Friday, January 25, 2013

The Hippodrome: Heel Street Blues

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 8:16 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Heels! Thrills! Deals! Spills!

Tojo was fake. But he was real.
  • Tojo was fake. But he was real.

Opening Face-Off

Heroes vs. Heels : If only our professional athletes were as concerned with genuineness as our rappers, who are real as penitentiary steel and, thus, suffer from that realness.

This week in the dead-tree, I write about villains. Or the lack thereof.

Dear departed defenseman Ryan Suter desperately wants us to believe his story that he left for Minnesota for family reasons. That might be true. It's definitely boring.

When Suter did that interview — and when he invariably does it again upon his return to Nashville March 9, a visit he'll probably punctuate with a full-page "Thank you Nashville for all the great years!" ad in the local daily — he was trying to soften the blow.

But folks in Nashville don't want it softened. They don't know how to love him. They want to hate. And they deserve to do so. Sports, at its best, is unifying and visceral, its players analogs for their fans and their cities. Suter left Nashville — the team — on the verge of its greatness. He left Nashville — the city — in much the same spot. Minneapolis hasn't been on TV since Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air, after all. We're Nowville. They're Snowville.

It's not just Suter, of course. True sports villains are few and far between and getting fewer and farther between with every retirement. From Ali to Mean Joe (who was the first heel sell-out) to Dennis Rodman, there was a great tradition of heels.

Even Ray Lewis — who was once a suspect in a murder, for God's sake — is celebrated as a good guy. Athletes being fiercely protective of a cultivated image isn't anything new, but there was a time when cultivating an image as a bad guy had value. Sure, it was harder, but it was far more interesting.

And it was far more honest.

These days, fans, desperate for the release of snarling hatred slung back at a snarling hater, search desperately like Diogenes for an honest man.

The Week Behind

Shooters, Suters and Snoozers are all types of leg-spin. Fun fact.
  • Shooters, Suters and Snoozers are all types of leg-spin. Fun fact.

Shooters, Suter, Snoozer : Let's not all get in a rush to call the first four games of the shortened 2013 NHL season a successful start for the Predators.

The 'Drome made its usual hubristic pronouncements there was no chance the Preds would lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home. They, of course, rewarded The 'Drome, because if there's one thing we learned from the Greeks, it's that hubris always wins.

Helpfully, the Predators' front office, remembering they locked out their employees for four months, decided to encourage those employees to work a little overtime. For the second game, the Preds played into a shootout. And ... again they lost.

There were plenty of storylines heading into Minnesota — mentioned above. Insist though they did that they'd moved on from Ryan Suter moving on, Barry Trotz couldn't hide his pleasure at the 3-1 win (Suter on ice for all three).

And about last night. Look, the Blues are a great team with few weaknesses — the notable one being a real lack of defensive depth, but that's made up by strong defensive play from the forwards. But if the Predators purport to be a contender — and they do indeed purport to be such — they'll have to beat other good teams, or it's another year of one- or two-rounds and out. If they even make the playoffs.

Interesting late takeaway from these games: Colin Wilson — who has been really good in the first few — has clearly been infected by Barry Trotz (for good or ill). In his post-gamer Thursday with Cooper, Wilson more or less quoted one of Trotz's go-to cliches: "There’s no detail in our game, nothing."

Four points in four games isn't great. Winning one of the two at home would have made this a decent week. There's time to right the ship, but not a lot — and with this road trip just starting out, the points need to come and they need to come fast.

This One Will Be Fun For A Long Time : Maybe TSU benefited from a soft early conference schedule, or maybe they were playing over their heads. Or maybe they missed Robert Covington.

But in front of a sold-out Saturday crowd at the Curb Event Center, the Tigers came out flat against Belmont, which surged to a big first-half lead, struggled a bit and then surged back again for a 78-66 win in a game between two OVC unbeatens.

The enthusiasm for mid-major basketball has finally fully infected Nashville. And while TSU-Belmont may never reached the amped-up church-league rivalry that is Belmont's game with Lipscomb, it has the potential to be a pitched game for years to come.

Garbage Time :
With the governor and Coach Summit looking on, UT's women beat Vandy at Memorial 83-75. ... Vandy's men got not one but two SEC wins this week, and the office in Birmingham assures me they count, even though they were against South Carolina and Auburn. ... MTSU will honest-to-Betsy be in Conference USA next season, joining the East Division. ... Belmont will play at Butler next season. ... New renderings of the revamped backside of Bridgestone were unveiled Thursday. ... Vandy baseball will open the season ranked No. 2.

