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Supporting the Vikings

September 20, 2016 1 comment

This year I think the Minnesota Vikings are going to win the Superbowl.  I know, this is a weird way to begin a post in a blog that focuses on Atheism, but bear with me it will make sense in the end.

In January I posted about how I do not watch the Superbowl and how that current state was an allegory for religion. The short of it was, that not watching the Superbowl was like not attending church, I have no interest or stake in the game, so why would I go? That does not mean however, that I walked around deriding other people for liking football, or constantly trashing the sport–until someone tries to push it on me. I’m not a “oh, you like ‘sport’s ball’ type of people–until I have to be.

Last year, I asked a friend of mine to pick a football team for me. I didn’t care which, but I thought it would be funny to get really into a team that someone else had randomly chosen at my behest. There wasn’t really a point other than as a goof. I offered up a couple of restrictions: no Bills (as they are the local team), no Patriots (didn’t want to appear contrary given that so many people hate the Patriots), and it couldn’t be a team that was the favorite of one of several people that worked or hung out at the Starbucks we were at (ruling out the Packers, 49ers, Bears, Steelers, and Dolphins). Six teams were out, everyone else was left in. By week 3 he hadn’t done it, and it was getting too late.  He claimed that he wanted someone good, and there were a lot of teams 1-2, but that was missing the point. The losing teams were fine, pick the Detroit Lions of the Cleveland Browns for all I cared, it was just pretend anyway.

This year I made my decision based on something utterly random. My phone has an app called “trivia facts” and every once in awhile the tile (because I’m the guy that owns a Windows phone) will flip over with a new fact. This one was about the Vikings’ new stadium which apparently cost more than the NASA mission to Pluto. Well, a profound waste of money but bang, I have my team–who apparently is 2-0. Alright good pick so far. So what’s the point in writing about this?

A person’s favorite football team (or any sports team, but football is the most popular in the US) is usually based on two things: location and family. No one would willingly be a Bills fan, they haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade, they are fraught with internal problems, and every year people give the same mantra “maybe next year.” Yet, I’m surrounded by Bills fans everywhere I go, except work where I have a lot of students from elsewhere. So why are people Bill’s fans, because they are from Buffalo and their families are Bills fans. You know what else works just like that: religion.

If you looked at all of the religions of the world as sports teams which one would be the best? The one with the most followers? The one that has the most die-hard fans? The scrappy underdogs? The average person is more than likely a member of their religion because it was prevalent in the region that they were born in and their families initiated them into it. I know of very few individuals that looked around the religious landscape and said, “this one is the best, I’ll be that.” Usually when they do something like that it’s for one of two reasons: as a reaction against their families which usually fades after a little bit or they are just denomination hopping. An Anglican and Catholic aren’t that different belief wise, neither is the difference between a Sunni and Shiite when you boil them down.

Yet people are fervently into their teams/religions. So much so that they stake personal identity into it, which is odd when you think about it, since they more than likely did not choose them. If all of the sudden they stood up and said, “you know what the Browns suck, so despite being from Cleveland I’m going to be an Eagles fan;” it would actually make more sense than clinging to a team that is hard to root for. If your team continually failed to show up on game day, if they continually failed to deliver what was promised, why should anyone continue to choose to pay for their tickets and/or devote time every Sunday to watching them? It doesn’t make sense. This may be a reason that fantasy football is so popular. It allows a person to still root for their hometeam but also give them a chance to win when that hometeam sucks.

Yet, every week billions of people on the planet do some kind of religious thing for a deity that never shows up and doesn’t perform the task that is asked of it. Then they jump into these weird illogical arguments about “next time” or “mysterious ways” when things go wrong. Unanswered prayers are religion’s “maybe next season.”

I’ve chosen randomly, or about as randomly as I could. My restrictions would have still been in place but I would have added the Giants to that list because of my recent move. However, I really don’t care how the Vikings do this year, I’m still indifferent, although if they do make it to the Superbowl I’ll probably actually watch it this year. In the long run I know that this is just silly and next year I’ll pick a different team (no Vikings next year–it’ll be added to the list). Besides I’m a hockey fan anyway, go Sabres (because I’m from Buffalo and used to bear a passing resemblance to their starting goalie).

