From the Legion of Doom to Auston Matthews

In the “new NHL” speed, skills and stickhandling have been put on display on a nightly basis.  Players like Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Phil Kessel put their talents on center stage for audiences to view when their teams take center ice.

The attitude of the league is different now too.  Quick skaters with the ability to put the puck in the net are desired.  Teams used to want power forwards like Keith Tkachuk, who could bang his body around the boards and seperate defenseman from the puck while being able to bury a one-timer.

Eric Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year on the back of his 372 goals, 493 assists and 1398 penalty minutes.  Lindros was described as a “once in a lifetime” player who was able to impose his 6 foot 4 inch, 240 pound frame on other skaters and move up and down the ice with the pace of a first line winger.  His ability to dominate a game was what made him the first pick of the 1991 draft that the Quebec Nordiques would trade to the Philadelphia Flyers for a boatload of players, picks and cash. Although to be fair, none of what would be traded would come to equal what the Flyers got in return for the eventual Hall of Famer.

Lindros would use his strength and brawn to control the ice in front of and behind the net. Whether it was with intimidation or by flat out pushing opposition players, Lindros scored using his strong frame.  The game was different during his reign as a Flyer.  His line of John LeClair and Mikael Renberg were dubbed the “Legion of Doom” because they ruled the ice when the trio skated together.

It’s ironic that the one player who could be called a “power forward” is also a Flyer, Wayne Simmonds.  Simmonds however is 6 foot 2 and weighs a meager 183 pounds, imagine how much the game has changed since the time of Lindros?

Now players are tall, lean, fast, muscular skaters who are able to escape a check rather than deliver one. Gone are the days of the open ice checks of Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer who paired together on the blueline for the New Jersey Devils destroying anyone who skated over the neutral zone with their head down.

Concussions have become the buzzword in the NHL.  In the 2015-2016 season, Calgary Flames defenseman, Dennis Wideman, was hit by Miikka Salomaki, a Nashville Predator right wing.  The hit rattled him and I’m convinced as he bounced off the board, he had no idea where he was after the Predator skated away.  It appeared that the front of his helmet hit the glass at the right, or wrong depending on the definition, angle to cause a concussion.  As Wideman got up, he skated toward the Flames bench while a Predator and linesman Don Henderson came his way.  With his mind rattled, he did not take his time on the ice, he immediately began skating which I believe caused him to jumble the two skaters and think that the linesman was an opposing skater.  As he tried to get to the Flames bench he pushed Henderson down on the ice with both hands, causing head trauma to the linesman.  Wideman was ultimately suspended 10 games after his original 20 game suspension was turned over in the appeals process.

Blows to the head leading to concussions have become such a hot topic in all areas of sport, not just the NHL.  However, the NHL has become very wary of what it can do, especially after the Wideman incident.  I don’t believe the NHL did enough for Wideman in this situation though.

The NHL has long wanted to move past it’s rough and tumble image of “I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out” to more of a skills competition.  There are many fans who believe that hard hits and fights should be a part of hockey just like the big hits in football.  When Auston Matthews takes the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs someone on the bench has to be there to protect the star center.  At least in the days of Wayne Gretzky, he had a guy like Marty McSorley who would take on anyone to make sure that no one would drop Gretzky with a blindside hit.

On November 5, 2016 Matthews’ teammate Nazem Kadri took out Vancouver Canuck Daniel Sedin with a blindside hit.  Sedin hit the ice with so much force his helmet popped off and his head rocked back and forth shaking his brain matter.  Sedin’s teammate Jannik Hansen flew over to Kadri and begin pummeling the Leafs center with whatever he could muster.  In a game of checking, these kinds of hits are going to happen – Kadri’s hit was deemed legal by both the refs and the league for what it is worth.

As long as these players skate fast on thin blades and give everything they have to win a trophy that’s as elusive as the Stanley Cup, there will be passion displayed on the ice.  This emotion will come out as pushing and shoving, yelling, celebrating or fighting.  Anytime you get grown men together and put them in an enclosed area, testosterone will take over.  However, in a situation like this with so much to gain and large sticks in their hands, these men are going to use whatever they can to gain an advantage.

