This Week In The 'Drome : Robin's return, tourney time, Longhorn letters, dumb domes and more
À la recherche du temps perdu vs. L’Étranger : The shambolic losing streak has, perhaps, numbed it somewhat, but expect an existential crisis only Sartre could love Saturday at 501 Broadway.
Ryan Suter returns, eight months after picking hotdish over hot chicken, and Nashville Predators fans struggle with how to handle his visit.
Certainly, Suter picked someone else, chose a new city and a new team and broke up the world's best defensive pair in the process. That hurts.
On the other hand, Suter gave the Predators seven good seasons and was part of the core group that pushed the team into the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years.
The former is easy to focus on and hyperbolize; the latter is an inconvenient fact.
His appearance on the ice in warmups for the first time in the hideous three-wolf-moon inspired Wild jersey will no doubt be greeted with boos — as well his name announced in the starting line-up and any subsequent touching of the puck, body check, sideways glance or dull smirk. He knows this — in this story from Josh Cooper, Suter says he knows that he'll get booed, that's its the fans' right to do so, but then he makes a sort-of half-hearted case that maybe he shouldn't be booed, citing his family and the fact that he knows everybody's name here.
But that first aesthetically perfect, Platonic ideal icing touch-up will be like Proust's madeline — the memories, the happy memories, will come rushing back.
And then the boos will return.
A tougher question — a much sterner existential crisis — is that of the tribute video. It's happened twice at Preds game already — for Steve Sullivan's return as a Coyote (that was a no-brainer) and for Jordin Tootoo's as a Red Wing. Both players received touching ovations at the conclusion of their highlight reels. And the boos quickly returned for Tootoo, exactly as noted.
If you'd asked me six months ago if there'd be a video for Suter, I'd have said no. But now I feel like one is coming. Heck, even Suter's former teammates are having a good laugh about his departure.
So enjoy the highlight reel — which I desperately hope is 90 seconds of icing touches — but rain the boos down too. That's going to be difficult, I know, because Suter knows the name of every security guard and arena worker and some how that's supposed to matter to you, but tough it out.
This Week In The 'Drome : Magic's not gathering, Preds are traveling, songs we're replacing and more ...
Pride vs. Duty : Where did the magic go? Jeff Lockridge ponders Vanderbilt basketball's dismal attendance but only, sort of, finds the answer.
We've watched as the Titans have seen their butts-in-seats (as opposed to tickets-sold) numbers drop. Now it happens at Memorial Gym, especially in the once-raucous, subterranean student section.
In the piece about the Titans Eric From Springfield wrote last week, Paul Kuharsky, he of ESPN and 104.5 The Zone, couldn't understand why people weren't coming to LP Field in spite of having bought tickets. It does seem silly on its face, except that by the time Sunday rolls around, the tickets have long since been paid for.
It's November. It's cold. The Titans are bad. The beer is expensive. The seats are made of plastic. At home, it's warm, the beer is cold and cheap, and I can LIE down on my couch. The Titans are still bad, but at least it's not raining indoors and there's no chance Phil Vassar will force me to listen to him sing.
Fundamentally, this is the problem at Vandy. Student tickets are free, but the product is bad. If there's some other free alternative — or even a paid one — why go watch bad basketball?
Ultimately, this is a question of the nature of fandom. There are people who consider supporting a team (or a school) some kind of duty. That not showing up to watch the Titans or Vandy or the Predators makes one a "bad fan" or even a "bad citizen" (or alum, as the case may be) even if the product isn't worth the price of admission (even if that price is free).
There are others — Darren Rovell is a particularly insidious extreme example — who see sports fandom as purely transactional. The fan is a customer. If the fan is displeased with the product, the fan will demonstrate that displeasure by not spending his or her money or time consuming it, as if the New York Giants are the same as a box of donuts.
As is so frequently the case, the answer is somewhere in that murky middle, a via media properly explaining the relationship we should have with our favorite team.