Categories: atheism, sports, Uncategorized

Sabres Hockey or “Why I Typically Don’t Write Sports Entries”

October 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The best thing about football season is that it means there are only four more weeks until hockey season starts. This week is that week, and today was the day for the Sabres to meet the hated Ottawa Senators in Ottawa for the season opener. It’s always a nerve wracking experience to watch the Sabres play the Senators. No matter how objectively bad Ottawa may be they always seem to bring their A game when playing Buffalo. This season would probably be no different as most sports writers outside of the city of Ottawa have pretty much written the Senators off. Would the Ottawa curse work again today?

For awhile it looked like there was no chance that they would even pull off a close game. Derek “Mother Fucking” Roy scoring midway through the first period giving the Sabres an early 1-0 lead only told a statistical analysis of the game for two periods. Those two periods were more of a massacre than what the XVIII legion experienced in the forests of Northern Germany. Simple bad luck prevented the score from being insurmountable.

Thomas Vanek, after a disappointing last couple of seasons looked like he did back in 04-05, and 05-06, charging the net and firmly staking out his place in front of the goal. A couple of shots going wide, a couple being inadvertently blocked by the Senator’s Goalie Pascal LeClaire, one shot off the pipe…you could tell that Vanek was frustrated at the Luck God’s seeming animosity toward him.

An odd goal scored by Ottawa early in the third looked like an indication that the curse would activated in order to rob the Sabres of an opening win against a division rival. Again it was Roy that stepped up in concert with Vanek (although not assisted by him) in knocking a shot off the skate of LeClaire and into the net. This would be the last goal of the game, but the Senators seemed to be invigorated by that final goal. Somehow their morale resurfaced and wherein the first two periods of the game seemed to be more about strategy the last ten minutes became gritty trench warfare. Penalties abounded for the Sabres who played most of the last eight minutes of the game short handed. At one point they fought off a 6-4 man advantage and were imprisoned in their own zone.

With 20 seconds left fan favorite Mike Grier took a slashing penalty and the game looked all but tied. It was only a matter of time before the Senators put one passed Ryan “He looks like Dave Hahn” Miller. The thing about time, is that it is pretty objective and even the all powerful gods of the Ancient World were still enslaved by time. The Ottawa Senators? Not so much…

In what is becoming a long string of conspiracy evidence something fishy was going on and it never was explained exactly what it was. After Grier was confined to the penalty box, a face off was played that Paul “Goose” Gaustad easily won, then the whistle blew. At the start of the faceoff 20.6 seconds were left, at the whistle 19.3. At the start of the second face off 20.9. The Senators were given a second and a half of extra time. Even though this is the time it takes to take a deep breath, hockey fans know that games are decided in this amount of time, and it almost was as a loose puck escaped both the notice of Ryan Miller and the defense, if the Senators had seen it in time I would probably be still watching the game or lamenting a loss.

In the end the Senators were unable to convert the puck into a goal, giving the Sabres a number of things. The first is that, at the very worst they can only tie last year’s 1-5 record against the Senators. The second is a win against a division rival which matters little now but can make a major influence come Spring. Thirdly, they snapped a dismal 20 period (at least) power play drought with Roy’s second goal. Finally, they are off on a win which matters mainly for morale which Napoleon always said was important than material.

New players, new jersey, no more dead weight, maybe we look for a cup this year. 

