Monday, February 7, 2011

Dear, Packers

If you're an avid reader of Sports Hate Me then you know there is no single thing more despised by SHM on the entire planet than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tonight they actually failed to win a big game. They tasted defeat in a bitter way for the first time in a loooooong time. The only way it could've been better is if it were the Bengals themselves on the championship podium. Thanks to the Green Bay Packers for saving the rest of us from yet another unbearable Steelers Super Bowl victory and rescuing us from experiencing that nightmare for the third time since 2005. A loss by the Steelers is a win for America.

We'd like to thank Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk, BJ Raji, Nick Collins, my "uncle" Mike McCarthy, and any other Packer who contributed to slaying the evil dragon.

I'd also like to thank Packer fans for so graciously allowing us to jump aboard the bandwagon. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and now you are a very very good friend. You'll always hold a special place in my heart, but now it's time to step down, take off the brand-new Packers shirt, and return to the sad reality that is Bengals fandom.

Thanks again.

signed, Happiness.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The NHL Guardian Project

In case you haven't been paying attention to the NHL, and the NHL's numbers show that most of you haven't, they've been working on a pretty cool project as of late. Last month the National Hockey League teamed up with Stan Lee and Marvel comics to create a superhero for each of the NHL's 30 teams. Throughout January the NHL released a superhero every day and referred to it as "The NHL Guardian Project". Each guardian is specific to the team's nickname and most hold powers unique to the city they play in. 

I think it's a great idea and sometimes it's a good thing to branch away from your normal gimmicks in an attempt to try something different that may bring in new fans. I'm surprised this hasn't been done before. Something about it just seems so "Mid-1980's NFL". You know, where "The Patriot" has soviet seeking missiles and "The Redskin", and "The Chief" are actually portrayed as native americans with some offensively racist super power like being able to command "spirits" or getting herds of animals to do whatever they want through mind speak. 

It started out as a fun idea, but with each guardian introduced it became more and more apparent that the production value and the time put into each one's character and slate of abilities was not up to Marvel's usual standards. It seems like Stan Lee (or more likely Stan Lee's "D" crew) pooped the brainstorming out in a single afternoon, and then neglected to correct the spelling errors.  

So maybe it is true that the artists and writers staffed on this project weren't Marvel's best and brightest, but so what? It's all in fun and I'm probably not even in the target demo. I can tell you that an 8 year old me would've loved this thing. 

Disclaimer: I am admittedly not a comic book guy. I've never bought a comic book in my life. I've never even been to a comic books store (Do those still exist?). I'm a sports nerd, not a comics nerd. I'm not saying one is better than the other (it's sports), but I may be out of my element in my analysis of these guys. I am, however, a HUGE hockey fan so I'm at least half credible. 

Let's take a look. 

Guys that would actually be pretty cool superheroes on their own. 

- Columbus Blue Jackets
With a name in the tradition of "The Green Hornet" or "The Green Lantern", this guy gets top-billing because he just does. He's a little transformer-esque, and he doesn't really have a super power, he just has an array of weapons and a serious mind. He's a civil war robot with cannons strapped all over his body which fits in with the team's overall theme and he's made of steel which represents CBJ ownership's main corporation, Worthington Industries. My hometown guy definitely could've been worse and I can't tell you why, but I'm happy that he has actual arms instead of cannons in lieu of arms. I just wish they gave him another power besides owning a bunch of guns. It's like how Batman really isn't a superhero, he's just a rich guy. We learn later in the comic strips released after the all-star game that he can also throw a giant Ohio flag like it's a big net. Some net, the state flag of Ohio is a pennant, you're gonna lose some evil-doers with a pennant. 

It's probably his lack of a solid super power that is routinely keeping him out of the 8 best superheroes from the Western Conference. (That's a Blue Jackets never making the playoffs joke). Though, maybe RJ Umberger should be the Blue Jacket's superhero.

- Carolina Hurricanes
He's got a little bit of scorpion from Mortal Kombat in him plus, he's a hurricane. Being able to control weather patterns is always one of the best superhero abilities because you can do so much damage. This is one of my favorites, and I've always liked long-haired super heroes. I can't tell you why. Remember that period in the 90's when Superman had long hair? 

- Boston Bruins
Other than his one-piece bathing suit, which is one of many odd fashion choices amongst the guardians, he's pretty badass. He's not a Bear-man, he's not some anthropomorphic animal creature like you'll see later. He's just a giant bear. Though I'm not sure about this ability, "Intelligence borders on precognition". Are bears known to be one of the more intelligent animals in the kingdom? And Intelligence does not equal precognition. Note the "6" on his chest. Every one of the original 6 teams have this badge on their guardian's person. 

