Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A New Sport

When you were a kid, chances are good that you were annoying, often got food on your clothes, and thought you were awesome, only to come to the realization that you are not, in fact, a special snowflake.

Chances are also good that if you're like me (and all of the above was and still is true), you often created games. The reasons for this are many. My main reason is that my Mom often said "make your own fun," which frustrated me, because children expect everything, including fun, to be given to them. Now I realize that my Mom did what any good parent would do, and sent me away while she paid the bills so that we could remain indoors. I will eventually do the same, provided that my "send them away as babies to be raised by other parents, then let them come home when they're old enough to skate and use a bathroom on their own" idea doesn't pan out.

Often, the games that lasted longest were the simplest.

There was rakeball, which was essentially field hockey, but with less emphasis on skirts, and more emphasis on shooting a ball into one of three stacked milk crates with a small rake. I think my brother, sister, and I played that for a month or two.

My personal favorite was called CurveBall, I think. Bryan Esherick and I came up with it in the winter one day. Played on one of those basketball courts with hoops and foul arc things width-wise, you and an opponent took turns whipping a racketball across the court, with one bounce in between. If you didn't catch it, you lost the serve. Points could only be scored on the serve. Really, it was tennis without rackets, and I think it could be highly profitable.

The reason I mention all of this is because during the NHL Lockout, we all need to "make our own fun". Some may choose crack cocaine, which I'm told would possibly extend past the lockout. Others will take up playing the bagpipes, which is a surefire way to get the neighborhood to hate you. Still others will do something completely nonsensical, like watch something else on tv. Ridiculous, I know.

I will be creating a new sport. And I will do it right now.

-All good sports have balls. Don't laugh. GREAT sports have pucks. However, pucks require ice, so this sport will have to settle for "good". We're trying to keep this simple and realistic. Ice is neither. Plus, if I create a great sport, it will be hard to give up once hockey has returned.

-That reminds me, someone in the kitchen at work over the summer was making meatballs. They asked the head chef "how big do you want these balls?" to which the chef replied, "they've got to feed a lot of people, so I'd say we need them to be pretty big". I laughed my ass off, to the amusement of everyone. Usually at work, jokes make me chuckle a little bit and move on. Big balls, however, made me giggle like a 5 year old watching Barney. Do 5 year olds watch Barney?

Barney will not be a part of the sport. Neither will big balls. We will use a small croquet-sized ball.

-Shitty sports (tennis, golf, chess) are individual competitions. Awesome sports (excluding basketball) have teams. This will be a team sport. Rafael Nadal is not welcome.

-There will be full contact. This is not some stupid "tap and it's a foul" game, like basketball. This will probably involve ambulances and visits to the OR to remove pieces of things lodged in other folks. After all, bleeding for the sake of recreation is what sports are all about. If you thought they were about "fun," go play tennis.

-For maximum bloodletting, there will be a stick of some sort, which may or may not be used to hit the ball. It could just be used for protection or as a weapon. I haven't decided.

-Finally, most professional sports leagues have complained at one time or another about the problems posed by "human error". This sport will remove human error completely, as it will have no referees. Calls will be based on an honor system, like any other pick-up sport. That way, if a bad call is made, it's not an error, it's just someone being a dick.

I have taken all of this criteria and put it into my computer, the very cost-effective and efficient Lenovo Thinkpad or whatever its name is. The end result is in. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you the sport which will deliver us from the doldrums of the NHL Lockout:

Rhinoceros Polo.

It will be played 5 players to a side, depending on rhinoceros availability. Statistics show that there are about 17,000 white rhinos alive today, which isn't quite enough to fill up Mellon Arena. There are about 4200 black rhinos left. I think that it will be best to use black rhinos, because we could breed them and help bring them back from the brink of extinction, which would look great on our college transcripts.

Rhinos possess notoriously bad eyesight, which will eliminate human error completely, since 1. they are not humans (though Kate Smith, the former singer of "God Bless America" at Flyers games looked like one) and 2. their bad eyesight will suck so much that they will merely run around in circles, which will put the blame on them instead of the people dumb enough to be playing such a ridiculous game.

Finally, since rhinos have horns and whatnot, they will provide the full contact action required by the people of America.

Come to think of it, why not just watch the NFL? This idea sucks. I just wanted to draw a picture of myself playing polo on a rhino, and decided to come up with a story behind it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Housekeeping Stuff

Ok, so here are a bunch of administrative things.

First, I totally dig saying that I'm in charge of administrative stuff. It makes me feel like this is a real thing, and not just a creation of my own.

Second, I apologize for ignoring this blog almost completely. Aside from my extremely heartfelt reflections on the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy, I haven't updated this blog since my personal rant against petting zoos (and more specifically, goats. I hate goats). Again, I hate goats. I know I'm not supposed to acknowledge the things I wrote in parentheses, but I really don't like goat. I don't like their cheese. I don't like their faces. I don't like their radical forms of government, which threaten to overthrow all that we, as Americans, hold dear. Goats suck.

Third, if you're checking out my blog and don't know about, check it out. It's a really interesting concept, created by people who comment on the Pensblog ( The idea is to create a sort of forum for the users of the blog to generate their own content, and have their voices heard. Random thoughts about the lockout? Covered. Photoshops of Sidney Crosby? Check. I'm looking forward to writing my first post there, and when I do, I will link to it. Right now, I'm considering several ideas, and when one of them works out, I'll let you know.

