Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dead Desmond Howard, Waterboarding, and Other Stuff We Probably Shouldn't Tweet About...

I've never particularly been a fan of Scott Torgerson. Yet, when I felt like sports radio on the drive home, if the discussion was at least interesting, I couldn't turn away. The show was fairly entertaining.

Did Torg say stuff that pissed me off? Sure... probably pissed off a lot of other Columbus Blue Jackets fans, too. Among the most notable gems was his Facebook post in which he said the highlight of the particular CBJ loss of the night was Derick Brassard getting his ass kicked.

The Torg was also generally unapologetic about most of the crap he said on air, on social media, and so forth. He also didn't suffer criticism much. Someone who called him out could find themselves blocked, banned or whatever from his page or his Twitter feed. Understandable to a point. There are plenty of people in the media who just block out unpleasantness on Social. Why not? Hell, as much as people slag Aaron Portzline, could you blame him if he blocked everybody under the sun?

But a post on a Social platform like Twitter... well, that tends to be noticed. And even if you delete it, it's still out there.

And unfortunately for The Torg, he messed with the wrong media organization, when he tweeted that he wished Desmond Howard would be terminated or... well, terminated so he could watch Gameday again.

If 97.1 The Fan is not on the ESPN Sports Network, I doubt we're even discussing this. Without the ESPN connection, I bet the Dispatch Broadcast Group (who owns The Fan) would have been pretty forgiving.

After all, not only did a 10TV news anchor keep her job after flipping off the entire viewing audience of whatever interchangeable cop show was airing at the time (with the "10TV Show You Care" graphic over her shoulder, no less)... they made her the station's Director of Community Affairs after she left the anchor desk.

Unfortunately for the Torg... The Fan is part of the ESPN Radio Network. And so is Kirk Herbstreit.

A lot of people in Columbus dismiss Herbstreit as a tool because he has the audacity to be impartial, to criticize the university for Gene Smith's horrific lack of leadership in the Athletics Department, and to generally refuse to kiss Buckeye Nation's ass 24/7. I bet Herbie's picture was already on a few thousand dartboards in Columbus, even before he... *gasp* stuck up for a... a... former MICHIGAN player.

But if Kirk Herbstreit is ripping you on the radio for tweeting something like what The Torg said, you're pretty much screwed.

Such is the nature of Social. You say crap you can't take back. Anything you say can be used against you, if someone digs deep enough. Look at some of the jackasses in Boston who were spewing racial epithets because an OT goal by a black player eliminated the Bruins in the First Round back in April. I'm sure a few of them had the common sense to at least try to cover their tracks, but we all know even the deleted stuff is out there. Immortalized on the Internet.

Caution is the biggest rule... and it's unfortunate that The Torg paid the price. Sure... what he said was pretty terrible, even in jest. I'm pretty sure we've heard worse. It's entirely possible that the only people upset work at ESPN or are member's of Desmond Howard's circle.

I doubt very many people in Columbus were offended or worried for Howard's safety. Like I said, he played for Michigan. I'm pretty sure Buckeye fandom trumps basic human dignity for quite a few people here. I'm sure the masses who flooded The Fan's Facebook post are at the front of that line.

Speech is free... and that's a guaranteed right. There's no guarantee you'll keep your job if you choose to Tweet something that's going to upset people. And there's a damn good chance you're screwed if you work for a media company. And The Torg's unfortunate mistake is that he messed with the wrong media company. That lawsuit he's talking about filing? Okay, good luck with that.

There's a lesson here.

And while I don't work for a media company...

...and while I'm pretty sure most hockey fans wouldn't be too offended by the idea of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr being waterboarded until they lock themselves in a room and get a hockey season going...

...the post in which I propose a 31-arena tour (gotta get those future Brooklyn Islanders fans involved early) in which fans get to see the aforementioned Expletives in Suits undergo said procedure, will more than likely NOT be published in this space.

That is probably something better off saved for my forthcoming book, Bat$#!+ Crazy Stuff I Wrote But Never Published Because Some People Are Kinda Sensitive.

Check back here for the pre-order link on Amazon in about 20 years.

Although if this Lockout goes much longer, that could be much sooner.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Jackets' Salvation Lies Ahead

A godawful season.

The firing of the coach about 25-30 games after it should have happened.

The speculation on the potential trade of the captain.

The bleach-blonde, curled-up-in-the-fetal-position Jeff Carter fiasco that we probably saw coming, yet tried so hard to stay confident anyway.

The actual trade of the captain.

Watching the aforementioned bleach-blonde piece of $#!+ win the Stanley Cup with the L.A. Kings.

Watching the Columbus Blue Jackets lose the Draft Lottery and endure the gloating of Edmonton Oilers fans, whose team had sucked properly for the previous two years, and sucked enough this past year to get into a position to suck luckily as well.

