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.