Saturday, December 31, 2016

No, Urban, As A Matter Of Fact, You Can't Sit With Us... Unless...

[AN OPEN LETTER TO OSU HEAD FOOTBALL COACH URBAN MEYER]

Hey, Coach:

Saw your note on Twitter Friday:


"All aboard!" "Woohoo!" "Urban Meyer is jumping on the CBJ Bandwagon!" "Everyone's liking and retweeting it!" "The Era of Buckeye Nation's sports snobbery is over!"

"Here comes Coach Meyer to climb onto the bandwa--"

WHOA, NOW... hold on just a sec there, toolbox....

There's something we need to discuss first.

It's all well and good that you're pandering your influence as always to the Scarlet & Gray sheeple of Buckeye Nation.

I have no issue with that... that's your job.

And the above proclamation on Twitter is appreciated. I'm sure you feel it's genuine, and Buckeye Nation accepts it as such.

But some previous words you've said about the sports culture here in Columbus...

... well...



...have not always been so kind.

Or accurate. Or responsible.

Or even intelligent, for that matter.

That little gem is a snippet from your interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about recruiting in the South.

Yes, the Columbus Blue Jackets have struggled. There's no arguing that professional sports have indeed struggled in Columbus -- in performance, attendance, or both. Many of them were minor-league ventures -- such as the quite successful Columbus Chill, and the not-so-hot Ohio Glory of the World League of American Football.

However, surely you can understand how this statement to the Journal-Constitution might not sit well with fans of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew SC (not a "Big Four" sport, but still a successful and growing league... the Crew won a title, I might add) and the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in a "Big Four" sport... and yet you just now acknowledge them.

Yes, Coach, there are indeed professional sports in Columbus. I would almost wager that the Blue Jackets have probably even hosted you on a couple of occasions in a suite, a box or in some VIP capacity, like they do for other local celebrities.

But yeah, how nice of you to notice now.

Now, to be clear, I do not presume to speak for every Blue Jackets fan who is been with this team from the beginning... or any of them, for that matter.

However, take a look behind the bandwagon. I'm sure someone in that line of cars behind it has a seat you can occupy for awhile.

I'm willing to be reasonable, though.

Now, your statement -- aside from being inaccurate, irresponsible and frankly, quite stupid -- was also pretty offensive and dismissive.

It also illustrates, encourages, and reinforces the belief among the lunatic fringe of Buckeye Nation that Columbus needs nothing else in the realm of sports. It's the same reasoning behind radio hosts getting nasty phone calls from Buckeye fans, wondering why they're talking about hockey when it's football season.

There are quite a few mouth-breathers in Buckeye Nation whose lives, moods, relationships and blood-alcohol level absolutely revolve around Buckeye football, and God help anyone who disagrees with them.

Hell, imagine the crap that Dom Tiberi would take from Buckeyes fans if the Buckeyes didn't lead sports on any given night. They're almost worse than NASCAR fans, if NASCAR was a sport.

So... if you'd like to join the bandwagon... all you have to do is print out and sign this statement, and send it to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Columbus Dispatch. Hey, you can post it on Twitter, if you like... that's pretty public, too.


Obviously, you've got other stuff going on tonight and next week, but there's plenty of hockey season left after next week's championship. So, you have time.

Good luck tonight.

Cheers,
Martini

For regularly unscheduled foolishness, follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter and Instagram....

A Date With History...

One of the most anticipated hockey matchups of the season is taking place tonight on New Year's Eve.

One of the teams involved is the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Okay, show hands... who saw it coming?

You are all liars.

And so am I, because I am also holding up my hand.

But this is real... the Columbus Blue Jackets are defending a 14-game winning streak on the road in the Xcel Energy Center, against a Minnesota Wild team that has won 12 straight.

The NHL app tells me this is the free game tonight. A pretty good idea, really, because this is one game that a lot of people should be watching, regardless of where they are.