Categories: hockey, sports

Playoff Season

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night the NHL playoffs began, and the only sport worth caring about starts the inevitable march toward logging in its trivia fact for two decades from now. Hockey playoffs are fun because they take place in the Spring where people have more energy not suffering the downward slide into winter that plagues the two most boring of the professional sports in this country. To properly follow the NHL playoffs one must do a couple of things:

1) Pick a team to win each conference: this isn’t so hard if you come from city that has a team in the playoffs. Since the Sabres made the playoffs it means that I will be watching instead of checking the box scores like I did the last two years. The second team is tricky. The Buffalo Sabres are in the Eastern Conference so typically I would like to pick a team from Western conference that I would like to see make the Stanley Cup finals but would have no chance at actually winning it. It’s completely selfish of course, but it’s also self contradictory, if the team can make it to the finals they can win. Statistics, as I have said in the past, don’t determine the future they only illustrate the past. Commentator after commentator in all the years I have watched the sport all say the same thing, that the regular season no longer exists. Teams play different in the playoffs, they are more careful anyone can make it. So to pick the Western team I pick the team I would like to see in a match up. I settle on my usual Western conference pick: the Detroit Red Wings. This way it will be the Buffalo “City of Hockey” Sabres vs. the Detroit “Hockey Town” Red Wings.

2) Start that playoff beard: the rule I have always followed is that the last time one should shave is the day of the first game of the playoffs. Then that’s it until the team is eliminated. It isn’t bad the first round, which at most lasts two weeks. It’s mid way through the second round that the itching begins on the neck. This has led to a good deal of people wussing out and offering a weasel rule that allows them to shave at the beginning of each new round. It’s not really the same thing (The players who almost all do it, even laughably so like Crosby and Briere who can grow the beard of Orlando Bloom).

3) Make sure you have enough beer. I doubt this needs explanation.

Categories: hockey, sports

Silver

March 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, we can all sit down and wonder the what ifs. What if, Parise hadn’t snapped his stick in the first period on a shot toward the Canadian goal, or what if we had gotten what we really wanted in a Martin Brodeur-Ryan Miller show down, or what if the US Hockey team didn’t play so cautiously in the over time period? All legitimate questions in this, the post 2010 Gold medal game era but tomorrow the NHL begins again and these questions become part of hockey trivia to be trotted out before the audience in four years in the Russian City of Sochi.

The American team, winning the silver medal after a frustratingly difficult game against the Canadian team they had previously beaten a week ago, showed obvious disappointment as the game was over the crowd was in bedlam celebrating their home team’s win. The hockey tournament for the Winter Olympics is the crown jewel of the games, it’s the most attended, the most paid attention to, and the most exciting. Sure I could probably write a couple paragraphs on the elegance of the figure skating competition, the suicidal danger of the sled races, or mental focus of the curling matches; but none of those events really can hold a candle to the hockey struggle.

Did the Canadians have the superior team? Well at the end of today they did, but also at the beginning of the Olympics they were predicted to just what they did: win the Gold. The American team was the underdog from day one, they were poised to place but never to win. Which is a culturally American position to begin with, we do love our underdogs and as the rubber biscuit slid underneath goaltender Ryan Miller’s leg pad we came to the stunning realization that the love for an underdog is not unconditional. We love our underdogs when they win.

Isn’t silver still winning? It doesn’t mean you suck, it means that of every hockey team in the world (and this part is important): there is only ONE that is better than you. In this case it’s even better because that team had already been beaten by the Americans a week ago. They just lost this game (I think the two teams need a rubber match, the Canadians can keep their medal, but this 1-1 tie is bullshit).

The truly amazing thing about the games was how well put together the teams looked, even though they had very little practice time. The American offense looked like they all played on the same NHL team, the defense sacrificed themselves for shot blocks so many times I began to wonder if the goalie had dirt on them. These were things that I haven’t seen regularly in NHL games and things that amazed me when I did.

Yet none of that matters to some, because for them the entire series boils down to one play. A flubbed stick handling in the American defensive zone, after a face off that never should have happened, resulting in the puck going to (admittedly) the worst person for a goalie on the ice, and a shot skirts passed Ryan Miller for the over time with.

These people seem to forget that Miller hadn’t been scored on in the past two games in the Olympic playoffs. One against a defense so strong that even the Ottoman Empire would have had trouble beating it (The Swiss) and against the mighty Finns whose play belied their Viking ancestry. They also probably turned the game off in a string of expletives that begin with the letter “f” to have heard the virulently anti-American crowd cheer for him as he was presented the silver medal, and certainly before he was named MVP of the entire hockey event. Miller was undefeated in Olympic play, but there is an element out there right now that blames him for the loss.

