Being Good v. Looking Good : This week on Nashville Juliette Barnes twirled and spun headlong into an existential crisis: Does she want to play it safe inside the hitmaking machine that made her preposterous dosh, or does she want to risk it all to do what she wants?
Thanks, Nashville, for dovetailing the melodrama with this week's dead-tree column.
Juliette's character is the perfect construction of the conundrum faced by any relatively talented striver that inks a deal with the Row. Do you conform with their expectations, or do you conform with your own? Our sports teams are, to a degree, infected with this mindset. Nashville is a town that made its money on formula, by convincing would-be stars to submit themselves to the factory. Similarly, the Titans and Predators grind out an endless stream of largely interchangeable pieces.
It is as effective as it is boring. The fear of the front offices is that any departure from the norm — letting Randy Moss be Randy Moss, for example, or turning a blind-eye to Alexander Radulov's occasional behavioral lapses — will turn the city they call home into a bunch of shrieking Glenns.
But like Glenn, we're savvy enough to understand that a reward is often worth a risk. Give us a chance to prove it.
The Week Behind
Why are we so enthralled with what happens on Saturdays in October that we must get anxious and vitriolic about a 17-year-old making the biggest decision of his life? This right here is unacceptable.
But people do care, so here we are. By pretty much every measure, Vanderbilt managed its best recruiting class of all time. They signed a couple of Cunninghams, so I hope these folks are somehow involved in game-day sponsorships. The CP has a report on local prospects.
The lengthy circus road trip to start the season was their breakfast in America. And the start of the breakfast was bland gruel. The defense — much improved with the new pairings of Shea Weber with Roadhouse Scott Hannan and Kevin Klein with Roman Josi — was holding up its end of the bargain, earning a shootout win at San Jose, before taking the long way home for a brief stop in Nashville. After weeks on the road, it must have felt like they were saying goodbye, stranger to their families when they headed right back to St. Louis Tuesday.
Anybody who predicted Tuesday's goal-scorers should be living somewhere far more gambling-friendly than Nashville. Even the most absurd off-shore sports books wouldn't have offered odds on goals by Ryan Ellis, Rich Clune, Nick Spaling, Kevin Klein and Gabby Bourque (who basically just forechecked the puck into the net, because of course he did). The capper from Marty Erat was, at least, predictable.
It was back home last night to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings. The Predators only managed 14 shots, but scored on three of them which was two too many, as Pekka Rinne earned his 26th career shutout.
A few notes from the week. Colin Wilson has five points in his last two games and has more or less emerged as the best offensive force on the team. The Predators haven't allowed a goal at even-strength since January 28. Pekka Rinne has a save percentage of 0.974 and a goals-against average of 0.97 in his last four games.
As the super tramping across the country drew to an end, the team came around.
That Is Certainly A Bold Move : Mike Munchak has no desire to fire defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. There's not really any explanation for this, but perhaps Mr. Charisma sees something the rest of us don't.
In a move presumably designed to shore up the defensive coaching staff, though, the Titans hired former Titans coach Gregg Williams, last seen not coaching because he engaged in a widespread bounty scheme.
This is the quintessential Titans hire for several reasons: Williams has ties to the team, Bud Adams probably saw his name on that there picture box, and it addresses a problem (awful defensive coaching) without directly fixing the problem.
A reminder here that being reactionary should never be confused with taking an action. At least the Titans did one wise thing and locked up Chris Johnson despite his big old price tag.
Garbage Time : A valiant fight back didn't earn a win for Belmont at Murray. The Bruins - who earned some votes in the coaches' poll and love from Deadspin, will play Ohio in a February 23 bracket buster... The Nashville Metros are no more. ... Vandy: still not very good at basketball.
Give It To Me Local : Arena food has, for too long, been a morass of hot dogs and popcorn, with bespoke and unique items only available to the hoity-toity in the club and suites rather than the hoi polloi in the rafters.