In a way it might seem savage to celebrate fighting and the big hits that players dish out on each other.  After all we are trying to look out for the safety of one another by giving them helmets, padding and all that gear.  At the same point, we are humans who seem to thrive on violence whether it is in the news or in the movies or in our entertainment. Wars are constantly being fought across the globe no matter what day it is or what time it is, it seems humans are always in conflict.

As we evolve the question we have to ask ourselves is should our sports evolve as well?  Do we still want to see athletes pound each other? Boxing still exists and Mixed Martial Arts are beginning to break into mainstream television coverage.  When children are dying in places like Gaza and Africa sometimes we don’t realize how much violence exists in our world.  It may not be happening in front of us, but it is happening.  We turn away from Sarah McLachlan’s animal commericals because they are too emotional, we can’t imagine someone beating or mistreating an animal.  Yet, children are starving just across the border from one of the world’s richest countries on Earth.  In fact, children are starving here in the United States.

No, hockey isn’t everything, it’s an escape from dealing with something or everything for a short period of time.  For some people it’s a way of life, a way of making a living or a way to exist.  For most however, it’s just an outlet or something to believe in when life gives us a reason to be distracted from the the awfulness on the horizon.  It isn’t fair, no, to spend three hours engrossed in men with pads, jersey and skates beating each up while the world burns.  But it’s what we have for those three hours to reflect upon our own personal goals and what we can do – maybe even what we can’t do.  If nothing else, we realize that humanity is cheap when so much is on the line and we have to decide for ourselves what it is that we believe in.  Do we wish to be the aggressor, the victor, the one full of pride or the one who submits?

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I Am “Half-Drake” On Skates

For those of you who have read my blog posts for a while, you know that Drake is one of my favorite artists of all time.  Whether you like him or not, we all have different tastes and I can respect that.  The following comes from one of my favorite songs of his – “Headlines”:

“I might be too strung out on compliments overdosed on confidence, started not to give a fuck and stopped fearing the consequence.”

The reason why I like it so much is because I always hoped that one day I might be able to be so confident that I could get to the point where I could feel that way about myself.  He feels this way about his rapping abilities that he just doesn’t “give a fuck” what you think about him.  Imagine?

I only wish I could get to that point with my skating.

I’ve started to feel that after six months of skating I am no “Drake on skates” and I am not “overdosed on confidence.”  My back feels like it is going to break in two after I have been playing for a while.  Whether it is because I have bad posture in my chair at my 8-to-5 or because I am overweight (I am), or because I simply am not cut out for it – I don’t know.  All I know is that the more that times goes on the more I struggle with a body that doesn’t cooperate with the things that the heart and mind wants it to.

I always hear that “you can do anything you want to if you try hard enough.”  “You can be anything you want to be.”  Of course that’s probably more for kids.  It sucks.  I try to be positive and keep my head up.  I try to push myself to turn that Drake side on but he won’t come out.

As soon as I get out there for twenty to thirty minutes and I twist the wrong way I’m feeling it.  Yet, I’m going to push myself.  The last time I went out and played hockey I was pretty sure I pulled something in my quad but I pushed through as hard as I could.  One leg skating in circles on defense trying to block shots.

Half-Drake.  What is that? “Fearing the consequences?”

I can’t fathom how I get past this.  As winter approaches my skating will be limited due to traveling through bad weather on poor roads.  So what do I do?  Regress?  That’s all I can do.

It’s hard to take all that in.  It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and say “hey you can’t skate without hurting yourself.”

Or “hey you can’t referee without hurting yourself.”

Maybe there is something wrong?  Maybe I’m just clumsy.  Maybe I’m not meant to do physical activity.  Getting to this point in my life and coming to that realization is a tough pill to swallow and it may even be a bitter one at that.

If the best I can do is open up my Xbox and load an NHL game, how do I accept that will be the closest I come to playing in a hockey game?  After all the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve spent trying to learn I don’t know how to accept that.  I’m not sure I can.