The students Lockridge talked to say they go to football games because James Franklin is exciting (and, in fairness, he is brash whereas Stallings, um, isn't) and because he's engaged. But no level of screaming on tabletops makes a 2-10 team a must-attend event. And frankly, Stallings is as beige as he was last year when the quirky old gym was packed to the rafters regularly.
The game's the thing.
This Week in The 'Drome: Olympic suitors, sudden shooters, fickle rooters and more ...
Nashville vs. The 34 : Maybe It Cities have a tendency to homogenize into one great anonymous Portlaustinashville casserole, and maybe we should get over ourselves. And maybe Major League Baseball isn't happening.
So maybe we should just take a deep breath, be thankful for what we have and stop chasing every wild sporting thing that bats its eyes coquettishly in our direction.
And maybe the United States Olympic Committee should stop sending out so many letters like a poor schlub on the prowl for a mail-order wife.
Nashville was one of 35 cities the USOC asked maybe if they weren't doing anything later they'd like to come over and watch Dr. Who and, oh yeah, we can order a pizza or something and then, if you aren't busy, maybe bid on the 2024 Olympics.
This all comes on the end of a string of host cities failures for USOC culminating in Chicago coming up miserably short in the running for 2020. The USOC's new strategy? Ask everybody, in hopes that someone will be so flattered they'll actually go through the tedious, expensive process of bidding for the right to host a bankrupting 16-day event (which, by the way, I love).
The USOC's winnowing process appeared to be going to this page and then combing through their trash to find cities (Rochester! Tulsa!) that had expressed even an iota of interest at some vague point in the past.
Fortunately, unlike with the baseball pipe dream, Nashvillians are taking this one in stride, vacillating between surprise and confusion.
We've been in enough GQ profiles. Let's let Tulsa have some fun for once.
This Week In The 'Drome: Those fabulous Finns, the North and West Ends, baseball begins and more ...
Snarks vs. Finns : There are transcendent figures in sport — players and personalities so beloved even the most vehement homers of their fiercest rivals will, after gazing at pictures of them, volunteer to describe rainbows to blind children after giving all their worldly possessions away to worthy causes.
Such is the Anaheim Ducks' Teemu Selanne. The Ducks and Predators developed a nasty rivalry as a result of their 2011 playoff series, and the name of each player on their roster is slurred out with venom by gold-clad fans, each expression of revilement more vituperative than the last.
But then comes the addendum: "Well, except Teemu. I love Teemu."
Everybody loves Teemu. At 42, The Finnish Flash is still as Finnish and flashy as ever, still scoring at a great clip, still playing the game like the kid he was his rookie year for Winnipeg during the lockout season. No not this one. And not 2004 either. The other one. In 1994. When he played for the actual Winnipeg Jets, not the Jets the good people of Manitoba are finally realizing are just repackaged Thrashers.
Teemu is the grand old man of hockey, eternally that friend's cool older brother. Not the one who bought you booze but the one who told you how to talk to girls and how to treat them right (he'd buy you beer too, but only a couple and only on the weekends and he'd stay sober and drive you home after even if you didn't feel buzzed because he's a nice guy and he sort of feels guilty for giving you booze and you know what? If your parents find out, he'll take the heat for it).
This is likely Selanne's last season, so Saturday's visit is (barring the playoffs), the last chance to see him at Bridgestone Arena. Tickets are almost gone — as they should be — but if you have some cash, go down to Broadway and try to score something off the secondary market.
And when you get inside — even though it's fun and it's tradition to tell the opponents they suck — give Teemu a clap and a cheer. He'll smile at you and the smile will say "Turn that frown upside down" and you will. And you'll feel better for it, like when Teemu told you that maybe she just wasn't ready to commit to something long-term, not with you going to college and everything and it's the summer after your senior year, go hangout with your buddies because they're the best friends you got and make sure in the fall you go to class no matter how hungover you are, because attendance goes a long way with a professor, even if your grades are only OK, and call your mom every now and again, don't just email her.
You wouldn't want to disappoint Teemu. He's never disappointed you.
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.