Thankfully, Bridgestone Arena has broadened its options beyond the usual staples and broadened the availability across the building.
There's chicken and waffles (and brisket and waffles) and pork wings, because pigs fly now (The Predators have sold out like 16 games in a row). And bacon on a stick.
And there is hot chicken.
The arena has offered something called hot chicken for a few years, but it was little more than a breaded boneless strip with some cayenne sprinkled in the breading. What they have now is pretty dang close to the genuine article. It's a bone-in leg quarter, painted with that famous fiery paste and served with toast and pickles. It's not Prince's or Hot Stuff, but it's an acceptable facsimile for arena food (and since the real McCoy takes half an hour to make, it's appreciated the culinary staff discovered a way to make a decent analog without consuming half the night).
The Week Ahead
There's Other Teams, Right? : Four games this week for the Predators, three at home after a quick trip up to Minnesota tomorrow.
The Wild were booed off their own ice twice on Thursday, the fans apparently not appreciative of being locked out, seeing their ticket prices jacked up to pay for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter and then being forced to watch their team be not very good, because apparently Craig Leipold can't wrap his mind around the idea that the other 18 guys on the team should be good at hockey, not just the two guys he paid a bazillion dollars of his wife's money to get. He runs a business the way he thinks it should be run, after all. Minnesota? Not a southern market. He knows how they'll react to winning, if they ever do.
It's back home Sunday for the Blackhawks who sit a top the Western Conference. The Predators are currently second in the Central Division after this little win streak, but are SEVEN points back of Chicago.
The Sharks and Coyotes visit Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
Despite three of the games coming against teams the Predators have already played once in the early going, somehow none of them are against the Blues.
Worthless Prediction : Chalk a win against the Wild and 'Yotes. The Blackhawks will be a good test, as will this second match-up with the Sharks. Five or six points makes a good week.
It's Mostly Just Head-Butting And Then Kicking People When They're On The Ground : It's starting to look less and less likely Nashville will get to host the U.S. men's team in their World Cup qualifiers, which is just as well if they are going to continue to shame their nation with garbage performances like what they delivered in Honduras.
But hey! The women's team will be here Wednesday to play Scotland. The women's team does not shame their nation. They win gold medals and stuff.
Worthless Prediction : America 95, Haggisheads -5
Hit In The Head, Slap In The Face : Sunday morning, in the hours before the most widely televised power outage in history, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell faced the nation:
Goodell declined to confirm that there is a proven connection between the sport and medical problems in retired players. He emphasized that the NFL is funding research to learn more about the risks and changing rules to make the game safer.
Now, of course, since the NFL is being sued by roughly 80 billion former players (estimated), the wise course of action — no doubt advised by Proskauer Rose — is for Goodell to decline to confirm anything, up to and including his middle name.
Nonetheless, what a crass and self-seeking answer. And what a denial of what is becoming accepted science.
More and more people — up to and including the President — are saying they pause at the idea of their sons (hypothetical or otherwise) playing football. And this, of course, isn't the first time the inherent violence of the game has drawn White House scrutiny — after on-field deaths threatened the game, Teddy Roosevelt called coaches together, outlawing the old wedge formation and loosening the rules on the forward pass, more or less creating the modern game.
It is appropriate to ask questions and seek solutions to lessen the dangers of a game played and enjoyed by many. And certainly, it is part of Goodell's responsibility to preserve the game and protect it and find a way to make it safer while still resembling football (to wit: the proposal to DECREASE protective equipment in an effort to cut back on injuries is intriguing, but would so change the nature of football, it's unlikely).
But an important first step in this is to say the game is no longer a contact sport — if it ever was — it is a collision sport and, that said, let's address ways to lessen the danger of the collision, or more parents will find safer outlets for their sons. And we won't have to worry about protecting the nature of football, because there will be no nature to protect.
Got a band you think I can shoehorn into the weekly Preds section? Hit me at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And listen at 6 PM Tuesdays when I join the fellas on 102.5 The Game.