Tomorrow night the longest lockout shortened season in the history of sports is coming to an end. Seriously, it’s only been three months; I have the schedule in front of me and everything. If you want highlights only, this will be a quick read for you: season opener, three Boston wins, comeback against Montreal, snapping Pittsburgh’s win streak. There, you can go back to whatever it was you were doing before you got here; I’m only writing this because the Wild Card is some sort of wunderkind and I’m feeling inadequate. Actually I’ll give you one more highlight: waking up at the gate in JFK at 7:30am after Occupy Newark, surrounded by dozens of people with only hazy recollection of how I got there. Probably should have just taken Scizz’s couch invite instead of taking a cab to the airport at 4am, but I am thankful for whatever TSA agent kindly let me through security.
That still-intoxicated confusion amongst the chaos of a crowded airport terminal is indicative of the season we just watched. What happened? Why was everything so terrible? Why am I still wearing this Vanek jersey? Well, I watched nearly every game and I don’t have the slightest goddamn clue. All I know is this is the first season I didn’t see a win in person since 2003-2004 and I’ve spent nearly all of those seasons in between living hours away. Well that, and that there were many specific things that came together like some sort of horrifying, malevolent Captain Planet to ruin our evenings three times a week.
At first I was just going to list all the things that were horrible about this season but as I got to eleven it struck me that first, with enough time this list could go on perpetually as if I was writing out the decimals in pi, looking for an end, and second, I wanted to identify what was worse than all the others; what, when matched up against the other “worst” things on the list, made the others look better. Think of this like a Bill Simmons' NBA trade value column, except you’ve heard of these names and I don’t get paid for it. To properly settle this, I decided to seed the eight worst entities about this season and match them up in a tournament format to see what exactly would come out on top (bottom?), along with my analysis.
To the seedings: 9 (Honorable Mention): John Scott
- I definitely bitched about his presence on the ice more than some of the things found below, but when compiling this list I felt he may have gotten a bad rap from me. First, we all knew coming in he wasn't skilled at hockey. Two, it wasn't his decision to put him in the lineup constantly, leaving talented- err, less awful
players scratched. However, he would have cracked my top 8 if it wasn't for his photobombing post-game interviews
late in the season. So, thanks to some stellar off-ice moves, Scott does not make the most hated tournament. But seriously, get the fuck off my team now. 8) Jochen Hecht:
I’m not sure what I hate more, his complete ineptitude on offense, the rare moments when that ineptitude disappears, or the fact that everyone involved in making organizational decisions loves this guy for reasons beyond understanding. Ruff, Regier and Rolston have raved about this statue and I haven’t the slightest fucking clue. Giving Hecht top line minutes was effectively hoping for a 1-0 win or a 2-1 overtime loss, and despite this I STILL don’t trust them to cut ties after this season. He’s a fucking 80’s horror villain. Go away. 7) Drew Stafford:
Fuck Drew Stafford. Thanks for those two shootout goals I guess, dickface. 6) The Buffalo News:
This is primarily a credit to their belief that all the teams ills would have been solved if the owner had commented about Regier or the Pominville trade. Watching them slowly melt down during the season into petulant children was pretty funny when I wasn’t annoyed by the pettiness and lack of professionalism by people who actually do get paid to write for a living. Plus they’re fucking creepy. Solid dark horse as a six seed
This evening the Buffalo Sabres host the Boston Bruins in what will be the fifteenth game of a forty-eight game season. With the season nearly a third complete, they find themselves tied for not the division, not the six seed, not the eight-seed, but for dead last in the Eastern Conference. I have watched the “L”s string along on the schedule I keep on the wall at work, next to schedules of other teams with their own impressive collections of losses. We’ve all grown accustomed to the Sabres being a fairly “streaky” team with no shortage of peaks and valleys throughout the seasons, of a team that will run out to commanding division lead only to go .500 the rest of the way and get bounced in the first round (09-10), or a team that will piss all over themselves like a bro after his first night out in Canada for four months and then become the hottest team in the league on the valiant run to eighth place (10-12). They are four points away from eighth at the moment, could conceivably find themselves there by the time I return to the office on Monday. But they won't, and that's why I'm here.
I don’t apologize often, for what I’d like to think are two reasons. The first is that in recent history, the words coming from my mouth that I regret the most have been apologies, apologies that were not warranted or deserved, even in abstract form. The second is related and offered with a grain of salt- I just believe I’m wrong less often than other people. Many fields demand that from those they employ, mine is no different.
