April 29, 2011

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part Three: Lightning v. Capitals

We now move to the Eastern conference semi-finals, not because we want to, but because we must start what we've finished. I've noticed some nice blog stats, so thank you, Poland! Without further ado (and a tonne of embedded pictures and links to break up the dense parts)....kumate!

What's Lightning?
Though this question often comes up while smoking pot or in Insane Clown Posse lyrics, lightning is electrical atmospheric discharge (that's all I can tell you. Go to Wikipedia for the real story). Lightning is all powerful, all consuming, and an element that figures prominently in at least three Dan Aykroyd movies (The Great Outdoors, Both Ghostbusters). Though lightning has many representatives, from Percy Jackson who likes to steal it to the cast of Grease who liked to um…grease it, when it comes to the heavy hitter, we look to the God of lightning (and thunder) himself: Zeus, occasional rapist in swan's clothing and father to more children than the Palins and 1980s L.A. Lakers combined! (note: click that swan hyperlink if you want a PG13 surprise)

Don't you know that if you hold it like that, you could go blind?

What's a Capital?
The major region of a country where governmental decisions are made, and we can narrow this decision down easily as the Washington Capitals play in, duh, Washington D.C. Capitals are basically buildings (i.e. The Capitol) bunched up in a particular area, but as Tom Hanks' Josh Baskin said in Big, "It's a building. What's so fun about playing with a building?"

I don't get it. Why is he writing about mascots fighting? Maybe it can turn into a bug...

No, we need a symbol of the capital that isn't a building. We need a leader. Someone with the guts to stand up to the scourge of lightning, which in a Live song crashed, causing a new mother to cry, while her placenta fell to the floor (Damn you, Lightning! Placenta on the floor is a hygiene issue!). Who's the man for the job? Well, it's gotta be the man in charge of the Washington Capital. Suit up, Barack, you're going in!

My right fist is called lunch, 'cause you'll be eating it.

What would happen if Zeus fought Obama?
We need a soundtrack for this clash of the Titans. So who better than one of the 16 greatest bands of the late 1970s Thin Lizzy. Press play for some good fighting' music and read on, if you've made it this far, oh, battle hungry reader:

Hold onto your hats here, but sometimes, lightning actually strikes capital cities. Instances of lightning in capitals provide some guidance. In 1902, lightning struck Paris' Eiffel Tower.

So, what you're saying is...Eiffel liked his penis.

The lightning damaged the tower and brought the getting-engaged-in-an-obvious-place economy to standstill; however, the tower was repaired, so the capital was more than able to Ride the Lightning. In 2008, lightning struck an Ottawa home (that's Canada's capital for the more than 40% of you who seem to be reading outside of North America), and burned it. So lightning takes that one. It's too close to call. This one goes to a game seven. Who will be the hero?

Serendipity! Last week, a lightning storm occurred directly over the American capital's White House. That's right: directly over Hawaiian-American Barack Obama's house! Now, and this is important (in relative terms), the lightning never made contact. So what do we take from that? Nice try, Zeus! Where France's wimpy icon failed, America's conquers! That's freedom lightning, Frenchy! Note how the American flag is so repellent, that even lightning will avoid such an obvious lightning rod:

U Can't Touch This!

Result: Capitals win. Nowhere in the literature (and I read it ALL) has there been an instance of lightning destroying an entire capital city. The Great Fire of London was started by a London area baker who left some bagels in the oven while he went to the store for some tonic. True Story, no one in particular.

Tomorrow: 4 of 4. Have you heard the one about the Bear and the Flyer. What's a Flyer exactly? Tune in, Tokyo, and find out!

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part Two: Red Wings v. Sharks

We continue with the second of four analyses: "Which NHL mascot would win in a fight?"

What’s a Red Wing?
Of all team “mascots,” insomuch as a wheel with a wing on it can be a mascot, this one is the most elusive (only the Blues would be tougher to personify). A Red Wing is essentially, nothing. It’s a nickname based on a nickname. From Total Hockey: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Hockey League:
“(Detroit Falcons' owner) Norris had been a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, a sporting club with cycling roots. The MAAA's teams were known by their club emblem and these Winged Wheelers were the first winners of the Stanley Cup in 1893. Norris decided that a version of their logo was perfect for a team playing in the Motor City and on October 5, 1932 the club was renamed the Red Wings."
So, a Red Wing is a symbol: a single wheel with a single wing, but given the inspiration for the symbol, the Red Wing is a more usefully, more literally, a cyclist.
I ride bikes! And use Pert Plus!

What’s a Shark?
A shark is a deadly fish that ruined one summer for Roy Scheider.

Will Joe Thornton ever win the big one?

What if a Deadly Fish fought a Cyclist?
In the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie The Other Guys, there’s a nice scene of antagonism between characters which provides precedent with which to discuss a battle between land dwelling and ocean bound animals.
If I were a lion and you were a tuna, I would swim out in the middle of the ocean and freaking eat you, and then I'd bang your tuna girlfriend.

