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
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres take to the ice in the land of meth labs and man-eating sinkholes to attempt to do something they haven’t done once during this mercifully shortened season: win their fourth hockeypucks game in a row. If Winnipeg and Philadelphia win their games in regulation, the Sabres will suddenly find themselves one point removed from the final playoff spot with a game in front of 13,000 empty seats on deck Thursday night in the Everglades. Ten of their final fourteen games will be played at home and, despite all of this, some of you are despondent, downtrodden, terrified that they might win, that they might turn that puncher’s chance into a playoff berth.
Why is this case? Well the prevailing logic seems to be that the team is better served by finishing with a top three draft pick, buttressed by the sweeping assumption that if the Sabres sneak into the playoffs, Darcy Regier will be rewarded with keeping his job and this team will be thrown into some sort of perpetual mediocrity as true as our orbit around the sun. I can’t say I don’t understand this logic; the idea of giving this general manager a second crack under Pegula at assembling a roster would accomplish little more than hemorrhaging the fanbase and leaving us a few more years closer to death without a sniff at a cup. What I don’t understand is how people are willing to assume that this is black and white, that wins equal the general manager staying. Because drive-time radio pronounces it true? Because a WGR beat reporter who spent the entire football season telling you Chan Gailey wasn’t going anywhere is now saying the same about Darcy? Because TBN staff members that haven’t broken a team story since the Ford administration pronounce it true? For shame.
I don’t know what the owner thinks about the general manager’s future. Neither do you and neither do any of the local media. What I do know is management espoused a three-year plan to win a Stanley Cup (that has been shot to shit) and pledged to win multiple Stanley Cups under the new owner. I know the owner allowed or ordered the firing of a coach that had been involved with the team for the better part of three decades. I know that perennial eighth place finishes and first round exits are quite removed from the sixteen wins that it takes to win a championship. I know that no one who builds a business worth more than a billion dollars does so by accepting continuous underachievement and incompetence.
I also know that telling the fans that they’re being neglected, ignored and mistreated sells papers and ad space, and allows fans to wallow in the “woe is us” attitude that gets ingrained into your DNA at conception in this region. I know it’s the safe column to write, the safe position to take. I know Pominville, Vanek and Miller have contracts that expire after next season and the general manager himself has already bucked tradition and stated to local and national outlets that any changes that will be made will be focused on next season.
My point is that there’s at least enough empirical evidence to argue that the general manager is gone no matter what happens short of a conference finals appearance, right? There’s more than enough evidence to support the idea that columnists and radio hosts are trolling the fanbase by using Darcy as a boogeyman to get you to tune in or use one of your ten free page views (I’m not silly enough to assume any of our readers are also TBN subscribers).
Making it harder to accept even a slight run of success is the fact that we had finally embraced, welcomed the idea of hitting rock bottom. After half a decade of mediocrity this was going to be the year we finally said “fuck it,” and took the losses laughing instead of crying. We were ready, and then these, these ASSHOLES had to go and start winning! God can’t they do anything right!?
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.
You knew it was going to be like this. During all 113 days the players were locked out at the owner’s behest, through the passive-aggressive snipes in the media, through going from hating Bettman to hating Fehr to- well, we never really did stop hating Bettman, the only ones I heard talking about how many fans would be lost due to the callousness of those involved were national media types who can’t be bothered to waste their breath on the league when games are being played. Watching Wilbon and Kornheiser pretend to understand, let alone speak for the psyche of the North American hockey fan was akin to watching an elephant stung out on opiates attempt to ride a unicycle for the first time. Watching any ESPN personality lament the lockout with a barely-restrained smug giddiness in between five minute segments on Tebow and the Lakers was almost more infuriating than the lockout itself. You knew they were wrong, you knew that the sport, its teams and - in Buffalo’s case at least - even the ownership would be embraced before the ink was dry on the memorandum of understanding, “yes” vote on the lockout be damned. Sure, there were a couple of wavering souls out there, but they’ve been drowned out by the more than 10,000 attendees of this week’s scrimmage or the roving ticket buyers that have seemingly snapped up everything unless you prefer sitting by yourself. This is exactly what we knew was going to happen (perhaps not to this degree), and watching idiots pontificating otherwise on a network that is infected with plagiarizing journalists and trolling analysts was almost worst than the lockout itself.
