I would love to know the Deep State machinations behind the Washington Capitols games being televised more than all the other NHL teams combined. You only get to see a team if they play the Caps. It’s weird. In fact, right now I’m watching the Washington Capitols vs the Washington Capitols. I knew this would happen.
Montreal Canadiens are having their worst season in seventy eight years. Pretty cool when you have to dig that deep into history to find out how lousy you are. There might be no one alive who can say, in French, you think these guys are merde? You shoulda been here in 1938….
From a Brick’s Picks, 2010….one of the great things about writing for the LA Weekly is that they let me write whatever the hell I wanted. No one there knew anything about jazz so they couldn’t tell if I was telling the truth or not, and they knew less about hockey. (I remember a copy editor thought Stanley Cup was a guy.) I never actually went to the office and almost no one knew who I was or even what I looked like, which made me all the more unapproachable. So if I said I flew to Vancouver for the Eric Dolphy Parade and a hockey riot broke out, who was going to argue….
When we heard that the city of Vancouver planned to commemorate both Eric Dolphy’s birthday and the Canucks’ Stanley Cup championship with a bass clarinet parade we made plans to be there. The game was a hard fought massacre. After someone’s grandmother put the last goal into the Vancouver net the mood began to get ugly. We slipped outside to get a good spot for the parade. But the mood on the street was just as ugly, and getting uglier. Not an ideal jazz crowd. Around the corner you could hear several hundred bass clarinets either tuning up or playing one of Dolphy’s more outside pieces. The cacophony grew louder as the parade came up the street. In a remarkable display of civic counterpoint the crowd chanted Bruins Suck! Suddenly one of the musicians broke ranks and swinging his bass clarinet like a hockey stick broke half a dozen windows. The other musicians followed, hundreds of them, smashing windows with their bass clarinets and wreaking havoc. The crowd went nuts, breaking windows, chanting, burning, looting. Fistfights broke out everywhere. This was not the true jazz spirit. We fled back to the limo, made a beeline for the airport, and got to LA in time for the third set at Charlie O’s. Soothed by the hard bop and a couple whiskeys, we stole the waiter’s pen, grabbed a stack of cocktail napkins and wrote this column.
Been rooting for the San Jose Sharks for a couple of play off rounds now, an odd thing for an L.A. Kings fan, but I figured it’d be cool to have all three California teams as Stanley Cup champions. So I was hoping the Sharks would win this sixth game of the series at home and skate with the Cup in Pittsburgh. Sharks were good too, very good, and Joe Thornton, the geezer with the vast and hideous beard, was a force of nature. But it wasn’t enough, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the best team, again. Now I can go back to loathing the Sharks this fall like a good Kings fan. In the meantime, I can stop hating the same stupid commercials every game and forget all about hockey all summer.
Now where’s that Slap Shot DVD?
Still, I couldn’t relinquish the hockey season just yet and watched the Pens long victory celebration in the hushed and mostly empty Shark Tank. Most of the Shark fans had already moped out to the parking lot and headed dejectedly home. In the near silence you could hear almost everything the Penguin players said as they took turns skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup, and it occurred to me that this is the only time you will ever hear ‘fucking A’ shouted on television over and over in French, Russian, Finnish, Swedish and assorted central European accents. Finally the cup gets passed on to the assistant coaches, then the equipment managers, the physical therapists, the front office people and on down to the lowliest members of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. The towel boy nearly topples over when it’s finally his turn with the trophy, but he rights himself, gains his footing, and skates round the ice holding tightly onto the Stanley Cup. He looks fifteen years old and there he is, desperately clinging to a trophy nearly as big as he is, feeling deep down that he had somehow earned that cup too. He’d done his part. He was there with the towels when the players needed them. It wasn’t much, he knew that, but still there he was, spinning around that deeply rutted ice surface for a minute or two with the greatest sports trophy in the world. As he comes round an ESPN reporter is interviewing the great Sydney Crosby. Fucking A, the towel boy yells, unnoticed by anyone on the ice but clearly audible to everyone watching on TV.
A couple seasons ago I dropped by a local spot called Jax to see the Eldad Tarmu Quartet. He plays the vibes, and I’d come across his great Aluminum Forest in the local record shop for two bits, so I was thrilled to see them at Jax just down the street and over the river in Glendale. As the band was setting up the television behind the stage was showing a Kings game. The bartender had forgotten to switch it off and as Eldad & Co. went into some crazily tempo’d piece I continued watching the game behind them. It was a perfect soundtrack. I had always suspected it, and had watched games soundlessly at home with jazz on the stereo, but here was live proof. At one point it was four-on-four on the ice that matched the four players on stage who, just for a moment, were actually trading fours. I watched astonished. Eventually the bartender switched the television off and I concentrated on the actual performance. But man, the energy of small group bop and hockey was such a perfect fit, at least to this addled mind. Hell, it was beautiful.
(Super Bowl Sunday, 2014)
Saw an incredible hockey game yesterday morning. Back and forth, until they piled up a five-five tie and a frenzied overtime finished it off with a terrific Caps goal. Detroit slunk off, so close but so far. I love hockey, and that was a game, man, that was a game. No pathetic blow out. No horseshit music at halftime. No insanely expensive commercials. Just two hockey teams playing like their lives depended on it while the audience sat on the edge of their seats.
Some sports are real. And some sports have degenerated into show biz.