OK, first off: a lion, swimming in the ocean? Lions don't like water. If you placed it near a river, or some sort of fresh water source, that makes sense. But you find yourself in the ocean, 20 foot wave, I'm assuming off the coast of South Africa, coming up against a full grown 800 pound tuna with his 20 or 30 friends, you lose that battle, you lose that battle 9 times out of 10. And guess what, you've wandered into our school of tuna and we now have a taste of lion. We've talked to ourselves. We've communicated and said 'You know what, lion tastes good, let's go get some more lion'. We've developed a system to establish a beach-head and aggressively hunt you and your family and we will corner your pride, your children, your offspring. […] You just lost at your own game. You're outgunned and out-manned.
Since game one of this series is in San Jose, the Shark/Cyclist battle must therefore take place in the shark’s home arena (i.e. the Ocean). Though cyclists have incredible lung capacity and thigh muscles, riding a bike in the ocean is next to impossible; actually, the bike is a definite impediment (have you ever tried to swim in running shoes? Like, way harder than that), and the cyclist is easily (b)eaten by a shark. If the Red Wing had home ice advantage and game one took place in a velodrome, I suspect the cyclist would gain advantage. We'll never know what could've been, though Shark in a Velodrome is possibly a good indie band name.

If Pavement stuck with their original name, Shark in a Velodrome, they would still hate you.

Result: Sharks win (just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water with your bike….). In these literal mascot battle scenarios, I wonder if anything will beat a shark (Lightning maybe? A Bruin-Shark final could be interesting, and is the premise of a 2001 book by Chris Bachelder.)

Fun Fact: Based on a 1990 fan vote, The San Jose Sharks original name was to be the San Jose Blades, but owners were concerned about the association with weapons and gang violence. The Shark received the second most votes, and history was sort of made.

Later Today: Mr. Lightning Goes to Washington.

April 28, 2011

The NHL Playoff Mascot Battle Part One: Canucks v. Predators

Though this idea would've provided more (hopefully) yuks-yuks in round one, I woke up this morning thinking about my predictions for the second round of the NHL playoffs. Watching hockey domestically with a "life partner and best friend" who 1. doesn't care about hockey, but 2. will sit beside me as I watch, affords a fine time to answer obvious questions and reflect about why it is that sports are 1. Fun to watch, 2. Hard to explain literally.

Inspired by the fairly cool Spike TV show Deadliest Warrior, where violent scientists simulate who would win in a war between say, Ninjas & Vikings or KGB agents & the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, starting today (and finishing before each Game One starts), I will examine who would "literally win" the round two NHL playoff battles were they meetings between the actual team mascots.

Series One: The Vancouver Canucks vs. The Nashville Predators

What's a Canuck?
Well, nothing much to report here: A Canuck is slang for a Canadian. Given the size of our home and native land, and the constant redefining of what a Canadian is during the current federal election, I suppose we need to be a bit more specific. A quick Googling narrows down the term Canuck to a 19th century Americanism for, specifically, a French Canadian. Though there are as many "types" of French Canadian as there are Canadians, the election run-up tells me that a French Canadian, as of May 2011, is either NDP or Bloc Quebecois. As I am more familiar with the NDP, let's say that in this battle, the Canuck is Montreal born Jack Layton. (see endnote 1)

Bring it on, Pussy!

What's a Predator?
Another broad one. Animals, plants and conservatives can all be predatory. Schwarzenegger took on a Predator with dreadlocks, and even he couldn't kill it (somehow, Danny Glover was able to though). The Nashville logo gives us an easy clue as to which type of predator we are dealing with: why it's a sabre-tooth cat named Gnash!

A Top Ten Logo in Sports Blog coming?

The sabre-tooth cat has been extinct for a good 9000 years, but in its day, it could take down a mammoth. Were the Green party around 9000 years ago, they would've attempted to protect this predator, and it would have eaten them.

Don't vote strategically, and do shoot high on Luongo!

So what would happen if a sabre-tooth cat fought Jack Layton?
I suppose it depends if Jack Layton carried a weapon. His platform is certainly anti-gun, so all Jack has for this one are bare hands, tenacity, and 30% national support. Unfortunately, a sabre-tooth cat has little interest in political platforms, and can't understand Layton's attempts to compromise rather than fight dirty. Though Conservative and Liberals both have torn through Layton's plan to increase taxes, the sabre-tooth cat tears through his thigh flesh. Thanks to his focus on health care, Layton manages to escape with his life (and his seat), but realizes that the he could've beaten the cat as part of a larger team. Alas, it's too late, and the sabre-tooth cat is onto the next round battle (or, the Western Conference final).

Result: Predators win. (Sorry, Canucks. That's sort of what Predators do.)

Get over here, Harper. I just want to ask you a question.