On the surface, it is a battle between the two expansion teams who joined the league in October 2000, and each has had different paths to success.

Minnesota took a mere three years before making the postseason for the first time -- interestingly enough, making its deepest playoff run in franchise history, losing in the Western Conference Finals that year. In all, they've made the postseason seven times in their first 15 years in the NHL, including the last four straight.

The Jackets? Well... like I said, these two teams have had different paths to success.

Columbus didn't make the playoffs until its eighth outing, and then waited another five years to return, which yielded one hell of a playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which the Jackets managed a 2-2 series tie before dropping the series in six.

But it raised the bar, and showed that maybe the Jackets had finally arrived. But then the Season of Injury reared its ugly head, and then the Season of Insult.

Now here we are, going into the 35th game of the Season of No Expectations... and the "brick by brick" approach touted by the CBJ's front office, is throwing a brick through the plate glass window of the NHL.

There's so much credit to go around. Everyone outside of Columbus pretty much gave the
Blue Jackets a snowball's chance in hell this year. Those who watched camp in Columbus, however, could sense a difference in the team and its training regimen. A lot of skating drills. A lot of chasing. A lot of focus on transitional game.

And even some players on their knees because they were absolutely gassed.

But look what the Jackets have don, especially in third periods this year, even when they're tied or down. Maybe a bad period. Or two, And somehow managed to find the will to make stuff happen.

So, a lot of credit for that goes to the Tortorella system, and his ability to instill a game-by-game approach infused into the culture. If the Jackets keep this up, I don't see the Jack Adams voting being even close.

And to think -- though I could never say it at the time but anyone who knows me knows this -- I hated this hire when it happened.

Given, it was based on his tenure in Vancouver and his last few years in New York.

Hell, even if you hate the guy now... can you argue with the results?

Just the other night, Nick Foligno matched his goal total from all of last year. His resurgence has been a key part of this team, silencing any questions about whether he should have been the first Blue Jackets player to wear the "C" since Captain Quit left town.

The Jackets suddenly look good at center, which was a huge concern when they traded away Ryan Johansen last year for Seth Jones. However, the CBJ have seen some good work from the likes of Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg, who is having a whale of a season, sitting among the leaders in the league in assists with 24.

Dubinsky and Boone Jenner aren't seeing a lot of return on the score sheet at this point... but look at how they're playing. It's only a matter of time.

Cam Atkinson has just been Cam Atkinson.

Brandon Saad has been Brandon Saad.

Scott Hartnell, though not on pace for that 28-goal season he had a couple years back, has proven that he is still a force to be reckoned with on the ice. That hat trick against Pittsburgh... damn, how can you not love that guy...?

And the youth movement on this team is just insane.

Fresh off a Calder Cup championship with the then-Lake Erie Monsters, Josh Anderson, Lukas Sedlak and Zach Werenski have found a fit on this roster. Werenski has actually generated legitimate Calder Trophy talk, so that maybe Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine aren't the only guys getting noticed this year.

And then... we come to Sam Gagner. If there was a "Best Buy" award in hockey... this dude would run away with it. Picked up at the league minimum, and has already left last season's stats in the dust, and is well on pace for a career year.

Experts look at the Blue Jackets season so far, and forecast that at some point, all this is going to drop off. This kind of success is unsustainable, they say. The shooting percentage is unsustainable. The power play is unsustainable. This record is unsustainable.

Well, not yet.

Wherever these two teams finish come April… this game is one for the ages.

Tonight should be a "two-screener" in a lot of Columbus households, since there's some football game on tonight, as well. Hell, Kirk Herbstreit already said he'll have the GameCast on hockey on his phone, while calling the football game.

The first time in league history that two teams have met with winning streaks of at least 12 games. In the NHL's centennial year.

And as I mentioned before, one of those teams is the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Freakin' New Year.

For regularly unscheduled foolishness, follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter and Instagram....