Almost. As much as I could not tolerate the media during those 113 days it was ultimately the men at the head of this out of control train, the egos in suits that were the true villains. Thankfully the deal that could have been made in September if these people didn’t feel the need to mug for the press over the course of three months finally got made. And thankfully I don’t have to see what a barren wasteland filled with only basketball looks like beyond vivid nightmares of Vitale’s screaming and longform Bill Simmons columns. That- hockey returning- is more than enough for me. Nabbing some gear for myself and the rest of the deeg crew at half price is just a bonus. That said…
As our resident college football guy, it seems only fair that I write something about tonight’s BCS Championship game. That said…
No, I have no idea why the world hates us...
This game is going to be terrible, you guys. This is not similar to baseball, where you can watch two pitchers stare down the opposing lineup and carve through them, confound them through power or pitch selection with one eventually getting the lucky run he needs to claim the win. Those low-scoring games have a beautiful cadence, the ability to make you whisper to yourself in awe. Low scoring games in football are a cacophony of forgetful moments, of two-yard toss plays, balls landing at the feet of receivers, moments where you have to suffer through words that should never be placed next to each other, like “punt strategy.” This game will be filled with plays that will make you press the fast forward button on your remote, only to remember that this isn’t your DVR.
These games can be saved only if you find yourself a fan of either team participating, or if you’re a sportswriter pushing retirement age who can spin poetic about the “tradition” of these schools, talking about players that have long since passed on, telling us about the “glory days” of college football when you know full well the games sucked then, but we weren’t alive and therefore can’t correct you. It is lazy, and there is nothing more the vast majority of seasoned sportswriters love more than lazy, than a storyline that allows them to stroll into their archives, pick out an article from 1978 and simply run a “find and replace” to create an article for 2013.
Tonight, be prepared to hear the word “classic” when it doesn’t apply, prepare to hear the word “tradition” to refer to schools that have recently shown their tradition to be either poisoned or perpetrated on fraud and deceit. Prepare to talked to as if you would have to be a fool not to love a game predicated on whose kicker has the longest range. Prepare to feel the strong desire to watch something else or go to bed before the game is over. My advice would be to follow those desires.
Several weeks ago I as mulling over the idea of systematically taking down both of these institutions as representing at its very core what is wrong with college football. I imagined a profound post, with thousands more words than usual, analyzing the cultural impact of college football in this country and what it does to make administrators act in morally repulsive ways, placing their students in danger, admitting criminals and the academically deficient in order to fill their coffers and consolidate their power in a world where a couple losing seasons can mean the unemployment line. Just a year ago the media told us that we could no longer hold any program out as an example of good; we were told that no longer could schools be said to be “doing it the right way,” or achieving “victory with honor.”
As this post was written this morning, you will be able to distinctly tell when in the course of writing it, the Bills head coach became the Bills former head coach. The first paragraph may have already been proven wrong but Ralph Wilson still sucks so I am leaving the intro unchanged. Thank goodness it didn't actually happen this way....
While the national media continues to make mistakes by assuming the Buffalo Bills are run like a professional franchise and #BerlsMafia start making their travel plans to New York City for Super Bowl XLVIII, I’m bringing you part two of my college football bowl “preview.” Trust me, this is much more palatable than digesting the fact that as less inept coaches are getting the ax, we likely have to wait for Chan and Buddy to take a carriage ride to suburban Detroit and throw themselves at the feet of Ralph Wilson like they’re fucking Catherine of Aragon begging for acceptance from their pathetic master. Because three seasons of futility aren’t enough and Ralph’s galaxy sized ego needs to look them in the eye and pass judgment upon his subjects only after seeing them tremble before him first. I hate this decrepit fool, this conniving snake oil salesman from the Mr. Burns school of the cartoonishly evil, feebly attempting to protect both his assets and his image while failing at both. He’s a villain from a Dickens novel, not a fucking hall-of-famer, but I digress.