Columbus just hasn't been able to win in the past year-plus. At anything that resembles... well, anything.

However, perhaps for the first time in its otherwise traumatic 11-season existence...

... there is hope.

The Dispatch's Aaron Portzline has alerted the CBJ Twitterati that an announcement on the hiring of former St. Louis Blues president John Davidson would come as early as today.

And it did.

That sound you hear...? Why yes... that is, indeed, a choir of angels.

Every so often in the past few Blue Jackets seasons, we've heard that pesky, elusive concept of "accountability" bandied about in CBJ circles. Reversing the culture of losing by players' being accountable -- to fans, to themselves and to one another.

Something that had been horribly lacking on the ice. Well, the Blue Jackets got rid of that problem when they finally rid themselves of the silent, slouching captaincy of Rick Nash.

Now, accountability is about to come to the front office. If what we're hearing is true, GM Scott Howson is about to be held accountable... by someone who actually has knowledge of the game of hockey.

Decent trade for the Blues' taking Hitchcock (with Howson's permission, I might add)?

Maybe we'll just call that a wash for right now. The most important thing that we know about Davidson is that he engineered one hell of a return to prominence for the St. Louis Blues... and they were quite the mess in the middle of the last decade. Quite comparable to the present mess the Jackets are in right now.

John Davidson is the guy that could save this team. Finally... save this team.

Enough discussing... LET'S GET OUT THERE AND WATCH OUR GUYS GO OUT ON THE ICE AND PLAY SOME HOC-- what...?

Oh. Right.

$#!+.

Columbus just can't win this year.

However, for once... it's only because they aren't allowed to play.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Should Haves... and the Have Nots...

I'm pretty much pissed beyond words. Not like that's ever stopped me from spewing some words anyway.

Friday night was a night that "should have been."

I should've been ducking out of work little bit early. I should have been driving down to Mrs. Martini's workplace to pick her up. We should have been sitting in our seats watching the Columbus Blue Jackets win/lose/go to a shootout/you get the point against the Vancouver Canucks in the home opener. We should have been knocking back pints with our kick ass community of bloggers and hockey at the R Bar. We should have been toasting an unheard-of, unbeaten start for the Blue Jackets, or discussing how maybe the lines just need a little more time to jell with all the new guys on the roster.

We went to a friend's company Halloween party. But this should have been hockey night.

So should Tuesday night when the old nemesis Detroit is in town.

But it wasn't. Because the players don't want to play. And if they do actually want to play, the league doesn't want to negotiate.

Simply put... two organizations, with the word "Hockey" in their names, are keeping hockey from happening.

Think about that a moment. Shouldn't an organization with "Hockey" in its name... be doing more to further the sport?

So, you can understand why someone like me might be more than a little upset.

Not that I don't like office parties. Especially around Halloween. Parties are great.

It's the principle of it all. NHL's 30 teams are supposed to be playing right now, celebrating the world's greatest sport. The problem is that the NHL is headed by a guy who runs the league about as well as Scott Howson runs the Blue Jackets.

And the players union is headed by the Antichrist.

Now, to be honest, I am being a little harsh on Gary Bettman. After all, he has presided over growing revenues ever since the last lockout. The past year even saw a record $3.3 billion in revenue. I don't think anyone could say that any ordinary idiot could do that.

However, I think we can all agree that Gary Bettman is no ordinary idiot.

Suppose you're running a business. A very successful business... maybe not as popular as some others, but you have a loyal following and a fine profit going.

So... suppose some of the staff aren't too happy with what they're getting paid. Maybe there's a little back and forth, but still an impasse. You put forth a proposal that's much closer to a middle ground. They counter with a few alternatives. You don't like them, but do you want to keep that record revenue stream going, or not?

Do you just shut down the whole damn business and not negotiate... leaving your faithful patrons looking for another business to spend their money with in the meantime?

Apparently, if you're Gary Bettman... you do.

And if you're Donald Fehr... well, you kill sports, so no need to waste time.

Neither Gary Bettman nor Donald Fehr is one of us. Bettman would probably never watch hockey if it wasn't part of his job. I seriously doubt Fehr has ever seen a game.

Yet they're still getting paid. What about the Blue Jackets and the other 29 teams in the NHL? With no games, what are they doing? Making decisions that affect livelihoods. People with families. No revenues, no salaries. What's next? Shortened work weeks? Layoffs?

So why are Bettman and Fehr the decision makers here? Why is this how they do business?

Fans has Ice Week to fill the void somewhat this weekend, and that is terrific. Every week si supposed to be Ice Week, though.

We should have been celebrating this weekend. Win or lose.

Instead... we're waiting for a season to start. A season that seems as far away as ever... if it even happens.