- New Jersey Devils 
The obvious choice would be to illustrate him like your classic red and black cartoon devil. The winged donkey character they have here shows they did take the time to do some research. The New Jersey Devils are actually named after a mythical creature known as the "Jersey Devil" that roams the woods of southern New Jersey...or whatever. 

- Washington Capitals
Of all the animal-man creatures, this guy is the best. He's got all the strength and body mass of a buff dude, but the wings, talons, and head of an eagle. Gotta love his supersonic scream and telescopic sight as those are well known eagle characteristics. I don't really understand the need to be a "shape-shifter" though. 

- Calgary Flames
He has flaming wings, and can shoot "lava balls". In college my roommate, Jason, had lava balls, but it wasn't a super ability, it was more like a curse from sleeping around. I'm going to repress the urge to make the obvious diarrhea joke out of "creates a flaming stampede". 

- Los Angeles Kings
Dead on.  

- The Lightning, Tampa Bay Lightning
I just really like his electricity surfboard and electricity mohawk. 

- Philadelphia Flyers
Broadstreet Bully with the requisite flyer wings. If I had to pick a favorite team from the Eastern Conference it would be the Flyers. That's why he made the good-guys list, but I also like the out of nowhere random powers of "telekenesis" (remember when I said they neglected to correct their spelling mistakes? It should be "telekinesis") and "mind control". The "granite chin" is a nod to the Flyer teams of the 70's who brawled with everybody, hence the name, "Broadstreet Bullies". 

- Ottawa Senators
He's dressed like a Roman senator per the Ottawa team's logo, but I would buy a comic called "The Senator". By day he's a mild mannered member of the Canadian parliament, by night he fights crime on the "mean" streets of the Canadian capital. That'd be fun stuff.

Missed the Mark
These dudes were almost there, but could've been better if they'd chosen a different direction or made a few tweaks. 

- Colorado Avalanche
Captain Planet and Mr. Freeze had a kid and raised him in Colorado. I'm surprised they didn't go with a Yeti/abominable snowman monster. It'd be a natural fit. The Avs even wear a big-foot patch on the shoulder of their jerseys.

- Buffalo Sabres
I'm happy they resisted the urge to make him a buffalo, but they pretty much ignored the team's nickname. He controls ice? Why not make him a master swordsman like Deadpool. Yes it snows a lot in Buffalo, New York, but the team is named the "Sabres". Don't you pretty much have to give him a sword-weilding power?

- Minnesota Wild
The Wild is a really abstract idea to name your hockey team after. Their logo is a bear or a wolf or something drawn through the negative space of a river and trees scene. It's cool. This guy isn't. I have no idea what "celestial incinerators" are and why does a bear have these things strapped to his hands anways? Give him the power to control the northern lights or spontaneously make lakes in places. He's from Minnesota, after all. 

Guys that would never be Super hero names otherwise
When you're naming a hockey team you don't think about how decades down the road your team name may be turned into a super hero. Some hockey nicknames just don't lend themselves to cool superheroes or super abilities. These are those guys. 

- St. Louis Blues
If you read the Blue's comic he comes equipped with a saxophone. As predicted he uses it to control minds to make people do his bidding. He's essentially a snake charmer without a face. 

- Montreal Canadiens
What's the Canadien's super power? Apologizing people to death? He's got a real cobra-commander/iron man look to him and I have no idea what "power absorption" means.

- Anaheim Ducks
Some of you may remember that the Ducks already had a cartoon series in the mid 90's. Mighty Ducks, the Animated Series intro, but I don't recall them being rebels with trustfunds. 

- New York Islanders
The islanders are named for people who live on Long Island. I think with this one they really did the best they could with what they were given. 
- Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguin may be the lamest of them all. Marvel was unable to pattern him after the more famous Penguin of comic book lore because he is owned by DC, and actually making him a physical penguin wouldn't work because real penguins can barely walk on their own. Make him a beefed up Penguin-Man and he's a worse bird-man than the Capital. So he's just a guy in a penguin costume that can do stuff with ice. Half of these guys do stuff with ice, hockey is played on ice.

This is off-script, but if they patterned The Penguin after Penguins fans then he is undoubtedly the biggest douche amongst all of the guardians.

- Dallas Stars
There's nothing really wrong with the Star, it's just the boring generic quality that takes over. Also, with those boots he must be apart of the barefoot running movement. 

Guys that make you LOLZ

- Nashville Predators
There's a Chris Hansen To Catch a Predator joke in here somewhere, but being that it's Nashville, I'm going go with the country music joke. He "spits radioactive plasma"? Is "The Predator" Alan Jackson?