So it is with gritted teeth but sincere repentance that I apologize for ever believing that this team, with these players, with this coach could ever put together a shortened season that could be described as anything other than a soul-sucking death march to the draft. We’ve spent many words here at the deeg eviscerating Ralph for not firing Jauron when it was called for, not firing Gailey when it was called for. I called him a “villain from a Dickens novel” and published it right after he had fired the coach I was ripping on him for not firing.
Ask how proud we are about "regionalism"
Ralph Wilson turned his franchise into a sideshow, an embarrassment. Perhaps they always were and we were just born at the right time to think otherwise. But I think at this point it is only fair to begin taking an objective look at those pulling the levers at the foot of Washington Street, because 2007 is rapidly disappearing in our rear view mirror and if all you need to do for immunity in this town is commission a bronze statue and plop an admittedly wonderful complex steps from the waterfront, then we deserve to be ridiculed by other fans, we deserve to be irrelevant.
The eeriness of the similarities is becoming disconcerting and I wonder if Ted Black follows Buffalo’s other hapless franchise enough to see those similarities, or if he is too busy digging through his thesaurus for new ways to explain “Terry’s” dedication to winning a Stanley Cup. We all love a good orator; myself probably more than most, and we cannot deny- especially in light of the last occupant of the owner’s box- that money talks. Throwing godfather offers at Richards and Doan, upgrading the arena, putting up the Harbor Center if for no other reason than we don’t have to watch Carl Paladino erect some lifeless structure only a 1970’s East German architect could love, mean something. But “something” is as far as I’m willing to go anymore.
Ted Black has emerged as Russ Brandon 2.0, with a wardrobe upgrade and a new fan interaction feature. The talk remains about the brand, about how dedicated the owner is, how they communicate daily, how passionate he is to win and how distraught they are about the losses. Now I fully believe that Brandon is shoveling shit while Black is being at least more sincere, but the similarities of listening to these two men offer red herrings and parlor tricks to a disgruntled and desperate fan base is insulting. I’ll enjoy the Harbor Center as much as anyone, but Pegula can take the flaming tap water from “Gasland” and turn it into the fucking Bridal Veil Falls if it means there’s a parade down Delaware. I won’t fault this owner for not dealing with the Buffalo media given their current bullpen of hacks and has-beens, but that silence, pious as it may be, has a consequence to the fan base and that consequence is assumptions.
As I was marching up the tunnel to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, marveling at how lucky Jet fans were that the Giants built them a new stadium, an asshole in a green jersey started to rail me and the Barrister about losing the Bills. Lost in a haze of hops and kielbasa, I countered with a hoarse, incoherent version of "Buffalo will never lose the Bills!"
Then karmic displacement came and booted me directly in the ass in the form of this article
Let's not focus on the government coming in and having to help the Bills build a new stadium. That's a foregone conclusion/argument to engage in on some other day. Let's focus on the reality of the situation. The facts are as follows (stipulation that Ralph lives forever):
- We do not have a remotely competitive stadium in the current NFL climate.
- The economy of New York State is depressed.
- The franchise cannot afford to build a stadium because the owner's wealth comes solely from the team.
- The state, county, and even league will have to help renovate the stadium to keep the Bills viable.
All of this adds up to one giant pile of suck the week before the home opener.
She needs to be the new *official* mascot.
So with nothing else to do and my two favorite sports teams months away form playing again, I decided to jump into baseball mode. Up until this point I have been mostly ignoring the Cubs. Back on April 1st I explained why I wasn't feeling baseball this year
, but after all, these are my lovable *cough cough* Cubbies. I have to admit, despite my early hate, I think this happens every season and I never notice it. By mid-July, I have attended several Mets and Yankees games, drank at two different Cubs bars, and am examining the box scores in detail every single morning. I love sports, and if baseball is all that is left to me during the summer months, then the obsession picks up. Of course by September when Chicago has been eliminated from playoff contention, all focus goes back to football and hockey. But at least I can admit to it. So without further ado, I bring you what went down Wednesday night.
Is there really anything better than a warm man-hug?
8:00 Girlfriend is working late and I’m planted on the couch with a Left Hand Stout. Let the game begin. Early stories are the domination of Lance Berkman, Starlin Castro, and Pujols hug-gate.
8:02 Holy shit. Castro speaks NO English. The guy interviewing him is both the interviewer and translater. This is amazing! Why did I not know ESPN does this. Mind-blowing! Still not sure what I just witnessed
8:03 Commercial break already. Seriously, Fuck ESPN. At least I can get my coffee maker ready for the morning.
