All posts in note to self


note: tradition like no other

(courtesy photo)

With the NHL playoffs just a week away, I wanted to take a moment and share with the class 10 reasons why I love hockey.

10. The Stanley Cup

This hardware, which has been around since 1892, is the oldest professional sports trophy in American sports. Named after Lord Stanley, who was kind enough to donate the Cup, the trophy lists the name of every player and coach to ever win it. The best part is – there are actually several engraving errors on the Stanley Cup. How’d you like to earn the trophy only to learn you’re mistakenly listed as “Ted Kennedyy” on hockey’s holy grail?

Montreal goalie Jacques Plante takes the cake though. The Canadiens won six championships during his career and his name is spelled differently on the Cup five times. He’s listed as J. Plante, Jacques Plante, Jac Plante, Jacq Plante, and Jaques Plante. Don’t you think after the second typo he would have volunteered to be present when his name was engraved?

A couple of other random notes: Back in 1905, the Cup was punted into the Rideau Canal, which luckily was frozen at the time. The trophy was then forgotten and, thankfully, retrieved the next morning when everyone sobered up.

The Cup was actually abandoned and left in a studio where it served as a flower pot for months before someone realized what had happened and retrieved it. Alcohol was likely involved.

The Stanley Cup was stolen from the Hockey Hall of Fame twice within a five-year span in the late 60’s. No word on if it was taken by the same person or not or if alcohol factored in the crime.

9. Legend of the Octopus

Back in the day, when there were less teams and therefore less games to play in the postseason, all it took was eight wins to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup. With that in mind, a couple of brothers decided to throw an octopus onto the ice at a Red Wings game way back in 1952. Detroit went on to win eight-straight games and the rest is history.

8. Game-day experience

Whenever I talk to a new hockey fan, the conversation inevitably ends up in the same area – for whatever reason, hockey just doesn’t translate well to TV. Diehards have no problems tuning into a high definition broadcast, but casual sports fans have a hard time keeping up and ultimately end up flipping the channel. While the league office might stay up late at night trying to find a solution to this problem, I actually think it’s a blessing in disguise. Hockey isn’t for everyone. Bandwagon fans are best served riding LeBron’s jock or buying yet another fitted Yankees cap.

But those folks who attend their first hockey game – especially those who grew up in places that never had snow or ice – end up falling in love with the game. Guys like Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Fred Smoot, who both came from the hockey-hotbed of Mississippi, took in one game and we’re hooked. It’s like a real-life fight club. Much of the world has no clue it exists, but those in the know gladly keep the secret.

7. Dropping the gloves

Did I just say “fight club?” Yet another reason hockey is awesome is the sheer fact that these guys gladly police themselves. If someone gets out of line and takes certain liberties against your teammate, then you drop the gloves and teach that bastard a lesson. Basketball players look downright embarrassing when they try to throw down (it’s almost always a gangly, awkward slap fight) and football players end up grabbing each other’s facemask or spitting in an opponent’s face. Not in hockey. You cross the line, you can guarantee someone’s going to make you pay.

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Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: same old song and dance

(photo by Brian Murphy)

It’s no secret that quarterback is the most glamorous position in professional sports. Regardless of whether we’re talking about in the movies or in real life the story remains the same – the job comes with great responsibility, but successful signal callers get the girl and the big payday. That being said, how’d you like to be Jason Campbell this week?

Coming off his first full season as a starter, the Washington Redskins quarterback suddenly finds himself in the unenviable position of “where will I be this time next week?” Remember, this is a guy who eight games through the 2008 season was being championed by guys like Peter King as a possible NFL most valuable player candidate. Now, because his employer cannot help but fall in love with big-name star appeal, he very well might be house hunting in the very near future.

As everyone knows by now, Jay Cutler is on his way out of Denver. The Broncos, led by first-year head coach Josh McDaniels, thought they had a chance to acquire Matt Cassel from New England and made a play for him. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out and Cassel ended up in Kansas City. More times than not the general public never knows when trade talks like this take place, but Denver’s flirtation with Cassel backfired and alienated Cutler.

After earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and throwing for more than 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, Cutler felt disrespected that the Broncos would even consider life without him. Because Denver even contemplated the move, Cutler is now hell bent on making it a reality, allegedly refusing to return phone calls when the owner and/or head coach tried to reach him.