In the middle of a Chicago Bears – Minnesota Vikings radio broadcast former NFL quarterback and potential Hall of Famer Kurt Warner said that football “is a game of confidence.”

I disagree.

I think all sports are games of confidence.  I think everything having to do with sports revolves around confidence.  As soon as I step on that ice if I’m not confident in my ability I might as well turn right around and get my street clothes on.  However, that’s my problem.  But it’s a dual edged sword.  If I don’t go out there and find something to give me confidence then I’ll never get it.  If I don’t keep skating until I do something positive, what is the point?

I just wonder where is the fun in absolutely struggling?  Yet, if I know that this is a goal I want to achieve how do I quit?  I find myself in a position that there is no answer to solve either question.

I try to find some philosophical answer by looking to the meaning of things and realizing that things are only important if we give meaning to them.

I have to break down the wall.  To build a wall is to limit myself – yet I have to find that confidence to smash through.  Yet it bleeds over into everything else.  I struggle to find positivity on a day to day basis and that hurts too.  Until I can find that “overdose of confidence” I’m going to struggle to find the other side of the wall.

Tolerating The Light and Dark Of Pain

After what seemed like forever but was only about a month and a half, I geared up and stepped back on the painted ice.

I’ll admit I was nervous driving to the rink. I spent the almost two hour trip thinking about the mistakes I had made previously. I also knew that I wasn’t the same skater or the same player.

Sure, I was the same person. Maybe I’d changed philosophically because we all are supposed to be growing, changing and learning in some way, right?

I thought that my legs wouldn’t fail me this time.

“They couldn’t,” I told myself. “I’m not going to let them.”

Driving toward the rink I noticed people headed to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins opening game only a few miles down the road. My little rink was many levels down in terms of competition but it felt like it was the start of my season too.

I forgot how heavy the equipment bag can be when you don’t lug it around every day. Maybe not heavy but just bulky and unweildy. Holding the door for some people coming out of the rink it got in their way.

After seeing the class instructors, I caught up on what was going on while checking out the CCM RBZ Revolution sticks – damn they are nice. I paid and dressed for what I hoped would be a fun time on the ice.

I carted my stuff to the locker room and pushed the door open to the fewest number of people I’d ever seen.

I was greeted with “Hey you’re the long distance guy.”

“Yup that’s me.”

Normally I’m either Kessel (after my Phil Kessel jersey I wear), rookie, John or “Bend your knees.”

Take your pick – I’ll answer to any of them. My favorite is probably Kessel because I like to think I look like Kessel. I’m like the guy that you see at the press conference that doesn’t appear like he should be out on the ice but is a hockey player anyway?

Although Kessel is a bit more than that. Kessel is a star. He might not look like Lundqvist or have the Crosby mold he damn near willed the Pens to victory last year. In fact I still believe he should have won the Conn Smythe.

But I digress.

Anyway, I took my stuff out of my bag and I thought about the first time I dressed. It’s funny to think about some of these things that you never forget how to do once you learn them. It’s like that old saying “you never forget how to ride a bike.”

I’m not sure if getting hockey equipment on is quite like that or if it’s more like bundling up Ralphie’s brother up in A Christmas Story. Once you bundle him up a few times you’ll never forget that you can push him out the door and let him roll around in the snow without getting hurt. I kinda feel like that kid when I get everything on.

I did my best not to have fear when I stepped on the ice. My skate hit the ice and I thought I was going to fly right over to the board but I felt my balance go just a little bit. I corrected myself and skated over to the bench to drop off my water.

I got out on the ice and it felt weird. The ice was fast. Really fast. Or was I faster than I remembered? Either way I felt better. Something was going good.

As soon as the pucks were brought out and I started with shooting I felt that feeling. It’s Hockey Night In America.

I ripped one at the net. Probably 10 miles an hour – but it felt good coming off the stick. I skated around and took shots. Then one puck came flying over to me so I leaned into a slap shot. It was too much leaning and down I went. That was the first of what would be many falls on the night.

