Friday, December 16, 2011

Three Things #3

1. This is Ridiculous
If you missed Patrick Kane's shootout goal, which won the game for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night in Minnesota, here it is:

Watch as he nearly stops, then with a combination of body fakes, head fakes, and some of the best hands in the NHL, just toys with Niklas Backstrom. This move was really mean. Doc Emrick is speechless, Eddie Olczyk is trying not to gush over it too much, and Backstrom looks embarassed. 

I don't know why goaltenders don't start employing the sweeping poke-check more often. 

2. My favorite web-series
Web-series, eww. I know. But seriously, check these out. It's's "After Hours". They're funny, and well written, and they make you examine pop-culture a little closer.

The premise is that it's just 4 geeky friends dissecting nerd-culture at a diner after going out. 

Also, if you don't already, check out There's some real entertaining and funny stuff there.

3. Things aren't as bad as they seem in CBJ-land

Much has been made of the Blue Jackets' financial troubles and this season has seen a lousy 9-18-4 record that is good enough for last place, but there is still a sturdy group of people supporting this team.

Look at the attendance for the last seven home games: 16,090 against LA, 15,808 against Vancouver, 18,175 sellout with Boston, 13,852 with Nashville, 14,151 against St. Louis, 16,705 against Buffalo, and 11,629 against Calgary

So you've got low marks in the Calgary and Nashville games, and who knows how they've reached these numbers or how much they're inflated, but for a last place team that's made the playoffs once in ten years, I'd say those attendance figures are commendable. I think people are demonstrating that they do care about their hockey team in this city. I can only imagine how strong the building would be if the Blue Jackets actually put together a consistent winner.

Fact is, this isn't Phoenix where they're lucky if they reach 5 figures. There is interest in this sport after all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Three Things #2

1. LOLuongo
The Canucks well-paid goalie has had a hard go of it since about Game 3 of last year's finals. He's basically been relegated to backup (though the Canucks haven't said as much, Corey Schneider has started more games) this season, and while he hasn't been bad, he hasn't lived up to his contract or his own reputation. 

Last night Luongo and the red-hot Canucks met the Blue Jackets in Columbus before a respectable 15,800 hockey fans. The Blue Jackets started Steve Mason for the first time in 12 games. (And if Mason's name began with an L, you can bet he'd get the LOL treatment himself).

It was a spirited affair, with stellar goaltending from both sides. Jeff Carter registered his 3rd goal in as many games to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead. Vancouver would have to wait until 11:57 of the third period for the tying goal. The game came down to a shootout where the Blue Jackets have struggled mightily, and Steve Mason has at times looked like a peewee in pads for the first time. 

Surprisingly, the Blue Jackets converted on all 3 shootout attempts. Letestu, Nash, and Wisniewski all buried their move. Each one prettier than the last. Mason only had to make one save and the two points were theirs to keep. 

Some unfortunate microphone placement said more than I ever could
0 for 3 in the shootout? LOLuongo indeed. 

2. Save 'Community'
It was recently announced that while the quirky NBC show hasn't been officially cancelled, it won't be back for the January season and will be replaced by 30 Rock (a fantastic show in its own right) on Thursday nights. It's going on hiatus, as they say in showbiz.

It is a little weird that a show about community college has lasted for more than 2 years. Shouldn't they have earned their AA and be transferring to a bigger, 4 year channel by now? Lame joke aside, NBC needs to know the fans, though small in number, are very loyal to the most clever show on television. 

Community shucks traditional sitcom tropes and casts a large body of strange, but likable characters. They've parodied everything from westerns to Glee, and employ hilarious running gags that get funnier the more times you watch the show. What other show would air a clip show episode of clips that don't actually appear in any other episodes?

Also, Gillian Jacobs and Alison Brie bring the smokeshow.

This 30 second clip does a good job of encapsulating the show's sensibility.

Do the right thing, sign the petition. Let NBC know they've "Britta'd" this situation and help save one of the best, most refreshing TV shows in years.

3. Oh good, the NBA's back
That title was sarcastic. I have nothing against people who enjoy the NBA (except the snobs who look down on the NHL from their "basketball is more popular" high horse) and I'm happy for them, and I'm happy for the arena employees who will be able to earn a living this year, but I hate NBA coverage. I specifically hate ESPN's NBA coverage. They're financially interested in pushing the NBA on the general public so they're also interested in making people believe the NBA is something that everyone cares about. It isn't. The other day Sportscenter led off their show with 20 minutes of discussion about a Chris Paul trade to the Lakers that never happened. The nonstop tweeting about it wasn't fun either.