8:07 Fan shown with Cubbie tattoo on his chest. Kill yourself dude. But first kill future trade bait Matt Garza.
8:09 Tony LaRussa still has Shingles. But he is safely tweeting so thank God for that.
Aaaaaaand Ryan Theriot leads off for the Cardinals. If he is batting over .300, I’m going to chug my beer. 8:12
Off the hook, batting .279. That bitch talked shit about the Cubs after getting traded to Cardinals. Strikes out! Boom! 8:13
Two outs and up comes future Cub Albert Pujols. He hugged the GM, of course he will be a Cub next year. HE HUGGED THE GM!!!! 8:15
As ESPN keeps playing up hug-gate (did I mention fuck ESPN?), he flies out to center. Hug it out Albie.8:16
COMMERCIAL!!!! X—Men: First Class looks kinda bad-ass
Cubs first at bat. I bet Fukudome flies out. He does. 8:20
2nd best Cub name behind Starlan Castro comes up. Mr. Darwin Barney folks. And he grounds out for the second out before announcers can even show the Cardinals defensive lineup. Cubbie tattoo guy needs to kill me too. 8:21
Just noticed girlfriend sent a text at 7:50 saying she will be home within an hour. Not working late after all. She may not be thrilled with my plans.
The Scizzette is PISSED. Just joking, she's awesome.
Never disliked Lance Berkman. Then he joined the Cards and started playing like himself circa 2001
. Full Count. 8:28
Fly out to left as they go to the studio for Curtis Granderson’s league-leading 12th homer. “But wait for the next homerun from Yankee stadium we show you!” Oh no, don’t make me wait. Already forgot as Garza gets K #3. PROVE ME WRONG BIG GUY!!!!! 8:31
Just realized how bad I’m milking this beer. Girlfriend text really having an effect on me. 8:33
First hit of the night as Aramis Ramirez knocks a single to center/left. Here come the 10 millions dollar man Carlos Pena. Ew. 8:37
Pena walks to put two men on for Starlin. NO HABLO INGLES!!! 8:39
Shot up the middle off of Westbrook’s glove bloops to center. Ramirez thrown out at home despite maybe the ugliest toss from center I have ever seen. I think someone needs to talk to Dan Marino about weight watchers, Aramis. 8:44
“That’s a big time Squander by the Chicago Cubs”. Thanks Dave O’Brien. No runs this inning. Time for another beer.
8:53 Men on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Here is the Garza I know!
8:55 A “nubber” off of bare-handed Garza. Therior gets an RBI. Terrific.
8:57 WOW! Pena actually impresses me with a great catch on a line drive. Two men stranded and the Cubs get away only down one run. Not bad I guess.
8:58 While I have a moment, let me play tribute to our color-man for the evening. NOOOOOOMAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!! GIMME A COUPLA TAAAAAAAH BOOOOOOYS!!!! Alright I’m done.
9:00 WTF?!? Back from commercial and it is an absolute downpour in Wrigley. Like end of the world rain. Coincidence that this happened as the girlfriend walked in the door? Eerie.
9:01 ESPN heads to Toronto for bonus coverage of the Red Sox and Blue Jays. I think not. Time to check out the IIHF World Championships on Versus.
9:03 Czech Republic is up on Team USA 1 – 0 after a goal by…Jaromir Jagr??? Really?
9:04 And a penalty on the US by Van Riemsdyk. Sound familiar? No, because the refs didn’t call it enough when we saw him last!
9:06 Ty Conklin is in goal for Team USA. Let me type that again; Ty Conklin is in goal for Team USA. Time to check on the Cubs game.
9:09 Fantastic. Now it’s giant douche-bag Michael Kay and the Yankees/Royals game. I have YES for every Yankee game and ESPN puts this on. Baby Punching time…..and my next beer.
9:13 Starting to think this was a bad idea. Back to the hockey game and it appears Jagr scored his second goal to make it 2 – 0 Czechs.
9:16 Back to Yankees/Royals and Michael Kay is plugging Center Stage with Rex Ryan. Holy fuck cakes can it get worse?
9:17 I can hear the girlfriend watching old episodes of 30 Rock in the bedroom and I’m getting jealous.
9:20 At least the pitcher’s name on Kansas City is Adcock. It made me giggle. Then I thought of the Beastie Boys. I have issues.
9:25 Losing patience. Michael Kay is terrible, Patrick Elias just had two consecutive turnovers, and my allergies are causing me breathing issues.