After a few minutes the drills began. Some skating to warm up. Then on to the good stuff, the passing and shooting with some great commentary from our instructors:

“Let’s play by the seat of our pants.”

“But not end up on the seat of our pants.”

Too late. Besides, my game is to end up on the seat of my pants. If I don’t end up on the seat of my pants I’m not playing.

That my friends is probably the problem.

Coming around the crease to try and stop a pass I either cut an edge too close or got caught in a rut. Down I went. I knew something was wrong. I felt it in my quad and my back flared up. Something was wrong and I skated away from the drill and went to the other side of the ice. I tried to stretch and water thinking it was a cramp.

No such luck.

I sat and stretched as well as rested.

The drills turned into a 3 on 3 small ice game. Which I eventually got on the ice for and I paid the price. Pain.

The only one who knew was the goalie on my team. He saw me stretching and reaching for my quad.

Trying to fight through it I could only go so far on one leg and I pushed to chase down a loose puck all the way to the blue line.

As fast as I could before the whistle blew.

Another twinge of pain.

Now another change – 5 on 5 full ice.

No chance.

I’m not going to make this.

I skated as hard as I could for as long as I could before my back and leg gave out. I couldn’t put any weight on it. I couldn’t push off on my leg. I rotated back to defense and skated around in a circle like I had a flat tire. I blocked shots with my stick and skated as high up the ice as I could so I could get back in time but everyone caught me flatfooted.

I did manage to block some decent attempts. However I felt terrible. I gave everything I could to the point I felt like I was going to throw up. As soon as the class was over and I got off the ice I managed to hobble to the locker room and sit down.

After I got out of my gear and into street clothes I knew I was in for a long painful drive back.

I thought about how hard it must be for guys who are visitors in the NHL that get hurt and have to fly back home. Getting onto a plane, dealing with pain and trying to sleep in one of those seats. If it’s a trip across country I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

In John Branch’s telling of former NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard’s life “Boy On Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard,” he details many times when the skater would visit a team doctor to pick up Ambien to help him sleep through the night. These drugs would be given to the players for them to cope with travel demands as well as pain issues so that they could fall asleep because doctors had deemed them safe to be used.

I wondered how that would play out over the life of an NHL player. Certainly Boogaard had his own demons that he was never able to shake. Team doctors never got to the bottom of those and continued to dish out pills like candy that only masked the symptoms and lead him to rehab after rehab. His real pain was hidden behind the highs of whatever he could get his hands on while still getting on the ice and dishing out punishment on someone else.

When the tolerance for these drugs moved up so too did the amount he took. A consequence that would eventually take his life – a life taken too soon.

I’ve often wondered how many of these cases happen that we don’t hear about? How many Derek Boogaards don’t make it to the NHL? Boogaard had an issue back in junior hockey. No one addressed it then. The physical pain is swallowed and a player deals with it through some other means. However another kind of pain can’t be dealt with. Maybe it’s an emotional pain. Boogaard had all the signs of depression but was never treated.

How we deal with our pain whether it is physical, emotional or mental is complicated. There is not always a right way or a wrong way. How Boogaard dealt with his pain isn’t right for me to say. I never walked in his shoes. I know he cried out for help at times and the signs were missed. I just wonder if at times we don’t know how to truly deal with the pain. Or maybe we don’t know how. Pain is such a tricky topic. It comes in so many forms. One pain is not like another. I don’t know how you experience it. What I do know is that it can’t always be fixed. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime. Sometimes it has to be moderated. For those like Boogaard that can be a scary thing.

I hope that I can continue to fight through the back and leg pain and skate. I hope these things don’t stop me. But I don’t know. Some people have a body that doesn’t respond well to certain activities. Maybe that’s me? I struggle to find some sort of balance. While trying to still play a game I think loves me back.

Auston Matthews and Humanity

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews.