Halftime Entertainment


The Real Hippodrome : The good folks at the Metro Archives posted an image (see right) of a news story announcing the pending construction of our namesake, The Hippodrome. Here's another cool picture from the library.

Your Biennial Vince Young Update : Speaking of things we used to get excited about: Vince Young.

He's back in Texas wrapping up his degree, and Busted Coverage — the "intellectual" godfathers of the ingenious "Hey let's put breasts and sports together!" genre of blogging — has cell phone pictures of him being sort of doughy and sleepy in class and then doughy and smiley at a bar.

Not sure why we should be mocking a guy for finishing up his college degree when he is out of options — I mean, Vince couldn't get a tryout with the Cardinals, for God's sake — but if you haven't exhausted your schadenfreude or your desire to meatpeep, have at it.

The Week Ahead

Old friends, old rivals
  • Old friends, old rivals

Something Old, Something New : For whatever reason, Vandy-Missouri feels like it's going to develop into a real rivalry, one of those LSU-Florida deals that's heated for reasons that have nothing to do with geography. Maybe it's the colors, but it just has that vibe.

Vandy travels up to Missouri Saturday to take on the 14-4 Tigers. Like much of the SEC, Mizzou is Just OK, but they are undefeated at home.

Vandy hosts visits (Your 'Dromer can't read a schedule correctly) old rival Tennessee Tuesday. As always with Vanderbilt, their performance will more or less be determined by their ability to hit the three. If they can't? The UT-Vandy football game may have been more high-scoring.

Moon In All Your Splendor, Known Only To My Heart : The Circus Roadtrip continues this week for the Predators as they hit the Western Swing, which doesn't go through San Antonio, unfortunately.

It does, however, go through Anaheim, where the Preds will face the Ducks — a team with scoring pop and not much else, but a team with which Nashville has something of a rivalry. Then it's off to Phoenix where the Preds will face the Coyotes for the first time since they knocked the Preds out of a promising playoff run last year. Next week's slate culminates with a trip to the Stanley Cup champion LA Kings. Why the NHL didn't schedule the Predators to play Anaheim and LA before going to Phoenix, I'll never know.

The trip will conclude over the following weekend with trips to the easily musical San Jose and St. Louis and we'll cover those games then, but mention it now because there's a Western Swing version of "St. Louis Blues", weirdly enough.

Worthless Prediction: That's three tough games, but only the Kings game especially so. There's a payoff to all these early road games (in the form of long strings at home later). In the meantime, three or four points off the week are a happy result.


Im with the band
  • I'm with the band

The Tyranny of Pronouns : Over at Medium, Jason Chen brings up a classic debate: is it OK to use the first-person plural pronoun when referring to sports teams we follow?

First, there are people for whom it is always acceptable: namely anyone who received or, perhaps even, ever received a paycheck from the team. For college teams, alums can say "we" — although if we broadly define alums as anyone who received credit hours, those of us with a polygamous academic history have trouble: can I say we won a championship Jan. 7 and that we also won one in 2007?

But for the rest — the sidewalk alums for college and the just-folks of pros — is we OK?

There are people who are draconian, prohibiting any we-ing by anyone. And there are the laissez-faire, allowing we-ly-nilly usage.

There's no right answer. The best guess is to probably not think about it too much and just act naturally.

But Chen's article sparked a good conversation on the Twitter — mostly between Friends of the 'Drome Eric and Link.

The No We Crowd consider sport solely as entertainment, and they rightly point out people don't go see Radiohead or the new Batman movie or Waiting for Godot, walk out, and say, "We did a great job! What a great show we had!"

Yes We-ers see fandom as something bigger than that: they see fandom as part of a movement. Being a fan of the Titans or 'Dores or Tigers or Predators or Bisons (sic) is like being part of punk rock. In punk — and to a degree, several other genres — the fans are participants rather than consumers. We are part of this bigger thing. What we do matters to the larger movement. And so on.

Ultimately, then, the We Question isn't about pronouns. It's about the way we perceive our relationship: Are we just consumers, or are we contributors?

Notes of encouragement during late night Pacific time games to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Radio on Tuesdays from 6-7 PM on 102.5 The Game.

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