Tomorrow: A Red Wing meets a Shark, and oh baby!, Lightning will fight the Capital. The results will astound you.

Note 1: the results end up the same if the Canuck is Gilles Duceppe, except that scenario ends with Duceppe having his leg separated from his body.

April 16, 2011

Another Top 5: Sport Beards!

I don't have a hairy back, and I can't grow a beard. You win some you lose some, I guess. I often think about beards. Don't read anything into this, although, please, keep reading.

Though I don't have any stats to back this up, my guess is that more men have beards in April than in any other month. There might be a case for more beards-a-sproutin' in whatever month it is that people enter week 2 of mountain climbing expeditions, but we are entering NHL playoff beard season, and University exam beards are in mid-swing, so in North America, I hypothesize that beard season is upon us. Now (let's make the connection) having just watched professional sports for 10 hours straight and counting, I feel the need to take a hairy little look at the top 5 Regular Beard Wearing Athletes of all time (playoff beards not eligible). I'm not the first to do this, I'm really not, but who has time to obsess about being original anymore? And besides, no other list drops a Jeff Reardon reference (OH! TEASER ALERT!)

1. Brian Wilson (2006 - Present)
Wilson's the obvious number one, for having both a thick and lustrous beard and for practically branding the thing. This includes the phenomenally extraneous site where you can play with his beard and click on it for fun little follicular surprises (try it). This guy's ebony beard is so famous, his twitter is a silhouette of a featureless bearded face. In 20 years, when my brain cells can't quite access the name of the pitcher who closed the 2010 World Series, I will remember a beard and a Giants' cap.

2. Randy Moss (1998 - Maybe the Present)
Besides being one of my favourite athletes of all time (when he was a Patriot), Randy Moss's eyelashes nearly touch his beard. Randy sports the rare case of a beard at high tide that threatens to take over the entire face. I remember a high school math teacher who possessed a similar lupine appearance, but instead of catching passes from Tom Brady, he seeped brown armpit stains. If Randy Moss wore slightly large sunglasses, you might see no unbearded cheek skin of the Mossy one. Sort of like how Teen Wolf looked in the segment of the movie where he starts to turn into an asshole....

Hey, Boof. Can you believe I'm 5'3 and on the basketball team?

3. Clark Gillies (1974 - 1988)
Though the most dramatic beard in hockey history has to go to Mike Commodore, that was a playoff beard and is disqualified from top 5 contention. A bit of a nostalgic choice, Clark Gillies' regular beard is really the only thing I remember about his face. It seemed a lot of 1970s New York Islanders looked like members of the Spartan Army. I'll go out on a limb and declare that the best team facial hair in NHL history would probably have to go to the 1979 New York Islanders, though because I don't want to research it, I will accept nominations. The internet is abuzz with rumours that Gillies was the first playoff beard, and though he would end up going moustache only through the 1980s, his best seasons were in full beard-face.

4. Jeff Reardon (1979 - 1994)
Growing up, I can only remember one player on my baseball cards who sported a full beard to any conspicuous degree. It was Jeff Reardon, who looked like my best friend's dad and who has had a rough post-baseball career which has included the death of a son, a charge for armed robbery, and a legal declaration of drug-induced insanity. There's nothing funny about that, but man, as both an Expo and a beard wearer, The Terminator was pretty great. I hope Jeff Reardon someday Googles himself, finds this blog, doesn't sue me for posting the picture, and sees that I thought he was pretty awesome.

5. "Macho Man" Randy Savage (1973 - 2005)
Ohhh yeah, dig it. The Macho Man's beard is so pure, that one wonders just how much of the savage was derived from the beard itself. I remember being a kid and wondering how a man with such a hairy face could have such a smooth body. WWE chest hair removal methods remain its great cultural contribution (not that I'd know). Because I had a massive crush on Miss Elizabeth (who didn't? She screwed up a generation of boys' image of what a beautiful woman was), I thought that my hairless body was half way to my dream of injuring Ricky Steamboat and kissing Miss Elizabeth on the mouth. I dreamed of the day (I was guessing maybe 16) where a beard would christen me "macho" - alas, it didn't happen, though I did pick up a small mound of chest hair in my early twenties.

Honorable Mentions (but disqualified for being too obvious or lacking in material for me to write a paragraph about): Dan Fouts (too Will Ferrel), Alexi Lalas (talking about U.S. Soccer is pretentious), Brett Keisel (too everyone else has already talked about his beard), Kimbo Slice (MMA people will find my blog and write "Homo" in my comments), Sebastien Chabal (too nobody reading this will know him), Hacksaw Jim Duggan (too...Two Wrestlers?).

Anyone make to the end of this? Anyone have any favourite bearded athlete they care to discuss? Come on anonymous bots and people putting porn links in my comments - I know you're going to tell me how informative my blog is for your essay, but go out on a bearded limb. Let me guess: you like 70s Bjorn Borg.

I am not David Beckham.