Four goals in a debut NHL game.  No rookie in NHL history has every done it before.  The second goal looked like Matthews was playing a video game.  Swiping the puck from a defender and skating in on the wing and shooting.

Come on kid.  Give the league a chance.

Auston Matthews.

Get used to it.  He’s finally in Maple Leaf blue and white.  The Gardens don’t buzz anymore and Foster Hewitt doesn’t broadcast from the gondola but the Maple Leafs are forever.

I wonder what went through his mind after the game?

Did he stop and look around at his teammates and think “I did something these guys couldn’t?”

Is he like that?

Or did he stop and say, “I couldn’t do it without these guys?”

I hope that he’s not one of those guys who felt like he’s the man.

“Just put it all on my shoulders I’m gonna save this team.”

But isn’t that the kind of superstar the world loves?  The fiery, ambitious young man who longs for the spotlight?  The one who calls out his teammates in press conferences and interviews because they don’t play at his level?

Is that the nature of sport?

What is it that we want from superstar athletes?  To celebrate their talent?  Or to stroke their ego?  Or do they both go hand in hand?

When we see a superstar athlete in the street do we stop and stare?  If you saw Austin Matthews would you stop and ask for an autograph?

Okay.  Maybe you might not know his face.  Yet.

But if you saw Wayne Gretzky would you stop and stare?  Maybe get an autograph?  A picture?

Or what if you had a seizure while waiting for that star?  Like the man waiting for Tim Tebow?  Imagine if the star actually helped the man.  Do you think all the stars would do it?

The same Tebow the New York Mets took so much flak for signing because critics called it a “publicity stunt.”

Sure.  Aren’t most players signed for some kind of publicity?  Michael Jordan wasn’t Babe Ruth on the diamond for the Birmingham Bulls.  If I came out the stands, the Chicago White Sox organization would not sign me to a contract.  It was because it was Jordan of course.

Tebow, because he CARES about people, stayed with the fan until help could arrive becuase he knows life is bigger than the game.  Whatever his religious beliefs, he truly believes in the wellbeing of people and at some point everyone needs to adopt that belief.

I wonder if Auston Matthews stopped in the locker room and questioned the gravity of the situation.  Did it all fly by in the blink of an eye?  After everyone left, did he look around and wonder what he just accomplished?  Or did he just leave?

Just another day at the office for him?

Some players have talked about that life changing moment going by without them soaking it in.  No time to look around.  Next thing they know they are retired and looking back on a championship or a record or a key victory with regret.

Time.

Every day we talk about it.

“What time is it?”

“I can’t wait til the weekend.”

“Time heals all.”

“Wait til next year.”

“When we all look back on it.”

Why?

All it does is remind us that time saps us of our energy, our youth, our strength and our talents.

While we look to the future we lose sight of the present.  This game, this inning, this shift sometimes we forget that one builds for the next.  Or even this day.  We get so caught up looking forward to the next.  One sun-up leads to the next sun-down and the next thing we know it’s the start of another season.  Ten seasons later we don’t know the players.  We don’t know where it all went.  There’s a 19 year-old Auston Matthews scoring four goals and a warm-hearted player dwelling in instructional league baseball that cares about people that is criticized for his intentions.  Is that the nature of sports or the nature of humanity or do those lines cross?  Maybe that’s why we like sports so much?