This isn’t the kind of thing you’re supposed to talk about on Linked-In. But they were. A site that’s all about business and commerce and ratings and climbing up the ladder, and everybody is talking about the Super Bowl, and especially about the commercials. Sports as seen through commercials. Or maybe commercials as sports. I know there was actual sports involved. There were two teams and a cloud of Astroturf dust. Apparently, on LinkedIn, that was incidental to the real action, the commercials. I thought about the hockey I’d seen the day before. Those teams showed up on that ice yesterday to play a hockey game. These teams seemed to show up at the Super Bowl to sell Budweiser and Doritos. What was the score, 43-8? That’s not even a contest, not even pretending to be. That’s just a bunch of guys running around a field to fill in time between commercials. And I didn’t even watch the game. I read about the commercials in the news. In fact I read about the commercials before they were even aired. Somehow people have made a contest out of the commercials. There was pre-game debate about who would have the best commercial. Stop and think about that.
Or stop and think about this: “The ad touched the depths of my soul,” says Char B., a middle school language-arts teacher from Livonia, Michigan, on LinkedIn. “Nothing reaches raw emotion like the love of animals.”
A beer commercial touched the depths of her soul.
The Maple Leafs’ rookie Auston Matthews, 19 years old, played his first NHL game yesterday, scored on his first shot, scored on his second shot (after skating his way through all five Ottawa Senators), and then scored on his third shot. Hat trick. He then added another goal. Four goals in a rookie’s debut game, an NHL record. He was scoreless in the third period, however, a career slump that hurt the Leafs being that none of them could put anything in the net themselves, nor their goalie keep anything out, and the Senators won 5-4. Matthews looks like a young Wayne Gretzky, the Toronto Maple Leafs looked like, well, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Watching a hockey game on ESPN–a rare thing, hockey on ESPN–and an ad for an upcoming New Orleans Saints game is on and I immediately recognize the vamp to the old Skids song The Saints Are Coming. Wow. I loved that song, but it’s ancient history. It’s quickly obvious that it’s not the Skids, though. Google said it might be U2 and Green Day doing a limp rock star rendition some years ago. Well, Google didn’t say limp, I said limp. But it was. Or maybe it is some ESPN only version. I have no idea. I just thought it was bizarre hearing a Skids tune that was utterly unknown in the US back in the day in an NFL ad. Now somebody will tell me they play it every time the New Orleans Saints play and that everybody knows that except me. Life is so bewildering when you never watch football. Drop the puck already.
Anyway, Team USA was beaten by the Kazakhstani Paralympic team and have now gone home to earn millions and millions of dollars.
(Jan. 29, 2014)
CeeLo was the opening act at the Islanders-Rangers game at Yankee Stadium just now. The silence, I kid you not, was deafening. You could hear absolutely nothing from the stands. Nothing. It was like no one was there. He’s doing this ridiculous little light pop number with these three dancing ladies in spooky black lacy wings or something prancing behind him, and he’s pleading with the audience. I can’t hear you! he pleads. Let’s make some noise! Complete silence. You could see the despair in his eyes. They cut to a commercial after a minute and a half.
It was the most disastrous performance I can ever remember seeing on television. It was hysterical. If he doesn’t do better at the period break there’ll be a network executive’s head rolling down a corridor somewhere in Manhattan before the game ends. They’ll be kicking it around like it’s the World Cup.
Hell, man, they might as well have had Lawrence Welk. Absolutely clueless. This is hockey. You have either hard rap or hard rock. Period. That’s all. You can have dippy music at the Super Bowl….half the people are only watching it for the commercials anyway. But this is hockey. Only hockey fans are watching. And hockey fans don’t want CeeLo croaking a ballad with weird zombie waifs flitting around behind him. Give them Metallica or Run DMC next time and then drop the fucking puck.
The best part of this was that probably a million or so people in the Greater New York metropolitan area just saw that.
More cocaine to the green room, please.
Forty minutes later. CeeLo’s back, it’s uptempo this time, they’re rapping, his dancers are freezing their thighs off, and either the people are digging it or they’re trying to revive circulation in frozen limbs. Maybe both. I hear cheering. There goes the hallway soccer game. No, someone actually there assures me on Facebook, it’s game on. That is booing you’re hearing. Lots and lots of booing. Perhaps the frigid air is doing weird things to the harmonics and the boos sound like cheers. Whatever,he says, they’re boos. You can see CeeLo crying on the JumboTron. The poor thing. Hockey fans are so insensitive. Incidentally, you could house a family of six comfortably under CeeLo’s full length fur coat.
Eighty minutes later. Beatlemania, good God. This is hockey ferchrissakes. What would Gordie Howe say?
One hundred twenty minutes later. Goddamn Rangers win, 2-1. That’s what the Islanders get for playing in the Bronx.
Of course the Kings got skunked in their outdoor extravaganza and they were playing in Los Angeles. Dodger stadium is beautiful this time of year. Sometimes we even have winter.
Found a copy of Blood on the Ice on my nightstand. I’m thrilled. It’s the Slap Shot of hockey writing. Hockey in the seventies, before it was full of grace and Europeans and skills. It was a Canadian game, then. Putting on the foil. Old time hockey. Eddie Shore. Dead history, alright. I didn’t even know I had the book. I’ve never read it. I’ve read Ira Gitler’s book on Be Bop, which is essential for a jazz fan, perfect, but never his Blood on the Ice, which is essential for a hockey fan. That’s what happens when I leave anything on my nightstand. It’s because I fall asleep instantly. People who fall asleep instantly have no idea of what secret treasures lie just inches from their snoring head. Insomniacs have their nightstands memorized. Their ceilings too. And every minute of the day that just passed. And everything they ever could have done in their entire lives but didn’t. People who sleep all night wake up refreshed, their minds swept clean by deep REM sleep. Insomniacs sip their morning coffee, haunted, and wonder if they should call that old girl friend they had tossed and turned about all night, and if she would remember him, and if she would sleep with him, or if she would call the police.