I’m partial I know, because he’s the spine of the Buffalo Sabres and because he sort of resembles me (remember I’m older so it’s that way not the other way), but if a hockey game comes down to one goal the offense failed too.

The bright side for the Sabres is that every hockey medal is represented on the team. Toni Lydman with a Bronze for Finland, Ryan Miller with the Silver, and coach Lindy Ruff with the gold. In four years a brand new group of players will have to try again. This is going to be the new rivalry for Hockey Gold, even if the NHL doesn’t take a break for the Olympics it won’t matter in this border dispute. This type of energy had to be these two teams and at least for now it’s settled. But there’s always the world cup, the world juniors, and all of the other tournaments that the two countries will shuffle a team into just because the other is doing so. Great rivalries dictate that one team has to win once in awhile, it’s just that now the Canadians have two in a row. There’s always Russia.

And to prove that I’m not a sore loser like the Russkies: “Good job you syrup suckers, good job.”

Categories: hockey, sports

Right to Privacy

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

For around 99% of us a car accident is just a car accident. Hopefully we survive, and hopefully we can recover financially. However there is the remaining 1% of us that do not have this “luxury.” Tiger Woods is in this minority. I’m not going to rehash the specifics of the case because a person would have to purposefully avoid hearing about it (which then would subsequently mean that they knew something about it) to know nothing. According to the news there are two odd things regarding the event.*

The first is a lack of details concerning the accident. All that seems to be known is that Woods hit a tree and then a fire hydrant in his SUV (or vice versa), that his wife hit the car with a golf club (perhaps a future commercial in store?), and that Woods has claimed that he has been taken prescription pain killers. Regarding the last claim, I do believe that he did suffer some sort of injury in the past year so all of these facts should be taken at face value. Other than that, the circumstances that were requiring him to drive the car that early in the morning are absent as well as a police statement that expands upon the otherwise alluded to facts of the case. Are these things odd, in and of themselves? Not really. If I did the same thing I doubt anyone would miss the fact that there was no police statement or even press conference.

It seems that Woods has the desire to keep the whole incident to himself and his family. Yet the more the cry for privacy erupts the more speculation has driven the press, who claim that it was a domestic dispute arising from an affair. At last count I believe there have been two accusations of sexual impropriety.

I don’t wish to partake in the speculation other than to make the observation that it does exist. What I care to partake in is the question of whether or not Woods has the same right to privacy that the rest of us enjoy. The simple fact of the matter is that Woods does not. Being a Professional Golfer would put him into the realm of having less privacy, and being a golfer of his stature lessens that even further. Especially when you consider that the bulk of his money did not come from winning tournaments but from endorsement deals and advertisements, that (this is important now) put him on television and other media on a regular basis.

From his website today, “But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

The view here seems to be that the curiosity of public figures is ok as long as it is revealing of some aspect of their lives that they approve. When it turns sour as it did, that is when we have to back off and respect their privacy. This comes after the money the public shells out to see them at tournaments, in movies, on television, purchasing whatever products they want to sell. I remember Britney Spears asking for the same treatment around six years ago.

Guess what? It doesn’t work like that. If you don’t want to be in the public’s eye don’t put yourself out there. All I ever ask for among those in the media is some level of consistency and in order to have that they must take the bitter with the batter. The right to privacy for the “common celebrity” extends to their personal life, for sure, but when there is something like a car accident on a public road it no longer becomes just an internal family squabble. I’m sure this problem extends a little further back than last week and no one but the most astute readers of the National Enquirer (an ironic phrase to be sure) had any idea.

Furthermore there should have been a modicum of common sense in dealing with the press’s insistence on an explanation. It would have dictated that something be released that downplayed the whole affair. Silence in an event like this dealing with a celebrity is louder than any press release. It fuels the speculation that prompted his response. His other choice would be to never relent on the issue always maintaining that silence until people just simply gave up, no matter how long it would have taken. A celebrity is not a private individual, they don’t have and can’t expect the same level that we, actual private individuals do. We know their names and their faces.