The Re-Evaluation Of A Sports Fan

Imagine being a sports fan all your life – knowing who is playing on Saturday and Sunday. Knowing who is in the playoffs and knowing the rosters of every team.
Being a Virginia Tech Hokies football fan I talked about interviewing the legendary Coach Frank Beamer. I sat behind the bench of a Tech game when they played Rutgers and I saw the players up close. I was there during Marcus Vick’s (yes, the brother of one Mike Vick) rookie year when he threw 2 interceptions and was benched for playing like crap. I remember seeing him and questioning how someone like that could be so highly rated over his brother. He sure didn’t look great that day.
Little did we know all the things that he would be known for – the stomp, running from the cops, the weed and the underage drinking with girls. It turned into one of the worst examples of Coach Beamer believing in a player in his tenure at Virginia Tech. I almost believe it soured him for the rest of his career from then on out. He certainly never appeared to be the same Coach after that.
Since Coach has retired and I’ve gotten older, I don’t follow Tech football or many other sports for that matter like I used to. I do try to play hockey and ref soccer but that’s about as deep as I get. Maybe it’s the philosopher in me or the psychologist that does too much questioning. I’ve ruined it. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve even ruined playing these sports just by questioning.
Walking away from the games has made Saturday and Sunday different. I can remember fall Virginia days with the windows open, the leaves falling, watching football with a blanket on. It didn’t matter what games were being broadcast I was watching them. Now, you’ll be lucky to catch me watching football for an extended period of time. I don’t know the roster of Tech and all I know is that Coach Beamer shows up on the sidelines to talk to the players but not instruct them.
The opportunity came up to go to Syracuse to see the Hokies play a Saturday game – one that I always said I would take if I ever had the chance. I declined.
“It’s too much, I don’t know the players anymore and Beamer isn’t there.”
It’s just not the same for me. It’s a struggle and a painful one at that. Something that was the biggest part of my childhood is gone. Through the questioning of concussions, wondering about the mindset of athletes and the examination of profits in sports I’ve lost that love for the game. I do truly wonder if I think too much about things.
I find myself not enjoying skating or soccer as much anymore. I question my ability to skate. Why? Why should I? It feels like a cycle or a circle. Here I go again.
“I can only do so much,” I tell myself, “but I don’t do enough.”
My body gives out and I can’t push it like I used to. I know there are guys older than me playing but why not me? Am I just not built the right way? I question my genetic makeup.
“Maybe I wasn’t built for skating.”
I’m arguing with people when it comes to soccer – i’m too strict with the rules.
“Why,” I ask myself, “does it have to be this way?”
Should I really be forcing everything in soccer to be by the book? Do I have to look for all the details to be just right?
I know that I can’t step down from my position as a coach and ref. I can’t quit on the volunteer organization simply because I feel like I am not doing the job properly. Can I?
Ah self doubt you creep in again.
Self doubt my old friend.
Where would I be if I didn’t doubt myself?
Before I step on the field I’m confident but between the games I am ready to call it quits. I think back to each decision and each play wondering if I missed something. I know I had to have.
“No one is perfect,” I tell myself.
Did I call one game too leniant? Did I call one too strict? Why? Was I tired?
It breaks me to think about these things in between games. I want to hand in my whistle because I’m sure I’m letting someone down. I can’t be a good ref and doubt myself can I? Isn’t that the reason why I gave up on sports? Because I doubted the nature of it? I doubted everything about it. How pure it was supposed to be. Now I’m doubting how good a job I’m doing as a ref. How can I help a kid learn a game if I question what it is I’m seeing?
All these questions. Isn’t it supposed to be easier? Aren’t I supposed to be good at this? For all the talk I’ve made out of knowing the game, I should boast about my ability. But that’s not me. I spend more time questioning my ability than praising it.

The same person who can build a wall can tear it down. I can just as easily call a good game as I can a terrible one. How do you keep the human element from creeping in when you are supposed to be a robot? An emotionless machine that calls fouls. That can be a challenge as I tend to my feelings on my sleeve. Sometimes I think that’s the best place for them. The more I think about it there’s not enough room there for all of them.

Light Up My Hundred Dollar Bills

Lavish life of luxury. Big cars and homes. Swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck.
That’s what I think of when I think of owning a sports team. Maybe that’s because you have to stock multiple armored trucks with cash in order to be able to afford one.

I can’t imagine the men who ran the early instances of the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Yankees would have envisioned the state of the franchises now. Who knows if they even saw them being what they are now – or if they could believe they’ve lasted this long?

I don’t believe being an owner is always a picnic but from the outside it looks like a game played by rich men funded by those who have less.