Which brings us back to Campbell. Wednesday should have been a low-key day off for the four-year veteran. He spent the day at a charity event and the evening with his girlfriend and teammate Renaldo Wynn taking in the Capitals hockey game against the New York Islanders. But during the course of the game, rumors were flying that the ‘Skins were very much involved in the Cutler sweepstakes and by the time the Caps secured the 5-3 win, ESPN was reporting that the Redskins were shopping Campbell for a second-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft in hopes of gaining more ammunition for a Cutler deal.

”I want to be here, I feel like there’s a lot I want to accomplish and that’s what I’ve been working to do, but you know it’s not in your control,” Campbell told the Washington Post yesterday. ”All I can do is just keep doing what I’m doing, working hard and waiting to see what happens.’

Campbell went on to say, “with all the stuff out there, you know crazy stuff happens in this league. You just have to be ready for anything.”

The most telling comment from Campbell came next.

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Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: only in washington

(courtesy photo)

Over the last several years, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to the Washington Redskins, and recently I have also begun covering the Capitals. I’ve never tried to attain a media credential for the Wizards, mostly because they suck.

But if I did have a credential, I would use it to track down Gilbert Arenas and tell him one simple sentence – “don’t do it.”

Word on the street is that Arenas, who seemingly a lifetime ago was known as Agent Zero, Hibachi and a relevant basketball player, is planning on making his triumphant return to action this weekend after being sidelined for nearly a year due to a knee injury.

While it’s great to see a player anxious to bounce back from injury, this is quite possibly the worst decision Arenas can make. Doesn’t he know that this year’s Wizards are on the verge of something special?

Had the Wiz not rallied to steal a 95-93 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at home last night, they would have become the first team in NBA history to go winless in their division for an entire season. Now, they’re 1-14, meaning they’re bad, but not bad enough to be memorable. For the year Washington is currently 17-56, which is the second-worst record in the league (ahead of only Sacramento, who is 15-55). Again, bad, but not enough to actually do any good.

If the Wizards were to finish with the worst record in the NBA, it would increase their chances of landing the number one overall pick, which means they’d be able to draft Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin to help turn things around. But because they’re the Wizards, I don’t even know why I’m getting my hopes up.

When healthy and at their best, Washington is a fundamentally flawed franchise. General manager Ernie Grunfeld is one of the best in the league, but what he’s built in D.C. is a team of jump shooters who either cannot or will not play defense. They can’t score tough baskets when the game is on the line and they give up entirely too many easy buckets to their opposition which means, best-case scenario, they’re good enough to qualify for the playoffs but have zero chance of doing anything once they are there. Teams that can’t score tough points in the paint don’t last long in the postseason, but because the bar was set so low for so long, no one seems to actually acknowledge this.

Click here for the full article.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: lessons learned

(courtesy photo)

The National Football League is probably the most cyclical of the professional sports leagues.

For years everyone felt that teams needed a proven entity as their head coach. Even if the guy wasn’t any good, teams just felt comfortable going with retreads. If Wade Phillips was good enough to get fired from two other teams, then dammit, he’s good enough to fail me too!

More recently though, the tides have changed and teams have changed their philosophy. Owners got “smarter” and decided, “Why overpay for Marty Schottenheimer when I can pay a third of his salary to some no-name thirty-something who will be so happy to have a job he’ll do whatever I tell him?” Next thing you know, young guys are en vogue and players suddenly find themselves in the same age group as their new bosses.

While hands-on owners love having a young guy as their puppet … er … coach, there’s a definite drawback – in many cases, these first-time head coaches have no clue how to run a team and are instantly in over their head.

Take for example the current situation in Denver. Now that Mike Shanahan (also known as the dirty cheater who blatantly circumvented the salary cap with under-the-table deals that directly led to the Broncos’ two Super Bowls) is collecting unemployment, owner Pat Bowlen opted for a youth movement and brought in Brian Xanders as the new general manager and Josh McDaniels as his new head coach.

Xanders previously worked in Atlanta as the Falcons’ chief contract negotiator and salary-cap manager and McDaniels, at 32, was the offensive coordinator for New England. By all accounts, both were very good at their respective jobs, but the truth is, there’s a lot more to running a professional franchise than balancing the salary cap and drawing up plays for Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

And while both were very solid in their respective roles, apparently neither had any experience with tact. If so, there’s little reason to believe that the Broncos would be in their current predicament in which franchise quarterback Jay Cutler has all but demanded being traded out of Denver.

By now everyone knows that Denver screwed the pooch by making a run at former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel in the days leading up to free agency. While Cutler is an above average quarterback, McDaniels apparently felt more comfortable with the idea of Cassel, with whom he worked with in New England, running the show.