9:35 Check into Miami/Boston game in time to see Lebron celebrating. How does it feel to financially cripple an entire city dick-hole? I’m getting angrier by the second. Time to check in with the Cubs.
9:37 Still no game. Rain continues and this experiment is an EPIC FAIL. I’ll DVR ESPN for the next 4 hours and check the game after work tomorrow. Addendum? Possibly
Thursday morning 6:07 AM Couldn’t wait until after work so I check the box scores. 11 – 4 Cubs wins. Starlin gets nasty with a 4 for 4 night and Garza goes for five solid innings. However, if I continued to watch, they would have lost 17 – 3. So it works out.
Thursday morning 6:11 AM Turns out they started playing 13 minutes after I retreated to the bedroom. Damnit, I suck. Oh well, maybe next time I can do this for a whole game and destroy my liver even more. GO CUBBIES!!!!!
Thursday morning 6:15 AM If you have not seen the video below, please do yourself a favor and watch this incredible interview. Just make sure your not drinking anything. I did a legitimate spit-take after the "hot guys that are like up for anything" line. Sadly it isn't real and only a local sketch comedy actress, but somehow that may make it even funnier because I'm not sure the interviewer is in on it, or not.
If this picture doesn't make you sad, then we are most likely not friends.
As promised, here is the rest of my breakdown of the 2008 draft class. Writing this series has really depressed me. I knew the drafts have been awful the last several years, but when you sit down and really examine them, you understand why we have barely sniffed the playoffs in the last 11 years. As soon I finished writing this you better believe I cheered myself up by watching Sabres' highlights from the last few weeks. Especially this one
from Jason Pominville last night.
Hopefully this whole series is also entertaining for the readers, but if you need another pick me up besides the Sabres' Warpath, Buffalowins has a solid mock draft up, so check it out.
On to the sadness!
4th Round - Reggie Corner - Defensive Back - Akron
At one point this pick looked like a steal. I mean his name is CORNER! Reggie started eight games in 2009 due to injuries and was better than serviceable. He was blanketing WR's, disrupting backfields, and was probably one of the only players I was really taking notice of during the entire season. However, (and isn't there always a however with Buffalo) last year Corner took a huge step backwards. If it wasn't for nagging injuries to Terrence McGee, you may have never noticed him at all. By the end of the season, he was barely seeing time in dime packages. Jury may still be out on Reggie, but after three seasons and little consistency, I'm calling him Reggie "Specials Teams".
3rd Round - Chris Ellis - Defensive End - Virginia Tech
Ellis was drafted as a "project". He played 15 games in three seasons. He recorded 13 tackles and one sack. He then injured his knee last year, was cut by Buffalo and signed a future contract with Pittsburgh who will probably turn him into a pass-rush specialist who records double-digit sacks next season. Watch it happen AND STOP CALLING ME NEGATIVE!!!
Hey Chris, if someone does a google-image search and this is the first picture that comes up....your career in football has not gone well.
This picture literally just gave me an anxiety attack
2nd Round - James Hardy - Wide Receiver - Indiana
Remember how excited you were when Buffalo made this pick? I know I sure as hell was. At 6'5", Hardy was that big target receiver that everyone wanted. Unfortunately, despite a couple of nice TD grabs in his rookie season, this was a marriage that would never workout. Why?
1. Hardy pulled a gun on his father before his rookie season ever started
2. He had almost no clue how to run a route correctly, making his height absolutely useless.
3. Some guy named T.O. joined the team in 2009 and took James' jersey number AND starting spot.
4. He blew his knee out early in that 2009 season and was unable to get healthy in time for the 2010 season.
You would think that this may be one of the biggest draft busts of the last five years, but oh heeeeeeeeey 2009 draft class! Ugh. Shoot me now.
1st Round - Leodis McKelvin - Defensive Back - Troy
I'll keep this short. I could talk about how Leodis has had some solid kick returns for Buffalo, but honestly what's the point? He was the 11th choice overall and has not lived up to expectations at all. He missed almost all of 2009 with an injury, fell down the depth chart to the point where he looks like a career nickel-back, and even on those said returns, he has become fumble prone. One of which will be the way I will always remember him:
Yup. That is Leodis taking an unnecessary kickoff out of the end-zone, fumbling it, and allowing New England to continue their streak of owning us. Vandalizing his lawn may be insanely immature
, but in the moment, I wanted to vandalize his knee with a crowbar. (Who am I kidding? I would have said "nice game" and then ran away crying....sigh)