I was enjoying Sportscenter this fall when the Top 10 wasn't inundated with lame dunk highlights, and when the news staff and anchors actually had to go back to covering hockey. As soon as the NBA season starts I'm done with ESPN for good. 

For others like me tired by the "Worldwide Leader", Versus, soon to be NBC Sports Network, has a daily show on at 6 called NBC Sports Talk that is FANTASTIC. I can't stress enough how good it is. It feels the way Sportscenter used to in the 90's before they became Disney-owned and self-interested. Watch it, it's great. 

That's Three Things.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three Things #1

1 Where the Bengals lost to Houston. 
The Bengals lost to the Houston Texans 20-19 despite facing Houston's third string quarterback, leading at halftime 16-3, and leading 19-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Most people would point to the TJ Yates to Kevin Walter touchdown pass with 2 seconds left that lost the game, but there was a moment in the third quarter where the Bengals could've easily put away the game and literally botched it.

Arian Foster fumbled on Houston's own 20. Geno Atkins recovered and returned it the 10, but then fumbled it himself. With two Bengals converging on the now loose ball, one of which has been identified as Reggie Nelson, both tried to pick up and run with the ball rather than falling on it like they teach you in Pop Warner. The two Bengals knocked the ball away from one another and into the arms of a Houston Texan.

So deep in Houston territory, at worst it would've given the Bengals a field goal and a 12 point lead. At best, a touchdown and a 16 point lead.

2 The Bengals playoff Chances May be Sunk.
That measily one point may end up keeping the Bengals from playing in the postseason. A win would've given them an 8-5 record instead of the 7-6 mark they now sport.

The loss dropped them 1 game back of a playoff spot with three to play. It'll likely require victories in the last 3 games to get to 10-6 if they want to make the playoffs. Even then they'll probably need some help with losses by the Jets, Titans, and Raiders.

The last three games consist of a road battle against the hapless Rams and then two home dates with the Cardinals and Ravens. 3-0 in those three games is entirely possible, but you never know in the NFL. The Rams beat New Orleans earlier this season, the Cardinals are 6-1 in their last 7, and the Ravens are the Ravens (though by week 17 they could be resting starters).

The Bengals have never finished strong in the Marvin Lewis era, and they're 1-4 in their last 5. At this point I'm not even confident they'll finish above 8-8.

3. Standard Weekend for the Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets went 0-1-1 on Thursday and Saturday nights. On Thursday it looked like they were gonna cruise to a 3-1 victory over rival Nashville. That is, until they went into Scott Arniel's awesome prevent defense. The Predators cut the deficit to 1 with a goal with 1:25 left in the game. Sammy Pahlsson took a penalty that can only be described as stupid, and Nashville tied the game with 12 seconds left. Before the Blue Jackets could settle themselves into overtime, the Preds ended it with a Colin Wilson goal. A two point W turned into 1 point L in the span of about 5 minutes.

On Saturday, before a packed Nationwide Arena the Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the defending Stanley Cup champions. Boston scored twice within a minute just before the first period ended. Zdeno Chara then gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead with one of his hyperspeed slapshots. Then this happened:

Not only was Derek Dorsett injured, which is a shame because he's been on fire lately, playing the best hockey of his career, but they also called him for goaltender interference. Let me point out that he was the puck carrier, Tim Thomas iniated contact, AND Thomas was out of the crease. It's the worst call I've ever seen in 24 years of watching hockey. In that clip you can hear Boston's Jack Edwards. Edwards is notorious for his homerrific play-by-play tendencies so if Jack Edwards thought it was a bad call, it's a horrible call.

RJ Umberger evened the game at 3 late in the 2nd, but Boston would net 2 goals in the third for a 5-3 win. It was a wild raucous energy in the building which made for a fun night, but it was not a fun outcome.

The Blue Jackets can play with the NHL's best, but it's hard when they hurt themselves by not controlling better in-game momentum swings, and when the officials so consistently favor the other side.

That's  three things.

Three Things

Despite becoming less active with my blogging in recent months, traffic has increased. I think this means people are clamoring for me and that I'm going to have to start writing more often.

So new segment: every few days I'm going to write about three things that I think are funny, bother me, or needs to be discussed, but don't feel are worth my usual term-paper like scope.