And my confidence in that is dwindling.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
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MORE PRE- AND DURING-LOCKOUT COVERAGE
10/18/2012: Puck In The Players' End Today
10/16/2012: Fehr and Loathing... Mostly Loathing

9/16/2012: Box Full Of Letters, Part IV: The NHL and NHLPA... (and if you like, you can mail the Jumble to the NHL and/or the NHLPA, too!)
9/15/2012: Box Full Of Letters (Postcard Edition), Part I: The Columbus Blue Jackets
9/14/2012: No Year's Eve

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Puck In The Players' End Today...

So… great development on Tuesday, as the owners of the NHL's 30 teams (read: Gary Bettman) put a deal on the table offering a 50/50 split of revenues and no initial salary rollback for the players. So the bloated salaries of many of the league's players can stay in place.

Also included, of course, are some free agency rules and stipulations, some stuff like contract lengths and a few other issues that were somewhat contentious, yes, but this deal addresses at least a couple of the core concepts that the players had been seeking in this so-called "negotiation" process.

This deal also comes with the understanding that it needs to be resolved quickly, in order to ensure that the NHL can execute its proposed plan of an 82-game season, slightly compressed to include an extra game every five weeks, and a postseason that would be done by the end of June.

So… your move, Players Association.

Now, before we all go off rejoicing and praising the league about this terrific move they have made and concessions they have made for the sake of the game... let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Yes, the NHL made the first move toward a solution.

Lest we forget, the NHL also made the first move toward the problem. The players didn't strike... the owners locked them out.

Does that make the players the good guys? Oh, hell, no.

I've said it before... there are no good guys here.

Some have been quick to dismiss the NHL's move as a public relations ploy to force the union's hand.

They are 100% right. The key word here is "ploy."

People in the public relations field are often (unfairly) lumped in with the same people who are dismissed as "spin doctors" and "flacks."

However, "public relations" and "spin" are not interchangeable. Public relations is about connection between a company/brand/entity and the public, in a manner that helps open a dialogue between said entity and the public.

The NHL is not connecting with its fans here. Simply put, it is forcing the issue with the NHLPA, via the media. The only "connection" the league is working toward here is its connection to the revenue.

Revenue that we, the fans, provide.

Hockey fans aren't stupid. We've heard all this before.

So should anyone have been surprised that the NHLPA returned serve with, "Well, we'll have a teleconference, and we'll have a counter proposal with 24-48 hours"?

I wasn't.

So, what happens as the NHLPA lays out its counter-proposal today?

Hard to say. You can bet the players aren't crazy about feeling that the league is trying to force their hand in order to get "their deal."

50/50, though? No immediate salary rollback? That's a pretty damn good deal.

We have to expect some pushback today. However, considering that the league made a sizable jump toward the middle in this proposal... maybe... just maybe... we might hear something negotiable today, and we the fans can enjoy the league's vision of an 82-game season, the Winter Classic in Michigan, All Star Weekend in Columbus and a slightly-delayed Playoffs.

Or, maybe it's just a vision.

I don't expect the solution today. But there is time to make this happen.

Hopefully it does.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog 
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MORE PRE- AND DURING-LOCKOUT COVERAGE
10/16/2012: Fehr and Loathing... Mostly Loathing
9/16/2012: Box Full Of Letters, Part IV: The NHL and NHLPA... (and if you like, you can mail the Jumble to the NHL and/or the NHLPA, too!)9/15/2012: Box Full Of Letters (Postcard Edition), Part I: The Columbus Blue Jackets
9/14/2012: No Year's Eve

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fehr And Loathing... Mostly Loathing

Amazing what a Lockout can do....

It can inspire jaw-dropping venomous hate one moment... and uncontrollable, unbridled hate the next.

And you haven't been reading about it here... mostly because I haven't been writing about it here. Why...? Well, let's face it... one can only write about the same jaw-dropping, venomous, uncontrollable and unbridled hate so many times before it gets old. And I'll admit... when it comes to certain issues in hockey -- but especially a Lockout -- I can be a pretty freakin' hateful guy.

So... while this Lockout -- and my ability (so far) to keep my hateful rage in check has been absolute murder on my blog's SEO... if I were constantly bitching about it, that would probably have the same effect.

Even Lewis Black kicks back with an herbal tea once in a while, right?

Still, I can only take a break for so long. I can pretty much count the number of people at my work who know/care about hockey on three fingers. They respectively cheer for the Capitals, Flyers and Predators. Needless to say, between being a fan of the Blue Jackets and Bruins makes for some interesting conversations on occasion... but for the most part, I don't spend time at work ranting about how much this Lockout sucks.

Home? Nope... no sympathy there.

"God has given me a year... let me enjoy it," the Mrs. says to me.