This Week In The 'Drome: Franklin's exorcisms, Randy's euphemisms, Preds' errorisms, and more
James Franklin vs. Satan : Maybe the Devil made him do it.
While speaking at a high school down in Georgia, Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin made a cunning little play on words:
“There is this guy at Alabama. I think his name is Nicky Satan,” Franklin said. “You guys have probably heard of him before. I am going to outwork him. I am going to outwork him and that is kind of our plan every single day.”
To be clear, there's nothing really wrong with what he said — it's red meat — it's just that it's not particularly clever. Oh, the hours he must have spent coming up with that bon mot! It would have been better if he'd called him Little Nicky, because then it's a short joke and a devilish disparagement.
As he's often asked to do when his mouth gets ahead of his brain — for example, when he openly claims to violate human resource policy by scoping the assets of his potential assistants' spouses — Franklin issued a relatively quick explanation:
"[I was] really talking about the work ethic that he has a reputation for and that we’re going to outwork them," Franklin said. "I made a joke, and in today’s society with all the media and social media and people with tape recorders and things like that, it doesn’t come off that way. I know people have tremendous pride in Alabama, and their fans are fanatical. So I understand. But it was a joke, and I didn’t mean to offend anybody."
Indeed, coach. The first thing we all think of when we think of The Evil One is how hard he works. Not everyone can be cast down from heaven. Only the real go-getters. Also? That's not an apology, that's an excuse.
Franklin can be excused his slip of the tongue and his ill-advised vade retro Satana. He had a tough week, losing out on prized recruit Rudy Ford and back-up plan Matt Dayes.
Let's hope that when he has his big celebration of the actual recruiting class — the guys who sign, not the guys who verbally committed in the fall — he doesn't disparage their manhood. Or he'll be "apologizing" again.
If you're at all interested in the long-term effects of football on players' bodies and whether players are making fully informed decisions to be playing, you should be reading Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic. The other day he had a really informative timeline of what the NFL was saying about CTE throughout the last two decades. Then on Monday, he had a post and an interesting discussion about peoples' reactions to the growing awareness of just what players are doing to themselves for our entertainment, and what the costs for them will be for the rest of their lives.
I'm going to come back to Coates in a second, but first, let's talk about this article in the current issue of Esquire, which is about football players' pain and injuries from the perspective of the players. Here's our own Matt Hasselbeck talking about how he tells when he's hurt, if he's always hurting:
"A lot of times you don't know exactly when the injury happens, because you're taking drugs like Toradol or another kind of anti-inflam, so you're feeling good," says Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. "Or maybe you're dealing with a previous injury, like an ankle, and you're taking Toradol, so you're feeling a little bit better, but now all of a sudden everything is feeling a little bit better. Plus, you have the rush of adrenaline — so the injury might hurt a little, but you don't really realize it. You might not feel it till the next day, or you may feel it that night. Because your mind-set is to play through everything you can, unless you cannot. And usually, it's been my experience that when you come off the field after an injury, the trainer or the team doctor is meeting you. They're like, 'You haven't moved your arm in thirty seconds. What happened?' And you're like, 'I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine — leave me alone.' "
This Week In The 'Drome: Heels! Thrills! Deals! Spills!
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.
This Week In The 'Drome: Hockey's back, thank the Lord; Vandy lives, dies by the sword; owners should watch their word, and more
Chaos vs. Calm : Stuffing 48 games into 99 days has pre-emptively made a mess of the NHL season.
The prognosticators who so diligently crafted their season previews back in September had to re-visit them in this, the mad single week of training camp, carefully tracking long-forgotten roster moves and coaching changes.
What's emerged is illustrative of what we can expect in the next three months. Some analysts have the Predators fourth best in the division — no amount of chaos or roster turnover can make the Predators worse than the Blue Jackets. Some have them winning the division. And even more have them somewhere in the middle. Some, as they do even in normal years, concede they see no way the Predators are better than the ninth or 10th best team in the Western Conference, but nonetheless slot the Saber-Tooth Sweaters in fifth — because, well, they always finish fifth. (In fact, they rarely finish fifth; they just always seem to finish fifth.)
