Friday, February 21, 2014

The Hippodrome: It's Morning Again In America

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 8:11 AM

This Week In The 'Drome, Medals Are Falling From The Sky Like Pollen

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Opening Face-Off

Medals vs. Money: To borrow a command from our Baptist friends: every head bowed, every eye closed.

Now, raise your hand if you know who T.J. Oshie is. Keep your hand up if you knew who he was before the Olympics.

Heads up, eyes open.

The people with their hands raised are likely hardcore fans of hockey for whom T.J. Oshie is a recognizable name. These folks already knew of the quick-handed riverboat gambler who plies his trade for the St. Louis Blues and the numerous ways with which he has learned to score in the shootout. It's a prodigious creative output that would make Somerset Maugham blush.

The rest of you likely only learned Oshie's name because that singular ability in hockey's tie-breaking skills competition was demonstrated with great aplomb in the morning light Saturday when Oshie became a Great American Hero by besting the dastardly Russians in Team USA's hockey win over the hosts at the Sochi games.

Oshie made the rounds — even earning a five-minute segment on Access Hollywood and a piece in Us Magazine of all things — and the NHL got miles of column inches out of a young forward who was, at best, a marginal choice to make the trip to the Olympics.

And despite all this publicity, wrapped up in national pride, the NHL isn't sold on a long-term marriage to the Olympics. The games force the league to take a two-plus week break in the mid-season, it risks injuries to its best players (the Islanders' John Tavares will miss the rest of the NHL season from an injury he sustained for Canada) and, most importantly, the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation won't share their revenues with the NHL (not that those organizations should do so).

So the NHL wants out, but as I wrote in this week's dead-tree, the league is missing the forest for the trees (as usual). It's true dollars don't flow into the pockets of the league's owners from the Olympics, but how many more eyeballs will be tuned into the next Blues game to watch Oshie? How many tickets will be sold at away arenas to patriotic Americans wanting to see this newest star? How many kids will ask for Oshie jerseys? And it's not just Oshie — the Olympics create heroes and stars in a way that an NHL-backed World Cup of Hockey (or whatever) can never do. The Olympics create heroes in a way even the Stanley Cup is incapable. A guy who scores a Cup-winning goal is a hero in his own city and to his own fans, but put the gold medal on his stick and he's a hero to an entire nation. After the U.S. beats the Canadians today, there will be another hero — maybe a hero even bigger than Oshie.

And the NHL should be able to parley that into bigger gates and more dollars. The indirect effects of Olympic greatness far outstrip the direct effects of whatever money-grab the NHL creates instead.

The Week Behind

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Sweep Away The Dirtbags: It's impossible to ask for a better start to Vandy's 2014 baseball campaign.

The 'Dores went on the road to Long Beach State and swept the host Dirtbags over the weekend, outscoring their gracious hosts 17-4. Googly.

Outside of a trip to Murfreesboro March 5, that series was the last time Vandy will go on the road until the first SEC series against Mississippi State, beginning March 21 in Starkville.

Check out a great piece by Jeff Lockridge about the 'Dores two student managers: Josh Ruchotzke is a quadruple amputee and Mike Portu is the survivor of four heart surgeries.

He's Back-ish: Good news for Predators fans from Wednesday's practice, which begins the run-up to the end of the Olympic break: Pekka Rinne participated. While Rinne looks like he'll be back at some point before the end of the season, GM David Poile sounds like he has a long road.

Tata For Now: Vandy's new defensive line coach, Vavae Tata, was arrested this week for a DUI and fleeing the scene of an accident after he allegedly hit two parked cars in a West End parking lot then attempted to evade police on foot. Tata has been suspended indefinitely.

Meet The New Boss: Tommy Smith, the CEO of the Titans post-Bud Adams ownership group, knows the organization has to make strides:

Indications are that’s not the case with Smith, Adams’ son-in-law and one of three primary owners following Adams’ passing. With Smith, there’s a lot more ‘Why don’t we do this?’ or ‘I’d like to see more of that.’

The season ticket holder appreciation event earlier this week, for example, was a direct result of Smith’s desire for greater interaction between the team and its fans. MacLachlan said changes to the in-stadium experience will be implemented this season. The same is true of strategies for the sale of season and single-game tickets — all with input from Smith.

“The communication he has with our entire organization and how it’s filtered on through has re-energized our staff,” MacLachlan said. “And he’s holding all of us accountable to get the jobs done and get to another level, both on and off the field.”

One Of Each: It's clear Kevin Stallings wants to keep his Vanderbilt Commodores in low-scoring contests — and why not? With just seven players on scholarship, a run-and-gun race-to-100 isn't an ideal situation.

It worked this week against Texas A&M — a 57-54 Dores win — and it nearly worked Wednesday against MIssouri, as Vandy fell three points short (reverse the A&M score and add 10 to each side) of sweeping the Tigers, perhaps the third best team in the SEC (which is not saying much as every team besides Florida and Kentucky have massive holes).

Halftime Entertainment

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Come Get A Goo-Goo. It's Good: Do you like Goo-Goo Clusters (of course you do)? Do you want to set a world record (duh)?

Head to Belmont's women's basketball game Saturday for a chance to A) eat a Goo-Goo and 2) set a world record. It's a no-brainer:

At halftime of Saturday’s women’s basketball game against Eastern Illinois (2 p.m., Curb Events Center), they intend to break the Guinness World Record for most people unwrapping a candy simultaneously.

The record, according to the Guinness website, is 590, set in July 2012 at the Lindt Chocolate R.S.V.P. National Conference.

Fans who participate will receive a free Goo Goo Cluster — from hometown company Standard Candy — for use in the record attempt.

University officials, therefore, not only hope for a good crowd (capacity is 5,085), but they also need volunteers willing to serve as witnesses and stewards of the event with the following disclaimer: “The volunteers should not be related to each other and cannot work for Belmont University.”

You Have Been Erased: If you love time-lapse videos (and again, you do) check out the replacement of James Franklin with Derek Mason on the mural at what was once You Greek Me Greek.

The Week Ahead

They're Back (ish): After the Olympic sabbatical, the Predators return to action late next week, hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night to start off a five-game, post-Games home stand that is critical to the Preds' long-shot chances of making the playoffs.

Split Series: One very winnable game — against Auburn — and one very difficult one — versus Florida — await Vandy basketball this week. Vandy's propensity for playing to their competition is an advantage in the latter game and could be a detriment in the former. In the 'Dores 13 SEC games thus far, only three have been decided by double digits (Vandy is 1-2 in those games and only one — the 81-58 loss at LSU — could truly be considered a blow out).

USA: You're sick. Go watch the USA-Canada game.

You (or your boss) can email me at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.

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