Finally, thanks for reading and being patient. I've been busy with other things, and I pushed this to the side. I promise I'll give it my best attempt to make you laugh a little bit soon.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Reflections on Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

Today (yesterday, by the time you read this) is the anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Why do I care?

"Care" isn't even the right word.

Why do I obsess? Why do I watch every moment from every team in the league, to the best of my ability? Why do I read every tweet, from Bob McKenzie to Adrian Dater, and everyone in between?

I fucking love it.

I would censor myself, but it wouldn't have the same feel. It requires that level of sincerity that would make some uncomfortable. Deal with it.

I listen to podcasts, I research games from the past, I find out how hockey changed and why the hell it happened. I can't get enough.

It's the same reason why just a few minutes ago, while reading again about the tragedy that nearly overcame a Russian hockey team, I began to tear up uncontrollably.

Yes, everyone, save for one crew member, died in that flight. They say that the plane crashed due to pilot error. Apparently, the pilot used the brakes in an inadvisable manner, causing the plane to fail to properly take off. I refuse to blame an individual for the incident. Mistakes happen, and though in this case, many lives were lost, I cannot find it within me to blame the pilot. The flight was made many times before, and this time, it failed. The pilot lost his life. Blame is to be given only when the negative repercussions do not affect those responsible. As it is, the man responsible paid dearly, and is to be remembered equally for the tragedy the occurred, not vilified. I cannot fly a plane, and I cannot pretend to do so. Therefore, with the family of the lost pilot in mind, I cannot blame him. I hope that nobody else does.

A bumblebee is not made to fly. It does not know this, so it flies anyways. The same could be said for the flight that resulted in the loss of 44 people. Many of them were hockey players, all of them were people who deserved long, happy lives. The flight never should have happened.

Some people rushed to blame the KHL for providing an unsafe means of transportation. Others rushed to blame the airline, itself, for not accounting for all possible failures. I am not here to do either. I am here simply to reflect on the men who lost their lives in the pursuit of something they had wished for as kids. These men died in the midst of "living the dream," as it were.

Having been disassociated with the hockey world for a few years now, I can see things in a more panned-out manner. As a senior in college, one thing I see a lot is the other hockey players my age, discussing the idea of "living the dream". It is, to me, the most beautiful thing that hockey can bring to a person. Living the dream.

This idea is one I've known for years, even knowing of it back when I still played. To live the dream is to play hockey, to score the goals, to lay down hits, to dangle, to have sick flow, and to pick up chicks like nobody's business (seriously, a thoroughbred hockey player dominates any football player you know). You can even be gongshow to the max and still live the dream. Simply put, playing hockey past anybody's reasonable expectations is living the dream. Nobody believes in you. They want you to give up, to quit.

The hockey player says no. Many people play hockey, but few are hockey players. To play is one thing. To live it is another. I hope that people recognize my passion and realize that, as much as I lacked the skills, I cared more than can be quantified. I felt and still feel the passion.

That is why I cry when I think of Lokomotiv. Aside from a few NHL role players (players without considerable skill, who slipped into a specified role to help their teams win), I did not know the team by name. But I knew them as people. It doesn't take a long career of junior hockey, semi-pro hockey, and professional hockey to know them. They were players not given another chance in the NHL, who could have gone on to other careers, but who said "no, I'm going to keep doing what I love". I respect that more than anything.

On September 7, 2011, at around 4:05 Russian time, the plane crashed. Along with the plane went the lives of 43 individuals. Right winger Alexander Galimov initially survived the crash, despite burns to over 90% of his body. Overcoming his grave injuries, he summoned the strength to call to rescuers, "brothers, I am Galimov". He succumbed to injuries a few days later, despite a courageous effort to stay alive.

His words still resonate with me. "Brothers, I am Galimov". I cannot put into words the feeling that resonates within me at the reading of those words. Is it strength? Compassion? I don't know. I read it, and the strength and courage of that man sticks with me. He could have remained silent and waited for the end, but instead, he fought on, declaring himself, refusing to go.

Kind of like the team, itself.

Despite an announcement stating that Lokomotiv Yaroslavl would not be participating in the upcoming KHL season, the team continues on. Former NHL players, as well as international players have pledged their allegiance to carry on in the name.

It is not a pity team, nor is it a memorial team. It is a hockey team, looking to win a championship. A true hockey player does not wish for someone to grieve for them after their end inevitably comes, whether early or on time. Hockey players live in the moment, vying for a win, and nothing more. It is Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Not Lokomotiv II, or anything like that. It simply is what it is.

Remember those who lose their lives doing what they loved. Do not remember them simply because of what they did and why they lost their lives. Remember them more for the fact that sometimes, people meet their end, and at their end, they have no extra time. No time to make up for what may have been lost before their end. No time to right wrongs. Instead, they have only what has been accomplished up to that time. I believe that the people who died in the crash probably died at the happiest point in their lives. Grown-up men, playing a kids' game for money.

How much sweeter does it get?

Always remember:

Vitali Anikienko
Mikhail Balandin
Gennady Churilov
Pavol Demitra
Robert Dietrich
Alexander Galimov
Marat Kalimulin
Alexander Kalyanin
Andrei Kiryukhin
Nikita Klyukin
Stefan Liv
Jan Marek
Sergei Ostapchuk
Karel Rachůnek
Ruslan Salei
Maxim Shuvalov
Kārlis Skrastiņš
Pavel Snurnitsyn
Daniil Sobchenko
Ivan Tkachenko
Pavel Trakhanov
Yuri Urychev
Josef Vašíček
Alexander Vasyunov
Alexander Vyukhin
Artem Yarchuk