That’s right – local governments give tax breaks, citizens vote to finance a stadium (they pay for it in taxes but it’s sold as “bonds” or outright donation), fans go to games, buy all kinds of things (including things they don’t need) and the athletes earn tv contracts and other revenue for those owners. Light those Cuban cigars with hundreds boys!  Forget bottles – we’re buying the bar tonight!

Am I missing something?  All this money comes in and they are paying for what? Contracts, salaries and then what?  Stadium upkeep?  There’s sponsorship deals for that. So where is it all going?  Oh right – in their pockets.  I imagine they have to go to their tailor every couple of months to get the pocket on their jacket redone so they can fit more cash in it.  It gets pretty stuffy in there.

Does it not seem like a rich club? There’s about as many people in that club as people in the mountains that have high-speed internet.

I enjoy playing the sports video games that have owner mode or GM mode. The new version of the NHL franchise for Xbox One has an in-depth GM mode with goals that are set by a CPU owner.  There are some that I happen to really enjoy:

“Make X amount this year.”
“Keep salary at X% of the profit this year.”

Yes Mr McDuck.  I’ll make sure to keep the funnel from the arena to the vault at your home running Mr McDuck.

As a player I am given the option of adjusting sliders for the cost of jerseys and shirts in the club shop. I can choose to upgrade bathrooms or club seats and even buy new parking.
However, I go into the club shop section and adjust the price of clothing so that fans can afford it. If a shirt costs the club $20 why am I charging $45? So that the owner can make $68.5 million this year? Get out of here. I’m going to adjust the cost of everything – this makes no sense.

There’s even an option to relocate the team – you know, just in case you AREN’T making ENOUGH money. It’s too bad they don’t give you the option to relocate the New York Rangers to one of those upstate New York casinos they keep talking about. They probably could get some tax breaks and incentives. There are no options in the game for tax breaks. Maybe next year. Too bad they don’t have a button to light up that cigar with a hundred-dollar bill.

Moving on.

I don’t see sports clubs that look like towns in rural areas. There are no owners who are travelling in Geo Metros wearing the same clothes day in and day out.

They aren’t like the mayor of a town with buildings that are condemned, stores closed and a handful of restaurants that are barely edible. Imagine the problems that person must face?

It’s certainly not what Jerry Jones is facing with his mammoth monument to himself that sits on the Texas plain. A giant screen in the center, players walk through a fans area (let’s sell that at high prices!), a pole dancing area sponsored by beer! great!, tons of flashing lights and eye candy that all screams “drop your money!”

Billion to Billions to build the stadium. Tax breaks. Incentives. You know, it’s the NFL. Don’t fight it. We need it. Besides, it’s Jerry! Oil man. He doesn’t have enough money, let’s give him some more.

I get it though. This is a Capitalist system. (Big C.  Whoever has the cash makes the rules. Basic break down – but much more complicated than that.)  It was set up that way from the foundation of the country. We’ve come so far and pushed our ideals throughout the world. It’s now a world economy, not just a national economy. There’s talk of jobs and companies moving here and there – it’s a part of a world economy.

Though some parts of our country can’t communicate with the world because they don’t have access to phones or internet but let’s build Texas Stadium!

I’m getting off topic again.

All that being said – we have to keep paying and giving them what they want. Ya know – the green.  The system is going to keep eating itself, like a snake eating it’s tail. Will it ever catch itself? That’s the question that we may or may not ever see the answer to. Until we come up with a better solution than capitalism we have no choice than to hold our lit hundreds up every time some rich person passes with a cigar. Here’s mine – light ’em up. Just don’t tell Mr McDuck the shirts are half off in the club store!

What Is The Value Of The “C?”

Recently, the Edmonton Oilers named the youngest captain in the National Hockey League when they placed the “C” on Connor McDavid’s #97 jersey. Connor McDavid, born on January 13, 1997 – hence the number 97 on his jersey, was 19 years and 266 days old when the announcement was made by the Oilers.

Gabriel Landeskog was the previous record holder when he was named the captain of the Colorado Avalanche at 19 years and 286 days. Before Landeskog, Sydney Crosby was 19 years and 297 days when his “C” was added to the Penguins jersey.