It's Ralph, not "Mr. Wilson"
There’s four bowls this New Year’s Eve so I’m going to jump right into the games so this post can go up before they start. Also, I feel New Year’s Eve should be a day off in most offices. After all, those who took holiday vacations shouldn’t have to rush back or use a day off, and everyone’s looking ahead to filling their gullet with shrimp and champagne and spending the entire next day nursing a hangover. For The Outlander, I’m bypassing the usual house party for Hibachi and Elmwood. This is a delicate dance; I’m used to kissing the year goodbye by getting blacked out in front of friends, not complete strangers but I feel there will be enough fighting bros and crying drunk girls to make me less concerned about myself. On to the games!
With the Bills lease finally signed and the team likely here in Orchard Park for at least the next six years, subject to a penalty nearing half a billion dollars if they decide to leave beforehand, I feel it is time for us to acknowledge something the Bills have gotten right…
Did you actually think I was going to come out of my exile to talk about the lease? Fuck that noise. Christ, with the NHL CBA there’s enough idiocy taking place in my sports world between douchebags in suits, and there’s no need to address what local politicians and taints like Russ Brandon will present to the public as some wonderful holiday gift. First off, if the NHL didn’t have its head so far up its ass, we would have forgotten about the Bills a month ago. The powers that be have just enough idiots yammering in their ear how important the Bills are to this community when as I’ve said
, they’ve become nothing but a weight dragging our region’s resurgence down. Did anyone think they were going to move in May? No. So don’t present the certification of that fact like you’re signing the fucking START treaty. Now look, I’ve gone and broken my promise and talked about the lease.
One of the better things of the next few weeks is that if you randomly turn your television to ESPN, there is a high probability of you catching a football game. Football that doesn’t involve the Bills is the best. I watched Old Dominion and Georgia Southern in the FCS playoffs a couple weeks ago and loved it. I kept watching this kid from ODU make throws that Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t make throwing against air. Fitz sucks at football, but he makes watching other people play football immensely more enjoyable. So for what’s left of 2012, I steer you towards the slate of annual bowl games with stupid sponsors, played in half-full stadiums.
Also, I know very little about these teams and my insight will likely have nothing to do with players or predictions. Part two will come next week, and I’m also not addressing the national championship until we’re closer to game time (hint, both teams should be set adrift from the Greenland ice Sheet). Read on at your own peril.
The Scizz (& friends!)
I'm about to flip the switch on y'all this week. No Super Troopers. Its too happy.
After last week's embarrassing loss to the Rams, and another failure of a Buffalo Bills season almost in the books, I took to Twitter to see how my fellow Bills fans were reacting. There was heartbreak, confusion, indifference, acceptance, and everyone's favorite, pure unadulterated rage. If you're like me, you probably have experienced all of these emotions at least once throughout this dismal season This week I endured a new one....exhaustion. The Bills have exhausted me. They have left me tired and bewildered, and these "scars" keep getting worse season after season. By 5pm on Sunday I knew that there was no way in Hell I could write my normal Bills preview for the upcoming week, so I decided to reach out to some twitter friends and readers to help me voice some opinions on this franchise that we are supposed to love with all of our heart.
First up, @Bleez17
from twitter, who actually inspired me to make this a community project, and provided the amazing quote from Dark Knight that lends itself to this post. I can not take credit for that brilliance.
So tonight MSG is airing Game Five of the 2006 Ottawa-Buffalo series. I didn't catch a lot of this game for reasons spelled out below and I since I doubt many of you have seen it since, being early in the DVR-era and all, I figured I would give a live blog the college try. Also, there's no other hockey to comment on and what am I going to do, take a crack at the Bills? Fuck that noise. If the live-blog has some hiccups, it will be up tomorrow as a retro-retro live blog. This game has nostalgic connotations for me and in order to keep myself from pontificating on them when I should be discussing the game itself, I'm getting them out of the way here beforehand.
Some moments don't need captions...
If you go to Thirsty Buffalo on Elmwood at a time where it’s not packed to the gills with bros and skanks, you might notice an unassuming, cheap plaque against the far wall, right near the bathrooms that desperately need an upgrade. On it is a large photo of Jason Pominville, zoomed in from behind a moment before he reaches his stick around statuesque Ray Emery and sends the Sabres to the 2006 Eastern Conference finals. It is an auspicious yet fitting location, tucked away in a corner usually passed by without a second look, a place that anyone outside of Buffalo would be surprised to find their team’s greatest moment of the past dozen years. Yet still, just a moment that led to nothing but another crushing playoff defeat a couple weeks later, in Raleigh, North Carolina. A moment that either happened on May 14, 2006- the best night of my life, or a moment that made May 14, 2006 the best night of my life.
