Let's Go, Um, 'Canes!?It's 1PM and I'm on a flight from Raleigh-Durham to Baltimore, a hockey city to a city with no professional sports teams. Okay, the Orioles and the Ravens, but I'd hardly call them professional. Even when the Ravens were good, I couldn't forgive them for beating my Giants in the Super Bowl. And for employing an accessory to murder, but that's another story for another time.
Watching local news about the Carolina Hurricanes while it rained due to a real hurricane got me thinking more about team names. Every time a commentator mentioned the word "Hurricane" the names Katrina, Rita, and Wilma went through my head before the names Rod, Oleg, and Frantisek.
Why do we name our teams after natural disasters? I know that the idea is to be intimidating, but there's a much more tasteful way to go about it. The Texas Tornado, California Quake, and Colorado Avalanche are all guilty of trading taste for intimidation. At least the Brookyln Cyclones were named after the roller coaster, which, well, traded taste for intimidation.
Imagine if you played for the Frankfurt Hindenburg or the Southampton Titanic. You wouldn't, because we don't usually name our teams for man-made distasters. No one plays for the Chernobyl Meltdown or the Alaska Exxon-Valdez. (Though we do have the Senators, named for the root of many man-made disasters).
I look around. There's no team named "The Water Landing" or "The Sudden Loss in Cabin Pressure" because people are sensitive about that. But for some reason, we're not sensitive about disasters when they're natural.
Let's say you were displaced from Katrina and were staying with family in Raleigh-Durham. Would you attend a Hurricanes game? Or would you do everything you could to avoid hearing and reading about them?
There are many more intimidating things in the world that don't evoke trauma. But we don't need intimidation. Remember when teams were named for local pride? The Milwaukee Brewers. The Green Bay Packers. The Pittsburgh Steelers. The New Jersey Devils. Things like that.
We could start a revolution in marketing. Why are there no Indianapolis Racers? No Detroit Motors? No Seattle Needles? (Not the kind Kurt Cobain used, either) Imagine the pride playing for the Chicago Deep Dishes as they take on the Phoenix Dry Heats. Or the natural rivalry between the Hollywood Actors and the Los Angeles Waiters. I'm just saying if Dallas can have Cowboys and Toronto can have Maple Leafs then San Francisco can have The Bridge and San Diego can have The Zoo.
So what would I rename the Hurricanes? First, I'd start referring to them as the 'Canes. Then I'd have to think about what Raleigh-Durham is known for. Colleges? Tobacco? I don't imagine the Carolina Finals or the Raleigh Lung Cancer would draw too many fans. But as I'm told to turn off my laptop and stow my tray table, it hit me - name them for the most intimidating thing of all. Something Raleigh-Durham has all too many of.
"Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the RBC Center, home of the Carolina Flight Attendants. Please make sure your seats are upright."
Now that's a team I can watch.
Oh, puck! (or the crowd goes wild)After last week, I can say there has never been a more aptly named team than the Minnesota Wild.
The Canadiens, well, play in Canada. The Senators spent their first few years doing nothing. The Rangers range in age from 35-50. The Blues have often been singing it, the Ducks have often been sitting, and the playoff exits for the Flyers have often been frequent. But games in Minnesota are Wilder than ever.
Tim Pawlenty is the Governor of Minnesota and a huge hockey fan. He has never made a secret of his devotion to hockey, and thus was one of the perfect choices for the Wild's guest announcers. There's a tradition there to bring in a special guest to start the game. But last week, things were a little too special.
The script read, "It's time to drop the puck. So everybody say it with me - 'Let's play hockey!'"
But Pawlently got a little too into it and said something that rhymes with puck. And it wasn't a dollar, the mighty team in Anaheim, or a way to de-husk an ear of corn.
The rest of the arena wanted to say, "Let's play hockey!" But they were too busy saying, "Holy Hit!"
I don't fault Pawlently for screwing up. It was an honest mistake, and one he certainly didn't intend. I also doubt anyone in attendance who was able to hear what happened had never heard the word before. But one question still remains - how come Minnesota keeps electing such colorful governors? I bet Jesse Ventura is steaming right now, trying to figure out how he can curse in front of thousands and thousands of spectators. I mean, now that the XFL is over.
When the Northstars moved to Dallas, I was glad they were renamed. I never felt it made sense to have Cardinals in Phoenix, Jazz in Utah, or Dodgers in Los Angeles. I was confused that they moved, considering how nuts Minnesota is about hockey, but it's happened before. When the Dodgers moved to LA they were the most profitable team in sports.
I was happy to see Minnesota get a new pro team. And I was happier to see it have a unique name: The Wild. Instead of following baseball's tradition of obscure animals (the Devil Rays? Really? Was that the best you could do?). But what was so wild about Minnesota? I've been there. In describing it, I'd use the words "pleasant" and "lovely" long before "wild." But the Minnesota Lovely doesn't have the same ring.
I'm glad that Minnesota named the team "Wild" after all, if for nothing other than the headlines that came out of this game. Almost as much as I am glad they have skywalks when I'm there during one of their cold months. You know, all of them.
