'Canes shouldn't be rigid and insist that the only place for Semin is in the top sextet: using him in a three-way arrangement, to fill whatever holes the lineup may spring, will best allow him to make his mark (though he does need linemates who can keep him from getting rubbed off the puck or splattered on the boards). The chemistry looks good for this to go down, too: nobody on the team or associated with it appears to be mouthing off or smearing Semin; no dirty laundry, no embarrassing leaks. It's clear that misusing Semin would stain a coach's reputation, especially in a media environment where, eventually, everything comes out.

If he comes on late in the season, this soft start will be forgotten. As long as the team doesn't droop all the way out of the playoff picture, the thrust of Semin's acquisition should stick with you: just by being around, Semin has made everyone around him better. (Staal's typically flaccid early-season productivity has been notably inflated.) So whether or not you immediately notice him on the ice, the presence of Semin simply can't be ignored.

—Collision, dick, joking