No matter how absurd I think celebrity worship is, no matter how dumbfoundingly obsessed some people are; that’s why you are celebrities. It’s the bad side of being such a public figure they just have to deal with it. 

*And let me add that it is quite sad that a minor car accident in which no one was injured in any serious manner gets more press play than four police officers getting murdered in Washington.

VS “covers” Hockey

December 1, 2009 Leave a comment

One of my limitations in writing these posts has always been the sports post. For the most part I never cover sports. My only attempts have been about hockey but I just can’t find the tone that I need to enthusiastically write about them. Periodically, I do try and revisit the subject but it isn’t as inspiring to me as the many other topics that I do cover. So this post is going to be one of those trying posts that sometimes work, it has to its advantage that this really isn’t about a game and more about why this was the first Sabres game this season that I skipped watching entirely.

At this point in the season the Sabres are doing extremely well, especially compared to the last two seasons. The return of Mike Grier seems to have injected something into the team that had been missing, the games have been really exciting especially the game against Calgary a couple of weeks ago. The team’s record is very good as Goaltender (and your humble writer’s doppleganger) Ryan Miller has thus far been outstanding. So it may seem odd that with all the excitement that I feel about watching the hockey season this year that I purposely missed tonight’s game.

Why did I miss it? Because it was aired on the Versus Channel. Versus, owned by NBC, has the rights to air a several games a week in a rotating fashion that seems to me to be capricious at best. I think they are trying to score the games that are big rivalries or that feature an NHL allstar that draws the viewers. While the Sabres have some really good players, they don’t possess an Ovechkin or a Crosby nor do they have a legacy star so it’s not the latter. Tonight’s game was against the Toronto Maple Leafs which gives us the rivalry motive. It is a pretty big rivalry as the teams are within easy driving distance from each other and they do promise to be a bit more physical than usual. The problem for me is that Versus seems to not know how to do two things during a hockey game.

The first is actually covering the game. One thing about Hockey is that every team has their own duo for covering the action. One is the play by play and the other commentary, Buffalo has two of the best (this is a widely objective statement, even Don Cherry* likes Rick Jeanerette) but when Versus covers a game they usurp the position for their own commentators. Normally this would be an inconvenience, like when an NFL team gets the Monday Night game and a new group of people come in, but in this case it is much worse. The Versus commentators, seem to want to talk about everything but the game. In fact, it becomes so distracting that when the game is being talked about it’s almost jarring. Previous games I have heard discussions about skates, airplanes, and new rules while the game was being played. Granted, some of those things are relevant to Hockey in general, but the game needs to be covered during its play.

Hockey isn’t football, or baseball. There aren’t regular breaks in the play that allow for idle chatter. In fact, sometimes a period lasting of 20 minutes can take 25 minutes to complete. Where as football, what is supposed to be one hour of actual game time can occupy four hours because the clock stops so frequently. The game is constant, so if the commentator really wants to discuss new skates, or who is going to be on what team for the upcoming winter olympics there isn’t space to do it until the intermission. Every other announcer duo in the league understands this but not Versus. Which is odd since Brett Hull is on their staff.

Speaking of Brett Hull we come to the second part of the equation. The announcers are also completely biased against Buffalo. A bit of backstory is in order here: a little over ten years ago, Buffalo was playing in Dallas for the Stanley Cup, and the winning goal was scored by Hull against former Sabre, current Detroit Red Wing Dominik Hasek. The trouble was that the goal was against the rules, Hull’s foot was in the goal crease, it wasn’t one of those “oh from this angle I could see how you could say that” as there are some theories on the ill-fated kick of Scott Norwood that a New York Giant was offsides. The controversy in question here is interpretation of the rule governing puck possession, which coincidentally was changed the following season. So Hull knows that he is not well liked in the city of Buffalo, somehow this poisons all of Versus against the Sabres. I’m not saying that they should root for the team but that they shouldn’t root against them as much as they do.