I don't even care what happened in the game. The Wild could lose the rest of the season and I'd still be talking about them. Because, well, their games are now officially Wild.
They're all winners, except the losers
I know in my heart that the Rangers aren't good. But I still hope they win. My hope springs eternal, always. Because I'm a sports fan. And sports fans are idiots.
The 1-1-2 Rangers lost three games in a row by just one goal. Two of those in OT. All three involved the Rangers blowing at least one lead. But all I see is that only two teams in the league have more points than they do. And I get excited by that. If the season ended today, the Rangers would make the playoffs. Do you know how exciting it would be to watch them lose in the postseason instead of just normally?
My team (isn't good) and I'm okay with that. But that won't stop me from cheering, because I'm convinced that maybe one day they'll stop (losing). Blues fans know what I mean. 0-3 means nothing this early in the season. Of course, 20-43-11 means a lot -- but to Chicago fans. That's their record from 2004, but they're supposed to be much better this year. And they are -- they're 1-2.
At this pace, the Rangers would finish the season 20-20-40. Well, roughly. Maybe those last two games would be forfeited due to the entire team leaving to catch the early bird special and watch Matlock. Or maybe we'll give them the two wins because they storm back to the Garden and win, after being inspired by the fine acting of one mister Andy Griffith.
22-20-40 is 84 points, which is not good enough to make the playoffs. Two games over .500 shouldn't be good enough to make the playoffs (I'm looking at you, San Diego Padres). But it happens more often than you'd think. In 2003, the Islanders made it with 83 points. In 1999, Anaheim, San Jose, and Edmonton made it with 83, 80, and 78 points respectively (just not respectably). And in 1998, four teams with fewer than 84 points made it. And two of 'em even made it past the first round!
So why can't the Rangers make it this year? Didn't you see, with all that hard proof, that it's possible? My favorite teacher ever once said that figures don't lie but liars use figures. It's true. I bet I could even use stats to prove why Marty McSorley was never a goon.
I'm kidding. I could never prove that.
But the point is that I'm rooting despite how bad the Rangers are. At least my (adopted) Kings are showing some life. They've got four points, too, but they're from a 2-1 record including a comeback OT win over the Wild. Of course, Wild fans will use that loss to show that they only lost by one to a team that's been playing well. Even Blues fans will use numbers, saying that three early losses only means something in football and the playoffs. Though if St. Louis keeps losing like this, the Blues are more likely to play professional football than they are to reach the post season.
Which would be great if you're a Houston Texans fan. The Texans would finally have someone they could beat.
To work, or not to workThe fun thing about being a vocal sports fan is that people offer me tickets constantly. I got first dibs to see the Yankees play the Braves in the 1996 World Series. I saw the Giants outscore the Vikings 41-0 en route to the Super Bowl in 2000. And my friend, uber-Ranger fan Dov (You'll probably hear more about him as the season progresses), even gave me a seat to see the Rangers take the Islanders down in their own Coliseum.
Rangers vs. Islanders. I love those games.
I flew into St. Louis last week to do a show at St. Louis University, aptly located in St. Louis. (As opposed to my show at Miami University, which was in Ohio). At the airport I got a call -- Dave Carlow, the man behind the Funny Bone Comedy Club and the impending SLU show offered me an extra ticket to the Blues game. Hell yeah I wanted to go; pre-season is when you get to see the scrubs. I love watching scrubs mix it up with the big guys. (Maybe that's why I like watching Rangers vs. Islanders).
The Blues were playing the Dallas Stars, but my show started at 8:00 and the game started at, well, 8:00. Crap. I thanked Dave told him leave a ticket for me at will call so I could meet him at the Savvis Center in time for third period.
It didn't take me forever to find parking but only because I never found parking. By the time I'd looped around the block, the game was letting out. And this wasn't just fans leaving early to beat the traffic. I missed the game. I never miss a game.
I'm the guy that shows up early to watch the players skate. I'm the guy that beats traffic by waiting for everyone ELSE to leave. I'm the guy that doesn't eat or go to the bathroom during play because I don't want to miss anything. Which makes me the guy that gets really hungry and sits with his legs crossed, but I do it for my team.
Or I was that guy, before I had a career. I'm not a kid anymore, and I work nights. It's getting HARD to see games live.
Last weekend I was back in NYC, in a hotel room at 1:30 in the morning. And the Rangers vs. Islanders game I missed while doing a show that night was being replayed. I already knew the Rangers lost. (Sorry for the spoiler if you TiVoed it). But I watched the game anyway, and still got angry every time the Islanders scored. I admit that last part is a bit ridiculous, but I am still THAT guy.
I am writing this an hour before my Rangers open their season against the Flyers, and two hours before my Kings do the same against the Stars. Can I watch either game live? No. I'm about to leave for three shows at the Laugh Factory. My final show ends around midnight -- by the time I get back, even Coyotes v. Canucks will be over. The good news is I can watch Sportscenter twice before I go to sleep.
I need TiVo.