Honey, God gave you a year eight years ago. Sorry, Can't let that happen again.

However, the NHL and NHLPA seem determined to do it.

So... as you read this... you're essentially sitting in on a therapy session -- in which I'm in the chair and on the couch.

Now, to be fair, the, uh... Expletives In Suits are gathering Tuesday to supposedly try to work out some differences. The last couple of meetings have dealt only with "secondary" issues -- things like free agency and drug testing. The latter of which -- if Donald Fehr gets his way -- I'm assuming will mean that performance-enhancing drugs will be allowed to run rampant in hockey the way it has in baseball, and there won't be enough testing to ensure that officials can actually do something about it.

So, essentially thugs can continue doing whatever it is they do with bath salts. Sidney Crosby can up his dose of whatever hormone causes him to actually grow facial hair in the Playoffs.

And so we just wait. All that many of us can do is log in to our ticket plans and watch as those canceled games disappear, watch those payments leave our bank accounts in the hope that the league and the players can shut up, grow up, agree on a couple of numbers and give us something at least close to a full hockey season.

But noooooooo... that'd be too convenient for the Expletives In Suits.

"We want to keep 57 percent."

"Screw you... you're getting 43 percent of a record $3.3 billion."

"Okay, how about we go 54.5 percent, and slowly roll back to 52.3 percent..."

"Screw you... you'll take 46."

And so on, and so forth.

I mean, sure... yay-woo... Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the Fehr brothers are going back to the table.

Is there hope? Sure.

But I'm not holding my breath.

And I'm not sure the Expletives In Suits care. If they did, there would be more, serious negotiation going on instead of the same B.S. we're hearing from both sides.

And unfortunately, the only people we're hearing from are the ones who are part of the problem. Guys like Allan Walsh, who treats followers on Twitter to pro-union propaganda on a daily basis, and rants about how the owners are greedy. Ummmm, okay.

Or how about little Disney Crosby himself... and his "There's their deal and then there's our deal and they want their deal."

Wow, Gary... all that ass-kissing on Crosby over the last seven years, and the face of your league is making you out to be the @$$hole.

Now, don't get me wrong, Gary... he's absolutely right. You are. However, so is he. So is Daly, and so are the Fehr brothers. It's a phenomenon that is firmly on both sides of the table.

And the fans are paying for it. Even worse, business owners who rely on hockey games to drive business to their businesses in the NHL's 30 markets are paying for it.

Bettman's stooge, Bill Daly can say all he wants about how much the league has lost by cancelling the preseason an the first five games of the regular season. He's not in danger of losing his salary. His business made $3.3 billion last year.

He should complain about the NHL's losses to some of the business owners in the Arena District.

To their faces.

And be ready and willing to accept how they react.

And how about the fans who won't come back? You want to talk about losses, Gary?

Remember before the last Lockout, when ESPN The Magazine released "The Ultimate Standings" -- the comprehensive ranking of all the franchises of the Big Four Sports? Remember when the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets were ranked the #1 Fan Experience of all those teams?

Fast forward to the next time ESPN published the list, as the NHL was mired the 2004-05 Lockout. The magazine wrote something to the effect of "a league that would cancel an entire season and do what it did to its fans did not deserve to be a part of the list."

When the NHL did come back... ESPN wouldn't touch the NHL with the proverbial ten-foot pole, and Bettman acted like the NHL didn't need ESPN.

So, he decided to slum it with NBC which some revenue-sharing deal (read: he gave it away because no one else would take it). Between the chronically bad television coverage and being sandwiched between Tribute to Fleetwood Mac on Ice and Professional Bull Riding, the NHL suffered a serious hit to its credibility.

Meanwhile, ESPN continues to give the NHL the middle finger, by making KHL hockey available for hockey fans who need their fix.

So... Dear Expletives In Suits:

Twenty-four of the NHL's 30 teams are in America, guys. America is not by any means a hockey nation. There are a lot of sports (both real and NASCAR) that successfully compete against hockey for the American attention span... and that's when hockey is IN SEASON, gentlemen.

The NHL fan base is a niche market. And fans don't have patience for a sport that has a work stoppage on a regular basis. Screw this up like you did eight years ago... well, you sure as hell won't be fighting over $3.3 billion in revenues again anytime soon.

Find a middle ground, and grow the **** up.

Now.

Follow @MartiniHockey on Twitter....
and/or you can "Like" the blog 
on Facebook....


MORE PRE- AND DURING-LOCKOUT COVERAGE
9/16/2012: Box Full Of Letters, Part IV: The NHL and NHLPA... (and if you like, you can mail the Jumble to the NHL and/or the NHLPA, too!)

9/15/2012: Box Full Of Letters (Postcard Edition), Part I: The Columbus Blue Jackets

9/14/2012: No Year's Eve