There’s nothing wrong with a first-year coach wanting to surround himself with some sort of familiarity, but here’s the key – look into bringing in whoever you feel is the best fit for your team, but ensure you don’t alienate what you’ve already got in the process. Cutler should have never found out that his name was mentioned and in this case, the minute he did, you needed to show up at his house and soothe things over face-to-face.

Now, because both the head coach and general manager are young and inexperienced, you’ve got a full-blown clusterfuck.

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Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: boys will be boys

(photo by Brian Murphy)

I have officially seen it all.

After years of going out of his way to thumb his nose at conventional wisdom, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones actually turned out to be the NFL’s voice of reason when he cut the cord on controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens last week.

The man who built a career out of ignoring his players’ off-the-field issues, Jones finally grew tired of Owens’ antics and opted to take his team in a different direction. Words like “chemistry” and “team players” were often overlooked at Valley Ranch, while Jones always tended to gravitate towards star players with big-name appeal. Who cares if Michael Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors? He was a Hall of Fame player whenever he stepped onto the field and helped Jones’ Cowboys win multiple Super Bowls. That basically gave guys like Irvin a free pass to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.

Jeff Pearlman did a masterful job with his book Boys Will Be Boys, in which he gave a behind-the-scenes look at those 90’s Cowboys plastered with guys like Irvin (who loved his women and nose candy), Deion Sanders (who could have coined the phrase “I love me some me” long before T.O.) and Charles Haley (a certifiable lunatic who loved to be naked around dudes way too much). But as previously stated, those guys won games for Jones, so everything else was overlooked.

That’s why, when Owens ran himself out of San Francisco, Baltimore (before he even got there) and Philly, you just knew Owens was headed to Dallas. Jones’ ego was such that he just knew he could be the one to break through to the diva receiver. And even when Owens was splitting the locker room in half, forcing players to choose sides in a war between him and Jason Witten, no one truly believed Jones would ever cut the cord on Owens.

But he did, and Owens is now a Buffalo Bill. To put this in proper perspective, Jones finally admitting he’s wrong and cutting ties with Owens would be roughly equivalent to Michael Richards, of Seinfield fame, being honored with a NAACP life-time achievement award. I just never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.

But here’s the thing – it really was the best move for the Cowboys. Anyone who looks at their roster should easily see that their biggest strength is depth at running back. With Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, the Cowboys are as stacked in the backfield as any team in the NFL. They don’t need to throw the ball 40 times a game with that kind of talent. They need to let that talented trio do the heavy lifting and limit the amount of times Tony Romo can kill the offense with boneheaded decisions. Roy Williams won’t replicate the production that Owens produced over the last three seasons in Dallas, but he won’t need to.

Meanwhile, the formerly irrelevant Bills now suddenly become buzz worthy. A team that hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in a decade and that went 0-6 in their own division a year ago suddenly becomes intriguing. Think about it this way – over the last 15 years or so, the four biggest names out of Buffalo are Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Scott Norwood (wide right!) and O.J. Simpson. Who knew that consistently losing Super Bowls would be their brightest days?

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Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: no end in sight

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Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to root for a basketball team that has a fucking clue.

Seeing well-run franchises like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs able to effectively run their teams on both an immediate and long-term basis is almost disheartening to a Washington Bullets/Wizards fan.

The Spurs land a number-one pick and draft a cornerstone like center Tim Duncan. Washington gets Kwame Brown. The Celtics acquire a grizzled veteran like Kevin Garnett and sail to yet another NBA championship. The Wiz somehow convince the greatest player of my lifetime, Michael “Freaking” Jordan, to play in D.C. and they can’t even sniff .500. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

But at some point you get used to the ineptitude. You embrace the mediocrity. I mean, the franchise surely did when they dropped confetti and threw a party just for qualifying for the playoffs a few years ago. And who cares if the current version of the Wizards is, at best, good enough to qualify for the postseason but flawed enough to ensure the second round is a pipedream? When they’re this bad for this long, a first-round exit is a welcomed distraction.

That’s why I was able to live with the stories coming out of D.C. this week about our beloved basketball team. Comcast Sportsnet did a sit-down interview with general manager Ernie Grunfeld in which he said (with a straight face) that he wouldn’t change a thing if he knew then what he knows now about signing a one-legged Gilbert Arenas to a six-year, $111 million deal this past offseason and I didn’t even hit up the liquor cabinet. During the same interview Grunfeld said he isn’t second guessing any other moves that led to his Wizards’ 12-42 record and I somehow managed to avoid throwing the remote at my television.