That may seem trite, hyperbole, but I haven’t married or spawned so hear me out. Two nights earlier I stood in St. Bonaventure’s campus bar, clutching my apartment’s broom and sucking down an alarming amount of fifty cent drafts. It was Senior week, the campus barren except for the class of 2006, left with nothing much to do but drink, barbeque, attend various social functions (more drinking), and watch hockey. The night before, dozens of us crammed up against a bar watching the overtime of game three on a tiny corner television where JP Dumont scored, sending the Clubhouse at the campus golf course into euphoria. Could it happen? Could we really beat the Senators?
Not in game four, and that broom ended up broken in half (graduation was three days off, what the fuck would I need it for?). It would be back to Ottawa for Game five.
Why didn't I watch the game? Well for starters, my parents had come down and her cousins from just over the hill in Pennsylvania wanted to take us out to dinner (in 2006 Olean this meant Applebee’s). I tried as best I could to discern what was happening on the television some thirty feet away at the bar while at the same time being polite. My extended family gave my mom and I Penn State apparel in honor of starting law school in the fall and the first period ended in a tie. When we all parted at intermission, I promised we would be staying in town that night; it was cold, raining badly. Instead, my girlfriend and I headed to the hills near Ellicottville for a party with my high school friends.
I remember squeezing into a tiny antique bench that couldn’t have been meant for actual use because there were so many people in the living room. I remember the storm making the MSG feed cut out and someone having to pound on the cable box to get it to return. I remember playing asshole during the third intermission and into overtime, keeping an eye on the television and preparing myself to enjoy the rest of this final night in college with second consecutive loss.
I remember the play, the eruption of the house, the screaming, the hugging, the unbridled joy felt by everyone there. I remember the look of bemused excitement on the girl who had been introduced to this fanaticism throughout the highs and lows of the season.
I remember many of us heading out in our boxers in the rain and taking the slip and slide down the hill, hoping simply that we wouldn’t carom into the guest house or stones at the bottom. I remember pouring a funnel for a friend and saying “Eastern Conference Finals, man,” in disbelief.
I remember heading back to Allegany, to the house I spent a sizable amount of nights drinking and smoking that year. I remember standing in the backyard with those people that I shared the best years of my life with, classmates, roommates, teammates, basking in the bittersweetness of our ride together coming to a close and the sweetness of the team whose ride we felt was just beginning. I remember hugs and handshakes and my girlfriend saying to me “Matt, we have to go to bed- you graduate in like three hours.”
I remember no one had left.
Mike Harrington, writing his latest column
The Barrister, featuring the DGWU Sports Crew
Why hello again, friends! If you're like me, you're counting the hours until you get to leave your godforsaken job on one of the slowest days of the year, and you're looking forward/dreading a day with family. And, if you're like me, when you're seated at the table, asked to give thanks for some sappy thing in your life or another, you'll have a litany of other things you might want to say but know would be inappropriate. "I'm thankful Michael Vick is having a terrible season since he's a terrible human being," or "I'm thankful that college football is finally getting a playoff in 2014 so we can stop listening to pundits whine about the lack of fairness in a system that explots free athlete labor for massive profit," or "I'm thankful for my liver for saving me that one night I decided to dance with a bottle of Patron."
The things we can't bring ourselves to say in mixed company for fear that our families' idealized visions of us will shatter as they realize we are simply shallow degenerates who might actually care more about sports and drinking than we do about our parents. Of course, if our families knew us better in the first place, they would have already suspected that was true...
Mind you that this will likely be the week that my entire family chooses to read this mess of a website, so it goes without saying that I've probably said too much. Love you, momma!
In the spirit of giving thanks with the Deeg halves of ourselves - the halves that we unleash upon the interwebs in a rush of cursing and disgusting generalizations - we've all gathered on this post to share what we're thankful for this holiday season. Some of it is sappy, some of it incredibly sophomoric, but I imagine that this is no surprise and that you're all pretty much on board with what we do here.
On to the #HotTakesOfThanks!!