I Won't Call It Unretirement, But...

Okay... my use of the word "retirement" before was probably a tad strong.

I blame it on my mother. My mom didn't actually stay retired until her third try. She has always had to do something. Even now she works part-time.

I guess I'm always going to want to do something involving writing about, providing analysis about, yammering on a podcast about... hell, I don't know. Something involving hockey.

Damn you and your work ethic, mom.

The fact is, writing has always been a bit of a cleansing for me. Free writing, anyway. Obviously, as I work in marketing at my day job, there's definitely some writing involved, whether it's specific content for promotional purposes or just communicating with clients and vendors and so forth.

But this? This is fun. When I do it for work, it's in someone else's voice, and someone else's business.

This is just silly, irreverent me, talking about a sport I love, and some of you are kind enough to read it. I have always appreciated that, and still do.

Call it "idle hands," or whatever... this thing is what it has always been: Yammering about hockey, offering honest analysis, with a touch of snark but with love for the world's greatest sport, tucked into every word.

Just once in awhile when something exciting happens... or something pisses me off. No snoozer backstory about why decided to do this some more.

(Oops... I guess the snoozer backstory was in the first few paragraphs... my bad)

Just me. And if you're reading this right now... so, thank you. On to more shenanigans.

For regularly unscheduled foolishness, follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter and Instagram....

Friday, October 9, 2015

Last Call

"Being a writer sucks. Every day of your life, you have homework."
-- Hank Moody, Californication

I don't actually feel this way... I just thought it was a damn funny line.

I actually love writing. I've spent more than half my life doing it creatively or professionally (in some form or another), as my career began in journalism. From the middle of high school, I've been involved in newspapers, magazines and then settled into radio and television.

Although writing news is not nearly as fun as writing for... well, for fun... it was a living. However, there's very little room for creativity, and when you're working overnights, your only shot at anything really new in the morning comes from either godawful weather or the fatal accident/murder du jour from police scanners.

But, the bills got paid and the lights stayed on.

It was when I got out of the business and moved over into public relations and marketing communications that I rediscovered what I liked about writing. Convincing people that something was relevant and positive, and had an actual impact -- instead of the sensationalized fear mongering of television -- just felt better.

So, in the summer of 2007, in my first post-news job, I got to write a piece for a tourism industry publication on Columbus having just recently hosted the NHL Draft, and how officials hoped to eventually build on that success to get the NHL All-Star Game.

And that's when it hit me: I could... write about hockey...? REALLY?

So I started looking at outlets, and along the way, I found ColumbusSports.com ... I think it was through this newfangled thing called Twitter that I had recently jumped on to figure out what the fuss was about. They were looking for a hockey writer. So I did that. Then I started coming up with a bunch of ideas, and discussing games and since the NHL plays a lot more often than most other sports leagues, I was thinking to myself that if I put all this stuff together, I could be taking up a whole bunch of space on a site that was about all Columbus sports. And there's more to Columbus than hockey, right?

I mean, it's pretty arrogant to think there's only one sport worth talking about in this town, right?

So, a little over seven years ago... I launched this silly little venture, at the address tootoobites.blogspot.com (still the original, heh-heh), and continued to write for both platforms for awhile. After some months, this became my main blogging gig.

So, my first big shout-out goes to Brian White at Columbus Sports for giving me that opportunity to bring hockey to the site and then occasionally cross-promote my additional yammering on the side.

And it has been a fun ride. I approached it as part-hobby/creative outlet, and part job. Sometimes, I thought of it as too much of the latter, especially during the years of freelance and temp work... which inevitably led to tension and stress in the ol' personal life. Yeah, I suppose figuring out a way to monetize this thing probably would have made that a little easier.

And I don't mean responding to the spammers who wanted to put subliminal links in my stuff.