The three things will most likely fall within the realm of sports, but don't be surprised to see some movies, TV shows, food, or anything else come up in the discussion.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Realignment is Great News for the Columbus Blue Jackets

A year ago (Happy 1 year Birthday Sports Hate Me!) I wrote a piece about how the NHL should realign their current conference structure (found here: Realigning Hockey). Putting it briefly, it outlined that the NHL doesn't really need divisions when the NHL postseason is determined by conference standings. Last night, the National Hockey League's BOG of governors proposed, and member teams voted 26 in favor, and four in disapproval, a realignment plan that is absolutely nothing like the one I drew up 13 months ago. 

This isn't to say that I'm not pleased with the new alignment. Staying in the old system could've proven a death penalty for a struggling franchise in Columbus whose position in the strong Western Conference has been a huge obstacle.

2/15's of the obstacle

When realignment discussions began last year, we were all concerned the league would do the impractical thing and appease Detroit at the expense of the Blue Jackets by sending them to the Eastern Conference to take Atlanta's place. Thankfully this didn't happen and a more fair compromise appears to have been struck. 

The new system will level the playing field in terms of travel, will bring every NHL team to Columbus at least once a year, will spice up the already fantastic playoffs by guaranteeing playoff rivalry matchups, and will greatly reduce the number of games played in the western time zone. 

Here's how the new setup will work:

- Instead of two conferences with three divisions of five teams, we now have four conferences, two with 8 teams and two of seven teams. 

- The top 4 in each conference will make the postseason. The first two rounds will be played within each team's conference. The #1 seed plays the #4 seed, the #2 seed will play the #3 seed, and the winners will meet in the second round for the conference championship. After the second round the final four teams will be reseeded based on regular season records. 

- In addition to shuffling the divisional lineups, the schedule also underwent a complete overhaul. This alignment plan allows for a balanced slate. The new schedule has every team playing every other team at least twice every year, once at home and once on the road. This means that every NHL team will play in every NHL city every year. This isn't the case right now - Pittsburgh, for example, won't visit Columbus this year. 

- In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times -- three home, three away -- for a total of 36 inter-division games. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis -- for a total of 38 inter-division games. 

- The teams in the seven-team Conferences will have 46 out-of-conference games, including 23 at home and 23 on the road. The teams in the eight-team Conferences will have 44 out-of-conference games evenly split between home and away.

In the end, this will make things more fair than it is now. In past years worse teams have beaten out stronger teams for the playoffs by virtue of playing in a weak division. That can't happen in the new system. 

- The new conferences will shake down like this: 

CONFERENCE A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

CONFERENCE B: Chicago, COLUMBUS, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

CONFERENCE C:  Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

CONFERENCE D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

- other than the curious pairing of  Tampa/Florida with their five Northeastern conference mates, that's a solid compromise for everyone. Rivalries were maintained and geography was a top priority in forming the new conferences. The Central division remained completely intact and added 2 great hockey cities in Winnipeg and St. Paul/Minneapolis. They also added Dallas, which has proven themselves as a hockey supportive city in times of success. 

3 Reasons this is Great for the Blue Jackets

- Less travel. 
The current schedule means the Blue Jackets have two swings to Western Canada to play in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. And two swings to California to play in Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. The new schedule cuts the number of trips in half, which also cuts travel expenses  to Western Canada and California in half. 

Less travel is also easier on a hockey team and the Blue Jackets, currently the Eastern-most team in the Western Conference, were traveling more than any other NHL club, a tremendous competitive disadvantage.

Speaking of competitive disadvantages, the home-and-home series mean the teams in the Eastern Conference will actually have to travel more than they currently do, which evens things up with their brothers in the midwest. 

- Making the playoffs will be easier. 
The Blue Jackets have had to deal with a strong Western Conference ever since joining the NHL in 2000, only cracking the top 8 once. In the new system their chances of reaching the playoffs actually dropped to a nice, round 50%. That said, beating out Minnesota, St. Louis, Winnipeg, Dallas, and Nashville for one of the two last spots (We're gonna go ahead and pencil in Chicago and Detroit for the #1 and #2 seeds for the rest of forever) seems far less daunting than beating out 11 other teams for the final 4 spots in the West. It won't be "easy", but it won't be nearly as hard as it currently is.