Unfortunately, a day later, I lost it. You see, I can put up with a lot, but the Washington Post pushed me over the edge when they ran a story on Grunfeld that started with the following paragraph:

Ernie Grunfeld’s plan was to sprinkle talented youngsters and veteran role players around a core of three star players. Then he would watch the team progress deep into the playoffs, perhaps to a long-awaited second NBA championship.

Now I’ve never met the gentleman who wrote this particular story, but he clearly, unlike me, was unable to avoid drinking when the topic of the Wizards came into play.

Anyone who thought this team of streaky jump shooters who continually refuse to play defense was capable of doing anything more than selling popcorn at the NBA Finals should be forced to wear a helmet while riding the school bus. For this writer to even mention the word “championship” in a Washington Wizards article is a more egregious foul than anything Jayson Blair ever did.

Later in this same article, the writer suggests that there’s a silver lining to this pitiful season because the team “has a good chance at landing a high pick in the draft lottery.” That statement is then followed up with this turd in the punch bowl:

However, because the Wizards already have such huge financial commitments, there is a decent chance Grunfeld will consider trading the pick.

Um … what?

The only reason people are willing to live with this lost season is because there’s hope that Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin or someone of his caliber will ride into town and save this sinking ship. Now the Wizards are floating the idea of trading away the draft pick in order to rid the franchise of Etan Thomas’ bad contract? Really? Someone thinks that’ll go over well?

Click here for the full article.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.


note: the sissification of america

(courtesy photo)

I want to start out by apologizing to old people everywhere.

There was a time whenever I found myself stranded in a room with someone at least twice my age that I did my best to tune you out and go to my happy place. You see, I was too young and immature to understand what was going on when you started mumbling semi-coherently about “back in my day” and proceeded into a long-winded diatribe that didn’t end until you fell asleep at the table mid-sentence. I had no clue that you were simply attempting to warn me of the darker days ahead by drawing parallels to better times. More to the point, I just didn’t have a clue.

But now, here I sit, long after you’re gone, understanding exactly where you were coming from. I see a world where parents raise their overweight children to be pansies because games like dodgeball and kickball are banned. A world where leagues opt to not keep score and give trophies to every kid on every team because, heaven forbid, your blandly named son thinks for one moment that another child is better at soccer than your precious little Devin.

If this is the future, then I’m off to eat a bullet now.

Back in my day (see what I did there) shit happened. Sometimes bullies took your lunch money and sometimes you struck out at the plate during gym-class baseball. You didn’t go to therapy, you went to science class. Your parents didn’t put you on medication because of anxiety or your “inability to cope.” You just sat on the opposite side of the lunch room and prayed like hell the bully picked on someone else the day your parents accidentally put two Little Debbie snackcakes in your lunchbox. If some kids at the bus stop made fun of you for a pimple on your face, you didn’t come to school the next day with a semi-automatic weapon and open fire on the football team. You went home that night and washed your face half a dozen times in hopes the blemish went away that very second.

Those days, things were definitely simpler. Ned Bitters and I used to give each other a ton of shit. He, being a native of Pennsylvania, loved all things Pittsburgh. Whether it be the Steelers, Penguins or cock, he just couldn’t get enough of it. I, having grown up in the D.C. metro area, always rooted for my home teams – including the Redskins, the Capitals and the Baltimore Orioles (we didn’t have our own baseball team, so the O’s sufficed until Peter Angelos got involved).

I’ll never forget the day Bitters started his own “Ripken streak.” While the rest of the world was happily saluting Cal Jr. for showing up to work every day for 2,632 consecutive games, Bitters decided it’d be clever to start counting the consecutive days Cal Sr. had been dead for. And you know what? It was funny. To get even, I decided to take a shot at his beloved Penguins and their posterboy, Mario Lemieux.

I distinctly remember saddling up next to him and saying I had a solution for the small-market Pens, who were having a bit of financial trouble.

“To save money on pregame festivities, they could get rid of fireworks or laser shows and simply have Lemieux hit the ice after a chemo session,” I said. “As long as he doesn’t melt the ice, you’re in for a helluva show.”

Was it politically incorrect? Absolutely. But it cracked both of our dumb asses up. We weren’t making light of death or disease. We were just being morons.

The NHL shouldn’t suspend Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery for saying Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf fell in love with “his sloppy seconds,” they should be thankful hockey is relevant again.

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Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

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