- Chicago Blackhawks
You can see Marvel trying their hardest not to go with the native american route. Instead they just made him a guy with a flying suit. This isn't as out of left-feild as it seems. The team was originally named after an air unit in World War I and there's also those helicopters that are always being downed and then written about in screenplays and then made into movies starring Josh Hartnett. That explains the rotor blades on his back, but he better not kick his feet back or he'll lose a foot. My favorite part? His olympic luge helmet.

- Toronto Maple Leafs
He's a tree. I realize that "Maple Leafs" is tough to make sound intimidating. It's not even in the correct plural/singular form of the word, "leaf", but the only way he could've been worse is if he were an actual maple leaf, with a big smiley grin for a face, and the ability to make syrup as its power. They should've gone with a Captain America-like dude in blue and white spandex with a Maple Leaf on his shield. There's nothing cool about maple trees. 

- New York Rangers
He's riding some kind of subway/motorcycle contraption. The LOZ come in when it was pointed out to me that it can be misconstrued as a certain female pleasure device, known as the "Sybian". Look up that one on your own and don't do it while you're at work. 

- Detroit Red Wings
He has red wings, get it? He's a cessna with training wheels. If you're wondering where his original 6 badge is, they put it on his left shoulder so it's not visible in this picture. 

- San Jose Sharks
He's a "technological genious and software empath". This makes sense seeing how San Jose is apart of Sillicon Valley where computer engineers and software developers are mainly headquartered, but they managed to misspell "genius". This whole thing is jeenyus, Marvel. 

In his half-man, half-shark body he's reminiscent of a show I watched as a kid called, Street Sharks. If you don't remember Street Sharks, it was about four brothers who were chemically altered by a mad scientist to look like sharks, but they retained their arms and legs. It was easily the biggest rip-off spawned in the wake of the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Children of the 90's may also remember other Ninja Turtles rip-offs like, Biker Mice From Mars, Swat KatsBucky O'hare, Samurai Pizza Cats, the aforementioned Mighty Ducks, the Animated Series, and my favorite of all, Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo-Mesa. Scientifically altered anthropomorphic animals that fought crime were all the rage in the early to mid 90's. 

By the way, youtube is a fantastic resource for remembering your childhood. I just watched an episode of Cowboys of Moo Mesa and it occurred to me that a lot of children's programming pretty much exists with the notion in my mind that kids are dumb. I understand why I liked it as a 6 year old, but I wouldn't watch this show as an adult. Cows that ride horses, that's not even...come on. That'd be like a gorilla riding a human as a means of transportation.

Check out the Moo Mesa intro here:

The Unoriginals 
This rag tag group is made up of superheroes who've clearly ripped their looks from superheroes of the past. At this point it appears that Marvel got lazy and just started repurposing existing heroes. It's almost like they said, "jesus, how many of these stupid things do we have to come up with. 30. 30?! Let's just rip off other guys that already exist. It's Friday and I want to get out of here."

- Vancouver Canucks 
The Canuck is Batman, whale style. Whale Man. Though you'd expect somebody named "Whale Man" to be the fat champion of obese people in trouble. I'd read that. 
- Phoenix Coyotes 
The Coyote is Wolverine. I guess they figured nobody would notice as the Coyotes are averaging less than 10,000 fans a game. He can control sand, but what's with the T-Rex back there?

- Edmonton Oilers
The Oiler is just Juggernaut from the X-Men. Also, Edmonton is one of the coldest habitable places on the planet. A sleeveless shirt just wouldn't be practical.

- Florida Panthers
The Panther is simply The Black Panther. They didn't even try to change him. They took their own Marvel guy and put him in a different costume. 

- Atlanta Thrashers
Is the Guardian Project's very own, "The Blackhawk"! They're like...exactly the same guy. 

For a more in-depth look at each guardian, check out the main webpage.
Each guardian has their own back-story and their own personal villain. They all team up to fight some guy named "Deven Dark".

We laugh at stuff like this, but recently the NHL has finally gotten their head on straight. They crushed it with "24/7 with the Penguins and Capitals" on HBO, the Winter Classic on new year's day was killer (best of all, Pittsburgh lost), and they got positive press for the all-star game fantasy draft. Of all the 4 major leagues, the National Hockey League is the worst at making inroads to find new fans and promoting their game, but it seems they're finally showing some IQ in the marketing department.

There you have it. If you agree, disagree, or have thoughts of your own. Share them with me at OR follow us on twitter at!/SeanofUnionBlue