Earlier this year against Montreal, you would have thought the announcer had money on the Habs to win. It’s such a complete bias that I often sympathize with some people I know who claim that announcers/refs hate their favorite teams. I get it now. (Although Ryan still gets nothing because John Madden had such a man crush on Brett Favre that it got a little uncomfortable to watch) My usual solution is to open the radio station that covers the Sabres and sync that up with my DVR, but since that was impossible today I just couldn’t watch the game at all. I’m told they won 3-0, which is awesome.

If I could recommend some solutions for Versus it would be this: go to CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and hire their four best interns. They would understand how to cover the game better than anyone else they have working for them. Keep Hull, but tell him to tone down his rhetoric a bit. Or better yet go to Canada and yank five random people, this way you still get the objectivity but also you don’t need Hull to balance out the four other assholes who have never played the game. Everything else keep, especially the nice HD image that you broadcast. Do those things and I’ll watch when you cover the Sabres.

*And if you don’t know who he is you are not a hockey fan.

Categories: hockey, sports Tags: , , ,

Really Rush?

October 15, 2009 1 comment

“This is not about the NFL, it’s not about the St. Louis Rams, it’s not about me,” Limbaugh said. “This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative.

“Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.”–Rush Limbaugh on his being dropped from the group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams.

Does he really think that the left has anything to do with this? I mean seriously, the left wingers he “defends” America from don’t watch football, don’t drink Budweiser (or maybe they do now that it’s owned by a European company), or pay attention to anything other than NPR and whatever else he thinks that they do. So why should they care if he gets involved in professional sports. You didn’t hear the lefties bitching when the Army sponsored a Nascar Team did you? No, because the type of person that would protest the Army visiting a school* for recruitment doesn’t care that the military is advertising during a contest where rednecks turn left. Not only do they not care they probably aren’t aware of it.

I haven’t heard or read a single report, or blog entry from the “left wing media” regarding this event except to report it as news–which it really isn’t. Does anyone care when some rich guy buys something else? Also it’s the fucking zero and five St. Louis Rams, a team so bad that even Detroit is laughing at them already. If Rush was going to try and buy into the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, or the Pittsburgh Steelers; then I could maybe possibly see some grounds for a left wing conspiracy to rise up and toss him out but it’s the Rams.

What I like about the quote is how much of a martyr Limbaugh tries to make himself out to be. The future of the country is in peril because he can’t be a part owner of a failing NFL team? Football actually isn’t the official game of the country, that other sport I don’t watch is supposed to be; and even if it were I don’t think Red China/Cuba/Russia is going to win the “war” because one person, who isn’t even a politician, can’t buy something that he really wants.

“I am not a caver. Pioneers take the arrows. We are pioneers. It’s a sad thing that our country, over 200 years old now, needs pioneers all over again, but we do.”–Rush again.

Yeah we need pioneers in industry, science, but in professional sports? I don’t think that Rome’s inability to produce good quality gladiators led to its decline and fall. Nor do I think you can really be qualified as a pioneer if all you are trying to do is buy part of a football team. If I was a republican/conservative I would start to worry that this person is your loudest voice. It’s pretentious at best and sanctimonious at worse–I’m not sure how close it measures up to Bono but it’s definitely inching towards it.

The real tragedy in all of this is that it’s yet another feather in the cap for Al Sharpton. Whom despite the fact that he had no real influence or say in the matter is still going to count this as a victory he had a part in. “It is a moral victory for all Americans – especially the players that have been unfairly castigated by Rush Limbaugh,”–Al Sharpton, the one American that both liberals and conservatives can agree on.

This is a moral victory? Since when is preventing ownership in a free market system a moral issue? I don’t like Rush, I think he’s a fear monger but I wouldn’t begrudge him the right to own something if he has the money to do it. Sharpton is referring to one athlete, Donovan McNabb that Rush was fired from ESPN for making a comment about. But did he? I’ve read Rush’s words it seemed more like he was making a comment about the media and not the player that got him fired. It’s just like when Howard Dean made a comment about the media and then was declared an unviable candidate in the 2004 election. If Rush is a racist, and I don’t think he is, then we need more proof than one comment about the media.

If only there were more worth causes for them so spend their energy on.

*High School or College–it happened.

Categories: current events, sports