Anyway, the small sample size of 2013 may prove to be as seemingly random as the Trotzite Permanent Revolution Line Combination system. But like Barry Trotz's line-up, it'll all make sense at some point.
Certainly, there's reason to think a shortened season benefits a young roster like Nashville's, with its relatively unchanged line-up. New additions came in the form of goaltender Chris Mason, who apparently has played for other teams in his career, and defenseman Scott Hannan, an old hand who will wear 22 and is thus now and forever known as "Roadhouse" Scott Hannan. And by slicing off the early part of the season, the NHL did the Predators a favor by eliminating that pesky period when David Legwand disappears. Old Leggy will probably score 45 goals this year.
Of course, there's reason for concern, too. An argument can be made that the roster they roll out Saturday will be worse at every position (except goaltender) than the one that ended the season last year. At forward, gone (again) is Alex Radulov, and with him his running buddy Andrei Kostitsyn. To be fair, the Predators weren't offensively inept before those two arrived in the spring, but certainly they added pop.
The bigger loss is
Jordin Tootoo (even I'm not sarcastic enough to make that case) Ryan Suter on the blueline. Will Shea Weber regress without his long-time partner? Will Swissman Roman Josi step in like clockwork and neutralize any concerns? It Weber's Mick has to sing without Suter's Keith, let's just hope Josi ain't Bowie. And any team whose back end is anchored by the golden ball and chain of Weber and Rinne has to feel good.
These are big questions which would have been easier to answer in a normal-sized season. But in this case, it's a roll of the dice. It'll be fun to watch.
This Week In The 'Drome: Hockey's back, Jordan's back, polka dots are back, back acne and more ...
The lockout was over. Baby, they'd come back.
Well, eventually. The owners had to ratify the deal (which they did in a predictably unanimous manner Wednesday) and the players have to do the same (which they are expected to do Saturday).
But after some 113 days, NHL hockey will be returning in a shortened 48-game version, which, as noted in this week's dead-tree, is bound to be a three-month crapshoot.
In the days after Sunday's 4 a.m. announcement to the media, die-hards, insomniacs and, yes, people awake feeding a baby, the league and its owners have made apology after apology. Predators general manager David Poile did the duties locally and Commissioner Gary Bettman offered his own Wednesday.
Sure, apologizing for a foreseeable, avoidable consequence of your own action rings hollow, but what are the owners (or, in Poile's case, their proxies) to do?
Had they not apologized, the frenzied crowd would wonder why. When they do apologize, the same crowd calls them disingenuous. And as is almost always the case, actions speak louder than words.
While the on-ice product presented by teams that are now an amalgam of new faces, guys who stayed sharp overseas, players who practiced among themselves at home — and, to be sure, the out-of-shape — is a crapshoot, what happens in the seats is an unknown quantity too.
Did the fans find other uses for their disposable income? Will the once-enthusiastic protest the mindless stupidity of this work stoppage by staying away? Or will they return — and will they return in a carousing cavalcade of enthusiasm, or more of a slow trickle?
We'll know soon enough — the season is all but certain to start Jan. 19. For the Predators, it will be a home date, more than likely against hapless foe Columbus.
Prognostication? It's all about the hockey now. Teams that play well will recover quickly. Teams that handle the short training camp and long layoff poorly will suffer at the gate.
But know this: People are ready. On Tuesday, a plea went on 102.5 for callers about hockey. For an hour between 6 and 7, the lines were chockablock. And only one or two callers expressed any sort of disdain, any sort of protest.
That's a self-selecting, non-scientific poll, of course. But people are ready.
Are the Predators?
Humphrey's column is excellent.
Wait, you're saying Dennis Ferrier sensationalized something? You're kidding! That's so unlike him.
It should be made clear that the ""which must protect its secrets..." quote is from…
If its legal to have an unborn child ripped from your womb and killed why…
B P, you do know that certain "conservative" pundits and their attack diversion-dogs are gonna…