Bonus: Now I finally have a reason to hate Winnipeg, Manitoba. Did I say Winnipeg? I meant Loserpeg! FOLKS!

Winnipeg, Manitoba. Look at em, they're just sitting there.

- Every team will play in Columbus every year. 
One, this means that the superstars in the NHL will be at Nationwide Arena at least once every year. That means Ovechkin, Stamkos, Crosby, Seguin, Kessell, the Stalls, Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, etc will get to be seen by central Ohio hockey fans. 

Two, and I hate to say it, but being invaded by Penguins fans once a year is good for the Blue Jackets' wallets. The game last year when we were outnumbered by Pittsburghers was the most embarrassed I've been as a Blue Jackets fan (and that's saying something! huyuck), but it was a sell-out. It's good for the city if fans from other cities come to the games, spend money on tickets, spend money on hotels, in restaurants, bars, and stores. 

With Columbus being the centrally located city it is, and with its population boom, it is easy to get to and is home to many displaced and relocated hockey fans who can now be guaranteed that they'll get to see their team live once a year. It can only be good for Columbus and the Blue Jackets if more teams come through Nationwide Arena every year. 

There's no perfect solution, but this is a solid compromise that appeases the teams who suffered under the current alignment and doesn't do much to alienate the beneficiaries of the old model. It's no Sean McCarthy plan (*winking emoticon*), but it looks like it will be the system the league operates under for years to come, and I'm more than okay with that. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stacked To The MAC

At halftime of last night's MAC Championship game I scrolled through the boisterous (and wildly premature) victory tweets and facebook status updates of my large and incredibly attractive network of Ohio University friends and colleagues. Reading these, a thought ever so briefly rolled through my OU-educated head, "We haven't won yet, guys.", but then I shooed that notion away and instead thought about how I would've partied this moment if I was still in college in Athens, Ohio.

Then I did this.
It's customary to leave at halftime of OU games after the Marching 110's performed. Not everybody exits Peden Stadium, but a large majority of the students who started the game, will not be in their seats for the second half. Nobody's quite sure when this started, but it's a real phenomenon. Maybe it began with all the years of god-awful Ohio U football teams when the only reason to go to the games was to see the fantastic marching band (link to party rock anthem). Maybe it's because MAC games are often broadcast during the middle of the week and students are trying to get a jump on the nightlight in Athens where every night is a party. Whatever it is, this is noted and accepted behavior. 

It's possible that the Bobcats football team followed Blotto's lead and the lead of the student body because the team didn't show up in the second half either. The first half Bobcats played with an angry edge. They were underdogs to Northern Illinois and played with confidence and poise. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton and wideout Levon Brazill couldn't go wrong and by the end of the first two quarters OU held a 20-0 lead. Northern Illinois couldn't stop turning the ball over and it looked like the Bobcats were going to stroll to their first conference championship since 1968. 

The second half Bobcats did not resemble the one who decidedly claimed the MAC East title weeks earlier, or the first half team that, out of the blocks, dumptrucked the MAC West champion.

They gave up a touchdown on Northern Illinois' first possession of the second half. Levon Brazill dropped a touchdown ball that would've extended the lead to 27-7 at the time. Matt Weller, so many times the hero on the season, pushed the ball wide right on that possession's field goal attempt. OU failed to score in the second half and watched as mistakes, turnovers, defensive lapses, and to their credit, Northern Illinois' adjustments wittled away their precious lead. With 8 minutes left and a 20-13 lead, Tyler Tettleton was picked off at the 50 on a spectacular catch by a Husky defensive back. With 4 minutes left NIU tied the game, then the OU players and fans (of which my younger sister was apart of) were forced to watch the Huskies celebrate as the game winning field goal cleared the uprights as time expired. 

It was one of the most spectacular choke-jobs I've ever seen. It's the kind of choke-job that you can see happening. Everyone in the stadium knows it's happening, including the team it's happening to, which makes it even worse. There's good momentum, but there's also bad momentum, and in the second half OU couldn't stop the snowball of bad momentum.

When you're a fan of a MAC school the best you can hope for is a conference championship and a bowl victory. Last night I watched helplessly as a slow motion car accident unfolded in front of me and ripped the former from my and my OU network's grasp. 

It's been a year since The Sports Weekend From Hell. Maybe there's something about this particular date on the calendar. 

Sports Hate Me, but at least us Bobcats can still be proud of one thing: The 2010-2011 National Partying Championship. I'll drink to that.