Of course we could keep going with all the others who were before – but that’s not really the point is it?

When most 19-year-olds are handed a leadership position how do they handle it? This isn’t to say that McDavid can’t handle it. Certainly it seems that Landeskog has handled it and Sid the Kid has no doubt handled himself with tons of poise.

However we’ve seen 19-year-old kids in all sports who have struggled with the expectations of living up to their talent much less leading a group of men into the locker room night in and night out. On February 28, 2017 when the Oilers end a six game road trip in St. Louis if they are out of the playoff hunt will he be able to motivate his team to get up for the game? How will he keep the momentum going on that road trip? He has said that he’s not a vocal leader, so does he leave that to his alternate captains?

I’m not doubting that he can be a good captain, he certainly is able to lead on the ice – his talent speaks volumes. I’m sure he can lead on the ice. He puts up goals, assists and points – 48 points in 45 games in his first year.

I wonder though how we value things?  Whether it is our hockey card collection or a new cd or the “C” that we put on someone’s jersey. Things only have value when we give them value. If McDavid gives that cloth letter a value and believes that it is worth something then truly it is worth something. It’s no different from believing that being the captain of our beer league team is the greatest thing in the world – it can be if we truly believe it to be.

We give thoughts, actions, items and even speech value. What is the value of the title of captain? That “C”?   Do you look at McDavid different when he steps on the ice? Do you look at anyone differently because they play hockey? Or because they are an athlete? Are they role models?  Charles Barkley said “I am not a role model.”

If you are a card collector – how can a Gretzky rookie card be worth thousands? Would you be willing to pay that much money for it? For a piece of paper with a picture on it? At one time I would have said I’d pay money for a Gretzky autograph – but what exactly is an autograph? Someone took a pen and scribbled their name on a piece of paper or item.  It’s nothing but some ink that I’ve suddenly given value to.

The same goes for game worn memorabilia or game used items. Why are they valuable? Because they were worn or used?  Is a swatch of a jersey or bat worth that much? How do I even know that it is theirs? Does that athlete even care that they are giving it to me? Does that athlete even care about me?  Take a look at the hockey card collection. Who gives that hockey card collection value? You? Or some magazine that comes out monthly? The guy at the card shop? Someone on Ebay that wants to buy it? If you want to sell it you give it whatever value you want to sell it for. If you want to buy a card with an autograph it’s whatever you want to buy it for. Sure there are magazines out there that will assign a value to a card – but it’s a random arbitrary value. How can it truly be worth that?

But what is value? What is money? How do we define that? If you want to go see Connor McDavid and the Oilers play how much are you going to pay? How do you decide? Are you going to pay x amount? Or are you going to pay x amount for his autograph or jersey or card? What causes us to put value on something? It seems to all come back on what we work for or how we generate value. “We” or “I” generate value. That value that we put on something. That value that we put on that label of the “C.” So if I value the “C” more than McDavid, maybe I’ll wonder why they gave it to him? It’s all in the eye of the beholder – much like beauty.

Reality is amazing when you break it down to simplistic terms, when we break sports or life’s details into the small points it’s all how we look at them. Take for example our pain, joy, experiences, value (of course), memories or dreams. All of these are subjective to ourselves and what we feel. No one can truly know our experiences or how we truly feel inside of us but us. No one can know how deep an emotion or an instance strikes us but us. If I were to go through a situation with you, we may have seen it differently, describe it differently and feel it differently. This is both the joy of being a human and the fatality of being a human. How do we describe a world that our mind colors specifically with our individual being as a target?  Our flaw is ourselves.  Being human is both a curse and a blessing.

As we ponder these things, we must consider young Connor McDavid’s plight. How does he approach other young men in the Oilers locker room? How does he approach older men in the locker room? I would imagine he’s not looking at it from the philosophical side of them seeing the situation from his side versus theirs however I have to wonder what they see in that “C?” Do they see a captain or do they see a 19-year-old? What value do they put in the title of captain?