So when my current full-time job came into the picture a few years ago, I knew keeping up with this stuff was going to be a challenge. Not to mention that this thing became the "third gig," behind my "Clark Kent job" in digital marketing and side job as an adjunct professor at a business school. Then there's the whole "co-parenting a pack of dogs" thing. So... guess that's the "fourth gig," then...?

There are only so many hours in the day, and one can only get away with so much sleep deprivation without something falling short.

In that respect... I have been mostly responsible these last couple years, so that this gig was what suffered.

The problem is... I'm a horrific perfectionist when it comes to my writing. Even game recaps had to have something that at least I would find entertaining in them (wait... writers have egos? Naaaaaaahhhh). Otherwise they're just placeholders in between other stuff where I would put in "work of art" effort... or at least publish after deciding, "Okay, another 15 minutes of revision and tightening... just break out this 5-Hour Energy in the box marked "In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass and Chug Like a Mofo."

That's not to say I've necessarily written anything here that was a "work of art," but there is some stuff on here that I'm very proud to have written. If I ever thought to pursue this as a career, I would probably consider a handful of posts on here among my finest work.

Maybe just a palmful? Couple fingers...?

I digress.

Game wrap-ups... random observations... or some issue would set me off on a rant from a soapbox. Or something would come to me because I was just in a snarky mood and figured I'd write something funny... even if it was funny only to me.

That may have  happened more often than not.

So the next shout-out goes to those who returned to this site after some of my stranger pieces... I appreciate your patience.

So, with all of the above in mind... it's a good time to hang up the poison pen.

Just the poison one, though.

This space was always meant to be an outlet -- a place where I could in one moment provide quality analysis and insight; provide a twist of humor to take the sting out of the rough patches of the seasons in another moment; or just spout off about weird stuff, silly stuff or something that just pissed me off in yet another moment.

I still do -- and I'm sure I still will -- get ideas that I think could be great pieces. However, my age-related wisdom indicates some of those ideas will just sound better in my head.

Yep... finally, at 40... Martini is growing up

"Acidic Wit, Alleged Wisdom" was a slogan I used on this space for awhile... a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that I could be snarky and preachy about hockey -- sometimes simultaneously -- but I didn't (nor should anyone else) take myself too seriously.

And I appreciate the fact that those who have visited, returned and left feedback -- even if it was to bust my pucks over something -- were so supportive. I'd look at traffic, analytics and pageviews like anyone else with a website, but honestly, I was happy if ten people read something I wrote. Ecstatic if a post hit triple digits.

Most of all, I wanted it to be fun, and I wanted it to convey the excitement I feel every time I turn on a game... or better yet, take my seat and see the Columbus Blue Jackets take that ice... whether it's tonight at Opening Night, or any night henceforth.

So I'm going to do that now... just without the snark, and without the venom.

And not here, where I write behind a handle... that's what Twitter is for. I can keep my misbehavior to 140 characters or fewer.

It's time to go back to my writing roots and put my name on something I can occasionally send to my mother... who swears her hometown newspaper has been awful since I left for grad school nearly 18 years ago (yes, she's incredibly biased).

I don't recall ever sending her anything I've written here. Heaven help me, I'm not sure what she'd say if she ever read the piece I wrote about Boomer.

All told, I have thoroughly enjoyed running this little rogue corner of the CBJ blogging community.

So to all the writers I've met, bonded and clinked glasses with, and who have shared kind words about my work, a huge thanks. Your feedback and friendship over the years has meant and continues to mean a lot to me.

To Matt Pfeffer, the CBJ Artillery and the force behind WeAreThe5thLine.com... a huge thanks for the opportunity to contribute content and be part of continuing to grow something really exciting here in our hometown.

Finally, a huge thanks to you for stopping by and reading this stuff over the last seven-plus years. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

So as I've said since it all began: "If it's a Hockey Hour, it's a Happy Hour."

And the next one is getting underway. Here's to our team, and here's to you.

Go Jackets!

Cheers,
Martini