Saturday, October 11, 2014

Punk Song for Every Owner: Lou Lamoriello, My Dad's a Fucking Alcoholic

One of the worst things about life—or about consciousness, anyway—is the pervasive mystification in and of our thoughts. Because the human brain works largely by means of operations of metaphor and metonymy, we constantly mistake one thing for another. The famous example is of course Marx noting that "the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family"—to oversimplify, this means that religious authority works on the model of familial authority, and to oversimplify the oversimplification, the fundamental model for god is a father.

Your feelings about god being an imaginary all-powerful daddy in the sky likely have a lot to do with your feelings about your own personal daddy. Without getting hung up on on bummer vibes or details of biography, I think it's worth acknowledging at least the utility in making sense of a deity who, insofar as he's responsible for life as experienced, is obviously arbitrary, unpredictable, blinkered, hostile, and occasionally abusive. However, to note that religious power is a blurry metaphor for some stomping drunk asshole's because-I-said-so-isms is not to claim that all power should be held to work this way. These caveats arise because political power is all too often misconstrued as located in a unitary (daddy/god-like) figure. Another mystification. (Where political power is in fact located and where it should be located I leave as an exercise for the reader.)

These considerations lead us ineluctably to Lou Lamoriello, the president and general manager of, the unitary image of power over, the New Jersey Devils, for what feels like and is decades. Nearly three of them. Not the owner, not (usually) the coach, Lamoriello is the figure atop the mountain, hurling the odd thunderbolt at a lesser being, issuing pronunciamentoes dutifully handed down unchallenged by fawning priest weenie types, and crafting idiotic rules for people to follow.

(Lou Lamoriello inspecting the waiver wire.)

Interestingly, Lamoriello has maintained his position and his power across multiple regimes of Devils ownership. Viewed from another angle, he has more or less spuriously continued to manifest and exercise power while the actual sources of power have come and gone.

As Marx points out, all these weird mysteries have a solution: pay attention to what is actually happening; do things better. (You may prefer the rendering of one or another translator:

Thus for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.
Or, in the formulation I prefer:
Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be criticized in theory and revolutionized in practice.

One of these days, somebody will pay enough attention to Lou Lamoriello and his (?) New Jersey Devils to notice a long history of malfeasance, of power exercised in the service of goals small, mean, and selfish: a nepotist, Lamoriello's two sons work for him (just as Jesus, Mars, and Hephaestus all went into the family business); a chisler, he has alienated many players who wanted fair market value for their labor (Ken Daneyko, Pat Verbeek, Kirk Muller, Bill Guerin) and bullied others into accepting lowball offers because they are in the (holy?) "family" (Patrick Elias, Martin Brodeur); a cheat, he signed Ilya Kovalchuk to an illegal contract, and a couple disappointing years later, he benefited enormously first from Kovalchuk's convenient decision to "retire"* and subsequently from the league's inexplicable decision to reduce their penalties for that illegal contact to what legal analysts are unanimous in describing as: "fuckall". A tyrannical dickhead of a martinet, Lamoriello insists his players comport to his dress sense (suits) and facial hair preferences (none), even as YHWH frowns and shakes his head at your bacon cheeseburger and shrimp cocktail.

If the mystification be removed, Lou Lamoriello and god both suck. God's a simple construct attempting to explain the capricious universe and mask the cruelty of humanity and the institutions it has created. Lamoriello is a snivelling tyrant who lucked into a world-historically good goalie/system at the only time in history they would have been successful. With luck, one day both god and Lamoriello will be but dusty memories with no active influence on my life. On that day, I might actually be able to like—or at least love—that Devils franchise, which, like me, started in Kansas City, then had a couple shitty years in Denver before hieing out to the relative bliss of a coast. After all, we can free ourselves of what we only imagine is power; but we never can escape our history.

—Collision, interested in devils, if not Devils

*N.B.: Ilya Kovalchuk is currently playing professional hockey in Russia. His "retirement" from the NHL served simply to allow him to live and work where he wanted to. Completely coincidentally, it did a major solid for the Devils franchise, who desperately needed out from under the vast stacks of cash they still owed him.**

**That metaphor doesn't work, dude; if they wanted out from under the vast stacks of cash they owed him, they should have paid him the money, because then the stacks would be gone.***

***Fuck off.

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